Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Definition of territorial intelligence by the caENTI

The caENTI (Coordination Action of the European Network of Territorial Intelligence) has progressively defined territorial intelligence as the science having for object the sustainable development of territories and having for subject territorial community.

  • It puts in relation multidisciplinary knowledge on territories and their dynamics
  • It strengthens territorial communities abilities to take part in their development in a fair and sustainable way
  • It improves territorial information sharing and spreads its analysis methods and tools thanks to Information and Communication Technologies
  • It promotes governance, decision making processes and practices valuing participation and partnership and research-action that contribute to fair and sustainable development of the territorial community

To that end, territorial intelligence aims at providing tools made for, with and by territorial actors that allow them to elaborate, to manage and to evaluate partnership and participative projects of territories sustainable development.

Territorial intelligence, as it is defined by our research group, should also be able to design forms of promotion of the available resources development that, not only should not affect and should even increase the historical-environmental heritage, but should also conform to a culture which main objective is to increase public awareness of immaterial needs, apprehended as transnational ones.

One of these aspects, there is in the post-industrial societies, concerns the development concept. Indeed, we cannot define it in a unique way as a form of industrial production at a large scale, as it was done until a recent moment. This new concept, and here is the change, implies the convergence of the different forms of non material resources, and particularly of human resources. A culture that chooses non material values, especially concerning the artistic heritage and landscapes, feed the tourism sectors multiple dimensions.

Nevertheless, we do not consider economic development is useless and it is not necessary to keep the organizations that impacted on modernity, by making it integrate the importance of immaterial goods. However, we would like to underline the contribution of the immaterial resources to general development. In a scientific and formal way, we want to define the limit between sustainable development in a given socio-cultural area and the mere economic development.

The development of the cultural resources available on a territory should allow selecting and promoting those that meet a heterogeneous people needs, through the globalization various dimensions. At the same time, it allows the differences not becoming an obstacle to these needs affirmation, but on the contrary underlining a territory heritage.

Territorial intelligence should conciliate the post-material values with those of the industrial society culture, by supporting the territories resources development. This discipline recognizes the latter implicit qualities and uniqueness and makes their use attractive for the heterogeneous glocal societies.

This cultures kind, which main objective is to increase public awareness of development, should allow emancipating people from a vision only focused on available resources, by promoting the traditions that represent a territory peculiarities. Besides, if the consider the multiplicity of territories that make up a society, the latter should allow the expression of differences, which allow progressing.

As a consequence, action has a particular importance among the territorial intelligence competences. It favours a global development of the specific culture, which underlines the differences between the external and endogenous elements of a territory and does not give in to exclusion and separation temptations.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fascism in America

A short analysis

By Tudor Vieru, Science Editor

I’m sure you may have heard the growing claims that the course of events in motion in the United States offer excellent premises for the installation of a Fascist rule and a police state. In this piece, I will not attempt to persuade anyone that this is or is not the case, but provide a view of status-quo from a legal perspective. A comparison between the new and old America may perhaps also be in order. Again, the goal is not to offend, but to provide a few bases for events that some people already construe as worrying, and detrimental to their freedoms.

A few definitions

According to Oxford University Press’ A Dictionary of World History, “The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on their freedom to express or communicate political or other views, which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. Political control may be exerted by means of a secret police force which operates outside the boundaries normally imposed by a constitutional state.”

The general definition of a totalitarian regime states that it maintains itself in political power by means of an official ideology, as well as through propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media. Other features include a single party that controls the state (usually), personality cults, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, the use of mass surveillance, and widespread use of state terrorism.

In its modern use, the word tyrant refers to a person in a position of power who tends to put his or her personal interests, or that of a small oligarchy, over the interests of the general population. In seemingly democratic states, this happens even if that person was selected in his or her position following free elections. In classical political sciences, the word also refers to a person who has taken a position of power outside of hereditary (no longer applicable except for monarchies) or constitutional frameworks.

One of the two main definitions associated with the concept of dictatorship refers to a single person, or a small group of people, controlling the government of a country. The second definition refers to an autocratic form of rule, in which the people, or person, in charge do(es) not abide by, or simply dismantle, laws, constitutions, as well as social and political factors in the state.

Propaganda, in its most basic form of acceptance, refers to using speeches, media channels, and other means for disseminating information to the general public. The general purpose of propaganda is to influence the masses so as they rally to a cause, or a point of view, established by the ones who engage in this type of action. Propaganda is regularly used by powerful groups, such as those of religious people around the world, governments, and their leaders.


Obtaining total control on a state without raising the suspicions of the general public is something that is incredibly difficult to do. As one who has studied the world’s political systems, doctrines and ideologies, I can tell you that a Fascist-type, totalitarian state is extremely difficult to construct. There are two possible ways to go about it. One is the direct path, such as the one taken by Adolf Hitler when he became the ruler of Germany, in 1933. The other one takes longer, but creates the proper conditions for the people seizing control, in the sense that their take-over will not be hostile, and will be met with minimal resistance. This carries the advantage that fewer opponents can be more easily silenced.

(read Part 1)

(Part 2)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

World's Third Largest Free-Trade Zone Takes Full Effect Between ASEAN and China

A free-trade agreement between China and 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will come into force on 1 January 2010, liberalising trade and investment in an economic zone covering 1.9 billion people.


China and South-East Asian countries will tomorrow establish the world's third largest free-trade area, after the European Union (EU) and the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA). Coming into effect, the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) is set to cover 1.9 billion consumers and an estimated trade volume of US$1.2 trillion, with a combined GDP of US$6 trillion.


The FTA is a key milestone for Asian regional integration, heralding a more open market for goods and services in the region. While zero tariffs for 90% of the agreed products, and the removal of 6,682 import duties on Chinese goods, offer great business opportunities for some, not all are enthusiastic. The ACFTA raises economic and political concerns in South-East Asia over China's increasing dominance.


The ACFTA is likely to provide a major boost to regional trade and investment following a year of sharp economic slowdown. Given the similarity of ASEAN and China's industrial structures, competition in domestic markets will increase, however, provoking fears particularly in those less economically developed ASEAN countries. For China, the ACFTA offers great prospects of being able to sate its enormous hunger for natural resources.

New Year's Day 2010 marks the establishment of the world's third largest free-trade area between China and the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Under the ASEAN-China Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA)—signed in 2002—China, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand will eliminate barriers to investment and enforce zero tariffs for 90% of the agreed products, ranging from textiles to steel and vegetable oils. This will require the average tariff rates charged by ASEAN countries on Chinese products—currently at 12.8%—to be cut to 0.6%, while average tariffs imposed by China on ASEAN goods are set to fall from 9.8% to 0.1%. The late participants to ASEAN—namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam—will follow behind gradually reducing tariffs and totally eliminating them by 2015.

The new free-trade zone will have an estimated trade volume of US$1.2 trillion and a combined GDP of US$6 trillion. It will cover 1.9 billion consumers—more than any other regional economic block. Clearly, this marks a huge milestone for Asian regional integration, traditionally less advanced in comparison with Europe and the Americas, as the region has played "catch up" in recent years. Although the realisation of ACFTA brings huge opportunities for both China and ASEAN, it also raises concerns over China's increasing economic and political domination in South-East Asia.

China's Expanding Economy—Driving Force Behind Integration

The rise of China in economic and political terms has been the most important development in pushing Asian integration further. The ACFTA framework agreement was signed in 2002 and was the first stand-alone free-trade agreement signed by China. The agreement followed China's joining of the WTO and its decision to start pursuing a regional trade policy that led to the initiation of negotiations on free trade with the ASEAN bloc. Evidently, from China's point of view, the ACFTA will help in securing access to South-East Asia's abundant natural resources. Despite the economic downturn, China's economy is expanding and it needs resources to satisfy its hunger for energy. Closer trade relations with South-East Asian countries also provide China greater control over the crucial nexus between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. There is also the opportunity to strengthen political ties within a region that has traditionally been under strong Japanese influence.

ASEAN Opportunities and Fears

The ACFTA is set to determine regional co-operation and trade relations in 2010. What ASEAN seeks through the ACFTA is to gain greater market access for exports and the ability to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI). "In 2010 we are sending as a strong signal that ASEAN is open", Sundram Pushpanathan, of ASEAN, told Agence France-Presse yesterday, indicating that the pact is set to offer huge benefits for ASEAN economic growth, too. In particular, as U.S. and European demand for ASEAN exports plummets following the global economic crisis, China's growing economic interaction will generally be very welcome.

Given the huge economic and development disparities within ASEAN, the impact of the free-trade regime will, however, be felt differently across the region. Under the ACFTA Early Harvest programme, China granted ASEAN economies very beneficial terms to export more competitive agricultural products to China, bringing benefits to grassroots-level farmers in South-East Asia. However, as soon as the clock strikes midnight tonight, small- and medium-sized farmers and enterprises throughout ASEAN will face a harsh reality—they will need to compete with more price-competitive imports from China. Rising fears and subsequent social tensions have already been evident in some countries. Earlier this month, the Indonesian government came under mounting pressure from the country's domestic industries to delay full implementation of the ACFTA. A number of business associations proposed a temporary exemption of 11 additional industries from the FTA. The proposed exemption list included textiles, footwear, steel and iron, food and beverages, plastic, transportation, tools, electronics, forestry and plantations, the downstream chemical industry, the creative industries, and machinery. While the government opted not to take an eleventh hour appeal further, it has agreed to seek a delay in eliminating import tariffs on over 300 goods that are deemed too "fragile" to compete with cheaper Chinese imports. Indonesia is still "committed to the [agreement]… but we will ask for a tariff modification on 303 products whose competitiveness we consider has declined because of the global economic crisis", said Edy Putra Irawadi, Deputy Minister for Industry and Trade at the Co-ordinating Ministry for the Economy.

Outlook and Implications

Even though ACFTA's final realisation comes after years of gradual implementation, it is still a landmark event, promising great opportunities for traders and investors and raising the region's status in the international trade arena. No doubt there will be challenges too. What the ACFTA does not mean, however, is that China-ASEAN integration is complete. Instead, it will provide further impetus for deeper economic co-operation between the two entities. Further progress is expected to be made across the board, including laws and regulations on the free-trade area; construction of infrastructure facilities; agriculture and rural co-operation; sustainable development; and cultural and social exchanges.

Although bilateral trade between China and ASEAN has already exploded over the past decade, the most eagerly awaited advancements that the ACFTA is expected to bring are in the fields of greater trade and investment volumes. China and the ASEAN bloc are already each other's fourth largest trading partners, and trade volumes have been growing from US$105.88 billion in 2004, to US$202.5 billion in 2007. This is nevertheless likely to increase significantly now, with ASEAN's secretary expecting exports to China to grow by 48%, while China's exports to ASEAN will increase by 55.1%. Integrated markets and lower market risk and uncertainty are also expected to generate more foreign investment into ASEAN countries, not just from China, but also from U.S., European, and Japanese companies. In addition to this positive impetus, there will be increasing competition which will likely decrease the enthusiasm for integration among the general public in those involve countries, for example particularly in Indonesia. All in all, the realisation of ACFTA represents a turning point in the Asian economic and political sphere, and is another indication of China assuming a leading role in the South-East Asian region, where it looks set to stay.