How does a modern nation become a world power? That was the dilemma Global Hour participants sought to understand the evening of Thursday, Sept. 14 in the International House.
The program is an informal, relaxed forum that discusses recent and pertinent issues affecting the global community. Participants do not need to be experts on the issue and can freely express their opinion.
Though the subjects can be controversial, David Lawson, associate director of the Center for International Education, said the purpose of the event is not to create an argument but rather a balanced discussion.
“We’re not trying to prove or convince” others of whether they are right or wrong, Lawson said.
Last Thursday the discussion focused on China, Venezuela, India and Iran’s influence on a regional and global scale and their relationships as world powers to members of the United Nations, especially the United States.
Participants asked various questions, including how each nation has built its political, economic or military influence internationally and how these power stages are interrelated.
To present these points, Lawson said that today people in many countries, including Thailand, are learning Chinese. The language is becoming more and more popular and useful in the international community as China’s economy and production are rising.
Rafael Rojas, a graduate student in industrial engineering and a graduate assistant to the I-House, agreed and said people in Mexico are also learning Chinese.
Lawson also raised questions of how much China can afford to spend on modernizing its massive and complex military.
Some of the participants said China’s economy was too dependent upon other nations, such as the United States, to quickly modernize its military.
Anther question during the discussion was: Do world powers become influential in a fair way?
Rojas presented the argument that while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has criticized the United States for helping other countries monetarily, Chavez has done the same for Bolivia, Argentina and other South American countries.
“Maybe it’s not about ideology — maybe it’s about political power,” Rojas said.
Other participants agreed that Chavez is more concerned with accumulating power for himself than with helping the Venezuelan people. Still others said he has also helped the people of his country.
Indraneel Sen, a graduate student in material sciences and a native of India, spoke of how Western nations affect his home country.
He said that by accepting the Western economic model, embraced with “glee and joy,” India doesn’t only take the positive aspects of Western capitalism but also the negative ones.
To gain the most benefit, India needs to create a balanced state between the Western system and the Indian traditional system from past generations, Sen said.
The I-House, along with Lawson, set up the event, which takes place every Thursday between 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Students, faculty and staff along with the general public are welcome to the discussion, which is free of charge and offers light beverages and refreshments.