James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Hurricane Sandy Revives Climate Change Talk, Americans Vote for President, and China Appoints New Leaders

by James M. Lindsay
November 2, 2012

An American flag stands on top of the devastated Rockaway beach boardwalk in Queens after Hurricane Sandy (Shannon Stapleton/ Courtesy Reuters). An American flag stands on top of the devastated Rockaway beach boardwalk in Queens after Hurricane Sandy (Shannon Stapleton/ Courtesy Reuters).


The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy; next week’s presidential election; and China’s change in leadership.

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The highlights:

  • Hurricane Sandy unfortunately lived up to its billing as a megastorm. New York City and New Jersey were especially hard hit. It could be weeks before power is fully restored to the region. Rebuilding what was destroyed will take much longer. While that construction takes place, debate over climate change is likely to heat up. Even if one rejects the scientific consensus that human behavior is partly responsible for climate change, rising sea levels are a reality. They pose a threat to people—like many New Yorkers and New Jerseyites—who live in low-lying coastal regions.  Where to rebuild and how to prepare against more large-scale floods in the future will raise questions that are both politically difficult and economically expensive to answer.
  • How Hurricane Sandy might influence the outcome of next Tuesday’s presidential vote has been a hot topic among election aficionados. Some experts speculate that the storm helps President Obama by giving him an opportunity to appear presidential and pushing Governor Romney out of the news. Other experts argue with equal passion that the storm benefits Romney because bad news of any sort always hurts the incumbent. Poll watchers will be looking to see if the aftermath of Sandy depresses turnout in eastern Pennsylvania, which happens to lean Democratic, potentially (and unexpectedly) throwing the Keystone State into the Republican column. We will find out who (if anyone) is right in just five days.
  • The Chinese Communist Party is preparing to meet in Beijing later this month for its eighteenth party congress. The meeting is expected to formalize the presumed transfer of power to China’s new leader, Xi Jinping. He will have to deal not only with continued speculation about his health—he disappeared from public view for a while back in September—but also the health of the Chinese economy and polity. Chinese economic growth remains impressive, but it is running well below the ten percent annual growth rates of just a few years ago. Meanwhile, rumblings about the corruption of China’s political elite and the vast gap between the country’s rich and poor continue to grow.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Riyad Hijab. My Figure of the Week is 11.6 percent. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

The U.S. Northeast recovers from Superstorm Sandy: The New York Times describes the extent of the devastation in the New York region and beyond. The Wall Street Journal details the damage caused by the storm and the slow recovery efforts. NPR writes on the challenges of restoring the affected areas of the U.S. power grid. The Washington Post compares Sandy to Katrina and remains optimistic about economic recovery from the storm.

U.S. presidential elections (finally) take place: The New Yorker argues that Sandy will play a political role in the upcoming election. Businessweek suggests that the federal government’s handling of Hurricane Sandy may help Obama on Election Day. Nate Silver predicts that the Republicans won’t win a majority in the Senate, despite Romney’s rise in the polls.

China appoints new leadership: The Los Angeles Times describes how the Chinese Communist Party is seeking public support and creating an illusion of civilian participation.  CNN’s Global Public Square writes that the secrecy of the Chinese Communist Party makes it impossible to predict the course or political leanings of the new leadership  The Economist urges Xi Jinping to break from China’s past and install democratic reform. Al-Jazeera writes on the increasing pressure on the new leadership to implement changes in Chinese society.

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