The Octant
Insights and reporting from Caleb Maupin


Import quotas have long been out of fashion among U.S. leaders in the age of free trade and globalization. However, on April 30th, the White House announced that the United States has now revived the practice, with South Korea being the first country subject to this harsh economic measure. The deal reached between the Trump administration and the administration of Moon Jae-In involves a quota of 2.63 million tons of steel from South Korea per year.

South Korea is the third largest foreign supplier of steel to the United States. The new quota is set at roughly 70% of the average import number for the past 3 years. The Wall Street Journal, noting the devastating impact of the new quota, reported that “nine out of 54 categories of South Korean steel exports to the U.S. have already had their annual quota filled.”

Why does South Korea have a steel industry?

The steel industry of South Korea was the result of a number of geopolitical maneuvers throughout the Cold War. Following the Korean War, the Soviet Union poured huge amounts of resources into industrializing and developing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the northern part of the peninsula. Technicians from the Soviet Union helped the DPRK to begin exploiting the coal from its mountainous regions.

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The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is set to host a US aircraft carrier from the pacific fleet. The USS Carl Vinson will be docked in Vietnam, and this will send a clear message of hostility from Vietnam to the People’s Republic of China. 


The South China Sea has been a point of contention in recent years, as China works to secure the route of oil tankers and other importing vessels destined for Shanghai and other Chinese ports. The USA seeks to maintain its ability to stop China’s oil supply at any time with a heavy military presence in the pacific. China has escalated its military presence in the South China Sea, looking to make sure that no matter what happens in international relations, the huge apparatus of production on the Chinese mainland cannot be shut down by a US blockade. A Chinese corporation is currently working to construct a canal through Nicaragua, so that imports to China crossing into the Pacific can never be compromised.




The understanding that the American press, both TV and print media, thrives on negativity is deeply embedded in the culture, so much so that the theme music to the popular 1990s American TV sit-com “Family Matters” began with the couplet:

Its a rare condition this day and age, to read any good news on a newspaper page…

The US media is a for-profit industry. TV outlets depend on advertising revenue, the value of which depends on ratings. The drive of mainstream American TV news networks is to increase ratings, and make profits. Bad news, scandal, and sensationalism is a way to do that.

However, the commercially-owned mainstream American press has always had another role: crafting public opinion. A huge amount of US government funds are devoted to handling and managing the media. The government and the political establishment is deeply worried about making sure that the US public thinks in ways that are conducive to their overall goals and strategies. The CIA’s project mockingbird, and the cozy relationship between reporters, newspaper owners, and various Presidential administrations is the most blatant example. US Military intelligence agencies have sponsored over 1,800 hollywood films. School textbooks in California and Texas have their academic standards set in a highly politicized process.


The rise of China is the largest geopolitical gamechange of the epoch. Never in history has a country so rapidly shifted its status, from one of the poorest countries on earth to the planet’s second largest economy. The impact of this dramatic shift cannot be under-estimated. The energy markets are changing, international relations are changing, but the ultimate results could be much deeper. A new political concept is developing.

Western Politics Rejects Progress

Observing the prevalent political atmosphere in the US, Harvard Psychology Professor Steven Pinker observed “For all their disagreements, the left and right concurs on one thing: the world is getting worse.” Pinker isn’t the only one to observe that the western world seems to have universally embraced pessimism.

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The Islamic Republic of Iran is probably even stronger than it was prior to December 28th, 2017. On that date, the international media announced that protests were taking place across Iran. The White House, the US State Department, and the American media all swung into action, celebrating the protests and demonizing the Iranian government. It was all over within a few days, and despite an emergency UN Security Council meeting, it was pretty clear that no “Iranian Spring” was in the works. Unlike the “revolutions” in Libya and Syria, Washington’s efforts to foment unrest were unable to shake the country.

Seizing A Moment To Create Unrest

In reality, the initial protests which sparked the instability were convened by supporters of the government. The issue raised by crowds on the streets of Mashhad was bank defrauding of the public. The protests expanded into a general display of outrage at cuts in social programs and financial de-regulation.

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As the end of 2017 approached, the Chinese Ministry of Transportation announced its plan for the next year. In 2018, China intends to build over 200,000 kilometers (124274.238 miles) of new roads in rural areas. The result will be to connect 5,000 rural villages to asphalt roadways and bus services. Furthermore, the Transport Ministry intends to renovate 180,000 kilometers (111846.815 miles) of roads, as well as restoring 2,500 bridges. In the last five years, China has constructed 1.275 million kilometers (776713.9903 miles) of news roads.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the opposite is taking place. According to Wired Magazine, municipalities across the country are un-paving roads due to budgetary concerns. In order to save money, rural towns in 27 different states have removed asphalt and restored dirt roads. For example, the city of Montpelier in Vermont, saved $120,000 by removing asphalt from a number of its roads. The process involves a machine called a “reclaimer” that pulverizes the asphalt and spreads it evenly across the roadway.

This stark contrast, with still-developing China building new roads at great speed as the long-developed USA un-paves them, is a culmination of two trends. Politics and economics are closely tied, and the government policies of China and the United States have both evolved over the past decades, leading to the current situation.


The $27 billion Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility just established in Russia’s Arctic Yamal Peninsula may seem like just another energy project. However, it should not be glossed over. This new LNG facility is an example of how an alternative economic order is emerging in the world.


“Especially on the Eurasian continent, this is a golden era, and in the Eurasian continent we’re seeing a lot of power accumulating, we’re seeing roads, cities, train networks snaking through the post-Soviet wilderness, and creating a fabulous amount of wealth and dynamism.” These words come from Asle Toje, the research director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute. He is describing a process taking place across Russia, China, and Central Asia, which the Yamal facility is one small part of.