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Chinese-Australian cartoonist Badiucao walks a fine line to avoid being politically hijacked


Image by Chinese-Australian cartoonist Badiucao alluding to the fact that several companies, including Muji, are believed to purchase cotton harvested by ethnic Uyghur prisoners in Xinjiang. Image used with permission.

Being in the middle of two countries currently engaged in one of their worst rows in years is a difficult space to navigate, even more so if one is an outspoken visual artist. This is precisely the case of Badiucao, a Chinese-Australian cartoonist known for his stand on human rights, freedom of expression and fight against racism who, even while being targeted by Beijing supporters, finds himself increasingly isolated and alienated by all sides in Australia.

Born in mainland China, Badiucao sought political asylum in Australia where he is now a citizen. His art seeks to act as a voice of reason, denounce political instrumentalization and support human rights globally.

A turning point in bilateral relations between Australia and China came in 2020, significantly worsened by a series of economic, political and ideological disputes that still remain unsolved. Until last year, both countries enjoyed an economic honeymoon: in 2014, Canberra and Beijing announced their relationship to be a “comprehensive strategic partnership”. By the time they reached the peak of their economic integration in 2019, China had absorbed over a quarter of Australia's trade, and in that year alone, 1.4 million Chinese tourists had visited Australia.

By 2020, the partnership deteriorated as Australia raised serious concerns about issues of human rights and democracy in the context of the many Chinese-Australian citizens, Hong Kong and pro-Taiwan students that were targeted and sometimes attacked by pro-Beijing supporters in Australia. Beijing rejected the criticism and retaliated by imposing a series of bans on key Australian imports. The situation escalated towards the end of 2020 when China decided to stop purchasing key commodities, such as coal, from Australia — a ban that possibly caused power shortages for millions of Chinese.

In an interview by phone with Global Voices, Badiucao suggested that the diplomatic fall-out should not have come as a total surprise:

I think the problem has been present for a very long time, because it was never mutually beneficial. China sees Australia as a ground for infiltration, from education to politics to media. For such a long time, the Australian government was short-sighted about this relationship, it only saw the economic benefit, but [not] much beyond. 

The COVID-19 pandemic did not help matters. Many of the estimated 260,000 Chinese students who were in Australia in 2019 were prevented from returning, and Canberra accused Beijing of a lack of transparency in its management of the pandemic. The impasse has damaged both sides: society and government bodies have engaged in anti-China or anti-Australia movements, some of them violently racist.


Wine label designed by Badiucao calling for other countries to buy Australian wine after China banned its imports. Image used with permission.

To explain the crisis, Badiucao points to a fundamental difference in values and tolerance for criticism between the countries:

Australia has realized that this toxic relationship has to end and that basic values, such as freedom and democracy, can no longer be overlooked. Canberra wants to make clear [that] the relationship must be mutually beneficial, and that Beijing needs to know the difference in their value systems. However, China is not used to any kind of criticism of its government, and responds in an outrageous manner, particularly under Xi Jinping's strategy of wolf warrior diplomacy. 

The cartoonist believes the crisis is a healthy eye-opener not only for Australia, but for the rest of the world, when determining whether to depend economically on China:

I think that because of the geographic locations of China and Australia, we are the first country in the free world seeing the problems of this relationship. China is not willing to play by the rules like other democratic countries. I hope there could be an alliance against those bully threats China can project on countries like Australia, as in the case of the wine exports.

A narrow space for democracy

While this crisis might indeed be a wake-up call, Badiucao is finding it increasingly difficult to make his voice heard in Australia. While the right and far-right have a strong anti-CCP (Chinese Communist Party) line, that discourse, he explains, often includes elements of xenophobia and racism. Many on the left, meanwhile, are afraid to criticize China in the name of political correctness, lest they be accused of supporting racism.

Within Australia's Chinese communities, the narratives are even more complex and do not favour Badiucao. An estimated 1.2 million Chinese Australians (nearly six percent of the total population), come from very different geographies, as Badiucao decodes:

We often overlook the differences within the community: there are second or third generations; they don’t really know much about what is happening in mainland China, and they might have a sense of nostalgia more related to Jackie Chan movies. There are also recent Hong Kong immigrants who have a different understanding of their identity and political stand. But here is the bottom line: we have to tell the difference between people [and] government. The Chinese government does not represent the Chinese people. Unfortunately, some Chinese-Australians are brainwashed by platforms […] in Australia.

Badiucao thinks the Australian government is not doing enough to communicate this distinction between the Chinese government and being Chinese, and that it needs to invest in the Chinese-Australian community much more efficiently in order to counterbalance Beijing propaganda filtering through WeChat and TikTok. 

Cartoons for human rights

For Badiucao, the best way to spread the message of universal human rights is through his art. Political cartoons require no or little translation and can be immediately understood worldwide. Paradoxically, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a positive effect on his outreach. Offline art events have virtually stopped, but Badiucao has always relied on social media to share his art, which has worked to his advantage.

His cartoon transposing the iconic Beijing 1989 TankMan to the context of Trump's America shows how powerful his integration of global images can be:


Image of the 1989 Tiananmen Square iconic Tank Man transposed to the context of Trump's America, by Badiucao. Image used with permission.

Political satirical art may be global, but Badiucao warns against the manipulation around this form of freedom of expression that occurs in authoritarian countries like China. In November and December 2020, Wuhe Qilin (乌合麒麟 ), a satirical artist based in mainland China, released a series of photoshopped images pointing at an investigation conducted by Australia's own military, which found that the country's soldiers may have committed war crimes in Afghanistan.

Badiucao explains why one should be very careful when comparing the role and function of cartoon art in China and in democracies:

I wouldn't use the term ‘artist’ or ‘political cartoonist': the whole narrative [that] he is an independent artist who cares about human rights in Afghanistan is bogus. Here is a telling detail: the work he posted on November 23 on Weibo has no signature of the user ID and no time stamp, which is mandatory as per Weibo regulations. This could indicate Wuhe Qilin himself provided the original copy to the Chinese authorities. Besides, for a long time, he smeared Fang Fang, the author of the Wuhan Diary, [portraying her] as a villain hired by the CIA. He is not an independent artist, because there is no such thing as independence in China. If you don’t collaborate, you don’t have a shred of space to survive or you end up in prison. 

Baiduacao responded to Wuhe Qilin via a series of images showing a PLA (People's Liberation Army) soldier repeating the same gesture aimed at Uyghur, Tibetan and Hong Kong people, wondering whether China would allow Wuhe Qilin to be critical of his own country's violations of human rights:

Will North Korea Explode After Biden Becomes President?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 8:26pm in

North Korea is in even more of an economic mess than before. Will that lead to more brinksmanship?

Recognising China. How it was done.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 19/01/2021 - 5:56am in

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China

It is almost 50 years since Australia and China agreed to enter into diplomatic relations. The path to agreement had its complications and soon after I retired from DFAT I set about refreshing my memory and that of others involved at the time. The result of this research was published in “Quadrant” in March 1998 and is repeated here without change (though many named here have since died). It offers an inside view of what took place.

Australia announced its recognition of the People’s Republic of China on 22nd December 1972, 25 years ago. As the Department of Foreign Affairs’ man in Hong Kong from 1969 until October 1972, and then as head of its China section back in Canberra, I had a pretty good inside view of the McMahon government’s travails over China policy in the period leading up to the December 1972 election, and then of the rush to recognition under the new Whitlam government.

China Policy under McMahon

William McMahon maintained tight control over the coalition government’s policy towards China, first as Foreign Minister, from November 1969 to March 1971, and then as Prime Minister. He saw holding the line against recognition of China as important for domestic policy reasons. After losing the 1972 election McMahon told others that the coalition had made a mistake in not moving to recognise China.

It is clear, however, that before the election he firmly believed that any move to recognise China (and to dump Taiwan) would alienate the Democratic Labor Party and he believed this would be disastrous for his government’s re-election prospects. His belief seems questionable – where after all did the DLP have to turn if it did not support the coalition? – but there seems no doubting the strength with which McMahon held it.

International developments at the beginning of the seventies conspired to force the coalition government to look anew at its China policy. In particular there was the announcement in October 1970 that Canada and China had reached agreement on recognition and diplomatic relations. Canada had blazed a trail which many others soon followed.

The tide was turning against Taiwan, where the Holt government had opened an embassy as recently as 1966. At home the Labor Opposition’s clear policy in favour of recognition of China raised the pressure on McMahon for some kind of policy response. This came in May 1971 with the rather grand title of “progressive normalisation’. It amounted to a decision to seek to develop a dialogue with China on practical issues, including trade, while avoiding the issue of recognition.

Having announced an exploratory dialogue with Peking, the government decided that Alan Renouf, then the Australian Ambassador in Paris, should test the Chinese waters. Renouf had his first meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Paris, the senior party figure Huang Chen, late in May 1971. It was a fairly robust exchange, with Huang telling Renouf flatly that China was prepared to discuss the establishment of diplomatic relations with China and only that. A second meeting between the two early in July, prompted by the government’s anxiety over Gough Whitlam’s forthcoming visit to China that month, found no change in China’s position.

It came as no great surprise in Foreign Affairs that these approaches to China proved unproductive. From the beginnings officials in Foreign Affairs who were advising on China policy had strong doubts that “progressive normalisation” would have any attraction for China. They were uncomfortable with a policy driven more by domestic politics than by national interest. Renouf was to make it clear later in his writings that he had seen no prospect of making any headway with the brief he had been given by Canberra.

Henceforth the coalition’s “progressive normalisation” was to become more a line for the public rather than a real policy. Its suggestion of a certain dynamism in the coalition’s China policy, with some prospect of forward movement, was largely a fiction.

Whitlam’s Visit to China

Whitlam’s bold decision to visit China in July 1971 brought the differences between government and Opposition over China into high focus. Whitlam and Graham Freudenberg, one of the party accompanying Whitlam, have recorded how the visit was arranged with the assistance of the Australian academic Ross Terrill, and the French Ambassador in Peking, Etienne Manac’h, the latter fact a sore point for the coalition.

The visit was a notable success for Whitlam. It’s centrepiece was a substantive conversation with the Chinese Premier, Chou Enlai, which to the surprise of the Australians was held in the presence of the Australian journalists travelling with Whitlam (at least one of whom, David Barnett, made a transcript).

Chou was a testing interlocutor, opening up the subjects of Australia’s role and its relationships with the United States and Japan, yet Whitlam acquitted himself well. Nevertheless back home the government mounted a campaign to vilify Whitlam for swallowing Chinese propaganda and selling out Australian interests.

These criticisms were suddenly choked off when it emerged on 15th July, just a couple of days after Whitlam had left China, that Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s national security adviser, had been in China at the same time and had reached agreement on a breakthrough in the China-US relationship. Kissinger’s visit and the policy which inspired it had been well-kept secrets including, remarkably, from the US State Department itself. The McMahom government was suddenly left embarrassed and flat-footed. Whitlam, lucky in his timing, was left clearly in the ascendant on the China issue.

The McMahon government could fairly argue, and it did in public, that it had in effect been seeking through “progressive normalisation” the kind of relationship with China which the US had now achieved. The US after all had not agreed to the formal recognition of Peking and there was still a US embassy in Taiwan. In March 1972, after President Nixon’s visit to China which saw the signing of the Shanghai Communiqué, the government was to send Renouf for a third meeting with Huang Chen in Paris to ask specifically whether Australia might follow the same path in its relationship with China as had the US. The short answer was no. What Huang did not say, but what was clear, was that at the centre of the breakthrough in US-China relations was their mutual need to offset the perceived threat to each of them from the USSR. The US as a superpower had a value to China in this regard which Australia could not offer.

The Kibel Affair

Early in September 1971, at the time when the McMahon government’s China policy appeared to have come to a dead-end, it had a reprieve from an unexpected quarter. A Melbourne businessman, James Kibel, came to the government with proposals which had been put to him by mainland Chinese official in Hong Kong – that Andrew Peacock, then a junior minister, might make a private visit to China and that an Australian trade delegation also make a separate visit.

The Kibel family had had a long trading connection with China, centred on their import of Chinese machine tools. The nomination of Peacock by the Chinese, odd at first sight, seems to have been made only because James Kibel had mentioned to them that he had a social acquaintance with Peacock, a fellow Melburnian.

It was through Peacock that Kibel relayed the Chinese suggestion to the McMahon government. I was then instructed, early in September 1971, to follow up with Kibel in Hong Kong to get a clearer picture of the Chinese proposals. From memory, we first met to do this in the downstairs bar in the Mandarin Hotel where Kibel was staying. I found him earnest and level-headed and there seemed no reason to doubt his story. A week or so later Kibel had meetings in Canberra with McMahon and other key ministers and officials. He made a good impression and the government soon decided to pursue wholeheartedly the idea of a visit to China by an Australian trade delegation but to leave the idea of a Peacock visit on a back burner. Kibel quickly conveyed this to his contacts in Hong Kong and the increasingly impatient McMahon government began a long wait on the Chinese response.

In the meantime work proceeded quickly in secret, with the close personal involvement of McMahon, to assemble a high-powered trade delegation which was to include the prominent businessmen Ian McLennan and Kenneth Myer as well as government officials.

It was not until November 1971, over two months after the initial approach to Kibel, that a reply came from Hong Kong indicating that the Chinese had gone cold on the idea of a trade delegation. In retrospect what seems to have happened was that an initiative taken by mainland officials in Hong Kong had not found favour in Peking. The fact that in the interim Australia had taken a stand unwelcome to China on the Chinese representation issue in the United Nations was probably also a factor.

Over this whole period some of McMahon’s public utterances on China were the object of wide-eyed wonder among his officials. The nadir came in February and March 1972 when in quick succession he put to parliament an account of the Kibel exercise which was hard to recognise (he suggested wrongly that China had required Peacock to resign before visiting China), announced that he would establish a diplomatic mission in Hong Kong to continue the dialogue with China (a nonsense), and topped things off with a statement that he favoured independence for Taiwan (something unacceptable to both Peking and Taipei).

The Blue Book

It became increasingly clear as the 1972 election approached that it was likely to bring a change of government and that recognition of China would be an early priority for Labor. By then back in Canberra from Hong Kong, I was involved in what at the time was considered a highly sensitive exercise – the preparation of a detailed brief by Foreign Affairs analysing all the issues likely to come up in a negotiation with China on recognition. While today there is a well-established convention that the federal bureaucracy prepares itself ahead of an election for the contingency of a change of government, this was not the case in 1972. The fact that there had been no change of government for twenty-three years was a major factor. The air of conspiracy was further heightened by the fact that the spare office which I was asked to take was windowless. There the first drafts were prepared of what to become known by its authors as the Blue Book (from the colour of its cover).

The principal hand shaping the Blue Book was that of Michael Cook, then the head of the department’s North Asia Branch, later to go on to direct the Office of National Assessments and to serve as Australian Ambassador in Washington. The late Mick Shann, then a deputy secretary of the department, kept a watchful eye on the exercise. I recall Shann advising matter-of-factly that if the Liberals got back in, the work we were doing was to be “flushed straight down the dunny”.

Cook has a clear memory of a strange episode in which the late Keith Waller, then secretary of the department, told him firmly not to proceed with the paper – apparently to protect Waller’s position in the event that it came public that Foreign Affairs was preparing for a change of government. The exercise went ahead nevertheless. Waller later rang Cook the morning after the election asking for the Blue Book, saying he knew Cook well enough to know he would have disobeyed his earlier instruction!

The Blue Book addressed the key issues of alternative formulations which might be used to cover the Taiwan issue in a joint communique with China on recognition. Peking, then and now, claimed Taiwan to be a province of its People’s Republic of China. It required countries seeking agreement on mutual recognition to state their position, in a form acceptable to China, on this claim. Most countries were reluctant to give full endorsement to Peking’s claim to Taiwan, not least because they wished to give Peking no encouragement to try to take Taiwan by force.

There were ways around this problem. The Canadians had established a valuable precedent by using the formulation “take note” to describes its attitude towards the claim that Taiwan was a part of the People’s Republic; a formula which, it could be argued, neither endorsed nor denied that claim. This was to be Australia’s preferred outcome in its negotiation but there were a number of other formulations which, again it could be argued, amounted to much the same stand.

The Blue Book addressed a range of other practical issues which it was anticipated would come up in the negotiation, including the nature of any continuing unofficial links between Australia and Taiwan; the future of Taiwan’s branch of the Bank of China which had operated in Sydney since the war; and the future of Taiwan’s four properties in Australia. It also looked at alternative venues for the negotiation with China, coming down in favour of Paris, where Renouf had had his contacts with Huang Chen. It was to prove a comprehensive brief, identifying all the issues which were in fact raised, if not anticipating the weight which China would place on each of them.

The fact that the Australian side was well prepared for the negotiation was to be all the more important, as the speed with which Whitlam wished to move on China once in government (as on so much else in those heady days) had not been fully foreseen in the department. The Blue Book was passed to Whitlam by Waller on Sunday 3rd December, the day after the election. Whitlam was impressed by Foreign Affairs preparations, though it seems highly unlikely he ever found time to read the Blue Book. He soon made it clear that he wanted an agreement with China by Christmas. Australia in fact was to complete its negotiation with China inside twenty days. This compares with the twenty months Canada had required to negotiate its terms with China – admittedly a path-breaking exercise.

The Negotiation

The negotiation with China began in the Chinese embassy in Paris on 7th December and was concluded with the signature of a joint communiqué in the then Australian official residence in Paris on 22nd December (Canberra time in each case). The public announcement was made late the same day, the Friday before Christmas. There were four substantive sessions of negotiation between the two ambassadors. Before each session a detailed brief was prepared by Cook and his team, approved by Whitlam and then cabled to Renouf. While due process was thus observed, there was no sign that Whitlam took any interest in the details of the negotiation.

On the key issue of the communiqué formulation setting out Australia’s position on Peking’s claim to Taiwan, China resisted Australian arguments in favour of the Canadian formula (“takes note”). The end result was that Australia “acknowledges the position of the Chinese government that Taiwan is a province of the People’s Republic of China”, the formulation which had been accepted by Britain in a joint communiqué upgrading relations with China to full ambassadorial level the previous March.

The issue of residential unofficial links between Australia and Taiwan was also more vexed than had been anticipated. Japan had set was seemed an important precedent in its negotiation by obtaining Chinese acceptance that Japan and Taiwan would maintain an unofficial presence in each other’s country. Initially the Chinese seemed accepting of such an arrangement between Australia and Taiwan, but later in the negotiation they took a hard line against it and Australia had to abandon plans it had been developing to maintain an unofficial office in Taiwan headed by a former trade commissioner.

The issue of Taiwan’s four properties in Australia was also more prominent than had been anticipated, with China arguing that the Australian government should act to prevent Taiwan selling them. Australia had the convincing riposte that the properties belonged to the government of China, and that it would continue to recognise Taiwan as the government of China until such time as there was agreement to recognise Peking. Until then Australia could do nothing. In fact Australia issued a warning to prospective buyers just before agreement was reached, but Taiwan had managed to dispose of all its properties before 22nd December. China was not to make further issue of this.

It was in fact a most unequal negotiation, Whitlam having made it plain, both in private and in public, that he wanted a quick result, with Christmas the target. This weakened Australia’s hand in the negotiation, leaving little scope for it to dig in its heels on the central issues.

Did this matter? Probably not a great deal. The communiqué formulation on Taiwan, while not the Canadian, fell short of endorsing China’s position (or so it could be argued in the unlikely event of need) and Australia was in respectable international company in using it. With more time, and perhaps more subtle handling on Australia’s part, it may have been possible to gain tacit Chinese acceptance of an unofficial Australian presence in Taiwan, something that has of course proved possible since.

Looking back, the wonder is that China did not more fully exploit the strong position in which Whitlam’s haste placed it. It seems possible that there may have been some in Peking who felt that more advantage could have been taken. There was an incident late in the negotiation when Renouf arrived by appointment at the Chinese embassy to check the text of the communiqué which had been agreed. In Ambassador Huang’s absence he was confronted by one of Huang’s staff who sought to reopen negotiation on the text. To Renouf’s credit he turned on his heel and left. The negotiation was put back on track soon afterward when Huang rang Renouf to say the agreed text should stand.

Closing the Embassy in Taiwan

These events meant that Hugh Dunn, the Australian Ambassador in Taiwan at the time, was put in the unenviable position of having to close down his embassy in record time. Widely anticipated though the result of the 1972 election had been, there had been little indication of the great speed with which the new Australian government would want to move on China. In the interests of restricting knowledge of the exercise, Dunn had not been informed of the preparations being made in Foreign Affairs before the election, though he had wisely done considerable planning of his own.

Canberra told Dunn on 5th December that he should leave Taiwan by the 15th. It is greatly to his credit that he and his family met this schedule and managed to resolve most of the problems of disestablishing an embassy. At the same time he had to talk to the Taiwan government about such matters as as the possibilities for residual unofficial relations and closure of the Bank of China in Sydney (something Taiwan readily agreed to do). In fact the way Taiwan’s ministers and officials reacted to Australia’s change of affections under the Labor government – they expressed varying degrees of regret but without bitterness – won them some sympathy and respect in Canberra.

Ironically, Dunn was to serve as Ambassador in Peking in later years, the only Australian ambassador to have been accredited on both sides of the Taiwan Straits. He was to meet Huang Chen there as Minister of Culture and reminisce about the events of December 1972. Huang told him the negotiation with Australia was the easiest of all those he had done in Paris.

China Tech Ban Mirrors 1980s Attempts To Destroy Japanese Competition

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/01/2021 - 7:25am in

With just days left in office, the Trump administration has blacklisted an additional nine Chinese companies, adding them to a long list of firms on the U.S. military blacklist and escalating the trade war on Beijing as the U.S. attempts to suppress China’s economic rise. 

The Department of Defense claimed that those on its list are secretly owned or controlled by the Chinese military and that it was “determined to highlight and counter” threats that “appear to be civilian entities” but are not. Those companies are now likely partially blocked from the U.S. market and from doing business with American companies. 

Chief on the list is electronics giant Xiaomi, whose stocks plunged by 11% this morning and have not recovered. While still relatively unknown in the U.S., Xiaomi is a global giant, manufacturing televisions, smartwatches, tablets, and all manner of home appliances. They are surely best known, however, as makers of smartphones. In quarter three of last year, Xiaomi stormed past Apple to become the planet’s third-largest smartphone maker, behind only Samsung and fellow-sanctioned Chinese giant Huawei. Xiaomi sold 46.5 million units, a 42% increase on Q3 last year — an impressive jump, especially considering the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Airplane manufacturer Comac, oil giant CNOOOC and Chinese chipmaker SMIC were also added to the list.

Quickly developing a loyal base of customers, Xiaomi is increasingly seen across the planet as a major competitor to Apple, selling similarly specced units for a fraction of the price of an iPhone. By contrast, both Apple’s smartphone sales and market share have been falling dramatically, suggesting that, unlikely as it seems, Apple could go the way of Nokia or Motorola before them. 

 

The government’s move is the latest episode in the ever-intensifying trade war against Beijing. The Trump administration has previously sanctioned other Chinese tech giants like smartphone manufacturer and 5G provider Huawei and video-sharing social media app TikTok, claiming them to be dangerous appendages of the Red Army. In 2020, the president threatened to shut down TikTok, unless it was sold to an American corporation. Other pro-U.S. countries such as India went further, instituting an outright ban on the popular platform. 

 

“Pivot to Asia”

It is unclear who, apart from American tech firms, have been the beneficiary of this trade war. A recently-published study found that Trump’s decisions on China have cost close to a quarter of a million American jobs already and will likely lead to the loss of 145,000 more by 2025. 

The Trump administration has also built on President Obama’s military “Pivot to Asia,” attempting to encircle Russia and China with American military bases, and building alliances with Beijing’s neighbors in order to do so. U.S. warships and planes have been probing the Chinese coast for months, attempting to gain more knowledge about their defense systems. In July, the U.S.S. Rafael Peralta went within 41 nautical miles of the coastal megacity of Shanghai. Last month, the military also flew nuclear bombers over Chinese ships close to the province of Hainan Island. 

 

The China tech ban mirrors the moves in the 1980s to destroy the Japanese semiconductor industry, which had rapidly risen and overtaken its American competitor. If nothing was done, Japan would have easily overtaken Silicon Valley to become the world’s electronics and communications capital. The U.S. imposed a 100% tariff on virtually all Japanese electronics and forced Tokyo to sign a one-sided trade deal that reserved much of its domestic semiconductor sector for American companies and opened the country up for American agribusiness. In no small part due to U.S. actions, much of the high-tech sector collapsed, and Japan has suffered over 30 years of economic recession since. Xiaomi also makes semiconductors. 

China’s response to the news was to point the finger at the U.S. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the United States has a long history of civilian-military tech partnerships and accused the Trump administration of double-standards and bullying. 

Lijian is not incorrect; virtually every big American tech firm has close links with the government or the military. In November, for instance, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, IBM, and Amazon Web Services all signed a 15-year deal to provide the CIA and 16 other intelligence agencies with cloud computing and other digital services. In their book titled, “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business,” Eric Schmidt and fellow Google executive Jared Cohen wrote, “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century…technology and cyber-security companies will be to the twenty-first,” suggesting that they saw big tech’s role as the tip of the American spear. 

 

During the presidential debates, Trump and Biden appeared to be trying to outcompete each other on their hawkishness towards China, each presenting the other as a puppet of Chinese Premier Xi Jinping. While Biden might not have opted for a ban on Chinese companies like Trump has, analysts suggest that he is unlikely to reverse this decision, nor to change the direction of American policy. Thus, the Xiaomi restrictions are unlikely to be the last shots fired in the growing trade war against Beijing.

Feature photo | A woman takes a photo with a phone that has a United States flag themed cover outside the United States Consulate in Chengdu in southwest China’s Sichuan province on, July 26, 2020. Ng Han Guan | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

The post China Tech Ban Mirrors 1980s Attempts To Destroy Japanese Competition appeared first on MintPress News.

Media in the Asian Century. An Australian anti-China hawk helped draft US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/01/2021 - 5:58am in

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China, Media, Politics

“In many ways (Australians) were ahead of the curve in understanding influence operations and interference in domestic systems,” one senior US official told me. “They were pioneers and we have to give a lot of credit to Australia.” The official singled out former Australian senior intelligence advisor John Garnaut for praise…’

Legion of Merit to the wrong PM

Something strange happened this week. The ABC was the first to get hold of a highly sensitive American defence paper, titled US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, that had been mystifyingly declassified by the Trump administration two weeks ahead of the handover to Joe Biden, despite having been stamped “secret” and “not for release to foreign nationals” since it was written only in 2018.

Instead of the likes of Shari Markson and other security hawks with News Corp, it fell to the 7.30 Report’s Laura Tingle to convey its message to the world.

In a note on its publication to all this Wednesday, the US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said the release was “to communicate to the American people and to our allies and partners America’s enduring commitment to this vital region”.

Conjecture about deeper motives included that the US defence and intelligence community wanted to show they had actually been doing some structured thinking behind Trump’s erratic leadership, and wanted it out there for Biden to pursue.

The 10-page paper seems to firm up elements of US strategy that had been deliberately left hazy or ambiguous up to now, notably the marking out of the first island chain as the limit of Chinese power projection, making its enclosed seas contested, and effectively guaranteeing the defence of Taiwan. As well as this defence posture, the paper also calls for closer cooperation with allies in countering Chinese interference and espionage, and tightening the US-Japan-Australia-India “quad”.

Citing Australia’s participation in nearly all US wars since 1916, the Melbourne Herald-Sun’s Sarah McPhee commented: “In other words, if America was to take on China in defence of Taiwan, it’s assumed that Australia would jump to our ally’s aid – despite our increasing reliance on China as a crucial trading partner over the years.”

None of this is likely to delight Beijing, and guess who gets a lot of the credit for stiffening the US approach? “Australia’s experience with China strongly influenced the drafting of the 2018 Indo-Pacific strategy,” two researchers at the Aspen Institute wrote in the US political website Axios.

They quoted a “senior US official” as saying: “In many ways they were ahead of the curve in understanding influence operations and interference in domestic systems,” one senior US official told me. “They were pioneers and we have to give a lot of credit to Australia.” The official singled out former Australian senior intelligence advisor John Garnaut for praise, and said a 2017 report on Chinese influence operations by New Zealand-based scholar Anne-Marie Brady had also influenced the US strategy.

So Trump gave the Legion of Merit to the wrong man, it seems. Malcolm Turnbull, who employed Garnaut, should have been up there in the Pantheon of Indo-Pacific warriors, alongside Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi, not Morrison.

But anyway, Canberra security figures were absolutely delighted. “This confirms that US strategic policy in the Indo-Pacific was in substantial part informed and driven by allies and partners, especially Japan, Australia and India,” ANU National Security College head Rory Medcalf wrote for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

Another brick in the wall against China

 New foreign investment rules came into force on January 1, requiring all proposals to be vetted for potential dangers to national security.

The regime kicks off as the Australian Financial Review’s John Kehoe broke the news that treasurer Josh Frydenberg had vetoed two more Chinese investments recently, apparently on these grounds – a $300 million takeover of builder Probuild by state-owned China State Construction Engineering, and a $300 million investment by a Chinese state power firm in a new gas-fired power station that Energy Australia plans for near Wollongong.

The objection to the Probuild buyout from its listed South African owner was apparently that it had recently built the new headquarters for Victoria’s police and was building a Melbourne office tower to house vaccine maker CSL. Getting hold of the blueprints for these buildings would apparently allow Chinese intelligence to do bad things. The other refusal suggests any infrastructure is sensitive.

Following refusals in agriculture and food processing, not much is left. “Most of the economy is now not available to the Chinese,” Kehoe quoted one unnamed investment banker as saying.

Lawyers and bankers believed the Foreign Investment Review Board, which advises the treasurer, had become a proxy security regulator, not just an economic body to facilitate foreign investment. “The FIRB is chaired by Australia’s former top intelligence chief and former ambassador to China, David Irvine,” Kehoe said. “The new head of Treasury’s foreign investment division, Tom Hamilton, has a defence background. Treasury officials work for the FIRB.”

The FIRB’s published guidance includes national security risks from the construction sector, including construction firms holding contracts with government agencies and critical infrastructure service providers, access to sensitive information such as building blueprints and supply chains.

“Such information may be of value to foreign intelligence services,” FIRB’s website says. “Foreign intelligence services may also pre-position for future intelligence activities such as by building surveillance equipment into the premises during construction, in order to gather information on intended sensitive tenants.”

Canberra officials were well aware of that long ago. In the 1990s our security agencies tried to do exactly that with the new Chinese embassy premises.

Cherry picking

This week’s payback from China came with the news that shipments of Australian cherries had tailed off. while the Chinese steel mills and other buyers of Australian coal sitting in ships off Australian ports have been told to find other markets for it.

The Chinese punishment is hitting hard in regional Australia already. In The Australian on January 6, Stephen Lunn and Angelica Snowden reported unease in Portland, where the struggling Alcoa aluminium refinery has an uncertain future, despite a $77 million lifeline from the federal government last month. Two other big employers, timber and crayfish, had been brought to a halt by Chinese halts to imports. The lesson is being driven home to new trade minister Dan Tehan, as Portland sits in his electorate.

But if Portland readers had turned to the newspaper’s opinion pages the same day, they would have felt exhorted to stand firm. China was out to bring Australia to heel, warned academic turned spy-catcher Clive Hamilton. “…some of the leaders of the industries being squeezed by China’s trade bans have become, in effect, mouthpieces for Beijing, calling on the government to “fix the relationship”, as if it’s all our fault. This is exactly what Beijing planned.”

A shocking thought

Now it can be told, as Trump crony Arthur Culverhouse packs up in Canberra and the US embassy awaits a Biden appointee as ambassador. The Sydney Morning Herald’s Anthony Galloway informed readers on January 7 that disinformation can come from American and Australian sources.

He instanced the notorious Sydney Daily Telegraph front-page story about a 15-page “dossier” on Covid-19 that laid “the foundation for the case of negligence being mounted against China”. The dossier was in fact an openly sourced “non-paper” authored by the US State Department, which contained no classified information from intelligence agencies.

Galloway said there were “widespread suspicions within senior ranks of the Australian government and the intelligence community that the document was leaked to the Daily Telegraph by a staff member in the US Embassy in Canberra.”

“The Trump administration’s promotion of the Wuhan lab theory did immeasurable harm to Australia’s efforts to push for an independent inquiry into the origins of the virus” Galloway said. “It allowed Beijing to claim the inquiry was part of a US propaganda bid to discredit China, leading to relations between Canberra and Beijing to deteriorate to their worst levels in decades.”

He concluded: “While you should always watch out for your adversaries, sometimes you need to keep a close eye on your friends.”

Xi Jinping’s sledgehammers

Australia’s part in the new US strategy and the foreign investment decisions undoubtedly mean more punishment is being considered in Beijing, and any hopes of invoking the free trade agreement or WTO appeals are not going to cut it. Under Xi Jinping, no agreements or rules get in the way of putting down challenges and opposition.

This was amply demonstrated at dawn on January 6, when some 1200 police fanned out across Hong Kong and arrested some 53 prominent politicians, activists and others for suspected offences against the territory’s new national security law imposed by Beijing. Most spent a night in police cells before being bailed the next day.

The offence as outlined by Hong Kong security secretary John Lee was organising an unofficial “primary” vote ahead of elections that were due last September for the elected seats in the Legislative Council, postponed ostensibly because of the Covid-19 epidemic.

This was a prelude to an effort by pro-democracy elements to win enough Legco seats to block government budgets and thereby force the resignation of the unpopular Hong Kong chief executive, Carrie Lam, whose position is filled by vote of a Beijing-vetted panel. Lee said the activists were planning on “mutual destruction” and plunging the city into an “abyss.”

That all the activities he cited were normal, open political campaigning for elections permitted under Hong Kong’s autonomy system is unlikely to deter prosecutions. The territory’s politics were evolving the wrong way, and had to be smashed.

As well as passports, about 200 mobile phones and computers were confiscated from the arrestees and family members, and were sent off to the mainland where authorities have sophisticated data-extraction technology, the Washington Post reported. The Ministry of State Security will then confect sedition charges potentially bringing lengthy jail terms.

It was also noticed this month that nobody has seen the Chinese e-commerce tycoon Jack Ma in public since he was hauled in for questioning after criticising Chinese state banks for a “pawn shop mentality” at a Shanghai conference attended by Xi Jinping’s consiglieri, Vice-President Wang Qishan, and central bank governor Yi Gang, on October 24.

Chinese authorities promptly halted the planned US$37 billion public share offering by Ma’s e-payments enterprise Ant, which would have been the world’s biggest float. As the AFR’s Karen Maley wrote on January 8, Ant (previously known as Alipay) had expanded from online payments into a virtual online bank where customers could park money in accounts known as Yu-ebao that earned higher interest than paid by the state banks.

“To the banks’ chagrin, Yu’ebao proved massively popular, becoming one of the country’s largest money market funds,” Maley reported. “Chinese banks also watched helplessly as Alipay, which was spun out as Ant in 2014, developed the largest payments business in the world, with some 730 million monthly users. But in addition to being a payment tool, Ant’s Alipay has become a major portal for personal credit, loans, investment and insurance.”

“By pulling the pin on the Ant IPO, Beijing made it clear that it would not tolerate such open defiance of its authority. Private companies, no matter how successful, still had to play by the political rules of the game, which include showing due deference for the state’s authority. What’s more, Beijing now appears to be gearing up for a more fundamental attack on Ant’s entire business model, no doubt with the blessing of the country’s massive state-owned commercial banks.”

Too much of a challenge to the system, even though Ma is a Communist Party member and his Alibaba enterprise is surely the kind of service sector thing you’d think Xi’s “dual circulation” economic strategy would welcome. Whether Ma has been purged, and will eventually appear in court accused of financial crimes remains to be seen. Possibly he has been told to lie low.

Meanwhile, Maley noted: “It’s likely that Canberra will be watching the punishment that Beijing has meted out to Chinese tech billionaire Jack Ma with huge interest and not a little anxiety.” No-one is too big to pull down. She asks: Are Australia’s education and tourism sectors next in line for punishment?

Why Australia and the West suffer from Sinophrenia. China, the bubble that never pops.

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 15/01/2021 - 5:56am in

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China, Politics

On the economic front, China has consistently confounded the pessimists. As China grows and grows, critics can’t decide whether the Asian giant is about to collapse or is set to take us over.

As farce masquerades as politics in the US with the storming of the Capitol, it can be tedious to note good news from the other great global power, China. China’s continued strong economic growth is of far greater importance to Australia’s wellbeing than the circus in Washington. But judging from public discussion, who would know?

On Christmas Eve, revised international estimates showed that China would now overtake the US as the world’s biggest economy in 2028, nearly five years earlier than previously expected, when measured in nominal dollars.

Under the International Monetary Fund’s preferred measure of purchasing power parity, China has already eclipsed the US as the world’s biggest economy. The Economist’s Big Mac index has China’s economy even larger relative to the US.

The IMF estimates China’s GDP growth this year will be 8.2 per cent. On this basis, Bloomberg calculates that in 2021 China will account for 26.8 per cent of world economic growth – substantially more than America’s estimated 16 per cent.

The global tipping point in economic predominance has been passed and China’s economic power relative to both the US and rest of the world will grow massively. This is the big geopolitical story in the years ahead.

As the recent EU-China bilateral investment agreement shows, it is not a foregone result that Western powers will link arms to resist China’s economic ascendancy. US President-elect Joe Biden will struggle with his China policy. A reset in Washington-Beijing relations is on the cards, and Australia may well be on its own again.

The holiday period is a good time to catch up on both sleep and reading. One of the previous year’s most important books, which inexplicably has received scant attention, is Tom Orlik’s China: The Bubble that Never Pops. With respect to writings on China, it should have been the book of the year. It is a book that was long waiting to be written. Orlik was Bloomberg’s veteran China analyst based in Beijing. His 2011 book, Understanding China’s Economic Indicators, was a must-read guide to the country’s statistics. Few commentators understand the numbers as well as Orlik.

Since the late 1970s, when China’s reform and open-door policies unleashed five decades of almost uninterrupted rapid economic growth and changed the world along the way, a consistent theme has been that it would all end in tears.

Expert commentators were always predicting – and still are – that China’ growth ‘‘bubble’’ would imminently burst. Certainly, Beijing has given the Cassandras plenty of material with which to work, notably its rapidly increasing levels of debt.

By 2019, China’s total debt was estimated to be about 300 per cent of GDP, higher than the debt-to-GDP ratio of the US and other developed economies.

While China’s per capita income is around emerging economy levels, its debt is more than double the emerging economy average. As Orlik observes, this is a significant disadvantage for China.

China’s debt-to-GDP ratio has also risen rapidly. In the past decade, it has almost doubled – compared, for example, with Greece, before the onset of its financial crisis, where it increased by 75 per cent from 2001 to 2010. The IMF has found that no economy where debt was higher than 100 per cent and that had grown as fast as China had escaped a financial crisis.

Orlik argues, however, that China has consistently confounded the pessimists. He says, ‘‘to read the history of modern China is to read the history of collapse theories’’. The post-Tiananmen crisis, the Asian financial crisis, the refinancing of the banking system in the early 2000s, the global financial crisis, the 2015 Shanghai equities debacle, ghost towns, the inability to rebalance towards consumption, local government debt and shadow banking, and rural-urban income inequalities were all going to bring the house of cards down.

But the bubble never pops. As Orlik concludes, ‘‘Collapse theories have been many and varied. So far they have one thing in common: they have all been wrong.’’

The China ‘‘expert’’ Gordon Chang famously miscued when he titled his 2001 book The Coming Collapse of China. Any number of financial market analysts and public commentators have lemming-like fallen over the same predictive cliff. Orlik convincingly shows why so many have got China’s economy so wrong for so long.

Today we are gripped by what Orlik cleverly terms ‘‘Sinophrenia’’ – China is at the same time about to collapse and take over the world. Australia today is very much in the thrall of Sinophrenia. It is damaging to both commercial and public policy decision-making.

After my 35 years of analysing, commenting on, advising and doing business with China, it is hard not to give China’s policymakers the benefit of the doubt. One day the bubble may burst. The economist Rudiger Dornbusch famously said crises take longer to arrive than can possibly be imagined, but when they do, they happen faster than you can imagine.

If the China bubble does burst, it will cause enormous harm not only to the 1.4 billion people of China, but to the world economy. The IMF recently estimated that among developed countries, Australia would suffer most in terms of loss of economic welfare.

This is my last monthly column after contributing to The Australian Financial Review’s opinion pages for the past seven years. The forum is now well populated with many excellent commentators. It has become the premier place for short-form articles on foreign and strategic policy, inevitably heavily focused on China, which opinion makers read – and by which they are influenced.

Geoff Raby was Australia’s ambassador to China from 2007 to 2011. His most recent book, China’s Grand Strategy and Australia’s Future in the New Global Order, was published in November 2020 by Melbourne University Press.

Published first in AFR,14.1.2021

 

BLM Activist Calls for Dictionary to Redefine Racism

Here’s something far more controversial after some of the posts I’ve put up recently. A few days ago, the writer and Youtuber Simon Webb put up on his channel, History Debunked, a piece about a worrying attempt by a young Black American woman, Kennedy Mitchum to change the definition of racism in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Webb states that most people would say that racism means racial prejudice, or that there are more profound differences between racial groups than their skin colour and physical appearance. The Merriam-Webster dictionary currently defines racism as

  1. A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.
  2. A doctrine or political programme based on racism and designed to execute its policies.
  3. Racial prejudice or discrimination.

This wasn’t good enough for Mitchum. Three days after the death of George Floyd, with riots breaking out across America, she emailed the publisher calling for the definition to be changed in accordance with Critical Race Theory. This holds that racism is due to the imbalance of power in society, and implemented by the dominant racial group. Instead of telling Mitchum where to stick her suggestion, as Webb himself would have done, the publishers responded to her, telling her that this issue needed to be addressed sooner rather than later and that a revision would be made. Peter Sokolofsky, one of the dictionary’s editors, stated that the second definition would be expanded to be even more explicit in its next edition, and would include systemic oppression as well as sample sentence, and would be formulated in consultation with academics in Black Studies.

Webb points out that if this is done, then it would redefine racism as something that only Whites do, and absolve people of colour of any responsibility for it on their part, or indeed see them as being racist at all, because Whites are the dominant race in Britain and America. This is, he claims, the attitude of many liberals and leftists, who believe that all White people are racist. It would also mean that Blacks, who hated Jews or Indians, would not be viewed as racist. He has personally seen such racism in the Caribbean street robbers of Hackney. They hated Orthodox Jews and used to go to Stamford Bridge to prey on the Jewish community there. He ends the video by stating that such a redefinition of racism would mean that all Whites in Britain and America are defined as racist but no other ethnic groups.

Changing the dictionary definition of racism – YouTube

There certainly is an attitude amongst some anti-racist activists that only White people can be racist and are never the victims. Way back in October 2019 Sargon of Akkad, the man who broke UKIP, put up a post commenting on a report in the Guardian about complaints about an EHRC investigation into racism at Britain’s universities by a group of Black and Asian academics and students. The group, which included Heidi Mirza, the visiting professor of race, faith and culture and Goldsmiths College, University of London, Fope Olaleye, the NUS’ Black students’ officer, Gargi Bhattacharyya, professor of sociology at the University of East London, and Zubaida Haque, the deputy director of the racial equality think tank, the Runnymede Trust, were outraged at the Commission because it dared to include anti-White, anti-English racism. This, they seemed to believe, detracted from the Commission’s true purpose, which was to combat White racism against Blacks and Asians.

Students of Colour Furious that Anti-White Prejudice is Considered to be Racism – YouTube

I’ve posted a number of pieces criticising the lack of attention and action against anti-White racism. At the moment the attitude that racism is something that only Whites are guilty of racism seems extremely prevalent. In fact, the situation regarding racial prejudice, abuse and violence is far more complex. About 20 years ago, before 9/11 and the subsequent massive rise in Islamophobia, Whites briefly formed the largest number of victims of racial abuse and violence. There are also tensions and conflict between different non-White minorities. In the 1980s or ’90s there was a riot in Birmingham, not between Blacks and Whites, but between Blacks and Asians. I’ve also heard that in one of the schools in Bristol in one of the very racially mixed areas, most of the playground fights were between different groups of Asians. Some people were aware that different ethnic groups also had their racial prejudices. Boy George mentioned it when he appeared on Max Headroom’s chat show on British TV in the 1980s, for which he was praised for his brave outspokenness by the world’s first computer generated video jockey.

There is, however, a real reluctance to tackle ethnic minority racism. A couple of years ago an Asian man told Diane Abbott that there should be more action on the racism members of ethnic minorities experienced at the hands of other non-Whites. Abbott told him she wasn’t going to do anything about it, because the Tories would use it to divide and rule. Like Kennedy Mitchum and the Critical Race Theorists, as well as the critics of the EHRC, she was solely focussed on tackling White racism.

That focus, in my opinion, explains why the Black comedian and anti-racist activist, Sophie Duker, felt she could get away with a joke about killing Whitey on Frankie Boyle’s podcast. Boyle had assembled a panel of mainly Black and Asian activists, to discuss the topic of how ethnic minorities were coming together to kill Whitey. Duker had made comments about racism being the product of an ideology of Whiteness, which was harming Blacks and Whites. She then said that they didn’t want to kill Whitey, before adding ‘we do really’. She was clearly joking, but her comment resulted in the corporation receiving 200 complaints. According to right-wing internet radio host and Youtuber, Alex Belfield, the Beeb is now being investigated by the Greater Manchester Police for what is described as a ‘hate incident’. His attitude is that while Duker’s comment was a joke, it should be unacceptable, just as making jokes about killing Blacks is unacceptable. See, for example, his piece ‘Reply BBC ‘Whitey’ Joker STAGGERING From Unapologetic Hate Lady Comedian’, which he put up on Youtube on the 8th January 2021. No, I’m not going to link to it. Even I have standards! I think one of the reasons she felt she could make the joke is because she and the other activists concentrate exclusively on White racism. Anti-White racism simply isn’t an issue with them. But anti-White racism, abuse and violence does occur, hence the angry complaints.

We really do need a study of anti-White racism and racism amongst ethnic minorities. Sir Alan Burns, a British colonial civil servant and former governor of the Gold Coast, now Ghana, discusses Black prejudice against Whites and other racial groups in his book, Colour Prejudice, published in 1948. Nigel Barley also discusses the blind spot Cameroonians had towards their own racism, as well as that of a Black American ethnologist in his The Innocent Anthropologist. The Black American was very racially aware. An idealist, he was inspired by notions of Black brotherhood and wished to live and be treated by the local people the same as one of them. He was shocked when they continued to regard him as they would White westerners, and failed to see how the Fulani traders rigged the local markets to exclude those from other tribes. As for the Camerounians generally, they commonly believed that only Whites were racist. Barley describes how they excused the massacre of French nuns in the Congo by the claim that the nuns were themselves racists. But they refused to recognise that their own hatred and contempt of the people he was studying, the Dowayo, was also racist.

Some Asian nations also have a reputation for racism. Back in the 1990s I found a book on Chinese xenophobia on sale in Waterstones in Bath. I’ve also read various books on Japan, which have also described how racist Japanese society is. I don’t know if it is still true, but one could only qualify as a Japanese citizen if both parents were Japanese. This meant that there was a sizable Korean community, who had lived in the country for generations, which had no civil rights under the law. In schools there was a strong suspicion of outsiders, so it has been claimed, which resulted in foreign students being segregated in separate classes. This is on the grounds that their Japanese language skills may not be good enough for inclusion with the rest of the pupils, but it is applied even to children who are fluent in the language. Outside Japan, expatriate or visiting Japanese will stick almost exclusively to themselves. Back in the 1990s there was a controversy in Australia, I believe, over the construction of a luxury resort there by the Japanese, because it was exclusively for Japanese and no-one else. I don’t mean by this to claim that all Japanese are racist. I’ve met people, who lived in Japan, who admire them and who told me that in their experience they were a very kind people. The travel writer and historian William Dalrymple also describes the anti-Black racism he encountered in India in his book, In Xanadu. Arriving at a railway station with a friend, a Black American soldier, he approached a group of Indian porters, only to see them turn away, sneering at the Black American simply for being Black. Again, I don’t wish to imply that all Indians are racist either.

Racism and racial prejudice exists amongst all peoples and ethnic groups to a greater or lesser degree, even in this country. It is about time that there were proper academic studies of it amongst non-White ethnic groups and anti-White racism in this country. At the moment there is a feeling amongst Whites that only White on Black racism is taken seriously, and that prejudice against Whites is not only acceptable, but being fostered by supposed anti-racist activists.

If the authorities are serious about tackling racism, and all forms of it, that needs to change.

Planting booby traps for Joe Biden in Taiwan

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/01/2021 - 5:58am in

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China

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the dying days of Donald Trump’s presidency, announced on 9 January that all “contact guidelines” regulating when and how US officials could interact with their Taiwan counterparts were “null and void.”

He did not go so far as to endorse official relations, but he described Taiwan as an “unofficial partner.” This has greatly heightened the risk of retaliatory action by China that might even lead to conflict. That possibility again raises the question of which side Canberra would take.

Pompeo’s statement slammed existing US policies as attempts to appease the Communist regime and promised that this annulment would do away with the “self-imposed restrictions of our permanent bureaucracy.” In one sense, this is just the latest in a series of pro-Taiwan measures, following on record arms sales, visits by senior officials including the Secretary for Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and the enactment of the Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative and the Taiwan Assurances Act that will force a review of the bilateral diplomatic relationship. The US Ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, was due to travel to Taiwan on 13 January.

Taiwan officials have welcomed the latest moves, which they see as steps in the direction of normalizing relations. Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted his support. Press opinion in Taiwan is however divided. The Pan Green Liberty Times in an editorial comment endorsed the latest move, saying it would stiffen Biden’s resolve to “frame” Beijing, while the Pan Blue United Daily saw no benefits for Taiwan since the new US administration would surely conduct a thorough review of China policies.

In Hong Kong, the South China Morning Post, warned that Trump might take further action to anger Beijing such as sending military aircraft or ships to visit, but quoted unnamed Chinese observers warning Beijing to be alert but not alarmed.

Meanwhile, on 10 January, Foreign Minister Marise Payne joined her counterparts from Canada, the UK and the US in a joint statement on arrests of 55 suspects in Hong Kong under the terms of the new National Security Law. (All except one have subsequently been released.) This shows the sources of our China policies.

Beijing in fact has been quite restrained in its reaction to Pompeo’s statement. Zhao Lijian, Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said, “We advise Mr Pompeo and his likes to recognise the historical trend, stop manipulating Taiwan-related issues, stop retrogressive acts and stop going further down the wrong and dangerous path, otherwise they will be harshly punished by history.” Beijing does not want to prejudice relations with Biden and the incoming administration by precipitate action. If there are no unforeseen fireworks from either side, Biden is likely to stick to existing policies that are governed by the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act and the One China Policy.

What was it that drove Pompeo to let off this cracker, just days before his leaving office? So far, as far as diplomatic relations are concerned, the chess moves have been entirely predictable and only presage stalemate. It seems that the reasons for his statement may be found in Washington, not in the South China Sea.

The Falun Gong cult, which has evolved into a powerful political lobby with its own online media and press including the Epoch Times, has been a major donor and sponsor of Trump’s campaign for re-election. Falun Gong banners were raised in last week’s rally in Washington, according to the South China Morning Post and Falun Gong leaflets have been distributed at pro-Trump rallies in other states. The Taiwan independence lobby is also a powerful force in Washington. While the international press focussed on Trump’s support from right wing Hispanic voters, the influence of the ethnic Chinese American community should not be overlooked. These people back Pompeo’s statement.

It is said that Samson, when he pulled down the pillars of the Temple to Dagon, destroyed more Philistines when he died than when he was alive. So it might also be with Mike Pompeo. Perhaps he had been reading Milton’s Samson Agonistes, “Boast not of what thou would’st have done, but do What then thou would’st.”

The addiction to cheapness makes the economy especially ‘fragile’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/01/2021 - 9:21am in

There are some things that ‘should’ , it seems, be cheap: food, ‘labour’ and consumer goods are most usually cited…. What isn’t ever cheap is housing – whether purchased or rented – indeed any ‘real estate’ property is rarely cheap. Though it is virtually never mentioned, expensive housing inhibits the ability to compete ‘globally’ (to... Read more

Hong Kong’s future now lies with China

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 10/01/2021 - 5:56am in

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China

The past year and a half has transformed Hong Kong. Following prolonged, intense and often violent protest in 2019, COVID-19 drove activists off the streets in early 2020. This year’s passage of the National Security Law (NSL) by China’s National People’s Congress marked a new political phase. Opposition figures were put on the back foot and the central authorities in Beijing became more engaged in the city’s politics.

A year that began with a major protest march and the burning of HSBC Bank’s lion statues ended with opposition politicians fleeing into exile or facing prison sentences. What exactly has changed in Hong Kong and what are the implications? Two structural shifts stand out.

First, the balance of power within and over Hong Kong. The political momentum gathered by the protest movement weakened the city’s political institutions and from late 2019 Beijing began to fill this vacuum. It supported more restrictive policing of protests, appointed new officials to implement Hong Kong policy and widened its influence on the shaping of the policy environment within which the Hong Kong government operates.

Key to this strategy was the NSL. The boundaries of the crimes it outlaws — secession, subversion, terrorism and collaboration with foreign forces to undermine national security — will only become clear as more cases work their way through the judicial system. But claims that the law criminalises dissent look too simplistic.

Still, before the NSL was enacted it was already clear that Hong Kong’s government would be more assertive in using existing legislation to bring charges against opposition politicians. One consequence is the December imprisonment of political activist Joshua Wong and others on charges — to which they pleaded guilty — of organising an illegal siege of police headquarters in 2019.

Authorities pushed ahead with disqualifications of legislators from the Legislative Council (LegCo) who had been judged not to meet the requirements of conducting politics within the scope of Hong Kong’s Basic Law. The decision by the remaining 15 opposition legislators to resign in sympathy leaves only establishment camp figures to debate legislation.

This offers some space for the government to push forward its agenda in a way not possible since the current dysfunctional LegCo began its term in 2016. But much of the population remains critical of both the Hong Kong and central governments. Elections next autumn — postponed because of the pandemic — will likely show that Hong Kong’s politics remain polarised. Still, the balance of power has shifted in Beijing’s favour.

The second major change is in Hong Kong’s external relationships. Since the announcement of the NSL, Western governments have shifted their positions from concern about developments to strong opposition to the new legislation and to Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong’s separate trading status is no longer recognised by the United States and there are some calls for the United Kingdom to follow suit. A number of Western governments have withdrawn from Hong Kong extradition agreements and the United Kingdom announced a ‘pathway to citizenship’ for up to three million holders of British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports. This policy could transform some UK cities as much as it changes Hong Kong.

For all the insistence that the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration remains valid, a number of these measures (including the BNO scheme) are inconsistent with what was agreed. Some lobbying  in the United Kingdom for foreign non-permanent judges to stand down from Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal targets another key feature of the handover settlement. Beijing has long said that the Joint Declaration had already done its job and now it looks like it is losing relevance on both sides.

How will all of this play out? Hong Kong’s political contestation will remain fierce through 2021. All the protagonists strongly believe they have right on their side, with both the Joint Declaration and China’s constitution held aloft to prove debating points. Beijing seems unmoved in the face of international and local pressure. It has geography, history and sovereignty on its side, plus Hong Kong’s economic reliance on mainland China. China’s leaders are willing to stay the course to shape Hong Kong according to their understanding of ‘one country, two systems’.

Political pressure in London is strong, boosted by the Hong Kong activists who chose to go into self-imposed exile. But there are limits to what the UK government can do. For the United States, the implications will depend on the incoming Biden administration’s wider approach to China. The list of issues is long and Washington has limited leverage in engineering fundamental change in Hong Kong’s trajectory.

Hong Kong would still benefit from deepening cooperation with the West. Yet that looks unlikely now as political and ideological issues in dealing with China take precedence in the West. Hong Kong’s future lies more than ever before with China. For some overseas observers, that is bad news. But Hong Kong’s hinterland continues to grow more dynamic economically, and more diverse and vibrant socially. While Hong Kong may have changed dramatically, that does not spell the end of this unique corner of China.

This article was written by Tim Summers and has been republished by East Asia Forum 31 December 2020.

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