China

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USAID, NATO Threaten Intervention as Ethiopia, Eritrea Unite & Form Economic Cooperation with China

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 29/01/2022 - 4:35am in



Ethiopia is not a country that is on many Americans’ radar. Yet, since 2020, a brutal civil war has raged, displacing an estimated 4 million people. As the conflict continues, hawks in Washington are beginning to circle, demanding the U.S. intervene militarily.

“Ethiopia’s civil war is a problem U.S. troops can help solve,” Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of NATO, wrote in Bloomberg and The Washington Post. “Sending peacekeepers to the pivotal nation of East Africa wouldn’t be popular domestically, but may be the only way to stop the conflict,” he added. Meanwhile, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer argued that the West should establish a “no-fly zone” across the country – a nation of 115 million people and twice the size of France.

When it comes to Ethiopia – said head of USAID Samantha Power, one of the architects of the U.S. intervention in Libya – “every option is on the table,” using a phrase that has long been understood to be a threat of war. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also refused, when directly asked, to rule out sending troops into Ethiopia.

Joining MintCast host Mnar Adley today to discuss what is going on in Ethiopia is Eugene Puryear. Eugene is a founder of and host at BreakThrough News, for which he recently traveled to Ethiopia to report from the ground. In the 2008 and 2016 U.S. elections, he was the vice-presidential candidate for the Party for Socialism and Liberation. He is also author of the book “Shackled and Chained: Mass Incarceration in Capitalist America.”

Ethiopia’s war is a conflict between the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a group that held power across the country between 1991 and 2018, and the government of Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa. Yet corporate media have refrained from presenting the conflict as a struggle between rivaling factions, but rather have characterized it as the government “waging a reign of terror… [that] bears the hallmarks of genocide” (CNN) against a “a scrappy force of local Tigrayan recruits” (The New York Times). Ignoring credible accusations against the TPLF of using child soldiers and other war crimes, both the press and the United States appear to have chosen to back their longtime allies in this campaign.

Many Ethiopians are dead against any further American involvement, expressing alarm that the U.S. has already sent warships and thousands of troops to the region in anticipation of future events. Some have even likened the situation to the one in Libya in 2011, where the West hyped up fake news stories about atrocities and an impending genocide to unseat Colonel Muammar Gaddafi from power and bring about a decade of Jihadist rule.

Between 1991 and 2018, the United States had a loyal partner in Ethiopia. However, in recent years, the country has begun to try to develop deeper ties to its neighbor Eritrea and forge a more independent path. To this end, China has helped, and has quickly become Ethiopia’s major economic partner, much to the chagrin of Washington, where war drums are beginning to be beaten.

Ethiopians have taken to social media, popularizing the anti-intervention hashtag “#NoMore” to signal their opposition to Western involvement. Yet their voices, they claim, are being systematically silenced by big-tech giants, leaving critical voices harder to find. Could Ethiopia soon turn into another Libya? Join us to find out.

“Every Option Is on the Table”: US Prepping for Libya-Style Intervention in Ethiopia

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The post USAID, NATO Threaten Intervention as Ethiopia, Eritrea Unite & Form Economic Cooperation with China appeared first on MintPress News.

The US-funded ‘think tank’ pushing Australia towards war

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 27/01/2022 - 4:57am in

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China

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute is irrationally hostile towards China and has unprecedented influence over Australian defence policy. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive” is a lexicon, introduced by Sir Walter Scott in the poem Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field (1808). The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Continue reading »

Book Review: The Political Economy of Making and Implementing Social Policy in China by Jiwei Qian

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/01/2022 - 10:36pm in

In The Political Economy of Making and Implementing Social Policy in ChinaJiwei Qian explores how China’s bureaucratic incentive structure has led to a fragmented and stratified welfare system. This interesting book is a valuable addition to the literature of the Chinese social protection system, writes Mel Cousins

The Political Economy of Making and Implementing Social Policy in China. Jiwei Qian. Palgrave Macmillan. 2021.

Book cover of The Political Economy of Making and Implementing Social Policy in ChinaFind this book (affiliate link):amazon-logo

In this interesting book, Professor Jiwei Qian asks why the welfare system in China has become more fragmented and stratified after major initiatives in social programmes and significantly increased expenditure. In doing so, he explores three main questions: ‘First, how does China’s bureaucratic incentive structure lead to a fragmented and stratified welfare system? Second, what institutional arrangements affect the bureaucratic incentive structure in policy implementation? Third, to what extent is the current social welfare system configured by the administrative and fiscal capacity of the bureaucracy?’ (11)

Despite the broad title (‘social protection’ might have been a better choice), the study focuses on pensions, health and unemployment insurance and social assistance (dibao), which make up the bulk of Chinese social protection spending and cover a range of different policy areas and governance agencies.

Most, if not all, recent studies and theses on the political economy of Chinese social protection have emphasised two facts about the Chinese system. First, it is authoritarian; and second, it is regionally diverse and responsibility is divided between different levels of government. This leads to the well-known description of the Chinese model of governance as ‘fragmented authoritarianism’. But how is this specifically manifested in the Chinese social protection system? This is what this book sets out to explore.

Street scene in Beijing, China

Image Credit: Photo by 褚 天成 on Unsplash

At one level, the book provides a very clear and well-written account of the structure of the Chinese system and shows how it is structured by different levels of government, which leads to the regionalism familiar to anybody who has studied the system. The book will be very useful for those unfamiliar with the structure of the Chinese system and to anyone teaching on Chinese social protection.

Chapters One and Two set the scene, providing an overview of the Chinese social protection system and a brief history of how the system has developed since the ‘opening up’ of the 1980s. Chapter Three offers a very helpful description of the localised and fragmented nature of both governance and social protection. It also describes the performance evaluation system for local cadres and discusses how this may affect policy variation.

Further chapters look at specific influences on policy implementation. These include inter-agency collaboration in policy implementation; local policy capacity; the impact of policy feedback (including online feedback, labour disputes and ‘exit’ to private insurance); and a case study of one area of ‘top-level’ policy priority (employment promotion). While these chapters raise important issues, the discussion is unfortunately largely anecdotal and based on specific examples. It is, of course, difficult to assemble concrete evidence on such issues, but authors such as Jennifer Pan and Yan Wang have used innovative approaches to test specific theses. It would have been interesting to see this approach replicated here.

When it comes to looking at how fragmented authoritarianism impacts on the structure of the system (and answering the author’s own questions as set out above), the book is less successful. In terms of the overall objective of the book, the first question (above) is arguably based on an incorrect premise. It is the Chinese system of governance and the significant socio-economic differences from one area to another which lead to a fragmented and stratified welfare system. The ‘bureaucratic incentive structure’ may or may not contribute to this, but it is certainly not the main cause.

It has indeed been argued in other work that the bureaucratic assessment system for local leaders informs their policy approaches and Qian largely follows this literature. However, it is unclear exactly how other incentives interact with the assessment system. The author highlights issues of the financial resources available to local leaders. One might also assume that leaders often want to do a good job in the eyes of key local stakeholders and to develop local legitimacy. Some may wish to advance their own personal interests or those of their family. To date, the role of such incentives has not been taken fully into account, at least in the field of social protection.

The book also does not convincingly address the key question of the extent to which the current welfare system is configured by the administrative and fiscal capacity of the bureaucracy. In order to do so, one first needs to establish the regional configuration of the system – but this is largely lacking. One might expect, for example, that the book would look at how a system of fragmented authoritarianism leads to different patterns of welfare provisions (a topic covered in several recent studies, including Social Protection Under Authoritarianism). Alternatively, one might look for explanations for different patterns of pension provision whereby – as other studies have shown – some provinces cover many more workers and pensions levels vary widely (see, for example, Jing Lin and A. Dale Tussing, 2016). Again, however, no detailed discussion of this topic emerges.

The concluding Chapter Eight, running to a mere thirteen pages including figures and tables, hardly does justice to the complexity of the issues involved in the political economy of Chinese social protection. Indeed, one can argue that this book places too much emphasis on the bureaucracy and that, in order to explain the political economy of social policy reform, one needs to bring economy and society back in.

The publishers might also have been more thorough in the production of the book. There are occasional proofreading errors and the numerous (and helpful) figures are presented throughout without axes titles. These can generally be discerned from the figure titles themselves, but this is not always immediately obvious (see, for example, figure 5.8). In addition, the many scatter charts are also presented without data names so readers cannot readily identify the outliers or see where particular provinces fit in the overall picture (for instance, figures 3.6 or 5.10).

Nonetheless, the book is a valuable addition to the literature on the Chinese social protection system and emphasises the fragmented and authoritarian nature of its governance which contributes to the structure and outcomes of the system. It is clearly written and presented and will be of great assistance in explaining the structure of the Chinese system to students. It also highlights key issues for further research including the extent to which (and why) bureaucratic incentives contribute to different welfare patterns and the impact of public feedback on social protection policies.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics and Political Science. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

 

China’s Government Is Targeting ‘Sissy’ Men, with Devastating Consequences

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/01/2022 - 10:26pm in

Good old fashioned men are all that China wants these days.

The Killing Fields: Further Details of China’s Uyghur Concentration Camps Emerge

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/01/2022 - 10:35pm in

The Killing FieldsFurther Details of China’s Uyghur Concentration Camps Emerge

As China mounts the Winter Olympics, CJ Werleman considers the weight of evidence that exists about the Chinese Communist Party’s abuses in Xinjiang

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Two years ago, an interlocutor speaking on behalf of a Xinjiang Government official told Byline Times that Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a secret order in 2014 to kill one-third of the Uyghur population, lock-up one-third, and indoctrinate the remaining one-third to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ideology.

A trove of leaked CCP documents from 2014 also include a speech by Xi Jinping to Government officials in Xinjiang – a territory in north-west China – in which he urges them to use the “organs of dictatorship” against the Uyghur minority, and show them “absolutely no mercy,” as reported by the New York Times two years ago.

In the years since, hundreds of Uyghur concentration camp survivors have come forward to shed light on the horrors that have been and continue to be inflicted upon millions of detainees. They tell of torture, rape, starvation, forced sterilisation, forced abortion, forced family separations, forced organ harvesting, and killings.

Now, newly-published testimony from a well-respected Uyghur scholar, who survived his detainment and fled to Europe, sheds light on what the human rights magazine Bitter Winter has dubbed the “Xinjiang’s Killing Fields”.

The testimony is published in the newly-released book China Log: Annihilation Strategies of the CCP in the World’s Largest Surveillance State, co-authored by Alexandra Cavelius, a journalist and human rights activist, and Sayragul Sauytbay, a former Kazakh detainee who escaped Xinjiang and told the world that the CCP’s “goal is to destroy everyone” within the concentration camps.

The authors do not disclose the scholar’s identity, writing that they agreed to talk “only after some convincing by politically influential Uyghurs,” but remains “afraid of reprisals from the Chinese Government… and afraid it would put their children’s lives in mortal danger back home”.

Both he and his wife were arrested in 2017 after returning from a trip to Turkey. They, like tens of thousands of others, were accused of working as spies for a foreign government, a routine accusation China has levelled against thousands, more likely hundreds of thousands.

“On 2 October, 2017, three policemen stormed into our villa around midnight. We were rich people and had a magnificent garden. One police officer blared, ‘Where are you?’, and the next minute I had a black cloth bag over my head,” the scholar told Cavelius and Sauytbay.

“They led my wife away separately. With our feet and hands handcuffed like criminals, they interrogated both of us non-stop for days in different places. ‘Why were you in Turkey?’ Again and again, I answered that my daughter got married there”.


A New Year of Repressionin Hong Kong
Stuart Heaver

He was transferred to a concentration camp “hidden between high mountains” to the east of Xinjiang’s capital, Urumqi, which he estimates to hold upwards of 100,000 detainees, and he realised that a system of mass killing had been put in place by Chinese authorities. “The entire extermination network is well planned,” the scholar said.

“First, they divide everyone up based on the severity of their crimes. If a prisoner was smart enough to say something like ‘No one is more powerful than the Chinese Communist Party’ during his interrogation, they survived,” he said. “If, however, you were dumb enough to question their policies, such as ‘What did I do? I’m not breaking the law, you are! It’s not fair!’ then you were killed right away”.

He said that the group of prisoners identified for extermination were then told they were being sent away for a “medical check-up” but instead were presumably given a lethal injection.

He said this routine took place every day, in which five or six detainees would be called out from each cell to be interrogated and tortured. “Some of them were brought back after their interrogation. Sometimes only one came back, and sometimes none of them. We never heard another word about those who disappeared”, he claims.

The guards would fill the resulting cell vacancies with either new arrivals or detainees brought from other cells, so that the total number of detainees in each cell always remained the same. They did this, the scholar says, so no one could guess or say exactly how many Uyghur detainees had been killed.

There’s nothing contained within the scholar’s testimony that does not synchronise with the dozens of survivor testimonies given to the Uyghur Tribunal, an independent fact finding team, comprising lawyers, academics and human rights activists, which recently concluded in December that China is guilty of committing genocide against the Uyghurs.

But while his testimony sits neatly alongside credible claims that Xi Jinping issued an order to kill one-third of the Uyghur population, it does not constitute irrefutable evidence that China has launched an extermination program akin to the Holocaust.

However, the CCP regime willingly killed tens of millions of its own people in the 1950s and 1960s to retain its vice grip on power while, more recently, mowing down thousands of pro-democracy protestors with machine guns and tanks at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

If the CCP is willing to dish out that kind of violence to the Chinese people, then only a fool would think it is incapable of mass murdering a minority group that it not only deems to be foreign, but also one occupying a resource rich, strategically located territory.


The Non-Disclosure AgreementsHiding University Partnershipswith State-Backed Chinese Tech Firms
Max Colbert

We also know that China has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal its persecution of Uyghur Muslims, having harassed and banned foreign journalists, blocked efforts by the international community to grant access to independent investigators, and invested hundreds of millions of dollars in disinformation campaigns.

For instance, a newly published investigation by Newlines Magazine found a network of pro-China charities funnelled $64 million to left-wing “anti-imperialist” and pro-Palestinian organisations and bloggers to deny Uyghur genocide allegations on behalf of the Chinese Government.

While we know for certain that China has much to hide, based on the testimonies of Uyghur concentration camp survivors and eyewitness accounts, we just don’t fully know the extent of the horrors it is desperate to keep hidden from the world – and that should terrify us all.

China Log: Annihilation Strategies of the CCP in the World’s Largest Surveillance State is available to buy now in German. The English translation is set to be released soon

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The post The Killing Fields: Further Details of China’s Uyghur Concentration Camps Emerge appeared first on Byline Times.

Andrew Bacevich: America’s Very Long War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 24/01/2022 - 5:52pm in

Ruminations on our seemingly neverending war, starting with Vietnam....but is that the right frame?

The Peng Shuai affair: the West’s reaction should be laughed out of court

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 23/01/2022 - 4:57am in

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China

The use by China critics of a tennis player’s broken relationship with a senior party official to paint the regime in Beijing as evil is absurd. China bashing has just got a lot easier. Now you do not have to go all the way to Xinjiang or Tibet to find atrocity stories. All you need Continue reading »

Uncertainty ahead: Xi Jinping faces a challenging 2022

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/01/2022 - 4:18am in

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China

After an uncertain year in 2021, the only dependable prediction for China in 2022 is that Xi Jinping will return for a third term in power. In 2021 China was, and in 2022 again will be, dominated by the domestic economy, relations with the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic and President Xi Jinping. Despite spectacular Continue reading »

ASPI – The Gov’t-Funded Conspiracist Think Tank Now Controlling Your Social Media Feed

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 21/01/2022 - 3:05am in

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA – Social media giant Twitter raised many eyebrows recently when it announced that it had partnered with the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in its fight against disinformation and fake news. ASPI, Twitter revealed in a blog post, had helped identify thousands of accounts that “amplified Chinese Communist Party narratives” around China’s treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. These accounts have now been permanently deleted.

This is of concern because the ultra-hawkish Australian think tank is actually the source for many of the most incendiary claims about China and its foreign policy, and, as Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger told MintPress, has been a driving force in the ramping up of tensions between China and the West, something he explored in his 2016 documentary, “The Coming War on China.” Pilger stated that,

ASPI has played a leading role – some would say, the leading role – in driving Australia’s mendacious and self-destructive and often absurd China-bashing campaign. The current Coalition government, perhaps the most right-wing and incompetent in Australia’s recent history, has relied upon the ASPI to disseminate Washington’s desperate strategic policies, into which much of the Australian political class, along with its intelligence and military structures, has been integrated.”

Importantly, neither ASPI nor Twitter claimed that the deleted accounts were fake or operated by the Chinese state, strongly implying that merely agreeing with Beijing or questioning bellicose Western narratives was reason enough to be banned.

This is not the first time that Twitter has joined forces with ASPI. In 2020, it announced that, on the think tank’s recommendations, it had shut down more than 170,000 accounts that praised China’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, generally “antagoniz[ed]” the U.S., or amplified “deceptive narratives” about the Hong Kong protests (i.e., ones that did not agree with the State Department or the 44% of Hong Kongers who supported the movement). In the same cull, Twitter also deleted thousands of Russian and Turkish accounts.

That a global social media platform is now in open partnership with ASPI should trouble anyone who is concerned with free speech or peace, as the think tank is funded by the U.S. government and the world’s largest weapons manufacturers, and has consistently agitated for global conflict.

Hawkish, Gov’t Funded Think Tank Behind Twitter Decision to Delete Thousands of Chinese Accounts

 

Faux independence

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute describes itself as an “independent, non-partisan think tank” whose mission is to “nourish public debate and understanding” and “better inform” the public, as well as to “produce expert and timely advice for Australian and global leaders.” It insists that it is not identified with any particular ideology and that it is committed to “publishing a range of views on contentious topics.”

Despite claiming to be independent, it also notes that it was established in 2001 by the Australian government, the sole owner of the organization. This represents a PR problem for the think tank, which warns that “the perception as well as the reality of that independence…need to be carefully maintained.” Its annual financial reports reveal that most of its funding comes straight from Canberra, although it also receives hefty donations from other governments including the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands.

While the lion’s share of its funding comes from various sources within the Australian government, the vast majority of its overseas funding comes from Washington and, more specifically, the Department of Defense (over $700,000 in fiscal year 2020-21) and the State Department (around $430,000 over the same period). In addition, ASPI takes money from American tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Facebook.

For many, including veteran Australian diplomat Bruce Haigh, this foreign cash has fundamentally sullied the organization. Haigh told MintPress:

ASPI is the propaganda arm of the CIA and the U.S. government. It is a mouthpiece for the Americans. It is funded by the American government and American arms manufacturers. Why it is allowed to sit at the center of the Australian government when it has so much foreign funding, I don’t know. If it were funded by anybody else, it would not be where it is at.”

As Haigh noted, ASPI is also funded by a cavalcade of the world’s largest weapons companies, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, QinetiQ and Thales. Perhaps even more worryingly, many of ASPI’s key personnel moonlight as defense contractor executives. Indeed, almost half of its senior council are on the boards of weapons or cybersecurity firms.

Robert Hill is a case in point. As Minister of Defense between 2001 and 2006, he was one of the key figures driving Australia towards war in Iraq. Hill consistently lied to the public, claiming that it was “not in dispute” that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and that the occupation, in fact, saved many Iraqi lives. One former senior defense advisor, Jane Errey, claims she was even forced out of her job after she refused to lie to the media on Hill’s behalf about Iraqi WMDs. Today, he is on the board of Rheinmetall Defense Australia, a company that supplies fighting vehicles and ammunition to the Australian military.

Hill’s successor as defense minister, Brendan Nelson, is also on ASPI’s senior council. Nelson continued Australia’s collaboration in the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, although his loose tongue got him in trouble in 2007, when he casually stated that the reason Australia was in Iraq was not WMDs, as Hill had insisted, but in order to secure a slice of the country’s oil reserves for itself. “Energy security is extremely important to all nations throughout the world and, of course, in protecting and securing Australia’s interests,” he said, in response to a direct question about whether this was a war for oil.

While director of the Australian War Memorial – a monument to those who died in Australia’s wars, Nelson controversially allowed weapons companies Boeing, Thales, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems to sponsor the institution, a decision critics allege turned it from a sober memorial into a glorification of war. Just weeks after stepping down from that position, he accepted a job as president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, a title he still holds.

Michelle Fahy, an investigative journalist specializing in the Australian arms industry, was particularly concerned by Nelson’s position at ASPI, telling MintPress:

Along with the funding, it is hard to see how this board appointment fits with a claim to being an ‘independent’ organization when Boeing is a multi-billion-dollar, top-five contractor to the Australian Defense Department, the third largest arms manufacturer in the world, and Nelson was formerly Defense Minister in an earlier government of the same political party now in power.”

Thus, a group headed by the individuals who championed the biggest political deception of the 21st century – one that led to the deaths of 2.4 million people – is now in charge of deciding what is real and what is fake news online for the entire planet. This raises a question: if ASPI had similar control over the means of communication in the early 2000s, would voices questioning the legitimacy of the Iraq invasion have been silenced for promoting false narratives?

Lt. Gen. Ken Gillespie was Vice Chief of the Defense Force from 2005-2008 and then Chief of the Army – the highest military position in Australia – between 2008 and 2011. As such, Gillespie was central to Australia’s efforts in both Afghanistan and Iraq. As his own LinkedIn biography boasts, “I led the initial Australian Defense Force contribution into the Middle-East and Afghanistan in the aftermath of the September 11 strikes on the U.S.A. I was a key planner for Australia’s contribution to the Iraq war, and I commanded all Australian Defense Force operations for a lengthy period.” Both Gillespie and fellow ASPI council member Jane Halton are on the board of Naval Group Australia, producer of warships and other combat systems. They both also work for cybersecurity companies; Gillespie is director of the Senetas Corporation, a cybersecurity firm that regularly partners with weapons manufacturers, such as Thales, that have heartily endorsed Senetas’ work. Meanwhile, Halton is chair of the board of directors at Vault Cloud, a defense-minded cybersecurity firm.

Another ASPI council member is former politician Gai Brodtmann. Brodtmann serves on the advisory board of cybersecurity firm Sapien Cyber, a firm that has secured a number of large military contracts and is chaired by former Minister of Defense Stephen Smith. In addition to this, she holds a senior position at Defense Housing Australia, a company that provides a range of services aimed at military personnel.

One of the newest members of ASPI’s council is James Brown, an ex-army officer and son-in-law of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. Brown is chief executive officer of the Space Industry Association of Australia (SIAA), an organization that represents the interests of a number of prominent weapons corporations, including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman Australia and Saab Australia.

As Fahy noted in an article in Declassified Australia, many former ASPI council members had similarly questionable connections to the arms industry. Jim McDowell was chief executive of BAE Systems Australia. Fellow politicians Stephen Loosley and Allan Hawke were on the boards of Thales Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia respectively, at the same time as serving on ASPI’s council. Meanwhile, retired Vice-Marshal Margaret Staib was on British aerospace giant QinetiQ’s board.

 

ASPI’s pro-war teenage growth spurt

ASPI began life 20 years ago as a relatively small think tank with a mandate to produce timely and independent research. However, in recent years, the organization has ballooned in size and now employs dozens of full-time staffers (contrary to its original vision). Its aggressive targeting of funding from a wide range of sources has undermined its credibility in Fahy’s eyes. As she told MintPress:

ASPI’s charter requires it to work to maintain the perception as well as the actuality of its independence. Given the widespread criticism directed at ASPI in recent years due to the perceived excessive influence of the U.S. government and U.S. arms and cybersecurity multinationals on its output, there is little doubt that the perception of its independence has been lost.”

Nevertheless, its ascendancy has led to it carrying inordinate influence within Australian politics and beyond, the organization’s reports being frequently cited in major outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News. Diplomat Haigh said:

ASPI has supplanted the Department of Foreign Affairs in advice to the government. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, [Marise] Payne, is really very weak, and has been bypassed. So ASPI is feeding straight into the prime minister’s office on matters of foreign policy, particularly as it relates to China…This is part of the militarization of Australia and the Australian public service.”

Unsurprisingly for an organization taking money from weapons contractors, ASPI publishes some of the most crude and relentlessly pro-war propaganda anywhere, and has been a leader in the rush to declare a new Cold War on China and Russia.

This militaristic attitude is exemplified by ASPI’s executive director, Peter Jennings. Last year, Jennings bitterly denounced President Joe Biden and his decision to pull out of Afghanistan, describing it as his “first big blunder” in office. Jennings confidently predicted that Biden’s assessment that the U.S. “could not create or sustain a durable Afghan government” would be proven wrong. “In fact, that is precisely what American, Australian and other forces delivered to Afghanistan: a flawed but functioning democracy, keeping the Taliban at bay and preventing groups such as al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a training base from which to attack the West,” he wrote. Later that year, the Afghan government would fall to the Taliban, only days after American troops finally withdrew.

In the same article, Jennings went on to state that Biden’s decision was “an abandonment as complete as the U.S. failure to back South Vietnam…in the face of North Vietnam’s advancing conventional forces in 1974 and 1975,” thereby signaling that he supported the Vietnam conflict as well.

Indeed, it is hard to find a war Jennings has not advocated for. He vociferously backed the Iraq War, even demanding in 2015 that Australia increase its troop numbers. A committed cold-warrior who has argued that “the West is setting the bar for military response too high” and that the world must stop the “Leninist autocracies” of ​​Russia, Iran and Syria, last week he came close to calling for war against nuclear-armed Russia. “America’s credibility is on the line” in Ukraine, he thundered, demanding that Biden back up his talk with “believable military options.”

 

An arms producers’ Yellow Pages

For a think tank that was supposed to produce nonpartisan, expert advice, it is remarkable how far ASPI strays from this goal, going so far as to run advertisements for weapons manufacturers masquerading as serious analysis. One example of this is a 2020 study, titled “Australia needs to ensure it has the advanced missiles it needs.” Comparing death machines to crucial lifesaving equipment, it states:

Missiles are like a combination of a medical ventilator and the masks health workers need during a pandemic…You need many thousands of them and they can’t be reused. Ordering or holding a few hundred just doesn’t cut any mustard outside peacetime training routines. So, production is key.

“Without such weapons,” the author continues, “Islamic State might still control major chunks of territory in Iraq and Syria.” This claim, of course, ignores the fact that it was largely Iranian forces under Qassem Soleimani that were responsible for destroying ISIS, and that the United States assassinated him in 2020. ASPI chief Peter Jennings appeared to support Trump’s decision, writing that “it’s surely a positive that, after Soleimani’s death, bad actors in the region might pause to wonder if a Hellfire missile on a circling drone has their name and address programmed in.”

Hammering the point home, ASPI claims that “Australia is fortunate in having close relationships with…companies like Raytheon, Rafael, Lockheed Martin and Kongsberg” that can close the country’s supposed “missile supply gap.” “Getting agreement to and support for high-end U.S. missiles, like the long-range anti-ship missile made by Lockheed Martin, to be manufactured in Australia as well as the continental U.S. through co-production, will only happen if the senior leadership of our nations drive it,” it concludes.

If it were not clear that this was a “buy more missiles, says group funded by missile manufacturers” advertisement, ASPI included both Thales’ and Lockheed Martin’s logos on the page. Indeed, every page on ASPI’s website includes a sidebar advertisement for those two companies, complete with links to their websites.

These sorts of practices would be problematic enough if ASPI were a think tank trying to promote orange juice drinking in Australia while being filled with executives from Tropicana and Minute Maid. But it is not fruit ASPI is selling: it is war. It is literally a life-and-death affair.

 

Red flags, Yellow Peril

Saber-rattling at Russia or running unofficial advertorials for weapons companies are sidelines to ASPI’s main business of hyping up the threat that China poses to Australia and the world. Earlier this month, Jennings took to the pages of The Australian to demand a more formal military alliance with Japan in order to take China head-on. The Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper failed to disclose the fact that Jennings’ organization – and therefore his hefty salary (around $332,000 last year) – is being directly paid in part by the Japanese government. He has also recently called for a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.

ASPI was the source behind the infamous 2019 documentary “Red Flags,” which aired on state broadcaster ABC. In McCarthyist fashion, “Red Flags” claimed that Australian universities were “infiltrated” with thousands of agents of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), learning Australian secrets and bringing them back to their homeland. ASPI’s report, “Picking Flowers, Making Honey,” insisted that universities were in active “collaboration” with the CCP.

The Canberra-based think tank was also behind the scaremongering that led to the Australian government canceling Huawei’s contract to upgrade the country’s notoriously poor telecommunications infrastructure. Adding to the hype, one ASPI employee even took to the pages of a national newspaper to claim that if the small city of Bendigo went forward with its plans to attach Huawei sensors to their garbage trucks, it would constitute a national security threat.

Jennings hailed the government’s subsequent decision to cancel the nation’s 5G plans as “absolutely the right call,” categorizing those opposing it as simply “the inevitable whining from China’s red brigade of useful idiots.” At no point did he acknowledge that telecom giants who fund ASPI, and on whose boards many of its key members sit, would likely benefit from the decision.

Last summer, ASPI also published a report with the title “China threatens Australia with missile attack.” The basis of the “threat,” was not China, however, but a two-paragraph statement from Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of a Chinese newspaper, The Global Times. Hu wrote that if Australia declared war on China, sent troops to Taiwan, and started killing Chinese soldiers, then China should have the capability to fire back on Australia. The author of the piece, Paul Dibb, the former head of Australia’s equivalent of the Defense Intelligence Agency, surely knew the difference but did not let that get in the way of a good story.

Dibb himself has openly ramped up tensions between the two nations. In 2020, he wrote an article for ASPI entitled “How Australia can deter China.” The article was illustrated simply with a picture of a Lockheed Martin missile. Pilger told MintPress:

ASPI is one of the world’s most blatant propaganda ciphers. If we were back in the old Cold War, it would be the equivalent of Pravda – though my memory of Pravda is that it was honest in its role as a voice of the state whereas ASPI pretends to be independent.”

Lab-Leak, Gain-Of-Function, and the Media Myths Swirling Around the Wuhan Institute of Virology

For a think tank that claims to be a guardian against fake news and disinformation online, ASPI has been at the forefront of mainstreaming conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and China, particularly that of the Wuhan lab leak. In a report called “The Great Covid Cover-up,” ASPI insisted that there has been massive, worldwide collusion on the part of the scientific, academic and medical communities, and even from parts of the U.S. government, all to hide Covid’s true origins and to run interference for China.

Perhaps most importantly, however, ASPI is a worldwide driving force behind bringing the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang to global attention. Their many reports, particularly the ongoing Xinjiang Data Project, have been the basis of hundreds of articles and news segments across the planet. Unfortunately, much of their research is as sloppy as it has been with other projects. As soon as it released an interactive map of the locations of what it claimed were hundreds of Uyghur detention centers, local Chinese people and even just individuals using tools like Google were able to show conclusively that many of these “prisons” were actually schools, government offices, or other more mundane edifices.

Of course, this is not to say that no detention facilities exist, or that a great number of Uyghurs have not been oppressed or imprisoned. Even the Chinese government accepts that it has put large numbers of people through what it describes as deradicalization programs. What it does highlight, though, is the sloppy nature of the scholarship that is being used to justify a worldwide boycott of Xinjiang-linked companies on the grounds of forced labor, something ASPI has helped lead. Thus, ASPI is far from a neutral arbiter in Twitter’s decision to close thousands of accounts on the grounds of stopping misinformation about Xinjiang spreading; in fact, it is serving as the prosecutor, the judge and the executioner all at once.

Ironically, at least 11 of the think tank’s largest financial backers are themselves heavily implicated in using forced labor to produce their weapons, or in human trafficking. Boeing, Raytheon, BAE Systems and Lockheed Martin all make use of forced American prison labor to make their products, while certain national sponsors, including the United States and the UAE, engage in forced labor.

The organization that constantly attacks China was also among the driving forces behind the yearslong RussiaGate conspiracy in the United States. ASPI agents were flown across the world to provide supposedly expert testimony to the U.S. Senate hearings about alleged Russian interference online and in the 2016 election. Remarkably, ASPI’s report, “Hacking Democracies,” claims that only Russia and China interfere in other nations’ elections, blithely ignoring the long history of the American government doing just that.

Facing mounting criticism at home, ASPI has inexpertly attempted to launder its own image online. The organization was caught scrubbing negative information off its Wikipedia page while using an ASPI-registered I.P. address. A number of users editing the page to add positive content and remove negative information were identified as sock puppets (fake accounts controlled by another user to give the impression of a group consensus) and banned by Wikipedia. Journalist Marcus Reubenstein also discovered that another pro-ASPI Wikipedia editor named “Wyvern2604” was originally called “ASPI ORG” before changing their name. This sort of crude online propaganda is exactly what ASPI accuses its enemies of engaging in. Yet, far from being discredited and having its accounts removed, ASPI is now a leader, supposedly, in the fight against disinformation – whether the public likes it or not.

 

Signing on to Bellum Americanum

Australia’s stance on China has taken a dramatic turn in recent years. Once, it had enjoyed a cordial relationship with Beijing and developed deep economic ties to it. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in and out of office between 2007 and 2013, even impressed his Chinese counterparts with his fluent Mandarin.

Yet as the United States has turned its eye upon Beijing, Australia has followed suit, joining the U.S.-dominated military organizations like The Quad (U.S., Australia, Japan, India) and AUKUS (Australia, U.K., U.S.), both of which are squarely aimed at preventing China’s further economic rise. To that end, there is a concerted U.S. effort to develop what senior generals have called an “Asian NATO,” sooner rather than later.

Media have worked with ASPI to hype the China threat, while politicians not going along with this dangerous jingoism are labeled “panda huggers.” To that extent, it has had a profound impact on public opinion. As recently as 2018, 82% of Australians saw China as an “economic partner” rather than a “security threat” (12%). However, by 2021, those numbers had radically shifted; 63% considering China a threat, and only 34% describing it as an economic partner. Even Rudd himself has become something of a China hawk, describing the country as “a 1,000-pound gorilla in the front living room.”

Historically, Australia has consistently followed the United States into whatever military endeavor it begins. There were nearly 8,000 Australian soldiers in Vietnam at the war’s peak, the country suffering some 3,500 casualties. It also accompanied the U.S. during the First Gulf War and the two largest post-9/11 campaigns.

This continues to the present day. Late last year, Australia committed to purchasing eight enormous nuclear submarines at a cost of around $64 billion. The announcement was understood on all sides to be a gesture to Washington, showing that Australia will stand by it, come what may. Yet as China is by far and away Australia’s largest economic partner (almost one-third of all Australian exports go to the P.R.C.), any conflict would be devastating. Thus, the enthusiasm with which the government in Canberra has chosen the U.S. over China speaks wonders about what it sees its true role as being. As Pilger put it:

In the words of a senior CIA officer once based in Australia, Australian prime ministers are ‘forever obsequious to us.’ Up until 2015, the relationship with China was pragmatic and businesslike. China is Australia’s biggest, most important trader. The relationship is now a spectacle akin to aiming a pistol at one’s own feet.”

“Australia now has become very much a part of the American confrontation with China,” Haigh said. “The Americans are dead set keen to take on China. It is not a matter of ‘if,’ it is a matter of ‘when,’ because that is what they want to do. They have made their minds up… It’s gunboat diplomacy with aircraft carriers,” he added.

 

The think tank-social media axis

Twitter’s collaboration with ASPI is part of a growing trend for the biggest social media platforms partnering with hawkish, state-sponsored think tanks. In 2018, Facebook announced it was collaborating with NATO think tank the Atlantic Council, whereby it gave an undisclosed amount of control over users’ news feeds to the group, allowing it to help Facebook decide what posts users saw and which ones were suppressed.

If anything, the Atlantic Council’s connections to state power are even deeper than ASPI’s. The council’s board of directors is a who’s who of powerful state figures – including senior statespersons like Condoleezza Rice and Henry Kissinger; a host of top U.S. generals, including Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, Wesley Clark, and David Petraeus; as well as no fewer than seven former directors or acting directors of the CIA. Like ASPI, the Atlantic Council receives its funding from Western governments, weapons manufacturers, and big tech companies. As such, it represents the collective consciousness of the American state.

The Atlantic Council, like ASPI, has also been central to the rush towards potential war with Russia or China, the organization constantly putting out highly questionable reports of Russian or Chinese interference in domestic politics. Last February, the Atlantic Council published an anonymous, 26,000-word report outlining its vision for a future China. “The United States and its major allies continue to dominate the regional and global balance of power across all the major indices of power;” it wrote, hoping as well that head of state Xi Jinping will be “replaced by a more moderate party leadership; and that the Chinese people themselves have come to question and challenge the Communist Party’s century-long proposition that China’s ancient civilization is forever destined to an authoritarian future.” In other words, that China has been broken and that some sort of regime change has occurred.

A week later, Facebook hired former NATO press officer and current senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, Ben Nimmo, to “lead global threat intelligence strategy against influence operations” and “emerging threats.” Nimmo specifically named Iran and Russia as potential dangers to the platform.

Another former Atlantic Council hawk turned social media boss is Reddit’s Jessica Ashooh. Ashooh left her job as deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Force to become Reddit’s director of policy – a position for which she was completely unqualified on paper.

Jessica Ashooh: The Taming of Reddit and the National Security State Plant Tabbed to Do It

A second, highly significant example of Twitter collaboration with state intelligence is the case of Gordon MacMillan. MacMillan is an active-duty officer in the British Army’s 77th Brigade, a unit dedicated to online operations and psychological warfare, yet was somehow appointed to become Twitter’s Head of Editorial. Despite his outing being covered extensively in alternative media (including in MintPress News), only one mainstream U.S. publication – Newsweek – even mentioned the revelations at all. The Newsweek journalist who wrote the story was forced out of the industry only a few weeks later. Yet to this day, MacMillan remains in his important post at Twitter, strongly suggesting the social media company knew of his role before he was hired.

Ultimately, what these incidents hint at is a fusion between social media and the national security state, something that the Twitter/ASPI union underlines. This has long been foreseen, even championed by both entities. At NATO’s 70th anniversary gala in 2019, Admiral James Stavridis, former NATO supreme commander for Europe, declared that his organization would very soon be “far more engaged” with tech and cybersecurity issues. But long before then, executives at Google were pitching their company as a new weapon for the U.S. empire. “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century, technology and cyber-security companies [like Google] will be to the twenty-first,” wrote Eric Schmidt and Larry Cohen in their book, The New Digital Age, a book that came replete with a ringing endorsement from Henry Kissinger on the back cover.

Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are far more widely used and influential than any newspaper or TV network. Whoever controls their algorithms and has the power to promote or delete accounts at will has significant influence over global public opinion; hence the desire to control them. When an organization like ASPI or the Atlantic Council has even some amount of editorial control over social media, that is tantamount to state censorship, but on a worldwide scale.

This power is already being used in a flagrantly anti-democratic manner. Just days before the Nicaraguan presidential election in November, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram worked, seemingly in unison, to essentially wipe the left-wing FSLN Party (a longtime bête noire of the U.S.) from the internet, purging thousands of accounts, channels and pages at the most politically sensitive time. Activists who had been suspended by Facebook for “inauthentic behavior” (i.e., being bots) poured on to Twitter, recording messages stating they were real people who supported President Daniel Ortega. Incredibly, Twitter took the decision to delete virtually all these accounts, too.

That Twitter intends more of these types of operations in the future is made clear by the fact that they announced partnerships with two other organizations at the same time as with ASPI. One is Venezuelan outlet, Cazadores de Fake News, a group that presents itself as a fact-checking organization but appears to be inordinately dedicated to attacking the left-wing government of Nicolas Maduro (another American target). Cazadores de Fake News tacitly endorsed the self-declared president, Juan Guaidó, a favorite of Washington. It was also supportive of the U.S.-backed military coup that briefly brought Bolivia’s Jeanine Añez to power in 2019. The other organization partnering with Twitter is the Stanford Internet Observatory, a group that boasts about training a new generation of (anti-Russian) leaders in Ukraine and whose director, Alex Stamos, is also on the advisory board of NATO’s Collective Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

Meet the Nicaraguans Facebook Falsely Branded Bots and Censored Days Before Elections

While the Australian Strategic Policy Institute might have started out and even operated for years with the best of intentions, it is increasingly clear that its primary role is to create crises – fake or otherwise – to serve their backers’ agendas. Once weapons were manufactured to fight wars; today, wars are often manufactured to sell weapons.

The interests of the U.S. government and of arms companies are not those of either the Australian public or of social media users. Where once the online space was a place where critical information could circulate freely, we increasingly live in an upside down world where a giant government influence operation is being carried out under the guise of protecting us from a similarly large (foreign) government operation.

ASPI has become not only a prime vehicle driving the West to war, but it now also holds considerable power to suppress dissenting opinions, meaning it can simply invent reality. That this organization is now partially in charge of Twitter’s moderation, influencing what hundreds of millions of people see daily, is a grave threat to the free flow of information, as well as to the chances for a peaceful 21st century.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Alan MacLeod is Senior 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, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post ASPI – The Gov’t-Funded Conspiracist Think Tank Now Controlling Your Social Media Feed appeared first on MintPress News.

The Jews of Asia: why Chinese Australians feel threatened

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 20/01/2022 - 4:57am in

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Playing the Chinese card may be politically rewarding for some, but it is the ordinary people in the street who suffer the consequences of this Sinophobia.  I would like to ask my fellow Australians this: “Can you imagine what it is like to live under a pall of suspicion that one day you would betray Continue reading »

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