One of the key conflicts – at least in U.S. view – between U.S. and China over the last few years has been “cyber attack” and “cyber espionage.” During President Xi’s recent visit to the U.S., Obama has scolded Xi very publicly – and with much fanfare – that Chinese cyber espionage against U.S. government and companies must stop. Obama told reporters:
“I raised once again our very serious concerns about our growing cyberthreats to American companies and American citizens,” Obama said. “I indicated that it has to stop.”
“The U.S. government does not engage in cyber-economic espionage for commercial gain, and today I can announce that our two countries have announced a mutual understanding on the way forward,” he added.
The U.S. has long tried to distinguish between economic and political espionage, and tries to claim the high-road that it does not engage in the former. But as I have commented before, that distinction never held any water under closer observation.
In the lead up to Xi’s visit, there has been much posturing in U.S. media that the U.S. will hit back against China for recent attacks against U.S., including one against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that allegedly compromised the social security numbers of 21 million Americans, finger prints of 5.6 million Americans, among others.
Joshua Oppenheimer is an Oscar-nominated American film director based in Denmark. He recently produced two award-winning documentaries on the genocide perpetrated by the Indonesian government against ethnic Chinese and others throughout Indonesia in 1965-69.
This week marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning that atrocity. Joshua penned what I think is a great op-ed in the New York Times about Indonesia’s continued silence about that event … as well as U.S. complicity of that crime against humanity.
Sometimes it is helpful for the Hidden Harmonies audience to remember that China is not alone in being demonized by the mainstream western (primarily US) media. Any country that doesn’t “fit” neatly into the US “liberal-democratic” ideological dogma will naturally be painted as some kind of morally degenerate rogue state out to undermine “good” and “normal” countries. In fact, recently, no country is more demonized than Russia (not even the PRC).
That said, one of the major problems I see is that while we may recognize that we’re not alone, due to potential language/cultural barriers, lack of awareness, our Sino-centric mindset/attention span, and a host of other possible reasons, we often do not truly understand the perspectives of others (e.g. Russians) who are demonized. This is especially the case if our primary source of information about these other countries is the western media. I hope the contributors at Hidden Harmonies can begin to fix this problem, and I’ve taken a small step to start.Continue reading Q&A with a Russian friend (see download links or attached PDF)→
Recently, the Japanese Parliament passed controversial legislation pushed by Abe to allow Japanese forces to fight abroad for the first time since 1945. Here is how Reuters reported it:
Japan’s parliament voted into law on Saturday a defense policy shift that could let troops fight overseas for the first time since 1945, a milestone in Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push to loosen the limits of the pacifist constitution on the military.
Abe says the shift, the biggest change in Japan’s defense policy since the creation of its post-war military in 1954, is vital to meet new challenges such as from a rising China.
But the legislation has triggered massive protests from ordinary citizens and others who say it violates the pacifist constitution and could ensnare Japan in U.S.-led conflicts after 70 years of post-war peace. Abe’s ratings have also taken a hit.
The legislation “is necessary to protect the people’s lives and peaceful way of living and is for the purpose of preventing wars,” Abe told reporters after the bills were approved by the upper house. “I want to keep explaining the laws tenaciously and courteously.”
Japan’s ally the United States has welcomed the changes but China, where bitter memories of Japan’s wartime aggression run deep, has repeatedly expressed concern about the legislation.
China’s Foreign Ministry said the move was “unprecedented”.
“We solemnly urge Japan to learn the lessons of history … uphold the path of peaceful development and act cautiously in the areas of the military and security, and do more to help push regional peace and stability rather than the opposite,” it said.
During the last year I have read quite a few articles on people being indifferent to others in distress. For example a little girl ran over by a car and recording of CCTV showed pedestrians and cars ignored her for a long time until a poor woman searching for recycled bottles stopped to help and asked for help. Another case of an old man fell off a motorbike in flooded city street and drowned in a few inches of water because nobody offered to help. Of course there were other articles on elderly fell down and Samaritan offering help and was instead blamed for causing it and financially held responsible until some were cleared by surveillance TV showing their innocence.
From some of the comments I read blaming either the elderly for being greedy and demand Samaritan laws be passed or decline of traditional Confucian morality, or legal system should issue harsher punishments for false accusations. It got me thinking where did Lei Feng gone? The problem I described is much more than just the legal dispute between accuser and accused, greed, or superficial lack of humanity.
During the past few years there were periodic attempts at reviving the spirit of Lei Feng, from articles in People’s Daily to exhortations from leaders, yet the reaction is pretty pro forma and even cynical. For someone like me who were teens during the late 1950s, that spirit is what we aspire to be. Slogans like “Serve the People”, “To Where the Motherland Needs Us the Most”, and examples like Norman Bethune, and Edgar Snow whom I saw again on the montages of documentaries during the performance celebrating the 70th anniversary over Japan were inspirations. So what has changed? And how do we bring back Socialism/Maoism morality?
During the last 40 years China has been richer immensely, hundreds of millions were lifted from poverty. Yet the chasm between rich and poor has also widened, for the middle class they aspire to be rich yet afraid of falling back into poverty. Those afraid to intervene gave the excuse of afraid to be involved and falsely accused, in other words they have something to lose. While the garbage collection woman is poor, and have nothing to lose other than her humanity. Instead of playing the blame game and excoriate those who failed to get involved or those falsely accusing Samaritans, we should examine the real problem, the privatization of medicine and associated costs. For the elderly jostled and fell mostly are from the poorer sectors of society, they need someone to blame for the medical cost even if sometimes unfairly. Similarly the patents whose outcome of treatment didn’t meet expectation and resulting clashes against health workers speak volumes about alienation due to the high cost of medicine.
When Szechuan earthquake occurred, the central government spare no efforts and costs to alleviate suffering, and people donated to the relieve efforts to show their sympathy and unity. Recent announced reforms in SOE split them to profit and non-profit parts. I would suggest that China consider hospitals and medicine be part of that reform. Nationalize all privately owned hospitals and socialize the cost of medicine. No one should have to worry about the cost of medicine so people will not hesitate to give aid and comfort to the unfortunate. I think Xi is working in that direction anyway by medical insurance. The cost can easily be covered by cracking down on all the tax evasion going on by the middle class or additional tax.
Global Times recently commented on Mao being evaluated by Deng as 70/30, and they have not been talking about the 30%, yet to me they have also avoided talking about the 70%. For returning Lei Feng back into the hearts of common people we need to study those 70% and learn to continue them.
A few months ago, a long-time Jewish friend of mine and I sat down for dinner. We chatted about many times: family, career, politics, history and ideology. One of the inevitable topics we discussed was the Holocaust.
I brought up the fact that China’s mentioning of Nankin massacre in the West evoked mass fears of China while Jewish bringing up of the holocaust evoked sympathy and condolence … even self reflections on humanity.
He thought I had a point … but ventured that perhaps the reason is because the Chinese and Soviets casualty were results of WAR, which was sad, but to some extent “understandable.” War had always been terrible, and modern weaponry only made it that more unbearable.
But Jewish holocaust was another thing. It was the result of ideology and racism. When Ideology and Racism Combine Caustically to Provoke Fear … When Fear Burned to Enslave and Ultimately to Kill … that is something that must be remembered.
The Economist today had an article on a case involving Microsoft’s alleged refusal to turn over documents stored on a foreign server to FBI. The article can be found here (archived here).
According to the Economist:
SUPPOSE FBI agents were to break into the postbox of an American company in Dublin to seize letters which might help them convict an international drug dealer. There would be general uproar, if not a transatlantic crisis. But that is essentially what the FBI wants to happen, albeit in the virtual realm: it has asked a court to order Microsoft, in its capacity as a big e-mail provider, to hand over messages from a suspect in a drugs case which are stored in a data centre in Ireland. On September 9th an appeals court in New York will hear oral arguments on whether Microsoft has to comply.
The case has many wrinkles … But at the core of the case is one of the most knotty legal questions in the age of cloud computing: how to give law-enforcement agencies access to evidence when laws remain national, but data are often stored abroad and sometimes even at multiple places at once?
This article rightfully brings up conflicts in law in the Internet arena within the West. Over the last few years, certain very public and passionate debates have flared up with Europe and the U.S. regarding privacy, right to delete, and censorship on the Internet.
The last week or two, we have seen a great humanitarian crisis building in Europe with waves and waves of refugees pouring into Europe from neighboring Middle Eastern countries … with many dying along the way … and even children washing up on resort beaches.
The debate in Europe appears to focus primarily on how should the various nations shoulder the responsibilities of accepting the refugees. Germany by far has been the most open-armed, although there are anti-immigrant feelings spewing in the nation as well.
In the lead up to China’s commemoration of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in WWII, I thought I’d do a little personal aside … that might explain why Japan can be so delusional about so many things.
Politics … in many ways … especially politics in the democratic sense (i.e. at the level of the people) … is about caricatures … about simplifying (over-simplifying as the case may be) the issues. Politics is about setting narratives – about burnishing worldviews – through selective highlighting (and de-emphasis) of reality … to present a particular view of the world that sometimes resembles some aspects reality … but that can some times also be completely in contravention with any sane view of reality.
There is a reason why people often avoid talking politics and religion in polite settings. People can try to use logic and reason … but the problem is that underneath iceberg tip of logic and reason are mountains full of unspoken – and sometimes even unconscious – presumptions. It’s why reasonable people can disagree vigorously and get so worked up about political disagreements. Continue reading A short caricature on politics …→