It is clear now that while the 2016 U.S. election may be over, much of the bitter rancor remains. The latest controversy now swirls over how long-time foe Russia may have hijacked America’s election to secure a Trump presidency.
Americans seem to be transfixed by this latest treachery, with President Obama promising retributions, but Trump warning against politicizing American Intelligence.
Mr. Unknown and the blogger known as the Saker has collaborated to write an interesting, provocative, and insightful piece end of last year. I truly applaud the effort and feel honored that China does have true friends from Russia. And I am truly heartened to see that there are Russians who do see China as equals … and more importantly … as friends.
Overall I learned quite many things, all valuable to further shaping my worldview. But I also do disagree with some parts of it. I have no doubt that the great Russian-Chinese dialogue in bringing two great neighbors closer together … perhaps one day to become allies … will continue and will a force for global peace. But a solid house must be built on solid solutions. So here is my response, which includes some criticisms, which hopefully will go toward building a more solid foundation between the two great nations / civilizations. Continue reading Russia and China – Strategic Partners Or Partners of Convenience?→
There are so many things over which I disagree with Trump. When he talks about China, I literally disagree with him on everything he says – currency manipulation, unfair trade, aggressive trade policies, an all out assault to gut America of jobs…
Yet I see every attack on Trump in the media – and yes here on this blog – as the worst of Western media propaganda. I am writing here not to support Trump (although I would definitely support him over Clinton), but to show what I consider to be Western media’s hypocrisy … and the power of the hypocrisy to brainwash everyone here! 😉
According to the Economist, here are some of the worst of Trump’s offenses.
Because each additional Trumpism seems a bit less shocking than the one before, there is a danger of becoming desensitised to his outbursts. To recap, he has referred to Mexicans crossing the border as rapists; called enthusiastically for the use of torture; hinted that Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court justice, was murdered; proposed banning all Muslims from visiting America; advocated killing the families of terrorists; and repeated, approvingly, a damaging fiction that a century ago American soldiers in the Philippines dipped their ammunition in pigs’ blood before executing Muslim rebels. At a recent rally he said he would like to punch a protester in the face. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
According to Chief Justice Roberts, judges are baseball umpires who apply rules impartially to disputes. As neutral actors, judges make everyone play by the rules but do not take sides themselves.
But with members of Senate locked in a heated debate whether Obama or the next president should name Scalia’s replacement, we are reminded yet again just how political Supreme Court Justices have become.
In decisions after decisions, the Court has waded into the most politically contested issues of the day, from abortion to gay rights to campaign contribution limits to national health insurance. Scholars now routinely predict how each Justice will vote based on his or her ideological persuasions alone, irrespective of the legal issues presented.
One of the arguments many people in the West used to denigrate the HK and Mainland government in support of the Umbrella movement was that the rioters had a right to block streets and shut down districts to get their message out. When some Hong Kongers – siding with HK and Mainland government – pushed back that while freedom of speech grants them the right to protest but not a right to shut down entire districts, they were ridiculed and shamed by the Western press.
Of course, as we know, when the occupy movement flamed across the Western capitals of the world, those governments acted very differently. The police (even paramilitary forces) soon cracked down and order was soon restored. But in China, so-called rule of law quickly gets tossed aside in the name of mob rule (I mean “democracy”). All this reinforced in my mind how “political” “free” speech is. It is “free” when the politics is palatable. But when it’s not, the “costs” – be it national security, social peace, whatever – gets framed as the main (only) issues.
Interesting story from NYT today titled “Judge Tells Apple to Help Unlock San Bernardino Gunman’s iPhone.”
Here is an excerpt:
WASHINGTON — A judge in California on Tuesday ordered Apple to help the F.B.I. unlock an iPhone used by one of the attackers in the assault in San Bernardino that killed 14 people in December.
The ruling handed the F.B.I. a potentially important victory in its long-running battle with Apple and other Silicon Valley companies over the government’s ability to get access to encrypted data in investigations. Apple has maintained that requiring it to provide the “keys” to its technology would compromise the security of the information of hundreds of millions of users.
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.
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 …→
I came across an article in Asia Times on Japan’s WWII surrender that I thought was very well written. It is important because within that surrender lay the seeds of today’s historical revisionism. But more important than that, it is a good case study on what Japan is NOT.
Too often, many in the West think of Japan as this enlightened, modern, forward-looking, peace-loving society. But when the West seems to have misunderstood Japan’s nuanced and conditional surrender for a real unconditional one akin to Germany, then perhaps it is time re-evaluate to what Japan is in reality, and what Japan is headed to be.
Here I offer two articles, first as a context, and second as a case study.
As the Occupy protests continue in Hong Kong, articles, editorials and op-eds in the Western press continue to characterize the conflict as one between those in Hong Kong demanding “real democracy” and Beijing reneging on its promise of “universal suffrage” under “one country two systems.” Western media and leaders – including the New York Times Editorial Board and President Obama, for example – have all but argued that “universal suffrage” in Hong Kong means that Beijing should have no say in determining which candidates are eligible to run for elections … that the system China has proposed is but a “charade” of democracy.
The news of Hong Kong Police using tear gas to disperse crowds aimed at occupying government buildings and public spaces to protest against Beijing rules on how Hong Kong residents vote for its next leaders are plastered on the first page of all the major news site today.
The Wall Street Journal, for example, has this story.
HONG KONG—In the harshest response against protesters in Hong Kong in nearly a decade, police used pepper spray and several rounds of teargas to disperse pro-democracy crowds blocking traffic on some of the city’s busiest streets.
An effort by police to keep protesters away from government buildings appeared to backfire on Sunday. As police converged on the scene and protesters spread out from its center, the conflict spread across three of Hong Kong’s most important commercial neighborhoods.
When police started lobbing tear gas at the crowd, protesters dispersed but quickly regrouped and retook some ground. They ignored police signs telling them to leave and used metal barricades to prevent officers from moving them away.
By the now, the results are in. Scotland has just rejected secession from U.K. in a historic referendum. There have been impassioned” pleas on both sides, but through it all, Scotland will remain a part of the U.K. If mainstream media is to be trusted, a big sigh of relief is heard around the world.
Personally I have no feeling one way or another although I will admit, the breakup of the U.K. – long the terror for much of the world – does not really bring a distaste to my mouth. Whichever side you take, what I can’t stand is the suffocating self congratulatory praises that seem to now infuse editorials (see e.g. this piece by Roger Cohen in the NYT) and reader comments (see e.g. comments to this NYT article) about “democracy” and “rule of law.”
Oh … just look how the debates in Scotland (and U.K.) have been so “civil” even if “impassioned.” The U.K. and the West is truly different from others – especially rising powers such as China – because in the free democratic West, important, divisive issues can be settled peacefully, civilly, democratically, and in accordance “the rule of law.”
This is a reprint from an old post that I think readers of this blog might find interesting.
Whatever the merits of democracy, I’m more curious about its evangelical preachers.
Democracy is a vague term, like “Christendom”, “Islamic World”, or “the West”. Besides the democratic banner, the political landscapes of the USA, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, India. . . don’t share many common features. In the end, I suspect Democracy could be fantastic for some, at some point in time, and disastrous for others, under different circumstances. Any system, like its human inventors, would age, turn insufferable, then die one day. Some reincarnate, others don’t.
The brute force and passion with which democracies export their faith is bewildering, reminiscent of colonial missionaries. Is the missionary complex simply a hangover from the religious past? Could there be an element of altruism in their uncontrollable urge to share a great social discovery with the rest of humanity? But. . . come on, these are ruthless invaders, operators of 21st Century torture camps and lynching drones so. . . Continue reading Democracy Mission – A Conspiracy Theory→
Hong Kong saw another big demonstration on July 1, when more than 100,000 people marched against the local government and Beijing. Despite having established an even closer economic relationship with mainland China since the handover, anti-Beijing sentiment has now become prevalent in the special administrative region.
Oh no … the Chinese government is at it again. The New York Times is running on its front page today an article with the ominous title “Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom.” Here is the full text of the article.
HONG KONG — China introduced new restrictions on what the government has called “critical” news articles and barred Chinese journalists from doing work outside their beats or regions, putting further restraints on reporters in one of the world’s most controlled news media environments.
Reporters in China must now seek permission from their employers before undertaking “critical reports” and are barred from setting up their own websites, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television announced in new rules Wednesday.
Some think this is just a purely economical issue. The Taiwanese students are not happy with the trade agreements agreed upon but not yet signed into law between the Mainland and Taiwanese side. This is understandable. College graduates in Taiwan has had a tough time getting (good) employment this past several years (decade?). Many – unfortunately – have come to feel protectionism – legal protection from globalism – is the best way to “compete” in the global economy.
However, this is oversimplification. If you listen to the speeches and talks within the protest, you have no doubt this is about partisan politics between KMT and DPP – and also emotional politics invoked against the Mainland. As I noted earlier in a comment in another thread, the main impetus of the protest is not about economics, but about the uneasy unsettled status of Mainland-Taiwan relations. The real reason is unification/independence politics.
But if this is all there is to the protest, I’d not write this post – as there is not much for me personally to write about. It’s just about normal democratic politicking – built upon base politics, misinformation, distortion, emotional rants, hateful or divisive rhetoric, and what I might call ethno/religious/identity politicking.Continue reading Taiwan’s Student Mob?→
Politics and Law is the business of Justice. And the Business of Justice, law and politics, is a very dirty business.
Periodically, whenever I feel safe and secure in the knowledge of my place in the world and in my profession as a lawyer practicing somewhat boring law fields, I go visit a court or a jail for a field trip. If you have never done it, in whatever country you live in, you should. Because the experience will remind you of the complexity of morality and fairness.
This is a brief note on elections – that bedrock of modern democracy.
A key and indispensable pillar of modern democracy – heck modernity – is the notion of elections. Elections, many believe, are a fundamental way for people to express their voice, and some believe even for people to engage in self-determination as envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations. Without elections, there can be no political accountability, no political legitimacy. Oh yes, there might be, once in a while, a government such as the one in China today that gains popular approval without elections, but such a political structure cannot be sustained. Over time, bad leadership inevitably arises. Non-democratic political orders provides no means for the people to get rid of a “bad emperor.” Over the long haul, the only way to rid governments that don’t serve the people is elections.
This may sound all fair and good except in real life, elections don’t work that way. In real life – elections rarely project a “people’s voice,” too often detracts from the routine act of governing. And the world has never witnessed – nor do I expect to witness – elections to overturn a truly unjust order.
If there is a religion in the modern world, it is the fanatic belief in democratic self-governance. From a philosophical perspective, the legitimacy of democratic self-government requires the notion of a public forum – a democratic corpus, a public sphere formed by citizens, if you will – to frame, debate and discuss political issues and events, free from “government interference.” This might be called a public sphere of privacy (privacy from government), rather than a private sphere of privacy (privacy from other citizens), and is essential to the working of a democratic government. It is of utmost importance to keep this public sphere vibrant and pure because in today’s paradigm, all governments have a tendency to to intrude, dominate, and control for its benefit at the expense of that of the people. And a democratic government means little if people’s thoughts and voices can be manipulated, coerced, manufactured, or censored. A belief in the vibrancy of the democratic corpus to deliver good governance (with that, justice, prosperity, “freedom,” and peace) represents the very soul of the modern democracy religion.
Eric X. Li, whom both YinYang and I know personally, recently gave this TED presentation on the ideological worship of two political systems – communism … and electoral democracies. As usual, I find Li’s perspective insightful and interesting. It certainly takes guts to stand up and speak against the predominant religion in the world! Now I appreciate even more how Galileo must have felt in confronting the Catholic Church!
I do want to make a quick note about one of the two questions the host at Ted asked of Li at the end of the talk. The host asked about how a non-elected government can legitimately set the agenda without feedback in the form of contested elections. Li talked about how the Chinese government – at all levels – takes surveys of the people on all types of issues, from what people think of the garbage collection at a local level to what people think about the direction of the nation on a national level.
Once in a while one runs into articles that seem to fly against convention wisdom, that seem to tear at the veil of world injustice, that seem to open one’s eyes to provide insight into the causes of so many of today’s ills. This article titled Why There is So Much Pro-War Reporting from “the Big Picture” blog is one of them.
In reading this article, I note how the article also parallel a lot of what Norm Chomsky (Manufacturing Consent) and David Swanson (War is a Lie) have written about pro war sentiments. Yet, I still feel that this article is flawed in so many ways. We are only scratching at the surface of, not diving deep into, the problem.
In his latest essay (in both Chinese and English), Eric X. Li wrote, “Many developing countries have already come to learn that democracy doesn’t solve all their problems. For them, China’s example is important. Its recent success and the failures of the West offer a stark contrast.” Of course, Li is not arguing that democratic systems are invalid. He merely argues that the universality claim is invalid. He also explains how China’s system is meritocratic, and despite a single-party rule, is able to be very adaptable. For those who genuinely believe in universality, they would do well by explaining why a country as rich and as powerful as the United States is plagued with problems of dismal approval for her politicians and incessant budget crisis nationally and locally. Continue reading 中共的生命力——后民主时代在中国开启 – “The Post-Democratic Future Begins in China” by Eric Li→
It is obvious to any China watcher that in the western media, there is ample criticism and exposure of the numerous social and political side effects that accompanies China’s rapid modernization. Three such side effects seem more frequently mentioned than the rest: abuse of unaccountable power, the rise of violent civil unrest, and the growing wealth gap between rich and poor. While such criticisms are valid to varying degrees, problems arise when Western (AND WORSE YET, MAINLAND CHINESE) public intellectuals implicitly or explicitly prescribe democracy, freedom of expression, and transparent, participatory governance (or broadly speaking, western liberal democratic institutions) as the cure for such ills. These commentators frequently attribute imaginary benefits to democratic institutions vis-a-vis non-democratic counterparts. This commentary briefly illustrates three such myths. Continue reading Three Common Myths about Democratic Institutions→
Slate/Intelligence Squared appears to be planning an interesting live debate on March 13 – with Orville Schell and Peter Schiff arguing for the motion in the title and Ian Bremmer and Minxin Pei against.
Unlike many of the bloggers here, I’m not a big fan of Eric X. Li’s writing and speeches from what I have so far seen and heard. I disagree with what he has said as they are either irrelevant, confused, contradictory or a strawman. I think I have expressed why I felt this way in the comments section of the latest blog on Li but there still seems to be some misunderstanding between Allen’s interpretation of Eric and myself.
Here I’d like to give a more detailed explanation of why I didn’t think Eric’s interview was that interesting or even helpful to bettering understanding between China and the west. I did agree on some things but found myself disagreeing far more often. I do not believe that Eric’s view represent much of what the Chinese government’s views which I think are primarily very sound. It’s a shame that people may misconstrue Eric’s views as a defense of China’s view because they are quite different.