Kapow! Take that, Mrs Clinton!

This comes via Xinhua. You’ll know that every year the US State Department publishes an international human rights report on countries around the world. This can have useful information, but also tends towards the tendentious, soft-soaping US allies with pretty dodgy records whilst hyping up the charges against countries Washington has a beef with. Well, those cheeky Chinese have taken it upon themselves to issue an official report on human rights in the United States. I know, you’ll be thinking that the Chinese government is probably not best placed to lecture anybody else, but someone has to do it, and there’s a certain poetic symmetry. A bit like the time Bob Mugabe offered to send election observers to Florida.

China Friday retorted U.S. criticism by publishing its own report on the U.S. human rights record.

“As in previous years, the (U.S.) reports are full of accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China, but turn a blind eye to, or dodge and even cover up rampant human rights abuses on its own territory,” said the Information Office of the State Council in its report on the U.S. human rights record.

The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009 was in retaliation to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009 issued by the U.S. Department of State on March 11.

The report is “prepared to help people around the world understand the real situation of human rights in the United States,” said the report.

The report reviewed the human rights record of the United States in 2009 from six perspectives: life, property and personal security; civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; racial discrimination; rights of women and children; and the U.S.’ violation of human rights against other countries.

It criticized the United States for taking human rights as “a political instrument to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, defame other nations’ image and seek its own strategic interests.”

China advised the U.S. government to draw lessons from the history, put itself in a correct position, strive to improve its own human rights conditions and rectify its acts in the human rights field.

This is the 11th consecutive year that the Information Office of China’s State Council has issued a human rights record of the United States to answer the U.S. State Department’s annual report.

“At a time when the world is suffering a serious human rights disaster caused by the U.S. subprime crisis-induced global financial crisis, the U.S. government still ignores its own serious human rights problems but revels in accusing other countries. It is really a pity,” the report said.

Spying on citizens

While advocating “freedom of speech,” “freedom of the press” and “Internet freedom,” the U.S. government unscrupulously monitors and restricts the citizens’ rights to freedom when it comes to its own interests and needs, the report said.

The U.S. citizens’ freedom to access and distribute information is under strict supervision, it said.

According to media reports, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) started installing specialized eavesdropping equipment around the country to wiretap calls, faxes, and emails and collect domestic communications as early as 2001.

The wiretapping program was originally targeted at Arab-Americans, but soon grew to include other Americans.

After the September 11 attack, the U.S. government, in the name of anti-terrorism, authorized its intelligence authorities to hack into its citizens’ mail communications, and to monitor and erase any information that might threaten the U.S. national interests on the Internet through technical means, the report said.

Statistics showed that from 2002 to 2006, the FBI collected thousands of phones records of U.S. citizens through mails, notes and phone calls.

In September 2009, the country set up an Internet security supervision body, further worrying U.S. citizens that the U.S. government might use Internet security as an excuse to monitor and interfere with personal systems.

The so-called “freedom of the press” of the United States was in fact completely subordinate to its national interests, and was manipulated by the U.S. government, the report said.

At yearend 2009, the U.S. Congress passed a bill which imposed sanctions on several Arab satellite channels for broadcasting contents hostile to the U.S. and instigating violence.

Racial discrimination a chronic problem

Racial discrimination is still a chronic problem of the United States, the report said.

Black people and other minorities are the most impoverished groups in the United States.

According to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Census, the real median income for American households in 2008 was 50,303 U.S. dollars, but the median incomes of Hispanic and black households were roughly 68 percent and 61.6 percent of that of the non-Hispanic white households.

And the median income of minority groups was about 60 to 80 percent of that of majority groups under the same conditions of education and skill background, the report added.

Ethnic minorities have been subject to serious racial discrimination in employment and workplace, the report said.

Minority groups bear the brunt of the U.S. unemployment. According to news reports, the U.S. unemployment rate in October 2009 was 10.2 percent. The jobless rate of the U.S. African-Americans jumped to 15.7 percent, that of the Hispanic rose to 13.1 percent and that of the white was 9.5 percent, the USA Today reported.

The U.S. minority groups face discriminations in education. According to a report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Census, 33 percent of the non-Hispanic white has college degrees, proportion of the black was only 20 percent and Hispanic was 13 percent.

Racial discrimination in law enforcement and judicial system is very distinct. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, by the end of 2008, 3,161 men and 149 women per 100,000 persons in the U.S. black population were under imprisonment.

And a report released by New York City Police Department said that of the people involved in police shootings whose ethnicity could be determined in 2008, 75 percent were black, 22 percent were Hispanic; and 3 percent were white.

Ethnic hatred crimes are frequent. According to statistics released by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, a total of 7,783 hatred crimes occurred in 2008 in the United States, 51.3 percent of which were originated by racial discrimination and 19.5 percent were for religious bias and 11.5 percent were for national origins.

Widespread violent crimes

Widespread violent crimes in the United States posed threats to the lives, properties and personal security of its people, the report said.

In 2008, U.S. residents experienced 4.9 million violent crimes, 16.3 million property crimes and 137,000 personal thefts, and the violent crime rate was 19.3 victimizations per 1,000 persons aged 12 or over.

About 30,000 people die from gun-related incidents each year. According to an FBI report, there had been 14,180 murder victims in 2008, the report said.

Campuses became an area worst hit by violent crimes as shootings spread there and kept escalating. The U.S. Heritage Foundation reported that 11.3 percent of high school students in Washington D.C. reported being “threatened or injured” with a weapon while on school property during the 2007-2008 school year.

Abuse of power

The country’s police frequently impose violence on the people and abuse of power is common among U.S. law enforcers, the report said,

Over the past two years, the number of New York police officers under review for garnering too many complaints was up 50 percent.

In major U.S. cities, police stop, question and frisk more than a million people each year, a sharply higher number than just a few years ago.

Prisons in the United State are packed with inmates. About 2.3 million were held in custody of prisons and jails, the equivalent of about one in every 198 persons in the country, according to the report.

From 2000 to 2008, the U.S. prison population increased an average of 1.8 percent annually.

The basic rights of prisoners in the United States are not well-protected. Raping cases of inmates by prison staff members are widely reported, the report said.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, reports of sexual misconduct by prison staff members with inmates in the country’s 93 federal prison sites doubled over the past eight years.

According to a federal survey of more than 63,000 federal and state inmates, 4.5 percent reported being sexually abused at least once during the previous 12 months.

Poverty leads to rising number of suicides

The report said the population in poverty was the largest in 11 years.

The Washington Post reported that altogether 39.8 million Americans were living in poverty by the end of 2008, an increase of 2.6 million from that in 2007. The poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, the highest since 1998.

Poverty led to a sharp rise in the number of suicides in the United States. It is reported that there are roughly 32,000 suicides in the U.S. every year, double the cases of murder, said the report.

Workers’ rights not properly guaranteed

Workers’ rights were seriously violated in the United States, the report said.

The New York Times reported that about 68 percent of the 4,387 low-wage workers in a survey said they had experienced reduction of wages and 76 percent of those who had worked overtime were not paid accordingly.

The number of people without medical insurance has kept rising for eight consecutive years, the report said.

Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showed 46.3 million people were without medical insurance in 2008, accounting for 15.4 percent of the total population, comparing with 45.7 million people who were without medical insurance in 2007, which was a rise for the eighth year in a row.

Women, children frequent victims of violence

Women are frequent victims of violence and sexual assault in the United States, while children are exposed to violence and living in fear, the report said.

It is reported that the United States has the highest rape rate among countries which report such statistics. It is 13 times higher than that of England and 20 times higher than that of Japan.

Reuters reported that based on in-depth interviews on 40 servicewomen, 10 said they had been raped, five said they were sexually assaulted including attempted rape, and 13 reported sexual harassment.

It is reported that 1,494 children younger than 18 nationwide were murdered in 2008, the USA Today reported.

A survey conducted by the U.S. Justice Department on 4,549 kids and adolescents aged 17 and younger between January and May of 2008 showed, more than 60 percent of children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either directly or indirectly.

Trampling upon other countries ‘ sovereignty, human rights

The report said the United States with its strong military power has pursued hegemony in the world, trampling upon the sovereignty of other countries and trespassing their human rights.

As the world’s biggest arms seller, its deals have greatly fueled instability across the world. The United States also expanded its military spending, already the largest in the world, by 10 percent in 2008 to 607 billion U.S. dollars, accounting for 42 percent of the world total, the AP reported.

At the beginning of 2010, the U.S. government announced a 6.4-billion-U.S. dollar arms sales package to Taiwan despite strong protest from the Chinese government and people, which seriously damaged China’s national security interests and aroused strong indignation among the Chinese people, it said.

The wars of Iraq and Afghanistan have placed heavy burden on American people and brought tremendous casualties and property losses to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the report.

Prisoner abuse is one of the biggest human rights scandals of the United States, it said

An investigation by U.S. Justice Department showed 2,000 Taliban surrendered combatants were suffocated to death by the U.S. army-controlled Afghan armed forces, the report said.

The United States has been building its military bases around the world, and cases of violation of local people’s human rights are often seen, the report said.

The United States is now maintaining 900 bases worldwide, with more than 190,000 military personnel and 115,000 relevant staff stationed.

These bases are bringing serious damage and environmental contamination to the localities. Toxic substances caused by bomb explosions are taking their tolls on the local children, it said.

It has been reported that toward the end of the U.S. military bases’ presence in Subic and Clark Philippines, as many as 3,000 cases of raping local women had been filed against the U.S. servicemen, but all were dismissed, according to the report.

If you’re so minded, you can read the full report here.

Of swine flu and xenophobia


Let’s return to China, and today we’ve been hearing about the British schoolkids in Beijing who’ve been quarantined after some of their number tested positive for swine flu. Obviously it isn’t the trip they had expected, but it looks like they’re having a reasonably good time of it – the hotel they’ve been quarantined in isn’t exactly Stalag 17. And, after discussing failures of Chinese administration in Tibet and Xinjiang, the Chinese government’s tough response to swine flu, including checks on all those entering the country and week-long quarantines for those in close proximity to people with the virus, seems to be working reasonably well in limiting the spread of swine flu. Remember that China got hit very hard by the Sars epidemic in 2003, and in terms of public health at least the PRC is capable of learning lessons. The result is a proactive policy that European governments might care to study.

I mention this because earlier today I was reading the coverage in the Daily Mail, and the article itself is not too bad, providing some context for the quarantine policy. And, from the comments box, there’s a lot of sympathy for China on this score – Mail readers love the smack of firm government, and may be particularly taken with the idea of strict health checks on foreigners entering the country. But all the same, some old tropes still emerge:

More than 50 British schoolchildren and teachers are being held in a Beijing hotel after four pupils from their group developed swine flu.

Apart from the weasel usage of “held”, which implies something arbitrary and unreasonable, you’ll not that this chimes with the Mail‘s reliance on the politics of resentment. Four tested positive and 52 are quarantined? It’s outrageous! At least when it’s Brits abroad – were it foreigners in Britain, the attitude might be different.

The authorities have stationed guards and police around the building and no one is allowed in or out, apart from doctors in white coats and face masks.

What part of “quarantine” do you not understand?

Lucy Van Amerongen, 15, from Cheltenham Ladies’ College, is one of the quarantined students.

Her sister Amii, from London, said yesterday: ‘She called me this morning telling me that she is confined in a hotel.

‘She said it was quite intimidating. They have these “guns” they point at your head which measure your temperature.’

So, they aren’t actual guns then. Thermometers. Not guns.

This is the sort of morass you enter into when your politics are determined by a) a desire for firm government action in the face of any crisis, or anything the papers deem to be a crisis, and b) a desire to keep the government off the backs of decent, respectable folks. When the people taking the firm action are foreigners, and moreover foreigners who call themselves communists… well, you need to get in some digs at Johnny Foreigner, even if Johnny Foreigner is doing a good job. You know those endless stories filed by Paris correspondents about how mad the French are? This sort of writing thrives because there’s a market for it. Unfortunately, it means if you’re reliant on the British press you’ll have a hard job understanding anything that’s going on in the world, and just be left with a vague sense that the rest of the world is unreasonably trying to do Britain down.

Then again, it could have been much worse. Seeing as this is the Mail, one might have expected it to go into full Iran Hostage Crisis mode. We may be thankful for small mercies.

More on this from Madam Miaow.

Puzzling round Tibet and Xinjiang


Things are looking pretty rough in Xinjiang, or Uighurstan if you prefer, at the minute. In fact, Urumqi looks worse than Ardoyne. Joking aside, though, it’s a major story and, though I can’t really claim any specialist knowledge, there are some aspects that have grabbed my attention.

Firstly, Dave speculates that “the left” will, in its majority, come out in defence of whatever the Chinese government does. I suspect that Dave may be confusing the Spartacist League with “the left”, or else he’s been paying too much attention to the kitsch leftists of the Alliance for Workers Liberty, who can use an idiosyncratic version of Stalinist geopolitics to justify supporting all sorts of rum characters. (To take just one recent example, the Lebanese Phalange, who can be decontaminated by the simple expedient of labelling them “The Cedar Revolution”.) But at the less eccentric end of the left, we have a strongly pro-Uighur article in Socialist Worker, which I would have expected given the SWP’s long-term support for Tibetan independence.

On a journalistic level, that’s fine. But I think we should be careful before demanding that Trot ideologues produce detailed programmatic positions. The thing about your Marxists is that an ideologue, at least an experienced one like Chris Harman or Sean Matgamna, can produce a 60-page blueprint for the Uighur revolution at the drop of a hat, with no more research involved than reading this morning’s Guardian and maybe spending half an hour on Wikipedia to fill in the gaps. This is because your Marxist ideologue is a master of such theoretical tools as the Dogmatic Schema, the Rhetorical Overstatement and the Tenuous Historical Analogy. If all else fails, you can fall back on such formulae as “We support the demands of the masses”, which worked really well for the Iranian left in 1979. Alternatively, you could try to put some knowledge to work alongside your formulae, which is why I quite liked this from the CWI, but it’s well known that nobody ever profited from trying to determine the facts.

My view is that you can sensibly talk about what demands you would raise if you were on the ground, and make those demands a bit sharper by strengthening your empirical knowledge, but beyond that I’m cautious. I’m cautious about pledging up-front support to a movement whose complexion and dynamics I’m deeply unsure about. I’m also cautious about sources – I know plenty of people on the Iranian exile left who are good and decent individuals, but that doesn’t mean I necessarily trust their judgement in all things, especially when they contradict each other or come out with sweeping statements about how the Iranian population is opposed to the Islamic Republic. I mean to say, I’ve heard Goretti Horgan say in public fora that there’s a pro-choice majority in the north of Ireland, and I’m reasonably sure that isn’t true, so it doesn’t hurt to be a little bit careful in areas that you know much less well.

That lengthy caveat out of the way, I hope you’ll excuse me for not presuming to pull a detailed blueprint out of my left ear. What I want to do, in the same spirit as Madam Miaow, is to offer a few impressions and what I think are some points worth thinking over.

The first thing that strikes me is that, compared to the similar events in Tibet last March, the international media have been remarkably understanding of the Chinese government. Partly this is because Beijing has been much cannier in its handling of the media – where last March Tibet was effectively closed to foreigners, and you could take your choice between editorials in the People’s Daily or emotive appeals from the Free Tibet movement, in this case there’s been plenty of access to Xinjiang. That has meant, inter alia, coverage of the Han workers attacked by Uighurs in the race riot, something that was effaced almost entirely during the Tibet events.

It also must be said that the Tibetans have PR advantages denied to the Uighurs. There is a large Tibetan diaspora in Europe and North America, many of whom speak fluent English. There is a large Uighur diaspora in the Stans, many of whom speak fluent Russian or Uzbek. The Tibetans have an internationally famous rock ‘n’ roll spiritual leader; the Uighurs have no recognisable leader. The Tibetans have been supported for decades by a highly committed solidarity movement that’s been very effective in promoting a romanticised image of Tibet; the Uighurs have had no such solidarity movement. The Tibetans are backed by Richard Gere, Sharon Stone, Bono and Joanna Lumley; the Uighurs are supported by Hizb-ut-Tahrir, who aren’t exactly media darlings themselves, and by some pan-Turkic wingnuts in Istanbul, who are the sort of people you would invite on Newsnight if you actively wanted to discredit the Uighur cause. The Tibetans benefit from a 1960s view of Buddhism as a religion of peace and tolerance, which is only sustainable if you aren’t paying much attention to Burma or Sri Lanka. The Uighurs have the disadvantage of being of the Muslim persuasion, and it’s not all that easy to get idealistic Western reporters to swing behind uppity Muslims.

Beijing has been keenly aware of the last element at least, and has been keen to flag up the terrorist activities of some Uighur separatist groups, and tenuous links they claim to have uncovered to Osama. There appear to be much stronger links with the CIA and the Turkish Deep State, but the Chinese authorities are less keen to stress those. All this means that, while the Cold War tropes of anticommunism and Sinophobia have not been absent, Beijing has done rather better out of this than it might have expected.

So we now move to what has actually been going on. There has been some grandiose talk about the movement for democracy and self-determination, but the Urumqi events look to me at first glance like a race riot. The question is, whether it is just a race riot, and what are the underlying causes. After all, the Kosovo events of 1981 were essentially a race riot, but there was more to them than that, and the cack-handed response of the Yugoslav authorities helped to stoke up trouble for the future. And, as we know, race riots don’t happen for no reason.

Firstly, I think there’s a certain amount of guff to be cut through. There is an obvious and close parallel between Xinjiang and Tibet, which is why this blog recommends the following products: the Gongmeng report into the March 2008 events in Tibet, a complex and convincingly argued analysis from within China, and anything by Tsering Shakya, who’s been a consistent source of good writing on Tibetan politics.

To dispense with some mythology, it’s common to hear Tibetan advocates in the west talk in emotionally-charged terms about “cultural genocide”, which consists of two interlinked arguments: the first is that Tibetans are banned from expressing their identity, even in terms of freedom to speak their language or practice their religion; the second is that Beijing is following a deliberate policy of sending millions of Han colonists into ethnic minority areas so as to swamp the native population. The second I think is dubious, at least in the terms that it is usually framed, although large-scale immigration there certainly has been. I don’t think, anyway, that we have an analogue to the way that, during the Cultural Revolution, millions of Red Guards were sent to the furthest-flung parts of China to smash regionalism. The first charge is simply untrue. Chinese nationalities policy is closely modelled after Soviet nationalities policy, which means (Stalin’s wartime deportations notwithstanding) a policy of supporting, even celebrating, local identities and cultures while cracking down very hard on anything that looks like political separatism. Some nationalities – like the largest minority in China, the Zhuang – have done quite well out of this. It’s worked less well in practice for the Tibetans and the Uighurs.

What the nationalities policy means in Xinjiang is that Uighur and Kazakh are official languages (in the traditional Arabic script, rather than the Latin imposed in the 1950s), it means that Uighurs as a non-Han nationality are exempt from the one-child policy, that there is a special dispensation in Xinjiang allowing Muslims to become members of the Communist Party (as there is for Buddhists in Tibet) and the Party has followed an affirmative action programme to put Uighurs into top positions. Religion is a slightly different matter, and it does make Beijing nervous. As I’ve mentioned previously, the Catholic Church can’t operate legally in mainland China, and its adherents have to operate via the Patriotic Catholic Association, a body which agrees with all government policies and whose bishops are appointed by the Communist Party. (Actually, that sounds a bit like the SDLP.) Similiar arrangements prevail for Muslims and Buddhists. So even if minorities’ constitutional rights were fully implemented in practice – and I’m fairly sure they aren’t – there would be plenty to chafe against.

All this is not to say that the Uighurs or Tibetans do not have serious grievances, just that you have to try harder to discover what they are rather than just relying on hasbara from exile groups, which will, as is the way with exile groups, be geared towards evoking a particular reaction.

This is where I think the Gongmeng report is extremely important in terms of the answers the team retrieved from their fieldwork. Much of it makes sense to me, whether the authors are exploring generational shifts in identity, or whether they’re discussing the way corrupt bureaucrats sustain themselves in power by the bogey of “separatism” and the splittist Dalai clique. But what’s most important is how they concretely situate last year’s outburst of Tibetan nationalism in terms of China’s development strategy. Here’s a brief sample:

In the process of modernization, economic structures and political structures in Han areas and Tibetan areas have been made uniform. As “backward” areas, Tibetan areas had to catch up with “progressive” areas and keep up with the “modern”. But the Tibetan people have not had adequate opportunity or skills to respond. Large numbers of incomers and rapid social changes have brought conflicts to culture, lifestyles and even to values. In the past, contacts between Tibetan areas and the interior were often very limited, but the specially formulated development process opened up Tibetan areas in an instant, opening up for attack every single key area of nationalities’ life from the economy, power structure, religious life, lifestyle and population structures. When the Tibetan people have a sense of unfairness and loss in the economic and social changes resulting from the modernization process led by Han and by the state, this can strengthen yet further their ethnic identity and how they identify with their traditions, giving rise to conflict between the traditional and the modern, and conflict between the ethnicities.

In sum, to understand the 3.14 incident, the present in Tibetan areas must be understood, and close attention must be paid to the core question of the process of modernization in Tibetan areas. If it’s said that the modernization process of the Tibetan people is an irreversible historical trend, then how the Tibetan people and Tibetan areas progress toward modernization is worthy of in-depth consideration. The prominent contradictions and conflicts in Tibetan areas are not solely the remnants of history, they are also problems arising from the current situation in the path of modernization and the strength and manner of its implementation. From the 1989 incident until the 3.14 incident this year, an important dimension to social structures has been the adverse effects of the modernization process the core of which is the marginalization of the Tibetan people and the discontent this has brought.

It’s a long document, but well worth digesting in full. To simplify greatly, and here we’re passing over a wealth of empirical detail and historical context, the immediate locus of discontent is the central government’s Go West development strategy and the attendant dislocations. Cutting a long story short, the centre is basically putting forward modernisation as a panacea for the west’s underdevelopment, but this modernisation is being carried out with scant regard for the wishes of the nationalities in the west, and it further meshes with the explosive issue of immigration. You have all these enormous infrastructure projects being carried out in the west which bring in their wake an army of Han migrant workers. At the same time, rural poverty and economic growth in the urban centres is drawing Tibetan peasants into the towns looking for work. But once there, they find themselves at the bottom of the pile, having few marketable skills, often lacking fluency in Mandarin, often even illiterate in Tibetan. In towns with burgeoning Han populations, the Tibetan workers are unable to compete in the job market, and equally unable to return to a backward agricultural sector. So you have the same material conditions as in interior China, with peasants in places like Anhui becoming unskilled labourers in the towns, but with an added layer of national grievance.

Put all this together, and you have all the ingredients for an explosion of ethnic tensions, without even factoring in Han racism against minorities, which undoubtedly exists. This seems to me a plausible account of the underlying situation in Tibet, and I can’t imagine that Xinjiang is all that different.

So, to return to the start, where does that leave us? There isn’t really a solidarity movement to hand, and I’m not yet persuaded that there’s a movement on the ground that’s supportable. If the left press raises slogans about democracy, freedom of speech, religious freedom, self-determination for national groups – that’s all well and good, reiterating your basic ideas, as long as you understand what that means – that you’re raising the slogans you would raise if you were on the ground, and you hope there are some people on the ground saying similar things. Because when West European or North American leftists come out with lists of great-sounding “demands” in respect of Country X, I always wonder whether anybody in Country X is saying anything similar, although it would be nice if they were.

Other than that, I would again stress the danger of schematism. There are a whole lot of bad habits leftists tend to fall into on this sort of issue. One is the nineteenth-century Colonial Office reflex that says, “Ethnic tensions in Herzoslovakia? Let’s draw a line on a map!” I don’t know if there is a majority in Xinjiang for independence, as opposed to proper autonomy, but we don’t need to speculate very much to see what an independent Uighur state would look like – just look over the border at the Stans, a rotten bunch of despotates ruled by very much the same people who were in power under the Soviet Union, only without the Kremlin to restrain them.

The other danger is grandiosity, as when a race riot gets rhetorically transformed into a national liberation movement. It rings alarm bells with me if disgruntled Uighurs, rather than aiming their fire at the Chinese authorities, are attacking Han or Hui migrant workers who are just trying to earn a living. Apparently it doesn’t ring alarm bells with some on the left, either because they accept the Stalinist concept of the “oppressor nation” and the concomitant blurring of class lines, or because they belong to the spontaneist school of thought that says a race riot is an example of deflected class struggle. We would, I would suggest, get a different response if we were talking about Ukrainian attacks on Jews in 1920.

That will do for the time being. If you’re looking for definitive answers, I’m sorry I couldn’t provide any. But I hope I’ve raised some worthwhile questions.

Much more, as always, at Blood and Treasure.

L’Orient est rouge

PRC showmanship, old style…

Chen wins gold with stunning dive

That Madam Miaow gets about, doesn’t she? Not only giving us stimulating discussion on the wireless about the Beijing Olympics, while taking time out to win a weightlifting gold, but now striking gold in the diving. And apparently discovering the secret of eternal youth while she’s at it.

Oh, I’m sorry. Our staff informs me that this is in fact 15-year-old Chen Ruolin, looking very serious in this picture, who has won gold in the 10-metre women’s platform to take China’s tally of diving golds to seven. Good for her.

Oi, Pigsy! It’s Gail Walker Watch!

I suppose it had to happen. Yes, Gail Walker does China. Lord help us. You see, Gail is boycotting the Beijing Olympics. Which is to say, she’s not watching it on the telly. I suppose, if it makes you feel better…

I’ve had a bellyful of despots and tyrants this year. From the Chinese themselves and their initial reluctance to let foreigners in to assist with their earthquake disaster, regarding outside aid as an admission of communist failure. To the vile Burmese regime, propped up by the Chinese, consigning thousands of their own to death by persisting in isolationism. To the genocidal atrocities of Darfur at the hands of a lunatic in charge of Sudan — one again propped up by China. To the monster of Harare who has defied international opinion and continues to run Zimbabwe with the support of fellow African ‘leaders’. I’ve had enough.

Well, I thought the initial PLA response to the earthquake was rather good, unless you believe the Chinese are too backward to carry out relief work without help from the civilised world. And there are plenty of knowledgeable commentators on Sudan who reckon the Chinese have played a moderating role there, which may or may not be correct. In any case, I’m not certain that China’s extensive commercial interests in Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe constitute actual “propping up”. It may be closer to the mark to say that the Beijing regime aren’t too fussy about who they trade with. Free market and all that.

The decision to award this year’s Olympics to Beijing was unbelievable to begin with. That nation has easily the worst human rights record on the planet.

That’s right, worse than North Korea, worse than Saudi Arabia, worse than Uzbekistan, worse than DR Congo… and I suppose China is also to blame for the mass slaughter in Iraq.

The vicious repression and colonisation of Tibet is just the most visible of its crimes.

The Tibetan language is compulsory in schools and government; ethnic Tibetans are exempt from the one-child policy; Tibet is the only region of the Chinese state where Buddhists are allowed to join the Communist Party; Tibet is likewise the only region that was exempted from Deng Xiaoping’s purge of literally millions of Cultural Revolutionists. Not that the Tibetans don’t have legitimate grievances, but maybe “most visible” is a good way of putting it. The Uighurs probably have a tougher time of it, but they have the misfortune to be of the Muslim persuasion and aren’t nearly as sexy a cause as the Tibetans.

That and its 60-year bullying of Taiwan, a nation to which China and the rest of the world have conspired to deny official status.

Whether Taiwan actually is a nation is a debatable point. If the recent Kuomintang landslide is anything to go by, it’s less than clear that most Taiwanese think it is.

And the spectacle of BBC reporters ‘interviewing’ these lackeys billing and cooing over the wonderful achievement of China in wasting billions on its Nuremburg fantasies really isn’t my cup of tea.

Eh, now we’re back to Gail’s bugbear of the BBC. She doesn’t have to watch, but is she seriously implying that the event shouldn’t have been covered?

What we have here is called ‘appeasement’. These games are the exact equivalent of the 1936 Games in Hitler’s Berlin. They were awarded for the same reason. There was profit to be made from Hitler, just as there’s profit to be made from China.

Yes, it’s exactly the same, isn’t it? Every government we don’t like is the modern analogue to the Third Reich. Say what you like about Gail, she never knowingly understates her case.

In fact, the vast majority of Chinese will continue to be completely illiterate, in a poverty which belongs to the Stone Age. China may go from Jurassic Park to Blade Runner, but most of it is Jurassic Park. The earthquake exposed the truth about this fraudulent ‘modern’ economy.

Actually, the spreading of literacy on a mass scale is one of the real concrete achievements the PRC can point to. And as for the earthquake… well, Hurricane Katrina exposed some unwelcome truths about American society, but I seem to remember Gail’s response was to lambast BBC reporters for their alleged anti-Americanism.

In a fortnight, the lights go off again on that sprawling bog of misery which covers so much of the earth’s surface.

But the Gail Walker column we shall always have with us. Selah.

Beijing: The greatest show on earth

What a show. I mean, really, I thought it would be hard to top Sydney, but yesterday’s Olympic opening ceremony was genuinely breathtaking. A personal triumph for Zhang Yimou, beating Hollywood at its own game, and with the kind of spectacle on a massive scale that you would expect from China. The Chinese people can feel very proud of themselves.

And now’s the time for everyone to head out to Beijing. I may not keep up with all the coverage, but I certainly don’t begrudge the deployment of hundreds of BBC staff out there. This is the kind of huge event that only the Beeb has the resources to do properly. But Gordon Brown’s parsimonious decision not to go looks like a bit of a faux pas. Everybody who was anybody was there. Bush, and Putin, and Sarko, and anybody who really mattered. And Britain was represented by, well, Tessa Jowell and Boris Johnson. Then again, they had a plausible reason for attending, but, as Madam Miaow was saying on the radio last night, the London organisers must be scratching their heads wondering how they’re going to follow this.

One more noticeable absence. Why wasn’t the peace process represented? As a taxpayer, I’m outraged that Gregory Campbell and Barry McElduff weren’t there. They could always tell the Assembly they were on a fact-finding mission, researching the possibility of a Norn Iron bid for the Olympics. It could be held at the Maze stadium…

Rock out with Chairman Mao!

Yes, it’s the Internationale, but with a bit of a twist…

Of Cypriot communists and Chinese nationalists


One of the nice things about democracy is that it frequently throws up surprises, and unwelcome surprises too for the planners of the international order. It’s something you frequently come up against where there is a foreign election and the Yanks are backing one party against another. Sometimes the local diplomatic staff will get directly involved. More often, you’ll come across outfits like the National Endowment for Democracy. For the uninitiated, the NED is a giant slush fund used by Washington to influence the internal affairs of foreign countries. Sometimes it funds parties directly; sometimes it will plough cash into a whole social layer of “pro-democracy” or “human rights” NGOs.

Now it happens from time to time that the Yanks will cover their bets by funding both sides. But it’s worth the spectacle when they really pull out all the stops to beat somebody. This isn’t, by the way, confined to officially defined “rogue states” like Venezuela or Serbia. I’ve seen it at first hand in Bulgaria. An even better example is Cambodia, where fulsome backing will be given to whoever looks most likely to oust the Hun Sen government. These days it’s Sam Rainsy, who’s learned to mouth the appropriate shibbolethim about “democracy” and “human rights” and “civil society”. Before him it was the clever but ultimately ineffectual Prince Ranariddh. And before him it was the Khmer Rouge-run “Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea”. Human rights, mar dhea!

But, getting away from the Empire’s caddies for the moment, let’s take a brief look at recent events in the two very different polities of Cyprus and Chinese Taipei. And I am firm in stating that the AKEL victory in Cyprus, with Christofias’ election as president, can only be seen as a Good Thing. AKEL’s programme these days is more Old Labour than Marxist-Leninist, but even Old Labour isn’t bad going by the standards of today’s Europe. More to the point is the increased possibility for reunification of Cyprus. Certainly, the cordial relations between AKEL and the CTP, the ruling leftwing party in the northern para-state, plus their common programme of federal reunification, are a hopeful sign.

What would be important about this is that it would be a solution reached among Cypriots. That alone would give it a better chance of survival than some baroque plan emanating from the UN or EU – look at the various Ruritanian protectorates in the Western Balkans for an idea of where that leads. There’s also the not unrelated factor that the Empire prefers to manage these problems than actually solve them. The running sore of a divided Cyprus has provided a handy excuse for intervention in the region – and Cyprus’ strategic position between Europe and the Middle East is highly relevant.

One positive thing that might come out of this – fingers crossed – is that foreign troops might have to get out of Cyprus. Not just the enormous Turkish garrison in the north, mind. The Brits, of course, retain those two great big bases at Akrotiri and Dhekelia, both hugely unpopular with Cypriots due to the antics of drunken squaddies. The French also have a listening post, although they’re sensible enough to keep a low profile. This doesn’t mean a great deal to the US military, who have the whole region ringed with bases, but it might be a blow to the Brits’ pretensions of projecting military power. We can but hope.

AKEL might be relatively unproblematic. The Kuomintang are another matter, especially if you’re aware of their grisly history.

Before I get accused of being a booster for the KMT, let me make it perfectly clear that I’m not endorsing the party nor claiming any anti-imperialist credentials for what is after all the Chinese equivalent of Fianna Fáil. But their victory did bring a little smile to my face.

The thing is that, while for decades the KMT may have been imperialism’s favoured Chinese proxy, things change. Imperial commentators – in particular the neocons and the liberal hawks who take their lead from the neocons – have more recently been aggressively boosting the Pan-Green coalition in Taipei, and banging the drum for Taiwanese independence (more loudly, in fact, than the more circumspect Pan-Green politicians in Taipei). We have been given to understand that plucky little Taiwan is being oppressed by mainland China. This impression has been helped along by sympathetic media coverage of politicos from the Democratic Progressive Party, who do the usual democracy ‘n’ human rights ‘n’ civil society spiel in a style that will be instantly familiar from the identikit “democracy activists” you come across in Belgrade or Minsk or Bratislava. The Kuomintang are unfashionable, for reasons that ostensibly have to do with their history but actually relate more to their pro-Chinese orientation.

And what do those pesky Taiwanese electors do? They give a landslide to the pro-Chinese coalition! You’d think they would have got the message…

Neither of these electoral outcomes, of course marks a mortal blow against the Empire. Washington and its regional satraps are skilled at making the best of these situations. But, just for a little while, things aren’t going as smoothly as the planners of “democratic geopolitics” would like.