Hong Kong, or, how long will Canadian Government Continue to Cower before the Chicoms?

Further to this post,

Looks like Hong Kong Facing a Statutory Cultural Revolution

now the start of two news stories:

1) In the Globe and Mail:

Calls for further action on Hong Kong spark concern over impact on detained Canadians in China

The Canadian government is being urged to do more than issue written condemnation of China’s crackdown on Hong Kong, but a governing Liberal MP says he’s concerned how further action might imperil efforts to free two Canadians locked up by Beijing.

A parliamentary committee holding hearings Tuesday [Aug. 11] on the deterioration of civil rights in Hong Kong was pressed to support measures that could help Hong Kongers, including offering safe haven to asylum seekers here. Canada has released several statements of concern about Hong Kong and suspended an extradition treaty with the former British colony in July…

2) At Global News (with video):

Ottawa’s lack of action on Hong Kong puts Canadians in China’s crosshairs: activists

The Chinese attack on democratic freedoms in Hong Kong is not just an issue of foreign affairs but one that directly endangers every Canadian citizen as well, according to Hong Kong democracy advocates.

The special parliamentary committee on Canada-China relations heard Tuesday firsthand accounts from four activists of being beaten, abused, threatened and targeted by Chinese actors for their advocacy of democracy in Hong Kong amid an increasingly aggressive global power campaign by Beijing.

Read more: China says Canada, Five Eyes allies’ call for Hong Kong elections ‘neglects facts’

The advocates, several of whom also hold Canadian citizenship, spoke in the context of China’s implementation of a sweeping national security law that criminalizes all forms of dissent and that Beijing claims gives it authority to criminalize speech critical of China by anyone abroad.

“Anyone anywhere in the world who criticizes the Chinese or Hong Kong government could be considered a criminal under this vaguely worded provision,” said Gloria Y. Fung, president of Canada-Hong Kong Link, which links 16 Canadian organizations advocating for Hong Kong…

Plus the start of an opinion piece at the Globe and Mail by Robyn Urback (tweets here):

If Beijing isn’t careful, Ottawa will deploy its scathing finger-wag

If Canada keeps furrowing its brow at China, it’s going to get permanent wrinkles. Granted, that would at least be a tangible effect – which is more than Canada has accomplished so far by expressing its “grave,” “serious” and “deepest” concerns in response to various and escalating acts of belligerence from the Xi regime.

In just the past 18 months or so, Beijing has held Canadian citizens hostage, slapped us with economic penalties, lied about its outbreak of disease, perpetuated its Uyghur ethnic cleansing efforts, reneged on a 50-year pledge to respect the autonomy of Hong Kong, disqualified candidates and postponed Hong Kong’s election. In response to it all, Canada has grimaced and frowned…

Spot a common theme? Maybe deeds, not just words?

UPDATE: This excerpt, from a story at the National Post about the committee hearing, highlights the PRC’s foreign interference in Canada:

We’re running out of time to help Hong Kong, activists warn Canadian MPs

‘When China can break the promises to Hong Kong it can do the same to other countries around the world, including Canada,’ one activist warned

Cherie Wong, the executive director of Alliance Canada Hong Kong [tweets here], told MPs that protests and rallies her group has organized in Canada have been disrupted by pro-China groups that she believes are being supported by Chinese diplomats in Canada.

She said she has received threats and has had personal information exposed online.

“It has become clear that there is a coordinated campaign to infiltrate and influence Canadian society and this is part of the Chinese Communist Party’s global authoritarian agenda.”

All of the groups told MPs that the government should be imposing sanctions on China for its actions in Hong Kong and look at offering help to those looking to immigrate to Canada to escape persecution…

And a related earlier post:

“Elite Capture’, or, Chicoms’ Pernicious Influence and Interference in Canada–more on Compradors, United Front Work Department and Pols

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Terrorism, or, Keep our Eyes on the Jihadi Ball

Former Canadian intelligence analyst (CSE then CSIS) Phil Gurski (tweets here) says don’t just go with the latest trendy flow–at the Ottawa Citizen:

Gurski: Remember ISIL? It still poses a threat in Canada

It is rare for a terrorist group to entirely cease to exist. There have been several successful attacks over the past few years and there will be more.

If they were to assess the threat from terrorism to the West as of August 2020 based solely on media coverage and “expert” input, most Canadians would probably say unequivocally that the greatest terrorism “flavour” today is represented by what has been loosely termed the “far right” – usually referred to as “RWE” (right-wing extremism). The term tends to encompass a dog’s breakfast of ideologies: white supremacists, neo-Nazis, white nationalists, fascists, etc…

In keeping with this perceived shift in terrorist threat, many are calling on Canadian agencies such as CSIS and the RCMP to retool and shift investigative resources from the “traditional” terrorist threat – traditional in the sense of post 9/11 – from Islamist extremism to RWE, as if the former has been “resolved.”

I have bad news: it hasn’t.

A very recent case in Kingston brought this to the fore in a big way. A teen pleaded guilty to four terrorism offences and admitted that he had “pledged allegiance” to Islamic State (ISIL). In addition, he had worked with an “attack planner” based in Syria to plot bombings in Canada, to possibly include nightclubs, churches and sporting venues, all places “good to kill Christians,” according to the youth…

What this means is that the growing calls to refocus counter-terrorism investigative resources on RWE are wrong. The Islamist terrorist threat to the West (there have been several attacks and foiled attacks in several European cities in recent months) has not gone away, no matter what U.S. President Donald Trump said about ISIL’s “total defeat.” Most credible analysts see an ISIL on the ascendancy in Iraq and Syria, with growing affiliates in Asia and Africa, as well as self-starters in the West, much like the Kingston youth. Other violent Islamist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and a number of “independents” are also very active around the world.

The simple truth is that the Islamist threat must remain a priority for CSIS and the RCMP, which must also deal with a possibly rising RWE threat. It is not a case of either/or: it is a case of both/and…

…the Kingston case demonstrates that the Mounties carried out a textbook counter-terrorism investigation that involved human agents and (likely) warranted intercepts. The evidence gathered was so strong as to convince the youth to plead guilty rather than challenge the findings in court. That, too, speaks volumes.

What, then should Canadians take from this news? Several important lessons:

• Islamist terrorism is far from dead;

• RWE extremism deserves to be investigated but not at the expense of Islamist terrorism;

• Canada’s public safety agencies are competent and standing on guard for us; and

• Canada is not immune from terrorism planned by individuals inspired by groups such as ISIL: there have been several successful attacks over the past few years and there will be more.

Can we please not see terrorism as a zero-sum game when it comes to our attention? It does not work that way.

Phil Gurski is the Director of the Security program at the University of Ottawa and a former strategic terrorism analyst at CSIS.

Mr Gurski is featured at this earlier post, note the discussion at the UPDATE:

“No, COVID-19 is not an ‘intelligence failure’”

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

The Unbearable Awfulness of Trump vs the Menace of the “Far Left”

Further to this post,

Edmund Burke, the French Revolution and…Chairman Mao

now this piece in the NY Times by Bret Stephens as he has at both Trump and the ever more “progressive” left (how much longer will he last at that ever more woke paper?):

Why Edmund Burke Still Matters

He reminds us it’s hard to respect democratic political institutions while disdaining the founders of those institutions.

Had it not been for the revolution in France, Edmund Burke would likely have been remembered, a bit vaguely, as an 18th-century philosopher-statesman of extravagant rhetorical gifts but frustratingly ambivalent views. The Irish-born member of the British Parliament was sympathetic to the grievances of the American colonies but not (like his onetime friend Thomas Paine) an enthusiastic champion of their independence; an acerbic critic of George III but a firm defender of monarchy; a staunch opponent of English rapacity in India but a supporter of British Empire; an advocate for the gradual emancipation of at least some slaves, but no believer in equality…

Burke’s name endures because of his uncompromising opposition to the French Revolution — a view he laid out as some of Britain’s more liberal thinkers thought it represented humanity’s best hopes. “Reflections on the Revolution in France” was published in November 1790, more than a year after the fall of the Bastille but before the Reign of Terror, when it still seemed possible that Louis XVI would survive as a constitutional monarch and the country wouldn’t descend into a blood bath.

Burke foresaw, more accurately than most of his great contemporaries, what the revolution would bring…

How did Burke get it right about the ultimate course of events in France — and, by extension, so many subsequent revolutions that aimed to establish morally enlightened societies and wound up producing despotism and terror? The question is worth pondering in light of two main ideological currents of today: the tear-it-all-down populism that has swept so much of the right in the past five years and the tear-it-all-down progressivism that threatens to sweep the left.

At the core of Burke’s view of the revolution is a profound understanding of how easily things can be shattered in the name of moral betterment, national purification and radical political transformation. States, societies and personal consciences are not Lego-block constructions to be disassembled and reassembled with ease. They are more like tapestries, passed from one generation to the next, to be carefully mended at one edge, gracefully enlarged on the other and otherwise handled with caution lest a single pulled thread unravel the entire pattern. “The nature of man is intricate; the objects of society are of the greatest possible complexity,” Burke wrote. “And therefore no simple disposition or direction of power can be suitable either to man’s nature, or to the quality of his affairs.”

Burke’s objection to the French revolutionaries is that they paid so little attention to this complexity: They were men of theory, not experience. Men of experience tend to be cautious about gambling what they have painstakingly gained. Men of theory tend to be reckless with what they’ve inherited but never earned. “They have wrought underground a mine that will blow up, at one grand explosion, all examples of antiquity, all precedents, charters, and acts of parliament. They have ‘the rights of men.’ Against these there can be no prescriptions.”..

A fairer reading of Burke would describe him as either a near-liberal or a near-conservative — a man who defied easy categorization in his time and defies it again in ours. He believed in limited government, gradual reform, parliamentary sovereignty and, with caveats and qualifications, individual rights. But he also believed that to secure rights, it wasn’t enough simply to declare them on paper, codify them in law and claim them as entitlements from a divine being or the general will. The conditions of liberty had to be nurtured through prudent statesmanship, moral education, national and local loyalties, attention to circumstance and a healthy respect for the “latent wisdom” of long-established customs and beliefs. If Burke lacked Thomas Jefferson’s clarity and idealism, he never suffered from his hypocrisy.

…Burke would have been disgusted by Trump’s manners. “Manners are of more importance than laws,” he wrote.

“The law touches us but here and there, and now and then. Manners are what vex or soothe, corrupt or purify, exalt or debase, barbarize or refine us …. They give their whole form and color to our lives. According to their quality, they aid morals, they supply them, or they totally destroy them.”

Burke’s understanding of the centrality of manners to norms, of norms to morals, of morals to culture and of culture to the health of the political order means that he would have been unimpressed by claims that Trump had scored policy “wins,” like appointing conservative judges or cutting the corporate tax rate. Those would have been baubles floating in befouled waters.

Trump’s real legacy, in Burke’s eyes, would be his relentless debasement of political culture…

…Burke would have been no less withering in his views of the far left. “You began ill,” he said of the French revolutionaries, “because you began by despising everything that belonged to you.”

For Burke, the materials of successful social change had to be found in what the country already provided — historically, culturally, institutionally — not in what it lacked. Britain became the most liberal society of its day, Burke argued, because it held fast to what he called “our ancient, indisputable laws and liberties,” handed down “as an inheritance from our forefathers.” Inheritance, he added, “furnishes a sure principle of transmission; without at all excluding a principle of improvement.”..

Because Burke champions a different concept of liberty than the one most Americans cherish, it may be easy to dismiss his teachings as interesting but ultimately irrelevant. George Will, in his magnum opus “The Conservative Sensibility,” speaks of Burke as a “throne-and-altar” conservative of little relevance to American experience. Whatever else might be said of events in places like Portland or Seattle, it is not the storming of the Bastille, and wokeness isn’t Jacobinism — at least not yet. The time to write “Reflections on the Revolutions in America” is still a ways off.

A ways off — but ever more visible on the horizon. To read and admire Burke does not require us to embrace his views, much less treat him as a prophet. But it’s an opportunity to learn something from a man who saw, more clearly than most, how “very plausible schemes, with very pleasing commencements, have often shameful and lamentable conclusions.”

Related posts:

Trump, the germaphobe über-macho Risk-Taker vs the Losers

Der Untergang der Vereinigten Staaten, or, Guess Who’s Donald Trump’s real Doppelgänger? A Jerk, Part 2

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Dugout Doug MacArthur: The Worst General in American History, or, the Man who Stalingrad-ed Manila

(Photo at top of the post: “General Douglas MacArthur wades ashore during initial landings at Leyte, Philippine Islands. Army Signal Corp Photo, NARA ID 531424”.)

Further to the start of this 2010 piece by the notable American war correspondent and military historian Tom Ricks (tweets here),

The worst general in American history?

That was the discussion I was having yesterday with several friends. Here is my ranking of their nominees: 1. Douglas MacArthur…

now on the war in the Pacific at pp. 528-29 of Daniel Todman’s (tweets here) Britain’s War: A New World, 1942 – 1947, the second volume of his magisterial history:

…By the end of July [1944] the Americans had captured Saipan, Tinian and Guam and had secure bases within B-29 range of Japan.

…there was still much fighting ahead, not least between King [the Admiral commanding the US Navy], Marshall [the general at the head of the US Army] and MacArthur [the general commanding in the Southwest Pacific] as they argued about future strategy in the Pacific. King argued that there was no need to take the Philippines before developing an offensive against Japan. Marshall, anticipating than an invasion would be bloody and unnecessary, accepted the argument. MacArthur violently disagreed. So fierce was the dispute that a seriously ill Roosevelt had to fly to Hawaii at then end on July 1944 to settle matters directly. Concerned that MacArthur might run as a Republican candidate in the forthcoming presidential election, Roosevelt gave in to his demands for an invasion of Luzon, the main island of the Philippines. He thus condemned US forces–and Filipino civilians–to a bloody, atrocious and strategically completely unnecessary campaign.

So the vainglorious MacArthur could say he had “fulfilled his promise to return” to the islands he had left as a badly beaten commander in 1942 (more here, including on his relations with FDR).

Here is a photo of the battle damage to Manila in February 1945:

And here is an account of the February 3-March 3, 1945 Battle of Manila at the Philippines’ Presidential Museum at Library, with maps, video and images.

“Dougout Doug” is the song that MacArthur inspired in the troops under his command in 1942 as they fought their desperate losing battle against the Japanese; the general spent his time inside the fortress island Corregidor (“The Rock”) just beyond the tip of the Bataan Peninsula where his troops were besieged on the western side of Manila Bay:

A song, sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” turned up at Bataan:

Dugout Doug MacArthur lies ashaking on the Rock

Safe from all the bombers and from any sudden shock

Dugout Doug is eating of the best food on Bataan

And his troops go starving on.

Dugout Doug’s not timid, he’s just cautious, not afraid

He’s protecting carefully the stars that Franklin made

Four-star generals are rare as good food on Bataan

And his troops go starving on.

Dugout Doug is ready in his Kris Craft for the flee

Over bounding billows and the wildly raging sea

For the Japs are pounding on the gates of Old Bataan

And his troops go starving on…

Plus a relevant earlier post:

When Malcolm Mug Met Dugout Doug

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Hindu Temple for Ayodhya, or, the Hindutva of PM Modi’s BJP (plus Kashmir)

Further to this post,

India: The RSS, the Not-so Shadowy Body Behind PM Modi and the BJP’s Hindutva (Hindu Raj) Ideology

now ar Foreign Policy’s “South Asia Brief”, by Ravi Agrawal (tweets here):

Modi Declares End to “Centuries of Waiting” for Hindus

By breaking ground on a controversial Hindu temple on the anniversary of the abrogation of Kashmir, New Delhi makes a big statement about secularism in India.

Modi’s Ramifications

“Today, centuries of waiting are over.” That’s how Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi summed up the moment he laid down the foundation stone for a new grand temple to the Hindu god Ram in the city of Ayodhya on Wednesday. While the coronavirus pandemic limited the number of officials present to fewer than 200, hundreds of millions of viewers tuned in to watch saffron-robed priests perform ceremonies kicking off the construction of the temple.

The proposed shrine isn’t just any temple. Hindus believe it is the site of the birth of one of their most important deities, Ram. Muslims, on the other hand, point to the fact that the temple is being built on the very site of a 16th-century mosque torn down by a Hindu mob in 1992—an incident that sparked deadly riots across the country.

The importance of Aug. 5. The Modi government has planned this day for months. The country’s Supreme Court greenlighted the construction of the temple as far back as last November, but New Delhi picked Wednesday for its ceremony because it was the first anniversary of the abrogation of Kashmir, when India revoked the Muslim-majority state’s autonomy and brought it under the central government’s control.

Combining these two events—ending Kashmir’s special status and building a Ram temple—has powerful symbolism. Both moves were campaign promises for Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the last two national elections and capture how the government has achieved its goal of Hindu dominance.

With Hindu supremacy, of course, comes Muslim suppression. As the Economist points out, while Kashmir and the Ram temple are two of the BJP’s core agenda items, a third could be the end of Muslim family law, which is still partly practiced in India. The BJP has already made crucial advances, criminalizing a medieval Muslim law in which men could divorce their wives by saying the word talaq, or divorce, three times.

The end product of the BJP’s recent policies is an increasingly uncertain time for India’s nearly 200 million Muslims. Another BJP initiative, a controversial citizenship law that could discriminate against Muslims in particular, was put on the back burner last December only after mass protests. With the pandemic still spreading, Wednesday’s moment of Hindu triumphalism not only passed without public interruption, but it also served as a timely distraction for Modi’s large Hindu base.

Next steps. What goals does Modi chase after fulfilling his campaign promises? The backdrop to India’s increasing Hindu nationalism is quite dire. India just crossed 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and could be the world’s worst-affected country by the end of the year. The economy, slowing dramatically before the pandemic, has gotten worse.

Estimates suggest that as many as 100 million Indians have lost their livelihoods and tens of millions of migrant workers are displaced. The economy could contract by as much as 10 percent this year. There is little real chance of a fiscal recovery until the health crisis abates—and in India there is no sign of that until the world produces a vaccine.

For Modi, fixing these problems will be much harder than symbolic moves to appease his base. Ironically, by shutting down or slowing the internet in Kashmir, and by standing by as the authorities discriminate against Muslims (as they did during the Delhi riots this year), India is curbing the aspirations and productivity of its largest minority group—a circumstance that can hardly provide a tailwind for the broader economy.

For more on this, try some further reading in Foreign Policy. This week, Sumit Ganguly assessed the government’s political and economic record in Kashmir, Raksha Kumar described how a generation of young Kashmiris feel disenfranchised and left behind, and Neeta Lal warned how the pandemic disproportionately affects Indian women, especially their job prospects. From our archives, I recommend Snigdha Poonam’s explanation of why the phrase Jai Shri Ram is so important in modern India—it’s a great read and very relevant this week.

Another very relevant post:

COVID-19, India and Islamophobia…and the BJP

Plus an October 2019 article by an Indian Muslim:

To Be Indian in These Times Is to Battle a Crisis of Faith

The only way out is to fight for a truly democratic, a truly just India, and not the one that existed in our head.

Still, for all its faults and deep problems, India for the time being is a long way from the totalitarian awfulnesses of the Chicoms’ PRC.

UPDATE: And note this at Foreign Policy by Tish Sanghera (tweets here):

Modi’s Textbook Manipulations

Under cover of the pandemic, the administration has removed chapters on democracy, secularism, and citizenship from schoolbooks.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

NATO, Libya and the Sublime Erdogan the Magnificent Neo-Sultan madly off in Mediterranean Directions

(The photo at the top of this post is of President Erdogan and others in front of the Ankara mausoleum for President Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern–and secular–Turkey (rather ironic, that); I visited the mausoleum while traveling in 1972.)

Further to this post,

Libya, Italy, the Sublime Erdogan the Magnificent and…Lenin and Atatürk

Steven Erlanger (tweets here) of the NY Times covers the waterfront and more–I’ve taken out the Times-style swipes at President Trump:

Turkish Aggression Is NATO’s ‘Elephant in the Room’

Despite being a NATO member, Turkey has bought Russian air defense. And a recent push into Libya and its energy ambitions nearly led to armed conflicts with France and Greece.

The warships were escorting a vessel suspected of smuggling weapons into Libya, violating a United Nations arms embargo. Challenged by a French naval frigate, the warships went to battle alert. Outnumbered and outgunned, the French frigate withdrew.

But this mid-June naval showdown in the Mediterranean was not a confrontation of enemies. The antagonists were France and Turkey, fellow members of NATO, sworn to protect one another.

A similarly hostile encounter between Turkey and a fellow NATO member happened just two weeks ago, when Turkish warplanes buzzed an area near the Greek island of Rhodes after Greek warships went on alert over Turkey’s intent to drill for undersea natural gas there.

Turkey — increasingly assertive, ambitious and authoritarian — has become “the elephant in the room” for NATO, European diplomats say. But it is a matter, they say, that few want to discuss.

A NATO member since 1952, Turkey is too big, powerful and strategically important — it is the crossroads of Europe and Asia — to allow an open confrontation, alliance officials suggest.

Turkey has dismissed any criticism of its behavior as unjustified. But some NATO ambassadors believe that Turkey now represents an open challenge to the group’s democratic values and its collective defense.

A more aggressive, nationalist and religious Turkey is increasingly at odds with its Western allies over Libya, Syria, Iraq, Russia and the energy resources of the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey’s tilt toward strongman rule after 17 years with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the helm also has unsettled other NATO members…

NATO operates by consensus, so Turkish objections can stall nearly any policy, and its diplomats are both diligent and knowledgeable, “on top of every ball,” as one NATO official said. France has also used its effective veto to pursue national interests, but never to undermine collective defense, NATO ambassadors say. But Turkey has blocked NATO partnerships for countries it dislikes, like Israel, Armenia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

…official Washington…has lost patience with Mr. Erdogan and is infuriated by his insistence on buying the S-400 [advanced Russian surface-to-air missile].

If deployed, the S-400 would put Russian engineers inside a NATO air defense system, giving them valuable insights into the alliance’s strengths while threatening to diminish the capability of the expensive fifth-generation fighter, the F-35…

Turkey has pursued its own national interests in northern Syria, where it now has more than 10,000 troops, and in Libya, where its military support for a failing government helped turn the tide in return for a share in Libya’s rich energy resources.

It was near Libya in June that three Turkish warships confronted the French frigate.

While the European Union has a mission to help enforce the arms embargo on Libya, NATO does not. The frigate, the Courbet, was engaged in a different NATO mission aimed at migration flows, but since Turkey and France support different sides in the Libyan civil war, the confrontation between NATO allies was troubling.

Turkey said the ship was carrying aid rather than arms, and has denied harassing the Courbet. NATO officials say that its military committee is investigating and that the evidence is not as clear-cut as the French suggest.

Still, President Emmanuel Macron of France has used the clash as another moment to assert that NATO is nearing “brain death,” because it seems incapable of reining in Turkey or acting in a coordinated political way…

The latest flash point is over Turkey’s demand to share in discoveries of natural gas made in 2015 in the eastern Mediterranean, which led to deals and alliances among Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Egypt.

Maritime claims are disputed, and Mr. Erdogan complained in June that “their aim was to imprison our country, which has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean, into a coastal strip from which you can only catch fish with a rod.”

He then sent survey and drilling ships to explore off Cyprus, prompting European sanctions, and said he would do the same near Rhodes, bringing the Greeks to threaten warfare. Last week, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany got Mr. Erdogan to hold off while talks proceed.

While many looked to Turkey as a moderate democratic model during the Arab spring a decade ago, Turkey is a different country under Mr. Erdogan, who has mobilized the more religious voters in the countryside…

He has broken definitively with Turkish secularism, symbolized by his recent decision to turn Hagia Sophia from a museum back into a mosque. He has pushed hard into the region with a neo-Ottoman ambition, downgrading older alliances to press Turkish interests…

Ibrahim Kalin, Mr. Erdogan’s spokesman, brushes off criticism and says Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron are the ones questioning NATO’s value.

“I guess Macron is trying to assert some sort of leadership in North Africa, the kind he doesn’t have in Europe,” Mr. Kalin said. “He called Turkey criminal, and it is incredible for France to call that to another NATO member.’’

As for Brussels, Mr. Kalin said, “the E.U. should look into the mirror.” Greece “uses E.U. membership as a way to pressure Turkey, but this language of sanctions will not work,” he said, arguing that Turkey wants only “an equitable and fair sharing of energy resources.”..

“There is a big conversation to have about what to do about Turkey,” a senior European diplomat said. “But it’s not for now.”

Earlier posts:

Turkey and the March of Islam(ism?)

Erdogan the Magnificent: The Sublime Neo-Sultan?

The Sublime Erdogan vs Armenians and Kurds, Urban Redevelopment Section

Turkey Through the Magnificent Mirror of the Sublime Erdogan

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Hollywood Kowtows in its Lust for the Dragon’s Filthy Yuan

A lust no doubt made even stronger by COVID-19’s negative effects on theatre audiences around the world. Further to this 2016 post,

The Dragon’s Squelching Foreign Criticism, Kowtow Section

here are excerpts from an article in Foreign Affairs by Prof. Kal Raustiala (more here), who notes that Hollywood also cringes in the face of others beyond the PRC:

Hollywood Is Running Out of Villains

Fear of Authoritarian Regimes Is Pushing the Film Industry to Self-Censor

What sets the United States apart from the rest of the world is and has always been its soft power. The Soviets may have equaled the Americans in nuclear capability, but they could never rival the appeal of the “American way of life.” And even as China tries to spread its culture across the globe, its rise tends to inspire more trepidation than admiration.

Many ingredients combine to give U.S. soft power its strength and reach, but entertainment and culture have always been central to the mix. Film and television have shaped how the world sees the United States—and how it perceives the country’s adversaries. Yet that unique advantage seems to be slipping away. When it comes to some of the great questions of global power politics today, Hollywood has become remarkably timid. On some issues, it has gone silent altogether.

The most glaring example is the growing wariness of U.S. studios to do anything that might imperil their standing with the Chinese government. China’s box office is as large as the American one, and entertainment is above all a business. So Hollywood sanitizes or censors topics that Beijing doesn’t like. But the phenomenon is not limited to China, nor is it all about revenue. Studios, writers, and producers increasingly fear they will be hacked or harmed if they portray any foreign autocrats in a negative light, be it Russian President Vladimir Putin or North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un [emphasis added]

Today…there is no shortage of jingoistic U.S. films or televisions series, nor of material that challenges pro-American foreign policy orthodoxies. When it comes to how other great powers are portrayed, however, some hot-button topics are now off limits [emphasis added]. American films dealing with the history and people of Tibet, a popular theme in the 1990s, have become a rare sight. There has never been a Hollywood feature film about the dramatic—and horrific—massacre in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The 2012 remake of Red Dawn initially centered on a Chinese invasion in the United States but was later rewritten to make North Korea the aggressor instead of China. And Variety called the 2014 blockbuster Transformers: Age of Extinction “a splendidly patriotic film, if you happen to be Chinese.”

Across the board, film studios appear to take great care not to offend Chinese sensibilities. One scene in last year’s Abominable, coproduced by DreamWorks and the Shanghai-based Pearl Studio last year, featured a map showing the so-called nine-dash line, which represents China’s expansive—and highly contested—claims in the South China Sea. That same year, CBS censored its drama series The Good Fight, cutting a short scene that mentioned several topics that Beijing considers to be taboo, including the religious movement Falun Gong, Tiananmen, and Winnie the Pooh—a frequent and sly stand-in for Chinese President Xi Jinping on Chinese social media.

The most obvious reason for Hollywood’s timidity is the enormous size of China’s market. Unlike the Soviet Union during the Cold War, China is not only a geopolitical adversary but also a major economic partner. Its box office numbers will soon be the world’s largest [emphasis added]. Hollywood never cared much about distributing its movies in the Soviet Union. The same isn’t true of China today.

The promise of Chinese funding is another potential reason for studios to toe the party line on sensitive political questions. The Shenzhen-based tech giant Tencent, for instance, is an investor in the highly anticipated remake of Top Gun. An early trailer for the movie shows Tom Cruise wearing his iconic flight jacket—but without the Taiwanese and Japanese flag patches that were sewn into the back in the original 1986 film [emphasis added]. The world’s largest cinema chain, which includes the American subsidiary AMC Theatres, is now owned by the Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate. Foreign funders can be useful partners, but their presence, unsurprisingly, can also make producers wary of content that might displease their benefactors…

Hollywood’s self-censorship is no passing fad. The specter of retaliatory attacks—online or offline—is unlikely to fade, and barring a major economic meltdown, the appeal of China’s massive moviegoer market will remain. Chinese acquisitions of theater chains, investments in film studies, and cofinancing of movies make Beijing a critical player that can shape the content of American entertainment—and thereby blunt a key aspect of American soft power.

Indeed, the U.S. government increasingly views the entertainment industry as a potential national security liability. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the government body tasked with vetting foreign investments in critical industries, has traditionally not concerned itself with the entertainment sector. But the tide seems to be turning [emphasis added]. In 2016, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York, wrote a letter to then Treasury Secretary Jack Lew noting the Wanda Group’s acquisition of AMC Theatres, as well as its investments in American studios, urging the committee to pay closer attention to such deals.

As the line between technology and media continues to blur, CFIUS will probably heed Schumer’s call before long. (Indeed, CFIUS is currently engaged in a review of ByteDance, the Chinese parent firm of the massively popular video-based app TikTok.) But greater government scrutiny is unlikely to make studio executives more willing to run with content that might draw the ire of Beijing and threaten their profits. The result is an uneven competitive landscape that rewards those who play it safe. Tibet, Taiwan, and Tiananmen will remain taboo subjects in Hollywood. The same deference shown to Beijing may be extended to countries that lack major box offices but whose regimes have shown themselves willing to attack their perceived opponents abroad, such as North Korea and Russia…

Not long ago, an Oscar-winning screenwriter was asked to rewrite one of the biggest video game franchises. The company began by saying that the war-based game had a problem: who was the enemy? It could not be China, of course. Nor Russia, North Korea, or Iran. As the company executives said, “We don’t know who we can make the villain anymore.”

Relevant earlier post:

Disengage, Decouple Economically from the Chicoms or…?

UPDATE: A case in point:

Disney faces an Avengers: Endgame-sized hole as earnings plummet

Disney’s studios division saw a massive decline year over year

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3Ds


Looks like Hong Kong Facing a Statutory Cultural Revolution

Further to this post,

Dragon Devours Hong Kong: “Statutory Terrorism”

Verna Yu of the Guardian reports from Hong Kong on this angle of the Chicoms’ accelerating quash of the second of the “two systems”:

‘Like in the Cultural Revolution’: Hong Kong’s educators fear being purged

Teachers and professors face crackdown as authorities fight for the minds of an antagonistic young generation

For thousands of university professors and teachers in Hong Kong, the coming weeks will be a nervous time as they prepare for a new academic year.

In just a month’s time, universities, schools and even kindergartens across the city will be placed under unprecedented scrutiny as they resume classes for the first time after the national security law passed in July, amid calls for the “bad apples” among teachers to be purged.

Teachers and schools have come under scathing attack from government officials and the pro-establishment camp since the anti-government protest movement roiled Hong Kong a year ago. In language reminiscent of China’s Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976, professors and teachers have been widely blamed for “poisoning” young minds with an allegedly heretical and radical agenda, and for producing a young generation antagonistic towards the authorities [emphasis added].

Just in the past week, two academics active in politics have been dismissed. This took place the same week as the arrests of four student activists on national security charges and the disqualification of 12 pro-democracy candidates for the legislative election.

Benny Tai, a law professor and one of the founders of the 2014 “umbrella” occupy movement much vilified in the Chinese state press, was fired by the University of Hong Kong on Tuesday [July 28]. Tai was jailed last year on public nuisance charges for leading the civil disobedience movement.

China’s liaison office hailed his sacking as “a deed of justice” and accused him of “inciting” students. The China-owned Wen Wei Po said it was a long-overdue “riddance of a cancer” from the university.

Tai said his dismissal “marks the end of academic freedom in Hong Kong” and he was “heartbroken to witness the demise of my beloved university” [emphasis added].

Shiu Ka-chun, a pro-democracy lawmaker and lecturer in social work who has taught at the Hong Kong Baptist University for 11 years, said he was “shocked” by his employer’s refusal to renew his contract.

Concern as Hong Kong postpones elections for a year, citing Covid-19 Read more

Shiu, also jailed last year for “inciting public nuisance” in the occupy protests, was removed from teaching duty in January while the university launched disciplinary proceedings linked to his conviction.

“They are settling accounts with people who have participated in the occupy movement, and are prosecuting us through law and our career,” he said. The Baptist University declined to comment on his case.

The Hong Kong security chief, John Lee, vowed to get rid of the “bad apples” in the education sector responsible for poisoning Hong Kong’s youths in an interview published in China-owned Ta Kung Pao newspaper on Thursday [July 30, emphasis added].

Lee said the authorities would “seriously punish the public enemies” and aim to eradicate “the virus that was endangering national security” within two years. The national security law mandates the government step up supervision of schools and academic institutions.

Lee, a member of the national security committee, said his first priority would be to “deal with the schools”, citing statistics that around 40% of those arrested in the anti-government protests were students and over 100 were teachers…

Teachers and professors who spoke to the Guardian likened the intimidation they face to that during the Cultural Revolution – the tumultuous political movement in China that targeted intellectuals and other privileged classes.

The new Hong Kong, where activists vow to defy ‘rule by fear’ Read more

Patrick Mo, a school teacher who has received a warning from the education bureau over a comment on his social media, said: “It is like being in the Cultural Revolution – every word you say can be used against you … You worry about getting into trouble so you self-censor.”

A history teacher who posted online remarks critical of police brutality during the protest last year found himself censured by police unions and the education authorities. He felt intimidated by scathing comments in the pro-Beijing press and groups protesting at the gate of his school. He kept his job but was barred from teaching liberal studies, a subject that has been widely blamed for “corrupting young minds”.

“I have to be careful with every word I say now,” he said. “We daren’t discuss protests and political issues any more.”

After the passing of the national security law, some academics have also been asked to avoid politically sensitive content in their classes…

Prof Chan Kin-man, a co-founder of the 2014 movement who was released from jail earlier this year, said the Chinese authorities intended to launch a “thought reform” agenda, much like the political movements that targeted intellectuals in past decades [emphasis added].

“For issues involving China, there will be standard answers that are favourable to the regime … and bolster the one-party rule,” the sociologist said. “Hong Kong will enter an anti-intellectual era where no independent thinking is allowed.”

One would think that were will be quite a number of academics and educators trying to get the hell out fairly soon. One fiercely hopes the Canadian government, along with other decent democracies, will do what it can to welcome them.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

COVID-19, Dystopia, or, the US, the UK and the Anglosphere…and India

You want dystopia? Pankaj Mishra (more here) gives you dystopia at the London Review of Books in the excerpts a bit below.

For my part, for some time I’ve been leaning towards the conclusion that, in the era of the internet and especially of social media, universal suffrage democracy may be coming to the end of beneficial life is some countries. As Mr Mishra seeks to demonstrate it would seem:

Flailing States

Pankaj Mishra on Anglo-America

…the current regimes in the US and Britain gained power by fomenting hatred of experts and expertise. British ministers, chosen for their devotion to Brexit and loyalty to Johnson, have revealed themselves as dangerous blunderers. Trump, still promoting family, flunkeys and conspiracy theories, has obliged his administration’s scientific authorities, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, to tiptoe around his volcanic ego. The blithe inaction and bumbling born of ideological vanity have resulted in tens of thousands of avoidable deaths in both countries, with ethnic minorities heavily overrepresented. Meanwhile, rage against white supremacism is exploding on American streets. Whatever the fate of these uprisings, the largest since the 1960s, a period of devastation lies ahead. Tens of millions of people are likely to lose their livelihoods and their dignity.

As a general insurrection erupts against America’s foundational inequities, and a British national identity propped up by fantasies of empire finally splinters, it isn’t enough to lament the ‘authoritarian populism’ of Trump and Johnson, to blame ‘identity politics’ and the ‘intolerant left’, or to claim moral superiority over China, Russia and Iran. The early winners of modern history now seem to be its biggest losers, with their delegitimised political systems, grotesquely distorted economies and shattered social contracts.

…Covid-19 has exposed the world’s greatest democracies as victims of prolonged self-harm; it has also demonstrated that countries with strong state capacity have been far more successful at stemming the virus’s spread and look better equipped to cope with the social and economic fallout…

The escalating warning signs – that absolute cultural power provincialises, if not corrupts, by deepening ignorance about both foreign countries and political and economic realities at home – can no longer be avoided as the US and Britain cope with mass death and the destruction of livelihoods. Covid-19 shattered what John Stuart Mill called ‘the deep slumber of a decided opinion’, forcing many to realise that they live in a broken society, with a carefully dismantled state…

…during the 1980s politicians across the ideological spectrum began to dismantle social protections, undermine labour rights and slash taxes on the rich. The process accelerated after the West’s ‘victory’ in the Cold War, when fantasies of Americanising the globe bloomed. ‘I want everyone to become an American,’ Thomas Friedman, consigliere to globalising CEOs and modernising despots, insisted as late as 2008…

The pandemic, which has killed 130,000 people in the US [over 150,000 now], including a disproportionate number of African Americans, has now shown, far more explicitly than Katrina did in 2005 or the financial crisis in 2008, that the Reagan-Thatcher model, which privatised risk and shifted the state’s responsibility onto the individual, condemns an unconscionable number of people to premature death or to a desperate struggle for existence. An even deeper and more devastating realisation is that democracy, Anglo-America’s main ideological export and the mainstay of its moral prestige, has never been what it was cracked up to be. Democracy does not guarantee good government, even in its original heartlands. Neither does the individual choice that citizens of democracies periodically exercise – whether in referendums or elections – confer political wisdom on the chosen…And in no place does democracy look more like a zombie than in India, Anglo-America’s most diligent apprentice, where a tremendously popular Hindu supremacist movement diverts attention from grotesque levels of inequality and its own criminal maladroitness by stoking murderous hatred against Muslims [see post noted at bottom of this one]

China’s transformation under Deng Xiaoping from Maoist basket case to global economic powerhouse was particularly galling to many Indians, especially those who had believed in Anglo-American predictions of their country’s inevitable and unstoppable ‘rise’. When Narendra Modi won power in 2014 with the help of India’s richest businessmen, promising to liberate Indian markets from state regulation and boost them into the company of Western superpowers, the ambitious elites seemed to have found their own enlightened despot (albeit that he was suspected of involvement in a pogrom that killed hundreds of Muslims). Modi seemed to promise an India that would fulfil Anglo-American fantasies: an Asian country that combined democracy with free markets and would be a counterweight to authoritarian China. The American Enterprise Institute welcomed him as India’s version of Reagan and Thatcher; Obama claimed that he reflected ‘the dynamism and potential of India’s rise’.

The quick fix of authoritarianism has exacerbated rather than resolved India’s fundamental problems. Effortlessly subverting the media, judiciary and the military, India’s Hindu supremacist rulers have shown themselves to be cold-blooded fanatics, willing to stoke anti-Muslim pogroms, assassinate critics and collectively punish minorities (as in Kashmir, where a lockdown lasting months preceded the pandemic)…

Not all of India’s unfolding disasters can be blamed on Modi. For a long time, as Amartya Sen has argued, India’s rulers failed to make crucial investments in primary education and public health, and thus didn’t create the ‘human capital’ and infrastructure necessary for the labour-intensive manufacturing revolution which, decades before China’s rise, created the ‘East Asian Tigers’, South Korea and Taiwan. One reason the Covid-19 pandemic threatens carnage in India is that it spends proportionately less than even Nepal and Timor-Leste – 1.3 per cent of its GDP – on healthcare (South Korea, by way of comparison, spends 8.1 per cent) and has a highly privatised health system. The only Indian state with adequate protection from the pandemic is communist-controlled Kerala, whose public health and education systems have long ensured that the state has the highest life expectancy and literacy rate in India…

…India today represents the worst of all possible worlds: far-right Hindus deftly manipulate electoral democracy and the public sphere, the state seems better equipped for repression than for welfare, and its economic experiments with deregulation and privatisation have produced numerous oligarchs but no internationally recognised product or enterprise.

South Korea, like India, took political inspiration from its former coloniser. Born and educated under Japanese colonial rule, Park admired and attempted to imitate Japan’s swift emergence as a major industrial power. Like the Japanese, he looked for guidance to Friedrich List, the German economic protectionist, rather than Adam Smith. According to Park, ‘the life of the nation can be developed and grown only through the state.’ As he saw it, the laissez-faire individualism backed by Anglo-American elites encouraged social fragmentation and political strife, making state and nation-building nearly impossible. ‘We are different,’ he argued, ‘from the West that pits the individual against the state.’..

In the postwar era, even when reconstructing their strength as economic powers with the help of American aid, Germany and Japan didn’t abandon their commitment to the social state. The constitution that came into effect in Japan in 1947 emphasised the state’s obligation to provide social security and public healthcare. In 1949, a new constitution enshrined the ‘social state’ in the Federal Republic of Germany, and the adjective ‘social’ retained its import and weight in the ‘social market economy’ introduced by Ludwig Erhard, the minister for economic affairs and Röpke’s disciple. Since the rise of privatisation and deregulation in the 1970s, social protections have been undermined in Germany, Japan and much of East Asia, including China. But even in their enfeebled form, they remain superior to the skeletal welfare states of Britain and the US…

China may or may not address its democratic deficit, as South Korea and Taiwan have both done. Its chillingly resourceful suppression of dissent in Hong Kong and Xinjiang renews the warning from the histories of Germany and Japan: that the modern state’s biopower can enable monstrous crimes. But there’s no getting around the desolate position that the great paragons of democracy find themselves in today. Neither Britain nor America seems capable of dealing with the critical challenges to collective security and welfare thrown up by the coronavirus. No less crushing is the exposure, as Rhodes finally falls, of the fact that the power and prestige of Anglo-America originated in grotesque atrocities and, as William James wrote in 1897, that ‘a land of freedom, boastfully so called, with human slavery enthroned at the heart of it’ was always ‘a thing of falsehood and horrible self-contradiction’…

However, after the most radical upheaval of our times, even the bleakest account of the German-invented social state seems a more useful guide to the world to come than moist-eyed histories of Anglo-America’s engines of universal progress…

…Understandably, people exalted for so long by the luck of birth, class and nation will find it difficult, even impossible, to discard their assumptions about themselves and the world. But success in this harsh self-education is imperative if the prime movers of modern civilisation are to prevent themselves from sliding helplessly into the abyss of history.

Related posts:

The Dying of America’s Poor Whites (and Why they Vote for Trump)

No, Vera, Fighting COVID-19 is Nothing Like Fighting the Germans

COVID-19, India and Islamophobia…and the BJP

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan and COVID-19…

Trump, the germaphobe über-macho Risk-Taker vs the Losers

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds

Ethnic Chinese Abroad: once a Dragon, Always a Dragon Says Beijing–“Wolf Warrior” Public Diplomacy on the Howl

Further to this post from over four years ago,

Ethnic Chinese Abroad: Once a Dragon, Always a Dragon Says Beijing

the Chicoms’ consul general in Vancouver is taking to the public airwaves in an effort to influence/intimidate our ethnic Chinese community over Hong Kong. “Wolf Warrior” public diplomacy on the howl. From a story at the Globe and Mail:

Chinese diplomat accuses critics of sowing division among Chinese Canadian community

A Chinese diplomat is accusing Canadians who criticize Beijing’s new Hong Kong security law of trying to sow discord among people of Chinese origin in Canada.

Tong Xiaoling, China’s consul-general in Vancouver [consulate general’s website here], told a Chinese-language radio program in Vancouver this week that pro-democracy activists in Canada who criticize the new security law enacted in Hong Kong are trying to foist their views on people who support Beijing’s move. Her interview was broadcast over Monday and Tuesday.

She said a “very few people, in both Hong Kong and local [Canada], have been maliciously denigrating and sabotaging Hong Kong’s national security legislation,” and she accused them of colluding with “anti-China forces” and trying to cause “trouble” overseas.

Protests sow division among Vancouverites whose roots are either in Hong Kong or Mainland China

“Some people were trying to intimidate people who truly care about Hong Kong, stop them from voicing [their opinions] and launch personal attacks on them. [They] also try to create divisions in the ethnically Chinese community and sabotage China-Canada relations,” Ms. Tong said to Vancouver radio station 1320 AM, which bills itself as the “voice of Vancouver’s Chinese community [check out its website, almost completely in Chinese].”..

Cherie Wong [tweets here], executive director for Alliance Canada Hong Kong, an umbrella group for Hong Kong pro-democracy advocates in this country [tweets here], said the Chinese government acts as though it has a proprietary claim on people of Chinese origin in Canada…

“The accusation that we are dividing Chinese people is in fact reinforcing the idea that we are a monolith, which is very much incorrect. It’s part of the same propaganda, erasing the differences in political opinions.”

Guy Saint-Jacques, a former Canadian ambassador to Beijing [tweets here], said that in his opinion the Chinese government devotes a lot of resources to try to shape the opinions of ethnically Chinese communities in foreign countries in the hope of influencing public policy. “The message is repeated all the time: Don’t forget the Motherland.”..

I say PNG the consul general–declare her “persona non grata” and chuck her out of Canada along with most of her staff, much of whose work surely is foreign influence/foreign interference ops that are inimical to our interests. And if Beijing retaliates in kind against Canadian missions in the PRC–as it will–tant pis. We used to do this with the Russkies; time to do to the new bad boys and girls in town.

Mark Collins

Twitter: @Mark3ds