That articulated attitude and belief provided the impetus for this response.
From the Awesome Conversation
From Nixon’s day forward, China has been an American trading partner, its chief source of cheap labor (since when have we complained about the prices of goods “Made in China”?), a major contributor — as well as thief — associated with our college- and university-level science programs, a major purchases of our agricultural and other products, and a major lender responding to OUR national lifestyle and its debts. Perhaps unwittingly but more likely knowingly, Beijing has become a capital for capitalism.
Our war fighting capability has and will continue to trim China’s “exuberance” in the South China Sea but to responds to the breadth of China’s efforts to subject the world to its abuses and subvert it to its worldviews requires a broader spectrum of response than the penchant of some to launch missiles.
I’m sure I’m not the only foreign affairs observer who has heard through Facebook the drumming for war with China. The modern truth: we are every day at war with China across the broadest spectrum of competition imaginable, from banking to superficial ideological arguments; in fact, the realpolitik comes down always to banking, business, global competition for influence and trade, and appropriate western support for broad enfranchisement in political power and the promotion of human rights.
Beijing, along with Moscow and Tehran — and briefly across the term of the Trump Administration in Washington — has chosen an updated expression of civilizational narcissism and centralized feudal power, albeit vested in the Chinese Communist Party and a powerful head of state — as standing behind its brand in the world and has acted accordingly and, well, disrespectfully in its handling of its clients around the world. As word gets around and states rise to the defense of their own leadership and cultural and political influences, one may expect China’s ambitious political methods to find resistance in negotiated banking, business, cultural, and trade agreements and policies.
Recommended web searches: “China’s Billionaires”; “China, Human Rights”; China, Debt Trap Diplomacy”; “China, Dominance, South China Sea”; “China, Biological Warfare Convention”; “China, Covid-19, Origins”.
China’s business and political elites are certain to see themselves in the mirror created by the World Wide Web, and they themselves — as well as the world and their greatest business and state clients — will see how they respond to information accurately conveying and detailing their own image.
On Facebook and on YouTube, Ibtidah (The Beginning), the presence appears to represent the modern argument for intellectual freedom and integrity in states in which politics have been bound to religion and the state and others control education in the cause of medieval intellectual enslavement.
Personal Note on the Issue of Education in Transitioning Medieval Societies
I shared this note with the editor of Ibtidah —
Broad spectrum of choice should yield toward reason in the dissemination and uptake of information, but as some societies remain medieval in relation to power and worldviews, the medieval within societies may choose to cling to what becomes with greater knowledge simply archaic information. That doesn’t help anyone and least of all fanatical adherents to reactionary political or religious dogma.
Our species boasts the possession of about 4,300 religions with atheism quite low in percentage against believers in God or gods. Having become conscious as human (see Genesis chapters two and three as depicted in the Tenach and read without presumptions), we appear to have come equipped with imagination and moral sense that reliably, far more than less, extends into metaphysics. If we hadn’t, we would handle bodies — or perhaps presence — as we do animal nuisances and trash. That we don’t speaks to greater consciousness in the way of awareness and self-awareness: within our separable cultures, we wish children to be born and ourselves married and buried in customary ways fit to sustained cultural and social precepts.
With such ways, we take cultural form.
We may even believe ourselves beautiful by doing so.
By comparison, science may be crude in its marriage with reality and practical issues, but given the want of a compassionate modern world, the accurate conveyance of scientific information becomes all the more important for the broad and broadly distributed services we may bring to ourselves globally.
With two critical Iranian leaders assassinated — Qasem Soleimani and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh — and an American President determined to blunt the tip of the spear aimed against the west, the prospect for “fireworks” appears that much closer. Ever big on packing the Big Picture into a small space, I’ve done that here with ramble and signal but not chaos. Old Communist and Islamist politics persist in the latest states of affairs although the old Communists have produced breathtakingly wealthy elites and the chief among Islamists has been long known as a thief enriched by the plundering of ordinary Iranians.
From the Awesome Conversation
Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran represent an anti-western alliance committed to political absolutism by all and any means necessary. At least two of the three, Moscow and Tehran, represent also kleptocracy (see Reuters’ “Assets of the Ayatollah”) or mafia-type power (reference Ben Judah or Luke Harding), and together they keep the west bothered. Tehran, in malign narcissistic fashion, has covered its own crimes with deflections and dogma–it’s not strength that propels its fantasies of nuclear annihilation but regime weakness expressed through medieval fantasy. The clinical, dispassionate, and modern and prudent west may be building down Tehran’s capability, confidence, and coordination for aggression.
The old “Red-Green Alliance” is in the mix too with some persistent communist cant woven into the Houthi challenge in Yemen. The World Peace Council persists — as do graduates of Patrice Lamumba University — and the pack may view Tehran as an alley in thuggish political fashion. More important than political dogma: an heroic image to be created by marching forward into glorious past while holding each fantasy in place by main force.
Stated by Trita Parsi in 2017 (yes, just a quick look-see on my part): “Another emerging threat comes from Iran’s domestic politics. Presidential elections next month may put Iran’s foreign policy back into the hands of the country’s hard-liners, who, much like Mr. Trump, define their country in opposition to the world” (“The Coming Crisis With Iran”, The New York Times, April 20, 2017).
“Malignant Narcissism” begins with “Narcissistic Mortification”, i.e., the humiliation of the “Great Leader” (somewhere in childhood). Why everyone else has to be made a part of the compensation (measured by the Great One’s estimation of his own “Narcissistic Supply”), I’ve no idea but that the worst of the worst needs must have both an adoring audience and a horrified one.
This assassination campaign began in the aftermath of 9/11 when Pakistan allowed Taliban fighters and other allied fighters who were forced to flee Afghanistan to resettle in parts of former FATA. Over the years, these groups systematically eliminated tribal leaders and politicians who raised their voices against them. To this day, the Pakistani state has not solved any of these murders, perhaps because it has been tacitly using these unlawful groups to foment instability in Afghanistan and consolidate its influence over the region.
What follows are thoughts from the lengthiest of observations having to do with the Pashtun’s natural position between state forces and processes having to do with international development and war much, much larger than themselves.
When our President Nixon (a long time ago) initiated a new relationship with China, it was with hopes to offset Soviet Russian power and bring China closer to the normative behaviors of the modern world expressive of global compassion supported by international trade. On the topside, we do things for one another. Rather on the surface, well, we do things for money — and that makes “big picture” sense of Asian labor and western raw goods and Asian finished goods sold (for good profit — good markup — in western markets).
Mercantilism has been much the way of the world.
In the modern open democratic and liberal west, the abuses and excesses of business have been tempered through the actions of elected administrations, legislatures, and courts in the interests of electorates and justice. In the west, capitalists and wealthy have not gotten free rides from popularly elected governments even if seeding political careers and wins with their own money. There are just too many with too many differing motives for playing that game broadly.
In Asia, perhaps, money — and with China, now overwhelming wealth — does its work between elites and military behind closed door (“behind the curtains” goes the phrase fit to medieval politics) — and guess who’s in the way of the greater enrichment and glory of the disinterested or remote powerful?
It doesn’t help the Pashtun — and whoever and for whatever reason — to attack PakDef military posts (IF that is what has actually happened recently), for that gives the military excuse to bother or maraud the Pashtun community.
With regard to some Larger Forces — here, Chinese and Pakistani trade interests representing government, military, and private entities — “anomie” (worth the looking up) may be a real issue.
Don’t look to Russia for help — that state has minted defense sales using Syrians as targets for demonstration of its wares. In the AfPak region, its arms, however acquired, have helped sustain what looks to me an unfathomable misery borne of endless low-intensity conflict that has no end without financial, political, and religious insight plus political will and near immediate reconciliation.
The draconian nature of the FCR lies in the concept of “collective punishment”, where a whole tribe can be punished for the crime of one member of the tribe. It is telling that even after British India got its independence in 1947, the people of ex FATA were still facing the same colonial legal injustice till the year 2018. And while things definitely have changed on paper, there still is a long way to go before there is a change in the situation on the ground.These draconian punishments have always served a purpose, whether it was British India of the 20thcentury or the Pakistan of the 21stcentury. These laws are meant to subdue a population into giving up their rights, so that they can be sacrificed on the altar of “greater good”. Goes without saying that this greater good, has never been good for us, the people of ex FATA.
Launched in 2015, CPEC is a logical partnership for China and Pakistan—two close allies keen to cooperate on much-needed infrastructure projects in Pakistan, while contributing to China’s strategic goal of facilitating access to far-flung markets and expanding its global footprint.
Chinese Banking and Development Worldwide : flexes China’s financial muscle while leveraging infrastructure building expertise into a gateway for Chinese labor — which accompanies its projects — and through that mechanism Chinese cultural influence agents. As much would update the Cold War Era Soviet practice of sending thousands of Communist agents into the Middle East as embedded in the labor contingents attached to development contracts in targeted states.
PakDef | ISI –> Taliban encouragement : goad to Kabul : encouragement of “Islamism” within : further marginalizing of the Pashtun as a coherent and cohesive political force.
The above two paragraphs represent my thinking in cryptic fashion. If the world were practical and less inclined to fear and threat — as well as deeply dependent on international arms sales that support manufacturing bases and untold wealth in related Research & Development competitions — the promotion of dogma into violence — or “extremist dogma” — would be less attractive. As it is, “The Terrorists” (wherever “who” has become both ambiguous and ubiquitous) have turned out handy for some elites in the world’s more corrupt and cynical circles of military and political power.
With the authoritarian President Trump in the White House, it may be difficult to argue that the three “superpowers” have turned out other than feudal polities plundered by politically connected and wealthy elites. Nonetheless, and in the most simplified fashion, the following now comes to mind in relation to the quick assessment of China’s political character and culture.
China’s overseas lending, which was virtually zero before the turn of the century — well, about $500 billion in 2000 — stands today, ostensibly, at around $5 trillion. Indeed, they are now the world’s largest creditor, being twice as large as both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, combined.
Colagrossi, Mike. “New study uncovers China’s massive hidden lending to poor countries.” Big Think, July 18, 2019.
The low-hanging fruit may be plucked with the search string, “China, predatory lending” and, I’m sure, “China, debt trap” will do as well.
Difficult to beat for audacity, Chinese business, engineering acumen, and ethics have caused the more advanced and liberal world some concerns. The projects I have in mind are these: Three Gorges Dam; Coca Codo Sinclair Dam (Ecuador); oil extraction, South Sudan — while Sudan appears to be coming on to track with the west, the Sudanese of what is now South Sudan will have memories of a callous Chinese presence through the Darfur Genocide. The worst business and related ethical decisions and policies — or absence thereof — become always diminished the shoulder shrug accompanied by the dull observation, “it’s only business”.
Here is but one example of what has come out in the news in relation to the Thousand Talents espionage program:
Dr. Qing Wang, a professor of molecular genetics at the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western University, was arrested Wednesday on charges of lying to investigators and wire fraud related to more than $3.6 million in funding that he and his research group at the Cleveland Clinic received from the National Institutes of Health under false pretenses. At the same time that he was receiving millions of dollars in U.S. government grants, court documents reveal he concealed how he was also the Dean of the College of Life Sciences and Technology at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China. He was also receiving grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and hid his participation in China’s Thousand Talents Program, a Chinese Communist Party effort to recruit academics to gain access to foreign technology and intellectual property.
It should go without saying that the recipients of large research grants may not care to think too much about their financial good luck when it comes to keeping their laboratories, themselves, other faculty, and students flush in research missions and means.
A modern question comes to mind: Are the world’s leaders obligated to reproducing the worst of the world’s potential for feudal, medieval, and tribal warfare — or may the same be obliged to accept a deeply interconnected modern (and democratic) variegated world capable of cooperative strong integration without supposed “exclusive” genetic, racial, or religious “winners”?
The world’s refusal of Islamic supremacist tenets has produced some medieval resurgence through parochial versions of “New Nationalism”, and the Chinese have been no less susceptible to that than White Europeans and North Americans expecting to wake up and see a world that looks (and thinks) just as they do.
Whatever the answers, add a classic “house of mirrors” complication:
January 1, 1979
The United States normalizes diplomatic relations with China. Three years later there are 10,000 Chinese students in the US, and the FBI begins directing field offices to recruit students for counterintelligence operations.
As long as machines, materials, and processes produce exchange, people (and states) will steal proprietary information to either remain at parity with competitors and threats or get an edge up on them.
What has changed throughout the world: online proximity x time.
Here, for example, is a 2020 U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) unclassified statement involving China’s commitment to suppressing illicit trade related to fentanyl:
Effective May 1, 2019, China officially controlled all forms of fentanyl as a class of drugs. This fulfilled the commitment that President Xi made during the G-20 Summit. The implementation of the new measure includes investigations of known fentanyl manufacturing areas, stricter control of internet sites advertising fentanyl, stricter enforcement of shipping regulations, and the creation of special teams to investigate leads on fentanyl trafficking. These new restrictions have the potential to severely limit fentanyl production and trafficking from China. This could alter China’s position as a supplier to both the United States and Mexico.
Truth to tell: as regards the transnational narcotics business, China may not stand out as more or less problematic or troublesome than other states saddled with similar issues. Aided by corruption, suppressed by shifting tides in law, politics, mercenary and military relationships, and the value of facets of reputations, the operations known to TCOs (Transnational Crime Organizations) shift always to the paths of least resistance and highest profit. As example: https://www.occrp.org/en/daily/10259-unodc-warns-of-rising-role-of-organized-crime-in-southeast-asia (July 19, 2019).
Giant China, however, appears able to field labor sufficient for cultural incursions and producing huge financial obligations via huge critical infrastructure projects in client states. It’s when it comes to cooperation involving funding or manning investigations into smuggling the trail goes — and perhaps appropriately — dim. The chemicals get through and course through the illicit manufacturing economies of Central and South America, and while the products move north — and the money moves south — political instability driven by practical insecurity help create the chaos that also drives migration north.
As a dimension for thought, none can help but notice the North American pull that draws the business from the south. One may excoriate suppliers only so much.
Mass Surveillance State
The above header needs little support here, which bothers me, lol, but China has produced an extraordinary reputation for mass surveillance and the development of related methods of social control. Here’s a lead from a Human Rights Watch report on the matter —
Classical totalitarianism, in which the state controls all institutions and most aspects of public life, largely died with the Soviet Union, apart from a few holdouts such as North Korea. The Chinese Communist Party retained a state monopoly in the political realm but allowed a significant private economy to flourish. Yet today, in Xinjiang, a region in China’s northwest, a new totalitarianism is emerging—one built not on state ownership of enterprises or property but on the state’s intrusive collection and analysis of information about the people there. Xinjiang shows us what a surveillance state looks like under a government that brooks no dissent and seeks to preclude the ability to fight back. And it demonstrates the power of personal information as a tool of social control.
This society may seem dystopian, but it isn’t farfetched: It may be China in a few years. The country is racing to become the first to implement a pervasive system of algorithmic surveillance. Harnessing advances in artificial intelligence and data mining and storage to construct detailed profiles on all citizens, China’s communist party-state is developing a “citizen score” to incentivize “good” behavior. A vast accompanying network of surveillance cameras will constantly monitor citizens’ movements, purportedly to reduce crime and terrorism. While the expanding Orwellian eye may improve “public safety,” it poses a chilling new threat to civil liberties in a country that already has one of the most oppressive and controlling governments in the world.
In Xiqiao, a city of roughly 300,000 in southern China, for example, officials have installed more than 1,400 video cameras and over 300 facial recognition cameras since 2006, ChinaFile found. The report said officials have blanketed most of the city’s public spaces with the cameras to address “the difficult problem of how to control people,” according to a government document obtained by ChinaFile.
Mass surveillance in lower-profile cities and territories reflects the 2018 launch of China’s Project Sharp Eyes, an ambitious attempt to equip 100% of Chinese public spaces—street corners, parks, train stations—with video-monitoring capabilities and amass the data into one central platform. China’s government says the project is aimed at improving public safety and security, but it’s seen outside China as a means for more state control.
Today, Erdogan’s idea of a Turkish state appears to be involved in aggression or conflict on two fronts, at least, i.e., in the Azerbaijan conflict with Armenian in-holders in the Caucuses and in the Mediterranean Basin where energy appears to tempt the not-so-Ottoman wannabee.
Journalist and political analyst Seth J. Frantzman posted this recap recently:
Turkey has been threatening Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, the UAE, Libya, Greece, France, Armenia, Syria, Iraq and other countries in recent months. Turkey has also bombed Iraq, sent extremists into Syria to ethnically-cleanse Kurds, Yazidis and Christians, encouraged Azerbaijan to attack Armenia, sent Syrian extremists to Azerbaijan to attack Armenia, claimed that Jerusalem belongs to Ankara and that Turkish-backed Islamists will “liberate” Jerusalem, hosted Hamas terrorists, exported Syrian rebels to Libya, threatened a French warship, flown drones near Greek islands, used a Russian S-400 system to threaten Greek planes, harassed a Greek F-16, and also sought to involve itself in the US election.
Of course, Putin has put Erdogan right where he wants him, i.e., deeply rooted in the medieval world, its familial and tribal habits, its disingenuous methods, and its unbridled lusts for aggrandizement, power, and wealth without bounds, not that Putin’s own approaches and practices differ all that much.
If there is such a thing as a medieval world and worldview, may there be another idea and spirit that is democratic, modern, multicultural, responsible, and responsive to its humanity?
Five to ten years ago, the question would have been superfluous — of course there’s a modern world (and a hyper-modern west) and the economic and social engines of Europe and North America happily reside in it.
Today, however, with an autocrat in America’s White House and such European states as Hungary, Italy, and Poland given to fascination with resurgent nationalism or narcissistic singular leadership (and the partial return of the idea of the state as a family-run business), the path toward a greater modernity would seem questionable. On the other side of Azerbaijan’s moan — and Azerbaijan appears a culturally modern and multicultural state beneath the sway of feudal family power — resides a part of Putin’s world characterized by absolutism plus centralized control not only of government and politics but of family and associated mafia-style power as well. His has become a world devoid of conscience (well demonstrated in Syria) and happy to manipulate other malign narcissists (one should count President Erdogan among the world’s complement of dictators at the disposal of the greater power) for the purpose of turning a few extra dollars in defense sales and perhaps obtaining some favors as well.
Armenia appears no less modern a European culture, but it may have an issue with land-gobbling and Azerbaijani-sovereignty-challenging Armenian separatists and settlers that have persisted in sustaining the Nagorno-Karabakh region as a bloody — and bloody feudal “nationalist” — frontier. Instead of pursuing a modern cooperative multicultural course in development, the retrograde Russian and Turkish presidents have chosen to urge the reinvention of the 19th Century zeitgeist (or that of earlier centuries) in the 21st far at the expense of Armenian and Azerbaijani civilians now paying twice for the privilege, i.e., first as taxed for the purchasing of arms and again — as conflict escalates — as each becomes the receiver of the dark fruits thrown (and forces advanced) by the other.
For the less sophisticated, a frontier is a place between places; for the more cognizant, a frontier is a region in time between two ways of living.
Medieval v Modern
Shall Nagorno-Karabakh remain medieval in its character in total or might it become modern, tolerant, and resilient against the fears, forces, and powers dominant in what should have been a rapidly receding past?
The belligerents would do well to turn around and fight the past while fighting for an updated (modern!) cultural and politically progressing future.
Of course there’s plenty “related online” but I’ve thought here to relay just two quotations and URLs in a manner suited to somewhat impatient blogging. 🙂
In recent months, Azerbaijan’s and Armenia’s foreign ministers met several times and pledged to prepare their populations for peace. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh has repeatedly reached out to the region’s Armenian community for peaceful reconciliation, while Azerbaijan’s government pledged to ensure the security of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians and recognize their right to the highest level of self-determination within Azerbaijan’s international borders. The Armenian government, however, disregards very idea of negotiations on the de-occupation of Azerbaijan’s occupied territories, which constitutes the cornerstone of the entire process. The process was aggravated by a controversial statement from Armenia’s National Security Director Arthur Vanetsian that “none [in Armenia] will surrender even an inch of land.” In Azerbaijan, this was received as clear evidence of Armenia’s direct participation in the annexation of Azerbaijani territories.
Turkey’s active involvement on the side of Azerbaijan adds a new complicating factor. Presidents Erdoğan and Putin may try to impose a new settlement on Armenians and Azerbaijanis that suits their own interests but is careless of humanitarian principles and the claims of both countries to be part of Europe. Lenin and Ataturk did this in the Caucasus exactly a century ago in 1920-1.
Or else Europeans, and perhaps a post-Trump United States, may try to convene a multilateral peace conference, first mooted in 1992, to resolve the conflict, seeking to respect people’s needs and the differing claims of international law.
That looks distant now. At the moment the only people who are celebrating are extreme nationalists, Erdoğan’s Turkey – and Russia’s defence industry which has supplied both sides with arms and will be ready to give them more as soon as they start to run out of weapons of death.
One giant chunk of asphalt landed on the roof of Sergei’s block of flats. He accuses Azerbaijan’s closest ally, Turkey, of fuelling the war and encouraging the violence. To counter that, many in Nagorno-Karabakh want Russia to side openly with Armenia and provide military support. Sergei doesn’t believe that will happen.
“I used to respect [President Vladimir] Putin,” he says, “but he betrayed us long ago.
“He does business with Turkey. He’s building them a nuclear power station. What Putin needs to realise is that if we’re destroyed, the whole of the Caucasus and southern Russia will end up under Turkish rule. If we die, so will Russia.”
China has indeed produced an astounding track record in the regions of human rights abuses, growth through the theft of proprietary processes and technologies developed elsewhere, biological and space weapons development (to knock out western satellites), etc. China’s quiet assault on the west and against dependent states (state predatory lending) has been as broad and complete as can be.
Doing business with Beijing — from anywhere in the world — has turned into bad business worldwide.
Imagine a society in which you are rated by the government on your trustworthiness. Your “citizen score” follows you wherever you go. A high score allows you access to faster internet service or a fast-tracked visa to Europe. If you make political posts online without a permit, or question or contradict the government’s official narrative on current events, however, your score decreases. To calculate the score, private companies working with your government constantly trawl through vast amounts of your social media and online shopping data.
When you step outside your door, your actions in the physical world are also swept into the dragnet: The government gathers an enormous collection of information through the video cameras placed on your street and all over your city. If you commit a crime—or simply jaywalk—facial recognition algorithms will match video footage of your face to your photo in a national ID database. It won’t be long before the police show up at your door.