Category : Asia

(WSJ) China’s Biggest Movie Star Was Erased From the Internet, and the Mystery Is Why

Zhao Wei spent the past two decades as China’s equivalent of Reese Witherspoon, a beloved actress turned business mogul.

She directed award-winning films, sold millions of records as a pop singer and built a large following on social media, amassing 86 million fans on Weibo, China’s Twitter -like microblogging site. She also made a fortune as an investor in Chinese technology and entertainment companies.

Today, the 45-year-old star has been erased from the Chinese internet. Searches for her name on the country’s biggest video-streaming sites come up blank. Her projects, including the wildly popular TV series “My Fair Princess,” have been removed. Anyone looking up her acclaimed film “So Young” on China’s equivalent of Wikipedia wouldn’t know she was the director; the field now reads “——.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Social Networking, Asia, Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(Washington Post) Xi Jinping’s crackdown on everything is remaking Chinese society

The orders have been sudden, dramatic and often baffling. Last week, “American Idol”-style competitions and shows featuring men deemed too effeminate were banned by Chinese authorities. Days earlier, one of China’s wealthiest actresses, Zhao Wei, had her movies, television series and news mentions scrubbed from the Internet as if she had never existed.

Over the summer, China’s multibillion-dollar private education industry was decimated overnight by a ban on for-profit tutoring, while new regulations wiped more than $1 trillion from Chinese tech stocks since a peak in February. As China’s tech moguls compete to donate more to President Xi Jinping’s campaign against inequality, “Xi Jinping Thought” is taught in elementary schools, and foreign games and apps like Animal Crossing and Duolingo have been pulled from stores.

A dizzying regulatory crackdown unleashed by China’s government has spared almost no sector over the past few months. This sprawling “rectification” campaign — with such disparate targets as ride-hailing services, insurance, education and even the amount of time children can spend playing video games — is redrawing the boundaries of business and society in China as Xi prepares to take on a controversial third term in 2022.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(NYT front page) ‘They Have My Sister’: As Uyghurs Speak Out, China Targets Their Families

She was a gifted agricultural scientist educated at prestigious universities in Shanghai and Tokyo. She said she wanted to help farmers in poor areas, like her hometown in Xinjiang, in western China. But because of her uncle’s activism for China’s oppressed Muslim Uyghurs, her family and friends said, the Chinese state made her a security target.

At first they took away her father. Then they pressed her to return home from Japan. Last year, at age 30, Mihriay Erkin, the scientist, died in Xinjiang, under mysterious circumstances.

The government confirmed Ms. Erkin’s death but attributed it to an illness. Her uncle, Abduweli Ayup, the activist, believes she died in state custody.

Mr. Ayup says his niece was only the latest in his family to come under pressure from the authorities. His two siblings had already been detained and imprisoned. All three were targeted in retaliation for his efforts to expose the plight of the Uyghurs, he said.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

(NBC) Team USA’s Regan Smith Helping Lead Next Generation Of Swimmers

“Among the 11 teenagers swimming for Team USA is Regan Smith, who set three world records in backstroke when she was just 17. Ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, she spoke with NBC News’ Vicky Nguyen about her journey to the pool, how the pandemic affected her and what it takes to become an Olympian.”

Watch it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Japan, Sports, Women, Young Adults

(NYT) The Pandemic Has a New Epicenter: Indonesia

By the thousands, they sleep in hallways, tents and cars, gasping for air as they wait for beds in overcrowded hospitals that may not have oxygen to give them. Others see hospitals as hopeless, even dangerous, and take their chances at home.

Wherever they lie, as Covid-19 steals their breath away, their families engage in a frantic, daily hunt for scarce supplies of life-giving oxygen.

Indonesia has become the new epicenter of the pandemic, surpassing India and Brazil to become the country with the world’s highest count of new infections. ​ The surge is part of a wave across Southeast Asia, where vaccination rates are low but countries had until recently contained the virus relatively well​. Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand are also facing their largest outbreaks yet and have imposed new restrictions, including lockdowns and stay-at-home orders.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Health & Medicine, Indonesia

(WSJ) The Christian Heart of Hong Kong Activism

Joseph Cheng, 71, used to be one of Hong Kong’s busiest activists: a familiar presence in the media and a leading figure in several pro-democracy organizations. After retiring in 2015, the former political-science professor planned to live out his remaining days in the city. But Mr. Cheng’s life—a microcosm of Hong Kong’s recent history—has been turned upside down.

Last year’s so-called national-security law reclassified much ordinary activism as a criminal offense. On April 10, two days after I spoke to Mr. Cheng, authorities handed down sentences for campaigners including the media tycoon Jimmy Lai (14 months in prison) and the “father of Hong Kong democracy,” Martin Lee (a suspended sentence). Since then, the arrests have continued and Mr. Lai’s newspaper Apple Daily has been shut down.

Fearing prosecution, Mr. Cheng and his wife moved to Canberra, Australia, in July 2020. “It’s a quiet life,” he tells me. “Sometimes it’s a little bit lonely.” Because of Covid, his family members in Hong Kong can’t visit. “You feel bad to see friends arrested, prosecuted, sentenced to prison. But I understand that there is very little I can do.”

Mr. Cheng was born in 1949 to Chinese parents who had fled the civil war. He has, in turn, held the British colonial government to account as a leading member of the pressure group Hong Kong Observers; campaigned for political reform under Chinese rule; and now finds himself in de facto exile. He is also a practicing Catholic, and his career is a reminder of the remarkably strong Christian influence on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Hong Kong, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(AP) US left Afghan airfield at night, didn’t tell new commander

The U.S. left Afghanistan’s Bagram Airfield after nearly 20 years by shutting off the electricity and slipping away in the night without notifying the base’s new Afghan commander, who discovered the Americans’ departure more than two hours after they left, Afghan military officials said.

Afghanistan’s army showed off the sprawling air base Monday, providing a rare first glimpse of what had been the epicenter of America’s war to unseat the Taliban and hunt down the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks on America.

The U.S. announced Friday it had completely vacated its biggest airfield in the country in advance of a final withdrawal the Pentagon says will be completed by the end of August.

“We (heard) some rumor that the Americans had left Bagram … and finally by seven o’clock in the morning, we understood that it was confirmed that they had already left Bagram,” Gen. Mir Asadullah Kohistani, Bagram’s new commander said.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

(EFAC Global) New Primates for the Anglican Communion

Archbishop Sami Fawzi has been installed as the Episcopal / Anglican Archbishop of Alexandria and Primate of the Episcopal / Anglican Province of Alexandria, succeeding Dr Mouneer Anis. In the united Church of Pakistan, Bishop Azad Marshall has been elected Moderator, to succeed Bishop Humphrey Peters.

A new Archbishop in Burundi will also up his post in August, when Bishop Sixbert Macumi will succeed Archbishop Martin Blaise Nyaboho as Primate

Archbishop Sami Fawzi was installed at All Saints Cathedral in Cairo. Speaking at the service, he said: “the Church will continue to support the poor, the needy, the marginalised, and the people of determination and cares in particular [for] refugees through the Episcopal Care Institution.”

He added that “the vision of the Episcopal Church is the main focus of a strong, real communion relationship with God” and that “this is how a spiritual revival is achieved in our churches”.

Read it all.

Posted in Anglican Church of Burundi, Egypt, Pakistan

(Bloomberg) Big Technology Is Gearing Up for a Massive Fight With Modi’s India

India is growing increasingly assertive in its efforts to control online communications, challenging Twitter and Facebook’s practices and threatening to set a precedent that could extend far beyond its borders.

The largest U.S. internet firms are fighting new Intermediary rules issued by Narendra Modi’s government in February that they say curtail privacy and free speech. Officials have demanded Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. take down hundreds of posts this year, divulge sensitive user information and submit to a regulatory regime that includes potential jail terms for executives if companies don’t comply.

While the administration’s push to exert more control over user data and online discourse reflects efforts globally to come to grips with tech giants and their enormous influence, the stakes in India are particularly high for internet firms because — shut out of China — it’s the only billion-people market up for grabs. Unlike authoritarian regimes such as Beijing, critics fear actions taken by the world’s largest democracy could offer a template for other governments to encroach on personal privacy in the name of domestic security.

“India has introduced draconian changes to its rules,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in April. They “create new possibilities for government surveillance of citizens. These rules threaten the idea of a free and open internet built on a bedrock of international human rights standards.”

Read it all.

Posted in Corporations/Corporate Life, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, India, Law & Legal Issues, Politics in General

(NYT front page) China’s Propaganda Goes Viral With Videos of Happy Uyghurs

Recently, the owner of a small store in western China came across some remarks by Mike Pompeo, the former U.S. secretary of state. What he heard made him angry.

A worker in a textile company had the same reaction. So did a retiree in her 80s. And a taxi driver.

Pompeo had routinely accused China of committing human rights abuses in the Xinjiang region, and these four people made videos to express their outrage. But they did so in oddly similar ways.

“Pompeo said that we Uyghurs are locked up and have no freedom,” the store owner said in his video. “We are very free now….”

Read it all (note please that the above is the title on the print edition).

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General

(Politico EU) Meet Wu Dao 2.0, the Chinese AI model making the West sweat

A new artificial intelligence model developed by Chinese researchers is performing untold feats with image creation and natural language processing — making rivals in Europe and the U.S. nervous about falling behind.

The model, dubbed Wu Dao 2.0, is able to understand everything people say — the grammar too — but can also recognize images and generate realistic pictures based on descriptions. It can also write essays and poems in traditional Chinese, as well as predict the 3D structures of proteins, POLITICO’S AI: Decoded reported.

Developed by the government-funded Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence and unveiled last week, Wu Dao 2.0 appears to be among the world’s most sophisticated AI language models.

Wu Dao 2.0’s creators say it’s 10 times more powerful than its closest rival GPT-3, developed by the U.S. firm OpenAI.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Science & Technology

(NAR) In China’s Communist Party, white collars now outnumber blue

For the first time ever, the number of professionals registered with the century-old Communist Party of China has exceeded the number of factory and farm laborers in its ranks, showing the changing nature of the self-described vanguard of the working class.

The Communist Party had nearly 32.19 million members who can be classified as white-collar workers at the end of 2019, according to data from its organization department, topping the 32.01 million registered industrial and service workers.

The Communist Party, which on July 1 will mark the 100th anniversary of its founding, states in its constitution that it “is the vanguard of the Chinese working class.” Article 1 of the national constitution says the “People’s Republic of China is a socialist state under the people’s democratic dictatorship led by the working class and based on the alliance of workers and peasants.”

But Takashi Suzuki, associate professor of Chinese politics at Aichi Prefectural University in Japan, said that “with laborers and farmers no longer in the mainstream, the Communist Party is losing its identity as a political organization.”

Read it all.

Posted in China

(AJPS) Young-Hoon Lee–Korean Pentecost: The Great Revival Of 1907

Then began a meeting the like of which I had never seen before, nor wish to see again unless in God’s sight it is absolutely necessary. Every sin a human being can commit was publicly confessed that night. Pale and trembling with emotion, in agony of mind and body, guilty souls, standing in the white light of their judgment, saw themselves as God saw them. Their sins rose up in all their vileness, till shame and grief and self-loathing took complete possession; pride was driven out, the face of man forgotten. Looking up to heaven, to Jesus whom they had betrayed, they smote themselves and cried out with bitter wailing: “Lord, Lord, cast us not away forever!” Everything else was forgotten, nothing else mattered. The scorn of men, the penalty of the law, even death itself seemed of small consequences if only God forgave. We may have other theories of desirability or undesirability of public confession of sin. I have had mine; but I know now that when the Spirit of God falls upon guilty souls, there will be confession, and no power on earth can stop it.

Read it all.

Posted in Church History, Korea, Pentecost

(Open Doors) Christians murdered in terror attack in Indonesia this week

On 11 May, four Christian men were murdered in a village in Indonesia. Members of a terrorist group are believed to be responsible. Open Doors partners are looking to help the families of the victims.

Tragically, four Christian men from a village called Kalimago in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, were beheaded by Islamic extremists on the morning of 11 May. The attack is believed to have been carried out by members of the terrorist group East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT), which has links to so-called Islamic State – it’s the second attack in the past six months: four Christians were killed in Sigi, in the same region, last November.

The victims (who have yet to be named) were men aged between 42 and 61, and all attended churches in the area.

Read it all.

Posted in Indonesia, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution, Terrorism, Violence

(NYT front page) China Targets Muslim Women in Push to Suppress Births in Xinjiang

When China’s government ordered women in her mostly Muslim community in the region of Xinjiang to be fitted with contraceptive devices, Qelbinur Sedik pleaded for an exemption. She was nearly 50 years old, she told officials. She had obeyed the government’s birth limits and had only one child.

It was no use. The workers threatened to take her to the police if she continued resisting, she said. She gave in and went to a government clinic where a doctor, using metal forceps, inserted an intrauterine device to prevent pregnancy. She wept through the procedure.

“I felt like I was no longer a normal woman,” Ms. Sedik said, choking up as she described the 2017 ordeal. “Like I was missing something.”

Across much of China, the authorities are encouraging women to have more children, as they try to stave off a demographic crisis from a declining birthrate. But in the Xinjiang region, China is forcing them to have fewer, tightening its grip on Muslim ethnic minorities and trying to orchestrate a demographic shift that will diminish their population growth.

Read it all

Posted in Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Women

(CNBC) China’s greenhouse gas emissions exceed those of U.S. and developed countries combined, report says

China’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 exceeded those of the U.S. and the developed world combined, according to a report published Thursday by research and consulting firm Rhodium Group.

The country’s emissions more than tripled during the past three decades, the report added.

China is now responsible for more than 27% of total global emissions. The U.S., which is the world’s second-highest emitter, accounts for 11% of the global total. India is responsible for 6.6% of global emissions, edging out the 27 nations in the EU, which account for 6.4%, the report said.

The findings come after a climate summit President Joe Biden hosted last month, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated his pledge to make sure the nation’s emissions peak by 2030. He also repeated China’s commitment to reach net-zero emissions by midcentury and urged countries to work together to combat the climate crisis.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Climate Change, Weather, Ecology, Energy, Natural Resources, Ethics / Moral Theology, Science & Technology

(Bloomberg) Its not just India. New virus waves hit developing nations.

Although nowhere close to India’s population or flare-up in scope, the reported spikes in these handful of nations have been far steeper, signaling the potential dangers of an uncontrolled spread. The resurgence — and first-time outbreaks in some places that largely avoided the scourge last year — heightens the urgency of delivering vaccine supplies to poorer, less influential countries and averting a protracted pandemic.

“It’s very important to realize that the situation in India can happen anywhere,” said Hans Kluge, the regional director at the World Health Organization for Europe, during a briefing last week. “This is still a huge challenge.”

Ranked by the change in newly recorded infections in the past month over the previous month, Laos came first with a 22,000% increase, followed by Nepal and Thailand, both of which saw fresh caseload skyrocketing more than 1,000% on a month-over-month basis.

Also on top of the list are Bhutan, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Cambodia and Fiji, as they witnessed the epidemic erupt at a high triple-digit pace.

“All countries are at risk,” said David Heymann, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “The disease appears to be becoming endemic and will therefore likely remain a risk to all countries for the foreseeable future.”

Read it all.

Posted in Bhutan, Cambodia, Health & Medicine, Japan, Nepal, Southeast Asia, Thailand

(FT) China set to report first population decline in five decades

China is set to report its first population decline since the famine that accompanied the Great Leap Forward, Mao Zedong’s disastrous economic policy in the late 1950s that caused the deaths of tens of millions of people.

The current fall in population comes despite the relaxation of strict family planning policies, which was meant to reverse the falling birth rate of the world’s most populous country.

The latest Chinese census, which was completed in December but has yet to be made public, is expected to report the total population of the country at less than 1.4bn, according to people familiar with the research. In 2019, China’s population was reported to have exceeded the 1.4bn mark.

The people cautioned, however, that the figure was considered very sensitive and would not be released until multiple government departments had reached a consensus on the data and its implications.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China

(NY Times front page) U.S. Built the Afghan Military Over 20 Years. Will It Last One More?

The Taliban attack on a police outpost at the edge of the city began at dusk, with the muted chatter of machine-gun fire and the thud of explosions. The men under attack radioed Capt. Mohammed Fawad Saleh at his headquarters, several miles away, desperate for help.

The police captain replied that he would send more men, along with one can of machine-gun ammunition — 200 rounds, not enough for even a minute of intensive fire.

“One can?” the voice on the other end of the radio responded, incredulously.

Ammunition shortages are just one of the serious and systemic issues plaguing soldiers and police officers who will soon have to defend Afghanistan — and themselves — without U.S. aircraft overhead or American troops on the ground.

“We’re holding the weight of the war,” Captain Saleh said as the attack unfolded in January. Yet one ammunition can was all he could spare.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Defense, National Security, Military, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

([London] Times) China’s President Xi unveils three new warships in warning to Taiwan

President Xi has presided over a rare public display of China’s growing naval strength by unveiling three new warships — one an amphibious helicopter carrier, hailed as the most advanced vessel in the nation’s fleet — amid growing concern that he is building a force capable of retaking Taiwan.

The carrier, named Hainan, is designed as an offensive platform from which to launch an amphibious or airborne assault and can transport up to 1,200 troops as well as dozens of helicopters and jump jets. The second vessel, the Dalian, is a guided-missile cruiser with stealth technology; the third is an upgraded Type 094A nuclear-powered submarine, the Changzheng-18, believed to be capable of carrying 12 JL-2 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The ceremony, in a military port in the southern city of Sanya, coincided with a warning from Wang Yi, the foreign minister, that the US would have to accept China’s rise if it wanted to co-exist peacefully. “Democracy is not Coca-Cola, with the US producing the syrup and the whole world has one single taste,” he said.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Taiwan

(PS) Kenneth Rogoff–The Dollar’s Fragile Hegemony

The mighty US dollar continues to reign supreme in global markets. But the greenback’s dominance may well be more fragile than it appears, because expected future changes in China’s exchange-rate regime are likely to trigger a significant shift in the international monetary order.

For many reasons, the Chinese authorities will probably someday stop pegging the renminbi to a basket of currencies, and shift to a modern inflation-targeting regime under which they allow the exchange rate to fluctuate much more freely, especially against the dollar. When that happens, expect most of Asia to follow China. In due time, the dollar, currently the anchor currency for roughly two-thirds of world GDP, could lose nearly half its weight.

Considering how much the United States relies on the dollar’s special status – or what then-French Finance Minister Valéry Giscard d’Estaing famously called America’s “exorbitant privilege” – to fund massive public and private borrowing, the impact of such a shift could be significant. Given that the US has been aggressively using deficit financing to combat the economic ravages of COVID-19, the sustainability of its debt might be called into question.

The long-standing argument for a more flexible Chinese currency is that China is simply too big to let its economy dance to the US Federal Reserve’s tune, even if Chinese capital controls provide some measure of insulation. China’s GDP (measured at international prices) surpassed that of the US back in 2014 and is still growing far faster than the US and Europe, making the case for greater exchange-rate flexibility increasingly compelling.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Currency Markets, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(NYT front page) Taliban Believe The War’s Over And They Won

The Taliban’s swagger is unmistakable. From the recent bellicose speech of their deputy leader, boasting of “conquests,” to sneering references to the “foreign masters” of the “illegitimate” Kabul government, to the Taliban’s own website tally of “puppets” killed — Afghan soldiers — they are promoting a bold message:

We have already won the war.

And that belief, grounded in military and political reality, is shaping Afghanistan’s volatile present. On the eve of talks in Turkey next month over the country’s future, it is the elephant in the room: the half-acknowledged truth that the Taliban have the upper hand and are thus showing little outward interest in compromise, or of going along with the dominant American idea, power-sharing.

While the Taliban’s current rhetoric is also propaganda, the grim sense of Taliban supremacy is dictating the response of a desperate Afghan government and influencing Afghanistan’s anxious foreign interlocutors. It contributes to the abandonment of dozens of checkpoints and falling morale among the Afghan security forces, already hammered by a “not sustainable” casualty rate of perhaps 3,000 a month, a senior Western diplomat in Kabul said.

Read it all.

Posted in Afghanistan, America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, War in Afghanistan

([London] Times) China is guilty of genocide against Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, says US report

The state department report included new details about China’s use of forced labour in Xinjiang, the source of a growing trade dispute with the West over the past year. The report noted Xinjiang government documents had revealed a large-scale government plan, known as the “mutual pairing assistance” programme, where 19 cities and provinces, mostly in eastern China, have established factories in Xinjiang and were using forced labour.

It said the labour was provided by detainees in the internment camps who were subjected to forced labour in the factories “producing garments, hair accessories, and electronics and in agricultural production, notably picking and processing cotton and tomatoes”.

The report said there was credible evidence of the forced transfer of Uighur detainees to work in technology, clothing, and automotive factories and in the production of personal protective equipment. It noted reports that transfer schemes led to forced labour of nearly half a million people in the Xinjiang cotton harvest.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religion & Culture

(NPR) Indonesia Church Bombing Wounds 20 On Palm Sunday

Two suicide bombers attacked a Roman Catholic church compound in Makassar, Indonesia, on Sunday morning, injuring at least 20 people, according to state officials. While no deaths among the churchgoers have been reported, police say both attackers died in the blast.

The attack happened at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral around 10:30 a.m., as a round of mass was wrapping up at the church. The bombers attempted to enter the church compound on motorbike and detonated at least one bomb by an entrance to the compound, according to news reports.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo condemned the attack as an “act of terrorism,” and said he had ordered the police “to thoroughly investigate the perpetrators’ networks and tear down the networks to their roots.”

The attacks happened on Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week leading up to Easter. In a televised address, Joko called on people to remain calm and said “the state guarantees the safety of religious people to worship without fear.”

Read it all.

Posted in Indonesia, Liturgy, Music, Worship, Religion & Culture, Terrorism

(War on the Rocks) Robert D. Blackwill+Philip Zelikow: Can The United States Prevent A War Over Taiwan?

If China’s window of advantage does shrink over time as the defense of Taiwan improves, what, then, is the right U.S. strategy in the meantime? If time is on the eventual side of those defending peace and freedom, our strategy is designed to buy more of it.

This option that we recommend supports the planning that we describe in the second approach, the status quo, in which the United States has contingency plans to share in the direct defense of Taiwan but will not commit in advance to do so. But in our view, that is not an adequate U.S. strategy to deter war. We believe the United States should, in addition, rehearse — at least with Japan and Taiwan — a parallel plan to challenge any Chinese denial of international access to Taiwan and prepare, including with pre-positioned U.S. supplies, including war reserve stocks, shipments of vitally needed supplies to help Taiwan defend itself.

The United States and its allies, like Japan, should plan to challenge a Chinese quarantine or siege of Taiwan enough to place the burden on China to decide whether to widen the conflict by attacking U.S. or allied forces that were endeavoring to deliver such supplies. If such plans exist now, they are not evident, either in exercises choreographed with allies, in pre-positioned supplies, or in the shipping capacity to carry them out. These plans would probably require significant changes in the character and deployment of U.S. and other allied forces. But these changes, oriented more to helping Taiwan defend itself and less reliant on a rapid build-up of U.S. striking power inside the first island chain, would not menace the People’s Republic of China as much as the strategy envisioned in the third approach.

In this fourth approach, if China did choose to widen the war, the United States and its allies would plan to defend themselves and continue to do what was possible to help Taiwan defend itself. But the United States would not assume that such a war needs to extend to the Chinese, Japanese, or American homelands.

Instead, in another revision to the second approach, the United States and its allies would credibly and visibly plan to react to the attack on their forces by breaking all financial relations with China, freezing or seizing Chinese assets, leading to a severe rupture of the world economy and a likely global financial crisis. Also, the United States and Japan would prepare, visibly and in advance, the massive remilitarization and mobilization measures that they, and perhaps others, would take as the logical consequence of the increased danger of general war. Some critics assert this already is U.S. strategy, but we have seen no such allied economic, political, and military plans on this scale, that would strengthen deterrence.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Taiwan

(LRB) John Lanchester reviews two recent books on China–Document Number Nine

This progress in facial recognition and big data is all part of the other development in the Chinese digital world, the social credit system. This is a credit score analogous to those which are run in the West by credit reference agencies such as Experian and Equifax. The complete view of our lives and finances owned by these firms seems largely to escape attention in the West, but it hasn’t escaped the attention of the CCP, which has multiple trials running of social credit systems that build on and expand the existing Western model. The Chinese pilots look not at consumer creditworthiness but at social behaviour, with the criteria for desirable behaviour defined by the party. Strittmatter cites a pilot in Rongcheng, where citizens get points – not a metaphor, they actually are awarded points – for helping aged neighbours move house, giving calligraphy lessons and offering use of their basement for a CCP singalong. Conversely they lose points for pouring water outside their house so it turns into ice, letting their dogs shit on the pavement, driving through red lights and so on. In some versions of these schemes, your social credit is affected by the social credit of the people you hang out with; a bad reputation is contagious.

At the moment, the main impacts of people’s social credit are on activities such as travel: people with bad social credit can’t fly, can’t book high-speed train tickets or sleeper berths; they have slower internet access and can’t book fancy hotels or restaurants. It isn’t difficult to project a future in which these sanctions spread to every area of life. The China-wide version of social credit is scheduled to go live in 2020. The ultimate goal is to make people internalise their sense of the state: to make people self-censor, self-monitor, self-supervise. Strittmatter quotes Discipline and Punish: ‘He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.’ The Chinese version of social credit is the closest thing we’ve ever seen to Foucault’s system in action at a national level.

Put all this together. Imagine a place in which there’s a police post every hundred metres, and tens of thousands of cameras linked to a state-run facial recognition system; where people are forced to have police-owned GPS systems in their cars, and you can buy petrol only after having your face scanned; where all mobile phones have a state app on them to monitor their activity and prevent access to ‘damaging information’; where religious activity is monitored; where the state knows whether you have family and friends abroad, and where the government offers free health clinics as a way of getting your fingerprint and iris scan and samples of your DNA. Strittmatter points out that you don’t need to imagine this place, because it exists: that’s life in Xinjiang for the minority population of Muslim Uighurs. Increasingly, policing in Xinjiang has an algorithmic basis. A superb piece of reporting by Christian Shepherd in the Financial Times recently told the story of Yalqun Rozi, who has ended up in a re-education camp for publishing Uighur textbooks in an attempt to preserve the language. One of his crimes was using too high a percentage of Uighur words. The system allows a maximum of 30 per cent from minority language sources; Rozi had used 60 per cent Uighur, and ‘China’ had appeared only four times in 200,000 words. Uighurs get into trouble for attending mosque too often or too fervently, or for naming their children Mohammed, or for fasting during Ramadan. There are about 12 million Uighurs in Xinjiang: 1.5 million of them have either spent time in a re-education camp or are in one right now.

China has​ been a dictatorship for seventy years. The idea that prosperity and the internet would in themselves make the country turn towards democracy has been proved wrong. Instead, China is about to become something new: an AI-powered techno-totalitarian state. The project aims to form not only a new kind of state but a new kind of human being, one who has fully internalised the demands of the state and the completeness of its surveillance and control. That internalisation is the goal: agencies of the state will never need to intervene to correct the citizen’s behaviour, because the citizen has done it for them in advance.

Read it all (my epmhasis).

Posted in Books, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

([London] Times) China guilty of genocide over Uighurs, international lawyers say in report

China’s campaign of persecution against its Uighur ethnic minority has violated every article in the UN genocide convention, a landmark independent review has found.

The report by more than 50 international law experts, which runs to 25,000 pages, is the first legal non-governmental examination of a swelling body of evidence over Beijing’s treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang province. It adds that the government under President Xi bears responsibility for an “ongoing genocide”.

Under the UN Genocide Convention, a party can be found to commit genocide if they carry out any of five acts, including murder, displacement and birth suppression, with “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Islam, Religious Freedom / Persecution

The Bishop of Worcester calls for targeted sanctions against those responsible for military coup in Myanmar

On 8th March 2021 the Bishop of Worcester received a written answer to a question on targeted sanctions against the Myanmar regime:

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they have given to imposing targeted sanctions against those responsible for the military coup in Myanmar. [HL13549]

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The UK is looking at a range of measures to ensure the democratic wishes of the people of Myanmar are respected.

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Myanmar/Burma, Politics in General

(WSJ) China Targets AI, Chips Among Seven Battlefronts in Tech Race With U.S.

China upped the stakes in its tech race with the U.S. as leaders laid out plans to speed up development of advanced technologies from chips to artificial intelligence and quantum computing over five years.

In a draft economic blueprint unveiled at the country’s annual legislative gathering, officials said they would boost research and development spending by more than 7% annually over the five years to the end of 2025. That will account for a higher percentage of gross domestic product than in the previous five-year period.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said in a speech Friday that China will revise regulation and policies to support the flow of venture capital into startups, free up bank lending and extend tax incentives to encourage research and development.

Economists and industry analysts say China’s 14th five-year plan stands out for its emphasis on advanced technologies and innovation. It also included China’s vision for 2035, when the country expects to have “significant breakthroughs on core technologies and seeks to be among the most innovative nations globally.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Science & Technology

Meir Soloveichik for Eric Liddell’s Feast Day–Finding God in the Olympic Footrace

While Americans rightly exult in the achievements of U.S. medalists, “Chariots of Fire” also serves as a reminder that athletics and even patriotism only mean so much. When Liddell is informed that a qualifying heat takes place on Sunday, his Sabbath, he chooses not to compete in that race. The camera cuts from athletes at the Olympics to Liddell reading a passage in Isaiah: “Behold the nations are as a drop in the bucket . . . but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings, as eagles. They shall run, and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” David Puttnam, a “Chariots of Fire” producer, wrote me that the verses were “specifically selected by the actor, the late Ian Charleson, who gave himself the task of reading the entire Bible whilst preparing for the film.”

The Isaiah passage is liturgically important for Jews: Parts of it are declaimed in synagogue on the Sabbath when we read God’s command to Abraham to leave the center of civilization and found a family, and a faith, in a new land. Isaiah reminds Jews that Abraham’s children have encountered much worse than what Harold Abrahams experienced. While most nations now rest on the ash heap of history, the biblical Abraham’s odyssey continues. The countries competing in today’s Olympics come and go, while those who “wait upon the Lord” endure.

“Chariots of Fire” also offers a message for people of faith who have grown troubled by the secularization of society and the realization that they are often scorned by elites. Like Liddell, we may be forced to choose religious principle over social success. Hopefully, however, we will be able to use our gifts to sanctify this world. As Liddell’s father told his son in the film: “Run in God’s name, and let the world stand back in wonder.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Scotland, China, Church History, Missions, Sports