Watching the Shadows

Podcast: against the global detention state

In Episode 45 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with alarm the rapid consolidation of a global detention state, extending across borders and rival power blocs. In the United States, Trump moves toward indefinite detention of undocumented migrants, with horrific rights abuses widespread in the fast-expanding camp system. In China, up to a million Uighurs have been detained in “re-education camps,” and are facing such abuses as forced sterilization. As India hypocritically protests China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it is also preparing mass detention of its own Muslim population. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is similarly preparing mass detention of the Crimean Tatars. In Syria, the Bashar Assad regime has detained hundreds of thousands, and is carrying out a mass extermination of prisoners, almost certainly amounting to genocide. In Libya, countless thousands of desperate migrants have been detained, often by completely unaccountable militias, and an actual slave trade in captured Black African migrants has emerged. Yet Trump exploits the mass internment of the Uighurs to score propaganda points against imperial rival China—and some “leftists” (sic) in the US are so confused as to actually defend China’s detention state. International solidarity is urgently needed at this desperate moment to repudiate such divide-and-rule stratagems. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)

East Asia

Hong Kong: will protests spread to mainland?

Protesters are rejecting what they call Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s “fake concession,” with the demonstrations now in their fourteenth week. Contrary to widespread media reports, Lam’s supposed “withdrawal” of the extradition bill is actually only a promise to withdraw it when the Legislative Council reconvenes—with no date yet set. Lam refused the other four demands of the current unprecedented mass movement. ChinaWorker.info, a Hong Kong-based website that supports independent labor struggles in China and is now supporting the protest movement in the city, warns of an imminent escalation in repression: “What the CCP most fears is showing weakness towards Hong Kong protesters, which will damage the dictatorship’s authority and in turn inspire the mainland masses to rise up and fight, following the example of Hong Kong masses.” (Photo: ChinaWorker.info)

Central Asia

China’s rulers fear balkanization —with reason?

Chinese state media are promoting an official “white paper” entitled “Historical Matters Concerning Xinjiang,” denying the national aspirations and very identity of the Uighur people of China’s far western Xinjiang region. These are portrayed as inventions of Western-supported “separatists.” Yet some leaders of the Uighur exile diaspora have indeed launched an “East Turkistan” independence movement, and are seeking allies among Tibetans, Mongols, Manchus and Hong Kongers. China’s rulers may be creating exactly what they fear with their intransigent denialism on identity and ultra-draconian measures in Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia and Hong Kong. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

Central Asia

Uighurs as pawns in the Great Game

In a perverse spectacle, the Trump administration, which is establishing its own incipient concentration camp system for undocumented immigrants, makes a great show of feigning concern with the mass detention of the Uighurs in China’s “re-education camps.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called China’s treatment of the Uighurs the “stain of the century,” and accused Beijing of pressuring countries not to attend a US-hosted conference on religious freedom then opening in Washington. At the conference, Donald Trump actually met at the Oval Office with Jewher Ilham, daughter of the imprisoned Uighur scholar Ilham Tothi. It is hard to fault the Ughurs for being heartened by this international attention, but it is clear that they are being exploited for propaganda purposes. (Photo: Mvslim.com)

Planet Watch

Will world war be October surprise?

Will an "October surprise" in the prelude to the mid-term elections in the US be the outbreak of world war—that is, direct superpower conflict? Things are escalating fast on the frontlines with both of the United States' major imperial rivals. The US Navy's Pacific Fleet is preparing to carry out a "global show of force" as a warning to China, after a near-skirmish between a US warship and a Chinese destroyer in the disputed South China Sea. Meanwhile, NATO is planning to conduct its largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War, Trident Juncture 2018, along Norway's border wth Russia. This comes as Washington and Moscow are odds over missile deployments, accusing each other of violating the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

South Asia

China expands Indian Ocean military footprint

In addition to stationing troops on the disputed islands it claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is rapidly expanding its network of commercial ports across the Indian Ocean. This comes as China is sending warships into the Ocean with growing frequency, leading to fears that the commercial ports could presage military bases, The latest addition is the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, acquired in a debt swap deal—the Colombo government was forgiven $1 billion in debt to Beijing in exchange for the Hambantota facility. China has also gained access to facilities in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles and Oman as part of the maritime component of its Silk Road trade and infrastructure initiative. While the Silk Road is an ostensibly civilian project, China has also established its first foreign military base at Djibouti, leading Western wonks to warn that Beijing is seeking a "string of pearls" network of bases across the Indian Ocean.  (Map via CIMSEC)

East Asia

Brink looms closer in East Asia maritime theaters

Japan has activated its first amphibious marine unit since World War II, which conducted practice drills to defend the disputed Senkaku Islands from an anticipated Chinese military seizure. Meanwhile, the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, with a group of Philippine generals onboard, entered disputed waters in the South China Sea, where China is building military defenses on islands claimed by the Philippines and Vietnam. Another carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, patrolled the contested waters last month, taking part in anti-submarine drills with Japanese forces and visiting Vietnam with its 5,000-strong crew—the largest such US military presence there since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. (Map via IDSA)

The Andes

Peru: mass protest against political class

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Lima after Peru's scandal-embattled president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski announced his resignation. Clashes were reported in the city's downtown Plaza San Martín, with tear-gas used and several injured. The resignation came after months of political machinations in Peru's congress had put off Kuczynski's ouster, and the ire of the demonstrators was directed not just at the disgraced "PPK," but Peru's entire political class. The left opposition and trade unions are calling for a constituent assembly to "refound the country and devolve power to the people." The popular slogan heard again and again at the marches is  "¡Que se vayan todos!"  (Throw them all out!) (Photo: Nuevo Perú)

East Asia

Podcast: Xi Jinping’s totalitarian capitalism

In Episode Five of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg makes the case that despite the official ideology of "socialism with Chinese characteristics" and the revival of rhetoric and imagery from the Mao era, media commentators are off base in their comparison of Xi Jinping and Mao Zedong. The new personalistic dictatorship of Xi is appropriating the outward forms of Maoism, but whereas the Great Helmsman used totalitarian methods to advance socialism (at least in terms of his own intentions) Xi is doing so to further entrench China's savage capitalist system. As a part of the same constitutional changes that have installed Xi as the new "paramount leader," the Chinese Communist Party is imposing further market liberalization and "supply-side" economic reform. The New Cold War between the US and China is simply a rivalry between capitalist powers. But in the global divide-and-conquer game, the leaders of oppressed nationalities within China such as the Tibetans and Uighurs look to the US and the West as allies, while left-populist governments in Latin America such as Venezuela and Bolivia similarly look to China. How can we respond to these developments in a way that builds solidarity between peasants, workers and indigenous peoples across the geopolitical divide? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon
(Photo: chinaworker.info)

East Asia

Xi proves: capitalism, totalitarianism no contradiction

To absolutely nobody's surprise, China's National People's Congress overwhelmingly approved numerous amendments to the country's Constitution, eliminating presidential term limits and effectively enshrining Xi Jinping as the new "paramount leader." But the inevitable invocation of Mao in this context is misleading. As part of the same restructuring now being rubber-stamped by the NPC come further market liberalization and "supply-side" economic reforms. This is economic "neoliberalism" under a system that is completely illiberal where political freedoms and pluralism are concerned. (Photo: chinaworker.info)

Planet Watch

Doomsday Clock: two minutes of midnight

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced the minute hand of its Doomsday Clock to two minutes of midnight from its previous two-and-a-half minutes. "In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago—and as dangerous as it has been since World War II," the Bulletin said. Finding that the "greatest risks last year arose in the nuclear realm," the statement of course cited the crisis over North Korea's atomic weapons program, but also ongoing military exercises along the borders of NATO, upgrading of nuclear arsenals by the US and Russia, tensions over the South China Sea, a nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan, and uncertainty about continued US support for the Iran nuclear deal. These threats are worsened by "a breakdown in the international order that has been dangerously exacerbated by recent US actions." (Image: misucell.com)

East Asia

China’s rise threatened by ‘de-globalization’?

William C. Kirby, author of Can China Lead? Reaching the Limits of Power and Growth, argued in a presentation at New York's China Institute that China's rise is dependent on continued global integration, and that this is now threatened by the authoritarianism of Donald Trump and Xi Jinping alike.