Chile, Piñera wins, and living the story

img_0184.jpgA few weeks are being spent in Chile and once again BBC World is actually being accessed. A lot of promoting their own drivel and for the busy beaver who cannot find the time to tune into worthwhile news the “live the story” narrative might not be questioned. The story, however, is to be found simply by opening your eyes wherever you are.

In Hong Kong there are pensioners collecting used cardboard in order to live, while just up the road from there in the “three wee monkeys” mainland you will find a picture of Mao grinning down at you in a hovel, while in a private conversation, in a better part of one of China’s first tier cities, a member of what is a rapidly expanding privileged elite, will tell you in no uncertain terms that he, or she, doesn’t really believe the shit that is spouted out in Beijing. And is there any point in informing the head of the hovel that while “Mr 70% good, 30% bad” was running the show, it was they in particular who were shafted?

The news here is that Sebastián Piñera has just won the presidential election and after a televised meeting with Alejandro Guillier, his opponent, he has stated that “Chile needs dialogue and collaboration more than confrontation” . Of course, even ignoring the par for the course soundbites, this is indeed hollow hyperbole and the few short conversations and fleeting observations made inform me that the rich will indeed continue to get richer, and the poor poorer. Or, has something been missed in the observation of the up-market cars bedecked in Chilean flags driving through the Barrio Lastarria this evening.

No, nothing will change, until, of course, the shit really does hit the fan, but then that is no different in Hong Kong and mainland China, indeed, it is the same the whole world over. Moreover, it is not something you need to get from one of the BBC’s “live the story” pseudo journalists. Free health care, free education, sound social security systems, a retreat from neo-liberalism and wreaking havoc on the environment might save the day, but again it might be expected that none of those things will happen until the shit really does hit the fan and by that time it will probably be too late.

The picture is of another “loser”, this time in Santiago de Chile, another essentially rich city.

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A word on Xi Jinping’s “Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”

This is a little supplement to the day before yesterday’s post, which might reinforce the content of that article. The human rights lawyer, Yu Wensheng, is one of a few in the PRC who will accept harassment, persecution, and incarceration, as a consequence of his speaking out against corruption and a system that is rotten to the core. No checks and balances down Beijing Lu, no freedom of speech, no rule of law, and if anyone really believes that China is actually undertaking anything to avert the coming environmental catastrophe, they are living in cloud cuckoo land.

Following Xi Jinping’s rather monotonous monologue at the 19th party congress, state media has announced the creation of what it calls “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era” . And  there was me getting into a time machine and observing a wee boy living in the Zhongnanhai drooling enviously over Mao’s picture at the front of the forbidden city while starting to nurture thoughts of his own coming immortality. “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”. There is nothing like a sense of humour when it comes to retaining our sanity and the writer of this post will have a big chuckle on that one.

It might be, however, that I am being a bit harsh and it is fairly certain that there is a very real “Realpolitik” behind the news coming out of the Chinese capital. Moreover, when our “great helmsman reincarnated” spouts out that we are “about to enter an era that will will be an era that sees China moving closer to centre stage and making greater contributions to mankind,”  the laughing should stop and what that contribution might entail should be assessed, for as Yu Wensheng points out:

 

“The Communist party of China claims to support freedom of speech, democracy, equality and the rule of law. But China has no such freedom, no democracy, no equality, no rule of law, only bigwigs and rampant corruption.” Xi’s China was “marching backwards … he is unfit for office,” 

Spot on, of course, and, if nothing else, it is sufficient to tell us that there should be at least some concern for Yu Wensheng’s welfare in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Nevertheless, and more importantly, it is from Yu Wensheng’s legacy and not Xi’s that we should seek our inspiration and that legacy can be gleaned by a simple top down reading of an  article in ‘The Guardian’ some eight months ago.

In that article it was pointed out that the 50-year-old lawyer had launched an unprecedented suit against the authorities saying that they are responsible for China’s chronic and deadly air pollution”. The environmental disaster, which is just around the corner, is not going to be stopped by a country where there is no freedom of speech, no rule of law, no democracy, and where there is rampant corruption. The rise of China and Xi’s immortality are signs that rather than capitalism being replaced, it is being allowed to metamorphose into an absurd dystopia where 2+2 = 5, Big Brother is always right, and the narrative is controlled by the party.

 

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The Tweeting Twit, Xi, the CCP’s 19th Party Congress, and the Road to Hell

Western hypocrisy has never waned and at a point in time when an almost peerless moron holds the highest office in the US of A, that hypocrisy is accompanied by existential threats to all and sundry no matter who, or where, they are. The incumbent twit in Washington tweets, only one thing will work” when it comes to North Korea, and when asked what that “one thing” might be, the touchy tweeter tells us that we will “figure that out pretty soon.” It might also be that we will manage to figure out how climate change is a Chinese conspiracy.

Nevertheless, caution is advised when it comes to mistakenly seeking solace from the apocalyptic diarrhea being spouted out in Washington in Beijing’s bosom. Xi Jinping heralds ‘new era’ of Chinese power at Communist Party congress” is the news from the CCP’s 19th congress. And for any imbecile enough to see anything other than  an old wine in new bottles scenario emerging from the economic rise of China, here are a couple of points worth considering.

The tweeting twit in Washington is subject to a number of constitutional restraints and, as the political scientist, Richard Neustadt, argues, “Presidential power is the power to persuade and the power to persuade is the ability to bargain.” In other words, while George W Bush did manage to convince Congress to support an illegal war in Iraq, it was a war that many in Congress thought the United States could profit from. It is difficult to imagine the majority of those who are sitting in the Senate and the House of Representatives wishing Armageddon on mankind.

On the other hand, the Chinese Communist Party has absolute power in China and, even if  Xi Jinping might bleat on about tackling corruption, it is fairly certain that the people who will be affected by any cleansing of the party will be those who also happen to disagree with Xi, who, it might be added, might just already be China’s most omnipotent leader since Mao. Donald might want to unleash an apocalypse, but cannot, Xi, for the time being, doesn’t want to take us closer to Armageddon, but probably could.

At the moment, it is in Xi’s interests for China to continue its rise peacefully and that makes China some sort of rational partner for many, which is no surprise with the alternative being a United States which has an absolute moron as its President. Beijing’s attraction is obvious and the temptation to believe the soundbites that come out of China are understandable. However, if we put on our thinking caps, do we really think that China is tackling environmental problems and that it wants anything other than absolute hegemony in East Asia and the South China Sea.

This is the problem; in an age of great uncertainty, an age where the world is at the edge of a precipice, it is tempting to look for reassurance from somewhere. Nevertheless, while the resident moron in the White House, rather than providing reassurance, only adds to the uncertainty, it would be absolute folly to look to Beijing for guidance. The skies above Beijing are dirtier than they were last year and the only freedom on offer is that perverted narcissism which can be gauged by the number of people staring into smart phones for hours on end.

Taking endless selfies of themselves in front of some non-descript or less non-descript edifice, playing games, watching and reading “no news” news, which pumps them full of the never forget national humiliation narrative, while continually bleating how China must be strong and all of the South China Sea belongs to China. At the end of ‘The Chinese Road to Socialism” there is only that Armageddon, which Donald would like to get us too a bit quicker, or some dystopian hell where human freedom and creativity has been discarded into the dustbin of history.

 

 

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Catalonia: And it is time for Europe to get involved

‘The Spectator’ is described as “a weekly British conservative magazine on politics” with an editorial that is “generally supportive of the Conservative Party”. That description more or less corresponds to the writer of this blog’s interpretation of the magazine. However,  an article entitled “Franco’s fascism is alive and kicking in Spain”  was perused today and there could have been no real political agenda when it was pointed out that “the original incarnation of the PP, the Alianza Popular, was founded by one of Franco’s former ministers” and elsewhere we can read that the PP’s  founder, Manuel Fraga, “was a minister under Franco and many other members of the early party leadership came from his regime.”

Of course, with Rajoy’s deadline fast approaching this is worrying enough. However, this is happening in a in a state where “symbols of dictatorship are still intact. Churches still display the yoke and arrows, Spain’s answer to the swastika. Streets remain named after Franco’s henchmen, and few visitors could forget the monstrous, 500 foot cross that marks El Caudillo’s resting place.” It is happening in a state where the PP is trying to appeal to those who might drift to any one of the  fragmented far-right parties that nostalgically look back to Franco. Indeed, it might be argued that the PP is in many respects just one – albeit the biggest – of those far-right parties.

Driving back from the French border today to Barcelona, the support for Catalonian independence is all too obvious. One small town after the other is bedecked with Catalonian flags and it is difficult to attach any credibility to those who say that a proper referendum would be a close run thing. Nevertheless, the sun is shining and there is an ever so pleasant normality away from the politics. Most Catalans believe that this will continue into and after next week. However, should Madrid trigger Article 155 of the 1978 constitution, it is difficult to see how this will be possible.

That is why, with France saying that it will not recognise a Catalan independence declaration, and the rest of the EU continually taking Madrid’s side, Monday might see the seeds of a very European catastrophe when an irresistible force – the people of Catalonia – meet an immovable object – the deep state in Madrid. The nonsense being spouted out by Macron, Jean Claude Junker is just that, nonsense! Because, after Monday there can be no taking sides and the EU will have to get involved to prevent a crisis developing into a disaster.

One final reference to that article in ‘The Spectator’:

“In November 1975, at the age of 82, El Generalísimo breathed his last. He had presided over concentration camps, ordered the murder of hundreds of thousands of his countrymen, installed a regime of state terror and brainwashing, ordered the mass kidnap of the children of his opponents, yet he had clinched a natural death as a free man. Worse than that: the levers of power were still tight in his pale and cooling fist.”

It is time for Franco to follow his contemporaries, Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin, into the dustbin of history, it is time to let Catalonia have its referendum, and it is time to show the rest of the world that European democracy is very real.

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Chewing the cud in Barcelona

Returned to Europe some three weeks ago and I am now down in Barcelona for a few days, but really I am not paying too much attention to Carles Puigdemont’s and Mariona Rajoy’s brinkmanship. Let the people vote, is what I think! But, then, let them have their referendums in Galicia and the Basque Country too? Well, that would be democracy, but they will certainly be keeping a close eye on things elsewhere in Europe, where many countries have minorities that are threatening to break away. Indeed with Basque, Catalan, and other minorities, it is no surprise that Paris has quickly rejected any notion that it will recognise Catolonia’s independence.

Still, it can only get interesting and even if I am not paying too much attention to things at the moment, it does sort of make me laugh when I think that those values which Europe is supposed to stand for are going to reveal themselves as being a little hypocritical to say the least. Indeed,, with France, and Britain, still adept at sending planes to bomb its erstwhile colonies in Africa and elsewhere, and with the Germans in particular trading big time with China, it is easy to conclude that it is not only in the good old US of A that freedom, democracy, and human rights, are only alright until they interfere with business.

 

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Thoughts from Hong Kong

Still in East Asia and before returning to Europe I have decided to throw in a “flow of consciousness” post and, even if it might be tempered by a background and plan of sorts, there will be no real thesis and no attempt to influence the reader’s conclusion. Of course, it is difficult to imagine that  he, or she, will perservere with this to the end. However, be that as it may, some guidance will still be offered by way of the writer’s observations and, yes, opionions which, although purely speculative and subjective, are to some extent informed.

Deng Xiao Peng’s road to socialism, or “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, is, of course, incongrous at best and, watching it in action, it is a downright affront on marxist theory. Do these idiots really believe that aping an economic model that is based on infinite demand on the planet’s finite resources can lead to anything other than the end of the planet itself, or, in a best-case scenario, to a dystopia which will make 1984 look like a garden party? Of course, it might be better to answer that with two other related questions. Firstly, do they actually have an inkling of marxist theory and secondly, if they have, do they really give a fuck?

The silly bugger, Donald Trump, withdraws from the Paris Accords on climate change and the EU and China have got each other’s backs, or at least that’s what Angela “were selling our cars, emissions and all, in China” would like you to believe. Scepticism should be the order of the day and on scanning an ariticle in yesterday’s ‘South China Morning Post’, under the headline “Mainland Aims to Turn Waste into Fuel”, it is easy to see why with it being pointed out that experts believe the plan “might not be as environmentally friendly as it seems.”

Yes, the huff and puff merchants down ‘Beijing Lu’ are at it again and there was me on the train from Nanjing to Shanghai last year and the little spots of blue sky that interrupted the same 301 kilometre journey in 2008 have all but disappeared. No real questions are being asked and most definitely not in the land of the three wee monkeys, where, zombie-like, the addicted masses unconsciously avoid any cognitive processing of their being in society, as “no news”, wechat messages, and banal games are bombared onto the screens of their phones. With the end of the planet just around the corner, a dystopic brave new world has already arrived.

Still, the “Mao 70% good, 30% bad” crowd have done their job well on the mainland and in Hong Kong the people are being told to celebrate the 68th anniversary of the PRC, even although they, their parents, or grandparents might have actually ran away from there in the first place. Of course, while being swamped by rude mainland tourists might be difficult to ignore, the 68th anniversary of the PRC will be given no, or little, attention by most of the erstwhile British colony’s population. The soundbites and newspeak from Beijing must all seem like a funny joke for many of them.

Indeed, for many of them there are more pressing problems than Wùwàngguóchǐ“  (“never forget national humiliation”) and, when walking from Whampao MTR station through one of the city’s poorer areas, lots of bent and fragile older people collecting cardboard can be observed as they sink into their own very real humiliation. Neither here, nor in many other areas, can it be expected that Carrie Lam’s  government will be indulging in any experiments that involve a real redistribution of wealth. Then, apart from anything else, that would displease the SAR’s masters in Beijing and  might result in the tanks being sent in to clamp down on socialism. Yes, neither Orwell, nor Huxley could’ve written that script.

 

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In Hong Kong

Sitting in Hong Kong and thinking about the whole quo vadis of the blog once again. It has been two and a half months since I have posted and, almost coincidently, that last post was on China. Different impressions are the order of the day when you get a bit closer to the source and the mind drifts back to 2006 and my getting upset when they closed Starbucks in Beruit’s Hamra. Well, the bombs were flying over my apartment, which was next to the AUB, on their way to South Beruit, but closing Starbucks just because of the Israeli attacks on the Lebanon. Life for the rest of us has to go on, doesn’t it?

And that is why I am in Hong Kong and not the PRC. Although, after Xi’s speech a couple of days ago, I am not quite sure if Hong Kong is the PRC, or not? Still, whatever it is, it is still fast free internet, people letting people out of the train before they try to get on, “rechtsstehen und linksgehen” (standing on the right and moving on the left) when they are walking up the escalator and, all in all, a civil society that most Europeans would recognise. A coming up for air and a living in the bubble until the other is all pervading. Yes, reminds me of those halcyon days in Beruit before I had to get onto HMS York and make a dash for Cyprus.

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