Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 30 November 2018

Convention and Hypothesis: Thomas Hobbes's Foundations of Bourgeois Nihilism.

This is a synopsis of the last chapter of our study on "Descartes's World". A much lengthier version of this study will be posted as soon as possible. Cheers.

Science and Technology as the Nihilist Ideology of Capitalist Enterprise.

The almost ubiquitous approach to the study and analysis of philosophy and science is to see them as the spontaneous offspring of the human faculty of thought and of experimentation. What we are seeking to do here instead is to present both disciplines as products of determinate historical social relations of production. Broadly, our aim is to show that whilst philosophizing is a faculty co-generate with human action, there is no such human aptitude or faculty as “science and technology”, but that these must rather be deciphered as “scientific enterprises” or praxes that play a highly functional role in the development of capitalism as a system of mass production. More specifically, here we are trying to interpret Cartesian idealism and the reaction to it in the British empiricism of Bacon and Hobbes as byproducts and emblematic of the struggle between the old feudal theocratic social order that prevailed in the Middle Ages and the commercial and industrial capitalism that began to emerge forcefully in northern Europe between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries.

In this historical-materialist perspective, Cartesianism represents the first valiant attempt by philosophy to accommodate and integrate the incipient nihilism of bourgeois scientific ideology within the boundaries of the essentialism embedded and ingrained in Classical philosophy, Scholastic theology and Renaissance humanism. (Later attempts principally centre on and spring out of German Classical Idealism from Kant to Cassirer.) For this reason, it may be useful to call Cartesianism, with Antonio Negri, “the reasonable ideology”: - ideology, because it constitutes a rationalization of industrial capitalist exploitation in the guise of scientific research and technological progress; and “reasonable”, because it seeks to identify this ideology as, and to reconcile it with, the practical application of Substantive Reason as distinct from Instrumental Reason.

The transparent aim of this Cartesian reasonable ideology was to seek to preserve the millennial and millenary values of Judaeo-Christian and Hellenistic theology and philosophy, above all the omnipotence and benevolence of the Divinity and the centrality of humanity in the created universe, whilst at the same time integrating and absorbing into these values the novel and revolutionary productive techniques of the nascent capitalist industry. Descartes’s goal proved to be unachievable because he burdened Instrumental Reason in its formal components (logic and the understanding) with the task of reconciling the Freedom of human thought with the ultimate ethical values of Substantive Reason and with establishing the existence of Reason itself as an entelechy or Substance (in line with Platonic realism).

It ought to be obvious that any formal Reason whose evaluative criteria are deemed to be inconfutable and irrefutable (or “irresistible”, with Arendt) is immediately incompatible and contradictory with the very “freedom” that the human faculty of thought, of awareness or conscience, entails! Worse still, Reason as a formal faculty is obviously unable to confirm the existence of ontological entities or substances and is also incapable of identifying and prescribing any Values or Substantive Reason which, instead, are the exclusive province of human agency and reflection. Simply stated, Instrumental Reason (known as “the intellect” or “the understanding” or “logico-mathematics”) cannot dictate ultimate values to Substantive Reason because these values are the exclusive province of the latter. (This is the basis of Max Weber’s genial distinction between Wert- and Zweck-Rationalitat [Goal- and Purpose-rationality].) Yet this impossible task – the determination by means of logical analysis (notably the syllogism and apodosis) of ultimate ethical entities (God, the soul) and their implicit values - is precisely what Descartes attempted to do! The consequent dualism between res cogitans and res extensa, Subject and Object, Reason and Nature, Soul and Body, or Mind and Matter, was the unfortunate by-product of this Cartesian attempt to integrate bourgeois ideology and capitalist industry within the dictates of Christian values and the imperative aim of preserving the primacy of the Divinity and the centrality of human beings in the universe.

We have seen that a first response to Descartes came from Francis Bacon. Essentially, Bacon’s “novum organum” is the first major animadversion against the mainstays of the feudal-theocratic absolutist social order, that is, the Classical (Platonic and Aristotelian) and Scholastic insistence on the centrality of God and consequently of the human soul in the cosmic order – and therefore also of logic and rhetoric – the Ratio - as the quintessential tools of human scientific advancement – where “science”, episteme or gnosis, is understood as the adaequatio rei et intellectus (the congruence of intellect and thing). British empiricism is really the combined fruit of a pre-existing sceptic Pyrrhonistic tradition in European thought (see R. Popkin, The History of Scepticism) with what will soon become an incipient nihilism that replaces the theo- and anthropocentrism of Christianity and the Renaissance with the nihilism of what Nietzsche called “an undefinable X”. (Cf. F. Nietzsche, On Truth and Lies, where science is rightly seen as an attempt to pinpoint a cosmic order that, in reality, is filled “…with no forms and no concepts, and likewise with no species, but only with an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us”.)

Yet again, as we saw in our study on Bacon, the substitution of Cartesian deductive rationalism with the inductive empiricism of Bacon’s “new organon” method is itself guilty of this dual fallacy – namely, first, that no amount of induction (or, in Descartes’s case, of deduction) can ever lead to a “scientific method” or to “laws of nature”; and second, that any such “laws”, if taken to be “objective”, would be inconsistent with our awareness of them! Viewed “objectively”, the cosmos has no “laws” (cf. Nietzsche, “Viewed morally, the world is false!”): - it is what it is. The claimed “legality” of scientific observations is itself the ultimate ineluctable proof of their conventionality, of their being mere rules of thumb aimed at rationalizing human interests. There is no “scientific truth” outside of what suits human interests, be they “good” or “evil”. (This is the reality behind Nietzsche’s acute observation in The Genealogy of Morals that the object of all scientific experimentation is…the human body!)

Bacon’s claim that human beings are subject to the “laws of nature” clashes with the insurmountable objection that if indeed such “laws of nature” existed, they would have to correspond (a) with scientific knowledge or evidence that is immediately evident, and (b) with the immediate perception by human senses of the “objective reality” to which these “laws” presumably referred. Yet this “immediate certainty” is precisely what is lacking in any and all scientific evidence and indeed is quite impossible for humans to attain! Hobbes’s “annihilation thesis” illustrates quite devastatingly the untenability of Bacon’s na├»ve empiricism – not just because, if human ideas are taken to be separable from the “external world”, then ideas survive the annihilation of this external world, and are therefore conventional, ideal; but also and above all else because the hypothetical annihilation of the external world must entail the annihilation of all human ideas as well!

The vacuum left by scientific empiricism as the handmaiden of industrial capitalism will be filled by the mechanistic materialism of Thomas Hobbes which remains to this day the ideological hard core of the bourgeoisie and of the society of capital. Hobbes’s philosophy, however, is in this regard almost a carbon copy of Bacon’s and is subject to the same objections. Already in the Elements, Hobbes wavers between the twin untenable positions of scientific laws that are the products of “logical” deductions and laws that are instead inductive conclusions based on empirical observations. Equally, Hobbes’s mechanicist materialism whereby every event in the universe is the causal product of the interaction between bodies and motion clashes with the insurmountable objection that such objective laws of mechanical causation, if real, could never be accessible to human conscious knowledge – because human awareness would itself be the unconscious effect of causal interaction between bodies and motion!

Hobbes’s attempt to present a unified materialist philosophy starting with physics and the body (De Corpore) and proceeding to politics (De Cive) comes unstuck on this fundamental fallacy – namely, the impossibility of a purely “formal” reason or understanding to comprehend deductively, or be conscious inductively of, what are supposedly “objective” laws. A science that purports to understand the universe mechanistically is in direct contradiction with the very mechanical formal reason or understanding that presumes to formulate the scientific laws themselves!

Yet it is precisely here that Hobbes’s novel worldview comes into its own – and what provides the very nexus between his physics and politics that many critics have claimed is inconsistent or absurd. If humans are confined to their imperfect perceptions of the life-world, then it is inevitable and undeniable that any “laws of nature” that we may identify amount to nothing more than “conventions” on how to proceed in the world, on how to attain particular goals that are set by human beings themselves! The so-called “laws of nature” then amount to nothing more than a “convention”, an agreement among humans about what practical goals to achieve and on how to achieve them. Scientific laws become mere agreements on interacting with the human and natural environment – with our life-world – in a manner consistent with the goals that humans have set for themselves. Indeed, this is true even to the extent that humans transform and “stage-manage” their life-world so as to render it amenable to exploration and exploitation (“scientific experimentation”) through the metaphorical “laws” that they think they can identify as “objective laws of nature” corresponding to a mythical “objective reality”.

The key to understanding Hobbes’s entire philosophy – ranging from his ontology to epistemology and finally to his political theory – lies exclusively in this exquisite Hobbesian realization – one that is stunningly revolutionary for his time and that will be enucleated with even greater cold-blooded ruthlessness by Nietzsche two centuries later. Of course, if we took Hobbes’s professed materialist mechanicism at face value, then his philosophical system, which extends from atomic structures to political theory, would turn out to be hopelessly inconsistent. But in reality Hobbes’s philosophy is a genial mixture of convention and hypothesis that on one hand allows for the conventionality of social reality, which encompasses scientific enterprise, whilst on the other it latches this “free” conventionality around a “coercive” hypothesis founded on the ineradicable conflict of human self-interests. The “freedom” of convention is tied indissolubly to the “free-dom” of conflict, of the universal Eris. Thus, the conventions that arise from human epistemology – how we theorize our perception of the world “scientifically” – hinge and are pinned on the central fundamental hypothesis that human beings must preserve their own lives in a world in which humans are equal in their ability to threaten one another.

It is fair to assert that Hobbes’s worldview starts from his politics and percolates down to his physics rather than the other way around! That is the crucial reason why Hobbes abandoned his initial project to publish the Elements sequentially beginning with the De Corpore and ending with the De Cive – hence, from physics to politics – and preferred instead to begin with the politics based on “experience” (Thucydidean historicism) and end with the physics based on logic (Euclidean axiology). (Recall that Hobbes translated both Euclid’s Elements [same title as his opus magnum] and Thucydides’s Peloponnesian Wars.) Hobbes’s worldview hinges on the absolute paramountcy of the self-interest hypothesis whose only logical requirement to avoid annihilation in the physical as in the political sphere is convention. The rigid Euclidean-geometric hypothesis is needed for the discursive convention to have any social force at all. Hobbes’s philosophical system as laid out in the Elements is contradictory only if we begin from his physics and proceed to his politics – because then the initial premise is that of atomistic materialism (as in Democritus) from which the politics do not follow logically. But if instead we start from his political theory – universal conflict -, then the uncanny and diabolical consistency of Hobbesian nihilism emerges in its full crushing immediacy to permeate and percolate from the dira necessitas of the politics to the conventionality of the scientific experimentation and theorization on which physics is based.

The paradox implicit in Hobbes’s theorization of the life-world is that unalloyed self-interest is by definition incompatible with the ability (a) to reach the consensus necessary to reach a “con-vention” (coming together of minds) between conflicting self-interests, and (b) to allow for the rationality required for self-interested agents to reach any consensual convention. Of course, Hobbes’s axiomatic assumption is that self-interest is logically subordinate to self-preservation, given that each agent is equally likely to destroy each other agent. (We have shown elsewhere that the axiom of universal conflict is vital to general equilibrium theory in neo-classical economics.) But once these assumptions – (i) self-interest as (ii) the war of all against all (bellum omnium contra omnes) – are allowed as a matter of realistic necessity (or of “experience”, as Hobbes argues in the De Cive) then Hobbes’s initial paradigm becomes unassailable.

Monday 26 November 2018


Scholars slam China over internment camps

More than 200 academics from around the world are condemning China for its mass internment of Uighurs and other Muslim minorities in its far-western region of Xinjiang.
In an open letter posted online on Monday, the scholars, hailing from 26 countries and regions, are demanding international sanctions against Chinese officials and companies who are benefiting from the mass internment and surveillance in Xinjiang.
An estimated 1 million Uighurs are being held in internment camps in the restive region, according to human rights groups. Former detainees and family members speak of torture, malnutrition and beatings inside the camps.
China says it needs the camps - which it calls "vocational training" centres - to fight against terrorism, but people are often held there for seemingly innocuous acts such as praying, talking to relatives abroad or having encrypted messaging apps on their phones.
"There are concerns that such extreme measures could be replicated to address other segments of the Chinese population who are perceived as threatening the Party's monolithic vision of [China]," the scholars said.
Countries and institutions need to pressure President Xi Jinping and Xinjiang's Communist Party secretary Chen Quanguo to abolish the camps, they said.
States should also grant expedited asylum to Uighurs, Kazakhs, Kyrgyz and other minorities from Xinjiang, while foreign companies should demand that China close the camps as a condition for doing business, they said.


Perhaps China’s richest man really did miss teaching.
When Jack Ma announced in September that he would step down as chairman of Alibaba, the eCommerce giant he founded in his Hangzhou apartment 19 years ago, to return to his chosen profession of English teacher, eyebrows were raised.
The 54-year-old was at the top of his game. His online trading behemoth had grown from small start-up to China’s largest corporation with a market capitalisation of $US382 billion ($527.9bn). Ma himself was worth an estimated $US35bn. Why quit now?


Adding to the speculation was that Ma’s announcement came as China’s government was exerting unprecedented control of the country’s corporate sector.
Small Communist Party committees are being imposed on private corporations as part of a push by Chinese President Xi Jinping to reassert party control over all aspects of Chinese life. The move has unnerved executives and has raised questions about how much influence party cadres will have in commercial decision-making.
“I suspect Ma had had enough,” Michael Shoebridge, former senior defence policy and intelligence official and now head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s defence and strategy program, tells Inquirer. “I suspect Ma didn’t want to run his company with the CCP looking over his shoulder.”
To Shoebridge, Ma’s resignation is symptomatic of larger problems emerging in Chinese society. Shoebridge is one of a growing number of China experts sceptical of what may be termed the “China narrative”, the belief that Chinese supremacy is inevitable because of the country’s size and governance model, which allows it to set far-reaching national priorities untroubled by the social and political pressures that play on democracies.
Shoebridge says this narrative has clouded thinking about China’s rise and risks distorting policymaking. China’s strengths are in fact weaknesses and its long-term growth is far from assured.
In short, we have swallowed the Chinese Communist Party’s version of itself.
“The CCP narrative about the inevitably of China’s rise and strategic power is not well contested in Australia or any other Western capital,” Shoebridge says. “I think it’s accepted uncritically.”
There are signs that is starting to change. Last week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Papua New Guinea was supposed to showcase Beijing’s growing prestige in the region.
Instead, a squabble over the wording of the final communique, blunt words about Beijing’s pernicious debt diplomacy from US Vice-President Mike Pence and a string of infrastructure announcements in which the West, and not Beijing, would partner with Pacific nations exposed the limitations of Chinese power. It also was the clearest signal yet that Washington is willing to push back in meaningful ways against China’s influence campaign in the Pacific.
The US has been startled by the rapid gains China has made in the South China Sea, where in the space of a few years Beijing has been able to construct and fortify a string of disputed islands, entrenching its strategic position and potentially threatening sea lanes. In remarks aimed squarely at China, Pence said the US offered a “better option” for developing Pacific nations dependent on foreign aid and investment.
“We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt,” he said. “We don’t coerce or compromise your independence. The United States deals openly, fairly. We do not offer a constricting belt or a one-way road. When you partner with us, we partner with you, and we all prosper.”
From an opaque economy to an untested military to soaring income inequality, the signs are Chin­ese society is set to be roiled by a series of problems that will undermine growth and challenge the legitimacy of its ruling party. Its economy is being stifled by a resur­gence of central planning.
Its much-vaunted military is large but untested in battle. Its population is ageing.
“Authoritarian regimes can force stakeholders to endure pain in the short term, but in the long term they’re dependent on results,” US Studies Centre senior fellow John Lee says. “It’s telling that Xi feels that if there’s not a six in front of China’s growth rate figures, their legitimacy could be in question. That’s not indicative of a very secure regime.”
Nor is mass surveillance. China’s government is developing a “citizen credit score”, a compulsory system that will assign each citizen with a score based on their civic virtue. Citizens will get extra points for donating blood or volunteering at a homeless shelter and deductions for liking the wrong social media post or jaywalking on a public street.
According to Chinese officials, about seven million people have already been banned from boarding flights and three million from riding high-speed trains after their credit scores fell below the requisite level.
No doubt the scheme is a masterful way of ensuring an orderly populace. But what does it say about the security of the regime? “The fragility of the Chinese state, the inability to control the population, has always dominated CCP thinking,” Shoebridge says. “But we don’t understand that; we act as if it’s all powerful.”
Lee says more than 40 per cent of the central funds raised by the CCP after local transfers go to internal and external security. It is a colossal, unsustainable figure. As a result, China is spending less on social goods than most middle-income or low-income economies as a proportion of gross domestic product. This is causing internal tensions that sooner or later will have to be addressed. China also has the worst income inequality for any major economy, barring Brazil. The benefits of China’s amazing national prosperity have not being shared evenly.
It is also getting older. Lee says that by 2030, China will have a demographic bulge like western Europe, where a shrinking pool of young workers will be required to foot the bill for an ageing population. But unlike Europe, China has no across-the-board pension system to support these older citizens. Lee traces blame for the problem to the one-child policy, a classic example of the kind of unintended consequences yielded from central planning.
“China is going to have the worst kind of demographics because of the one child policy,” says Lee. “And they’re not prepared for it. The bottom line is they’re going to have to spend more on social goods and obviously that has implications for national power.”
The CCP has always wielded a heavy hand: China is, after all, a communist country.
But Xi’s 19th party congress reversed a trend followed by every Chinese leader since Deng Xiaoping, who recognised that a vib­rant corporate sector uncon­strained by ideology was the fastest way to economic growth and national power.
According to Lee, it was those reforms that set China up for its current era of growth.
“President Xi has said what we need is state champions to become dominant,” Lee says. “In a sense, economics has become sub­ordinate under politics.”
Lee says that whereas the tiger economies of Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan began to liberalise their politics as their economies grew wealthier, Xi has intensified China’s authoritarian model. The risk is that China’s corporate sector will become less agile in responding to market pressures and opportunities.
“The lesson of the Soviet Union and the lesson of the pre-Deng era in China is that Communist Party decision-making does not lead to vibrant business outcomes,” Shoebridge says.
Market economist and former senior adviser to the federal treasurer during the Asian crisis Stephen Joske agrees. In fact, he says in many ways the problem is worse. Joske predicts that China’s opaque credit markets are headed for a crash. This looming financial crisis could tip the country into an extended recession, shaking the country’s political foundations.
“In my view, in a few years’ time they’ll go into negative growth,” Joske tells Inquirer.
“That’s not something they’ve experienced before. They’re lending at a rate that outstrips deposits so they’re funding from the wholesale markets and that’s where the risks appear.”
Modern China has never had a recession, although most analysts believe Beijing fudged its GDP numbers in 1999 to hide a temporary dip. Countries experience and recover from recessions all the time, but Joske says in China’s case the risk is that the political stress associated with a slowdown can undo the compact between China’s ruler and its citizens, which is based on power in exchange for prosperity.
Beijing’s trade war with Washington also is causing unexpected stresses. Lee says the general assumption was that Beijing would be able to stare down US President Donald Trump, who eventually would yield to pressure from domestic lobby groups.
If anything, the opposite is true.
“There’s some support for the trade war in the US, but in China President Xi is under heavy criticism. That’s not something most economic analysts were expecting,” he says.
Joske, like Lee and Shoebridge, holds that the belief in China’s economic potential rests on a series of lazy assumptions about the robustness of the Chinese growth model. He gets frustrated with what he describes as the “complacency of the China narrative”.
“There’s a whole lot of things that can go wrong. China’s got this long history of civil war. It has been disunited more than it has been united throughout its history. It has always required a strong central government to keep it together. If they blink it tends to fall apart.”
It is China’s economy that ultim­ately will determine the extent to which it can project hard power in the world. China has been expanding its military rapidly but the results have been mixed.
Shoebridge says that unlike the US, whose military has been fighting continuously for two decades, the People’s Liberation Army is untested in battle. The rapid growth of the PLA also has led to questions about its cohesion. Modern warfighting is heavily networked and it is unclear how effectively integrated China’s sprawling military is.
China has developed cutting-edge capabilities such as the J-20, its own version of the fifth-generation fighter plane technology that will determine air supremacy in the decades ahead.
But unlike comparable aircraft developed in the West, little is known about them. The lack of information could be a strategic advantage, but it could equally be a sign of the weakness of China’s development process, which takes place without the relative transparency that occurs in the West, and the rigour that goes with it.
Shoebridge says: “I would say they have an impressive order of battle with a wide array of new systems, some of which have novel capability which could surprise, but being able to operate support and integrate those capabilities effectively, is a question mark.”
None of this means the China project is about to fail, although Shoebridge says that remains “a credible scenario”, one that Xi and his contemporaries inside the CCP are acutely aware of.
Rather than economic collapse, Joske predicts an abrupt adjustment as the Chinese economy evolves, probably followed by a Japan-style slowdown. Lee says China is set for an internal squabble over competing budgetary pressures, meaning the present focus on national power is not sustainable.
Either way, Shoebridge says, the combination of internal economic and political pressures combined with an increased resistance to Beijing’s pushy foreign policy means China’s current trajectory cannot continue. “That’s the inevitability,” he says.

Friday 23 November 2018

China Rats - The Holocaust

No matter which way they twist and turn, Chinese rats are well on their way to the biggest conflagration seen in human we predicted at least six years ago....though most of our craven cowardly analysts in the West have taken much longer than is needed to come to this realisation! Enjoy and celebrate the coming holocaust!

by Michael Schuman
Beijing | Prospects for a trade deal between US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming Group of 20 meeting in Argentina are quite likely to founder on the question of China's industrial strategies: While Beijing may be willing to buy more American goods to mollify Trump, it almost certainly won't stop supporting sectors it sees as key to China's technological and economic progress.
In fact, China would be much wiser to scale back its industrial policies now. They could well turn into a bigger headache for China's own economy than for the rest of the world.
On the surface, US officials appear to have good reason to fret. The "Made in China 2025" program aims to lavish advanced sectors - such as new-energy vehicles and robotics - with subsidies and other support to create national champions capable of dominating global markets. Fearing a deluge of state-backed high-tech exports that would swamp American companies, the Trump administration has demanded Beijing cease such aid as a condition for lifting tariffs slapped on Chinese goods.
China's billions will certainly have an impact within the country's domestic market, where the government holds tremendous sway over corporate decisions and consumer choice. Because the state owns so many major corporations, their managers can be compelled to buy domestic rather than foreign wares, whatever their price or quality. China can also make the case that buying local is a matter of national security, given the threat of boycotts or export curbs that could cut off the supply of foreign-made technology.

The "Made in China 2025" program aims to lavish sectors - such as new-energy vehicles and robotics - with subsidies and ...
Outside of China, the task will be much more challenging. First of all, there's no guarantee that pouring money into favoured industries will nurture competitive, innovative companies. The historical record on such programs is mixed at best. China's current efforts are off to a shaky start. Heavy state subsidisation of electric-car batteries has created a lot of companies and factories, but few truly technologically competitive firms.
Out in the real world, stripped of their bureaucratic protection, Chinese companies will have to compete on quality, brand, price, technology and service against established and trusted players - something their insular managers have little experience or success in doing. A reputation for shoddiness won't help. BYD has already hit potholes by selling problem-plagued electric buses in Los Angeles. How likely are consumers in the US and Europe to drive their kids to school in one of the company's plug-in cars, given alternatives?
That leaves Chinese companies competing on price. They'll have trouble there, too. The level of state support for some of these industries - whether given directly or indirectly through the state-run banking system - is so large that foreign governments are almost certain to protect their own firms from Chinese competition. A new study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, for instance, figures that China's national and local governments spent nearly $US59 billion on the electric-vehicle industry between 2009 and 2017, a good chunk of it subsidising consumers.
Previous Chinese policies that favoured other industries - such as steel and solar panels - created massive production capacity and led to a flood of cheap exports that hammered competitors around the world. There are already indications that "Made in China 2025" is spawning similar excess in sectors such as electric vehicles. Foreign leaders are unlikely to sit by idly while wasteful Chinese investment wrecks their own industries. (The Trump administration has already aimed some of its tariffs at products related to "Made in China 2025".)
On top of that, foreign governments are likely to block some high-tech Chinese products on national-security grounds. The US Congress recently banned video surveillance gear made by two Chinese firms from government facilities due to security worries. US and European companies will think twice before using Chinese-made microchips - another industry receiving ample state aid - in sensitive electronics.

Out in the real world, stripped of their bureaucratic protection, Chinese companies will have to compete on quality, ...

China's industrial support could chase foreign companies out of its home market in key sectors. But domestic demand won't be enough to sustain industries bloated by government aid, increasing the already-burdensome costs of such policies on the Chinese economy. No longer able to dump its excess on the world, China will find it harder to keep all these new factories in business. That spells more zombie companies and bad loans for Chinese banks.
All of this should be incentive Xi to strike a deal in Argentina that scales back "Made in China 2025" and other industrial policies. Not only would that ease tensions with the US and other trading partners - keeping important foreign markets open to new Chinese products - it could help promote innovation at home as well. The vibrant Chinese private sector is fully capable of developing cutting-edge products on its own. Flooding industries with cheap credit and subsidies only helps weaker entrants stay afloat, crowding out the truly competitive firms that could succeed on the world stage. Xi should appease Trump now. He might thank the US president later.

Sunday 18 November 2018


United States Vice President Mike Pence looks at China's President Xi Jinping before the official APEC family photograph.

United States Vice President Mike Pence looks at China's President Xi Jinping before the official APEC family photograph. MICK TSIKAS

Saturday 17 November 2018


Every minute of the day we learn more and more distressing horrendous details of how the Han Rat-In-Chief Xi Jin Ping carries out from behind his rodent smirk the worst genocide this sorry planet has witnessed since Pol Pot in Cambodia - another rat supported by the genocidal racist imperialist Han Chinese race. Enough atrocities against the Uighur people of Xin Jiang! It is time we all rise in fury and declare a relentless war against these abominable filthy executioners! Here is the latest story from the Melbourne daily The Age:

Detained and in danger: The tortured Australian families who fear for their missing loved ones

Increasingly helpless and desperate, Uighurs building new lives in Australian suburbs feel compelled to go public with their stories and identities despite the risks.
By Fergus Hunter

Uighurs residents in Australia hold photos of relatives who are missing in China.
Uighurs residents in Australia hold photos of relatives who are missing in China. CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN 

The security agents came for Adeham Abliz late on a Thursday night.
That day, September 8, 2016, had been much like any other in the 59-year-old Uighur man’s life in the city of Ghulja in north-western China.
Abliz, a shopkeeper, had performed his five daily prayers, starting with fajr at dawn through to isha after dusk. He had wandered through the neighbourhood and brought home groceries after a day of fasting in the lead-up to the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha.
He would not be allowed to finish dinner. Around 11pm, two officers in plain clothes arrived at the house.
“We need to talk to you about something. You need to come with us,” they told Abliz, a devout Muslim who had provided religious teaching in the local community and kept religious texts in his house – marking him as a subject of suspicion for the Chinese Communist Party.
Abliz and his family resisted, demanding to know why he was being taken. Ignoring their desperate pleas, the two men escorted him outside and took him away.
“That was the last time I saw my father with my own eyes,” says his daughter, Meyassar Adham. The same day, she had been granted a visa to join her partner in Australia. Advised by her migration agent to urgently get out of Xinjiang province, she left a week later, bound for the safety of the Adelaide suburbs.
Her father was promptly sentenced to two years in prison for his religious practices. In September this year, it became clear he would not be set free. Now 61, Abliz was transferred to a mass detention camp, joining hundreds of thousands in a vast “re-education” network established over the last two years in Xinjiang, known as East Turkestan by independence-minded Uighurs. In the camps, they are forced to renounce their religion and culture and adopt Communist ideology. Reports suggest people have been abused and tortured for failure to comply.

Meyassar Adham fears for her father, who is detained in a mass detention camp in China.
Meyassar Adham fears for her father, who is detained in a mass detention camp in China. CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Adham, raising one child and pregnant with another, is haunted by the memories. For members of Australia’s 3000-strong Uighur community, the story is not unusual.
Fairfax Media has conducted extensive interviews with more than a dozen Uighurs in Adelaide; all have relatives in detention and are struggling with the burden of knowing – or not knowing – the fate of parents, siblings, partners, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunties and friends swept up in the unprecedented crackdown. Increasingly helpless and desperate, the Australian-based Uighurs felt compelled to go public with their stories and identities despite the risks.
Their accounts – while consistent with a growing body of information aired by journalists, academics, human rights groups and the United Nations – are difficult to independently verify, given the lack of transparency around the Chinese government’s activities.
They've built a life here, but for many in Australia's Uighur community, it's what they've left behind that haunts them.

There are common themes in many of the testimonies. A difficult departure from home seeking a better life; growing alarm from afar as the crackdown intensifies; contact with family becoming impossible as authorities prohibit contact with the outside world; sporadic warnings about the danger, sometimes conveyed in code or through third parties; scant details, desperately sought; children and elders left without people to take care of them.
Horigul Yusuf came to Australia in 2005, reunited with her husband after seven years apart. The religious family had a long and difficult history with the CCP. In Adelaide, she joined the largest Uighur community in Australia – about 1500 people across 300 families.
All of Yusuf’s brothers have been detained in internment camps or sentenced to prison. The 52-year-old last spoke to her elderly parents on October 22, 2017. “It was a short and sharp conversation,” she says. Her parents warned her to cease contact.
“People threatened us and said if you contact relatives overseas, we will send you to prison. They forced us to sign a paper saying we won’t be in contact,” she recalls her mother saying during the call.

Horigul Yusuf sheds tears as she speaks about her brother Abdulahad Yusuf.
Horigul Yusuf sheds tears as she speaks about her brother Abdulahad Yusuf.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Horigul Yusuf's grief has affected her life in Adelaide's suburbs.
Horigul Yusuf's grief has affected her life in Adelaide's suburbs. CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

Yusuf, a proud woman with intense, dark eyes, is visibly burdened by her family’s struggle and overcome with emotion as she talks about it.
“We live in this country freely and without difficulty. We can do whatever we want. But at the moment, it’s so hard for us. I can’t even explain. I can’t express how difficult it is. I don’t want to socialise with anyone, I just want to be at home and think about my family,” she says.
The Uighurs have had an uneasy relationship with Chinese rule for centuries. In the decades following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, there were multiple and short-lived efforts to establish an independent state. Communist revolutionary Mao Zedong’s forces then established control in 1949, incorporating Xinjiang into the People’s Republic of China. In the decades since, the CCP has met ongoing resistance and extremism with an iron fist.
Following outbreaks of unrest and a string of high-profile terror attacks, peaking in 2014, the Chinese government escalated efforts to curb Islamic practises and separatist sentiment. The authorities have banned religious clothing, including the face veil, and "abnormal" beards. Parents have been banned from giving their children names deemed religious.
The government has rolled out an immense network of security cameras and identification and body scanners in public places as part of a highly advanced surveillance state. Police interrogate citizens at checkpoints, search phones for suspicious material, lock down access to once-bustling public places, and forcibly collect voice recordings and biometric data. Fears are growing the cutting-edge surveillance methods could ultimately be deployed across China and exported internationally. Fairfax Media recently visited Xinjiang, observing the all-consuming security apparatus in action.

A Uighur woman and a child sit under China's national flag and a CCTV camera in Urumqi,  Xinjiang.
A Uighur woman and a child sit under China's national flag and a CCTV camera in Urumqi, Xinjiang.CREDIT:FAIRFAX MEDIA
Photos from Sayfudin Shamseden's photo album of relatives and friends who entered the internment camps.
Photos from Sayfudin Shamseden's photo album of relatives and friends who entered the internment camps.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

The centrepiece of the campaign has come in the form of the detention camps, now described as “vocational training centres” by authorities that, until recently, denied their very existence. Estimates about the number of detainees range from hundreds of thousands to a few million, with the United Nations highlighting reports of up to 1 million as credible.
The camps appear to vary across the region, with some detaining people 24/7 while others allow detainees to go home at night. Reports suggest the camps are filled on a quota basis, with people targeted by local authorities indiscriminately and without specific charges. Once the government focused its efforts on politically active and observant Muslims. Now the campaign captures all Uighurs and other minorities.
Last week, Australia was among 13 governments to raise Xinjiang in a scheduled UN Human Rights Council review of China’s record. Australia’s representatives outlined “alarm at the numerous reports of large numbers of ethnic Uighurs and other Muslim groups held incommunicado and often for long periods without being charged or tried”. The official statement warned the measures would exacerbate, not prevent, extremism.
Since acknowledging the existence of the camps, the Chinese government has released propaganda material presenting an idealised image of the facilities, where happy “trainees” enjoy “transformation through education”. This week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged the world to ignore “gossip” and said the measures would prevent terrorism.
The CCP appointed a hardliner called Chen Quanguo as its top official in Xinjiang in 2016. Chen made his name as the party chief in the neighbouring province of Tibet, where he suppressed Buddhist resistance to CCP rule. Under his authority, security spending has expanded dramatically.
Nursa Mehmetjan, a 45-year-old woman from Ghulja – known as Yining in Chinese – was on the cusp of escaping the deteriorating situation in early 2017. She got engaged to Adelaide man Muhammad Abdullah and was set to join him within months.

Muhammad Abdullah with a photo of his missing fiancee Nursa Mehmetjan.
Muhammad Abdullah with a photo of his missing fiancee Nursa Mehmetjan.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

But after a two-week rendezvous in Malaysia with Abdullah, Mehmetjan returned home and the Chinese government put a stop to her plans. First, she was interrogated and her passport was taken away. In February 2018, she was taken to a nearby camp where she remains.
In a brief exchange of messages on February, Mehmetjan told her fiance she did not know how long she would be detained and warned him not to try and get in contact.
Abdullah, aged 81 and whose first wife died in 2016, says he could only wish Mehmetjan good luck.
China’s crackdown against Muslim minorities aims to socially engineer their identity to make them more loyal to the CCP, says Maya Wang, a senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch.
According to Wang, the efforts are unprecedented in their scale and use of technology.
“It is massive social engineering of a large number of people – not only people in the detention camps. There are people in other forms of detention and 13 million people in the region live life under severe control not dissimilar to life in the facilities,” she says.

A distressed Mahbuba Alim with friends and family in Adelaide.
A distressed Mahbuba Alim with friends and family in Adelaide.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Almas Nizamdin checks the news on the Uighur community on his phone.
Almas Nizamdin checks the news on the Uighur community on his phone.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Sayfudin Shamseden wearing a ring showing the flag of the East Turkestan independence movement.
Sayfudin Shamseden wearing a ring showing the flag of the East Turkestan independence movement.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

James Leibold, an expert on Chinese ethnic policy at La Trobe University, says China has faced a problem with Islamist extremism but the response has been “completely disproportionate”, counter-productive, fuelled by racism, and fundamentally colonial.
Leibold says the efforts fit with a long-running pattern of Chinese government efforts to stamp out “deviant groups”, be they in Xinjiang, Tibet or elsewhere.
“We haven’t seen anything else on the scale of what appears to be these massive concentration camps, some of them with the capacity to house tens of thousands of detainees,” he says.
Xinjiang is also rich in natural resources and sits at the heart of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative, a massive infrastructure, investment and trade strategy spanning Europe and Asia.
Renagul Tursun, a mother of three based in Adelaide, points to economic imperatives as China’s main reason for wanting to secure control in Xinjiang. She has not been in contact with relatives since December 2017 but understands her younger brother and two cousins have been detained.
“Even after coming to Australia, although we live in a safe country, day and night we live in fear and trauma because so much of our family are living such a stressful life over there and just waiting to be knocked down by the government,” she says. “Every day, before I sleep, I have to take medication otherwise I cannot sleep. It is affecting my mental condition. I am seeing a psychologist here on a regular basis.”
The Uighur community in Adelaide has vibrant religious, cultural and political scenes. It has grown over decades and is centred around the north-eastern suburbs, where the East Turkistan Australian Association oversees activities and practicing Muslims attend the Abu Bakr As-Siddique Mosque. Some Uighurs who initially migrated to Sydney and Melbourne have subsequently moved to Adelaide to be with the larger and more tight-knit community.
The culture has made its mark on broader Adelaide, which now has a number of authentic Uighur restaurants, including the large Tangritah Uyghur Restaurant that occupies a former church in the CBD.

Uighur children Efruz, Abdukuddus, Elif and Melek watch as a car pulls into their driveway at their home in Adelaide.
Uighur children Efruz, Abdukuddus, Elif and Melek watch as a car pulls into their driveway at their home in Adelaide.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Tursun Mollaisa and Abdulwali Muhammad during lunch.
Tursun Mollaisa and Abdulwali Muhammad during lunch.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN
Abdulwali Muhammad during evening prayers in a prayer room while dining at a Uighur restaurant that used to be a church.
Abdulwali Muhammad during evening prayers in a prayer room while dining at a Uighur restaurant that used to be a church.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN 

Life in Adelaide offers hope but is not without its challenges. Two Uighurs tell Fairfax Media they are suffering from depression and receiving treatment.
“Every morning, I get up and these things will come to mind until I fall asleep. They will surround me all the time,” another says.
One person spoke of the coded pleas for help, sent from relatives via the Chinese messaging app WeChat.
“The weather is so harsh,” a relative said. “Strong winds.”
Wang, of Human Rights Watch, says the condemnation from Australia and elsewhere has been growing but is not enough.
“Australia has not been completely silent but I would say the volume has been very low and that would be taken as a sign of weakness by the Chinese government, that Australia doesn’t care much about human rights in China,” she says.
“If you don’t speak up when the Chinese government detains 1 million people in camps, then when are you going to speak up?”

Shahida Mahpirof, dressed in traditional attire during a Uighur community event in Adelaide.
Shahida Mahpirof, dressed in traditional attire during a Uighur community event in Adelaide.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN