Commentary on Political Economy

Thursday 30 December 2021

 Russia’s Aggression Against Ukraine Is Backfiring

Putin’s military moves are rallying Ukrainians and unifying NATO.

By Kori Schake

Three Ukrainian soldiers crouched with firearms

Sergei Supinsky / AFP / Getty

DECEMBER 29, 2021

Western intelligence agencies have warned that Russia is contemplating an invasion of Ukraine, perhaps involving some 175,000 troops. Vladimir Putin’s government has already moved more than 100,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders, including into Belarus. Russian officials have been making outrageously paranoid and false accusations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, for example, recently blamed NATO for the return of the “nightmare scenario of military confrontation.” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that the United States is smuggling “tanks with unidentified chemical components” into Ukraine’s Donetsk. And Putin himself has been equally vituperative about NATO, threatening military moves unless it agrees to his terms. “They have pushed us to a line that we can’t cross,” he said on Sunday. “They have taken it to the point where we simply must tell them: ‘Stop!’”

Yet a recent report concludes that despite its massive deployment and threatening rhetoric, Russia is not planning to invade Ukraine. The report, produced by the Critical Threats Project of the American Enterprise Institute, where I serve as the director of foreign- and defense-policy studies, together with the Institute for the Study of War, finds that the political and economic costs of an actual invasion are too high for Russia to sustain. “Putin may be attempting a strategic misdirection that impales the West in a diplomatic process and military planning cycle that will keep it unprepared,” the report argues. Rather than directly invade Ukraine again, Russia instead seeks to further destabilize the country in advance of its elections, station troops in Belarus, divide NATO, and precipitate Western concessions to de-escalate the crisis.

Even without an invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s military moves pose serious threats to America’s allies, including the Baltic states. Russia demands, as the price of even considering drawing down its military buildup, that NATO accept a different security framework for Europe, abandon any future NATO accessions, and forswear military cooperation with any non-NATO state.


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The CTP/ISW assessment of Russia’s intentions is consistent with the country’s preference for hybrid, or threshold, warfare: the fusion of disinformation and political, economic, and military actions designed to immobilize or weaken adversaries without triggering an effective response. The terms are faddish, as though the practice were a new addition to the inventory of warfare. In fact, the simplistic definition of warfare after the Cold War as only military operations was novel, and that narrow conception has now evaporated along with American military dominance.

Strategic failures are almost always failures of imagination, as with the Trojans failing to wonder what might be inside that gigantic wooden horse. We are now scrambling to think as creatively as our adversaries. But the U.S. has a number of advantages: time, allies, transparency, and right.

Even though Russia’s military deployments have been rapid, the U.S. and its allies recognized them early enough to alert one another and agree on a response. The gathering storm of Russian revanchism since Putin came to power conditioned a quick reaction; defense spending by European NATO members has been rising since Russia’s 2014 invasion of Ukraine. Bilateral consultations and NATO meetings produced a set of potential political and economic sanctions, especially Russia’s ejection from the SWIFT financial network, that ought to give Putin and his businessmen pause. Turkey is providing drones to Ukraine, the U.S. sent military advisers and Javelin missiles, and Germany is reconsidering the Nord Stream 2

Pipeline. Democratic societies are slow to align but durable once committed, and the U.S. and its allies have had time to organize.

In an effort to de-escalate the crisis Putin created, the Biden administration has ruled out deploying American forces to defend Ukraine. Joe Biden evidently hoped to prevent a war by miscalculation—one side misinterpreting the other’s actions, and violence spiraling into a nuclear apocalypse. And although textbook military strategy considers telling an adversary what you won’t do self-defeating, in circumstances where the asymmetry of interest is so pronounced, putting a ceiling on potential escalation will likely make America’s policy more credible. In the immediate aftermath of U.S. capitulation in Afghanistan, it just isn’t believable to claim that the Biden administration will “fight any battle and bear any burden” for the independence of a still-corrupt post-Soviet government.

Biden consented to Russia’s demand for discussions of a new European security framework. That consent was unquestionably a concession, giving some standing to Russian concerns, and it has worried frontline NATO allies who have long-standing (and justified) fears of abandonment. If we had refused to even discuss Russian concerns, however, it is difficult to imagine sustaining the solidarity of the Western alliance or American public support for the risks and sacrifices that any response to Russia attacking Ukraine might entail. And agreeing to discuss Russia’s version of post–Cold War history or its demands for a sphere of influence that would consign countries to Russian dominion is not the same as accepting them.

Having the discussions take place in a NATO forum, as Russia has now agreed to do, allows the West to showcase its increased solidarity. Russia’s threats have unified the alliance. The discussions will also contrast the U.S.’s preferred model of power, which emanates from our ability to persuade others to share the burdens of what we’re trying to achieve, with the model pursued by Russian and China, which relies on threatening nations into submission.

The United States and its allies have the easier side of that argument. As Ronald Reagan said, “There is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest.” Russia may mobilize some support among countries that feel threatened by governments held accountable by their citizens, but the U.S. has the moral and mathematical advantage of arguing against strong states imposing their will on those unable to protect themselves.

Not that Ukraine is truly incapable of protecting itself. One other thing that may be restraining a Russian invasion of Ukraine is the fact that, even in the Donbas, the mighty Russian military has not succeeded in subduing Ukrainian resistance. Quite the opposite: Russia has enhanced Ukrainian national identity. A Russian occupation would encounter the sort of insurgency that the Russian military proved incapable of subduing in Afghanistan and Chechnya, despite its brutality. Half a million Ukrainians have military experience; 24 percent of respondents in one recent poll said that they would resist Russian occupation “with a weapon in hand.” Russia might succeed in taking Ukraine, but it is unlikely to hold it.

NATO countries might not fight for Ukraine, but they’re likely to arm and train Ukrainians to fight for themselves. A Russian invasion would open the floodgates of Western support for Ukraine, and activate similar mobilizations of civilian society among NATO frontline states. Putin’s threats have already convinced Germans that Nord Stream 2 is not just a business deal, but rather a means of geopolitical leverage. The EU can use its regulatory tools on Gazprom and other Russian businesses seeking access to Europe’s markets more aggressively, to scrutinize their practices and enforce compliance with the law.

Transparency is a potentially devastating tool against authoritarians, because corruption is delegitimizing. The governments of free societies already face public scrutiny, which positions them well to demand the same of others. Russia’s leaders are afraid of accountability for their wealth; the revelations of corruption in the Panama Papers appear to have led Putin to unleash cybervigilantes against the U.S.

Russia’s past attempts to intimidate Ukraine into not choosing a westward path have backfired. Fifty-eight percent of Ukrainians now say that they would vote for NATO membership, and the nation has developed a greater sense of national identity and a more resilient society. Sweden and Finland are moving into closer alignment with NATO, as Russia illustrates the dangers of remaining outside the Western mutual-defense pact. NATO has held united, refusing to accept that Russia gets a veto over either its membership or its actions. The United States, while averting military involvement, has crafted a credible set of penalties and garnered international support for them. Putin lacks the imagination to see that launching successful military operations is not the same as winning a war, a lesson the U.S. recently relearned in Afghanistan. That Russia is now repeating the very mistake the U.S. made, and is slowly recovering from, is an ironic twist.

Kori Schake is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the director of foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise Institute.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

 Chinese police parade suspected Covid rule-breakers through streets

Four people are named and shamed – a banned practice – in city of Jingxi; WHO warns of ‘trade-off’ as countries cut back on isolation periods

Coronavirus – latest updates

See all our coronavirus coverage

Police guard a hotel in downtown Jingxi earlier this year

Staff and agencies

Thu 30 Dec 2021 02.00 GMT

Armed police in Jingxi, in southern China, have paraded four alleged violators of Covid rules through the streets, state media reported, a practice that was banned but which has resurfaced in the struggle to enforce a zero-Covid policy.

The four men were accused of smuggling people across China’s closed borders, and on Tuesday they were led through the streets wearing hazmat suits and bearing placards showing their name and photos. The state-run Guangxi daily reported the action was designed to deter “border-related crimes”.

A common practice during the Cultural Revolution, public shaming has long since been banned in China, and the Communist party-affiliated Beijing News said the Jingxi incident “seriously violates the spirit of the rule of law and cannot be allowed to happen again”.

The Global Times newspaper said that the courts and the Ministry of Public Security had issued various orders since the 1980s to ban the parading of criminal suspects, noting that officials themselves could now be punished. The most recent notice was issued by the ministry in February last year after a man in Hebei Province was tied to a tree for going out to buy cigarettes during lockdown.

Social media posts on the topic had received more than 350m views and more than 30,000 comments by Wednesday night, it reported.

Hong Kong pro-democracy news site closes after raid, arrests | AP News


Editor of Stand News Patrick Lam, center, is escorted by police officers into a van after they searched evidence at his office in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. Hong Kong police raided the office of the online news outlet on Wednesday after arresting several people for conspiracy to publish a seditious publication. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG (AP) — A vocal pro-democracy website in Hong Kong shut down Wednesday after police raided its office and arrested six current and former editors and board members in a continuing crackdown on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Stand News said in a statement that its website and social media are no longer being updated and will be taken down. It said all employees have been dismissed.

The outlet was one of the last remaining openly critical voices in Hong Kong following the shuttering of the Apple Daily newspaper, which closed after its publisher, Jimmy Lai, and top editors were arrested and its assets frozen.

Police raided Stand News’ office earlier in the day after arresting the six, including popular singer and activist Denise Ho, a former board member, on charges of conspiracy to publish a seditious publication.

More than 200 officers were involved in the search, police said. They had a warrant to seize relevant journalistic materials under a national security law enacted last year.

The six were arrested under a crime ordinance that dates from Hong Kong’s days as a British colony before 1997, when it was returned to China. Those convicted could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($640).

Police did not identify who was arrested, but Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post newspaper reported they were one current and one former editor of Stand News, and four former board members including Ho and former lawmaker Margaret Ng.

A Facebook post early Wednesday morning on Ho’s account confirmed that she was being arrested. A subsequent message posted on her behalf said she was OK and urged friends and supporters not to worry about her.

That post drew nearly 40,000 likes and 2,700 comments, mostly from supporters.

Early Wednesday, Stand News posted a video on Facebook of police officers at the home of a deputy editor, Ronson Chan. Chan, who is also chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was taken away for questioning, the organization confirmed in a statement.

Chan, who was later released, told media the police seized his electronic devices, bank cards and press card.

The arrests come as authorities crack down on dissent in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Hong Kong police previously raided the offices of the now-defunct Apple Daily newspaper, seizing boxes of materials and computer hard drives to assist in their investigation and freezing millions in assets that later forced the newspaper to cease operations.

Police charged the Apple Daily’s Lai, who is already jailed on other charges, with sedition on Tuesday.

“We are not targeting reporters, we are not targeting the media, we just targeted national security offenses,” said Li Kwai-wah, senior superintendent of the police National Security Department. “If you only report, I don’t think this is a problem.”

He said at a news conference that those arrested had to account for their actions even if they had resigned from Stand News.

Asked what advice he had for the media, Li replied, “Don’t be biased. You know well how to report, how to be a responsible reporter, how to make a non-biased report to your readers. That’s all I can give you.”

Stand News earlier this year said it would suspend subscriptions and remove most opinion pieces and columns from its website due to the national security law. Six board members also resigned from the company.

The journalists’ association urged the city’s government to protect press freedom in accordance with Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law.

“The Hong Kong Journalists Association (HKJA) is deeply concerned that the police have repeatedly arrested senior members of the media and searched the offices of news organizations containing large quantities of journalistic materials within a year,” it said in a statement.

Benedict Rogers, co-founder and CEO of the non-governmental organization Hong Kong Watch, said the arrests are “nothing short of an all-out assault on the freedom of the press in Hong Kong.”

“When a free press guaranteed by Hong Kong’s Basic Law is labeled ‘seditious,’ it is a symbol of the speed at which this once great, open, international city has descended into little more than a police state,” he said.

Wednesday’s arrests also followed the removal of sculptures and other artwork from university campuses last week. The works supported democracy and memorialized the victims of China’s crackdown on democracy protesters at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

 Anyone can boycott the Beijing Olympics. Everyone should.

Demonstrators on Dec. 10 outside the NBC Sports office in San Francisco protesting Chinese human rights abuses and the network’s airing of the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing, (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Opinion by Charles Lane
December 29 at 7:51 am Taiwan Time
President Biden has announced that the United States will not protest China’s state-sponsored campaign against its Uyghur ethnic minority by refusing to send U.S. athletes to the Beijing Winter Olympics. The United States will, however, keep government officials away from the Games, which begin Feb. 4. Four other countries say they will do the same.
This is not the strongest gesture, but it’s better than nothing. The good news is that boycotting the spectacle hosted by one of the world’s most repressive regimes is something every American can do.
It’s easy: When NBC’s broadcast comes on, don’t watch. Ditto for NBC’s streaming outlets. Read a book instead; or go for a walk.
Whatever you do, just don’t contribute to the high viewership the network’s parent company, NBCUniversal, banked on in 2014 when it paid the International Olympic Committee (IOC) $7.7 billion for U.S. broadcast rights to six Olympics between 2022 and 2032.
And thereby teach a lesson in the costs of collaboration with the Chinese regime — to the network and to the corporate sponsors who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for 30 seconds of advertising during the Games, anticipating access to your eyeballs.
Boycotting the Games on TV is also a way to protest the broader corruption of the Olympic “movement,” of which holding the event in a country guilty of rampant human rights abuses and military bullying of its neighbors is but one symptom. Others include drug scandals; crooked judging; sexual abuse of athletes; and the inevitable graft involved in site selection and construction.
The latest evidence of systemic rot comes from Brazil, where last month that country’s former Olympic committee president was sentenced to 30 years in prison for bribing IOC officials to support Rio de Janeiro’s bid to host the 2016 Summer Games.
During the investigation of that case, it emerged that a member of Brazil’s Olympic committee attempted to alert IOC officials, including current IOC president Thomas Bach, years earlier but nothing came of it. (An IOC spokesman said, via email, that the IOC received the whistleblower’s complaint in 2012 — and told him to pursue his concerns through Brazil’s Olympic committee.)
This same Thomas Bach made news recently for intervening in the crisis over accusations of sexual assault made by Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player, against China’s former vice premier Zhang Gaoli. Peng vanished from public view after posting the charges on social media on Nov. 2, leading to widespread — and reasonable — fears that she had been subjected to official reprisal.
On Nov. 21, Bach took part in what seemed to be a government-staged video conference with Peng, after which the IOC issued a statement claiming she said she was “safe and well" — a propaganda windfall for China.
Peng’s colleagues in professional tennis demanded direct proof that she is indeed not under coercion; the Women’s Tennis Association courageously suspended future events in China. IOC officials held another call with Peng on Dec. 1, and the next day pronounced her “safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in.”
Bach and the IOC have defended their approach, saying “quiet diplomacy” is more effective. At a Dec. 8 news conference, Bach poured both-sidesism on the human rights controversy: “If we were to start taking political sides,” he said, “this would be the politicization of the Olympic Games, and this, I would think further, could be the end of the Olympic Games.”
(A footnote on the IOC’s impartiality: Until his retirement in 2018, Zhang Gaoli was in charge of China’s official preparations for the 2022 Games, and knew Bach from a meeting in 2016.)
What’s really hurting the Olympics is continued cooperation with legitimacy-hungry repressive governments, greased by the billions of dollars from multinational corporations.
“The Olympic reputation is souring around the world, with fewer and fewer cities vying to host it. Soon enough, NBC could be holding a somewhat toxic property in the Olympics,” Jules Boykoff, a former Olympian who now teaches politics at Pacific University in Oregon, told Variety recently.
Indeed, the corporate-IOC nexus was shaken by the debacle of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games, which were postponed by the coronavirus pandemic until 2021, when they took place before empty stadiums — and the smallest U.S. television audience for a Summer Olympics since 1988.
Beijing 2022 could be as cheerless as Tokyo: No foreign spectators are allowed, ostensibly due to coronavirus concerns, but probably also to head off protests over human rights. The whole thing is essentially a TV show in a studio, with at least one marquee event, men’s ice hockey, already spoiled because National Hockey League players are staying home due to a covid outbreak.
Meanwhile, there are alternative entertainment choices on streaming video, which was a big reason people tuned Tokyo out this summer.
Yes, boycotting Beijing could mean missing the battle for bronze in luge. But who cares when you can go back and re-binge-watch every season of “The Sopranos" or “Mad Men" instead?
In other words, there has never have been a less painful way to repudiate China’s dictators — and the special interests that enable them.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

 China Bullies Little Lithuania

The Baltic state needs U.S. and EU support as it stands up to Beijing.


The lobby of the Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius, Nov. 18. PHOTO: PETRAS MALUKAS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

With fewer than three million people, tiny Lithuania hardly poses a threat to China. But you wouldn’t know it from how Beijing is acting. The Chinese Communist government is throwing a fit because Lithuania allowed the opening of a Taiwanese Representative Office in Vilnius.

Opinion: Potomac Watch

WSJ Opinion Potomac Watch

Lithuania’s foreign ministry says it “reaffirms its adherence to the ‘One China’ policy.” But the same statement also said Lithuania reserves the right to expand its cooperation with Taiwan. In response, China sent Lithuania’s ambassador home, recalled its own ambassador in Vilnius and downgraded the diplomatic status of its embassy.

Reuters reports that China has also told multinationals such as Germany’s car parts maker Continental to stop using components made in Lithuania or face being denied access to the much more lucrative China market. China’s foreign ministry denies the pressure, along with Lithuanian charges that its goods are being blocked. But the Communist Party-controlled Global Times says China is considering “U.S.-style sanctions” along the lines of those used against the Chinese communications giant Huawei.

We’ve seen this play before. When Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked for an international investigation into the origins of Covid-19, China restricted or put tariffs on Australian exports from beef and barley to wine and lobster. Given that China accounted for a high percentage of Aussie exports, people wondered if Canberra would run up the white flag.

The Aussies didn’t bend, to their great credit. Mr. Morrison hasn’t recanted, and Australia has been able to find other markets for many of its banned products. Australia has also received strong U.S. support for its determination to resist Chinese attempts at economic intimidation.

Lithuania deserves no less. On Tuesday Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte. According to the State Department, Mr. Blinken “underscored ironclad U.S. solidarity with our NATO Ally and EU partner”—and promised to resist Chinese coercion.

In October Mr. Blinken rightly called Taiwan a “democratic success story.” He also called on the United Nations to give Taiwan “meaningful participation” in the body. China will object, but the U.S. should press the point.

The European Union has the bigger responsibility regarding Lithuania. If Australia can stand up to Beijing, surely the EU can. One way to send a signal might be for the EU to call on its members to withdraw from the 17+1, a Chinese diplomatic initiative aimed at Central and East European nations. Lithuania dropped out in May, and it’s time others followed.

China isn’t content merely to stifle dissent internally. It is using its economic power to impose its will around the world. Today Lithuania is the target, and the issue is Taiwan. But tomorrow it could be any country or business—and over anything from Covid-19 to Hong Kong, Tibet, or the Uyghurs. China needs to see that such bullying doesn’t work.

Saturday 25 December 2021



En Inde, les violences contre les chrétiens se multiplient

Entre janvier et octobre, plus de 300 attaques contre la minorité religieuse et ses lieux de culte ont été perpétrées par des extrémistes hindous. 


Publié aujourd’hui à 03h37, mis à jour à 04h34  

Temps de Lecture 4 min. 

Article réservé aux abonnés

Des chrétiens célèbrent la messe de Noël dans une église de Chennai (Inde), le 25 décembre 2021.

A 5 h 45 du matin, jeudi 23 décembre, le père Joseph Anthony Daniel a été réveillé par un coup de téléphone. L’église Saint-Joseph de la paroisse de Soosaipalya, dans le Karnataka (sud de l’Inde), vieille de 152 ans, avait été vandalisée dans la nuit. « La statue de saint Antoine et celle du petit Jésus qu’il tenait dans ses bras ont été décapitées par un jet de pierre », décrit le prêtre, qui s’est immédiatement rendu au poste de police pour porter plainte. « Tout le village est sous le choc. Nous sommes une paisible paroisse catholique de 78 familles, je ne comprends pas les motivations des vandales, à la veille de Noël », s’étonne-t-il.

Cette attaque s’inscrit dans une vague de violences à l’encontre de la minorité chrétienne en Inde. Au cours des dix premiers mois de l’année, plus de 300 attaques contre des chrétiens et leurs lieux de culte ont été perpétrées par des extrémistes hindous à travers le pays, selon un décompte de plusieurs organisations de défense des droits humains.

Entre janvier et novembre, rien que dans le Karnataka, trente-neuf incidents visant des chrétiens ont été recensés par le People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), une organisation non gouvernementale. Dans son rapport, publié le 14 décembre et intitulé « Criminaliser la pratique de la foi », PUCL souligne que les auteurs de toutes ces attaques sont membres d’organisations extrémistes hindoues, tel que le Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), organisation paramilitaire et matrice idéologique du Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), le parti du premier ministre Narendra Modi.

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« Les conversions sont devenues un crime »

Dans le Karnataka, cette recrudescence des violences contre les chrétiens se déroule sur fond d’accusations de conversions forcées. Le BJP, au pouvoir dans cet Etat, affirme que les conversions au christianisme y sont rampantes et les autorités locales y ont même ordonné, fin octobre, un recensement de toutes les églises et des prêtres qui y officient. Le chef de l’exécutif, Basavaraj Bommai, n’a pas hésité à parler de lente « invasion religieuse »« L’idée de conversions de masse relève du mythe ; d’ailleurs, le pourcentage de chrétiens dans la population indienne ne cesse de diminuer », souligne Peter Machado, archevêque de Bangalore, la capitale du Karnataka, où les chrétiens représentent moins de 2 % de la population. A l’échelle nationale, ils ne sont que 2,3 %, dans une Inde à 80 % hindoue.

Le jour où l’église Saint-Joseph de Soosaipalya a été vandalisée, le Karnataka adoptait une loi anti-conversion controversée. Cette dernière impose des restrictions drastiques aux conversions et aux mariages interreligieux. Les sanctions prévues peuvent aller jusqu’à dix ans de prison. « Les conversions sont devenues un crime, c’est une atteinte à la liberté religieuse mais aussi au droit à la vie privée », regrette Peter Machado. La communauté chrétienne craint également que cette loi galvanise les milices autoproclamées et favorise de nouvelles violences.

Près d’une dizaine d’Etats indiens possèdent déjà des lois similaires. Les défenseurs des droits humains considèrent qu’elles ciblent les communautés chrétiennes et musulmanes du pays. En Uttar Pradesh, Etat du Nord dirigé par un moine extrémiste hindou, des dizaines de musulmans ont été arrêtés après avoir été accusés d’avoir forcé leur épouse à se convertir à l’islam. « Cela fait partie de l’agenda du BJP et du RSS, qui considèrent que l’islam et le christianisme sont des religions étrangères qui n’ont pas leur place en Inde », indique Apoorvanand, professeur d’hindi à l’université de Delhi et commentateur politique. Cela n’a pas empêché Narendra Modi de rencontrer le pape François au mois d’octobre et de l’inviter à se rendre en Inde.

Lire aussi   Article réservé à nos abonnés  L’Uttar Pradesh, laboratoire de l’extrémisme hindou

« Impunité totale »

Après l’arrivée au pouvoir des nationalistes hindous en 2014, ce sont d’abord les attaques contre les musulmans qui ont connu une recrudescence. Au nom de la protection des vaches, considérées comme sacrées en Inde, des extrémistes hindous ont lynché des dizaines de musulmans, visés pour leur association au commerce ou à la consommation de bovins. Puis les attaques contre les chrétiens ont commencé à se multiplier. « Le BJP et le RSS utilisent tous les moyens à leur disposition pour persécuter ces minorités religieuses : d’abord, par le biais de la loi ; ensuite, via des petits voyous appartenant à des organisations qui leur sont affiliées et qui jouissent d’une impunité totale ; et enfin, par la diabolisation », poursuit Apoorvanand.

L’une des attaques les plus glaçantes s’est déroulée le 3 octobre à Roorkee, dans l’Etat de l’Uttarakhand. Ce jour-là, une foule de plus de 200 personnes a saccagé une église évangélique juste avant la messe du dimanche. « Ils ont fait irruption dans le hall et j’ai entendu des chants : Longue vie au dieu RamLongue vie à notre mère patrie l’Inde », se remémore Eva Lance, la fille du pasteur. « Ils ont décroché la croix et ont jeté la Bible au sol », poursuit la jeune femme de 25 ans. L’un des volontaires de l’église a été violemment frappé par des hommes armés de barres de fer. « Ils l’ont traîné sur la route et il gisait dans une marre de sang », témoigne-t-elle. « Ce n’est que le début, vous ne perdez rien pour attendre », auraient menacé des voix dans la foule.

Près de trois mois plus tard, la police n’a procédé à aucune arrestation, mais des fidèles font l’objet d’une plainte pour conversions forcées. « Les chrétiens indiens possèdent des ressources limitées pour combattre le pouvoir qui se déchaîne contre eux. C’est au monde d’en prendre note et d’empêcher ce qui est, en fait, un projet d’extermination », juge Apoornavand.


A man walking by a Hong Kong polling station

Louise Delmotte / Getty

December 21, 2021

In November 2019, Nixie Lam suffered the same fate as nearly all of her pro-Beijing compatriots running in Hong Kong’s local elections. The two-term district councillor was roundly defeated by a prodemocracy candidate whose campaign had been buoyed by months of sustained protests. A pro-Beijing “silent majority,” much talked about by supporters and pundits, proved to be nothing more than a fallacy, and with record turnout, prodemocracy candidates parlayed the demonstrations into historic gains, capturing majorities in 17 of Hong Kong’s 18 district councils.

Although district councils have limited power, they are the only directly contested elections in the city and are therefore notable bellwethers for what Hong Kongers actually think. The results humiliated the Hong Kong government, Beijing, and its loyalists in the city. Still, Lam tried to downplay the trouncing she and her party members took. “You couldn’t win forever,” she told me recently.

A couple of years after her defeat, Lam was tapped to run in Sunday’s legislative-council elections, the city’s mini-Parliament, and she accepted. When I met with her last week, she seemed confident in her chances at a political comeback on a bigger stage—and with good reason. After 2019’s near wipeout, the central government on the mainland didn’t just change the rules of Hong Kong’s political game. Like a petulant child tired of losing, Beijing tossed the entire thing into the garbage bin.

With reengineered election rules, Hong Kong’s already limited democratic freedoms have been almost entirely stripped away. The number of overall seats in the city’s legislature was expanded to 90, but the number of directly elected seats was slashed to just 20. (Previously, half of the 70 seats were directly elected.) Other representatives are elected by functional constituencies, which are small, mostly commercial special-interest groups. Under a new policy of “patriots administering Hong Kong,” candidates were vetted by a panel headed by senior government officials and advised by the police. Not that there would have been many candidates to contest the positions even if the rules hadn’t changed; nearly every notable prodemocracy figure has been jailed, fled abroad, or retreated from public life after the passage of a draconian national-security law last year, another facet of a sweeping and unrelenting crackdown on Hong Kong’s liberties.

What is left is “hegemonic authoritarianism,” Lee Morgenbesser, a senior politics lecturer at Griffith University, in Australia, told me. It’s a system, he said, that exists when “de facto opposition parties are banned, basic civil liberties and political rights are overtly violated, the rule of law is arbitrarily breached, and the government has monopolized access to media.” Crucially, this type of governance structure allows places like Hong Kong and other regimes, such as those in Laos and Vietnam, to keep up the veneer of democratic competition but with the preferred results all but guaranteed. “Ultimately, elections may be allowed to exist,” Morgenbesser told me, “but they cease to be an avenue for actual opposition parties to gain power.”

This boded well for Lam and her fellow patriots. She ran to represent the newly formed “election-committee constituency,” a powerful body made up of 1,448 pro-Beijing loyalists who selected 40 seats of the legislature, the largest bloc. She won a seat with only 1,181 votes. None of the city’s major prodemocracy parties fielded any candidates. A handful of hopefuls attempted to pitch themselves as third-way moderates, and only one was elected. Turnout was historically low.

Government officials touted this as part of an “improved” election system and asked residents to believe them when they insisted it was actually more representative than before. Rather than campaign among the general public, Lam shuttled between meetings with industry groups and tycoons and held Zoom calls with voters in mainland China. Standing out in a field of candidates whose beliefs are largely the same can be a challenge, so Lam wore a dusty-pink pantsuit for the duration of her weeks-long campaign. Cosplaying as a democratic politician on the campaign trail is apparently challenging. “This is really tiring, I tell you,” she mentioned to me on multiple occasions.

Hong Kong’s vote came as China was again attempting to redefine the idea of democracy globally. Beijing reacted furiously to the Summit for Democracy convened by President Joe Biden earlier this month. The central government published its own white paper, running more than 50 pages, that trumpeted the benefits of its version of democracy. A follow-up document, and a deluge of anti-U.S. propaganda, pointed out the flaws and decline of the American system.

“Democracy has been a dominant global norm, and it is hard for Beijing to openly challenge such a norm,” Xiaoyu Pu, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada at Reno and the author of the book Rebranding China, told me. “Instead of delegitimizing democracy itself, Beijing has always emphasized democracy could take different forms and their governance model could be one of the legitimate models.”

The central government’s efforts to change Hong Kong’s model have accelerated quickly since 2019, but have been building for years as Beijing, rather than address the grievances of the population, became more heavy-handed in its tactics to quash dissent. Ka-Ming Chan, a doctoral student at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich who studies Hong Kong’s electoral systems, wrote in a recently published paper that the disqualification of candidates in the 2016 election was a “prologue to the authoritarian turn.” With the imposition of the national-security law, “candidate-filtering is much more institutionalized,” he told me. “When candidates pass through all these filters, it certainly implies that they hardly pose a threat to Beijing, for they have already obtained the blessing of the patriots’ sector.”

There was never any doubt that Lam’s patriotic credentials would pass muster. She spent the two years since her 2019 loss developing a combative, hypernationalist persona with the help of her party, the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong. Citing her use of social media to drive her campaign and shape her personal brand, she told me she was similar to Barack Obama. Now she uses her social accounts to display the type of performative enthusiasm that has become more common since the passing of the national-security law. The jingoistic rhetoric from her and other younger members of the pro-Beijing parties is reminiscent of the incendiary comments hurled online by Beijing’s abrasive diplomats, who have earned themselves the “wolf warrior” moniker.

On Twitter, Lam falsely accused Hong Kongers who were pepper-sprayed and beaten by police during the protests of being actors. In online videos, she has raged against fictitious foreign meddling in the protests, a popular conspiracy theory in Beijing. She is a go-to talking head for Chinese state media looking for an officially sanctioned sound bite on the grievance of the day. And she maintains that there was nothing wrong with the anti-extradition bill that sparked the 2019 protests.

Lam was perturbed when I pointed out that the candidates, although coming from different backgrounds, were largely interchangeable in regards to their political beliefs. She insisted that they had many differences, but unlike prodemocracy lawmakers, they didn’t hate China and their Chinese identity or want to split Hong Kong from China. “One thing that is the same is that we are Chinese,” Lam told me, referring to the crop of candidates. “I think if you don’t believe in that, there is some problem with your brain. If you do not admit that, you are Hong Kong Chinese. If you claim Hong Kong is an independent country, there is something wrong with your knowledge … for years a lot of opposition-party people tried to push forward that idea.”

The election overhaul turned the normally loud and colorful campaign period into a more staid affair. Banners strung up around the city looked largely the same and carried slogans utterly devoid of creativity. Outside subway stations and near markets, geriatic volunteers in colorful windbreakers manned campaign booths and half-heartedly tried to thrust flyers into the hands of pedestrians, and recorded messages from their preferred candidates crackled over speakers in an endless loop. Meanwhile, inside the city’s courtrooms, charges against prodemocracy figures continued to pile up.

Among the candidates, talk of democracy and democratic reforms was largely absent. Instead, hopefuls spoke mostly about economic issues. Wage inequality and extreme concentration of wealth have only worsened since Britain handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997. Of particular focus was the city’s housing crisis, an issue that has yet to be adequately addressed by Hong Kong’s four pro-Beijing chief executives or in the legislature, where pro-Beijing lawmakers have always been in the majority.

The astronomical housing prices have become a sort of white whale for pro-Beijing figures, who ignored the actual five demands of protesters in favor of the belief that cheap apartments will quickly fix what ails the city. The truth is that they “don’t want to tackle other more important issues … like politics, like democracy,” Yip Ngai-ming, a professor at City University of Hong Kong who studies the city’s housing issues, told me. Blaming housing for the city’s problems, he said, “is not just an oversimplification; it is a deliberate misplacement of attention.”

This purposeful shift in focus to housing and livelihood issues is an attempt, Morgenbesser told me, to turn elections into “minor disagreements over policy issues, rather than major disagreements over the political direction of the country.” He described it as an old trick and one hardly unique to Hong Kong, deployed in places like Cambodia, Zimbabwe, and Azerbaijan. “By making an election an apolitical event, authoritarian regimes reduce the emotional and psychological importance citizens attach” to elections, he said. In so doing, the government creates stability, which “really means longevity for those already in power.”

Holding a stunt election is not without its difficulties, namely getting people excited about a contest where the outcome appears largely pre-decided. Tam Yiu-chung, the only Hong Kong representative in China’s top lawmaking body, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, told me during the run-up to the vote that he was not concerned with turnout, estimating it would be about 40 percent, well below previous years. In 2016’s contest, 2.2 million Hong Kongers cast ballots for the directly elected seats, a turnout of just over 58 percent. The turnout for the 2019 district-council elections was even higher, at more than 71 percent.

Carrie Lam, the city’s historically unpopular chief executive who has never won a direct election, added her own spin. Low turnout, she said prior to the vote, would actually be a sign that people are happy with the government’s performance. “There is a saying that when the government is doing well and its credibility is high, the voter turnout will decrease because the people do not have a strong demand to choose different lawmakers to supervise the government,” she told the Chinese-state-backed Global Times newspaper. “Therefore, I think the turnout rate does not mean anything.”

Despite Lam’s proclaimed indifference to voter enthusiasm, the government made city transport free on election day in an effort to encourage people to go to the polls. Many appeared to use the free rides to go to the mall or the beach instead. At polling stations in the Wan Chai and Sai Ying Pun neighborhoods, turnout was sparse, consisting mainly of elderly voters, and the atmosphere on the street was marked by apathy and alienation. Few people seemed interested in the final push by campaign volunteers who tried to hand out their last promotional materials.

It was a stark contrast to the scenes of 2019, when lines of voters snaked down the sidewalks and people waited in line for hours to cast their ballots. By late afternoon, it was becoming clear that turnout was lagging well behind that of previous contests. In the end, turnout was just 30.2 percent, a record low since the city returned to Chinese rule and more than 10 percent lower than the previous record. Candidates were making excuses for the dismal turnout even before the polls closed, blaming the government for poor messaging and the free transport for drawing people away from the polls. Left unsaid were the real reasons for Hong Kongers’ unhappiness and disengagement: the complete absence of any meaningful political choice and the destruction of yet another avenue through which they can express their dissatisfaction with the government and the direction of the city under the relentless crush of Beijing.

Timothy McLaughlin is a Hong Kong–based contributing writer at The Atlantic.

 The American middle class used to signify economic security. That's now quickly becoming a luxury only the wealthiest can afford.

Paul Constant 5 hours ago

Holiday shopping - toys

A majority of Americans believe their children and grandchildren will be worse off financially than they are now. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

Paul Constant is a writer at Civic Ventures and the cohost of the "Pitchfork Economics" podcast.

While a majority of Americans consider themselves middle class, he says far fewer actually are.

The wealthiest 10% are working to ensure their stability at the expense of everyone else, he argues.

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Last year, the RAND corporation, a nonpartisan think tank, released an eye-popping study that found that the wealthiest Americans have taken some $50 trillion from the paychecks of the bottom 90% of American workers over the past four decades.

This was a figure that put the last half-century's growing inequality in stark relief. If you're a median American wage-earner, you would have brought home more than $1,000 more every month had inequality simply stayed consistent from the 1970s through today.

Those numbers are disastrous for the American middle class.

When most noneconomists talk about the middle class, we don't mean the strict middle third of American household wealth.

The middle class in America used to signify the broad swath of workers who felt economically stable in their day-to-day lives, and whose imagined upward economic mobility was within reach for themselves or their children.

A 2015 Pew report found that while 89% of all Americans self-identify as members of the middle class, just 50% of Americans actually met the broadest economic definition of middle class. 

It used to be that most Americans believed in the American Dream — the idea that if they worked hard and played by the rules, their children would have a better life than they did.

Now, even though 89% of Americans consider themselves to be middle class, more than two-thirds of Americans believe their children and grandchildren will have it worse than they do — a number that signals the very definition of what it means to be in the middle class is in peril.

Where the middle class once signified security and opportunity, Americans now consider it to mean they're barely hanging on to stability and the foundations are crumbling beneath them.

In fact, if you drill down into the RAND report numbers, you'll see that while 90% of Americans lost significant wealth over the last 40 years to a small portion of the wealthiest 1%, the top decile of American earners — that is, those roughly in the 90 to 99.9 percentile — held their ground.

That 9.9% of all Americans just underneath the super-wealthy oligarchs — fewer than one in 10 of us — enjoy the economic stability and aspirational upward mobility for their children that used to be a trademark of the American middle class.

In his latest book, "The 9.9 Percent: The New Aristocracy That Is Entrenching Inequality and Warping Our Culture," Oxford University professor Matthew Stewart argues that this wealthy group of Americans is working hard to codify their position in the economy by making it harder for other groups to gain economic power.

The 9.9% "work pretty hard to make sure that the values in their own neighborhood stay high, which means that they don't allow new construction, they exclude lots of potential development, and that effectively consolidates their position geographically," Stewart said on a 2018 episode of "Pitchfork Economics."

"That's just one of the ways in which this elite group is starting to separate itself from the rest of society, but it's probably the single most important one," he added. 

It's already bad enough that you have to be uncommonly wealthy in America in order to achieve the same economic stability that a majority of the population used to enjoy four decades ago.

But when that small group of economically stable households then try to work the system to ensure their own stability at the expense of everyone else, you're looking at an unsustainable, yawning inequality gap that's in danger of consuming the poorest Americans through bankruptcy, housing inequality, and the million other disasters that can befall people in a society with as thin a social safety net as we have in America. 

This kind of consolidation also spells doom for the entire economy. The 9.9% on their own can't summon the kind of consumer spending that it takes to spur economic growth. Without an inclusive, achievable middle class to power America's consumer demand-driven economy, the nation will enter a negative feedback loop of lost jobs, closed businesses, and sluggish spending. The math simply doesn't add up.

Throughout the 20th century, a secure and growing middle class was the source of America's prosperity. By draining the middle class of wealth and consolidating that security to an ever-shrinking group of wealthy elites, America is hobbling its capacity for economic growth.

Only by investing in a growing middle class and restoring economic security for millions of American workers can we rebuild a lasting prosperity for everyone — even those at the top.

Friday 24 December 2021

 China is testing the West. We shouldn’t back down.

The United States and five allies conduct naval exercises in the Philippine Sea in October. (Gray Gibson/U.S. Navy/AP)
Opinion by Josh Rogin
December 24 at 7:57 am Taiwan Time
In early October, the Chinese military launched its most threatening moves against Taiwan to date, spreading panic there. But the real target of Beijing’s ire that week was not Taiwan, but rather the United States and the five other allied navies that were conducting unprecedented joint exercises in nearby waters. The strategic situation in the western Pacific is changing fast as Beijing tries to assert its dominance over the region and define the terms of our engagement. We can’t let China bully us into not responding.
Between Oct. 1 and 4, China’s air force flew nearly 150 war planes into Taiwan’s airspace; the 56 fighters, bombers and submarine hunters that flew on Oct. 4 were the largest ever one-day contingent sent near the island. The Biden administration condemned China’s actions, calling them “provocative” and “destabilizing” and warning that they ”undermine[d] regional peace and stability.” But not wanting to exacerbate an already tense situation, the Biden administration didn’t disclose that Beijing’s moves were very likely a response to the largest ever U.S.-led joint naval drills happening in the nearby Philippine Sea at the same time.
Two U.S. naval carrier strike groups, one British carrier group, three large Japanese ships and naval forces from Canada, New Zealand and the Netherlands had convened on the region in a massive show of force. The exercises were meant to send a signal of resolve, telling China firmly but not publicly that the United States and its allies intend to preserve open freedom of movement in areas of the Pacific Ocean that Beijing claims as its own. Their proximity to Taiwan was sure to get Beijing’s attention.
The exercises were not even announced until several days later. That’s because the United States and its partners were trying to strike a delicate diplomatic balance: sending a clear signal to China without sparking a public kerfuffle. But rather than expressing its opposition to the exercises quietly, the Chinese government opted for a severe and very public reaction, causing a crisis.
In the moment, there was no direct communication between the two sides, owing to the general deterioration of U.S.-China military relations. So China and the West were talking to each other with ships and warplanes, leaving both sides unsure how their messages were coming through.
“This clearly was aimed to send a message, and clearly we think the timing wasn’t coincidental," a senior defense officials told me about the Chinese air force flights near Taiwan. “They are definitely flexing, to send a strong signal to Western powers to stay out of the way.”
Taiwan heard Beijing’s message loud and clear – and responded with equal clarity. The Taiwanese defense forces scrambled planes to respond to the Chinese air force’s aggression. Taiwan’s leaders increased their calls for the international community to rally around a defense of Taiwan’s sovereignty amid the increasing threat from China.
Inside the U.S. government, officials differed about how dangerous the situation in the Pacific became that week. They noted that U.S. intelligence cannot confirm exactly why Beijing responded to the joint exercises so forcefully. But all agreed that the two events were linked and that both sides are trying to establish new positions in a rapidly changing security environment without clear lines of communication — which could be dangerous.
Many China watchers inside and outside the U.S. government believe that Beijing, by overreacting to moves such as the joint exercises, is trying to pressure us to do exactly nothing as it strives to assert its dominance over the region. China wants to encourage fears among some in the West who believe that standing up to Beijing will inevitably lead to conflict.
“We need to be careful not to let the Chinese determine our actions or have a veto over what we do to maintain stability in the region,” said Michael R. Auslin, distinguished research fellow at the Hoover Institution. “That would simply create more space for them to continue shifting the balance of power in their favor.”
China is rehearsing an invasion of Taiwan and training its troops to attack U.S. aircraft carriers, but it throws a tantrum when the United States increases the scope of joint naval operations in return. We must not play into that tactic.
The joint exercises show that the United States is not alone in its concern about China’s efforts to change the balance of power in Asia. Our allies are at a point where they know much more needs to be done to respond to China’s military expansion in the region. But they still are worrying too much about ruffling Beijing’s feathers.
The best way to demonstrate to China that tantrums and bullying won’t work is to continue apace with our efforts to build up our alliances and capability to keep the region free — including readiness to come to Taiwan’s defense, if necessary. The risk of escalation is real, but we can’t let that paralyze us. In the face of aggression, inaction is the most dangerous course of all.

 One person caught the coronavirus. China locked down 200,000 of their neighbors.

Construction workers line up to be tested for the coronavirus in Xi'an, China, on Dec. 21. (AFP/Getty Images)
By Lily Kuo
December 22 at 7:16 pm Taiwan Time
In response to a single case of the coronavirus, Chinese authorities locked down a southern border city of more than 200,000 people this week, barring the entry of all goods and people. After a cluster of new cases in northwestern China, officials also sealed off a city of 13 million, ordering all residents to stay inside.
The extreme response underlines China’s hypervigilance as Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February amid new local cases of the omicron variant.
The city of Dongxing, which borders Vietnam in China’s southern Guangxi province, on Wednesday ordered all households to quarantine at home until further notice after a resident tested positive during a routine screening, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Schools, public transportation and most businesses, except for supermarkets and pharmacies, were temporarily shuttered as authorities launched a campaign to test everyone in the city.
Customs processing in the city, the entry point for a million tons of goods annually from Vietnam, was also halted while the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi asked Chinese citizens in Vietnam not to return by land.
[As omicron arrives in China, covid restrictions leave millions facing holidays without family]
Authorities in Xi’an in Shaanxi province locked down the city of 13 million, allowing only one person per household to go outside every other day to buy supplies — measures reminiscent of the unprecedented lockdown of the city of Wuhan in early 2020.
Officials in Xi’an say they are facing the “double threat” of new coronavirus cases as well as an outbreak of hemorrhagic fever, a seasonal disease caused by the hantavirus. “Currently, the situation of pandemic prevention and control remains complicated and grim,” said Zhang Fenghu, deputy secretary general of the city government, announcing the lockdown after authorities reported 52 new coronavirus cases Wednesday. The city has reported a total of 143 cases since Dec 9.
China’s pursuit of a stringent “zero covid” policy has resulted in increasingly strict border controls and quarantines and frequent lockdowns across the country. According to Vietnam’s state-controlled Hanoi Times, more than 6,000 trucks carrying fruit have been stranded along the Chinese-Vietnamese border for several weeks.

Seven omicron cases have been detected in China over the past two weeks, just before Lunar New Year when millions of residents would normally travel home to spend the holiday with family. Officials — wary of forcing pandemic-weary residents to miss a third Lunar New Year in a row — are strongly urging citizens to “celebrate on the spot” and avoid going home. On Monday, Lei Zhenglong, deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, ordered officials not to let the country’s defenses against omicron relax “in the slightest.”
In Xi’an, authorities were struggling to manage angry and frustrated residents as citywide testing got underway. On Tuesday, the city’s “health code” system, a QR-based tracking app that residents must show before entering public spaces or traveling, had collapsed after being overloaded with traffic.
[In search for coronavirus origins, Hubei caves and wildlife farms draw new scrutiny]
On social media, residents complained that they were not able to ride public transportation or get into their apartment compounds because of the health code system’s failure. In lieu of the app, which includes residents’ vaccine status and recent coronavirus test results, some companies resorted to having employees sign written statements declaring they are not infected.
Authorities have required all residents leaving the city to present an official letter from local authorities allowing them to board departing trains. One resident stranded in the Xi’an North Railway Station described the confusing and contradicting array of rules on the social network Weibo, in a post that was later erased.
“Waited an hour for a nucleic acid test. After buying my ticket, I was told I would need a special certificate from my local neighborhood office,” the post began. “Took an hour bus to that office where someone told me no certificate was needed. Took another hour bus back to the train station where I was told to go back to my neighborhood office. Went back. By then, my nucleic acid test was no longer valid. Waited in line again for another test. Took the result to the neighborhood office who told me to go to the subdistrict office for a letter. Staff there said the leaders were discussing. I waited and waited and waited. Then my coronavirus test expired again.”
Another Weibo user in Xi’an expressed similar sentiments. “These days I feel distress, anger and helplessness,” the person wrote.

 Lithuania MP counters China threat by saying communism in 'garbage bin of history'

Taiwan News | 2021-12-24 12:04:00

Keep your country nice and clean meme with hammer can sickle symbol being tossed in trash. (Twitter, Shiroihamusan)

Keep your country nice and clean meme with hammer can sickle symbol being tossed in trash. (Twitter, Shiroihamusan)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Lithuanian Parliamentarian Matas Maldeikis on Wednesday (Dec. 22) posted a simple retort to China's threat to dump the Baltic country into the "garbage bin of history" that has gone viral on social media.

On Monday (Dec. 20), China's state-run mouthpiece the Global Times cited Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian (趙立堅) as condemning Lithuania for allowing Taiwan to open a representative office in Vilnius by saying "Lithuania stands on the opposite side of universal principles and justice which will never end well." Zhao then warned that "those who insist on acting in collusion with Taiwan secessionist forces will eventually be swept into the garbage bin of history."

Maldeikis on Wednesday responded on Twitter by writing that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is threatening to "sweep Lithuania into the trashcan of history." He then asserted that this is ironic because "that's where communism already is," before closing with the hashtag "#StandWithTaiwan," quickly gaining nearly 4,000 likes, over 1,000 retweets, and 300 plus comments. His tweet also had around 1,500 upvotes in the Taiwan subreddit.

Although officially demoted from his post as managing editor of the Global Times, Hu Xijin (胡錫進) on Thursday (Dec. 23) retweeted the post and wrote that Maldeikis has a "silver tongue, but a poor memory." He claimed that the Baltic country had "just crept off that trashcan 30 years ago by fluke."

Hu admonished Maldeikis to "have some IQ and EQ, and don't be arrongant." He claimed that the parliamentarian has a "sense of crisis that Lithuania may go back there at any time."

That same day, Maldeikis in turn retweeted Hu's post and pointed out that Hu is no longer the editor of the Global Times. He questioned whether Hu had been fired because his "attempts to attack Lithuania backfired embarrassingly?"

Maldeikis suggested that Hu be sent to a reeducation camp for his poor performance. He then included the hashtag "#PeoplesRepublicOfComedy" which is a term he coined late in late November to mock the CCP's attempts to punish his country for strengthening ties with Taiwan.

 Why the AUKUS, Quad and Five Eyes pacts anger China

Iain Marlow

The newly sealed Australia-UK-US defence accord, known as AUKUS, reflects rising global concern over China’s ascendancy. So does renewed activity within two other groupings of leading democracies, Five Eyes and the Quad.

Aligning against the world’s largest exporter and possessor of the largest active military is no easy task, but the effort has been helped by China’s own actions toward some of its neighbours.

China lashed out at what it calls a “Cold War mentality,” denouncing AUKUS and warning that it will stoke an arms race in the Asia-Pacific region. David Rowe

What’s the point of AUKUS?

It’s a security pact announced in September with the initial purpose of helping Australia develop at least eight nuclear-powered submarines, a project that could take more than a decade.

At the moment, only six nations - the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and India - have the technology to deploy and operate nuclear-powered subs, which are faster than their diesel-electric counterparts, can stay submerged almost indefinitely and have space for more weapons, equipment and supplies.

What are Five Eyes and the Quad?

Five Eyes is an intelligence-sharing arrangement among the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that began with intercepted signals communications during World War II. Its existence wasn’t publicly acknowledged until the early 2000s.

The Quad is an on-again, off-again grouping of the US, Japan, India and Australia with roots in cooperative disaster response efforts following the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.

It was revived most recently in 2017, and US President Joe Biden convened the first in-person Quad summit in September. The Quad rarely invokes China by name and emphasises its work on humanitarian issues like vaccine distribution. But then-US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, in a 2019 speech, said the group “will prove very important” in “ensuring that China retains only its proper place in the world”.

How have China’s actions strengthened the alliances?

Australia has long balanced security ties with the US and close economic ties with China, insisting it didn’t need to pick sides. That’s changed.

After Australia in 2020 urged an independent inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus, which was first identified in China, and then participated in naval exercises with its Quad partners, China responded by threatening a consumer boycott, restricting imports of Australian products and warning Chinese citizens they might be targets of racist attacks should they travel to Australia.

India, too, has become a less cautious member of the Quad, following clashes with China at their disputed border in the Himalayas.

What suggests a growing focus on China?

The most obvious use for those Australian nuclear-powered subs, with their capability to travel vast distances without surfacing, would be as a counter to China’s navy.

Japan and South Korea, two democracies that have had fiery spats with China in the past decade, are mentioned as possible additions to Five Eyes.

A recent Quad statement vowing to “meet challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the East and South China Seas,” was an apparent reference to China’s territorial claims. The existence of the Quad raises the prospect that Australia, India and Japan could join the European Union in backing the US in any conflict with China, according to former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, now president of the Asia Society in New York.

He wrote in August, “If the Quad were to draw other Asian countries, the EU, and NATO into efforts to confront or undermine China’s international ambitions, it could over time swing the collective balance of power definitively against China.”

What tensions exist within the alliances?

Under President Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, the US threatened to limit the intelligence it supplies to its Five Eyes partners unless they joined its campaign to ban equipment from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies in new 5G mobile networks.

Australia and the UK joined the ban; New Zealand didn’t but hasn’t approved Huawei involvement in 5G development. Canada was still deciding as of late 2021.

China has used trade reprisals, most prominently against Australia, to warn nations against challenging its interests. New Zealand - which, like Australia, had long tried to maintain good relations with China, its largest trading partner - has elected not to sign some Five Eyes statements criticising China over human-rights and political issues.

The AUKUS deal enraged another US ally, France, which sees itself as an Indo-Pacific power and had planned to sell its own non-nuclear subs to Australia.

How has China reacted?

It’s lashed out at what it calls a “Cold War mentality,” denouncing such partnerships as anti-China “cliques” and warning that AUKUS will stoke an arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.

In an attempt to show that it’s more interested in economic cooperation than military confrontation, China applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. That Asia-Pacific trade pact was originally pushed by the US as a way to solidify its dominance in the region, but then the US itself dropped out.

Bloomberg Quicktake

Thursday 23 December 2021


Dépassée et insuffisamment exigeante, la politique chinoise de la France est devenue illisible et inaudible

A la veille de la présidence française du Conseil de l’Union européenne, Paris doit clarifier ses positions vis-à-vis de Pékin alors même que les pressions chinoises contre des Etats membres de l’UE s’amplifient, relève le chercheur, spécialiste des relations avec la Chine

A la veille de la présidence française du Conseil de l’Union européenne (UE), il est urgent de clarifier la politique de la France à l’égard d’un acteur incontournable des relations internationales : la République populaire de Chine. Alors que, à travers le monde et l’Europe, nombre d’Etats actualisent leur politique chinoise, prenant acte de la rupture politique qui s’est opérée en Chine sous la direction du secrétaire général [du Parti communiste chinois] Xi Jinping, la France, elle, ne montre pas de signe d’inflexion.

Qu’il s’agisse de la répression des Ouïgours, de la brutale reprise en main de Hongkong, de la pression militaire sur Taïwan, ou même des attaques verbales contre des parlementaires, des chercheurs et des médias en France, le gouvernement français réagit peu et, quand il le fait, c’est sous la pression de l’opinion publique ou quand le Parlement l’interroge expressément. Pour ainsi dire, le gouvernement s’exprime davantage à propos de la Chine quand il s’agit de communication de crise à destination interne que si c’était un enjeu central de politique internationale.

Notre politique chinoise est devenue illisible et inaudible, parce que dépassée et insuffisamment exigeante. Elle repose toujours sur l’engagement économique et commercial avec Pékin, en traitant les questions politiques sensibles en coulisse ou en les déléguant à Bruxelles (à l’exception du climat). Or, à l’échelle de l’UE, les pressions chinoises contre des Etats membres se multiplient. Celles-ci requièrent l’élaboration d’une réponse commune et l’expression d’une solidarité intergouvernementale plus claire, à commencer de la part de l’Etat qui préside le Conseil.

La République tchèque, la Slovaquie, la Suède et bien d’autres ont subi ces pressions, mais c’est véritablement la Lituanie sur laquelle il est crucial d’insister. En novembre, l’ouverture d’un bureau de représentation de Taïwan à Vilnius a provoqué l’ire de Pékin. Ce type de représentation existe dans de nombreux autres pays européens, mais sous la dénomination « Taipei », et non « Taïwan », ce qui constitue aux yeux de Pékin une entorse de la Lituanie au « principe d’une seule Chine ». C’est le dernier marqueur en date de la dégradation de la relation bilatérale depuis des mois entre les deux pays. La Chine a rappelé son ambassadeur de façon permanente, puis a interrompu l’ensemble des échanges commerciaux avec l’Etat balte. En outre, des multinationales européennes, y compris françaises, voient maintenant leurs marchandises à destination de la Chine retenues à la douane chinoise, du fait que leur chaîne de valeur passe par la Lituanie. Ce faisant, la Chine rompt avec ses engagements internationaux et fait planer la menace sur un grand nombre d’entreprises européennes commerçant avec elle.

Rôle de leader

D’un point de vue plus réaliste encore, en tant qu’acteur majeur de l’UE, la France ne peut rester à la traîne alors que ses partenaires adoptent d’ores et déjà des postures plus fermes et exigeantes à l’égard de la Chine. La Lituanie, au premier chef, qui refuse de se plier aux injonctions de Pékin, mais aussi ses voisins estonien et letton. La Slovaquie a affirmé son soutien à Taïwan, en envoyant par exemple sur l’île, début décembre, une large délégation conduite par un membre de l’exécutif, le vice-ministre de l’économie, Karol Galek. La République tchèque adopte une position de plus en plus ferme et vient de nommer dans son nouveau gouvernement Jan Lipavsky comme ministre des affaires étrangères, une personnalité connue pour sa ligne dure à l’égard de la Chine et de la Russie. Il sera ainsi en première ligne quand la République tchèque succédera à la France à la présidence du Conseil de l’UE [en juillet 2022]. En Allemagne, la nouvelle coalition s’est également engagée à tenir une position plus ferme envers la Chine, ce que la ministre Verte des affaires étrangères, Annalena Baerbock, entend bien appliquer.

Comment se fait-il alors que, durant la conférence de presse de deux heures du président de la République pour présenter l’agenda de la France pour sa présidence de l’UE, la Chine n’ait été évoquée qu’une seule fois, à propos du boycottage des Jeux olympiques de Pékin [du 4 au 20 février],sans même donner de position claire ? Sur cette question d’ailleurs, le même jour, le ministre de l’éducation, de la jeunesse et des sports, Jean-Michel Blanquer, déclarait que la France ne les boycotterait pas, tandis que le ministre de l’Europe et des affaires étrangères, Jean-Yves Le Drian, avançait que Paris allait d’abord se concerter avec les partenaires européens…

Pour jouer pleinement son rôle de leader durant la présidence française du Conseil de l’Union européenne et au-delà, la France doit se positionner plus clairement sur la Chine, le plus grand défi de notre politique étrangère nationale et collective du XXIsiècle.

Entendons-nous bien, il ne s’agit pas ici de plaider pour l’adoption d’une politique d’opposition frontale à Pékin, comme nos partenaires outre-Atlantique ont décidé de le faire. Le dialogue avec Pékin doit demeurer cardinal. Mais il faut prendre conscience qu’on ne peut plus traiter avec la Chine d’aujourd’hui comme on traitait avec celle d’il y a dix ou vingt ans. Et agir en conséquence.

La présidence française du Conseil de l’Union européenne est une chance qui nous est donnée de promouvoir la concertation en Europe sur la Chine. Ne la manquons pas.

Marc Julienne est chercheur et responsable des activités Chine à l’Institut français des relations internationales