ENGINEERING UTOPIA: CHINA’S PROJECT FOR DESIGNING ‘TRUSTWORTHINESS’

by Justin Reynolds

Visions of a great civilisation enjoying ‘peace under heaven’ have haunted the Chinese imagination from the time of the sages to today, when President Xi Jingping’s ‘China Dream’ of a prosperous ordered nation is propagated ceaselessly by the state-controlled media.

Here hypermodernity is filtered through ancient virtues. China’s gleaming new cities, high-speed rail links and technology parks are studded with billboards urging honesty, modesty and filial piety. Its vast wired economy is screened for decadent Western influences, blocking Facebook, Google and YouTube, and magazines infatuated with celebrity gossip or ‘crude language’. This year the ‘Great Firewall of China’ was reinforced when the state banned VPN services used by millions to break through to the global web.

Now China is finetuning the ultimate technological fix for designing a virtuous society: a ‘Social Credit System’ that will use the data produced by a population of some 1.4 billion citizens in the course of their daily interactions with digital services to rank them according to ‘trustworthiness’.Continue Reading

BUSINESS, AS USUAL: THE ROHINGYA CRISIS, REPATRIATION AND ECONOMIC INTERESTS

by Yali Banton Heath

Content warning: ethnic cleaning, sexual violence.

Myanmar and Bangladesh have just signed an agreement which concerns the repatriation of over 600,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled their homeland in Rakhine state since August. What many are now rightfully calling out as genocide, the persecution, murder and rape of Rohingya people and the burning of their villages has left deep scars. Continue Reading

COMMUNISM, CONFUCIUS AND CONFUSION: CHINA’S TURN TO THE SAGES

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By Justin Reynolds

Fifty years ago Mao Zedong’s Red Guards rampaged through the ancient streets of Qufu, home city of the sage Confucius, pulling down statues, burning temples and desecrating graves.

The ‘old customs, old culture, old habits and old ideas’ associated with the teacher who for millennia had provided philosophical legitimacy for China’s feudal order were to be swept aside by the Cultural Revolution to make way for a new classless society.

But today Qufu is one of communist China’s foremost places of pilgrimage. An sprawling museum and park complex stands by the restored temple, overlooked by a giant figure of Confucius the size of the Statue of Liberty. ‘The Holy City of the Orient’, with its gleaming new high-speed rail link, now attracts more visitors each year than the land of Israel.Continue Reading

JAPAN MUST REFLECT ON ITS HISTORY IF IT IS TO REVISE ARTICLE 9

by Yali Banton Heath

On September 25th, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe called for one of those snap elections we all know and love. Unlike Theresa May, when the results were announced almost a month later on October 22nd, Abe managed to pull through and secure himself a majority in the Diet.

Japan is now swinging heavily to the right. With Abe possessing a mandate to attempt implementation of his main objective – revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution – is the country about to embark on a dangerous path of no return?Continue Reading

TRADE SECRETS #3 – CAN FREE TRADE BRING WORLD PEACE?

by Toby Gill

Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives. (Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.)

‘World peace’ is a staple for utopian theorists, science fiction writers, and beauty pageant winners. Sadly, an end to all international conflict still seems like a very distant dream. However, when it comes to war, for the last 60 years there has most definitely been an elephant in the room. Why are we all getting on so well?

Of course this is to say nothing of civil wars, hybrid wars, and grassroots violence, all of which remain (sadly) rife. But when it comes to wars between states, especially between great powers, we are living in the most peaceful era in recorded history. This is even more impressive considering that many were worried a third world war would immediately follow the second. So what’s going on?Continue Reading

TRADE SECRETS #2 – THE STATE AND THE MARKET. WE ARE BEING LIED TO.

by Toby Gill

Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives. (Part 1 can be found here: How to Hunt the Stag: Power, Blackmail and Exploitation)

Let’s suppose I am the editor of a brilliant and highly successful politics and arts magazine (ahem). My magazine is so utterly brilliant that I believe it’s time to break into an international market. I’m aiming big – I want to sell my magazine in China. However, all manner of obstacles lie in my way. Firstly, there is the physical distance – my magazines have to reach the other side of the world. Next, I would need to alter the magazine to comply with Chinese laws and regulations (which could be completely unrecognisable, even if they weren’t written in a different language). Then I require the local infrastructure to advertise my product, a shop to sell it from, and local workers to operate this shop. Each of these steps will also require a translator, as will the translation of my magazine itself. I also need the Chinese State not to have any subsidies for local magazines that price me out of the market, nor quotas which restrict my sales. Finally, even once all this has been achieved, cultural differences may render my once gripping magazine totally uninteresting to locals.

In short, my magazine isn’t going to sell many Chinese copies any time soon.Continue Reading

TRADE SECRETS #1 – HOW TO HUNT THE STAG: POWER, BLACKMAIL AND EXPLOITATION

By Toby Gill

Part of a new series exploring the concept and consequences of ‘free trade’ from a variety of perspectives.

John, Tyrion and Ned lie patiently in wait. They have cornered their target, a colossal, fully-grown stag, grazing nearby. The three of them are in position, bows drawn, waiting to strike. Suddenly the stag bolts, leaping into the undergrowth. Tyrion jumps into pursuit. He knows he has little hope of catching the beast, but he does not despair – it is headed directly towards John’s position. The creature approaches the bush where John is hiding, its end clearly drawing near. But there is no shot. The stag runs past unscathed, and escapes into the night. Tyrion runs over to the bush, exasperated, ready to strike John with the back of his hand. But John is not there. He is around the corner – attempting to catch a rabbit with his pocket knife.Continue Reading