HEAVENLY PALACES AND SPACE JUNKS: CHINA’S QUIET SPACE REVOLUTION

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by Justin Reynolds

There was some apprehension as a Chinese ‘Heavenly Palace’ fell to Earth last week. The 8.5 tonne Tiangong-1 space station, adrift since China’s space agency lost connection with it two years ago, made an ‘uncontrolled’ re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere early on Easter Monday.

Fortunately there was never much cause for concern, the European Space Agency calculating the chances of being hit by debris as ’10 million times smaller than the yearly chance of being hit by lightning’. Most of the station burned up on contact with Earth’s atmosphere and the remaining fragments plunged into the South Pacific. But the episode had a eerie resonance, symbolising something of the West’s prevailing perception of China as an enigmatic, technologically advanced state, glowing with – rather like its wayward satellite – a nebulous sense of danger.Continue Reading

DON’T BE FOOLED BY CHINA’S GREENWASH

by Yali Banton Heath

China has been the subject of environmental scrutiny for years now. It remains the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, has horrendously high levels of air pollution, and still uses coal fired power stations to generate its electricity. 2018, however, seems to be welcoming the beginning of change for the country. International media has reported on new environmental protection laws, policies and bans, as China attempts to turn a new leaf. For better or worse, China is the world’s largest player in our changing climate, and how this change plays out out in the coming decades rests largely on their shoulders.

The question must be asked though: Is China really pushing for a safer future, and pioneering a nation-wide effort to combat global warming? Or is it just a master greenwasher, in a bid to sell itself as a bastion for modernity and progress?Continue Reading

MARX AND MARKETS: LEARNING FROM CHINA’S 40 YEAR ECONOMIC REVOLUTION

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by Justin Reynolds

Overshadowed by the perennial pain of Brexit negotiations and fresh flurries of speculation over her leadership, Theresa May’s trip to China earlier this month passed with little comment.

Democratic freedoms in Britain’s former colony Hong Kong were briefly discussed. A few business contracts were confirmed. And the shimmering outline of some future post-Brexit trade deal could at times be briefly discerned.

What was remarkable about the visit was scarcely noted:Continue Reading

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

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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