The New Vulgate

a new low in topical enlightenment

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Issue #153 (June 20, 2017)

Line Shed along WY130
Photograph by Joe Carducci















One Belt - One Road; map by South China Morning Post


One Belt – One Road, But Many Chinas
Joe Carducci
“There is only one China, not two, in this world. On this we agree. All Chinese people, including you and compatriots abroad, absolutely will not allow the American plot forcibly to create two Chinas to come true. The present age is an age full of hope. All patriots have a future and should not be afraid of the imperialists…. These words of ours are well-intentioned and bear no ill-will. You come to understand them by and by.” Peng Teh-huai, PRC Minister of Defense, Message to Compatriots in Taiwan, Oct. 25 1958; Chinese Mainland and Taiwan (Third World)
The touchiness of Chinese Communists over what is China and what Chinese or anyone else says about it indicates how brittle the now powerful state remains. The brittleness of the Party, the last organization still standing and claiming to divine the Science of History as Marx revealed it, is now mirrored society-wide as the Politburo has burrowed into the carcass of Imperial China, the Middle Kingdom, for what temporary warmth can be got as the trail of History goes cold. Philip Roth may have predicted President Trump but Karl Marx did not. Social media may be keeping embassy windows and western or non-Chinese eastern businesses from being smashed all across China, but the racing fever-dreams of the young and wireless as they mob-up on-line to become a numbers-drunk critical-mass threatens far worse. The South China Morning Post reports on these mainland and overseas Chinese youth and differentiates them from what it calls the “50 cent gang” who are actually paid to fill cyberspace with cheers for the Party line. The Hong Kong paper recently explained The Rise of Little Pink, a naturally-occurring mob of connected college-age Chinese women who can be counted on to mass against Western outrages against a perpetually wounded Chinese pride seeking perverse confirmations such as the recent graduation day comments of a Chinese co-ed grateful for her experience at the Univ. of Maryland. The poor girl is now an infamous race-traitor to her own generation.

   This is worrisome because the Communist Party of China demands to rule over the lands it claims: the historical high-water mark of an empire – the Party’s historical enemy no less. And further this is how today’s Han elite seeks to use other, namely the Manchu, Song, and Mongol empires who once ruled over them to profit centuries later on their own conquest. Racially, it’s as if the Han take the provincial Westerner’s view that sees “Asian eyes” everywhere from Jakarta to Vladivostok and Osaka to Warsaw and calls it “Chinese” and demand it be China. It was charming when Peruvian peasants in cute bowlers cheered their past President, Alberto Fujimori, as “El Chino” or “The Chinaman” when he was actually the son of Japanese immigrants to Peru, but it means something different if Han Chinese claim Manchu, Mongol and other peoples to build a demographic rule.
   
   
What is China? And who are the Chinese? Communists without Communism lean heavily on nationalism, but which nation? Surrounding the Han are many national minorities who routinely find themselves on the wrong end of a Han demands. They must identify as Chinese while not receiving any true option to partake in the nation’s economic boom. Even when major infrastructure projects are paving over their own provincial capitals the jobs go to imported Chinese – which is to say Han – labor. In old American parlance these provincials might offer that they do not have a Chinaman’s chance. Han labor is already resented as a kind of double-scab scam from Kashgar to Kenya and the ambitious One Belt One Road plan to re-track distribution roads, railroads, and shipping routes of the Eurasian supercontinent hasn’t even begun.

   When considering the linguistic groups of China and their many dialects clustered around a common script one can see the Peoples Republic of China as more equivalent to the polyglot Roman Empire circa 1000-1600 A.D. than a single nation. That empire evolved into about ten more-or-less organic countries. The husk of Imperial China as administered by a Han-dominated Communist Party may not evolve into ten states but that might only be because Tibet (plus at least Qinhua province), and Xinjiang (or East Turkestan as the native Hui and Uighur might call it) won’t be sticking around. Demographic engineering by emperors was done before literacy never mind cellphone cameras could record the destruction and keep it front and center as a roadmap for revanchism if not revenge. The China-building the CPC is doing today in western and southern provinces will survive about as long as the Soviet Union held together once the threat of state violence receded. (One wonders how Erdogan’s neo-Ottoman Imperium will express itself eastward toward its own origins in Central Asia and Mongolia and it meets the Han national project.)

   Anthropologist Dru Gladney has written about the deceptive demographics of China for years. He writes that “the supposedly homogenous Han speak eight mutually unintelligible tongues” and even “these linguistic subgroups show marked internal diversity.” (NYT) Philip Ball, long-time editor of Nature magazine, writes in his recent book, The Water Kingdom, that the Yangtze River is referred locally to by many different names along its upriver stretches and that:

“China is cloven in two by the Long River, and the two halves could seem like separate nations: the north cold and dry, the south hot and wet. In the north you eat wheat noodles; in the south, rice. Northerners, it is said, are tall and haughty, whether eastern Manchurian stock or Islamic Uyghurs to the west. The southerners, in contrast, are earthy, pragmatic, always on the make, a patchwork of minority races and mutually incomprehensible dialects. That division – decreed by nature, patrolled by the Yangtze – establishes the defining tension within the nation, in which the question is how unity can persist in the face of such a disparity of the most fundamental resource, water.” (Lapham’s Quarterly)
   Gladney also noted in 1995 that “Comedians used to make fun of southern ways and accents, but southerners now scorn northerners for their lack of sophistication and business acumen.” Gradually there’s been internal tourism developing in China and one presumes the old prejudices might be weakening. But it’s not so likely that urban or coastal Chinese will be swept by manias for their own minority cultures the way Americans were since the Indian subject silent pictures, jazz, Hawai’iana, et. al., from the early 20th century on.

   

It seemed likely to me at the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China that the uniquely free-est economic entity of Hong Kong, sheltered even from politics under the British Crown for a century, was more likely to have its way with the mainland than that it would be tamed by the Politburo. Indeed Xi Jinping’s neo-Maoism today might be seen as a belated attempt to rein in what Hong Kong’s Cantonese culture has wrought. The CPC attacks “foreign” or “western” influences but these may now be code for the Hong Kong culture now inside the tent. I remember seeing the dramatic high-security testimony of one of the Colombian cartel’s former accountants before the Congress; he warned that the drug kingpins were naïve and that with their merger with the FARC Communists the cocaine trade would come to serve the Revolution and spread it with the drug. But he was wrong. The Left had lost its true belief in the doctrines of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao…, and its revolutionary “piety” had ripened for the temptations of capital. And the firmest historical materialist finds that Adam Smith’s invisible hand gives a hell of a handjob.

   Race-nations, whether they possess actual nation-state borders or not, protect their people’s creation story and their “just innocence,” let’s call it. Many an aboriginal group self-identified with their term for “human beings,” thus bracketing their neighbors with animals. The Republic of Turkey has long insisted on referring to Kurds as “Mountain Turks” and banned their language and still fights a decades-long war against their resistance to the Turks embrace. Europe’s wars in the first half of the 20th century were so destructive that the behavior of the major combatants (Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Great Britain, Russia…) was finally altered. Still the two World Wars delivered a late high-water mark to a Russian Empire now administered by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Russians fomented third world “wars of national liberation” but they themselves fought only actions to suppress the national aspirations of the U.S.S.R.’s constituent peoples, especially its recent acquisitions in Eastern Europe. But Germany’s national penance was something new as demanded by the Allies, in particular FDR. Douglas MacArthur oversaw Japan’s penance and she was allowed to retain some measure of “just innocence” regarding her Emperor’s and his people’s culpability. Today only Tayyip Erdogan at his most intemperate refers to Nazi crimes when critiquing present day German national behavior. This is not the case with Japan and its imperial past’s “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” Japan’s successive apologies are judged insufficient and new ones demanded all-around by both the PRC and Taiwan and by both North and South Korea.

   Residual Marxism and Confucianism makes China’s modernizing path particularly hard to guess because the Party and the country are conflicted as they seek to pick up where the Imperial Middle Kingdom left off. And the Party is now orphaned with the death of its big brother Russian Party. Has China’s insularity withstood its capitalist revolution? The original movement for International Socialism ended during and after WWI when Bolshevik-assisted revolts failed in Hungary, Germany, Estonia, Mongolia and China. Lenin died in 1924 and Stalin sidelined Trotsky and determined to build “socialism in one country”. Thereafter the Comintern, the organization for International Socialism, was corrupted and fraternal Parties became fifth columns conspiring with the U.S.S.R. against their own nation-states whether they were kingdoms, bourgeois democracies, military regimes or, indeed, people’s democracies. That was all National Socialism, strictly speaking, only with strange fealties to the Kremlin as if Russian National Socialism’s late secular imperialist phase could rationalize the destruction of other national histories, cutting cultural anchors and vaulting them into modernity.

   In retrospect, it’s that Mao’s Peoples Republic of China deferred to the Kremlin for so long that tells us that Mao initially did believe he was a modernizing follower of his Russian big brother’s revolution. But ex-peasant Communists whether in Russia or China couldn’t imagine much beyond some futurist’s fantasy of smokestacks, tractors and armaments grinding up the feudal past. An interlocked system of satellites, radars and hardened silos of nuclear ICBMs was the outer limit of their Industrial Age imaginations. Within those limits the Russians proved excellent strategic chess-masters. (Hitler used his National Socialist modernizing project to overturn the chessboard on a single wager on armageddon.) The Chinese Party rejected the Russian Party’s denunciation of Stalin, as limited as it was. And when China got the Bomb in 1964 Mao had already tipped back into pure social destruction: The Hundred Flowers Campaign (1956-57), The Anti-Rightist Movement (1957-59), The Great Leap Forward (1958-62), and The Cultural Revolution (1966-76). These internal convulsions may have killed more people than WWII. The world is fortunate Mao did not use his nukes.

   

Portraits of all that Maoist chaos within the PRC keep coming and these books ought to revise conventional wisdom’s long ago dismissals of Douglas MacArthur’s, Chaing Kai-Shek’s, and others’ confidence that the Communists could have been routed, the “lost” China regained, and millions saved. Not that it was America’s job to keep fighting but in fact the PRC was vulnerable as the Party was myopically destroying its cultural inheritance and exterminating so-called class enemies and minority elites and inventing or creating internal enemies when these ran out. Still, the People’s Liberation Army was able to invade North Korea (1950) and Tibet (1959), as well as militarily assert its border claims against India (1962) and Russia (1969) and be effective via sheer numbers or superior organization. But in terms of the internal killings of their own peoples Mao may get a perverse pass that Hitler and Stalin do not since the West does not recognize the many non-Han Chinese and cannot tell if there might be a race-war or clan-war going on rather than the class-war advertised.

   There are interesting “wrong” notes in the music of the current East-West diplomatic dance which are probably melodious within the Chinese musical scale but sound discordant from outside. For example, North Korea. Why would modern China continue to keep the DPRK on a leash when its behavior has set off the rewriting of Japan’s “peace constitution” and kept South Korea in America’s military embrace? Japan was resisting any reconfiguring of its defense posture but North Korea’s behavior itself has made the argument that Japan must become a “normal” country with an autonomous military power commensurate with its economic clout. Maps of the historical dynastic rulers of China are inconsistent but interesting. Several dynasties including the Han dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) which is considered China’s “golden age” are routinely shown in maps as covering the area of North Korea. Not something the PRC is pressed on at the U.N., say, but an answer to our question suggests itself.

   President Trump’s dispatching of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and the Paris Climate Accord has pushed China forward just as it was beginning to market its own One Belt – One Road initiative making global use of its Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank. These moves on the world’s stage put Beijing forward as another Rome, the fourth one if one concedes Moscow was the third. But the unusually un-Chinese ballyhoo surrounding these moves was conceived against the Obama administrations busy internationalizing and the enduring Pax Americana. Trump’s threats to move America back to a paleo-conservative foreign policy that the Chinese do not remember scares Xi and so that meeting at Mar-a-Lago happened pronto. Pulling the United States back from the world stage might leave China and Xi Jinping onstage solo as Obama’s old key light swings over onto Xi, the world looking on. Xi may be the new “core” leader of the Peoples Republic of China but this is not what he had in mind.

(illustrations: “Dynasties in China 1000 BCE to Present – Wikipedia; “Warring States era 453 BC to 221 BC – Wikipedia; “The Mongol Empires of Eurasia”)
















Mirror Lake
Photograph by Joe Carducci

















Jack Brewer / Saccharine Trust

facebook thread (abridged) May 3-4, 2017:



David McClure
¡Que vive El Patch Crew!

Joey Slab
Si se puede, cue Joe Baiza's "piercing" guitar riff/slide

Mark Dziga
Jack Brewer is my name , Concrete is the game.

Joey Slab
I'm glad you came to that Saccharine gig in the desert Mark Dziga

Mark Dziga
I had a great time ... thank you.

Chris Stein
You look good, Jack.

Tim Hogan
Looking lean and mean brother

Ralph Gorodetsky
Weren't you in the pillage people?

Joe Dean
Good band.

Jack M Brewer
5 months of back breaking construction wears you out and stretches you. But takes away the pounds. Not a diet plan I would wish on anyone. Yet an effective one.

Edward Huerta
seriously, you do look good Jack….

Andy Shelton
Jack M Brewer, keep up the great work! This is a great photo of you!

Joey Slab
If you are driving on an LA freeway chances are Jack Brewer had something to do with the construction or maintenance of it

Jack M Brewer
Well, most likely after this job is over I'll go back to firewatch- 12 hours a night, 7 nights a week, of standing watching other people work and weld. I'll have no time again for exercise. So the weight may come back. And this could just be my short stint of dabbling in vanity. Or maybe I'll get another construction job? We'll see...

Curt Crosby
Firewatch is so boring. Same with Holewatch

Jack M Brewer
Yes, you have been there. Who did you work for?

Curt Crosby
I worked in refineries, with a contractor company called Ramcon. Did about 10 years mostly in Exxon. Almost miss it now

Jack M Brewer
Yeah, I know how you feel. With all of the screaming, yelling, the physical demands, the sledge hammer, the heat, the pressure to work unsafely and quickly, I almost miss the sanity of the refineries. Irwin and Transfield.

Curt Crosby
Irwin! They practically ran Exxon when I started.

Curt Crosby
Refinery work is rough, but if you can handle the physical aspect, it ain't bad pay. I feel like I'm too old now

Jack M Brewer
They did. Then they lost the contract because their civil crew made a mistake. I remember Irwin's civil crew at Chevron- few of them had any construction experience. Hardly any grading, paving, concrete or structural experience. All most of them knew how to do was distribute 5 gallon water jugs.

Curt Crosby
I remember that at Exxon. They were poised to get the contract for the ESP. Then they got booted for safety violations. I ended up running that job. Nightmare! Were you at Exxon for that?

Jack M Brewer
No I came in just after that. Though I did work at the Exxon that was close to Goleta or Camarillo - somewhere in that area. Around 2013.

(reprinted by permission)

Saccharine Trust – “The Great One Is Dead” (Water Under the Bridge)














Snowy Range from Libby Circle
Photograph by Joe Carducci
















Byron Coley “Defense Against Squares” / Poems (L’Oie de Cravan)


KINNELON HIGH

when i travel around now
it seems to me there are
a lot less women smoking
than there used to be

surely some of this
is a function of our age
in which smoking is banned
almost everywhere you go

but it also appears the gender ratio has changed
women have, perhaps, smartened up
more successfully than their male companions
who are now in the preponderance

of smokers huddled around the entrances
of the clubs and bars of our land
grabbing an all but illicit lungfull of tobacco smoke
with the haunted scent of guilt heavy on their bodies

it makes me remember the pleasure
of hanging out with the tough hippie girls
i went to high school with
girls who loved their cigs as much as anyone

tara brinker smoked marlboros
lainie crawford smoked kools
sharon baust smoked kents
maria gowan smoked whatever she could bum
and we would loiter around the kolt korral
the outdoor pavilion near kinnelon high
where upper classmen were allowed
to linger during free periods, smoking lazily

i would read them funny stories i’d written
and they’d laugh and snort appreciatively
smoke bursting from their mouths and nostrils
when a line caught them in an unexpected way

they all looked incredible to me then
sexy and knowing and wise for their 17 years
and the fact that i, at 15, was able to make them
erupt with smoke-filled laughter

gave me a sense of self-worth so palpable
so new to me, that i will never forget it
and i am sorry things have changed so much
that few teenagers today will be give this same gift

because there is something truly powerful
about the process
and it is a combination i will never fail to marvel at
girls and laughter and smoke

(reprinted by permission)















Snowy Range
Photograph by Joe Carducci















From the London Desk of Steve Beeho…

Stephen Bayley in the SPECTATOR on My part in the expensive calamity that was the Millennium Dome:
People forget now that the Millennium Dome was a Heseltine project that Blair inherited. Whether or not to take it on was considered a test of New Labour’s resolve and Peter Mandelson was the Chosen One to demonstrate such resolution. One day he came in to address a nervous staff team, his pager pinging like a Geiger counter. ‘I believe in art, design and excellence,’ he cooed assuringly and left a long dramatic pause before adding: ‘However, I am a politician.’ I piped up: ‘So there are times you don’t believe in art, design and excellence then?’ They say it took minutes for the chill to leave the room.


^^^

John Gray in NEW STATESMAN, Fellow-travellers and useful idiots
Fellow-travellers may sometimes look like opportunists, but it is opportunism of a particular kind – the belief that the regime with which they identify is being propelled by irresistible historical forces. Yet history mocks all such certainties. Those who embraced the Soviet cause in the 1930s did so in the conviction that capitalism was doomed, along with nationalism and religion. In the introduction to his 1968 account of his years as a Soviet agent, My Silent War, Kim Philby wrote complacently: “As I look over Moscow from my study window, I can see the solid foundations of the future I glimpsed at Cambridge.” Philby died in May 1988. Just a few years later, the solid foundations he admired from his study window had collapsed. Blending authentically Bolshevik methods of government-by-fear with crony capitalism, ethnic nationalism and resurgent religious Orthodoxy, the regime that emerged from the ruins would have been inconceivable to him.


^^^

James Wolcott in the LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS on the re-publication of Making It by Norman Podhoretz:
With Making It, Podhoretz was stepping up into Mailer’s heavyweight division, only to get KO’d by the champ himself – sucker-punched. Mailer read the book in galley and told Podhoretz he liked it. It was Podhoretz’s hope after the volley of abuse from nearly every quarter that Mailer would ride to the cavalry rescue. But when Mailer’s essay on Making It, ‘Up the Family Tree’, appeared in the spring 1968 issue of Partisan Review (grisly particulars to follow), it was an ‘Et tu, Brute?’ moment – ‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!’ (Carry on Cleo) – that eventually severed their friendship and sent Podhoretz into a year-long depression to lick his wounds. He would keep licking them for decades, nursing his grievances into a fine kettle of vendettas. Meanwhile, Making It would go down in legend and out of print, a sunken landmark of sorts.


^^^

Simon Reynolds in the GUARDIAN, Doctors of Madness, the band that prophesied punk – and then disappeared
In [Richard] Strange’s telling, the turning point in the tale comes when the Sex Pistols supported Doctors of Madness at Middlesborough Town Hall, on 21 May 1976. “Watching them from the side of the stage, I realised it was all over for us – the goalposts were suddenly moved. We were probably three years older than them, no more, but the generational difference was seismic.” Compounding the injury and insult of being consigned to the old wave in one fell swoop, Doctors of Madness’s clothes were rifled for cash during their headlining performance, with the guttersnipe Pistols doubtless scarpering from the dressing room and cackling all the way to the nearest pub.


^^^

Byron Coley interviewed by Tony Rettman at CLRYNT on his new volume of poetry and why he has no time for squares:
The state of rock journalism is something that causes me to lose very little sleep. There are always some good writers who have original ideas and insights, and then there's a vast landscape crammed with careerist sheep. Why anyone thinks there's a living to be made in the field is something I can't quite figure out, but there are so many mimetic dogfish out there, I think the rumor must be floating somewhere that it's a solid job choice. It is always galling to me to see one-sheets I write for records get paraphrased as "reviews," but it's nothing new. Might be more prevalent now, since there's an idiotic rush to be the first one to write some lousy words about a new record, with little consideration of whether the writing is any good. People seem very afraid to express any actual opinion about material that hasn't already been written about by someone else. They can react to opinions, but not to the music itself.


^^^

Robert Christgau interviewed at spiked-online.com on The art of pop:
And yet, he still makes room in what he calls his ‘theory of pop’ for the underground and the avant-garde. He calls it ‘semi-popular music’, ‘music that is appreciated… for having all the earmarks of popular music except one: popularity’. ‘The novel started out as a diversion for ladies of leisure, and it evolved into something else’, he tells me. ‘That is what happens to [artforms]. They have formal characteristics, and if you like the art you enjoy the formal characteristics. And some people are going to do stuff with those formal characteristics that are not going to serve the social function that they were originally designed to serve. It’s just built into the form, into the whole activity of making art. And if you like the art, and if it gives you pleasure – another important concept for me – well then you’re going to enjoy those things, because you are in fact an aesthete. I have no problem with being an aesthete. I am an aesthete. But not, I hope, too rarefied an aesthete.’


^^^

John/Jonh Ingham interviewed at VICE about his new photo book Spirit of 76: London Punk Eyewitness:
What fascinated me about that [Sex Pistols show] was, it was an invite-only because they were shooting it for a TV show—like, a current-affairs show. And yet half the people there you'd never seen for a current-affairs show, like ever. There's a guy with a long hair and an overcoat, and the guy that's on the cover of the book—never saw them before. The two girls who are handcuffed together in the black leather and plastic—never seen them before, never saw them again. All these people had kind of come out of somewhere, and that's what prompted how the book ends. Because a lot of the original people were going, "Oh, look at these guys! I mean, who are these people? It's terrible now!" I was kind of shocked that people who were 20, 21, were so kind of pessimistic and cynical. It's a very young age to kind of think the world is finished.


^^^

Julie Burchill in the SPECTATOR on David Hepworth's book Uncommon People.
But of course the fall of the rock star is not all gloom and doom: it’s not awfully good for human beings to worship other human beings, either as love objects or love slaves. In such situations, it’s not even clear whether we were actually adoring another person or conducting a scenic-route romance with an idealised version of ourselves. My husband, with admirable masculine brusqueness, has noted a phenomenon he calls ‘tearleading’ — that of ululating groups of people getting together to competitively mourn dead celebs on social media — which may well have as much to do with their own sorrow that their lives have not matched up to their teenage dreams as with the deceased.


^^^

Doug Sheppard in UGLY THINGS, How Reunion Albums Hold Up.
Iggy’s reunion with the Asheton brothers and replacement Mike Watt on bass was absolutely transcendent live—at last giving the Stooges a chance to bask in overdue glory. They had fun in the studio, too, but unfortunately no songs.















Sheep Mountain from Centennial Ridge
Photograph by Joe Carducci















From the Wyoming desk of Joe Carducci…

David Vines in CAIXIN, One Belt, One Road: China’s 21st Century Marshall Plan? .
Will the Belt and Road initiative come to look like the Marshall Plan? It is clear that there will eventually be a huge amount of money on the table for the Belt and Road initiative — current estimates suggest $1 trillion. China has also begun to create its own instruments of economic cooperation, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). But will those who are creating the Belt and Road initiative and the AIIB be able to work with RCEP parties to create a framework of international cooperation that benefits all? There are two main risks. The first risk concerns China’s own policy in developing the Belt and Road initiative. Although China has described the initiative as inclusive and designed to create mutual benefit, this may not turn out to be the case. The AIIB may actually encourage those countries with which it carries out investment to look inward or back toward China. The Belt and Road initiative might conceivably become no more than a gigantic instrument of supply-chain management for China, creating the kind of jobs that drive an enormous Chinese production machine. These firms might pay low wages in the Belt and Road countries, and might confine the resulting value added to coastal China…. The second risk concerns the policies that other countries have toward China. Many in Europe fear that China will use Belt and Road in the way outlined above, or fear that the initiative has long-term political and strategic implications for Europe itself.


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Tushar Ranjan Mohanty at satp.org, Balochistan: The Chinese Chequered.
The killing of the Chinese couple has underscored questions about the security of Chinese workers in Pakistan, and the country's centrality to China's ambitious One Belt One Road initiative. The centrepiece of the 'new Silk Route' plan, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), passes through insurgency-hit Balochistan.... On June 14, 2017, however, South Korea rejected Pakistan's contention that the slain Chinese nationals were preaching Christianity under the guise of studying Urdu at a school run by a South Korean. An unnamed South Korean official asserted that there was no evidence to show the couple was involved in proselytizing under Seo's guidance. Meanwhile, China's official media Global Times has criticized South Korean Christian groups for converting young Chinese and sending them to proselytize in Muslim countries. The kidnapping was a rare crime against Chinese nationals in Pakistan, but has alarmed the growing Chinese community in the country.... Pakistan currently hosts a sizeable Chinese population and the numbers are slated to grow as the project progresses. Concern about the demographic transformation of Balochistan was reiterated in a report by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on December 28, 2016, which noted that, at the current rate of influx of Chinese national into Balochistan and after completion of the CPEC, the native population of the area would be outnumbered by 2048.


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Edward Wong in NYT, Mongolian Warriors and Communist Soldiers: A Frontier Town in China.
Though the party’s ethnic policies are contentious, there has been a revived interest in some parts of China in the languages and traditions of smaller ethnic groups. Sometimes this has strong support by the national government, as in the case of the Manchus. In other instances, ordinary people or community officials drive the revival. “There is this new sub-ethnic consciousness,” said Peter C. Perdue, a historian at Yale University who has studied the Qing conquest of Xinjiang. “The Chahar want to say they are a separate ethnic group, not mixed in with the other Mongolians there.” “You hear about the Uighurs all the time there,” he added, referring to a Turkic-speaking group in Xinjiang. “The other minority people are also trying to regenerate a sense of their identity, in a somewhat different sense than the way the People’s Republic of China assigns ethnic labels to people.”


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South Asia Democratic Forum: Chinese OBOR Discuss in the European Parliament.
In his address, Ryszard Czarnecki, MEP, cautioned European countries not to take at face value Chinese claims that OBOR would result in a win-win situation for all partners. He drew specific attention to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship OBOR project being implemented on the ground, which had run into deep opposition from locals who saw it as a means of further exploiting their resources, in keeping with the Chinese track record in Africa. In his remarks, Fulvio Martusciello, MEP, referred to the currently stalled Belgrade-Budapest railway project, and stated that the unscrupulous methods adopted by China only further confirmed suspicions about the long-term objectives of OBOR. He opined that through OBOR, China would not only acquire companies in Europe, it would also try and impose Chinese regulations, standards and gradually increase its influence over countries in the region, making their economic growth dependent on China.


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Catherine Wong in SCMP, How a History of Divisive Tactics Has Made the European Union Suspicious of China.
European diplomats said suspicions ran deep over China’s geopolitical intentions in Europe, particularly with its massive trade and infrastructure plan, the “Belt and Road Initiative”. Some European diplomats said the plan would benefit the continent by boosting economic development among the bloc’s less developed member states. Others said China’s aid and investment in Africa and the Middle East also helped to ease pressure of mass migration into Europe. Nevertheless, doubts were mounting over just how sincere China was in promoting free trade, they said. “The initiative is about promoting globalisation, which is positive,” one European diplomat said. “But it comes with Chinese characteristics. So it’s not really the liberal, market-oriented, rules-based globalisation that we would like to see. It seems to be more about hierarchy.” That scepticism was also ­evident last month when representatives from several European countries refused to sign a trade statement at the belt and road summit in Beijing. European diplomats said the main reasons for not getting ­behind the document drafted by China were a lack of discussions among the participating nations. “The way the trade declaration was drafted, without really consulting anybody, suggests a Sinocentric mindset,” the diplomat said.


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Minnie Chan in SCMP, Beijing Cancels its Sharngri-La Dialogue rival, the Xiangshan Forum, to Soothe Neighbors.
As a high-level platform to discuss Asian security and defence issues, the Xiangshan Forum was initially held every two years but was upgraded to an annual event in 2014. It is widely believed the forum was designed to rival the Asia Security Forum in Singapore. A Beijing-based retired senior colonel said Beijing wanted to downplay its miliary role this year to pacify its neighbours in the hope of attracting more support for “One Belt, One Road” initiatives of President Xi Jinping. “China realised that it should not frighten its Asian neighbours but create a stable security situation in Asia-Pacific that will help Beijing convince other small countries to join the Belt and Road initiatives,” the veteran, who also requested anonymity, told the Post. The Xiangshan Forum has sparked controversy due to its role as a rival to the Shangri-la Dialogue.


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Catherine Wong in SCMP, Security Trumps Rivalry as India, Pakistan to Join China-led Regional Bloc.
The accession of India and Pakistan as full members of the body will be formally announced during its annual summit on June 8 and 9 in Astana, Kazakhstan, which will be attended by President Xi Jinping. The inclusion of the two countries, who previously held observer status, will “add to the potential and the global influence of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation”, China’s assistant foreign minister, Li Huilai, said on Monday. The SCO, seen by some as a counterweight to the US- and European-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), is a political and security organisation that facilitates counter-terrorism cooperation. Its members are China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.


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Salman Masood in NYT, Chinese Couple Abducted in Pakistan Have Been Killed, Officials Say.
The killing of the Chinese couple comes at a time when China is expanding its outreach in Pakistan under a multibillion-dollar economic cooperation initiative known as One Belt, One Road, which includes joint infrastructure and industrial projects. A number of Chinese have been traveling to Pakistan for this initiative, also known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. There are growing concerns over the security of foreigners working on the venture. Mr. Khan, the interior minister, said in his statement on Monday that the two Chinese who were killed had been acting as missionaries, even though they were in the country on business visas, ostensibly to learn Urdu at a technology institute owned by a Korean businessman in Quetta.


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Brook Larmer in NYTMag, Is China the World’s New Colonial Power? .
China’s leaders insist that its influence is entirely benign, a global exercise in what they call “win-win cooperation.” And indeed, many of the projects Chinese companies are pursuing — roads and railways, ports and pipelines, mines and telecom networks — might never be built without them. China’s investment in the Husab uranium mine, in which C.G.N. subsidiaries hold a 90 percent stake and the Namibian government owns 10 percent, is doing its part to stave off a recession. “We helped Namibia gain its political liberation,” Xia Lili, a former Chinese diplomat who now works as an executive at a Chinese company in Windhoek, the Namibian capital, says. “Now we’re helping it fight for economic emancipation.” For some Namibians, however, the flood of Chinese loans and investments doesn’t look so much like freedom as it does a new form of colonialism. The infrastructure is welcome, but as projects made possible by loans — financed by the Chinese — they have saddled the economy with debt and done little to alleviate the nearly 30 percent unemployment rate. Over the last few months, moreover, a series of scandals involving Chinese nationals — including tax evasion, money-laundering and poaching endangered wildlife — has soured locals on a foreign presence that can seem largely extractive: pulling uranium, timber, rhino horns and profits out the country without benefiting a population that, because of apartheid’s legacy, ranks among the most unequal economically in the world. In January, a Windhoek newspaper captured the rising sentiment with an illustration on its front page of a golden dragon devouring the Namibian flag. The headline: “Feeding Namibia to the Chinese.”


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Noam Scheiber & Keith Bradsher in NYT, Culture Clash at a Chinese-Owned Plant in Ohio.
From 2000 to the first quarter of this year, the Chinese have invested almost $120 billion in the United States, according to the Rhodium Group, which tracks these flows. Nearly half of that amount has come since early 2016, making China one of this country’s largest sources of foreign direct investment during that time. But with the explosion of investment has come unexpected trouble. At Fuyao, a major culture clash is playing out on the factory floor, with some workers questioning the company’s commitment to operating under American supervision and American norms. Fuyao faces an acrimonious union campaign by the United Automobile Workers and a lawsuit by a former manager who says he was let go in part because he is not Chinese. The investment has even prompted hand-wringing in China, where comments by the company’s chairman, a self-made billionaire named Cao Dewang, stirred a debate over the country’s competitiveness. “Cao Dewang behaved like a traitor,” wrote one person on Weibo, the popular Chinese microblogging site. “You set up a factory in the U.S. to solve employment there.” Solving employment is, of course, the promise that Mr. Trump rode to office. Since his victory, foreign companies like Bayer, SoftBank and Infosys have moved to align themselves with that goal — and avoid an America-first backlash — by promoting plans for thousands of United States-based jobs.


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Kristin Huang in SCMP, Will the Artic Be the Next Stop on China’s New Silk Road? .
“Beijing’s strategy does not stop at belt and road,” Li Xiguang, a professor at Tsinghua University told a forum in Hong Kong on Saturday. Li is leading a field study on the economic corridor China and Pakistan are building as part of the trade route. “The full name of the strategy will be ‘One Belt, One Road, One Circle’, and the circle refers to the Arctic Circle,” Li paraphrased another Tsinghua professor, Hu Angang, as saying in a speech last month that was not reported in mainland media. Hu is a leading economist in China and is the director of the Centre for China Studies at the university. “The Arctic region is rich in gold and many other mineral resources, which are yet to be exploited. So this region is probably included in China’s strategy,” Li said, although he acknowledged the term “one circle” was not included in any official documents.


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Jun Mai in SCMP, Why the Communist Party Has Created a New Bureau for Xinjiang.
While Beijing blames separatists and Islamists extremist for the violence, critics argue that China’s repressive rule in Xinjiang is the main trigger for the violenc. The government banned men growing long beards and women wearing face veils in many places in Xinjiang. In the latest development, China earlier this year banned dozens of Muslim baby names with religious overtones, including Jihad, Imam, Medina and Mohammed. The new bureau’s creation comes at a time when the party is tightening its control in Xinjiang after hardliner Chen Quanguo, the former party secretary of Tibet, was transferred to the region in August last year. A sprawling web of “convenience police stations” has sprung up in cities and rural areas across the region since Chen came to office, covering the region with war-zone style security checks. The stations are equipped with surveillance cameras and guards on 24-hour seamless patrols and can be quickly turned into checkpoints when needed. In the city of Urumqi alone, which covers 340 sq km, is expected to have 949 such stations, according to a website affiliated with the city government.


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Bassem Mroue & Gerry Shih in AP, Chinese ‘Lions’ Raise Fears Back Home.
Thousands of Chinese jihadis have come to Syria since the country's civil war began in March 2011 to fight against government forces and their allies. Some have joined the al-Qaida's branch in the country previously known as Nusra Front. Others paid allegiance to the Islamic State group and a smaller number joined factions such as the ultraconservative Ahrar al-Sham. But the majority of Chinese jihadis are with the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria, whose vast majority are Chinese Muslims, particularly those from the Turkic-speaking Uighur majority native to Xinjiang in China. Their growing role in Syria has resulted in increased cooperation between Syrian and Chinese intelligence agencies who fear those same jihadis could one day return home and cause trouble there. The Turkistan Islamic Party is the other name for the East Turkistan Islamic Movement that considers China's Xinjiang to be East Turkistan.


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Andrew Nathan in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS, on Cheng Li’s book, Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era, and Minxin Pei’s book, China’s Crony Capitalism.
Under Mao, in the Soviet Union under Brezhnev, in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, and in similar systems elsewhere, leaders clung to power for decades while their regimes stagnated or fell into disorder. Li shows how formal rules and informal norms put in place by Deng Xiao-ping and his successor, Jiang Zemin, have promoted the turnover of elites in post-Mao China. With rare exceptions, officials have to move up or out after a maximum of fifteen years at a given rank.


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Chun Han Wong in WSJ, China’s Propaganda Machine Elevates President.
Since Chairman Mao’s days, China’s most powerful leaders have been exalted as its greatest thinkers. Today, President Xi Jinping appears primed to join those elite ranks, a sign of his rising clout ahead of a pivotal Communist Party leadership shuffle this fall. A crescendo of state-backed publicity and research on Mr. Xi’s policies this year bears the hallmarks of a campaign to proclaim him a great socialist thinker, whose ideas are driving China’s renaissance as a global power. The aim, China watchers say, is to enshrine a set of Mr. Xi’s theories in the Communist Party charter, cementing his unrivaled authority and casting him as worthy successor to Mao Zedong, the revolutionary, and Deng Xiaoping, the reformer. “Mao saved China from bullies, Deng saved China from hunger,” said Deng Yuwen, a former deputy editor of the Study Times, a newspaper published by the elite Central Party School. “Now Xi wants to restore China’s greatness and self-confidence, and make it a leader of the world.”


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He Huifeng in SCMP, Why PR Chiefs Are Running Communist Party Branches at China Tech Firms.
Wen Gao, deputy head of the party committee at NetEase, said the total number of the internet company’s party members reached 223 last year, 6.4 times more than the previous year. In contrast, tech giants that were expanding their business overseas, such as Huawei and ZTE, were keeping their party committees low profile, Liu said. “It’s not good for building up their international image if they have strong state involvement,” he said.


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Zhuang Pinghui in SCMP, China’s Independent Think Tanks Told to Toe the Communist Party Line.
Chinese authorities are bringing the burgeoning industry of private think tanks into line with new rules ordering them to serve the Communist Party and register “big events” and overseas donations. The new “guidelines” were issued on Thursday by nine ministerial agencies and are designed to promote “healthy development” of the sector, according to the document. The organisations could be shut down if they failed to comply. Jia Xijin, associate professor with Tsinghua University’s public policy school, said the tightened controls were in line with stricter regulation of private players in social management. Non-government research institutions have mushroomed since Chinese President Xi Jinping called two years ago for the creation of “new types of think tanks with Chinese characteristics”. By the end of last year, China had 435 think tanks, second only to the United States with 1,835, according to a list compiled by the University of Pennsylvania.


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Stephanie Saul in NYT, On Campuses Far From China, Still Under Beijing’s Watchful Eye.
At the center of the opposition was the U.C. San Diego chapter of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, which threatened “tough measures to resolutely resist the school’s unreasonable behavior.” The Chinese government accuses the Dalai Lama of promoting Tibetan independence from China, and if the student group’s message sounded a bit like the Beijing party line, that may have been no coincidence: The group said it had consulted with the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles on the matter. China’s booming economy has increasingly allowed more of its young men and women to seek a college education in the West; 329,000 now study in the United States, more than five times the number recorded a decade ago. By far the largest contingent of foreign students, they can be an economic lifeline for colleges, since they usually pay full tuition, and they can provide a healthy dose of international diversity. But those students often bring to campus something else from home: the watchful eyes and occasionally heavy hand of the Chinese government, manifested through its ties to many of the 150-odd chapters of the Chinese Students and Scholars Associations.


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Lawrence Chung in SCMP, Handle Taiwanese Rights Activist’s Case with Care, Tsai Urges Beijing.
Leaders in Taiwan used the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown to call on Beijing to handle the case of a detained Taiwanese human rights activist with care. They also urged Beijing to promote democratic reforms to match its place as one of the world’s powers. “It is true that China is rising, but it would be a great regret if democracy was absent during this process,” President Tsai Ing-wen said on Sunday, adding that the world’s respect came with democracy. Tsai said Taiwan was willing to share its democratic experience with the mainland, including how it transformed from an authoritarian regime.


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Chris Buckley in NYT, In Reversal, Chinese Lawyer Confesses, and Rights Groups Denounce His Trial.
Before the Chinese human rights lawyer stood trial for subversion, he wrote a letter saying he would confess to such charges only if he was tortured. But on Monday, the lawyer, Xie Yang, appeared at court a drastically altered man. He had become a seemingly contrite actor in a trial intended to discredit China’s struggling dissident lawyers who take up contentious cases and want courts freed of Communist Party control. “I feel ashamed and deeply remorseful for my past actions,” Mr. Xie said at his trial in Changsha, a city in southern China, according to transcripts issued online by the court. “Everyone should take me as a warning to certainly stay within the framework of the law, and avoid being exploited by Western anti-China forces.” At the trial, Mr. Xie withdrew his claims of torture, which were laid out in piercing detail in transcripts of meetings shared earlier by his former defense lawyers. He pleaded guilty to the subversion charge and a charge of disrupting court proceedings. And he placed blame for his years as a combative lawyer on seductive but toxic ideas about constitutional government learned from study sessions abroad.


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Choi Chi-yuk & Eva Li in SCMP, Lawyers in Chinese Megacity the New Front in Communist Party’s Push for Greater Control.
The northern Chinese city of Tianjin is set to become a new front in the Communist Party’s war for ideological control, with political commissars to be installed in lawyers associations in the megacity this week. Tianjin will be the first city in China to have commissars in professional groups not directly under the government’s authority, reflecting a tighter grip by the party on the public sphere. While it is still unclear whether other cities will follow suit, Tianjin has been playing a pilot role in political developments for rest of the country since Li Hongzhong became its party boss in September 2016. Li has been one of the most vocal advocates of “absolute loyalty” to President Xi Jinping.


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Rose George in SPECTATOR, Being Born a Girl in Modern China Is the Worst Thing in the World.
Guo’s mother is harsh on all fronts — a woman from peasant stock who married far beneath her (according to the topsy-turvy class system of the Cultural Revolution), to an intellectual whom even she referred to as a Stinking Number Nine, after his class ranking. This was a courageous thing to do, but not enough for the reader to warm to her. Guo’s father gets a more tender portrayal. He was an artist, and seems to have loved his daughter, and she was set on becoming one too. And goodness, she was determined, with an ambition fuelled by fury, to which she has a right. Don’t be deceived by the calmness of her prose, because you should feel for her, this child who was sexually abused for two years by her father’s colleague, described in the chapter entitled ‘Stop Crying! Every girl has to go through this.’ Guo has never named her abuser before. ‘But here on these pages I want to say it out loud, exactly as it is spelled, for the simple reason that he was never punished for what he did to me.’ So I will too: Hu Wenren.


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Anjani Trivedi in WSJ, Why Chinese Men Are Dying Despite Rising Income.
It could be that financial success breeds bad health habits. Disposable income per captia has risen 90% in the past six years and probably more than that over the past decade, though official government data are limited. Chinese liquor consumption – men consume 60% more than women – has risen 5% compounded annually over the past 15 years, considered fast by global standards, according to Bernstein analysts.


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Karoline Kan in NYT, In China It’s the Party That Keeps the Boy Band Going.
That wholesome schoolboy image has won TFBoys love not only from Chinese fans, but also from the government. They have twice been featured on the Chinese Lunar New Year television gala staged by CCTV, the state broadcaster. The Communist Youth League’s official Weibo account often promotes the group’s activities. In April, it posted an item about Wang Yuan’s receiving a special award from United Nations officials in China for his proposals on education. On International Children’s Day in 2015, the Communist Youth League released a video featuring TFBoys singing “We Are the Heirs of Communism,” the song of the Young Pioneers, the Communist children’s organization. In the video, they wear the Young Pioneers’ signature red scarves and sing: “Love the country and the people. Fear neither hardship nor the enemy.”


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Preetika Rana in WSJ, China Climbs Drugmaking Ladder.
In the past two years, Lilly, Merck, Tesaro Inc. and Incyte Co. have signed multimillion-dollar deals to sell China-discovered biotech drugs overseas. The tie-ups are a boost for China’s ambition to shake off a history of scandals, such as a 2008 incident when a blood thinner called heparin – made with Chinese ingredients – killed dozens of people in the U.S. alone. China is working to overcome a reputation for poor quality to become an innovator and global producer of complex products.


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Maneka Sanjay Gandhi at NEW DELHI TIMES, Food Habits in China Threatens to Extinct Many Species.
The trouble with China’s new found wealth and middle class is that they are not only eating every animal and fish in their own country, but they are sucking in and killing almost all species from all over the world to satisfy their insatiable lust. Donkeys in Africa have suddenly been turned into meat for the Chinese. We, of course, are losing everything – from seahorses, porcupines, dogs, sharks, tigers, rhinos, bears, every species of fish and wild cat and even insects. The Chinese kill rare species simply for social prestige. Their local medicine is rubbish, but they continue to kill every animal for it. They use our rhino horns – which are just made of keratin, the same as our toenails – for everything, from headaches to cancer. Does that make sense? Likewise, shark fins are just lumps of flesh with no food value. But they have become a symbol of riches and so India loses millions of its sharks for this valueless soup. But, because their government has no laws and no intention of controlling the trade, the illegal market thrives. Like shark fin, fish swim bladders are an ingrained part of traditional Chinese culture, used to signal wealth and opulence.


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Nathaniel Taplin in WSJ, China’s Oil Refiners Set Sights on World.
China’s rising refining overcapacity has followed a pattern that previously helped sink global margins in steel, aluminum and solar-panel manufacturing. State-backed firms, which face little problem getting access to credit, pile into what initially look like profitable sectors. As long as the economy is humming along, this strategy works fine, but when growth slows, all that new diesel or steel needs to find a new home. As the Chinese economy slowed sharply in late 2014, China moved from being a net importer or fuel products to one of the world’s largest exporters – a position it still holds.


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Ben Bland in FT, China Spreads Wings with Challenge to Boeing and Airbus.
More than 30 years after China’s previous attempt to build a large airliner ended in failure – when it abandoned efforts to reverse engineer a crashed Boeing 707 – Mr. Xi’s plan to turn China into an aviation powerhouse is one step closer to fruition…. With China forecast to overtake the US as the world’s biggest aviation market in 2024, there will be a large domestic customer base for the C919, if all goes to plan and the first aircraft roll off the production line in 2019.


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Josh Chin in WSJ, In China, a Quantum Leap.
Chinese scientists have succeeded in sending specially linked pairs of light particles from space to Earth, an achievement experts in the field say gives China a leg up in using quantum technology to build a “unhackable” global communications network. The result is a breakthrough that establishes China as a pioneer in efforts to harness the enigmatic properties of matter and energy at the subatomic level, the experts said.


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Chris Buckley in NYT, China’s New Bridges: Rising High, but Buried in Debt.
A primary motive is economic growth: Infrastructure spending surged as part of a huge stimulus program after the 2008 global financial crisis. Each bridge can cost billions and employ hundreds of workers for several years. But the endless construction has also created a self-perpetuating gravy train, feeding corruption and distorting priorities. While experts often advocate infrastructure building as a path to economic development, local governments in China “went overboard” because of corruption and other financial lures, said Huang Shaoqing, an economist at Shanghai Jiaotong University. And as gleaming expressways and majestic bridges spread into less populated areas, the cost-benefit ratio of each new mile of asphalt drops sharply…. In the past six years, anticorruption inquiries have toppled more than 27 Hunan transportation officials. “In their jurisdiction, they were the emperors,” a party report said in 2014.


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James Areddy in WSJ, Chinese Pile on Risk, One Swipe at a Time.
A million companies in China have turned to the internet to raise money, hawking loosely regulated, often risky investments, according to one of the country’s largest online leaders. Swipe by swipe, the online money supply is helping to democratize investing and loosen capital markets. It also is propping up indebted Chinese companies and inflating bubbles in asset types from bonds to plastic pellets. And it is shifting more of the risks from China’s corporate debt load onto consumers.


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Paul Mozur & Jane Perlez in NYT, China Bets on Sensitive US Start-Ups, Worrying the Pentagon.
When the United States Air Force wanted help making military robots more perceptive, it turned to a Boston-based artificial intelligence start-up called Neurala. But when Neurala needed money, it got little response from the American military. So Neurala turned to China, landing an undisclosed sum from an investment firm backed by a state-run Chinese company. Chinese firms have become significant investors in American start-ups working on cutting-edge technologies with potential military applications. The start-ups include companies that make rocket engines for spacecraft, sensors for autonomous navy ships, and printers that make flexible screens that could be used in fighter-plane cockpits. Many of the Chinese firms are owned by state-owned companies or have connections to Chinese leaders. The deals are ringing alarm bells in Washington.


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Andrew Browne in WSJ, Are US and China Headed for ‘Hot War’ Over Trade? .
Yet China has brought on this fight. Its wholesale theft of intellectual property, requirements forcing foreign investors to disgorge their technology, and a digital “Great Firewall” that blocks most of the world’s top internet sites, have provided ample ammunition to White House trade warriors. Meanwhile, armed with a half-trillion-dollar war chest, China is shopping for U.S. and European tech companies to build advanced manufacturing capabilities that it will foster to its own protected markets – and then unleash on open economies in the West.


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Andrew Browne in WSJ, Big Brother Tightens Control by Mining Foreign Firms’ Data.
China is already rolling out an IT-enabled ratings system to govern the behavior of individuals. Less attention is being paid to its other application: Big Brother is also harnessing big data to create the world’s most extensive system of corporate surveillance and control. Think of it as the ultimate tool of Chinese state capitalism. The Mercator Institute for China Studies, a German think tank, calls it “IT-backed authoritarianism.” …The backbone of the system will be up and running by 2020. As it becomes more sophisticated, it will generate corporate scorecards from masses of data extracted from cameras, sensors and e-commerce trading platforms. Low scorers might expect higher taxes, or more expensive loans; high scorers lucrative investment opportunities.


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Gabriel Wildau in FT, China Data Chief Admits ‘Fraud and Deception’ on Statistics.
Critics of Chinese statistics have consistently argued that political interference in statistical compilation is the problem, not the solution. Communist party officials, especially at the local level, are still evaluated largely on their ability to meet or exceed economic growth targets. For many years, the sum of provincial GDP figures has far exceeded the national total. The party has taken tentative steps in recent years to reduce the role of economic growth targets in evaluating cadres’ performance, but strong incentives remain.


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Shen Hong in WSJ, China Chides Moody’s After Its Downgrade.
China’s Finance Ministry immediately criticized the Moody’s downgrade – its first such move in nearly three decades – accusing it of using an “inappropriate” methodology and betraying “a lack of necessary knowledge of Chinese law.” The U.S.-based rating firm had cited concerns about rising debt as China’s economy slows as the main reason for its downgrade. In an article published on Wednesday evening, China’s official Xinhua News Agency criticized Western rating firms as discriminating against developing countries. “Their methodologies are flawed and their reputation has already been questioned,” Xinhua said.


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Nathaniel Taplin in WSJ, Where the China Credit Crunch Could Really Take a Bite.
The downgrade of China by credit-rating firm Moody’s has highlighted the rising risks the government faces from contingent liabilities: poisonous loans to deadbeat state-owned companies that Beijing might eventually need to absorb, potentially by recapitalizing the country’s major banks. What Moody’s didn’t explain is that this absorption of hidden liabilities is already under way. Central to the story is what has happened to local-government finances in China in the past two years. In early 2015, investment levels in China –still so crucial to the country’s growth – were in a tailspin. One main reason was a double whammy for city governments, normally big drivers of capital spending. Falling land sales, which represent around one-third of local revenue, were pummeling budgets just as Beijing had rammed through tough restrictions on cities’ off-balance-sheet fundraising. By March 2015, it was obvious that the clampdown had gone too far. In a policy U-turn, Beijing greenlighted a massive refinancing program for troubled local governments, and the struggling industrial companies they owned, allowing them to directly issue bonds in large amounts for the first time. By doing so, though, Beijing was also implicitly recognizing its ultimate responsibility for these debts. The result was a stunning expansion of formal government debt in China as corporate liabilities were refinanced wholesale through provincial bonds: Government-bond debt, which had been running around 15% of gross domestic product since the 2008 global financial crisis, nearly doubled to 28% in just two years.


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Gregor Hunter & Kosaku Narioka in WSJ, In Asia, the State Becomes a Major Company Stakeholder.
About 30% of all the companies in Japan’s three main equity indexes now count the country’s central bank as one of their top 10 shareholders, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data as of the end of September. Six years ago, the Bank of Japan’s presence in the market was trivial. In China, two major state-owned investment funds that are part of the national team have become top-10 shareholders in 30% of listed companies over the past year, according to UBS Group AG, which analyzed shareholdings as of the end of September. The data are a stunning benchmark for the role governments now play in markets after nearly a decade of heavy intervention. Public pension funds and sovereign-wealth funds have long been big holders of stocks. But the new wave of state buying is unique in that it is aimed primarily at propping up markets and economies.


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Chuin-Wei Yap in WSJ, China Shifts Stance, Letting Firms Go Bust.
According to official figures from China’s Supreme People’s Court, from 2012-14 there were about 2,000 bankruptcy cases each year – just 0.25% of the roughly 800,000 companies that left the market each year. That jumped to a record 3,683 in 2015, and higher again to 5,665 cases last year, as corporate debt sharply surged and the court began to urge wider use of the law – including parts attorneys say draw on U.S. chapter 11 provisions to let companies restructure under court protection.


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Robin Augustin at freemalaysiatoday.com, What Happens When You Owe China Too Much.
There would be a heavy price to pay if China-linked mega projects were to fail, said Azlan Awang, who is deputy chairman of Bantah-TPPA and a founder of Blindspot, a socio-economic interest group. Azlan told FMT there were similarities between Sri Lanka’s and Malaysia’s indebtedness to China. He pointed to a recent violent riot near the port city of Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka. The rioters were protesting against a deal they said would result in the port becoming a Chinese colony. The deal would see the port being leased for 99 years to a company in which China will have 80% ownership. It would also result in the establishment of an industrial zone where Chinese companies would be invited to set up base. Azlan said the deal was a consequence of Sri Lanka’s failure to pay for the China-financed Mattala airport project. It should give a glimpse of how Beijing would deal with those failing to pay their dues, he added. “Beijing may not be sending the Red Army, but the ownership of the Hambantota deep sea port as well as 15,000 acres of land for the new industrial zone ceded to China as its colony for the next 99 years will do. For Malaysia, what will be our pound of flesh if we default on our humongous debts?”


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Andrew Jacobs & Jane Perlez in NYT, US Wary of Its New Neighbor in Djibouti: A Chinese Naval Base.
With no shared border, China and the United States mostly circle each other from afar, relying on satellites and cybersnooping to peek inside the workings of each other’s war machines. But the two strategic rivals are about to become neighbors in this sun-scorched patch of East African desert. China is constructing its first overseas military base here — just a few miles from Camp Lemonnier, one of the Pentagon’s largest and most important foreign installations. With increasing tensions over China’s island-building efforts in the South China Sea, American strategists worry that a naval port so close to Camp Lemonnier could provide a front-row seat to the staging ground for American counterterror operations in the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.


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Peter Hoskin in SPECTATOR, The New Battleground between China and America: Hollywood.
In 1994, to support ailing theatres, the state agreed a revenue-sharing deal to import The Fugitive — the first time Hollywood had been let into the Chinese market for 45 years. The film made what, at that time and in that place, was an impressive $3 million, but it also set a precedent. Nowadays, after a landmark 2012 deal signed by vice-president Joe Biden and premier Xi Jinping, and urged on by the dictates of the World Trade Organisation, China imports 34 foreign films a year through similar deals. With the quota set to double, American filmmakers are sensing an opportunity…. What wouldn’t a Hollywood producer do for that sort of box office? Very little, it turns out. A special cut of Iron Man 3 (2013) was prepared for China, featuring extra scenes with popular Chinese actors, along with a super-villainous amount of product placement for the milk brand Yili. Then the makers of Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) went even further by setting and shooting a large part of their movie in China, with appearances from several Chinese stars and several hundred Chinese products. The idea was, in part, to blur the line between what counts as an American film and what counts as a Chinese one — so that the quota needn’t matter.


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Erich Schwartzel in WSJ, Hollywood Doesn’t Work Without China.
Chinese investors bring the support of a Communist Party that under China’s leader, President Xi Jinping, has made cultural influence an important piece of its long-term growth plans. “We must make patriotism into the main melody of literature and art creation, guide the people to establish and uphold correct views of history, views of the nation, views of the country and views of culture, and strengthen their fortitude and resolve to be Chinese,” said Mr. Xi at the Beijing Forum on Literature and Art in October 2014.


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Chun Han Wong in WSJ, Exiled Tycoon Roils Beijing Politics.
Guo Wengui, an up-by-the-bootstraps tycoon who says he has lived in the U.S. since 2015, has said in rambling video interviews and a deluge of Twitter posts that he has detailed knowledge of wrongdoing by senior Communist Party officials, their relatives and their associates. Mr. Guo has provided scant evidence to substantiate his allegations. Still, they are the talk among many politically minded Chinese, and China’s government has launched a multipronged campaign to discredit him…. Mr. Guo’s allegations, flowing freely through a broad online megaphone, have the potential to exacerbate behind-the-scenes jostling among senior leaders seeking positions in the Communist Party leadership that a congress is set to appoint this year.


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Sasha Gong in WSJ, How China Managed to Muffle the Voice of America.
Like its Soviet counterpart, the KGB, Guo An has a fearsome reputation. Chinese citizens say it suppresses protests, harasses dissidents and monitors intellectuals. Using its vast fortune, Guo An has allegedly infiltrated overseas corporations, universities, civil groups and even foreign governments…. The money spent by Guo An is astronomical. Chen Guangcheng, the blind lawyer and human-rights activist who escaped to the U.S. a few years ago, estimates that the Chinese government spent $10.5 million spying on him alone. Mr. Guo says that a great deal of what the spy agency spends is bankrolled by private Chinese businessmen. In the preinteview, Mr. Guo explained that he paid for office rentals, private jets, surveillance systems, personnel and many other expenses. In exchange, Guo An officials would assist him in dealing with his business rivals.


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Sherry Fei Ju & Charles Clover in FT, Reality Check, Chinese TV Cashes in on Corruption with Hit Drama.
The drama is set in present-day China under the rule of a president very much like Xi Jinping, who launched a crackdown on corruption in 2012 that has ensnared hundreds of thousands of officials from powerful “tigers” to lowly “flies”. The series, episodes of which have garnered 1.7bn online views since its debut a month ago, according to research company Ent Group, marks the first time a Chinese state TV drama has ventured into the fraught subject of high-level sleaze. In 2004 China’s broadcast regulator explicitly banned discussion of corruption on TV for “potentially misleading audiences”. With central government officials almost uniformly portrayed as benevolent and fatherly on TV, depicting them as villains is unprecedented.


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Howard French in WSJ on Julian Gewirtz’s book, Unlikely Partners.
Beyond standard Marxism, modern economics was almost entirely unknown in China under Mao. In a near blink of the eye in historical terms, Mr. Gewirtz shows, reformist leaders eagerly embraced the ideas of thinkers like the Polish-born Wlodzimierz Brus and the Hungarian economist Janos Kornai and then select Westerners, such as American Nobel laureate James Tobin and the British economist Alexander Cairncross. This culminated in a famous 1985 cruise down the Yangtze River that brought Chinese economists eager to absorb the best of what the world could offer together with their leading thinkers…. In different hands this material might have sped on toward some pat “and the rest was history” conclusion. Rewardingly, Mr. Gewirtz resists this, showing, for example, that many of the reforms credited to Deng actually owe their provenance to Hua Guofeng, the all-but-forgotten figure who preceded Deng during a brief interregnum after Mao died in September 1976.


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Jun Mai in SCMP, Reading Between the Lines of Xi Jinping’s Political Philosophy.
According to Li, Xi’s political theory is made up of a series of public remarks given by the president. While Li stopped short of officially naming the theory, he referred to it as “Xi Jinping’s series of important speeches”, providing the latest confirmation that the system of political ideas conveyed in the leader’s speeches would be named after him. As Li is a trusted ally of Xi and his office is the nerve hub of the top leadership’s daily operations, the chief of staff can be seen as speaking on behalf of the party’s top leaders. His words carry greater authority than People’s Daily editorials or remarks from senior policy advisers, for example. A “complete theory system”, as Li put it, carries tremendous weight in the world of Chinese politics, as each top leader can have only one such system.


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Jun Mai in SCMP, Why Is China Blurring the Line Between Party and State? .
The concept of the separation of party and state, later written into the top-level political report at the party’s 13th national congress in 1987, urged the party to only take part in major decisions and retreat from daily government operations. It was part of an effort to tackle excessive concentration of power, seen by the party as the root of the political mayhem during the Mao Zedong era, but Deng also repeatedly warned against Western notions of the separation of powers. The purpose of such reforms is to “strengthen the leadership of the party”, not to weaken it, according to Deng. Still, Deng’s “separation of party and state” remarks remain perceived by many on face value. Attempts at further political reform have stalled for decades following the leadership shake-up that accompanied the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 1989. Party committees were reinstated in government institutions, but it is rare for officials to openly advocate the fusion of party and state apparatus.


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Bruce Dickson in WASHINGTON QUARTERLY, The Survival Strategy of the Chinese Communist Party.
The main dilemma posed by co-opting urban elites into the Party is that they may try to change the Party from within. The Party hopes to obtain their loyalty by bringing them into the organization, but since most people nowadays join the Party out of self-interest, there is no guarantee that they will be committed to the Party’s goals or support the regime at a time of crisis. Instead, they may try to push the Party to become more open to contending voices and less intrusive into economic and social affairs. This was one of the objections raised in the 1990s against admitting capitalists into the Party, although those fears seem to have been unwarranted – the “red capitalists” did not push the Party further than it was willing to go.


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Graham Allison in NATIONAL INTEREST, Destined for War? .
“History,” Henry Kissinger observed in his first book, “is the memory of states.” China’s memory is longer than most, with the century of humiliation forming a core part of the country’s identity. Recent military engagements are also part of each state’s living memory. The Korean War and Sino-Soviet border conflict taught Chinese strategists not to back down from more powerful adversaries. Moreover, both the American and Chinese militaries acknowledge that the United States has lost, or at least failed to win, four of the five major wars it has entered since World War II. The most pertinent background conditions, however, are Thucydides’s Trap and the syndromes of rising and ruling powers that China and the United States display in full. Thucydides’s Trap is the severe structural stress caused when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one. Most contests that fit this pattern have ended badly. Over the past five hundred years, a major rising power has threatened to displace a ruling power sixteen times. In twelve of those, the result was war.


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James Stavridis in WSJ, The Naval Battles Ahead.
I spent the formative years of my naval career in cruisers and destroyers during the long twilight of the Cold War. We chased Soviet submarines through the North Atlantic and dodged their intelligence ships in the South China Sea, forever playing a kind of “Hunt for Red October.” The fleet of the U.S.S.R. was massive, dangerously armed and globally deployed – a worthy foe. Those of us in the U.S. Navy felt a twinge of regret (but only a twinge) as we watched much of that fleet broken apart, mothballed or sold to other nations after the Soviet Union’s collapse in the early 1990s. China was still just starting its astonishing economic rise, and its navy was little more than a coastal force. The oceans looked to be a vast American lake for decades to come. That era has now come to an end.


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Richard Bernstein in WSJ on Johan Lagerkvist’s book, Tiananmen Redux.
What is most important in Mr. Lagerkvist’s scheme is that Tiananmen allowed the 84-year-old Deng to press on his reluctant co-elders in the party a neoliberal economic agenda, by which he means a kind of savage capitalism, with low wages, reduced social welfare benefits and yawning gaps between the rich and the poor. All the well-publicized ills of globalization thus originate in China’s decision to go for rapid economic growth no matter the costs. This produced another irony. For decades, the widespread hope and expectation outside of China was that capitalism would make the country more like us. As Mr. Lagerkvist gloomily points out, something like the reverse has actually happened. Rather than China being Westernized, the West is being Sinicized. “It would be imprudent,” he writes, “to ignore the fact that the world may indeed become more authoritarian and parochially nationalistic despite, or precisely because of the effects of neoliberal globalisation.”


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Gao Zhisheng in FIRST THINGS, Struggle Against the Gods.
He has no desire to introduce due process of law; his main goal is to maintain the CCP’s dictatorial status and eliminate rivals; and a sincere anti-corruption campaign would subvert the regime. Xi must know that the most corrupt officials in China are members of the CCP Politburo and its Standing Committee. What family of past or current Politburo Standing Committee members is not as rich as a small nation? In the end, whether it’s Mao, Deng, or Xi, in terms of political logic, motives, and modus operandi, they are birds of a feather. I have participated in the defense of some of those accused of corruption, and those cases let me perceive some common patterns. First, not a single corruption case has been uncovered as a result of the normal operation of anti-corruption procedures. Second, such cases have been exposed due to accidental factors or power struggles between groups of corrupt officials. When the power struggles remain in equilibrium, everyone remains a “leading comrade.” Once the equilibrium breaks, the losing party becomes the corrupt official and the winning one becomes the anti-corruption hero. In fact, these are cases of the heinously corrupt arresting the merely corrupt. If Xi really fought corruption through to the end, he and the rest of his regime would be thrown into prison.


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Hugo Restall in WSJ on Ian Johnson’s book, The Souls of China.
As Chinese become more prosperous and move to cities, their spiritual life is also evolving. Instead of rituals and fortune-telling, they want a coherent worldview and direction on how to live a good life. Simple rules are giving way to theological debates. Protestantism is most representative of this trend, which helps explain why it continues to grow so fast. The one religion that thrived under Mao’s oppression, it has gone from just one million followers in 1949 to more than 60 million today…. Protestantism adapts quickly. Wang Yi, the pastor of Early Rain, was once a human rights lawyer. Now he and his colleagues see Christianity as the path to redeeming a corrupt society.


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Simon Winchester in NYTBR on John Pomfret’s book, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom.
Whenever a volume like Pomfret’s thuds onto my study table, I flip to the bibliography to look for a citation of one Western book that I have long thought properly explores this deeply contextual aspect of Chinese thinking: Alain Peyrefitte’s “The Immobile Empire,” first published in Paris in 1989…. Peyrefitte, a writer who was then researching much the same East-West relationship as Pomfret (though focused on the end of the 18th century and in connection with Britain alone), was granted unprecedented access to the imperial archives in Beijing. There he found a trove of private papers from the Emperor Qianlong, and within these files discovered notations in vermilion ink that had been written by no less than the Son of Heaven himself. With remarkable candor, the emperor showed just what he thought of the noblemen George III had sent out to China in hopes of spawning a friendship between what were then, at least in Britain’s eyes, the world’s two greatest nations. And it is clear the emperor thought precious little of them. His notes displayed a brutal condescension toward the visitors and an absolute, unwavering certainty of the superiority of Chinese civilization. What policy makers in America now need to grasp — and what isn’t fully illustrated in this new book — is that little has changed today.


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Holman Jenkins in WSJ, China Was Bill Clinton’s Russia.
This isn’t even ancient history. Last week a 17-year-old video surfaced from convicted Clinton fundraiser Johnny Chung in which he confessed to fronting for Chinese intelligence and worried about being bumped off. Mr. Trump wasn’t president during the 2016 campaign, unlike Bill Clinton in 1996. He didn’t dispatch his Russian-born deputy assistant commerce secretary to panhandle among Russia-connected sources. He didn’t send his vice president to an illegal fundraiser at a Russian Orthodox church.


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Gordon Chang in NYT, on Michael Green’s book, By More Than Providence – Grand Strategy and American Power in the Asia Pacific Since 1783.
As Walter Lippmann noted, the United States was never isolationist in the Pacific. The American effort over time is all the more remarkable because democracies are, by their nature, ill-suited to maintaining consistent foreign policies, something noted by Alexis de Tocqueville in “Democracy in America.” As Green writes: “The founders created a system that was designed to prevent precisely the kind of centralization of decision-making imagined by Thucydides, Clausewitz and other classical strategic thinkers.” Yet America has been able to maintain consistency because its policy, he perceptively notes, “always flowed organically from the Republic’s values and geographic circumstances.” Those geographic circumstances — two oceans — did not insulate America. The United States fought two great wars in Europe in the last century, both to prevent one power, Germany, from seizing the continent. That same strategic imperative forced Washington to engage in two epic struggles in the Asia-Pacific, first a war with Japan and then a multidecade effort to contain Soviet power. Now, the United States finds itself involved in a third campaign to prevent a state from asserting hegemonic control in Asia. Green points out that Asia is defined in large part “by the waxing and waning of the Sinocentric order.”


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Jeevan Vasagar & Leo Lewis in FT, Chinese Hackers Focus on Asia after US Pact.
Analysts warned of a potential upsurge in Chinese cyber espionage aimed at European or Asian targets following the agreement between Barack Obama and Xi Jinping in 2015, when China and the US agreed not to support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property. China and Australia agreed [to] a similar pact this week.


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Chris Buckley & Adam Wu in NYT, In China, an Ancient People Watch Their Floating Life Dissolve.
The residents of this floating village are members of the Tanka group, an ancient people scattered across southern China who have survived on coastal waterways, and on the margins of society. But Guangdong is a caldron of manufacturing and urban growth. Cities have engulfed once-quiet towns, and the Tanka way of life is disappearing. A cement plant on the shore opposite the village in Datang discharged fumes into the air. Apartment blocks have risen along the riverfront. The briny, tidal water of the Bei River, the residents’ lifeblood, has been dredged and is polluted, overfished and crowded with ships. “Many Tanka people who have settled onshore haven’t told their children about their Tanka background,” said Wu Shuitian, a professor at Guangzhou University who studies the Tanka people. “The Tanka life on the water is disappearing, and it’s also disappearing as a culture.” Yet Tanka people rarely voiced regret for the passing of their old ways. Their dislocated lives left little room for nostalgia or even for remembering their folk songs, called saltwater songs. Fishing and living on boats, many said, were a means of survival, not cultural preservation.


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Javier Hernandez in NYT, China, Fanning Patriotism, Adds 6 Years to War with Japan in History Books.
The Chinese Ministry of Education said the decision to add six years to the war sought to promote patriotic education and to highlight the Communist Party’s “core role” in resisting Japanese fascism in the prelude to World War II. It also seemed intended to rally support for the party among young people as Mr. Xi vigorously promotes Communist history and thought in schools. Zhang Lifan, a historian in Beijing, said the decision to revise the length of the war was justified from a historical perspective. But he said it would also have political benefits for the party and would encourage anti-Japanese sentiment. “Chinese leaders still have a Cold War mentality,” he said. “They’ve tried to conjure up imaginary enemies in the world.” Mr. Xi has worked in recent years to enhance the image of the Communists and their achievements in World War II, even though many historians believe it was the Chinese Nationalists, not the Communists, who did most of the fighting.


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Suisheng Zhao at yaleglobal, Reconstruction of Chinese History for a Peaceful Rise.
In comparison with Western countries that used coercive power to build colonies, the Chinese world order was more civil, attracting admiration from tributary states without use of force. Emphasizing benevolent governance, etiquette, peace and denying the imperialistic nature, imperial China and its relations with surrounding regions were far more advanced than the colonialism of western countries. Some Chinese scholars have gone so far as to argue that the root of all troubles in Chinese diplomacy today is China’s lost opportunities for expansion by being pedantic and caring too much about morality and principles. “The surrounding countries should be grateful for China’s benevolent governance, and that the imperial order should be re-established, yet they don’t like moderation and self-restraint as part of the imperial tradition,” maintains Haiyang Yu…. Recent scholarship in the West, suggests that imperial China, like its counterparts, was not uniquely benevolent or uniquely violent. Odd Arne Westad’s study reveals, “The dramatic Qing penetration of Central Asia is a story of intense conflict and, eventually, of genocide.” After defeating Zungharia in battle, the Qianlong emperor ordered his army to kill Zunghar elite. “Then he incorporated most of eastern Zungharia and the minor Khanates to its south into China, creating one region that Qianlong, triumphantly, referred to as China’s new frontier (Xinjiang).” Warfare was constant in imperial China, with regions often in disunion or under foreign invasion.


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Chris Horton in NYT, Taiwan Commemorates a Violent Nationalist Episode, 70 Years Later.
The “2/28 Incident,” as it has come to be known, was an uprising that flared on Feb. 28, 1947. It soon spread to other parts of the island and was crushed in the massacre of up to 28,000 Taiwanese by the troops of Chiang Kai-shek, the Nationalist leader of China. The revolt was followed by four decades of martial law and divisions between Taiwanese whose roots on the island predated the Nationalists’ arrival in 1945 and the Chinese mainlanders who came after. Yet it was the eventual willingness to confront these events that enabled Taiwan’s people to begin to heal those divisions and achieve the voice in their government that the protesters demanded seven decades ago. “In recent years, the quest to redress Feb. 28 has been a very important development,” said Su Ching-hsuan, the executive secretary of the Taiwan Association for Truth and Reconciliation. “It’s had a major influence on Taiwan’s democracy movement.”


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Craig Smith in NYT, A Doomed Battle for Hong Kong, With Only Medals Left 75 Years Later.
Brigadier Lawson planned to move his headquarters back the next morning, but by 7 a.m. he was surrounded. Around 10 a.m., according to an account General Maltby wrote after the war, Brigadier Lawson reported that the Japanese were firing into his bunker “at point-blank range and that he was going outside to fight it out.” Sgt. Bob Manchester of the Winnipeg Grenadiers was in a ditch opposite and saw Brigadier Lawson and three of his men hit by machine-gun fire as they scrambled up the hillside behind the bunker. Fighting around the headquarters continued until Dec. 22, when the remaining soldiers in the area were captured. Capt. Uriah Laite, a chaplain, was taken to the bunkers by the Japanese to call for any men still alive to come out. “During the rounds,” he wrote in his diary, “I found the body of our Brigadier Lawson and was given permission to take his identification disc off his wrist.” The Japanese commander buried Brigadier Lawson the next day and erected a white marker on the grave with the brigadier’s name and rank written on it in Japanese, a rare honor. In 1946, the Canadian authorities reburied his remains in Sai Wan War Cemetery on Hong Kong Island, where they are today.


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Damien Cave & Jacqueline Williams in NYT, Australian Politics Is Open to Foreign Donations, and China Has Much to Gain.
One of the donors is said to have withdrawn a large contribution last year because of a political party’s position on the disputed South China Sea, suggesting a back-room effort to shift public discussion of a delicate policy issue in Beijing’s favor. The question of Chinese interference is a sensitive one for Australia, an American ally that has embraced Beijing as its largest trade partner and welcomed Chinese investors and immigrants in large numbers. The political establishment here has generally been reluctant to tackle the issue. But the nation is now asking how a multicultural society should police a Communist power that has a record of mobilizing, and sometimes bullying, ethnic Chinese overseas to support its goals — and how it can do so without succumbing to racist xenophobia that treats everyone of Chinese descent as suspects.


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Raja Menon in OUTLOOK, The Reborn Armada of Cheng Ho.
In the year 1000, ship construction was an equal science in India, Arabia, Turkey, Venice and England. By 1600, the art of ship-building had grown exponentially in the West, firstly by the introduction of model-­making and the use of those models to achieve curved hulls that were so precise that architects could venture beyond the limited length-to-breadth ratio of the conventional hull. Hundreds of oak trees were felled to build a single hull capable of withstanding a round shot fired by cannon at close range. In western shipyards, the making of a ship’s drawings became a complex art. This enterprise depended on the joint effort of a traditional carpenter, a mathematician, a naval architect and a draughtsman, whereas in India the ship was built without any drawings and remained limited in size to what the carpenter could memorise. In India particularly, a carpenter building a ship remained illiterate because his caste was too low for him to claim the right to education. Marine archaeologists used to sing the praises of the illiterate Indian ship carpenters turning out sailing ship hulls from memory without fully realising that the limitations of this very carpenter caused the maritime defeats at sea suffered by the ships he built.


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John Man in LITERARY REVIEW on Christoph Baumer’s book, The History of Central Asia – The Age of Islam and the Mongols.
Since Genghis’s grandson Kublai made himself Chinese emperor (and, by extension, made Genghis Chinese, at least in Chinese eyes), how can Central Asian history be separated from Far Eastern history? It’s impossible: they overlap. Baumer omits the Jin empire of north China – Genghis’s first major target –but covers Kublai’s Yuan dynasty, which not only ruled over the north and south of the country after displacing the Jin and Song dynasties, but also in effect gave China its modern borders (incorporating Yunnan, Tibet and Xinjiang within them, though not Mongolia). It is not small irony, he notes, that the extension of a unified China was ‘brought about not by a Chinese but a “barbarian”.


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Ian Johnson in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Tan Hecheng’s book, The Killing Wind – A Chinese County’s Descent into Madness During the Cultural Revolution.
On August 26, 1967, Mrs. Zhou and her three children were dragged out of bed by leaders of the village of Tuditang. She had been working there for several years as a primary school teacher but had always lived under a cloud. Her father had been a traffic policeman during the time the Nationalist government had ruled China, which was enough to make her a “counterrevolutionary offspring.” That meant her family had been categorized as a “black element”—along with landlords, wealthy farmers, rightists (anyone who had voiced complaints in the late 1950s), and capitalists (usually small shopkeepers), as well as the catch-all “bad elements” (former prostitutes, opium smokers, homosexuals, and others seen as guilty of deviant behavior). For the previous eighteen years of Communist rule, black elements like Mrs. Zhou and her family had lived a marginal existence…. And it had inundated China with a barrage of propaganda intended to convince many that black elements were dangerous, violent criminals who were barely human. In the Cultural Revolution, Mao whipped up the propaganda another notch, declaring that enemies were readying a counterrevolution. In Dao County, stories began to fly that the black elements had seized weapons. The county government decided to strike preemptively and kill them. When village-level officials objected—many were related to the victims—more powerful leaders sent out “battle-hardened” squads of killers (often former criminals and hoodlums) to put pressure on locals to execute the undesirables. After the first deaths, locals were freed from moral constraints and usually acted spontaneously, even against family members.


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NEW DELHI TIMES: India Gets Sucked into Mongolia-China Relations.
China has slapped economic sanctions on Mongolia as retaliation over Dalai Lama’s ninth visit to the country. Ulan Bator had allowed Lama’s visit in November in the teeth of official Chinese opposition. China reacted immediately by punitively charging all trucks crossing into China’s autonomous province of Inner Mongolia and cancelling all official interactions. To ward off sanctions by China, Mongolia sought India’s help who is ‘ready to work with Mongolian people in this time of their difficulty’. India had promised a credit line of US $1 billion financial assistance during Modi’s last visit but is careful to steer clear of Mongolia-China spat. India views the current crisis as a debt-serving problem. India considers Mongolia ‘a partner in democracy’. Mongolia boasts of ‘a long spiritual relationship with India’ and expects India to ‘raise its voice against the unilateral measures China is taking’ in the midst of severe winter. Silence is implied consent but India is apprehensive that a public statement would anger the Chinese. China’s actions could psyche out neighbours and do not augur well for One-Belt-One Road (OBOR) policy as countries will fear Chinese diktat for arbitrary economic sanctions. Russia is silent lest it upsets Chinese investment of US $ 400 billion. Mongolia has defied China throughout history, braving troubled and complicated relations despite heavy dependence on China for transit. Premiers of both countries had literally come to fisticuffs over support to India during Sino Indian war.


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Niharika Mandhana in WSJ, India Moves Mountains to Build a Road to China.
India is accelerating work on strategic roads to be able to move troops and supplies to the border faster and deploy sophisticated weapons if armed conflict breaks out. China already has extensive infrastructure on its side. “It’s not business as usual,” a senior official overseeing the project said. “We have shifted gear.” Beijing claims 35,000 square miles of territory here, almost the entire Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, and calls it South Tibet. The arrival this week of the Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhism’s spiritual leader – who China calls a separatist – has stirred the rivalry.


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NEW DELHI TIMES: India Welcomes Bangladesh – Its True Friend.
Without understanding the long term ramifications, Rajiv Gandhi had recklessly promised Bangladesh military dictator H M Ershad way back in 1985 to include Nepal in future riparian talks. In years that followed, India had to work very hard to get out of it; the reason being that once Nepal is included, it would be impossible to exclude China, and that will render the talks quadrilateral in which eventuality there were real time danger of the other three– Bangladesh, Nepal and China- ganging up against India any time. As things stand at present, if Sheikh Hasina wants China included in talks on the Teesta and Brahmaputra rivers, it could renew India’s apprehensions. Recently high placed Bangladesh official said that in view of ‘China building barrages in Tibet and diverting the waters of these two rivers, it ‘should also be brought into the picture’. Thankfully, the same has not so far been the official line but nonetheless denotes the broadband of thinking. The fact of the matter is that after Hasina’s father Mujibur Rahman signed a water treaty with Indira Gandhi, Dhaka has always desired a third party.


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Ellen Barry in NYT, A Season of Regret for an Aging Tribal Expert in India.
It took Mr. Pandit and his colleagues more than two decades to persuade the tribes known as the Jarawa and Sentinelese to lay down their bows and arrows and mingle peacefully with the Indian settlers who surrounded them. The process was grindingly slow, involving trips into remote jungle areas to leave gifts for people who would not show themselves. In each case, though, there was an exhilarating breakthrough. In India’s Andaman Islands, these encounters occurred two centuries after indigenous populations in the United States and Australia had been devastated by disease and addiction, leaving no doubt of the dangers of unregulated contact. Mr. Pandit found himself entrusted with the future of tiny groups believed to have migrated from Africa around 50,000 years ago, described by a team of geneticists as “arguably the most enigmatic people on our planet.” India would do it better, he promised himself. So it is notable that now, when he looks back on his life’s great achievement, he does so with an unmistakable sadness.


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Hari Kumar & Ellen Barry in NYT, Beheadings Escalate a Bitter Standoff Between Nuclear-Armed Nations.
Last year, The Hindu, a daily newspaper, printed internal government documents about a 2011 Indian Army raid called Operation Ginger, which was prompted by a Pakistani attack that had killed six Indian soldiers. Two of the dead were beheaded. The response came a month later: an ambush that left at least eight Pakistanis dead, three of them beheaded, according to documents cited by the newspaper. The newspaper characterized the soldiers’ heads as “trophies.” Beheading carries extraordinary emotional power for troops and has for many centuries, said Gen. Ved Prakash Malik, who was chief of the Indian Army during the Kargil conflict, a monthslong war the two countries fought along the Line of Control in 1999.


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Tushar Mohanty at SAIC, Balochistan: Unabated Bloodshed.
The suicide attack of May 12 and ethnic killings of May 13 in Balochistan occurred while Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif was in Beijing to ink agreements between Pakistan and China aimed at boosting cooperation in various sectors, on the sidelines of the One Belt One Road (OBOR) Forum. Sharif arrived in Beijing on May 12, 2017, to participate in the OBOR Forum. CPEC is the flagship programme of OBOR, and is viewed by Baloch as a conspiracy by the Punjabi elite to plunder their land and resources. While Balochistan is the starting point of CPEC, the lion's share of projects under the programme has been assigned to Punjab, which has been assigned 53 per cent of the projects currently envisaged, according to Federal Ministry of Interior statistics shared with the Parliament on September 2, 2016. Out of the total of 330 projects, 176 are in Punjab while only eight have been allocated to Balochistan. This has compounded the sense of neglect and marginalization among the Baloch people. On September 3, 2016, the Balochistan Republican Party alleged that the Province’s abundant resources were being diverted for the benefit of Pakistan's dominant province, Punjab. Similarly, on March 13, 2017, Munir Mengal, the President of Baloch Voice Foundation, asserted, that CPEC was a 'strategic design' by Pakistan and China to loot Balochistan's resources and eliminate their culture and identity. Dubbing China as a 'great threat' to the Baloch people, UNHRC Balochistan representative Mehran Marri argued, on August 13, 2016, that "China really-really is spreading its tentacles in Balochistan very rapidly, and therefore, we are appealing to the international community. The Gwadar project is for the Chinese military….”


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Lucy Hornby & Aliya Ram in FT, Beijing and New Delhi Restart Border Dispute Over Tibet Region.
Beijing’s claims over Arunachal Pradesh – which it calls South Tibet – rest on its control over the rest of Tibet, the vast mountain territory it invaded and seized in 1950. The decision to release new names follows a dispute over a visit to a Buddhist monastery in Arunachal this month by the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader who lives in exile in India.


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Edward Wong in NYT, UN Human Rights Experts Unite to Condemn China Over Expulsions in Tibetan Region.
Over the summer, Chinese officials began deporting monks and nuns living at Larung Gar who were not registered residents of Garze, the prefecture where the institution is. Since then, hundreds of clergy members have been forced out, and workers have demolished small homes clustered along the valley walls. One day last fall, I watched workers tearing and cutting apart wooden homes, sometimes using a chain saw. Official reports have said the demolition is part of a project to improve safety in the area because people live in such tight quarters there. In 2014, a fire destroyed about 100 homes. Residents said the government planned to bring the population down to 5,000 from 20,000 by next year.


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Edward Wong in NYT, After Dalai Lama’s Visit, Mongolia Breaks Ties.
The Dalai Lamas arose from the actions of Altan Khan, a 16th-century Mongolian leader who controlled a region next to northern China, which was ruled by the ethnic Han emperors of the Ming dynasty. Three centuries earlier, Kublai Khan, the founding emperor of the Yuan dynasty, an era when Mongolians ruled China, had become interested in Tibetan Buddhism and had taken on a Tibetan teacher. But it was Altan Khan who made Tibetan Buddhism an official religion among Mongols. He did this when the head of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, also known as the Yellow Hat school, visited him in 1577. On that occasion, Altan Khan gave the spiritual leader the title of Dalai Lama. With Dalai meaning “ocean” in Mongolian and Lama being a Tibetan spiritual teacher, the title translates as “ocean of wisdom.” This bound the Mongols and Tibetans and established a relationship between Mongolian rulers and the Gelug school. Since then, the position of the Dalai Lama has been tied to complex politics in Asia.


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Jonathan Mirsky in NY REVIEW OF BOOKS on Tsering Woeser’s book, Tibet on Fire, and Tsering Topgyal’s book, China and Tibet.
The resentment of the Tibetans against the Chinese, according to Woeser, was based on the sense that their traditional identity had been violated, a conviction that reaches back to 1934 and 1935, during the Long March, when Mao’s forces, fleeing the pursuing forces of Chiang Kai-shek, passed through a predominantly Tibetan region inside China. This retreat has always been hailed as heroic, beginning with Red Star Over China (1937) by Edgar Snow, who heard Mao’s version of what happened at his guerrilla refuge. But, Woeser contends, the Reds looted food from the monasteries and massacred monks and lay people. (This account is new to me.) Since 1950, when the Communists invaded Tibet, Woeser writes, they have attempted to destroy the central elements of Tibetan culture…. During my visits between 1981 and 1989, some temples and monasteries were barely functioning and they were closely observed, including by policemen dressed as monks. I saw Chinese tourists and soldiers walking the wrong way around religious sites, a deliberate affront.


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Gordon Fairclough & Niharika Mandhana in WSJ, High Stakes in the Dalai Lama’s Rebirth.
The Dalai Lama – the 14th in his lineage – has indicated that he won’t be reborn in any place under Chinese control. He has also hinted that he might opt not to be reincarnated at all…. In recent months, the Dalai Lama has traveled to the two spots on China’s periphery where the only previous non-Tibetan incarnations of the Dalai Lama originated. In November, he visited Mongolia, where the fourth Dalai Lama – the grandson of a Mongol ruler – was born in 1589. The trip drew a sharp response from the Chinese. Under pressure, Mongolian officials apologized and pledged not to invite the Tibetan leader back. This week, the Dalai Lama made the arduous journey to Tawang, less than 25 miles from India’s disputed frontier with China, where the sixth Dalai Lama – a child of a local nobleman – was discovered in the late 1600s.


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Reuters-SCMP: Terrorism Threat Transforms China’s Uygur Heartland into Security State.
China’s worst fears are that a large-scale attack would blight this year’s diplomatic set piece, a “One Belt, One Road” summit attended by world leaders planned for Beijing in May. State media says the drills, and other measures such as a network of thousands of new street-corner police posts, are aimed making everyone feel safer. But many residents say the drills are just part of an oppressive secutiry operation that has been ramped up in Kashgar and other cities in Xinjiang’s Uygur heartland in recent months. As well as taking part in drills, shopkeepers must, at their own expense, install password-activated security doors, “panic buttons” and cameras that film not just the street outside but also inside their stores, sending a direct video feed to police.


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Te-Ping Chen in WSJ-newsofasia.net, Uighurs Threaten Attacks in ISIS Video.
An Islamic State video appears to show recruits from China’s Uighur minority threatening to “avenge oppression,” feeding into Beijing’s assertion of a growing jihadist-terror threat. The half-hour video was released Monday by an Islamic State division in western Iraq, said the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors online jihadist activity. Subtitled in both Arabic and Uighur, it shows what SITE says are Uighur fighters on the battlefield, as well as several grisly executions of accused informants. “Oh you Chinese who [do] not understand what people say!” one of the fighters declares before an execution, according to SITE’s translation. “We are the soldiers of the Caliphate, and we will come to you to clarify to you with the tongues of our weapons, to shed blood like rivers and avenging the oppressed, Allah permitting.” Recruitment by Middle East jihadist groups has Beijing on increasingly high alert, particularly in its northwest Xinjiang region, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan and is home to the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority. Leaked Islamic State records show that more than 100 Chinese nationals have joined the group in Syria, according to two recent studies, and Chinese officials say about 300 Uighurs are fighting with the jihadist movement in Syria and Iraq.


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Carol Giocomo in NYT, Villagers in Myanmar Describe the Destructive Power of China’s Building Frenzy.
Called One Belt, One Road, the multibillion-dollar initiative seeks to generate business for China’s state-owned enterprises while promising development and jobs to other countries along the route that are desperate for both. Other foreign investors and nations, however, would be wise to consider what happened in the area around Kyaukphyu — a poor town of dilapidated wooden houses and deeply rutted roads in desperately poor Rakhine State, on Myanmar’s western coast — before participating in the huge venture…. I heard this story firsthand from five farmers who traveled hours by boat, foot and motorbike from their even smaller and poorer village, Kapaing Chaung, to talk with me about their experiences when the China National Petroleum Corporation and the government of Myanmar, formerly Burma, jointly built an oil and gas pipeline from China across Myanmar to Kyaukphyu, on the Bay of Bengal. The villagers are members of a local “watch committee” backed by two rights activist groups, the Natural Resource Governance Institute and Paung Ku, to monitor the operation. The committee is a weak but admirable attempt at community action in a country where people are reluctant to complain and nobody cared much about the farmers whose land was vital to the project but who were powerless to defend their interests. The Chinese destroyed a dam in the village and the mangrove trees that supported it, flooding farmlands with salty water and interfering with a river that provided irrigation.


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Mike Ives in NYT, Ultranationalist Monks in Myanmar, Facing Crackdown, Say They’re Unrepetant.
The state-run Buddhist authority’s directive on Tuesday came two weeks after a raid on a Muslim neighborhood in Yangon by Buddhist vigilantes who were searching for Rohingya they believed were hiding there illegally. There is a widespread view in Myanmar that Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, regardless of whether their families have lived in Myanmar for generations. The raid led to street clashes between Buddhists and Muslims, a rarity in Yangon, and left at least one person injured. A Buddhist nationalist group, the Patriotic Monks Union, later claimed responsibility for the raid, and several people were charged with incitement to commit violence. Sectarian tensions have been especially high in Myanmar since the fall, when Rohingya militants killed nine police officers at a border post in Rakhine, inciting a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that sent tens of thousands of Rohingya fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh. In March, widespread reports of state-sanctioned rape and killing in Rakhine led the United Nations to call for a fact-finding mission to investigate accusations of rights violations by Myanmar’s Army and security forces. In another potential blow to religious harmony, U Ko Ni, a Muslim lawyer and a top adviser to the National League for Democracy, was shot and killed outside Yangon’s international airport in January, in what appeared to be a political assassination.


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Paul Millar at SOUTHEAST ASIA GLOBE, Faith in Flux: Wealthy Middle Eastern Donors Bring Uncertainty to Cambodia’s Cham Muslims.
Rebuilt after the Khmer Rouge period in 1987 with Kuwaiti funds and private donations from Muslim communities spread across Southeast Asia, Nourussalaam Mosque is one of dozens of shining houses of worship lining Cambodia’s National Highway 5. The road stretches north from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Cham, major hubs of the nation’s ethnic Cham community. Tracing their descent from the ancient kingdom of Champa in modern-day Vietnam, the more than 400,000 Chams who live in Cambodia have become the most visible face of Islam in the country. But as private and government funding from Muslim countries across the world continues to facilitate the spread of fundamentalist forms of Islam in this community, it is a face that is looking increasingly unfamiliar to the Buddhist majority.


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Julia Wallace & Neou Vannarin in NYT, A Life Sentence in Cambodia, But a Political Murder Is Far from Solved.
In the days before his killing, Mr. Kem Ley gave radio interviews about a new Global Witness report, “Hostile Takeover,” that detailed the vast wealth amassed by the family of Mr. Hun Sen over his 30 years in power. Mr. Kem Ley was adept at communicating with rural Cambodians over the radio, deftly deploying the puns, double entendres and allegories that are staples of effective political communication in what is still overwhelmingly an oral culture. “Kem Ley mastered the art of communication to perfection,” Astrid Noren-Nilsson, a lecturer at Lund University’s Center for East and South-East Asian Studies, wrote in an email. He had also been campaigning against Vietnam’s supposed theft of borderlands — a highly delicate topic here — and writing a collection of mordant political fables. They were set in a surreal version of Cambodia populated by talking animals and characters like Uncle Strong, Aunty the Farm’s Gone and Mr. Microfinance, a world in which an assassin named Meet Kill would fit right in. Mr. Kem Ley called them “political jokes,” but usually the joke was on the common people, who were continually being duped by tigers, lions and rapacious rulers. In one, a man called Hostile Takeover accrues endless resources for himself and his family. Another, published the day before his killing, is set in a garden where “good and gentle animals are constantly killed” by a small cadre of thieving predators.


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Julia Wallace in NYT, The Bucolic Life of a Cambodian Grandmother Accused of Mass Killings.
Prosecutors estimated that 40,000 people had died at the largest prison in the district that Ms. Im Chaem ran, Phnom Trayoung, which was allegedly under her direct control. Some were executed by night, while others died doing heavy labor at the prison’s quarry while eating meager rations of rice porridge. An entire village of 400 people, Chakrey, was virtually eliminated; fewer than 10 men were alive by the end of 1978. At a nearby jail, around 6,000 people were killed, 20 or 30 every night. “In Chakrey village we could hear the screams from the forest nearby,” said one survivor cited in “The Pol Pot Regime,” a book by the historian Ben Kiernan. “The victims’ clothes were distributed to us the next day.” Ms. Im Chaem also supervised construction of huge waterworks to increase rice production, including two dams. According to prosecutors, one was built entirely by hand in three months by 1,300 slave laborers subsisting on tiny portions of rice porridge. She tells the story differently. In a 2012 interview with the Documentation Center of Cambodia, an independent research group, she said she had been called upon to “solve problems” because she had a knack for organizing workers and supervising rice cultivation.


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Seth Mydans in NYT, Khmer Rouge Tribunal’s Record: 11 Years, $300 Million and 3 convictions.
After spending more than a decade and nearly $300 million, the United Nations-backed tribunal prosecuting the crimes of the Khmer Rouge has convicted just three men. It appears now that they could be the only people to answer in court for the deaths of at least 1.7 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979 in one of the worst episodes of mass killing in the last century. Three more potential defendants have been investigated by the tribunal, an ungainly mix of Cambodian and international prosecutors and judges. But because of resistance on the Cambodian side, there are serious doubts that their indictments will proceed.


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Julia Wallace in NYT, They Smashed Banks for Pol Pot. Now They’re Founding Them.
Malai was still a malaria-infested jungle stronghold when Mr. Tep Khunnal moved here in 1998, bringing with him Pol Pot’s widow, whom he married shortly after his boss’s death. Along with a barely educated but savvy ex-soldier, Soom Yin, he took out a bank loan to test some of his ideas. Their company bought the area’s first corn-drying machine, imported a new breed of sun-resistant corn from Thailand and set up a quality-control system for the corn and cassava that moved through their warehouse. Today, Mr. Soom Yin owns the largest export firm in the area and can talk for hours about the minutiae of the cassava trade, from moisture levels to price fluctuations. In his spare time, he said, he reads books on management. The Khmer Rouge ways are “very old now,” he said. “Even me, I don’t even dream about that anymore. We just do business.”


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Harsh Pant at YALEGLOBAL, Resurgent Russia Joins Great Game in South Asia.
Russia has revamped its South Asia policy in recent months with a major outreach to Pakistan and stepping forward as a power broker in Afghanistan, its former stomping ground. With the help of its newfound strategic partner China, Russia intends to checkmate the United States’ regional pre-eminence. But the maneuvering  has also brought Moscow in opposition to New Delhi with which it has traditionally shared robust ties. Any new power equation in the region will have long-term implications. Since the 1960s Russia has been a close partner of India in South Asia. This relationship has stood the test of time even as global power equation changed after the end of the Cold War. During the Cold War, the high point of the relationship was the signing of the 1971 Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation, which signaled a decisive shift away from the West in response to an emerging US-Pakistan-China axis in South Asia. Though not an explicit military alliance, this treaty was sharp departure from India’s professed policy of non-alignment, and New Delhi emerged a close partner of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The treaty in effect created deterrence against any form of US-Pakistan-China detente and rendered India increasingly dependent on the Soviet Union for defense capabilities.


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Neil Buckley in FT, Russia’s Agriculture Sector Flourishes Amid the Sanctions.
Many western analysts and investors were cynical. But in at least one area of the economy – agriculture and associated sectors – the optimism has been vindicated. Russia last year became the world’s biggest exporter of grains, at more than 34m tones. Total Russian grain production hit a record 119m tones. The turnround is striking, since as recently as 15 years ago – and for a couple of decades before during the Soviet era – Russia was a net importer. The success goes beyond grain. Russia has fully substituted imports with domestic production of pork and chicken. It has become a top producer of sugar beet; greenhouse vegetable production last year was up 30 per cent on the year before. While agriculture remains far below oil and gas, the sector has overtaken arms sales to become Russia’s second-biggest exporter.


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Andrew Rettman at euobserver.com, Orthodox Believers Form Pro-Russia Bloc in Europe.
Most people in the majority-Orthodox bloc, which includes EU and Nato states Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece, as well as EU-aspirant states such as Georgia, Moldova, and Serbia believe Russia should act as a “buffer” against the West and should “protect” them if need be. Orthodox societies also voiced more nationalist, homophobic, and sexist views, the survey, which was published by US pollster Pew on Wednesday (10 May) said. By contrast, people in majority Roman Catholic countries, such as Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, and Hungary, looked to the West for leadership. Orthodox affiliation was also rising sharply in central and eastern Europe, while Catholicism was on the wane, with the Czech Republic emerging as the most godless state of all, the pollster said.


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Igor Torbakov at eurasianet.org, Why Does Moscow’s Perennial Quest for Recognition Go Nowhere? .
From a European perspective, the key problem that Russia is facing in its quest for recognition as an equal is a social one. Briefly, it boils down to the incompatibility between the Russian and European regime types, and, specifically, between the ways they structure the relationship between state and society. From the viewpoint of many in Washington, meanwhile, a significant barrier to parity is connected with economic achievement. Given that Russia’s GDP roughly equals that of the state of New York, Moscow’s pretence to cast itself as America’s peer is perceived as ridiculous by many American policy players. These days, some leading Russian foreign policy analysts assert that a major paradigm shift is occurring in which the “renationalization of international relations” is trending. The “historic” West has been eclipsed by the non-West, these experts argue. In addition, they maintain, the aspects of Russian conduct that seemed outdated and belonging to the 19th century diplomatic toolkit – policies such as the reliance on hard power, realist geopolitics, privileging national over international, and prioritizing an enhanced role for the state – actually constitute the “post-modern” reality of the 21stcentury.


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Wojciech Siegen in NEW EASTERN EUROPE, Making the Unreal Real.
During the first years of Putin’s rule as president there was willingness to de-ideologise the history curriculum. In 2003 the British historian Catherine Merridale presented the results of her research in Russia where she conducted interviews with academic staff and students who spoke about their willingness to teach and be taught history deprived of ideology. This educational programme was equated with western models, which at that time was positively assessed. Interestingly, Merridale concluded that Russia n youths were not interested in ideological content. The year 2005 can be regarded as a turning point in the ideologisation of education in Russia. A strong shift in the Kremlin’s policy towards the youth was undoubtedly illustrated in the idea of Vladislav Surkov (a close Putin associate and key Kremlin ideologist – editor’s note) to set up the “Youth Democratic Antifascist Movement”, or Nashi. The name and the stature of the organization refers to the myth of the Second World War. That year was also the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.


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Joshua Rubenstein in NYTBR on Catherine Merridale’s book, Lenin on the Train.
The cover of “Lenin on the Train” portends the trouble to follow. In a notorious Soviet-era painting, Lenin is shown descending from the train to greet an exuberant crowd of admirers at Petrograd’s Finland Station. Behind him looms the image of a smiling Stalin, as if that future tyrant had been aboard as well — “a visual fairy tale,” in Merridale’s words, to reinforce Stalin’s claim that he had always been Lenin’s principal lieutenant. In fact, Stalin had faced internal exile in Siberia before reaching Petrograd in March. Lenin was greeted by hundreds of followers, among them prominent Bolsheviks like Lev Kamenev and Fedor Raskolnikov, while others, most notably Grigory Zinoviev and Grigory Sokolnikov, accompanied him on the train. Stalin later had them killed. But it was Lenin himself who made it clear that the Bolsheviks would reject democratic values. He “had not traveled back to join a coalition,” Merridale writes, but to undermine the provisional government and establish a dictatorship in the name of the proletariat. It was Lenin who instituted severe censorship, established one-party rule and resorted to terror against his political enemies. Stalin took these measures to further extremes for his own sinister purposes. Merridale is right to recall Winston Churchill’s famous observation about Lenin’s return. The Germans, Churchill wrote, “turned upon Russia the most grisly of all weapons. They transported Lenin in a sealed truck like a plague bacillus from Switzerland to Russia.”


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Gregory Feifer in NYTBR on Sean McMeekin’s book, The Russian Revolution – A New History.
Four months had passed since the so-called February Revolution forced Czar Nicholas II from the throne, and the democratic socialists and liberals who had taken control were locked in a mounting power struggle marked by shifting alliances, palace intrigues and occasional street fighting. Denouncing them as bourgeois “minister-capitalists,” the mobs now demanded that the Soviet take full command of the country. The protesters were acting on the orders of the small but militant Bolshevik wing of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Party, which had been busy propagandizing military units and factory workers. Although the Bolsheviks had called for a peaceful demonstration, their real plan was to seize power in a coup d’état. With gangs in armored cars and trucks roaming the city, they were already in de facto control. Vladimir Lenin was inside the palace waiting to proclaim a new government. When a leading minister stepped outside to calm the crowd, a worker raised a fist to his face, shouting, “Take power, you S.O.B., when they give it to you!” Others seized him and dragged him into a car. But the Bolshevik plan soon fizzled. Whether due more to a loss of nerve than bad planning, the mobs dissipated and the Bolshevik leaders were arrested. With evidence that they were being lavishly financed by Russia’s wartime enemy Germany, the provisional government prepared to dispatch the traitorous radicals. “Now they are going to shoot us,” Lenin warned his co-conspirator Leon Trotsky before shaving his beard and fleeing to Finland.


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Danusha Goska at frontpage.com. In Andrzej Wajda’s Final Film, Communism Destroys an Artist.
A young man took the stage. He was earnest, pale, and underfed. "We are about to show you a film." We students were excited. Kids love it when class is canceled and the teacher shows a film. The young man continued in that weird English that could be heard only in the old Soviet Empire. The Iron Curtain guaranteed that its detainees didn't have much of a chance to converse with outsiders. Those very few people who could speak any English at all sounded as if they had memorized a purloined dictionary, reverse-engineered the grammar, and practiced only on Mars. "Since you are Americans, you will not understand this movie," the young man promised, with a familiar resignation. The waiters in the restaurants with no food; the train station clerks who couldn't sell you a ticket and couldn't explain why; the librarians whose shelves were off limits: resignation flowed more reliably than water through the noisy pipes in the student dorm. "Our history is peculiar," the young man informed us. We knew. We could exchange one dollar for fistfuls of Polish money. My Australian roommate, Kirstin, was about to visit West Germany. My Polish friend, Beata, gave Kirstin her entire month's salary, so Kirstin could bring back to Beata one spool of turquoise thread. The movie began. Understand it? It swept me away.


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Daniel Wanczyk in NEW EASTERN EUROPE, The Black Island of the Arctic.
The first searching and mining expedition – half of which was made up of hired workers and the other half was made up of prisoners – reached the area in 1931. The team had to transport everything on their backs, from boats, tools and construction materials to food. The Vorkuta River area was rich in coal but nothing else. There were no trees and conditions were too harsh for agriculture. With the exception of a few nomads, there were no permanent inhabitants. The first mine with two drifts opened in 1932. The local landscape was diversified by the ever growing piles of black coal, as it was still unclear how to most effectively transport it. Intense extraction required manpower, especially since people’s hands were almost the only available tool. By the winter of 1932 there were already 1,500 prisoners working in Vorkuta. By spring 1933 only 54 survived. The high mortality rate meant there was a need for more prisoners.


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Jere Longman in NYT, Report Finds 17 Deaths and Labor Abuses at World Cup Stadiums in Russia.
The 34-page report, set to be made public Wednesday, appears to be the most comprehensive analysis so far of the labor situation ahead of the World Cup, which will be contested at 12 stadiums in 11 cities across Russia from June 14, 2018, to July 15. The 17 deaths at World Cup construction sites were documented by Building and Wood Workers’ International, a global trade union based in Switzerland. At least 70 workers died during construction for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia; 13 before the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro; six before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing; and zero during the building of the Olympic Park at the 2012 Olympics in London, according to trade union officials and news accounts.


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Anthony D’Agostino in NATIONAL INTEREST, Glasnost Reconsidered.
In his student days, Gromyko had written a doctoral thesis on Aleksandr Gorchakov, foreign minister in the government of Czar Alexander II, the “Czar liberator” who freed the serfs in 1861. Recueillement comes from a phase Gorchakov once uttered in answer to a query about his quiet and almost passive foreign policy after defeat in the Crimean War. “la Russie ne boude pas,” he said, “La Russie se recueille” (Russia is not sulking; she is gathering her strength). Gorchakov explained that it would be wise for Russia to remove herself from the list of enemies of the other great powers, to erase the “Russian threat” from the minds of British and French leaders and to allow them to focus instead on their differences with each other. At the end of the Brezhnev years Gromyko, like Gorchakov, thought it was time to tone down Soviet foreign policy, which was then sponsoring revolutionary regimes on three continents, and make another attempt to return to the Nixon-Kissinger détente. In the Gorchakov tradition, which still moves Russian policy today, détente is the beau ideal of realistic relations among the two greatest powers. Bismarck and Salisbury could be imagined to be reaching for it in the 1880s, FDR and Stalin similarly at Tehran and Yalta. Gorbachev followed Gromyko’s lead in 1985–86 and then tried to supersede him by going even further to remove the Soviet threat by perestroika. It was recueillement, perestroika, glasnost. The unstated premise was that the Soviet threat was related to its totalitarianism. To prove that the Soviets were really changing and not tricking the West, as most of Ronald Reagan’s advisers were claiming, the change must be real.


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James Marson & Alan Cullison in WSJ, Ukraine: Botched Killing Has Russia’s Fingerprints.
Ukrainian authorities have arrested a Russian citizen who they believe traveled on a phony passport to Ukraine and was posing as a French journalist when he allegedly pulled a gun out of a gift-wrapped box and shot a Kremlin opponent he had invited to an interview last week. The assassination attempt went awry when the victim’s wife pulled a gun of her own and opened fire on the would-be killer. Both men were hospitalized and survived.


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John Tamny in WSJ on Michael Breen’s book, The New Koreans.
What the divide between North and South highlights is that past national trauma does not guarantee perpetual poverty and dysfunction. More than foreign-aid proponents would like to admit, economies are just people, and, like people, they gain strength from periods of weakness. In the 1950s, according to Mr. Breen, the Koreans were “angry, dislocated, and desperate.” That condition has driven the South to excel. These days its success may be reflected most clearly in South Korea’s growing cultural relevance. Pop star PSY’s “Gangnam Style” was a global sensation in 2012, and last year Korean author Han Kang won the Man Booker International Prize. “Wealth and freedom brings artists to the fore,” Mr. Breen concludes.


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Demetri Sevastopoulo in FT, Trump Administration Warns Carter to Avoid Mediation Role in North Korea.
Brian Hook, a top state department official, personally made the request to Mr. Carter last weekend at the former president’s home in Georgia. The meeting came after Mr. Carter requested a briefing on the White House’s hardening stance towards North Korea’s nuclear programme, according to one person familiar with the nature of the talks…. The plea to Mr. Carter signaled concern that the former president could complicate US policy towards Pyongyang, as has occurred before, including in 1994 when Bill Clinton had been considering launching a military strike against North Korea.


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Jeremy Page & Jay Solomon in WSJ, Chinese, North Korean Companies Teamed Up.
For most of the past decade, a Chinese state-owned company had a joint venture with a North Korean company under sanctions for involvement in Pyongyang’s atomic-weapons program. Chinese corporate and government records show. China’s Limar Corp. and North Korea’s Ryongbong General Corp. set up a joint venture in 2008 to mine tantalum, niobium and zirconium, minerals that are useful in making phones and computers but also nuclear reactors and missiles.


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Mike Ives in NYT, Vietnamese Villagers Hold Officials Hostage, Highlighting a Land Dispute.
Videos of confrontations between villagers and the riot police in rural Vietnam are widely shared on YouTube and Facebook, which are not blocked in the country. Some villagers are supported by networks of urban activists as they campaign against the officials or the state-affiliated companies behind the evictions. The disputes occasionally turn violent, forcing provincial or even national officials to intervene. In 2012, for example, after a farmer shot at police officers who were trying to evict him from his land in the northern port city of Haiphong, the prime minister at the time, Nguyen Tan Dung, stepped in to say that the eviction had been illegal. In 2013, Vietnam tweaked its land law in ways meant to introduce more transparency into eminent domain cases. A United Nations-financed survey of public administration in Vietnam later found that the percentage of citizens who reported land seizures in Vietnam had declined slightly, to 6.8 percent of respondents in 2016 from over 9 percent in 2013, suggesting that the law may have helped reduce land seizures by local officials.


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Javier Hernandez in NYT, After Trump’s Phone Call to Philippines Leader, China’s President Calls Him.
In Mr. Xi’s follow-up to Mr. Trump’s overture, he pledged to deepen ties with the Philippines and called the country a “friendly neighbor,” according to Chinese news media reports. Mr. Xi also said Manila would be an “important partner” in his plan to invest in infrastructure overseas. The remarks were in line with China’s recent attempts to capitalize on tensions between the United States and the Philippines and draw Mr. Duterte’s government closer with promises of economic aid. But they also appeared to be a way of thanking the Philippines for not provoking China over disputed South China Sea islands claimed by both countries. “There is a scramble to win over the heart and mind of President Duterte,” said Patrick M. Cronin, a senior adviser at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington-based policy research group.


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Gary Dexter in SPECTATOR, Japan Thinks English Is the Future – Whatever Jean-Claude Juncker Says.
In fact, Japanese contains so many English loan words that Japan feels closer to the UK, linguistically, than it would to, say, China (Mandarin Chinese is unrelated to Japanese), or indeed to any other Asian country. Common words such as cup, knife, fork, spoon, table, keyboard, pen, light, glass, speaker, tape, pill, backpack, jacket, skirt and sweater — just a few of the nouns I can see by looking around me at this moment — are all borrowed from English, and are commonly known as koppu, naifu, fōku, supūn, tēburu, kībōdo, pen, raito, gurasu, supīka, tēpu, piru, bakkupakku, jaketto, sukāto and sētā. There are many thousands of others. That Japan and Britain are similar in many ways is no real news to anyone. Both are island nations living off the coast of a very big and powerful continental entity. Both are jealous of their independence. Both like tea. Both have an exaggerated system of polite interactions — if you doubt this is still the case in Britain, count how many times the words ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are uttered when you buy a stamp. Both are relatively peaceful societies where guns are very difficult to get hold of. Both are self-consciously literary societies with traditions that stretch back at least 1,000 years. And it is in this last respect that the Japanese love of Britain comes into its own.


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Zack Baddorf in NYT, Ordered to Catch a Warlord, Ugandan Troops Are Accused of Hunting Girls.
This region of the Central African Republic is one of the most remote and lawless parts of the country. Surrounded by dense forests, the town of Obo is right at the triple border with South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo — the territory of Mr. Kony’s L.R.A. Inside the Ugandan camp here, the headquarters for the military’s regional mission against the Lord’s Resistance Army, soldiers cluster around a fire pit and hang their laundry on strings. Broken, rusted and half-disassembled military trucks litter the area. The women and girls entered the Ugandan headquarters “like it was the most normal thing in the world,” said Lewis Mudge, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who has investigated allegations of sexual violence. “It was a complete culture of impunity where this was completely tolerated and accepted.” The United Nations defines sexual exploitation as “any actual or attempted abuse of position of vulnerability, differential power or trust, for sexual purposes.” The African Union prohibits any “sexual activities” with children as well as any “sexual favor in exchange for assistance.”


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Tonny Onyulo in USAT, In Uganda, Child Sacrifices Frighteningly Too Common.
“I was shocked when I saw the mutilated body of my daughter,” Misanya, 30, wept as she recalled the horror. “I really couldn’t believe if she was really my daughter. She was missing almost every part of her body. She died a very painful death.” Police later arrested a wealthy neighbor, businessman Gilbert Odima, who authorities alleged used Jane as a human sacrifice in a witchcraft ritual designed to bring him good fortune. “He confessed to me that he carried out the ritual to boost his dwindling business,” Misanya recounted about Odima, who is now in prison awaiting trial. “He said he knew the act would bring him good luck and success in life.” Misanya’s gruesome experience is only too common in Uganda, where human sacrifice — especially of children — occurs despite the government's efforts to stop it. Ugandan figures show seven child and six adult sacrifices in 2015, the most recent numbers available. In 2014, police recorded nine child and four adult sacrifices. Five years before, they counted 29 cases in total, the most in recent years.


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Maria Abi-Habib in WSJ, Christians Are Leaving the Middle East.
Today, more Arab Christians live outside the Middle East than in the region. Some 20 million live abroad, compared with 15 million Arab Christians who remain in the Mideast, according to a report last year by a trio of Christian charities and the University of East London. In 1971, Egyptian Coptic Christians had two churches in the U.S. Today there are 252 Coptic churches according to Samuel Tadros, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom.


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Sohrab Ahmari in WSJ, Weekend Interview: Pierre Manent.
“I cannot prove that the nation-state is the only viable form,” he says. “But what I’m sure about is that to live a fully human life, you need a common life and a community. This is a Greek idea, a Roman idea, a Christian idea.” It’s why 19th-century liberals such a Tocqueville were so enthralled by the modern democratic nation-state. It was committed to universal human rights, but it housed them within a pre-exiting “sacred community” that had its own inherited traditions – and boundaries. It’s also why in the 21st century, Mr. Manent says, the “small, damaged” nations of Central Europe react most viscerally against transnational liberalism. Hungary fears “it couldn’t have endured and would have disappeared,” he continues, if it faced the same multicultural pressures as, say, France. The European Union’s efforts to punish voters in such countries for electing the wrong kind of government will therefore intensify the backlash.


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Roger Scruton in WSJ, The Case for Nations.
Urban elites build trust through career moves, joint projects and cooperation across borders. Like the aristocrats of old, they often form networks without reference to national boundaries. They do not, on the whole, depend upon a particular place, a particular faith or a particular routine for their sense of membership, and in the immediate circumstances of modern life, they can adapt to globalization without too much difficulty. They will identify with transnational networks since they see those things as assets, which amplify their power. However, even in modern conditions, this urban elite depends upon others who do not belong to it: the farmers, manufacturers, factory workers, builders, clothiers, mechanics, nurses, cleaners, cooks, police officers and soldiers for whom attachment to a place and its customs is implicit in all that they do.


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Sebnem Arsu at euobserver.com, Turkey’s Accelerated Drift from Europe.
“Both sides need each other but never at the expense of Turkey’s independence or rightful opposition,” said Yasin Aktay, the deputy chairman of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, as he underlined the dramatic decline in the EU's popularity at home because of the bloc’s unfair treatment of the country. “Whatever comes to the table, we’ll look out for Turkey’s interests, calculate our gains and losses. We have no an intention to remain in the EU at all costs or sacrifice ourselves for the bloc,” he added. Turkey refuses to tighten its comprehensive anti-terrorism law, which the EU set as a precondition for visa-free travel for Turks. The country also demands €6 billion to be delivered, as promised in the 2016 migrant deal, and expects new chapters to be opened in the EU accession talks. Whatever came out of Erdogan’s meetings with EU officials, his regime ultimately aimed to “de-Westernise Turkey,” and, along with that, loosening ties with the EU was one of the many phases, Aktar claimed. “In a deeper stream, Turkey is being de-Westernised by the Erdogan regime, as it tries to revert a 200-year long process,” Aktar said, in reference to Ottoman attempts to align with the West, long before the Turkish Republic was founded. He added that: “The effort is visible in education, civil law or on the street, in human relations, as well as in rifts with Europe and its institutions." For the Erdogan regime, being part of the bloc is irrelevant when it comes to democratic and economic advancement. And as for strategic alliances, Ankara, especially in meetings with Russia and China, signals that Europe is not the only option.


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WSJ: Europe Reckons with Its Depleted Armies.
During exercises, they told a parliamentary ombudsman, their unit didn’t have the munitions to simulate battle. Instead, they were told to imagine the bangs. Across Europe, similar shortfalls riddle land, sea, air and cyber forces following years of defense cutbacks. U.S. President Donald Trump last month irked European leaders when he berated them at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s new headquarters for insufficient defense spending and what he called unpaid military bills. Current and former European officials were quick to point that NATO members don’t owe dues to the U.S., but they acknowledged Mr. Trump wasn’t wrong: Europe lacks the capabilities to defend itself…. The real wake-up call, allied officials say, was Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, followed by Moscow’s intervention in Syria. Both displayed new Russian weaponry. Suddenly long ignored weapons of the Cold War became relevant again.


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Mehul Srivastava in FT, Turkey Targets Dating Shows and Wikipedia.
The move against dating shows was announced on Saturday in the official gazette, where decrees from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan become law upon publication under a state of emergency he imposed after last year’s coup attempt. The use of a decree to target the TV shows indicates that Mr. Erdogan will use emergency rules to clamp down on areas unrelated to the failed July putsch, which he blames on Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric in the US.


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Anton Troianovski in WSJ, Left, Far-Right Vie for German Workers.
Guido Reil, a foreman in a coal mine and longtime union member, has been marching on May Day for better pay and working conditions for three decades. But as soon as he arrived at this week’s parade, dozens of fellow marchers surrounded him to try to separate him from the column, chanting “Shut up!” and “Get out!” The reason: Mr. Reil, for years a member of the labor-aligned Social Democrats, quit the party last year to join the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany. As elections approach here, he and others like him are the focal point of an intensifying battle between left and right for the votes of the German working class.


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Christopher Caldwell in NEW STATESMAN, A Social Thinker Illuminates His Country’s Populist Divides.
A process that Guilluy calls metropolisation has cut French society in two. In 16 dynamic urban areas (Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, Aix-en-Provence, Toulouse, Lille, Bordeaux, Nice, Nantes, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Rennes, Rouen, Toulon, Douai-Lens and Montpellier), the world’s resources have proved a profitable complement to those found in France. These urban areas are home to all the country’s leading educational and financial institutions, as well as almost all its corporations and the many well-paying jobs that go with them. Here, too, are the individuals – the entrepreneurs and engineers and CEOs, the fashion designers and models, the film directors and chefs and other “symbolic analysts”, as Robert Reich once called them – who shape the country’s tastes, form its opinions and renew its prestige. Cheap labour, tariff-free consumer goods and new markets of billions of people have made globalization a windfall for such prosperous places. But globalization has had no such galvanizing effect on the rest of France. Cities that were lively for hundreds of years – Tarbes, Agen, Albi, Beziers – are now, to use Guilluy’s word, “desertified”, haunted by the empty shopfronts and blighted downtowns that Rust Belt Americans know well.


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Philip Broughton in WSJ, Where Has All the French Talent Gone? .
They have earned millions as hedge-fund traders and investment bankers, or by setting up businesses free of the mind-bending constraints of French employment laws. London has prospered from their presence. They have bought townhouses in South Kensington and filled the private schools with hordes of little Xaviers and Sylvies. If some enterprising PR company were to set up a cross-Channel croissant-making contest, the winner would be as likely to come from Mayfair as from the Marais. So if you wonder how a mysterious 39-year-old with only a brief record of public service can find his way to the French presidency, one answer is that his generation’s talent pool has been drained by emigration. Emmanuel Macron achieved his ascent while the best of his class were off elsewhere. He won the support of 93% of French voters iving outside the country. In that number were many who in an earlier era might have proved stiff opposition on the campaign trail.


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Charlotte Allen in WSJ, The Spanish Left Yearns for Deconquista.
“The Great Mosque of Cordoba.” That’s what Unesco – the cultural arm of the United Nations – calls the 24,000-square-foot 10th century structure visited by 1.5 million tourists a year. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1984, and rightfully so: The building’s interior is a stunning example of Moorish architecture. Yet this “mosque” is actually the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cordoba. In 1236, King Ferdinand III of Castile captured Cordoba from the Almohad Caliphate. He then had the building consecrated for Christian use. Or reconsecrated, rather, since underneath the mosque lay the demolished remains of a sixth-century church built by Spains’s Visigothic rulers before the Muslim invasion in 711.


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Max Fisher & Amanda Taub in NYT, How Venezuela Stumbled to the Brink of Collapse.
At democracy’s founding, in 1958, the country’s three leading parties, later narrowed to two, agreed to share power among themselves and oil revenue among their constituents. Their pact, meant to preserve democracy, came to dominate it. Party elites picked candidates and blocked outsiders, making politics less responsive. The agreement to share wealth fostered corruption. Economic shocks in the 1980s led many Venezuelans to conclude the system was rigged against them. In 1992, leftist military officers, led by Lt. Col. Hugo Chávez, attempted a coup. They failed and were imprisoned, but their anti-establishment message resonated, catapulting Mr. Chávez to stardom. The government instituted a series of reforms that were intended to save the two-party system, but that may have doomed it. A loosening of election rules allowed outside parties to break in. The president freed Mr. Chávez, hoping to demonstrate tolerance. But the economy worsened. Mr. Chávez ran for president in 1998. His populist message of returning power to the people won him victory.


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Rana Foroohar in FT, Democrats, Meet the New Working Class.
Accountants, consultants, lawyers and physicians are all starting to feel the effects of corporate monopoly power and tech-driven job disruption. For the first time this year, more doctors in the US worked for large hospital conglomerates than in private practice. Any number of middle-income sales professionals have been replaced by software. Indeed, if you start to think about "working class" as something defined not strictly by per-capita income, but by job insecurity and the decreasing power of labour relative to corporations, you suddenly find a lot more people in the same political boat. "The coming conflict is between a very small managerial class and the proletariat," says Michael Lind, an economic historian and fellow at the New America think-tank. Charged language, to be sure, but he has a point. All the meta-trends in the economy - from the rise of platform technologies to Trump-era deregulation and tax cuts - point to more corporate power in fewer hands, and a winner-takes-all labour market. In this landscape, shared economic issues are more urgent than social ones. Exploiting the potentially huge new multi-ethnic, multi-class voter base with shared economic worries will require Democrats to come to terms with some of the Faustian bargains that they have struck over the past few decades.


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Joe Klein in NYTBR on Pat Buchanan’s book, Nixon’s White House Wars.
Buchanan was born in Washington, D.C., in 1938, although his family’s roots are in Mississippi. He celebrates ancestors who fought for the Confederacy, but his most enduring loyalty is to the conservative Catholic Church of the 1950s — the church schools he attended, the Knights of Columbus, the Legion of Decency, Sodality and the Holy Name Society. His people are the white ethnic “unfashionable minorities,” as opposed to the “media minorities.” He was kicked out of Georgetown University for a year after a drunken fight with the Washington police: “I was ahead on points, until they brought out the sticks.” But he attended the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism — one of his few Eastern elitist credentials, which he used to become an editorial polemicist for the conservative St. Louis Globe-Democrat. He was astonished by the 1960s. Well-off draft dodgers offended him; the New York construction workers who beat up the protesters were his team. Teddy Kennedy’s ability to “survive” Chappaquiddick was a confirmation of Buchanan’s worldview. Nixon, he believed (correctly), would have been crucified if he’d done something similar. He and Nixon “were like working-class kids in an elite university who, caught smoking pot in the dorm, would be expelled and disgraced for life, while the legacy students would be confined to campus for the weekend.” It was the “legacy” students in the C.I.A. and on John F. Kennedy’s staff who had started the war in Vietnam — and “legacy” students who opposed it; the children of Irish pipe fitters had to fight it.


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Michael O’Donnell in WSJ on John Bohrer’s book, The Revolution of Robert Kennedy.
Never the most urgent voice on civil rights, Kennedy had taken his lumps from James Baldwin and other black radicals in a Manhattan apartment in May 1963. Kennedy had requested the meeting in order to better understand growing racial tensions. What he got was a three-hour scolding on the daily insults of black life in America. Mr. Bohrer writes that Kennedy “didn’t let his pride overtake the lesson he learned that day” and that the word “insult” began appearing in his public remarks about race. Another mistake was Vietnam, a war Kennedy had helped engineer in his brother’s administration. Uneasy with ­Johnson’s escalation of the war, he nevertheless felt a certain ownership of the quagmire and was reluctant to criticize the new president. At first. Devastated or not, Kennedy was canny and opportunistic. He flirted with seeking the vice presidency in a de facto challenge to Johnson, only to run for Senate in 1964 instead, in New York and not Massachusetts (“Teddy’s there,” he explained). “Is this the East River?” he asked his driver during a ride in New York City. His campaign was heavier on machine politics and screaming fans than substance. Emerging from crowds, he found himself covered in scratches, his pockets stuffed with notes.


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Noah Millman in NYT on Daniel Drezner’s book, The Ideas Industry.
As he tells it, three large-scale forces have remade the marketplace of ideas. The erosion of trust in prestigious institutions has weakened the position of both academia and the traditional journalistic perches of public intellectuals. The polarization of American politics has segmented that marketplace into distinct and separate niches. Most important, the dramatic growth in economic inequality has made wealthy individuals and corporations into the primary buyers, dominating the market. It’s this last trend, Drezner says, that accounts for the transformation of a marketplace into an industry. In a marketplace, wares are traded among participants with diverse needs, but an industry produces to meet the specific demands of its customers.


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Jason Guriel in THE WALRUS, What Happens When Authors Are Afraid to Stand Alone.
Writing is such grueling, lonely work, that it’s not hard to see the appeal of any thinking that encourages you to engage with other carbon-based lifeforms. Plus, didn’t graduate school insist that writers are socially constructed anyway, the products of power and privilege? You might as well accept that you’re a node in a network. But you don’t have to buy into the myth of the Byronic bard to worry about the way our novelists and poets—valued for their independence of vision and language—now pine to be part of the crowd. What do we lose when writers are afraid to stand alone? Let’s be clear: writers always occupy some sort of social context…. But while no one is truly isolated, writers have become more entangled than ever. Workshops, readings, book launches, conferences, artists’ colonies, and other glorified mixers increasingly press literary types upon one another. Creative writing instructors urge their charges to get out there and network. Social media ensures we’re always connected. The contemporary acknowledgements page is a goblet that runneth over.


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Adam Kirsch in NEW YORKER, Czeslaw Milosz’s Battle for Truth.
Recounting this episode, Franaszek emphasizes Milosz’s desire to return to Janka, who had remained in Warsaw. But Milosz, in “Native Realm,” dwells less on love and more on his political and intellectual motives. “I had run from Stalin’s state to be able to think things over for myself instead of succumbing to a world view imposed from without,” he explains. “There was complete freedom here, precisely because National Socialism was an intellectual zero.” Communism, by contrast, exerted a terrible moral pressure, because it claimed to embody historical truth and justice, so that dissenting from it turned one into a sinner or a heretic. Nazism threatened the body, whereas Communism demanded the surrender of the soul. For a poet like Milosz, the latter seemed like the greater sacrifice.


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Simon Goldhill in TLS, Look Back with Danger.
Writers, artists and philosophers across the world proclaimed that Greece was their “second homeland”; in an age of fierce and aspirational nationalism, this was highly charged language indeed. The desire to return to the past of antiquity was not just part of a philosophical or artistic movement, but became fully institutionalized in the school and university system; the study of the ancient world of Greece and Rome so dominated the curriculum, in fact, that by the end of the century, Kaiser Wilhelm II felt moved to argue that “we should raise young Germans, not young Greeks and Romans”. For Wilhelm, nostalgia entailed a worrying distortion of national values. What does it mean when a culture expresses its aspirations and ideals through a longing for a lost past, the past even of another country? ...Homer portrays a heroic world in which men were stronger, more beautiful and in closer contact with the gods than they were in his own society. Homer’s heroes went on to provide a model for the heroes of a later age: Alexander the Great in his search for glory, we are told, never travelled without a copy of the Iliad beneath his pillow. But the heroic age provided examples to live up to, not a lost world to hanker after. No Greek ever said: I could only be really at home in Homer. When the Parthenon was decorated with scenes of mythic battles, the temple was not designed to create a longing to return to a world where men and centaurs mixed, but to project a lesson of moral order for contemporary society.


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Michael Ledeen in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS on Paul Gottfried’s book, Fascism – The Career of a Concept.
So while there is a “generic fascism,” with important Catholic social and political themes, we should limit it both temporally (it was important between the wars, and certainly during World War II) and geographically (Europe, not the whole world). Gottfried is especially valuable when he discusses leftist interpretations. For the most part, Marxist historians and political scientists missed one of fascism’s most significant strengths: its claim to be a revolutionary doctrine. Gottfried understands that a movement, and later a regime, could be reactionary and still appeal to workers, anarchosyndicalists, and even leftist Hegelian philosophers like Giovanni Gentile.


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Anthony Kenny in LITERARY REVIEW on Carlos Eire’s book, Reformations – The Early Modern World, 1450-1650.
Two events in the 1450s initiated a new era in European history. The fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the subsequent rise of the Ottoman Empire forced Europeans to seek new sea routes to Asia and to embark on an age of exploration. At the same time, exiled Greek scholars gave an impetus to the humanistic study of the ancient classics. The invention of printing by Gutenberg in 1455 prompted a new information age in which both classical and religious texts were disseminated as never before.


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Yuval Harari at bloomberg.com, The Mozart in the Machine.
It is often said that people connect with art because they find themselves in it. This may lead to surprising and somewhat sinister results if and when, say, Facebook begins creating personalized art based on everything it knows about you. If your boyfriend dumps you, Facebook might treat you to a hit song about that all-too-familiar bastard rather than about the unknown person who broke the heart of Adele or Alanis Morissette. Talk about art as a narcissistic extravaganza. Alternatively, by using massive biometric databases garnered from millions of people, the algorithm could produce a global hit, which would set everybody swinging like crazy on the dance floors. If art is really about inspiring (or manipulating) human emotions, few if any human musicians will have a chance of competing with such an algorithm, because they cannot match it in understanding the chief instrument they are playing on: the human biochemical system.


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Gardiner Harris in NYT, Tillerson: It’s Time to Restore ‘Balance’ with Other Countries.
In his first address laying out his vision as secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson said Wednesday that the United States had been far too accommodating to emerging nations and longtime allies and that “things have gotten out of balance.” Righting those imbalances, he said, will be the mission of the State Department as it fulfills President Trump’s promise to put “America first.” “We were promoting relations. We were promoting economic activity. We were promoting trade with a lot of these emerging economies, and we just kind of lost track of how we were doing,” Mr. Tillerson said. “And as a result, things got a little bit out of balance.”


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Walter Russell Mead in WSJ, A Debate on America’s Role – 25 Years Late.
American voters have never shared the establishment’s enthusiasm for a foreign policy aimed at transforming the post Cold War world. When given the choice at the ballot box, they consistently dismiss experienced foreign-policy hands who call for deep global engagement. Instead they install untried outsiders who want increased focus on issues at home. Thus Clinton over Bush in 1992, Bush over Gore in 2000, Obama over McCain in 2008, and Trump over Clinton in 2016.


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Angelo Codevilla in CLAREMONT REVIEW OF BOOKS, The Cold Civil War.
The government apparatus identifies with the ruling class’s interests, proclivities, and tastes, and almost unanimously with the Democratic Party. As it uses government power to press those interests, proclivities, and tastes upon the ruled, it acts as a partisan state. This party state’s political objective is to delegitimize not so much the politicians who champion the ruled from time to time, but the ruled themselves. Ever since Woodrow Wilson nearly a century and a half ago at Princeton, colleges have taught that ordinary Americans are rightly ruled by experts because they are incapable of governing themselves. Millions of graduates have identified themselves as the personifiers of expertise and believe themselves entitled to rule. Their practical definition of discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, etc., is neither more nor less than anyone’s reluctance to bow to them. It’s personal. On the other side, some two thirds of regular Americans chafe at insults from on high and believe that “the system” is rigged against them and, hence, illegitimate—that elected and appointed officials, plus the courts, business leaders, and educators are leading the country in the wrong direction. The non-elites blame the elites for corruptly ruling us against our will, for impoverishing us, for getting us into wars and losing them. Many demand payback—with interest.


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John Tierney in WSJ, Weekend Interview with Philip Hamburger.
Sometimes called the regulatory state or the deep state, it is a government within the government, run by the president and the dozens of federal agencies that assume powers once claimed only by kings. In place of royal decrees, they issue rules and send out “guidance” letters like the one from an Education Department official in 2011 that stripped college students of due process when accused of sexual misconduct. Unelected bureaucrats not only write their own laws, they also interpret these laws and enforce them in their own courts with their own judges. All this is in blatant violation of the Constitution, says Mr. Hamburger….


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Andrew Sorkin in NYT, Next Project for Ballmer: Follow Money in Government.
That conversation led Mr. Ballmer to pursue what may be one of the most ambitious private projects undertaken to answer a question that has long vexed the public and politicians alike. He sought to “figure out what the government really does with the money,” Mr. Ballmer said. “What really happens?” On Tuesday, Mr. Ballmer plans to make public a database and a report that he and a small army of economists, professors and other professionals have been assembling as part of a stealth start-up over the last three years called USAFacts.org. The database is perhaps the first nonpartisan effort to create a fully integrated look at revenue and spending across federal, state and local governments. Want to know how many police officers are employed in various parts of the country and compare that against crime rates? Want to know how much revenue is brought in from parking tickets and the cost to collect? Want to know what percentage of Americans suffer from diagnosed depression and how much the government spends on it? That’s in there. You can slice the numbers in all sorts of ways.


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smartertimes.com: Son of Communists Burns Money

The next time a Times journalist calls up a business or politician with pesky or hostile questions, maybe the subject of the story should just say, "sorry, I want the Oskar Eustis treatment — that is, the ability to tell my side of the story in my own words, unchallenged by probing questions or indeed any questions from Times journalists." As a business tactic, I suppose this is cheaper for the Times than hiring reporters. And there may be some instances where the first-person is appropriate. It's not clear to me that this particular case was one of them. Incidentally, the Times has a long-running quasi-obsession with children of communists. There weren't really ever that many American communists (at least so we are reassured by those who thought concern about them was paranoid), and yet it's almost to the point where one wonders whether are any of them remaining who haven't yet been recipients of warmly nostalgic coverage in the Times' columns. It's as if children of communists are a New York Times demographic niche target.

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smartertimes.com, Three Hypocrisies, One Day.
Not only are they all male, there doesn't appear to be a person of color among them. Donald Trump's cabinet is more diverse than the New York Times front-page bylines today, at least to judge by the race and gender categories that the Times is so fond of applying to everyone else. Then there is the Times business section. One article inside the section is about the Canadian airplane and train manufacturer Bombadier. The Times reports: “Professor Moore, of McGill University, said he anticipated that major investors would push the Bombardier family to reduce its board membership. It holds six of the 15 positions. He said it was less likely that the family would voluntarily abandon the company's structure, which gives its members 53 percent of voting control though they own only 13 percent of its equity. Many analysts have said that an end to the family's control would immediately lift Bombardier's share price, which has fallen about 75 percent in the past nine years.” Another Times article, also inside the business section, discusses an annual meeting of Ford, the American auto and truck company: “’Look, we are as frustrated as you are by the stock price,’ said Mr. Ford, whose family effectively controls the company through a class of shares that carry outsize voting rights. ‘A couple of people have said, does the Ford family care about the stock price? The short answer is yes — a lot.’...The format also allowed some shareholders to call in. One of them, John Chevedden, commented on shareholder proposals that included eliminating the 16-votes-per-share rights attached to the Ford family's special class of stock. (The proposal failed on a vote of about 2 to 1.)” Ordinarily, you might think that underperforming businesses in which family heirs maintain control through shares that give them more rights than other, non-family owners might be a topic that would merit a column, an editorial, even a front-page or section-front trend story in the Times. That, however, might raise some potentially uncomfortable questions about the New York Times itself, which operates under the same structure, privileging managers born into the business over ordinary shareholders with more humble origins.


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Park MacDougald & Jason Willick in NEW YORK, The Man Who Invented Identity Politics for the New Right.
Sailer’s brief career at National Review ended in 1997, when William F. Buckley, Jr. eased out the magazine’s then-editor, the immigration hawk John O’Sullivan, in favor of Rich Lowry — part of a larger shift in the conservative world away from paleoconservatives and immigration skeptics near the turn of the millennium. Since then, he has largely been confined to smaller and less mainstream conservative outlets. But after Trump won last November by getting blue-collar, Midwestern whites to vote like a minority bloc, as Sailer had so memorably recommended in 2000, a number of Sailer’s establishment critics, such as Michael Barone, were forced to acknowledge that Sailer had been vindicated. On foreign policy, too, Sailer has been a pervasive if subtle presence on the right. During the mid-2000s, he popularized the phrase “Invade the World, Invite the World” to parody the apparent bipartisan foreign policy consensus of the last two decades around large-scale military intervention abroad and large-scale immigration at home. It took some time, but by the summer of 2016, the mood of the country had caught up with Sailer. Breitbart began using “Invade the World, Invite the World” to describe the ideology of John McCain and Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump’s stated hostility to elites’ perceived “globalist” overreach proved to be a major asset in his campaign.


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Richard Bourke in LITERARY REVIEW on Anthony Gottlieb’s book, The Dream of Enlightenment.
What caused this extraordinary explosion of fresh thinking over the course of a mere hundred and fifty years? Gottlieb does not pause to pose the question. He does observe that most of his philosophers were ‘amateurs’. What he means is that they operated outside official university structures. There is some truth in this, although Descartes taught for a period at the University of Utrecht, Locke held a position at Oxford and Hume applied for various academic posts. However, it is certainly right that they opposed much that prevailed in the universities of the day, a lot of which was intended to serve the sensibilities of the clergy.


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Stuart Walton at aeon.co, Theory from the Ruins.
A key point of disputation for this generation of thinkers arose from the notion that society, in its progress from barbarism to civilisation according to the narrative of the European Enlightenment, had been increasingly founded on the principle of reason. Where mythology once held sway, the rationalistic sciences now reigned supreme. Among the Frankfurt School’s most provocative contentions was that Western civilisation had unwittingly executed a reversal of this narrative. The heroic phase of the 18th-century Enlightenment purported to have freed humankind of antique superstition and the demons of the irrational, but the horrors of the 20th century gave the lie to that triumphalism. Far from humane liberation, 20th-century Europeans had plunged into decades of savage barbarism. Why? The Frankfurt School theorists argued that universal rationality had been raised to the status of an idol. At the heart of this was what they called ‘instrumental reason’, the mechanism by which everything in human affairs was ground up.


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Edward Rothstein in WSJ, At the Birth of Anthropology.
Anthropology was a joint creation of museum and fair. Typically both offer spectacular displays, though one is meant to be enduring and disciplined, the other evanescent and enticing. Both also left their mark on the nascent field. That is one theme of “All the World Is Here: Harvard’s Peabody Museum and the Invention of American Anthropology,” which the Peabody is mounting for its 150th anniversary. The exhibition is a nuanced tribute to the museum, to the 1893 fair, and to a discipline whose origins are still riven by political debate…. There’s the rub. The birth of anthropology was accompanied by condescension toward the cultures studied… But had any non-Western culture ever attempted a comparable survey? Had any examined human variation, doing it as much justice as knowledge then allowed? This was a great achievement too often dismissed by politically charged contemporary judgments. Finding a balance is not easy; condescension always is.


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Jillian Melchior in WSJ, A Philosopher Gets Pilloried.
As with gender, Ms. Tuvel writes, “we need an account of race that does not collapse into a position according to which all forms of self-identification are socially recognized, such as one’s self-identification as a wolf.” Instead of taking on Ms. Tuvel’s arguments, the professoriate attacked her for asking questions to begin with. More than 500 academics signed a letter denouncing the paper. One of their main complaints was that Ms. Tuvel didn’t lace it with references to scholars “who are most vulnerable to the intersection of racial and gender oppressions (women of color).” Absent such citation, they said, her paper “painfully reflects a lack of engagement beyond white and cisgender privilege.”


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Beth Singler at aeon.co, fAIth.
The odd thing about the anti-clericalism in the AI community is that religious language runs wild in its ranks, and in how the media reports on it. There are AI ‘oracles’ and technology ‘evangelists’ of a future that’s yet to come, plus plenty of loose talk about angels, gods and the apocalypse. Ray Kurzweil, an executive at Google, is regularly anointed a ‘prophet’ by the media – sometimes as a prophet of a coming wave of ‘superintelligence’ (a sapience surpassing any human’s capability); sometimes as a ‘prophet of doom’ (thanks to his pronouncements about the dire prospects for humanity); and often as a soothsayer of the ‘singularity’ (when humans will merge with machines, and as a consequence live forever). The tech folk who also invoke these metaphors and tropes operate in overtly and almost exclusively secular spaces, where rationality is routinely pitched against religion. But believers in a ‘transhuman’ future – in which AI will allow us to transcend the human condition once and for all – draw constantly on prophetic and end-of-days narratives to understand what they’re striving for.


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Camille Paglia interviewed by Jonathan Last at weeklystandard.com.
There seems to be a huge conceptual gap between Trump and his most implacable critics on the left. Many highly educated, upper-middle-class Democrats regard themselves as exemplars of “compassion” (which they have elevated into a supreme political principle) and yet they routinely assail Trump voters as ignorant, callous hate-mongers. These elite Democrats occupy an amorphous meta-realm of subjective emotion, theoretical abstractions, and refined language. But Trump is by trade a builder who deals in the tangible, obdurate, objective world of physical materials, geometry, and construction projects, where communication often reverts to the brusque, coarse, high-impact level of pre-modern working-class life, whose daily locus was the barnyard.


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Serge Schmemann in NYT, A Public Service Message from the Class of ‘67.
Twenty-five years earlier, a session on Vietnam had become intensely emotional and confessional as classmates recalled their war or their antiwar struggles; this time, we were more retrospective, reflective and ruminative. What was surprising was that many who rose to speak in the two-and-a-half hour session declared it was a shame that the draft, and more broadly the notion of a couple of years of national service before plunging into careers and families, had been abandoned. How could guys who expended so much passion and energy eluding the draft regret its demise?


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Julie Burchill in SPECTATOR, Alt-Hate: Who Knew the Left Had So Much Venom? .
Growing up in a communist household, I thought ‘Tory’ was a curse word till I was a teenager. My father was the kindest and, yes, most noble of men — maybe the fact that his socialism was a product of being genuinely working class, rather than a pose struck to impress/shame others, had something to do with it — but I had no idea until Brexit of the bigotry that lurks within the Brotherhood of Man. We are often reminded of the ‘hatred’ the referendum and recent election ‘stirred up’ in our society — warned off democracy by those who would control us for our own good, as if we were wayward children eyeing the biscuit tin. What these sorrowing sad-sacks fail to add is the hate comes largely from their side. Too much democracy has merely flushed the poison out. Brexit did indeed unleash hate — but the hate it unleashed was not that of the British for foreigners but rather of the liberals for the masses. It sounds strange coming from someone who has made a lovely life out of peddling vitriol for pleasure and profit, but I’ve been amazed — and not a little amused, comparing their swivel-eyed social media savagery with their mollycoddling manifestos — at the level of nastiness that the Great and the Good (or, as I think of them, our Betters and Wetters) have displayed over the past year. During my entire career of evil, from 17-year-old enfant terrible to 57-year-old grande dame, I only recall wishing death on one person — well, two: the Eurythmics. But my dad, when he shouted ‘Tory!’ at the TV, was content to leave it at that.


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Tamar Lewin in NYT, Making Skin Cells Into Babies? .
The process, in vitro gametogenesis, or I.V.G., so far has been used only in mice. But stem cell biologists say it is only a matter of time before it could be used in human reproduction — opening up mind-boggling possibilities. With I.V.G., two men could have a baby that was biologically related to both of them, by using skin cells from one to make an egg that would be fertilized by sperm from the other. Women with fertility problems could have eggs made from their skin cells, rather than go through the lengthy and expensive process of stimulating their ovaries to retrieve their eggs. “It gives me an unsettled feeling because we don’t know what this could lead to,” said Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Davis. “You can imagine one man providing both the eggs and the sperm, almost like cloning himself. You can imagine that eggs becoming so easily available would lead to designer babies.” Some scientists even talk about what they call the “Brad Pitt scenario” when someone retrieves a celebrity’s skin cells from a hotel bed or bathtub. Or a baby might have what one law professor called “multiplex” parents.


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John Leland in NYT, Twilight of a Difficult Man: Larry Kramer and the Birth of AIDS Activism.
He fell in love with a man named David Webster, who did not want to settle monogamously with him. In response, Mr. Kramer wrote a devastating 1978 satirical novel called “Faggots,” which depicted a demimonde of men destroying themselves in wanton pleasure. The book sold well but made Mr. Kramer a pariah. “People were so angry and offended,” Dr. Mass said. “I don’t think there is a positive image of a gay person, not one, in the entire novel. Larry seemed to have this ridiculously outdated romantic notion of sexuality and its relationship to love, monogamy. He was this total misfit in this expanding world of gay promiscuity and the sexual revolution.” Three years later, the emergence of a new disease made the book seem prescient, and provided a purpose for Mr. Kramer’s wrath. “AIDS changed everything,” Mr. Kramer said.


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Russell Shorto in NYT on Mike Rapport’s book, The Unruly City – Paris, London and New York in the Age of Revolution.
What was it about New York that made revolution play out there the way it did? The fact that Manhattan is an island gave the city a special dynamic. Beyond that, the American colonies’ inheritance of a set of rights and freedoms from Britain, which stemmed from the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the establishment of an English Bill of Rights, meant that New York had a built-in basis for principled resistance. As Britain suffered under the financial burdens stemming from the Seven Years’ War (or, as the North American theater became known, the French and Indian War), it taxed its colonies without giving them a say, and New York’s longstanding elected assembly became a focal point of resistance. Coffeehouses and taverns, which had long been venues for discussing the events of the day, now became political hubs. Since the colonies had inherited England’s tradition of open-air political gatherings, it was only natural that Gen. George Washington would order the Declaration of Independence to be read out to his troops on “the Common,” at what is now City Hall Park. When the British Army stormed Long Island and then Manhattan, the whole city — from the Gowanus Pass to Kips Bay — became a landscape of revolution. Rapport anchors his prose with compact sense-of-place notes as he follows the action: “The Americans managed to drive the British back to a buckwheat field, now the site of Columbia University.”


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Michael Dirda in WP on Jon Lauck’s book, From Warm Center to Ragged Edge.
From an early date, the proponents of regionalism recognized two powerful enemies: mass media and federalism. The first led to a bland homogenization of culture and what Josiah Royce called a “monotonously uniform triviality of mind.” The latter, starting with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, lessened the ability of localities to govern themselves. After World War II, international fears of communism and atomic war further strengthened the power of Washington, as federal institutions assumed more and more control over American civic life. Lauck’s last chapter looks at how historians have studied the heartland. Initially, many academics at regional universities were born in the Midwest and viewed themselves as legatees of its values, but over time an increased professionalization led younger teachers to emphasize scholarly success among their peers rather than commitment to the intellectual well-being of their communities. In this section, Lauck looks hard at the opposing ideas of Richard Hofstadter, author of “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life,” and Michigan State’s Russell Kirk, author of “The Conservative Mind.” He also implicitly endorses the view — of historians Frederick Jackson Turner and Christopher Lasch — that smaller communities and neighborhoods, not large cities, encourage a vigorous engagement in politics. As Lasch noted, conversation lies at the foundation of civic life.


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Rick Kogan in CT, A Former Newspaperman’s Scoop: Springfield, Mo., Has a Music Scene Too.
What people will see is part of an ambitious project called Songs of an Unsung America (www.songsofanunsungamerica.com, where you can also see a short clip and meet the other members of the coumentary team), which intends to explore other hidden musical hotbeds, says Hoekstra, “such as the rich rhythm and blues of the beach music legacy in the Carolinas or the Gulf music of Alabama, Florida and Mississippi.” Hoekstra, a likable and self-effacing man of palpable passions, seems eternally upbeat, even when talking about how his more than 30-year-long newspaper career came to a close in March 2014. As he wrote on his ever-intriguing and lively website at the time, “Working at the Sun-Times was a dream come true. If I had the skills of a good basball player, filing stories from 401N. Wabash (long home to the paper and now the site of Trump Tower) would have been the same thing as playing at Wrigley Field.”


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Whet Moser in CHICAGO, Chicago Isn’t Just Segregated, It Basically Invented Modern Segregation.
It’s impossible to answer definitively, but the most satisfying answer I’ve encountered comes from Carl Nightingale, author of the book Segregation: A Global History—it has a lot to do with timing. When I interviewed Nightingale about the book, this is what he told me: “Perhaps it was the chance of historical timing. The city’s population exploded in a still-developing city as the flourishing of racial and eugenic ‘science’ overlapped into the nascent fields of sociology and real-estate economics.” “There is a regional Midwestern thing where all the cities with the highest segregation indexes until this day are all in the Midwest,” says Nightingale. “I’m not sure exactly why that is true. But it is true that Chicago had this enormous and booming land industry that the Chicago real estate board—which is founded in the 1890s—could claim, plausibly, that it was the most powerful real estate organization in any city, and in the world, and was then strong enough to then create a national organization located on Michigan Avenue. And in so doing really fell into the position, after the demise of Buchanan vs. Worley, as the center of power that people who wanted to divide cities had to rely upon.” A substantial part of Nightingale’s book is about how Chicago was a laboratory for segregation. Tools of analyzing real estate and racial data were being created in Chicago in the early 20th century. Tools to segregate the city based on race were created here, such as restrictive covenants.


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CT – Clout Street: Madigan Accuses Rauner of Trying to ‘Change History’ of Government.
Madigan, speaking in a rare interview with WGN Radio’s Patti Vasquez, said that’s the fundamental difference in his efforts to block Rauner’s agenda, which the governor has said is a prerequisite to reaching an end to the state’s historic budget impasse. The veteran House speaker offered a history lesson. “The Rauner proposal would say, let’s change history. ... Prior to (Franklin D.) Roosevelt’s election, the federal government wasn’t greatly involved in the management of the economy. But when Roosevelt became the president in 1933, the federal government became very active using the Federal Reserve and the Treasury and the Congress in managing the economy,” Madigan said. “From 1933 until today, both Democratic and Republican presidents and members of the Congress have always worked to raise wages, raise the standard of living,” he said. “Here in Illinois, the Rauner proposal is: Let’s change that history. Let’s not have the government working to raise wages and the standard of living. Let’s have the government to work and lower wages and the standard of living by bringing down the benefit level in workers’ compensation, taking away the right to bargain collectively if you work for a government and if you work in the construction industry, taking away a prevailing wage. That’s the proposal. And it would be a proposed change in history. I don’t support it,” he said. 


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William Hamilton in WSJ on Richard Ocejo’s book, Masters of Craft – Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy.
After observing, interviewing and interning for 10 years, Mr. Ocejo – the grandson of a barber – tries to determine how these occupations have transmuted alchemically from coarse work into well-considered careers. “Masters of Craft” argues that this trend – a curious kind of self-selected downward mobility by the young and college-educated – is in fact a collaboration between a new typed of tradesman and a new type of client. The two now enjoy a personal affinity: Both value esoteric knowledge, skill and transparency in the sourcing of products. The socioeconomic gap between server and served has narrowed, producing a comfortable kind of peer-ship, like that between a craftsman and a connoisseur.


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Ben Shpigel in NYT, From Hockey 101 to a Ph.D. in Nashville.
The first few years, the public-address announcer drew quizzical looks from visiting players by explaining basic infractions, like a two-line pass. Now, when the Predators sustain offensive-zone time or begin a power-play rush, the crowd roars. “We had to groom them,” said Terry Crisp, a longtime broadcaster for the Predators. Crisp understood the task ahead, perhaps better than anyone. He had played on two expansion teams (the 1967-68 Blues and 1972-73 Islanders) and coached another (the 1992-93 Lightning). “I guess I’m an original guy,” Crisp said. He recalled Tampa Bay’s inaugural game, when Chris Kontos scored his third of four goals. Only one fan commemorated the hat trick by tossing a cap onto the ice. He was then tossed out of the arena by an uninitiated security crew. (The team’s general manager, Phil Esposito, found the fan outside, took him back in and bought him a beer, Crisp said.)


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Obituaries of the Issue…

Mauno Koivisto (1923-2017)
He succeeded Urho Kekkonen, who had ruled Finland for 25 years until his resignation in 1981. Mr. Koivisto was seen as ushering in a new, freer era, changing the face of the country by reducing the powers of the head of state and strengthening the role of Parliament. Above all, he was recognized for his foreign policy skills with a fine balancing act of maintaining the country’s good relations with the West, particularly with the United States, and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War years. His second term, from 1988 to 1994, was crucial in cementing Finland’s neutral status until the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which shares an 800-mile border with Finland. Mr. Koivisto, fluent in Russian, developed a particular bond with the last Soviet leader, Mikhail S. Gorbachev, but also stayed in close contact with President George Bush. In 1990, the Finnish leader hosted a summit meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Gorbachev in Helsinki. Even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mr. Koivisto had started to lead Finland out of international isolation. He unilaterally declared two treaties as void: the 1947 Paris Treaty, which placed restrictions on the Finnish military, and the 1948 Finnish-Soviet pact on mutual assistance, which hindered Finland’s integration with European security structures.


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Jimmy Piersall (1929-2017)
Piersall and his TV partner, Harry Caray, helped revive interest in the White Sox in the late 1970s. Their act was so unusual it was almost Vaudevillian, never to be replicated. Caray would often ask "Did you take your pills today?" — poking fun at Piersall's crazy reputation and taking the focus off the bad baseball we were forced to watch. Sox fans ate it up. The more famous Piersall became, the more outrageous his remarks. It'd be difficult to describe Piersall to a generation of fans who've grown accustomed to baseball announcers accentuating the positive and downplaying the negatives. When the Sox began to struggle after the uplifting South Side Hitmen team of 1977, the harsh commentary of Piersall and Caray upset players and a young manager named Tony La Russa, while endearing them even more to fans. White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf eventually separated the two, replacing Piersall with the bland Lou Brock, greasing the skids for Caray's departure to the Cubs. "Fans liked Harry and I, so we never changed," Piersall said in a 2014 Tribune interview. "We were entertainers for a last-place ballclub. And let me tell you, that wasn't easy. You'd hear Harry with bases loaded, cry: 'He paaaaaapped it up.'" After Reindorf's group bought the Sox from Bill Veeck, the La Russa feud intensified. "Reinsdorf said to us in a meeting 'You guys are always second-guessing LaRussa,'" Piersall recalled. "Harry said, 'We don't second guess. We first guess.'"



Thanks to Joseph Pope, Jeff Williams, Mark Carducci, Archie Patterson, Andy Schwartz…















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