Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, October 15, 2018

Renewal of an old theme

Re-education was a popular theme during the Cultural Revolution in China. Will it work in Xinjiang now?

China 'legalises' internment camps for million Uighurs
China’s far north-western region of Xinjiang has retroactively legitimised the use of internment camps where up to one million Muslims are being held…

Chinese authorities deny that the internment camps exist but say petty criminals are sent to vocational “training centres”. Former detainees say they were forced to denounce Islam and profess loyalty to the Communist party in what they describe as political indoctrination camps…

“It’s a retrospective justification for the mass detainment of Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang,” said James Leibold, a scholar of Chinese ethnic policies at Melbourne’s La Trobe University…

The revisions, published on Tuesday, say government agencies at the county level and above “may establish occupational skills education and training centres, education transformation organisations and management departments to transform people influenced by extremism through education”.

A new clause directs the centres to teach the Mandarin language and provide occupational and legal education, as well as “ideological education, psychological rehabilitation and behaviour correction”. Another new clause bars “refusing public goods like radio and television.”…

“Overall, this clearly strengthens the legal basis for the type of re-education that has essentially been admitted by the state … indicating that the state is determined to proceed with the current campaign,” said Adrian Zenz, a researcher who focuses on Xinjiang…

Beijing has spent decades trying to suppress pro-independence sentiment in Xinjiang fuelled in part by frustration about an influx of migrants from China’s Han majority. Authorities say extremists there have ties to foreign terror groups but have given little evidence to support the claim…

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Friday, October 12, 2018

Inequality not related to GDP

Oxfam (Oxfam?) identifies Nigeria as most unequal nation — again.

Nigeria Again Ranked Highest On Inequality Index
From "Daily Trust"

For the second time, Nigeria has been ranked the country with the highest inequality among its citizens by OXFAM.

OXFAM, a global civil society body that fights against injustice, and its partners indicate that Nigeria's social spending (on health, education and social protection) is shamefully low, which is reflected in very poor social outcomes for its citizens.

"One in 10 children in Nigeria does not reach their fifth birthday, and more than 10 million children do not go to school. Sixty percent of these are girls," the report said.

The index, released yesterday at the Annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank Meetings in Bali, Indonesia… showed that in the past year, Nigeria recorded increase in the number of labour rights violations. Its minimum wage has not increased since 2011 and social spending has stagnated.

The index ranked 157 countries on their policies on social spending, tax, and labour rights - three areas that the group believes are critical to reducing inequality.

Other countries with high inequality ranking include; Uzbekistan… Haiti… Chad… and Sierra Leone…

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Thursday, October 11, 2018

A 40-year plan

Given how much Chinese President Xi pushes "his" reform and opening up ideas, it's good to remember that the idea was raised 40 years ago by Deng Xiaoping.

Senior legislators hold study session on reform, opening up
The Leading Party Members' Group of the National People's Congress (NPC) Standing Committee held a study session on China's reform and opening up over the past 40 years.

Li Zhanshu, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, chairman of the NPC Standing Committee and secretary of its leading Party members' group, chaired and addressed the meeting held Monday and Tuesday.

The meeting stressed studying and implementing Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, and a profound understanding of the major political judgement by Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, that reform and opening up is the key that has determined contemporary China's future…

Summarizing the evolution of the system of people's congresses in the past 40 years of reform and opening up, the meeting noted it was fundamental that the CPC Central Committee has remained sober-minded and maintained its political orientation, and pushed forward reform steadily in line with national conditions and social and economic development realities, thus ensuring the right direction of upholding and improving the system of people's congresses.

Stressing that China's rapid development in the past 40 years has relied on reform and opening up, the statement said that reform and opening up must be unswervingly upheld to secure a decisive victory in building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and to fully build a modern socialist country.

The NPC and its standing committee should thoroughly study Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, fully implement Xi's thought on upholding and improving the system of people's congresses, and develop and improve the system of people's congresses with the times, the statement said.

40 Years and Counting
(From The Diplomat)
This year marks the 40th anniversary of China’s Reform and Opening (gaige kaifang), initiated by Deng Xiaoping at the Third Plenum of the Eleventh Central Committee in 1978. These economic changes were so far-reaching that Deng described them as part of China’s “second revolution.” Since then, China has become an economic juggernaut with the world’s largest foreign reserves ($3.12 trillion), second-largest GDP ($11 trillion), and third-highest levels of foreign direct investment ($170 billion). Its share of the world economy grew from a mere 1.8 percent in 1978 to a staggering 18.2 percent in 2017.  China is not just an emerging economy but has surely returned to its status as a major world economic power, which accounted for nearly 30 percent of the world economy in the 15th and 16th centuries…

The forces that account for the economic success of the Chinese model have also created tensions between a political system characterized by Leninist single party-led authoritarianism and an economy and society characterized by vibrant market forces. How much of China’s super-charged economic growth can be attributed to state-led planning and how much comes from entrepreneurship and market forces? With Xi holding all the levers of political power, how much is the Chinese leadership willing to let go of economic control?

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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Is public opinion as volatile as the polls?

Has Putin met his match in Russia, and is it Putin?

Trust in Vladimir Putin declines steeply among Russians, poll shows
Trust in Vladimir Putin and Russia’s ruling party have declined steeply over the past year with analysts pointing to the government’s controversial pension changes as the main reason.

In a poll by the independent Levada Centre, 39% of Russians listed Putin as a politican they trust. That is a 20% decrease from November 2017, when Putin was named by 59% of Russians, according to the same polling agency.

The Levada polls are the latest to show a strong backlash as the Kremlin pushes unpopular social reforms to relieve pressure on the budget. This month, 45% of Russians told FOM (Public Opinion Foundation), a polling agency close to the Kremlin, they would vote for Putin if elections were held this Sunday. That rating was down from 67% at the beginning of the year.

It is among the lowest support Putin has held in the last decade, according to FOM data, tied only with his support in late 2013 just before the annexation of Crimea and a wave of patriotic fervour.

The ruling United Russia party, seen as more vulnerable than Putin, has also been hit hard. FOM showed the party had 31% support, also a drop of close to 20% since the beginning of the year, with its docile rivals rising in the polls…

That growing anger has been reflected in elections in Russian regions, which have been just as much of a headache for the Kremlin recently as foreign allegations of spying and election meddling…

Voters in the far east and Siberia rejected governors from United Russia, the party closely allied with Putin. In their place, they supported candidates from communist and nationalist parties, forcing the Kremlin to reshuffle governors to problem regions and deploy political advisers to manage the backlash. Putin has also fired a number of regional governors…

Russia’s pension changes, which were signed into law by Putin last week, will delay retirement age for all Russians by five years. Men must work until 65, and women must work until 60…

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Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Challenging the "big men" in Nigeria

Can an unexpected challenger break into the cycle of "big men" in Nigeria?

Oby Ezekwesili to stand for president
Nigeria's presidential election was shaping up to be a contest between two veteran male politicians, but the candidacy of Oby Ezekwesili could change that.
Ezekwesili

Women have run for the presidency before but she is the most prominent Nigerian woman to challenge for the top job…

Ms Ezekwesili is well known for leading the #BringBackOurGirls campaign to help free the 276 girls kidnapped from Chibok, northern Nigeria, in 2014. She has also served as the country's education minister and vice-president of the World Bank.

But come February's vote it will be a tough challenge to unseat incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, 75, or beat the main opposition candidate, Atiku Abubakar, 72, who both have formidable party machines behind them…

At the weekend, President Buhari was nominated by his All Progressives Congress (APC) and Mr Abubakar beat a field of 11 others to become the flag bearer for the People's Democratic Party (PDP).

The two parties have supplied all of Nigeria's presidents since the end of military rule in 1999.

For Ms Ezekwesili the men she is facing represent a "mediocre political class that bumbles from one crisis to another", as she told the meeting of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), where her candidacy was declared.

She is setting herself up as the anti-establishment candidate, calling the politicians in charge of the country part of "an evil ruling class". And, in an Obama-like move, the ACPN is labelling her as the "hope" candidate.

Ms Ezekwesili, who is 55 years old, is also trying to appeal to the youth of the country, saying that the people in charge do not understand the technological changes that are happening.

More than 50% of Nigerians are under the age of 30.

Can she disrupt the election? -Chris Ewokor, BBC Africa, Abuja

Along with reaching out to Nigeria's youth, Ms Ezekwesili has an obvious appeal to women, and her high profile in the country and international respectability could also boost her candidacy.

She is also from the south of the country, while the two leading men are from the north, so this could help her pick up votes among southerners who want one of their own to lead the country.

Ms Ezekwesili is likely to elicit some support and could make the APC and PDP nervous, but the power of the established parties may be hard to overcome.

Many in the country are hungry and live under extreme economic pressure and could be tempted to back parties with deeper pockets if they are promised money to vote a particular way.

The APC and PDP have countrywide structures and a war chest that could clearly outspend Ms Ezekwesili.

In response, her party has launched a funding campaign to try and build up its financial resources, but it is not clear if that will be enough...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_man_(political_science) Big Man (Political Science) from Wikipedia

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Monday, October 08, 2018

As the price of dollars in Tehran goes up, the economy goes down.

So, prices are going up very, very rapidly. What's the government have to with that? What politicians are likely to benefit? Which ones are likely to suffer?

Iranian economists: The country is suffering highest inflation rates since WWII
In an open letter, over 50 Iranian economists warned of a collapse in the Iranian economy, stating that the severe inflation of the rial has hit a high it had never reached in the past 75 years, since World War II.

They also considered the continuation of what they called “wrong economic policies” that would lead to the suffering of Iranian families as the reason for this high rate of inflation in the country, according to the Iranian news agency ILNA.

The experts also called on the heads of the parliament and judiciary to intervene...

The experts pointed out that the current “incorrect policy” of managing the collapse in currency caused the currency to lose about 70 percent of its value since April under the threat of revived US sanctions, with heavy demand for dollars among ordinary Iranians trying to protect their savings. They added that mismanagement in commodity markets and random pricing being placed by traders in the country further increases economic concerns over the next months…

In the Iranian capital, money exchange shops offered 135,000 rials for one US dollar at one point, drawing crowds of onlookers and those wanting to trade. Only the day before, the rial was selling at 170,000 to the dollar, with prices recently going as high as 190,000 to the dollar.

Although the Iranian government has taken measures to reduce inflation by injecting hard currency into the market, and preventing traders and currency exchanges from selling dollars while banks would buy dollars from citizens, the inflation rate did not decrease much…

This warning about the high rate of inflation and the collapse of the Iranian economy comes amid fundamentalist movement in parliament threatening to overthrow the government of Rouhani through questioning most ministers and withdrawing confidence from them, against the backdrop of economic crises and the deterioration of currency and the cessation of many industries in the country.

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Friday, October 05, 2018

How things work in China

How does policy get made in China? Follow the assignment of tasks.

Tasks set out for advancing law-based governance in China
A total of 98 tasks in advancing law-based governance in China have been assigned to respective units, according to a statement made public recently.

The statement came after a meeting on facilitating the tasks set by the Commission for Law-based Governance of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee.

In legislative affairs, tasks include promoting legislation with a holistic approach to national security, protection of intellectual property rights and key reform areas.

In law enforcement, improvements are expected in key sectors including food and drug, work safety, environment protection and public security.

The tasks also include reforming civil litigation systems and building a public legal service system.

Each task has been allocated to a responsible unit and given specific requirements on its monthly work plan and time table, according to the statement.

The tasks were also assigned to the office of the commission and four coordination teams, which will be responsible for follow-up inspections and supervision of respective areas.

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