Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, October 19, 2018

Visual guide to ideology

The Communist Party of China has published a "mind map" guide to President Xi's ideology for those who need a cheat sheet to stay out of political trouble.

A simple guide to Xi Jinping Thought? Here’s how China’s official media tried to explain it
When Xi Jinping outlined his political blueprint for the next 30 years at the Communist Party congress last year, it took him three and a half hours to articulate his vision for the country.

Now, to mark the first anniversary of his speech, the party’s official mouthpiece has made a no less ambitious attempt to visualise the Chinese president’s doctrines.

The result, published on the WeChat account of People’s Daily on Thursday, is a complex colour-coded “mind map” consisting of 30 separate elements, each broken down into multiple subsections that resemble the branches of a tree.

Officially called “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, the doctrine is now enshrined in both state and party constitutions…

In general, the study of Xi’s guiding political principles is no laughing matter for cadres and officials amid the ongoing tightening of the party and the bureaucracy’s political discipline and demands for loyalty.

Dozens of institutes dedicated to the research and study of “Xi Jinping Thought” have been established in universities across the country, while school curriculums have also been revised to incorporate the new ideology into textbooks.

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Thursday, October 18, 2018

United Kingdom (not language)

Generally, one of the key characteristics of a nation is a common language. So, how has the United Kingdom done so well for so long?

See the video for the whole discussion.

‘Please repeat the question’: In Britain’s Parliament, two English speakers struggle to communicate
Britain’s Parliament was divided by a common language on Thursday, as one politician was forced to repeat a question twice when his colleague couldn’t understand him, before eventually submitting the question in writing after his attempts at verbal communication failed.

Both politicians, of course, were speaking English.

The incident took place during a meeting about House of Commons Commissions, a body that oversees the administration of Parliament and its grounds, as David Linden of the Scottish National Party asked Conservative member of Parliament Paul Beresford about planned renovation works.

“I know from speaking to a number of parliamentary colleagues that there are still certain aspects of the estate, including the northern estate, that are not great for disabilities,” Linden said, referring to the facilities used by Parliament.

“Can I ask the honorable gentleman what work is being done to make sure this place is more accessible, particularly for some of our colleagues who have a disability?” he asked.

The remark sparked nervous laughter from other politicians in Parliament.

“Oh well,” said Linden. “I’m very popular today.”

He tried again: “I’m saying that a number of parliamentary colleagues who have disabilities do find it quite difficult getting around certain parts of the estate. Given that we’re doing this refurbishment work, what can be done to make sure that those with disabilities are able to move around more freely and that the place is accessible?”

But the confusion remained. “I’m really sorry,” Beresford said. “Please could you do it very slowly and in antipodean English?”

The two politicians represent constituencies in Britain that are roughly 350 miles apart — only a little further apart than Los Angeles and San Francisco and closer together than D.C. and Boston. But Beresford, who represents Mole Valley in Surrey, England, could not understand the accent of Linden, who represents Glasgow East in Scotland.

Despite being a relatively small country, Britain has a vast array of different regional accents. The Glaswegian accent is particularly distinctive, known for features such as the “glottal stop” (where a “t” sound gets dropped) and often considered hard to understand by those from other parts of Britain: In 2010, to the amusement of the Scottish press, a London-based firm even hired a Glaswegian interpreter...

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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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Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Be careful what you wish for

Chinese leaders must be nervous. The last time youthful protests were widespread, they ended only after the army killed hundreds of protesters in Tiananmen Square. The army moved in when workers began joining students in the protests.

China’s Leaders Confront an Unlikely Foe: Ardent Young Communists
They were exactly what China’s best universities were supposed to produce: young men and women steeped in the ideology of the Chinese Communist Party.

They read Marx, Lenin and Mao and formed student groups to discuss the progress of socialism. They investigated the treatment of the campus proletariat, including janitors, cooks and construction workers. They volunteered to help struggling rural families and dutifully recited the slogans of President Xi Jinping.

Then, after graduation, they attempted to put the party’s stated ideals into action, converging from across China last month on Huizhou, a city in the south, to organize labor unions at nearby factories and stage protests demanding greater protections for workers.

That’s when the party realized it had a problem.

The authorities moved quickly to crush the efforts of the young activists, detaining several dozen of them and scrubbing the internet of their calls for justice — but not before their example became a rallying cry for young people across the country unhappy with growing inequality, corruption and materialism in Chinese society.

“You are the backbone of the working class!” the protesters chanted at one rally, addressing workers at an equipment factory. “We share your honor and your disgrace!”

Protests are common in China, especially by workers who have nowhere else to turn in a nation without independent unions, courts or news media. But the demonstrations in Huizhou were unusual because they were organized by students and recent graduates from some of the country’s top universities, who have generally stayed off the streets since the 1989 pro-democracy movement that ended in bloodshed outside Tiananmen Square.

In the decades since that massacre, university students have generally helped advance the party’s economic and political agenda, focusing on jobs, homes and other aspects of material well-being while supporting authoritarian rule, or at least eschewing politics. As economic growth has slowed, party officials have grown more nervous about Western influences on the nation’s youth, who are more worldly and digitally connected than ever before.

But the Huizhou activists represent a threat the authorities did not expect.

Carrying portraits of Mao and singing socialist anthems, they espoused the very ideals that the government fed them for years in mandatory ideological classes, voicing grievances about issues like poverty, worker rights and gender equality — some of communism’s core concerns…
Zhang Shengye, union organizer

Since President Xi took power in 2012, the party has sought to restrict the use of Western textbooks and stop the spread of “Western values” on campus, referring to ideas about rule of law and democracy that could undermine its hold on power.

At the same time, Mr. Xi has demanded that universities expand their teachings on Mao and Marx…

But some in the party seem uneasy about the proliferation of these groups, apparently worried that their calls for greater economic equality and worker rights could undermine China’s modern-day embrace of capitalist markets.

While only a small minority of students are involved, they represent a leftist critique of Chinese society that seems to be gaining traction on college campuses, partly because the authorities have been more hesitant to suppress it than other political discussion…

Younger Chinese are often described as apathetic, selfish and obsessed with money. But Eric Fish, a writer who has studied Chinese millennials, said that the generation born after the Tiananmen Square massacre lacks the instinctive fear of authority of older generations…

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Monday, October 01, 2018

National Day in China

October 1, 1949

Flag-raising ceremony held at Tian'anmen Square to celebrate National Day
A ceremony for raising the National Flag was held early Monday morning at the Tian'anmen Square in downtown Beijing to celebrate the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The Guard of Honor of the Chinese People's Liberation Army escorted the national flag to the square, while the military band played the national anthem.
Color guard in Tian'anmen Square

Around 145,000 people from across China gathered at the square to watch the ceremony.

Tian'anmen Square witnessed the raising of the first PRC national flag on Oct. 1, 1949, marking a great new start for the Chinese people.

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Campaigning in China

Even if most people in China don't remember Mao Zedong, President Xi does and wants to invoke the populist image of Mao.

For Xi Jinping, Being a Man of the People Means Looking the Part
He held up stalks of wheat and made small talk with farmers. He stood side by side with workers at an oil plant and spoke of building an “invincible” China. He called for China to become more “self-reliant” in the face of a trade dispute with the United States…

It was a chance for Mr. Xi to put himself on a pedestal with Mao Zedong, to rekindle a populist image and to fire back at President Trump and “protectionist” policies.
Xi in Heilongjiang
Mr. Xi, who has been criticized for inspiring a personality cult with parallels to the Mao era, has taken note. In one image from his tour of a farm in Heilongjiang Province, Mr. Xi is shown under an idyllic blue sky, confidently stepping forward while an adoring crowd of farmers looks on.
Famous 1950's poster of Mao and peasants
The image is familiar. Its arrangement mimics the look and feel of painted propaganda posters from the 1950s, which often featured Mao mingling in bucolic settings.

“This is a visual sign not just of Xi’s current predominance, but of his claim to historic greatness,” said David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project, a research program affiliated with the University of Hong Kong…

Mr. Xi used his visit to reiterate calls for China to move more quickly to build its own technologies, so that it is less dependent on the United States. With trade tensions growing between the two countries and threatening supply chains, Mr. Xi has spoken frequently about the need for China to develop its own microchips, software and other technologies, part of its strategy to become a leading superpower of the 21st century…

“The great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation depends on our economic competitiveness,” he said, using a favorite phrase to describe China’s rise, as a crowd of workers applauded feverishly. “Only then can China be forever invincible.”…

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