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Tag: China

A picture from Hong Kong worth a thousand words

Monday, 17 June, 2019

The people of Hong Kong identify far more with their city than with mainland China and they have a very different concept of “freedom” than the autocrats in Beijing. The core values Hong Kongers cherish include the universal values of judicial independence, civil rights and press freedom, but these are listed by China as among the “seven unmentionables,” putting Hong Kongers on the frontline of a dangerous clash between liberty and the Communist Party’s need for total control.

Protest becomes rebellion in the eyes of Beijing when the masses take to the streets to demonstrate against proposed extradition legislation, and this is mortally dangerous because those who took part in the killing of thousands of protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989 are now in a position to send in the tanks against today’s protesters in Hong Kong. Regardless of what happens, however, this remarkable image of people in Hong Kong demanding and defending freedom will remain.

Hong Kong protests

Note: More than 25 percent of Hong Kong’s population of 7.4 million people protested at the weekend. By proportion, these are the largest protests in modern history.


China in Hong Kong

Sunday, 16 June, 2019

What’s going on in Hong Kong? For those of us not completely familiar with the situation, the BBC has created a useful explainer on Hong Kong and its relationship with the People’s Republic of China. The ongoing protests would seem to be about the extradition of “Hong Kongers” to Mainland China for trial, but a more fundamental struggle is taking place on the streets. All kinds of institutions are giving the citizens time and encouragement to demonstrate: small businesses, local bureaucracies and the unions. The teachers’ union is supporting student protesters and the transport union is backing bus drivers who deliberately slow down their service. Shopkeepers are handing out free water to demonstrators, while entrepreneurs are turning up with their employees to defend their civil rights.

Because Hong Kong is a huge economic asset for Beijing, the Communist apparatchiks face a dilemma. The island’s limited autonomy is based on a treaty that the mainland needs to respect to keep the money flowing, but this very autonomy is now undermining central government control. The authority of Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, has been irreparably damaged and it would appear that it’s only a matter of time now before the mandarins order the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong to carry out its core mission: attacking and killing fellow Chinese.

The United States gave Most Favored Nation status to China in 2000 and soon afterwards helped the country become a WTO member. The appearance of tanks on the streets of Hong Kong running over demonstrators defending democracy would have huge implications for Beijing and China’s Most Favored Nation trade status would be put in jeopardy. That would make the current trade dispute look like a minor matter.

The Atlantic has produced a powerful photo series on the Hong Kong protests. This is what real “Resistance” looks like.

Hong Kong


Summer No. 2

Monday, 10 June, 2019

Because Summer No. 1 isn’t working out that well… so far. This painting, “Summer No. 2”, is by the artist Zhongwen Hu, who divides her time between China and the USA.

Summer No. 2


China most murderous

Friday, 7 June, 2019

When did it first become obvious that China was a totalitarian police state willing to do anything to advance its goals? Between 1958 and 1962 during Chairman Mao Zedong’s Great Leap Forward is the answer. That forceful transition from an agrarian culture to an industrial society cost millions of Chinese workers their lives. One estimate runs to an astounding 56 million deaths, making Mao the greatest mass murderer of all time. Then came the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which led to persecution, torture and executions. Many more deaths and countless lives ruined were the price paid for this enormous cruelty and then, in 1989, Beijing’s tanks drove over democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square in another round of savagery.

Since then China’s communists have become more refined in the control of their subjects. Instead of tanks, they’re using the latest surveillance technology to create “a social credit system.” According to the Washington Post:

“China has a radical plan to influence the behavior of its 1.3 billion people: It wants to grade each of them on aspects of their lives to reflect how good (or bad) a citizen they are. Versions of the so-called social credit system are being tested in a dozen cities with the aim of eventually creating a network that encompasses the whole country. Critics say it’s a heavy-handed, intrusive and sinister way for a one-party state to control the population. Supporters, including many Chinese (at least in one survey), say it’ll make for a more considerate, civilized and law-abiding society.”

How a “more considerate, civilized and law-abiding society” is formed when the population doesn’t share the same values as their overlords can be seen seen (or not seen) in Xinjiang in northwest China. It’s there that the autocrats and apparatchiks lock up the Uighurs without trial. Using images form Google Earth and the European Space Agency, John Sudworth of the BBC has documented this enormous crime against humanity in “China’s hidden camps“. As we stated here on Monday with the first of these postings on China, the “People’s Republic” is a menace to civilization.


How the Party Decided to Shoot Its People

Thursday, 6 June, 2019

“For some time, an extremely small group of people who stubbornly promoted bourgeois liberalization cooperated with foreign hostile forces to call for revising our constitution,” said Peng Zhen, the former chair of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, shortly after the Tiananmen Square massacre. His remarks can be found in The Last Secret: The Final Documents From the June Fourth Crackdown by New Century Press, a Hong Kong-based publisher. “They schemed to change our country’s basic political system and to promote in its place an American-style separation of three powers,” continued Peng Zhen. “They schemed to change our People’s Republic of democratic centralism led by the working class and based on the worker-peasant alliance into a totally westernized state of capitalist dictatorship.”

The speeches collected in The Last Secret show how today’s Chinese leadership continues to the study Tiananmen for guidance when it comes to dealing with reform and dissent. What’s behind the hardline approach being taken by President Xi Jinping today? Fear of another Tiananmen. While many in the West regard the 30-year anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre as part of China’s past, the country’s dictatorship see it as a frightening harbinger of the future. The regime has worked diligently to erase the events of 4 June 1989 from the memories of China’s people, but the Party knows that it must still shoot its people if the tyranny is to continue.

Tomorrow here, China, not Russia, is the biggest threat.

The Last Secret


Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition

Wednesday, 5 June, 2019

“The salient facial feature discovery is one of the important research tasks in ethnical group face recognition. In this paper, we first construct an ethnical group face dataset including Chinese Uyghur, Tibetan, and Korean.” So begins the abstract of a Chinese AI research paper on using facial features for identifying ethnic groups. The authors are Cunrui Wang, Qingling Zhang, Wanquan Liu, Yu Liu and Lixin Miao. The paper is available in the Wiley Online Library and it’s titled “Facial feature discovery for ethinicity [sic] recognition.”

The human rights implications of this should be obvious to everyone. The other thing that’s worth mentioning is that machine learning is out of the bottle and, while it can be used to do good, it can be used for evil purposes, too. If it’s going to be used to do evil, the most likely place for this to happen right now is China.

Tomorrow here, The Last Secret: The Final Documents From the June Fourth Crackdown.

Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition


Tank Man still haunts China’s dictators

Tuesday, 4 June, 2019

On this day in 1989, the so-called Chinese People’s Liberation Army slaughtered at least 2,000 peaceful protesters in and around Tiananmen Square. The most iconic photo of the 1989 events was taken on 5 June, the day after the carnage: A lone man stands before an array of battle tanks in Tiananmen Square. He carries two shopping bags. After the leading tank stopped, the man climbed aboard and spoke with the soldiers. He was eventually pulled back into the crowd and disappeared. The Chinese government claims it has never found him. Everyone else believe he is in an unmarked grave.

Tank Man has become the defining image of China’s Tiananmen Square protests. An individual standing in the way of mass oppression. Beijing now forbids discussing the massacre and wishes to erase Tank Man from history, but he lives on in memory.

Tomorrow here, China’s work on facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition.

Tank Man


The China Menace

Monday, 3 June, 2019

Our posts this week will be devoted to China, a nation that has made authoritarianism terrifyingly efficient. One of the ways in which it has managed this feat is through the theft of Western intellectual property. Example: Huawei. Its name translates as “Accomplish for China,” and Huawei will do whatever China orders. China is Huawei and Huawei is China, in other words. But Huawei is not unique in this regard because no Chinese company is independent.

Founded in 1987. Huawei claims to be “employee-owned,” but it could not have become the world’s largest manufacturer of telecommunications network equipment and the second-largest maker of smartphones on its own. Allegations of theft have followed Huawei from its earliest days. Cisco Systems was one of its first targets. It sued Huawei in 2003 for the theft of source code for routers. The two companies settled in 2004, but they were back in the news in 2012 when Cisco disclosed that Huawei had copied source code, help screens and manuals.

The sheer shamelessness of Huawei’s thievery is breath-taking. Earlier this year, unsealed indictments handed down by a grand jury in the Western District of the State of Washington against two Huawei affiliates documented 10 Federal crimes relating to the theft of the intellectual property of T-Mobile. In the most brazen act of all, Huawei employees surreptitiously dismembered Tappy, a T-Mobile robot, and walked away with its arm.

Tomorrow here, Tank Man. The photo that China wants to erase from memory.

The China Menace


Will Huawei get its masters to ban the iPhone?

Tuesday, 21 May, 2019

US companies are now banned from supplying Huawei with components, which covers both software and the chips to go into its network equipment and phones. This is serious because Huawei is on track to become the largest supplier of smartphones in the world by volume. And we’re not talking low-end here anymore. Thirty percent of smartphones sold in Europe in Q1 this year were Huawei. Despite the argy-bargy with Washington, Huawei can still use Android because it’s open source, but it might have to do without Google’s layer of popular applications, depending on the politics of the dispute. For now, Huawei hasn’t revealed its hand, but it must have a Plan B for its own app store, and because it’s a front corporation for the Communist Party, it may get its masters to ban the sale of iPhones in China. We haven’t heard the end of this.

Huawei


These EU elections again

Wednesday, 15 May, 2019

Apart from the excitement generated so far by the astonishing polling performance of the Brexit Party in the UK, this year’s European Union Parliament elections are inducing even more torpor than ever. European political debate, such as it is, is still dominated by Brexit, while President Macron’s EU reform proposals, which should have lit a fire, have been completely quenched. Credit for that must go to Chancellor Merkel, who ignored them, and her designated successor, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has done nothing to suggest that she’s going to deviate from Mutti’s cold-shoulder line. Reformist ideas coming from France simply don’t survive the crossing of the Rhine anymore.

This leaves us with an election in which mostly Lilliputian candidates repeat mostly hackneyed phrases. Because the stakes are so low, turnout will be low, too. And because nothing much will change after 26 May the lack of voter excitement is totally justified. Despite Brexit, the immigration crisis and the fragility of the euro, the EU seems unable to energize itself or the citizens of its member states. This is all the more astonishing, given that Europe’s North Atlantic partner and protector is drifting away, China’s rapacious Belt and Road initiative is making inroads in Italy after making important acquisitions in Greece and Russia is becoming ever more dangerous as it expands its malign influence into the eastern regions of the EU. There’s lots going on but the European Union seems destined to a future of global irrelevance. It’s not surprising, then, that the so-called populists get all the attention.


Terms of Sale

Sunday, 14 April, 2019

Haisam Hussein has produced a very entertaining map for Lapham’s Quarterly charting the flow of merchants, merchandise and words along the ancient global trade routes. As exotic goods made their way across new regions, their names mutated along the thoroughfares, goes the theory. Take tea, for example. It was transported from Mandarin-speaking Northern China via the Silk Road, with the result much of Asia has similar sounding words for tea. So, chá evolved into the chai widely consumed in India and neighbouring areas. The other major trade route for tea was through Min-speaking Southern China and this led to the spread of the pronunciation that became the standard in Europe. Think of the similarities between tea (English), thé (French), thee (Dutch), (Spanish), tee (German) and (Italian).

Terms of Sale