Caroline B. Glick writes: The nuclear confrontation between the US and North Korea entered a critical phase Sunday with North Korea’s conduct of an underground test of a thermonuclear bomb.
If the previous round of this confrontation earlier this summer revolved around Pyongyang’s threat to attack the US territory of Guam, Sunday’s test, together with North Korea’s recent tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the continental US, was a direct threat to US cities.
In other words, the current confrontation isn’t about US superpower status in Asia, and the credibility of US deterrence or the capabilities of US military forces in the Pacific. The confrontation is now about the US’s ability to protect the lives of its citizens.
The distinction tells us a number of important things. All of them are alarming.
First, because this is about the lives of Americans, rather than allied populations like Japan and South Korea, the US cannot be diffident in its response to North Korea’s provocation. While attenuated during the Obama administration, the US’s position has always been that US military forces alone are responsible for guaranteeing the collective security of the American people.
Pyongyang is now directly threatening that security with hydrogen bombs. So if the Trump administration punts North Korea’s direct threat to attack US population centers with nuclear weapons to the UN Security Council, it will communicate profound weakness to its allies and adversaries alike.
Obviously, this limits the options that the Trump administration has. But it also clarifies the challenge it faces.
The second implication of North Korea’s test of their plutonium-based bomb is that the US’s security guarantees, which form the basis of its global power and its alliance system are on the verge of becoming completely discredited. Read the rest of this entry »
Beijing has been increasingly clamping down on use of VPNs in recent weeks. This has prompted concerns among various groups that it will stifle academic research and international trade.
OH HELL YEAH: U.S. Urges All Nationals In North Korea To ‘Depart Immediately’, Bans Tourists From VisitingPosted: July 21, 2017
YA THINK? The U.S. is to ban its citizens from travelling to North Korea.
US officials linked the move to the death of jailed American student Otto Warmbier.
Once the ban is in effect, US citizens will need special validation to travel to or within North Korea.
Mr Warmbier travelled to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours. He was arrested in 2016 for trying to steal a propaganda sign and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was returned to the US in a coma in June and died a week later.
How did the news come to light?
Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, who both operate in North Korea, revealed on Friday that they had been told of the upcoming ban by the Swedish embassy, which acts for the US as Washington has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Rowan Beard, of Young Pioneer Tours, told the BBC the embassy was urging all US nationals to depart immediately.
He said the embassy was trying to check on the number of US tourists left in the country.
What form will the ban take?
Ms Nauert’s statement said: “Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, the Secretary has authorised a Geographical Travel Restriction on all US nationals’ use of a passport to travelling through, or to North Korea.
“Once in effect, US passports will be invalid for travel to, through, and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.
“We intend to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week.
“The restriction will be implemented 30 days after publication.”
Rowan Beard said that the 30-day grace period would “give leeway for any [Americans] currently in the country as tourists or on humanitarian work”.
How have the travel agencies reacted?
Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours told the BBC the agency would still conduct tours and take Americans until the ban came into effect.
“If their country allows them to go, we will take them,” he said.
Mr Cockerell added: “It’s unfortunate for the industry but also for North Koreans who want to know what Americans are really like.”
After the death of Mr Warmbier, the China-based Young Pioneer Tours announced it would no longer take visitors from the US to the country. Read the rest of this entry »
Everyone in frame is smiling and laughing in the North Korean cold. Otto Warmbier, like the other tourists, launches a snowball, captured in slow motion on what appears to be a camera phone.
It’s the kind of innocent fun you expect to be captured on a tour group holiday. Otto turns to his right, mouth wide open, laughing.
“This is the Otto I know and love. This is my brother,” wrote Austin Warmbier, who released the video, which was shot during a three-night North Korea tour at the end of 2015.
Two months later, Otto would again appear on video, but in very different circumstances.
Head bowed and clutching a prepared “confession”, the 21-year-old student walked out in front of North Korean TV cameras to speak, explaining why he had been arrested at the end of that tour, when everyone else had been allowed to leave.
He wore a cream-coloured jacket and tie. Before speaking, he got up an offered a low bow.
Otto thanked the North Korean government for the “opportunity to apologise for my crime, to beg for forgiveness and to beg for any assistance to save my life”.
He said he tried to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel as a “trophy” for a US church with the “connivance of the US administration” in order to “harm the work ethic and motivation of the Korean people”.
Later, he would break down in tears: “I have made the single worst decision of my life, but I am only human.”
Otto is now back in the US after 15 months of captivity in North Korea. But he is in a coma, cannot understand language and has severe brain damage.
In the year-and-a-half since he threw that snowball, the life of a young man full of promise has been permanently altered.
Much remains unknown about how Otto’s health deteriorated. Doctors at Cincinnati Medical Center say they have seen no sign he was physically abused but they and his family also don’t buy North Korea’s story that he contracted botulism and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.
But how did a brilliant student from an Ohio suburb with hopes of becoming an investment banker end up imprisoned in a pariah state? And why was he released in a coma?
The Warmbiers hail from a small suburb called Wyoming in Cincinnati, Ohio, where father Fred owns a small company.
Otto attended the best high school in the state, and was prom and homecoming king. Read the rest of this entry »
The latest screed from Pyongyang’s unnamed prince of prose (or princes — it’s unclear how many write these gems) was delivered Monday in response to Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., asserting Kim Jong Un was a “whack job.”
Like previous statements, it bucked all norms for engaging in international repartee:
“It is a serious provocation that Gardner, like a psychopath, dare to bear the evil that dares our highest dignity,” the statement said, according to a translation. “It is America’s misfortune that a man mixed in with human dirt like Gardner, who has lost basic judgment and body hair, could only spell misfortune for the United States.”
The real-world reference point behind some of the putdowns, most of which are disseminated by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, is unclear. Gardner, for instance, has a full head of hair.
But KCNA has been dealing out hits against U.S. and international politicians for years, perfecting a style that’s veered from jaw-dropping to shockingly racist.
Among the worst insults directed at former President Barack Obama, North Korea in 2014 branded him a “juvenile delinquent,” “clown” and a “dirty fellow.” Obama, the KCNA statement said, was somebody who “does not even have the basic appearances of a human being.” Read the rest of this entry »
Senators briefed at WH by military, intelligence officials.
WASHINGTON—The Trump administration said it is launching an urgent push, combining diplomatic pressure and the threat of military action in a bid to halt North Korea’s advancing nuclear-weapons program.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, one of those who briefed senators at a classified briefing hosted by the White House on Wednesday, also plans to host a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Friday, where he will propose international officials redouble efforts to enforce economic sanctions and isolate North Korea.
North Korea’s Missile Advancements
The State Department said Mr. Tillerson is considering harsh measures such as asking other countries to shut down North Korea’s embassies and other diplomatic facilities. Read the rest of this entry »
Vice President Mike Pence broke from his schedule Monday morning and took an unannounced trip to the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Though other top ranking U.S. officials have visited the DMZ in the past, Pence actually ventured outside and stared down North Korean troops.
Mike Pence (CNN)
“Yeah, you better keep walking.”
In addition to his visit to the DMZ, Pence sent North Korea a warning statement Monday morning … (read more)
Source: The Daily Caller
China Deploys 150,000 Troops to Deal with Possible North Korean Refugees Over fears Trump May Strike Kim Jong-unPosted: April 10, 2017
The Chinese army has reportedly deployed 150,000 troops to the North Korean border to prepare for pre-emptive attacks after the United States dropped airstrikes on Syria.
President Donald Trump‘s missile strike on Syria on Friday was widely interpreted as a warning to North Korea.
The troops have been dispatched to handle North Korean refugees and ‘unforeseen circumstances’, such as the prospect of preemptive attacks on North Korea, the news agency said.
China’s top nuclear envoy arrived in Seoul Monday for talks on the North Korean threat, as the United States sent the naval strike group to the region and signalled it may act to shut down Pyongyang’s weapons program.
Speculation of an imminent nuclear test is brewing as the North marks major anniversaries including the 105th birthday of its founding leader on Saturday – sometimes celebrated with a demonstration of military might.
Wu Dawei, China’s Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs, met with his South Korean counterpart on Monday to discuss the nuclear issue.
The talks come shortly after Trump hosted Chinese leader Xi Jinping for a summit at which he pressed Pyongyang’s key ally to do more to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions.
‘(We) are prepared to chart our own course if this is something China is just unable to coordinate with us,’ US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said after the summit.
He added however that Beijing had indicated a willingness to act on the issue.
‘We need to allow them time to take actions,’ Tillerson said, adding that Washington had no intention of attempting to remove the regime of Kim Jong-Un. Read the rest of this entry »
A U.S. flag is bizarrely tweaked ahead of a news conference between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool
China lashed out at the United States for its “terrible human rights problems” in a report on Thursday, adding to recent international criticism of Washington on issues ranging from violence inflicted on minorities to U.S. immigration policies.
The U.S. State Department‘s annual report on rights in nearly 200 countries last week accused China of torture, executions without due process, repression of political rights and persecution of ethnic minorities, among other issues.
China is internationally regarded as the world’s worst abuser of human rights.
In an annual Chinese response to the U.S. report, China’s State Council, or cabinet, said the United States suffered from rampant gun violence and high levels of…
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“The worrisome thing here is the outside partner. This is not just a three sided game, North Korea, South Korea, and the U.S. — it’s the Chinese reaction. The Chinese are watching the United States after eight years of withdrawal, accommodation, and essentially no response to Chinese expansion — they’re seeing the United States now asserting itself. The U.S.S. Carl Vinson an aircraft carrier is now in the South China Sea. Trump has just sent B-52’s into South Korea as a way to threaten the North Koreans, and everyone knows what they carry, they carry nuclear weapons. But the worst thing from the Chinese point of view is the THAAD: This is the antimissile system. The Chinese react to that the way the Russians did to the anti-missile system we wanted to put in Eastern Europe. They get very upset because it can be applied against them. Yes, our reason for doing it is to defend the South Koreans against the North. But the overall effect is to put up a missile shield that could degrade and weaken the Chinese arsenal. They know that. They are very worried about that. And they’re getting semi-hysterical. Global Times which is a government-friendly publication just this week said that the government of China will no longer rule out a first nuclear strike. That’s a big deal. That’s not an official statement, but it tells you how much the Chinese are upset, which is why we are now rushing to install the THAAD by the end of April before the election so at least it’s a fait accompli — but this is a tinderbox.”
Source: National Review
Yawei Liu (刘亚伟) joined The Carter Center in 1998 and has been the director of its China Program since 2005. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations since 2014, the associate director of the China Research Center in Atlanta, and an adjunct professor of Political Science at Emory University. He co-authored Obama: The Man Who Will Change America (Chinese language, 2008).
He is the founding editor of http://www.chinaelections.org, http://www.uscnpm.org, and http://www.chinatransparency.org. Since 2012, he has organized an annual forum on U.S.-China relations. Read the rest of this entry »
From China Digital Times: In recent cartoons for CDT, Badiucao puts a Valentine twist on President Trump’s emerging relationship with President Xi Jinping, which took a step forward in a recent phone call:
Valentines, by Badiucao:
A second drawing focuses on Trump’s effort to patch up relations with Beijing by acknowledging the “one China” policy, which declares that Taiwan is part of China. Trump had earlier stated that he was “not committed” to the longstanding policy.
One China, by Badiucao
Since his inauguration in January, President Trump’s policy toward China has been elusive and unpredictable. He ignited a firestorm of controversy soon after taking office by accepting a phone call from President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan and later saying that he may choose not to adhere to the “one China” policy, which has defined the U.S.-China-Taiwan trilateral relationship for decades. These actions seemed to indicate that he would live up to campaign rhetoric to take a tougher line on China than his predecessors. Yet after two weeks of silence between the two leaders, Trump switched tacks by promising to uphold the one China status quo in a phone call with President Xi Jinping. From Simon Denyer and Philip Rucker of the Washington Post:
In a statement issued late Thursday, the White House said the two men had held a lengthy and “extremely cordial” conversation.
“The two leaders discussed numerous topics and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our one-China policy,” the White House statement said.
In return, Xi said he “appreciated his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, for stressing that the U.S. government adheres to the one-China policy,” which he called the “political basis” of relations between the two nations, state news agency Xinhua reported. [Source]
The call has been taken by many as a sign of acquiescence by Trump to Xi, as he acknowledged that his mention of the “one China” policy was at Xi’s request. From Jane Perlez of The New York Times:
But in doing so, he handed China a victory and sullied his reputation with its leader, Xi Jinping, as a tough negotiator who ought to be feared, analysts said. Read the rest of this entry »
Boston Herald Columnist, Adriana Cohen, former Bush senior campaign advisor, Mark Serrano, and Club for Growth president, David McIntosh on President Trump’s trade policies and his desire to put America first.
Note: the above image is from Japanese social media. Original source unknown. But very typical of popular ‘kawaii’ image editing apps. See more of our Japan coverage here.
By Ben Blanchard and Steve Holland | BEIJING/WASHINGTON Fri Feb 10, 2017
President Donald Trump agreed to honor the longstanding “One China” policy during a phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, taking steps to improve ties after angering Beijing by talking to the leader of Taiwan. Trump further unnerved Beijing […]
[VIDEO] Americans Gather Near U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to Protest Trump’s Travel Ban 日本のアメリカ大使館前で入国制限令に対するデモPosted: February 6, 2017
TOKYO – Ayako Mie reports: A group of demonstrators gathered Tuesday morning near the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to protest President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending the entry of refugees and restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
Roughly 50 people, mainly Americans living in Japan, gathered near the embassy in Minato Ward at around 8 a.m. They held signs with slogans like “Build bridges, not walls,” “No Muslim ban” and “Immigrants make America great.”
“We will protest in solidarity with these individuals, including refugees from war-torn nations, as we stand against this unlawful, immoral and unjust action,” the organizers said in a Monday news release.
“We urge the Trump administration to cancel this executive order and to obey federal court orders against its implementation, and we ask all elected officials and world leaders to speak out against this despicable act,” it said.
Organizer Jesse Glickstein, an American lawyer living in Japan, said the demonstration was part of the global backlash against the immigration clampdown. Protests flared up around the world soon after the policy was implemented last Friday, which is also International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Glickstein, who is Jewish, said his grandparents immigrated to the U.S. after surviving the Holocaust.
“This, to me, is possibly the most offensive thing a president can do,” Glickstein said before the protest began.
“I think this is important so that the Japanese people understand that the majority of Americans are not in agreement with this,” he said. “We welcome refugees, we welcome diversity, and this administration honestly is basically … waging war on this concept.”
Protester Alexander Gonzalez said he rejects the policy because it targets specific citizens. Read the rest of this entry »
In an aggressive move, a Chinese naval reconnaissance vessel enters waters near Kuchinoerabu Island off Kagoshima Prefecture.
Ayako Mie reports: A Chinese navy reconnaissance vessel entered Japanese territorial waters near Kuchinoerabu Island off Kagoshima Prefecture early Wednesday morning — the first time since 2004 that a Chinese military ship has done so.
Wednesday’s incursion comes just under a week after a Chinese naval frigate entered the contiguous zone just outside Japan’s territorial waters near the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.
The ministry said it warned the Chinese ship to exit the territorial waters — generally defined under international law as within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of a nation’s land border — prompting it to leave the waters south of Yakushima Island, sailing southeast, at around 5 a.m.
Wednesday’s incursion was the second time since the end of World War II that a Chinese military ship entered Japanese waters. The last time was in 2004, when a Chinese submarine was detected in the territorial waters near Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture. In response, Yoshinori Ono, the Defense Agency’s director general at the time, ordered the MSDF to boost its maritime security measures.
Such an order was not issued this time as the Chinese ship left before the Defense Ministry could determine if the passage involved any malicious intent, the ministry said.
International law allows all ships, regardless of their country of registration, to pass through another country’s territorial waters so long as they do not endanger the peace and security of the coastal state.
While Beijing’s intentions remain unclear, Defense Minister Gen Nakatani said that the Chinese ship entered the waters after following two Indian ships participating in the trilateral Malabar drills. Japan, the U.S. and India have been conducting those exercises in the waters east of Okinawa, near the Senkakus, since last Friday.
The Chinese ship also shadowed the U.S. aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, which was participating in the joint exercise, Reuters reported, citing a Japanese official.
The intrusion by the Chinese navy comes just six days after a Chinese Navy frigate entered the contiguous waters near the Japanese-administered Senkakus, which are also claimed by China and Taiwan, where they are known as the Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.
While the Senkakus are uninhabited, Kuchinoerabu Island has a population of 123 as of the end of last month. It is a popular tourist destination and a part of Yakushima National Park. Read the rest of this entry »
Visiting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis clearly said during talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday afternoon that the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture are within the scope of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, which obliges the United States to defend Japan, according to a senior government official who attended the meeting.
At the opening of the meeting, Abe said he hopes and is certain the two countries “can demonstrate in our country and abroad that the Japan-U.S. alliance is unshakable.” In response, Mattis said that he intended to make clear during the meeting that Article 5 of the security treaty will be important five years or 10 years from now, just as it was a year ago or five years ago.
Mattis arrived in Tokyo on the day to hold talks with the prime minister, Defense Minister Tomomi Inada and other members of Abe’s Cabinet to exchange views on the security environment in East Asia and to address mutual security concerns. The new U.S. defense chief’s visit to Japan marks the first by a U.S. Cabinet member under the administration of President Donald Trump. The ministerial meeting with Inada is scheduled for Saturday, after which they will hold a joint press conference.
During these talks, the two sides are also expected to confirm that the United States will firmly uphold the “nuclear umbrella” (see below) over Japan in its defense.
During his presidential election campaign last year, Trump was ambiguous about defending the Senkakus and also suggested that if Japan doesn’t contribute its due share to shouldering the burden of stationing U.S. forces in Japan, it would be acceptable for Japan to possess its own nuclear weapons to confront North Korea’s nuclear threat. These remarks caused apprehension on the Japanese side.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to propose during a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on Feb. 10 a bilateral economic cooperation plan, including the creation of a $450 billion (¥51 trillion) market through railways and other infrastructure investments in the United States to generate 700,000 jobs, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.
Trump has recently been stepping up criticism against the Japanese car market and the depreciation of the yen. Given the circumstances, Abe plans to emphasize during the upcoming talks that the bilateral cooperation will be of great advantage to the U.S. economy.
A draft for the Japan-U.S. economic cooperation plan sets forth bilateral cooperation in five fields as the “Japan-U.S. growth and employment initiative.” The five fields are: development of the world’s most advanced infrastructure in the United States; drawing on demand for infrastructure around the world; research and development of robots and artificial intelligence; collaboration in new areas such as cyber and space; and cooperation in employment and defense.
The envisioned infrastructure development in the United States includes high-speed railway projects in the northeastern part of the country, and in Texas and California, to which Japan would provide technical cooperation and extend low-interest loans. Japan would also help replace as many as 3,000 train cars currently in use on railways and subways with new models over the next 10 years.
Japan would further cooperate in highly efficient gas-fired power generation and the latest compact nuclear power generation systems.
In the research and development field, the draft calls for cooperation between Japan, which has the edge in robot technology, and the United States, which leads the world in AI technology.
Japan and the United States will jointly develop robots to be used for inspecting aging infrastructure, decommissioning nuclear power plants, and carrying out medical diagnosis and surgery.
Videos are currently circulating online of a mysterious car crash that occurred earlier today in Tiananmen Square.
Currently, not much is known about the incident, which occurred at around 7:20 a.m. this morning. While there are rumors of a planned attack and explosion, Chinese state media has called the incident a “vehicle rollover” in which a driver and cyclist were injured.
And it appears that the situation at the square has since returned back to normal. Read the rest of this entry »
Multi-warhead weapon tested amid growing tensions with the United States.
The flight test of the DF-5C missile was carried out earlier this month using 10 multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, or MIRVs. The test of the inert warheads was monitored closely by U.S. intelligence agencies, said two officials familiar with reports of the missile test.
The missile was fired from the Taiyuan Space Launch Center in central China and flew to an impact range in the western Chinese desert.
No other details about the test could be learned. Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Gary Ross suggested in a statement the test was monitored.
“The [Defense Department] routinely monitors Chinese military developments and accounts for PLA capabilities in our defense plans,” Ross told the Washington Free Beacon.
The test of a missile with 10 warheads is significant because it indicates the secretive Chinese military is increasing the number of warheads in its arsenal.
Estimates of China’s nuclear arsenal for decades put the number of strategic warheads at the relatively low level of around 250 warheads.
U.S. intelligence agencies in February reportedthat China had begun adding warheads to older DF-5 missiles, in a move that has raised concerns for strategic war planners.
Uploading Chinese missiles from single or triple warhead configurations to up to 10 warheads means the number of warheads stockpiled is orders of magnitude larger than the 250 estimate.
Currently, U.S. nuclear forces—land-based and sea-based nuclear missiles and bombers—have been configured to deter Russia’s growing nuclear forces and the smaller Chinese nuclear force.
Under the 2010 U.S.-Russian arms treaty, the United States is slated to reduce its nuclear arsenal to 1,550 deployed warheads.
A boost in the Chinese nuclear arsenal to 800 or 1,000 warheads likely would prompt the Pentagon to increase the U.S. nuclear warhead arsenal by taking weapons out of storage.
The new commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, stated during a Senate confirmation hearing in September that he is concerned about China’s growing nuclear arsenal.
“I am fully aware that China continues to modernize its nuclear missile force and is striving for a secure second-strike capability,” Hyten told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Although it continues to profess a ‘no first use’ doctrine, China is re-engineering its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple nuclear warheads and continues to develop and test hyper-glide vehicle technologies,” Hyten added. Read the rest of this entry »
The January 13, 1967 issue of TIME magazine featured Mao Zedong on its cover with the headline “China in Chaos.” Fifty years later, TIME made U.S. President-elect Donald Trump its Man of The Year. With a groundswell of mass support, both men rebelled against the established order in their respective countries and set about throwing the world into confusion. Both share an autocratic mind set, Mao Zedong as Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, Donald Trump as Chairman of the Board. As Jiaying Fan noted in May 2016, both also share a taste for “polemical excess and xenophobic paranoia.” For his part, Mao’s rebellion led to national catastrophe and untold human misery.
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States of America. Although some of China’s New Leftists hailed Trump’s November 2016 win as a validation of ever-victorious Mao Zedong Thought, there is little reason to think that a Trump-led America will give much succor to China’s ideologues. In the two months since the U.S. election, through a phone call to Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen, repeated comments on China’s currency manipulation, the appointment of Peter Navarro (an economic hawk and author, among other things, of the 2011 book Death by China: Confronting the Dragon—A Global Call to Action) as director of the National Trade Council, and his intervention in a dispute over an underwater U.S. drone waylaid by the Chinese navy in the South China Sea, Trump has indicated that he is taking an unpredictable approach to the most important global bilateral relationship. Even long-standing friends and allies of the U.S. have been thrown off guard as they learn how to live with the Great Disrupter.
The Chinese Communist Party under its Chairman of Everything, Xi Jinping, hasn’t had to confront such an erratic and populist leader since Mao Zedong launched the Cultural Revolutionary 50 years ago.
Uproar in Heaven
In Official China, the anniversary of the Cultural Revolution passed in silence, even though today’s People’s Republic, whether in terms of its achievements or of its egregious failures, continues to live in the shadow of that political maelstrom.
In 1966, Mao observed that his personality was a mixture of contradictory elements. There was the self-assured sense of destiny and confidence that led him to challenge and overturn earlier leaders of the Communist Party, confront Chiang Kai-shek, and lead the Chinese revolution. This was, he said, an expression of his “Tiger Spirit,” something that was in constant interplay with his “Monkey Spirit,” one that was skittish, paranoid, and unpredictable. The Monkey was always ready to take on the Tiger with devilish glee. In the last two decades of his life, Mao’s China reflected this deep-seated contradiction as the country lurched between authoritarian control and anarchic confusion. What for the Great Helmsman was his life force writ large would rend the fabric of the society he ruled and threatened everything he had worked to achieve.
At the time of the Sino-Soviet split in 1961, Mao wrote a poem in praise of China’s most famous monkey, Sun Wukong, the hero of the popular late-Ming novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. The international order established following WWII was under increasing pressure, and the Socialist Bloc, led by the Soviet Union, was riven by rebellion and disquiet as a result both of repressive Soviet expansionism in Europe and the ideological uncertainty generated by Nikita Khrushchev’s secret denunciation of Joseph Stalin in 1956. Mao, giving vent to his Tiger Spirit, would now lay claim to the mantle of world revolution.
A thunderstorm burst over the earth,
So a devil rose from a heap of white bones.
The deluded monk was not beyond the light,
But the malignant demon must wreak havoc.
The Golden Monkey wrathfully swung his massive cudgel,
And the jade-like firmament was cleared of dust.
Today, a miasmal mist once more rising,
We hail Sun Wu-kung, the wonder-worker.
Having delivered this challenge, Mao’s unpredictable Monkey Spirit would attempt to turn the world upside down. His poem and Uproar in Heaven, a 1964 film adaptation of Wu Cheng’en’s novel, struck a cord with the restive youth of China, many of whom closely followed China’s ideological contest with the Soviet Union. Like Mao, they too felt that their country was being stymied by a hidebound Soviet-style bureaucracy; the normalization of the revolutionary ardor of the past was frustrating China’s ability to lead history and achieve greatness. They related to Mao as he portrayed himself as an outsider who championed an uprising of the masses against a sclerotic system.
When, in 1966, Mao both engineered and supported a grassroots youthful rebellion against the very party-state he had created, a group of middle-school students in Beijing responded by composing a series of manifestos declaring that they, like Monkey, would support the Chairman, create an uproar in heaven, and smash the old world to pieces. In particular, they proclaimed “Rebellion is Justified” and quoted a line from Mao’s 1961 poem:
The Golden Monkey wrathfully swung his massive cudgel,
And the jade-like firmament was cleared of dust.
Mao responded to the young rebels and, to use today’s parlance, an alt-left movement of radicalism was born. The students called themselves Red Guards.
In August 1966, Mao and his deputy, Lin Biao, encouraged the Red Guards to Destroy the Four Olds and a wave of iconoclasm swept the country while the violence against people victimized as representing the old order were denounced, attacked, beaten, and even killed. During what would be known as Bloody August, Mao is said to have written to Jiang Qing, his wife and partner in revolutionary extremism, declaring that “Once heaven is in great disorder a new kind of order can emerge.” He believed that throwing the political establishment and social order into confusion would liberate the true potential of people to achieve what was otherwise seemingly impossible. A high-tide of revolutionary enthusiasm would allow people to cast aside the deadening bureaucracy and revitalize industry, agriculture, research, and society itself. Under the guidance of Mao Zedong Thought, the goal of making China great again could be realized on the world stage.
The Instincts of an Autocrat
The similarities between Mao Zedong and Donald Trump don’t end with the autocrat’s mindset touched on in the opening paragraph of this essay, or with the clash between tiger-like brio and the dyspathy of the monkey. The will to autocracy means that both figures share (with elected or self-appointed strong men historically and worldwide) some disturbing parallels:
Quotations Vs. Tweets: In the Mao era, the mysterious, contradictory, and yet powerfully inciting utterances of the Chairman were conveyed not by Twitter, but through quotations broadcast over national radio and carried in the newspapers. In the print media, Mao’s gnomic utterances were always highlighted by being printed in bold, while on radio they were recited in the stentorian voice of authority. A daily quotation called “The Highest Directive” featured in the top right-hand corner of the People’s Daily and was mimicked by every paper across the land. The quotations demanded a response and action and sent the country lurching in different directions while confusion reigned supreme in Beijing.
Progadanda Vs. the Lying Media: Like Mao, Trump has trouble sleeping, and his early morning Tweets reveal whatever has caught the leader’s flickering attention, alerting the world to some new twist or turn in his feverish thinking. With Twitter, Trump bypasses both the formal bureaucracy of Washington and what he and his followers dub “The Lying Media.”
Mao too distrusted the state media based in the capital, Beijing, and with the support of his wife, Jiang Qing, and her Shanghai comrades he got his message of rebellion out in other cities. He extolled The Right to Rebel and, in essence, he launched the Cultural Revolution to “drain the swamp” of the Chinese Communist Party bureaucracy. He called enemies within the Party nomenklatura “Capitalist Roaders,” the permanent political class, that is men and women who were pursuing policies that undermined his ideas and which, he believe, held back China’s productive capacity and frustrated the country’s global revolutionary preeminence.
Climate Change Vs. Human Will: The effects of climate change and the mismanagement of natural resources were evident in Mao’s China. There was a profligate depletion of water resources; increasing desertification starting from Outer Mongolia; unmodulated industrial pollution from the Great Leap Forward era onwards; denial of contaminants in food and water supplies. . . the list goes on. Mao believed that “man can conquer heaven,” that human will could triumph over nature. China now faces the challenge of climate change and environmental degradation with sober clarity; Trump’s America will be led by climate skeptics, deniers, and those who would sign up for Mao’s axiom.
The Smartest Men in the Room: Like Trump, Mao thought he was “smart,” and he distrusted experts and the educated. An autodidact, he believed that he did not need to rely on others to understand complex issues and resolve problems. He declared that the more education you have, the more dangerous you may be. Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING (AP) — Chinese are heading to temples and fairs to wish for an auspicious start to the Lunar New Year.
Thousands gathered at Beijing’s major temples on Saturday, the first day of the Year of the Rooster. Wearing heavy winter coats, they lit incense sticks and bowed as they prayed for good fortune and health. As many as 80,000 people were expected at the Lama Temple in central Beijing, state television reported.
Beijing’s sprawling spring festival temple fair opened at Ditan Park, where empty tree branches were festooned with red lanterns and traditional goods and foods were for sale. Read the rest of this entry »
OSAKA — Keisuke Uranishi reports: An Osaka-based woman is amping up her creativity in a bid to make a difference as a cosplayer.
Shiguma Aika is a famous cosplayer who became known outside Japan about 10 years ago.
“I believe cosplay is a culture Japan can be proud of. I want to be even more creative than now.”
“We can overcome the language barrier and quickly get along with foreigners — that’s one of the good effects of cosplaying,” she said to listeners at the end of an internet radio program late last year.
Sporting bright white hair, Aika appeared on the show with three other cosplayers. Seated in a broadcasting studio, they looked like they had stepped out of an anime world.
“We can overcome the language barrier and quickly get along with foreigners — that’s one of the good effects of cosplaying.”But Aika is not content just to get into a character by cosplaying. She also uses it to express the world the character lives in and share its allure with spectators and other people. She aims to perform “creative cosplay,” shedding new light on the work in question and make it shine more brightly.
“In reality, wars are always going on. I had fun cosplaying, but then I thought I might be able to go a step further and use cosplaying to express [more serious] themes, such as the nature of war and love for humanity.”
For example, Aika and her fellow cosplayers performed a scene from a popular game inspired by the Shinsengumi samurai warrior force at a festival about Japan in Shanghai in February 2012. The Shinsengumi fought for the Tokugawa shogunate in the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration in 1868.
The performance won huge praise from the audience as they demonstrated a theatrical sword fight on stage filled with the passion of Shinsengumi members, many of whom died at a young age.
The festival was a formal event and commemorated the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and China. But the organizers, which included the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai, recognized cosplay as an important cultural field that plays a role in the “Cool Japan” promotional movement, and decided to invite Aika and her fellow cosplayers.
Aika said she gained a lot of confidence as a cosplayer at the festival.
Love and war
Aika comes from Osaka, and became fascinated with cosplay in her adolescence. She devoted herself to it more and more because she felt that trying to look like her favorite manga characters would bring her closer to them in mind as well. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan is warily welcoming Donald Trump as the US president, wondering what his administration will mean for their security alliance and already seeing what it means for their trade relationship.
But there are no such mixed feelings about Trump’s eldest daughter: Ivanka Trump is widely revered as the perfect woman here.
“This is the woman I like now. Ivanka Trump. I love it that she’s not only beautiful but also clever and has a graceful air. I think women should be kind and gentle.”
— Sachiko W. on a portrait that Trump had posted on Instagram
Among some Japanese women, Ivanka Trump is seen as an aspirational figure who has combined motherhood and career while managing to look perfectly put-together all the time (although her glamorous Instagram photos never show the retinues of nannies and assistants and hairdressers that answer the question of “how does she do it all?”).
Japan remains a highly patriarchal society, where men spend long hours at the office and women are often expected to give up their jobs after getting married or having babies.
“She is a good example that a woman can do an outstanding job and handle a misogynist father like Trump, without pushing too much of a feminist agenda or confronting men too much.”
— Shinzato, 32, a freelance writer and mother of a 6-year-old daughter.
But Trump offers an example of how to be strong but not scary, said Yuriko Shinzato, 32, a freelance writer and mother of a 6-year-old daughter.
“She is a good example that a woman can do an outstanding job and handle a misogynist father like Trump, without pushing too much of a feminist agenda or confronting men too much,” Shinzato, who blogs about Ivanka Trump’s fashion and lifestyle, told the Japan Times.
“That is something that Japanese women want but have a hard time doing in a still male-dominated society.”
As a result, the Trump daughter has quite a following here. The Japanese internet was abuzz after the election at a tabloid report that Trump might be the next American ambassador to Japan, and she won Japanese fans when she posted a video of her daughter, Arabella Rose, performing the song “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen” by the Japanese comedian known as Pikotaro.
Japanese women gush about her on social media.
“This is the woman I like now. Ivanka Trump. I love it that she’s not only beautiful but also clever and has a graceful air. I think women should be kind and gentle,” wrote Sachiko W. on a portrait that Trump had posted on Instagram.
“Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka-san, who made it into the administration transfer team. She waved at me when I called out to her at the Trump Tower.”
— Mari Maeda, on Twitter
On Twitter, news announcer Mari Maeda posted a photo of Trump in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.
“Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka-san, who made it into the administration transfer team. She waved at me when I called out to her at the Trump Tower,” Maeda wrote.
“What a figure she has even after having three children. So frank and cute! Her jewelry brand is popular but some fans say they want her to become the president because of her intelligence and beauty.” Read the rest of this entry »
It is an event that neither Hong Kong, China nor Britain are likely to be celebrating. Nevertheless, on this day – January 26 – in 1841, the British flag was first unfurled at Possession Point by Royal Navy sailors.
Photo: Chris Needos.
At the time, Hong Kong was a sleepy backwater, though it would prove to be a handy trading outpost. “Albert is so amused at my having got the island of Hong Kong”,wrote Queen Victoria in 1841.
First Opium War, via Wikicommons
The Convention of Chuenpee ceded Hong Kong to the British after the First Opium War in which 600 Chinese soldiers died.
Within five months, British officials began selling land in Hong Kong and the territory formally became a British possession a year later.
Possession Point was originally named Tai Hang Hau, or “Big Puddle”. The area was redeveloped into a Chinese-style garden which is today known as Hollywood Road park.