Mimi Whitfield and Nora Gámez Torres report: A year from now — on Feb. 24 — something is expected to occur in Cuba that hasn’t happened in more than 40 years: a non-Castro will occupy the presidency.
The coming year will be one of definitions in Cuba. But right now there is only uncertainty — not only about how the transition will proceed but also about the future of Cuba’s relationship with the United States with President Donald Trump at the helm.
In 2013, Raúl Castro told Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, the parliament, that he planned to retire from the presidency of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers on Feb. 24, 2018. His heir apparent became Miguel Díaz-Canel, a party stalwart who at the time was promoted to first vice president of both councils.
When Castro retires as president, the Cuban Constitution also calls for him to relinquish his post of commander in chief of Cuba’s armed forces. A Cuba without a khaki-clad Castro commanding the Revolutionary Armed Forces is something many younger Cubans have never experienced.
Díaz-Canel’s ascension next Feb. 24 — a date that has long had resonance in Cuba history — is not assured, but most observers believe that a new National Assembly that will be seated then will rubber stamp him as Cuba’s next president and he will replace the 85-year-old Castro.
Even with a successor, Castro is still expected to retain consider clout. He has said nothing about stepping down as chief of Cuba’s powerful Communist Party and Cuba’s military leaders are solid Raúlistas. Read the rest of this entry »
…Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party said the group organized the burning of the American flag as a “political statement about the crimes of the American empire. There’s nothing great about America.”
Moments after the flag was set on fire, officers charged in to put it out with an extinguishing spray that some in the crowd thought was pepper spray because of similarities in the design of the canisters and the eye irritation caused by the fire-suppression substance.
“You’re on fire! You’re on fire, stupid!” a Cleveland officer shouted at a protester while firing the extinguishing spray.
“You’re on fire! You’re on fire, stupid!”
– Cleveland cop to protester
“Burn that rag! Burn that rag!” supporters of the group yelled.
Pushing and shoving broke out, and police quickly had several group members on the ground in handcuffs. Some in the crowd jeered the officers, yelling, “Blue lives murder!”
About 10 more minutes passed before the crowd was under control.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, blocks away from the arena, a right-wing religious group lifted a banner reading “Jesus is angry with you sinners,” while kissing lesbians mocked their message, helping turn Cleveland’s Public Square into part-carnival, part-debate floor. Read the rest of this entry »
Josh Chin reports: One of the two activists identified as the “black hands” behind China’s 1989 democracy protests died of cancer on Tuesday, in a reminder of how little the Communist Party has budged in its tolerance of political dissent over the past quarter century.
Chen Ziming, 62 years old, died from pancreatic cancer Tuesday afternoon in Beijing, according to close friends.
“He was incredibly influential, in the academic world as well as in government and public circles.”
— Chen Min, a liberal writer and political commentator better known by his penname, Xiao Shu
“Famous Chinese dissident, so-called June 4th black hand and my mentor Chen Ziming finally succumbed to cancer,” Wang Dan, one of the leaders of the 1989 student-led Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, wrote on his Facebook page. “His death is a massive loss for the Chinese opposition movement, and for the country.”
Mr. Chen and fellow activist Wang Juntao were accused by the government of being the masterminds behind the 1989 protests. In 1991, both were sentenced to 13 years in prison, in a trial authorities used to bolster the official line that the protests had been the work of a handful of conspirators rather than a movement with mass appeal. Read the rest of this entry »
Dazed and Confucian
Russell Leigh Moses writes: Nearly two years into his tenure as China’s leader, President Xi Jinping has yet to expound on a clear notion of what the Communist Party should stand for as a whole or what direction the country should take. In the absence of a forward-thinking vision, Xi has instead often gazed backwards, into the periods of Chinese history the party once shunned.
That China’s president is often more comfortable talking about the country’s past than its future was evident this week when he delivered a speech at a meeting of the International Confucian Association commemorating the 2,565th anniversary of Confucius’s birth – the first time, according to Chinese Central Television that a Chinese president has addressed an international meeting on the philosopher.
The speech (in Chinese) was praised by people who were there as erudite and eloquent. Extolling Confucius and his importance, Xi said that “to understand today’s China, today’s Chinese people, we must understand Chinese culture and blood, and nourish the Chinese people’s grasp of its own cultural soil.”
“Xi seems caught between an abiding respect for the Chinese classics and the need to make sure that China modernizes. That’s created a conundrum that he seems far from fully resolving.”
Many have taken notice of the Communist party’s interest in Confucius – a scholar excoriated by previous generations of communists for advocating a social system that promoted inequality – in recent years. Although that revival seemed to be starting before Xi took over, it has accelerated under his watch, with official media repeatedly portraying the leader as being steeped in classical Chinese literature.
There’s no question the glorification of China’s past has helped the party win public support, adding emotional heft to the “China Dream” of national rejuvenation. The question is how much an obstacle it’s going to be for Xi’s efforts to lead the party.
Xi’s approach is different from his immediate predecessors, who provided ideological templates with slogans designed to summarize what the Communist Party stood for and where it planned to take China. Read the rest of this entry »
BEIJING (AP) — China warned against foreign meddling in Hong Kong’s politics Saturday ahead of an expected announcement to recommend highly contentious restrictions on the first direct elections for the leader of the Chinese-controlled financial hub.
- Hong Kong’s Occupy Central ‘Referendum’ Explained
- China threatens to remove Hong Kong’s autonomy
- Beijing Gets Ugly in Hong Kong
“Not only are they undermining Hong Kong’s stability and development, but they’re also attempting to turn Hong Kong into a bridgehead for subverting and infiltrating the Chinese mainland,” said the article.
[Also see – Hong Kong Tensions Rise as Beijing Critic’s Home Raided – WSJ]
A look at the extensive business interests of Zhou Yongkang, after the former security chief was placed under formal investigation, shattering the decades-old political taboo of not prosecuting the highest ranking Communist Party officials for corruption.
BEIJING (AP) —Louise Watt reports: China is targeting popular smartphone-based instant messaging services in a monthlong campaign to crack down on the spreading of rumors and what it calls infiltration of hostile forces, in the latest move restricting online freedom of expression.
“Some people have used them to distribute illegal and harmful information, seriously undermining public interests and order in cyberspace.”
Such services incorporate social media functions that allow users to post photos and updates to their friends, or follow the feeds of companies, social groups or celebrities, and – more worryingly for the government – intellectuals, journalists and activists who comment on politics, law and society. They also post news reports shunned by mainstream media.
Some accounts attract hundreds of thousands of followers. Read the rest of this entry »
Twice in late April, People’s Daily railed against the incorporation of acronyms and English words in written Chinese. “How much have foreign languages damaged the purity and vitality of the Chinese language?” the Communist Party’s flagship publication asked as it complained of the “zero-translation phenomenon.”
“Since the reform and opening up, many people have blindly worshipped the West, casually using foreign words as a way of showing off their knowledge and intellect. This also exacerbated the proliferation of foreign words.”
— Xia Jixuan, Ministry of Education
So if you write in the world’s most exquisite language—in my opinion, anyway—don’t even think of jotting down “WiFi,” “MBA,” or “VIP.” If you’re a fan of Apple products, please do not use “iPhone” or “iPad.” And never ever scribble “PM2.5,” a scientific term that has become popular in China due to the air pollution crisis, or “e-mail.”
“How much have foreign languages damaged the purity and vitality of the Chinese language?”
— The People’s Daily
China’s communist culture caretakers are cheesed, perhaps by the unfairness of the situation. They note that when English absorbs Chinese words, such as “kung fu,” the terms are romanized. When China copies English terms, however, they are often adopted without change, dropped into Chinese text as is…
“The use of imported words is becoming more widespread every day. It’s become so serious that the foreign words are even showing up in regular publications and formal documents, giving rise to resentment among the public.”
..In 2012, the Chinese government established a linguistics committee to standardize foreign words. In 2013, it published the first ten approved Chinese translations for terms such as WTO, AIDS, and GDP, ordering all media to use them. A second and third series of approved terms are expected this year. How French.
There is a bit of obtuseness in all these elaborate efforts. Read the rest of this entry »
Chinese police on Friday arrested an ex-convict suspected of setting off a series of explosions outside ruling Communist Party offices in a northern city that killed one person and wounded eight.
Feng Zhijun was apprehended around 2:00 a.m. Friday and confessed to the crime, the Shanxi provincial government said in a statement. It said the 41-year-old had been previously sentenced to nine years in prison for theft, but gave no word on a motive for the blasts.
Bomb making materials and a “large amount” of other evidence was found at Feng’s residence, the statement said.
Marxist Autocratic crackdown efforts seen as tactic to strengthen legitimacy of Communist Party.
BEIJING — Leaders worldwide may secretly envy a classic move from the Chinese president’s playbook. Tired of local officials who are corrupt, arrogant or just plain slackers? Then make them confess their errors on nationwide television.
Xi Jinping hit the road this week to Hebei, the province surrounding Beijing, whose 73 million residents have built an economy the size of Colombia’s. Instead of praise, Xi pushed Hebei’s leaders to criticize each other, and themselves, on camera.
“Criticisms and self-criticisms are forceful weapons to solve contradictions within the party,” Xi told them, in his far more important role as boss of China’s ruling Communist Party. “It’s a dose of good medicine,” he said, to boost unity, rectify decadent work styles and impose “democratic centralism.”
With language and methods drawn from the often bloody rule of Chairman Mao, Xi’s play reveals the party’s urgent need to strengthen its appeal and legitimacy in the eyes of a population deeply cynical about officials’ behavior and widespread corruption. Read the rest of this entry »
From Malcolm Moore, The Telegraph: It is the biggest building in the world; 16 Wembley stadiums could fit underneath its vast roof. (See The Telegraph’s feature article and spectacular photo essay here)
But the New Century Global Centre, a behemoth in the central city of Chengdu which formally opened at the end of last month, has instantly become China’s largest and most embarrassing monument to the allegations of corruption that have wormed through the Communist Party.
The 50-year-old billionaire behind the project, Deng Hong, once one of China’s richest men, has vanished and is thought to be in police custody. “We don’t know where he is,”a spokesman for his company, Entertainment and Travel Group (ETG) said. Read the rest of this entry »
Lily Tang Williams writes: I was born in Chengdu, China. When I was growing up, the Communist Party controlled everything. There were no choices of any sort. We were all poor except the elite. The local government rationed everything from pork to rice, sugar, and flour because there were not enough supplies. We were allowed only a kilogram of pork per month for our family of five. We lived in two rooms, without heat in the winter. I got impetigo during the cold, humid winters. There were eight families living around our courtyard, and we all had to share one bathroom (a hole in the ground) for males, one for females. We had only government-run medical clinics, where the conditions were filthy and services were horrible. I was afraid of going there because I might get some other infectious diseases. Read the rest of this entry »
From Democracy Digest:
Since Xi Jinping came to power just less than a year ago, China Digital Times notes, hopes that his administration would oversee substantial political reform have been dissipating amid frequent crackdowns on the country’s media and developing civil society. An infographic from the South China Morning Post plots arrests under the new administration’s watch to show that state suppression of the politically-liberal is gaining momentum.
The Economist outlines the Communist authorities’ efforts to shape public opinion by treating the Internet as an ideological battlefield:
By Jeff Jacoby
It was only upon reading his obituary this month that I first learned of Nguyen Chi Thien. He was a courageous Vietnamese dissident who had spent nearly 30 years in prison for his opposition to communist repression, cruelty, and lies. Much of Nguyen’s opposition was expressed in poetry, most famously “Flowers from Hell,” a collection of poems he memorized behind bars, and only put down on paper after being released from prison in 1977.
The poems were published after he audaciously handed off the manuscript to British diplomats at their embassy in Hanoi, the AP obituary recalled. As he walked out of the embassy, “security agents were awaiting him, and he was promptly sent back to prison.” He spent the next 12 years in Hoa Lo, the notorious Hanoi Hilton. While he was in captivity, “Flowers from Hell” was published; it earned the International Poetry Award in 1985. By the time he emigrated to the United States in 1995, his poems had achieved wide renown. His stanzas “became as familiar as songs,” wrote Anh Do in The Los Angeles Times, and “continue to move the Vietnamese immigrant generation — and their sons and daughters.”
By coincidence, the same newspaper page that carried Nguyen’s obituary also ran amuch longer story about Eric Hobsbawm, the famous British historian who died on Oct. 1 of pneumonia at age 95. The two men could hardly have been less alike.
Nguyen defied communist totalitarianism, sacrificing his freedom in defense of the truth. He refused to pretend that there could be anything noble or uplifiting — let alone ideal — about a revolutionary movement that pursued its ends through mass slaughter and enslavement. Like so many other dissidents, from Andrei Sakharov to Liu Xiaobo, he was a champion of liberty, sustaining hope and keeping conscience alive in the teeth of regime that persecutes decent men for their decency.
Hobsbawm, on the other hand, was a lifelong Marxist, a card-carrying member of the Communist Party from his teens until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Long after it was evident to even true believers that the Bolshevik Revolution had unleashed a nightmare of blood, Hobsbawm went on defending, minimizing, and excusing the crimes of communism.
Interviewed on the BBC in 1994, he was asked whether he would have shunned the Communist Party had he known in 1934 that Stalin was butchering innocent human beings by the millions. “Probably not,” he answered — after all, at the time he believed he was signing up for world revolution. Taken aback by such indifference to carnage, the interviewer pressed the point. Was Hobsbawm saying that if a communist paradise had actually been created, “the loss of 15, 20 million people might have been justified?”Hobsbawm’s answer: “Yes.”
Imagine that Hobsbawm had fallen in love with Nazism as a youth and spent the rest of his career whitewashing Hitler’s atrocities. Suppose he’d refused for decades to let his Nazi Party membership lapse, and argued that the Holocaust would have been an acceptable price to pay for the realization of a true Thousand-Year Reich. It is inconceivable that he would have been hailed as a brilliant thinker or basked in acclaim; no self-respecting university would have hired him to teach; politicians and pundits would not have lined up to shower him with accolades during his life and tributes after his death.
Yet Hobsbawm was fawned over, lionized in the media, made a tenured professor at a prestigious university, invited to lecture around the world. He was heaped with glories, including the Order of the Companions of Honour — one of Britain’s highest civilian awards — and the lucrative Balzan Prize, worth 1 million Swiss francs. His death was given huge play in the British media — the BBC aired an hour-long tribute and the Guardian led its front page with the news — and political leaders waxed fulsome. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair called him “a giant … a tireless agitator for a better world.”
Such adoration is sickening. Unrepentant communists merit repugnance, not reverence. Compared with a true moral giant like Nguyen Chi Thien, Hobsbawm was nothing but a dogmatic leftist creep, and the toadies who worshiped him were worse.
Nguyen knew all about such toadies, as a few tart lines from his 1964 poem, “Today, May 19th” — written about Ho Chi Minh — make clear:
Let the hacks with their prostituted pens
Comb his beard, pat his head, caress his arse!
… The hell with him!
- Eric Hobsbawm: A believer in the Red utopia to the very end (telegraph.co.uk)
- Vietnamese dissident Nguyen Chi Thien dies at 73 (miamiherald.com)
- Eric Hobsbawm (1917 – 2012) (jacobinmag.com)
- Obituary: Eric Hobsbawm (bbc.co.uk)
- Intellectuals Rally to Eulogize Stalinist Eric Hobsbawm (frontpagemag.com)
- Unrepentant (possil.wordpress.com)