“MELBOURNE, Australia — As the police deploy tear gas against protesters on the streets of Hong Kong, another battle is raging less visibly: the one for narrative control. After weeks of asserting that the unrest had been orchestrated by foreign “black hands,” Chinese officials on Monday accused protesters of showing the first signs of “terrorism.” Such messaging is key to Beijing’s public opinion operation, which has been turned up to full volume.
The weapons of this information war include a flood of social media posts from state-run media, some carrying misinformation. When a woman dispensing first aid was shot in the eye by the Hong Kong police, the state-run CCTV reported on its official social media account that she had been shot by protesters. It also accused her of handing out money to demonstrators. Chinese readers are unlikely to question the veracity of such an authoritative source, and CCTV’s Weibo post, which says the movement is slandering the Hong Kong police by blaming them for the injury, has been liked more than 700,000 times.
Chinese people living or studying overseas are another important audience for Beijing’s messaging. Their primary news diet is largely delivered via WeChat, a Chinese chat app where messages are subject to censorship, so they often still fall within Beijing’s propaganda orbit. Recent pictures of an American diplomat meeting two activists, Joshua Wong and Nathan Law, were used to bolster Beijing’s claims of hostile foreign forces backing the protests. On Tuesday, scenes of a Chinese state media worker being tied up at the airport and beaten by young protesters flooded Chinese social media, bolstering calls for Beijing to intervene militarily in Hong Kong.”
“I was glad to see the stock market get a boost from the news that Chinese and U.S. trade negotiators were talking again and that President Trump blinked a bit and pulled some of his planned tariffs.
But don’t be fooled. Trump and President Xi Jinping of China are still locked in a cage match over who is the true big dog in today’s global economy. Both are desperate not only to “win,” but to be seen to win, and not be subjected to the scorn of their rivals or critics on social media.
Precisely because neither leader feels he can afford that fate, both have overplayed their hands. Xi basically believes that nothing has to change — and all can be made to stay the same by the force of his will. Trump basically believes that everything has to change — and all can be made to change by the force of his will.
The rest of us are just along for the ride.
Let’s look at both men’s calculations and miscalculations. Trump was right in arguing that America should not continue to tolerate systemic abusive Chinese trade practices — intellectual property theft, forced technology transfers, huge government subsidies and nonreciprocal treatment of U.S. companies in China — now that China is virtually America’s technology equal and a rising middle-income country.”
Japan and South Korea stir up an old, odd rivalry.
By Ian Buruma
Mr. Buruma is a writer and a professor at Bard College.
“In a rational world, South Korea and Japan ought to be the best of friends. Their cultures and languages are closely linked. Their economies are deeply entangled. And as the only liberal democracies in East Asia (along with Taiwan), they have to contend with the threat of North Korean belligerence and Chinese domination.
But the world is not so rational, and so the two American allies have recently become engaged in a flaming economic row, ostensibly sparked by historical wrongs. Late last year, the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that Japanese companies should compensate Koreans who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines during World War II. Assets of major Japanese companies, such as Nippon Steel and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have been seized in South Korea, and they could soon be sold. The Japanese government protested that this matter had already been resolved in 1965, when the two countries reached an agreement claiming to settle “completely and finally” all colonial-era claims in exchange for financial aid and loans from Japan worth $500 million.
“In the United States, the most popular last name is Smith. As per the 2010 census, about 0.8 percent of Americans have it. In Vietnam, the most popular last name is Nguyen. The estimate for how many people answer to it? Somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of the country’s population. The 14 most popular last names in Vietnam account for well over 90 percent of the population. The 14 most popular last names in the US? Fewer than 6 percent.
In the U.S., an immigrant country, last names are hugely important. They can indicate where you’re from, right down to the village; the profession of a relative deep in your past; how long it’s been since your ancestors emigrated; your religion; your social status.
Nguyen doesn’t indicate much more than that you are Vietnamese. Someone with the last name Nguyen is going to have basically no luck tracing their heritage back beyond a generation or two, will not be able to use search engines to find out much of anything about themselves.”
Protesters faced off against the police in Hong Kong on Wednesday.CreditDale De La Rey/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
“Imagine if in 2018 the Trump administration had proposed legislation that would allow the government, on nearly any pretext, to detain, try and imprison Americans accused of wrongdoing at secretive black sites scattered across the country.
Imagine, further, that 43 million Americans had risen in protest, only to be met by tear gas and rubber bullets while Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan rushed the bill through a pliant Congress. Finally, imagine that there was no effective judiciary ready to stop the bill and uphold the Constitution.
That, approximately, is what’s happening this week in Hong Kong.
An estimated one million people — nearly one in seven city residents — have taken to the streets to protest legislation that would allow local officials to arrest and extradite to the mainland any person accused of one of 37 types of crime. Political offenses are, in theory, excluded from the list, but nobody is fooled: Contriving criminal charges against political opponents is child’s play for Beijing, which can then make its victims disappear indefinitely until they are brought to heel.
In 2015, mainland authorities abducted five Hong Kong booksellersknown for selling politically sensitive titles and held them in solitary confinement for months until they pleaded guilty to various offenses. In 2017 Chinese billionaire Xiao Jianhua was abducted by Chinese authorities from the Four Seasons in Hong Kong. He hasn’t been seen publicly since, while his company is being stripped of its holdings.”
“On June 3, after my proposal to retreat from the square had been overruled by other student leaders, I went back to my university dorm to rest. Friends phoned me late that night with the news that soldiers had opened fire on protesters, and I fell into a state of shock. We never believed that the leadership would use force, because we had been pushing for the Communist Party to improve itself, not to surrender power.
During my weeks in hiding, I watched on television as my fellow activists were captured one by one. I decided to go back to Beijing, knowing that I, too, would be caught. The police found me on July 2, and arrested me after a car chase. “Little Wang has been caught!” one officer phoned his boss in excitement.
I spent three years and seven months in prison. My heart was often laden with guilt and sorrow. A large number of students and Beijing residents had died during the bloody crackdown. I felt partly responsible.”
“Let’s be blunt: China is accumulating a record of Orwellian savagery toward religious people.
At times under Communist Party rule, repression of faith has eased, but now it is unmistakably worsening. China is engaging in internment, monitoring or persecution of Muslims, Christians and Buddhists on a scale almost unparalleled by a major nation in three-quarters of a century.
Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch argues that China under Xi Jinping “poses a threat to global freedoms unseen since the end of World War II.”
To its credit, China has overseen extraordinary progress against poverty, illiteracy and sickness. The bittersweet result is that Chinese people of faith are more likely than several decades ago to see their children survive and go to university — but also to be detained.
China’s roundup of Muslims in internment camps — which a Pentagon official called concentration camps — appears to be the largest such internment of people on the basis of religion since the collection of Jews for the Holocaust. Most estimates are that about one million Muslims have been detained in China’s Xinjiang region, although the Pentagon official suggested that the actual number may be closer to three million.”
“A U.S. businessman friend of mine who works in China remarked to me recently that Donald Trump is not the American president America deserves, but he sure is the American president China deserves.
Trump’s instinct that America needs to rebalance its trade relationship with Beijing — before China gets too big to compromise — is correct. And it took a human wrecking ball like Trump to get China’s attention. But now that we have it, both countries need to recognize just how pivotal this moment is.
The original U.S.-China opening back in the 1970s defined our restored trade ties, which were limited. When we let China join the World Trade Organization in 2001, it propelled China into a trading powerhouse under rules that still gave China lots of concessions as a developing economy.
This new negotiation will define how the U.S. and China relate as economic peers, competing for the same 21st-century industries, at a time when our markets are totally intertwined. So this is no ordinary trade dispute. This is the big one.”
“WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is considering limits to a Chinese video surveillance giant’s ability to buy American technology, people familiar with the matter said, the latest attempt to counter Beijing’s global economic ambitions.
The move would effectively place the company, Hikvision, on a United States blacklist. It also would mark the first time the Trump administration punished a Chinese company for its role in the surveillance and mass detention of Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority.”
“China has spent nearly two decades building a digital wall between itself and the rest of the world, a one-way barrier designed to keep out foreign companies like Facebook and Google while allowing Chinese rivals to leave home and expand across the world.
Now President Trump is sealing up that wall from the other side.
For Huawei, the big impact will be abroad, since Chinese customers already have limited access to Google’s services. Google’s move will have its biggest effect in places like Europe, where it has emerged as a big smartphone seller. Other companies will inevitably follow. In effect, the move puts pressure on Huawei’s international expansion dreams.
If China and the United States have begun a technological Cold War, then the Huawei order can best be seen as the beginnings of a digital Iron Curtain. In this potential vision of the future of technology, China will continue to keep out much of the world. The United States and many other countries, goes this thinking, will in turn block Chinese technology.”