Archive for Bullies and Scoundrels

Opinion | Xi Jinping’s Strength is China’s Weakness – By Richard McGregor – The New York Times

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Mr. McGregor is the author of “The Party: The Secret World of China’s Communist Rulers.”

Credit…Pool photo by Andy Wong

“SYDNEY, Australia — President Xi Jinping has accumulated legions of powerful critics in China since he took office in early 2013. There are the once-powerful officials who have been felled by his sweeping anti-corruption campaign. There are the economists who resist his statist instincts. There are the academics who have objected to his authoritarian measures, such as his decision to abolish presidential term limits.

Yet the latest meeting of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, held in late October, suggests that Mr. Xi is stronger than ever. Unlike any Chinese leader since the C.C.P. took power in 1949, he has no identifiable rivals and no likely successors.

Some of Mr. Xi’s detractors have fallen silent; others have come on board with his program, reluctantly or after taking an intellectual leap. Those who dared to keep criticizing him have been punished.

Mr. Xi’s ascendancy is remarkable on many counts, especially considering that at the beginning of the year the new coronavirus took hold in Wuhan, then quickly spread elsewhere in China and to the rest of the world. “

“. . .   Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader from the 1970s through the late 1980s, had said that China should become an advanced state by 2050. Now that timetable has been accelerated. The new target for completing the “socialist modernization” of China — code for building it into a wealthy and powerful country on par with the United States — set out at the recent plenum is 2035.

Mr. Xi will be 82 then, but he could quite conceivably still be in office, or at least in power behind the scenes.

According to the conventions of Chinese politics, Mr. Xi already should have named his successor and be preparing to step down at the next party congress, scheduled for late 2022. He has not done so. Instead, he has removed formal constraints on the length of his tenure, such as term limits.

And here lies the paradox of Mr. Xi’s rule. Now that he is so firmly in charge of the party, with no clear rivals and no known succession plan, he is also setting the stage for a full-blown crisis of leadership in the future. The greatness of Mr. Xi’s power is its greatest weakness.”

Source: Opinion | Xi Jinping’s Strength is China’s Weakness – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China

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China Is Expanding Detention Sites in Muslim Region of Xinjiang – By Chris Buckley and Austin Ramzy – The New York Times

“As China faced rising international censure last year over its mass internment of Muslim minorities, officials asserted that the indoctrination camps in the western region of Xinjiang had shrunk as former camp inmates rejoined society as reformed citizens.

Researchers at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute on Thursday challenged those claims with an investigation that found that the Xinjiang authorities had been expanding a variety of detention sites since last year.

Rather than being released, many detainees were likely being sent to prisons and perhaps other facilities, the investigation found, citing satellite images of new and expanded incarceration sites.

Nathan Ruser, a researcher who led the project at the institute, also called ASPI, said the findings undercut Chinese officials’ claims that inmates from the camps — which the government calls vocational training centers — had “graduated.” “

Source: China Is Expanding Detention Sites in Muslim Region of Xinjiang – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China

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Opinion | China Has a New Plan to Tame Tibet – By Adrian Zenz – The New York Times

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Mr. Zenz is an expert on China’s ethnic policies.

Credit…Purbu Zhaxi/Xinhua, via Getty Images

“Before Xinjiang, there was Tibet. Repressive policies tested there between 2012 and 2016 were then applied to the Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in northwestern China: entire cities covered in surveillance cameras, ubiquitous neighborhood police stations, residents made to report on another other.

Now that process also works the other way around. Xinjiang’s coercive labor program — which includes mandatory training for farmers and herders in centralized vocational facilities and their reassignment to state-assigned jobs, some far away — is being applied to Tibet. (Not the internment camps, though.)

Call this a feedback loop of forcible assimilation. It certainly is evidence of the scale of Beijing’s ruthless campaign to suppress cultural and ethnic differences — and not just in Tibet and Xinjiang.

I analyzed more than 100 policy papers and documents from the Tibetan authorities and state-media reports for a study published with the Jamestown Foundation this week. Photos show Tibetans training, wearing fatigues. Official documents outline how Beijing is rolling out for them a militarized labor program much like the one in place in Xinjiang: Tibetan nomads and farmers are being rounded up for military-style classes and taught work discipline, “gratitude” for the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese-language skills.”

Source: Opinion | China Has a New Plan to Tame Tibet – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China

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Opinion | Trump Is Wrong About TikTok. China’s Plans Are Much More Sinister. – By Yi-Zheng Lian – The New York Times

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Mr. Lian is a former chief editor of The Hong Kong Economic Journal.

Credit…Torsten Blackwood/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Trump administration says it wants to ban the popular short-video app TikTok in the United States, because TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is Chinese. Washington is worried that the personal data of the many millions of Americans using the app could be siphoned off to China and misused.

To some, that concern may seem excessive or its timing politically opportunistic, but the danger posed by TikTok is real: In fact, it is only a stand-in for far greater risks.

The problem isn’t just TikTok. The tech giant Huawei — which the U.S. government blacklisted last year, calling it a threat to America’s national security — is another company with close connections to China. So is Zoom, the U.S.-based teleconferencing service provider established by a billionaire Chinese immigrant, which uses software partially developed in China.

Credit…Sheldon Cooper/SOPA Images — LightRocket, via Getty Images

There are also the Confucius Institutes, purportedly just a vast network of Chinese-language teaching centers but really also an instrument of Beijing’s propaganda and pressure tactics.

And there are many more smaller, but no less dangerous, Chinese entities or entities with strong Chinese backgrounds operating in the United States.

All are thoroughly embedded there, reaching deep into offices and homes — shaping how Americans work, learn and play. Companies with ties to China or its government now occupy critical choke points of American society.

This is no accident. President Xi Jinping has a dream — a “Chinese Dream” of global dominance — and his strategy for achieving that has two main prongs.

The first is the traditional and tangible hard-power push to set up military bases and seaports controlled by Chinese interests around the world, and it has been much discussed by China observers.

Source: Opinion | Trump Is Wrong About TikTok. China’s Plans Are Much More Sinister. – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China, Military Affairs and Espionage

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Opinion | ‘I Cannot Remain Silent’ – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

Credit…Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

“China’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak has imperiled itself and the world because it is a land of 21st-century science and 19th-century politics.

Scholars in China predicted a year ago in an article in the journal Viruses that it was “highly likely” that there would be coronavirus outbreaks, calling it an “urgent issue.” Once the outbreak occurred, other Chinese scientists rapidly identified the virus and sequenced its DNA, posting it on Jan. 10 on a virology website for all to see. That was extraordinarily good and fast work.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party instinctively organized a cover-up, ordering the police to crack down on eight doctors accused of trying to alert others to the risks. National television programs repeatedly denounced the doctors as rumormongers.

One of those eight doctors, Li Wenliang, caught the virus and died — causing public outrage. Some Chinese make the point that if Li had been in charge of China, rather than President Xi Jinping, many lives might have been saved.

“The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance,” a law professor in Beijing, Xu Zhangrun, wrote this month in an online essay that was immediately banned. “The level of popular fury is volcanic, and a people thus enraged may, in the end, also cast aside their fear.”

Xu certainly cast aside his own fear, predicting that he would face new punishments but adding, “I cannot remain silent.”

He called on his fellow Chinese citizens to demand free speech and free elections and urged: “Rage against injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.”

Xu is now incommunicado, but it is remarkable to see the groundswell of anger online toward the dictatorship. Citizens can’t denounce Xi by name, but they are skilled in evading censors — such as by substituting President Trump’s name for Xi’s.”

Source: Opinion | ‘I Cannot Remain Silent’ – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China, Public Health

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Opinion | My Grandmother’s Favorite Scammer – By Frankie Huang – The New York Times

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Ms. Huang is a writer and illustrator.

“BEIJING — One day last winter my mother sent me an odd message over WeChat. “Has Laolao said anything strange to you today?” she asked.

I immediately sensed that something was amiss. My mother is a typical Chinese parent. She always feels obliged to withhold bad news from me until she has no other choice. Why was she worried about my grandmother?

I thought back to my most recent visit to Laolao’s shabby apartment here. She had just turned 88, and other than the usual age-related forgetfulness and grumbling about kids these days, she was her usual self.

My mother’s next message unnerved me even more. “Was she of sound mind?”

“You have to tell me what’s going on,” I messaged back.

I fought the urge to berate her and began to scour the internet for information on bank scams that involved sworn secrecy. My heart sank when results filled my screen, describing our situation exactly. I was in an airport, on a business trip, so I messaged Laolao’s assistant at her office and told her to freeze all my grandmother’s bank accounts. But it turned out the bank couldn’t do anything unless Laolao herself requested it.”

Source: Opinion | My Grandmother’s Favorite Scammer – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China

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Opinion | My Grandmother’s Favorite Scammer – By Frankie Huang – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Huang is a writer and illustrator.

CreditCredit…Annie Jen

“BEIJING — One day last winter my mother sent me an odd message over WeChat. “Has Laolao said anything strange to you today?” she asked.

I immediately sensed that something was amiss. My mother is a typical Chinese parent. She always feels obliged to withhold bad news from me until she has no other choice. Why was she worried about my grandmother?

I thought back to my most recent visit to Laolao’s shabby apartment here. She had just turned 88, and other than the usual age-related forgetfulness and grumbling about kids these days, she was her usual self.

My mother’s next message unnerved me even more. “Was she of sound mind?”

“You have to tell me what’s going on,” I messaged back.

I fought the urge to berate her and began to scour the internet for information on bank scams that involved sworn secrecy. My heart sank when results filled my screen, describing our situation exactly. I was in an airport, on a business trip, so I messaged Laolao’s assistant at her office and told her to freeze all my grandmother’s bank accounts. But it turned out the bank couldn’t do anything unless Laolao herself requested it.”

Source: Opinion | My Grandmother’s Favorite Scammer – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China

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Prime Mover: How Amazon Wove Itself Into the Life of an American City – The New York Times

Amazon just put this department store out of bussiness in Baltimore, and its largest hardware store, both owned by the same family.

“. . .  Ms. Black said she quit after two written warnings that she wasn’t meeting productivity standards, knowing a third would get her fired.

“The machines determine so much,” she said. “You’re clocked from beginning to end. They grind through people.”

When another employee told the National Labor Relations Board that he had been fired for complaining about working conditions, the company said he had it wrong: He had been fired for working too slowly.

In fact, an Amazon lawyer wrote to the N.L.R.B. last year, it had fired “hundreds of other employees” at the Baltimore warehouse for failing to make their numbers. The letter, obtained by The Verge, listed more than 800 workers fired in the previous year, but the company now says the correct number was 309.

Automated dismissals are a feature, the letter said, not a flaw. “Amazon’s system,” the lawyers wrote, “automatically generates any warnings or terminations regarding quality or productivity without input from supervisors.” Amazon says termination decisions are ultimately made by managers.

Workers at Amazon who run into that kind of trouble have no unions to represent them — a shift from Baltimore’s past. G.M. employees were represented by the United Automobile Workers. At the second warehouse, on the old Bethlehem Steel site, United Steelworkers held sway. At both plants, the pay was adequate to support a family.

Credit…Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

In the G.M. plant’s final years, line workers made an average of $27 an hour, equivalent to more than $35 today. G.M. workers could make $80,000 annually with overtime, according to contemporary news reports, equal to $102,000 in 2019 dollars.

The vehemently anti-union Amazon has raised its lowest hourly pay to $15.40, which is a little over double the federal minimum wage, the company points out. But even a veteran worker at its BWI2 warehouse would have to put in considerable overtime to get to $40,000 a year, less than half of what a G.M. worker could make in the past.

Nor are the job numbers comparable. The G.M. plant employed 8,000 at its peak; Bethlehem Steel employed 30,000. Amazon has a total of 4,500 workers at the two warehouses.”

Source: Prime Mover: How Amazon Wove Itself Into the Life of an American City – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, Monopoly or Monopsony

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Opinion | Let’s Not Take Cues From a Country That Bans Winnie the Pooh – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

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Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditAssociated Press

“What happens when China’s enforcers come after Winnie-the-Pooh?

Will we reluctantly hand over Pooh Bear? Really sorry about this, Winnie, but China’s an important market!

Winnie-the-Pooh has been banned in China online and at movie theaters because snarky commentators have suggested that he resembles the portly President Xi Jinping. But these days Xi doesn’t want to censor information just in his own country; he also wants to censor our own discussions in the West.

That’s the backdrop to China’s hysterical reaction to a tweet by Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets’ general manager, sympathizing with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations.

When the N.B.A. moved into China in the early 2000s, it made a plausible argument that engagement would help extend our values to China. Instead, the Communist Party is exploiting N.B.A. greed to extend its values to the United States.

China is also forcing American Airlines to treat Taiwan as part of China, and it bullied Mercedes-Benz into apologizing for quoting the Dalai Lama. It made Marriott fire an employee for “wrongfully liking” a tweet by an organization that favors Tibetan independence.

There’s not much we can do about a dictator like Xi bullying his own citizens, but we should not let him stifle debate in our country.

Let me interrupt this diatribe, however, for important context. Those of us who criticize Xi must also have the humility to acknowledge that child mortality is now lower in Beijing than in Washington, D.C., that China has established new universities at a rate of one a week and that Shanghai’s public schools put our own school systems to shame.

So, yes, let’s stand up to Chinese bullying — and speak up when China detains at least one million Muslims, in what may be the biggest internment of people based on religion since the Holocaust. But let’s also note that China has helped lift more people out of poverty more quickly than any nation in history. With China, it’s always helpful to hold at least two contradictory ideas in our heads at the same time.”

Xi’s anxiety about the internet, religion, Hong Kong protesters, even Winnie-the-Pooh underscores his own insecurities. Xi seems terrified that real information will infiltrate the Chinese echo chamber, undermining his propaganda department’s personality cult around a benign “Uncle Xi.”

Source: Opinion | Let’s Not Take Cues From a Country That Bans Winnie the Pooh – The New York Times

Posted in: Bullies and Scoundrels, China, Nicholas Kristof

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Opinion | The Battle for Hong Kong Is Being Fought in Sydney and Vancouver – By Louisa Lim – The New York Times

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Ms. Lim, the author of “The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited,” is writing a book about Hong Kong.

CreditCreditTyrone Siu/Reuters

“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.

Ten weeks ago, when Hong Kongers first took to the streets to protest disputed extradition legislation, Beijing censored all reports of this civil unrest. But in recent days, it has reveled in posting video of protesters purportedly using air guns, slingshots and petrol bombs against the police. The state-run Global Times has described protesters as “nothing more than street thugs who want Hong Kong to ‘go to hell,’” or as people who had “voluntarily stripped themselves of their national identity.” Such descriptions are aimed at delegitimizing the protesters’ cause, especially among educated mainlanders who might otherwise be sympathetic.

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.”

Source: Opinion | The Battle for Hong Kong Is Being Fought in Sydney and Vancouver – The New York Times

David Lindsay:  The protesters have tactics, but do they have a strategy?

Posted in: Australia, Bullies and Scoundrels, China, Hong Kong

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