Beijing is moving to stamp out the Hong Kong protests – but it may have already lost the city for good



Beijing has a long-term Hong Kong challenge on its hands, one that in many ways is of its own making.
Miguel Candela/EPA

Adam Ni, Macquarie University

Since the start of mass demonstrations in Hong Kong in early June, there has been a significant escalation of Beijing’s rhetoric and tactics. Instead of addressing the root causes of the public anger, Beijing has demonised the protesters and threatened to suppress them with its military.

Beijing’s shrill rhetoric, misinformation campaigns, and blatant threats have galvanised resistance in what has fast become a volatile situation. The crisis doesn’t appear to be dissipating. And things are going to come to a head very soon.

The mass protests started in response to a controversial extradition bill that was widely seen as another step in the erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy. The demonstrations quickly escalated due to public anger over police violence and an unresponsive Hong Kong government.

But deeper down at the heart of this crisis is a conflict over the longer-term vision for the city – over its soul.




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The Hong Kong protesters have turned militant and more strategic – and this unnerves Beijing


Beijing’s goal is to gradually tighten its grip on Hong Kong. It aims to assimilate the city into China’s authoritarian political system, and rule over its people in the same way it does in rest of the country. Many Hong Kongers, meanwhile, are desperate to resist any further encroachment by Beijing on their freedoms and way of life. These goals are fundamentally incompatible.

In many ways, this is a problem of Beijing’s own making. It created the conditions for the current crisis by systematically undermining the “one country, two systems” framework.

A show of force: military trucks parked near the Hong Kong border.
Alex Plavevski/EPA

Beijing has effectively torn up its promises, made before the British handover, to keep Hong Kong’s political system intact until 2047. In recent years, it has undermined the “one country, two systems” framework through political interference, the changing of electoral and other laws, and the penetration of Hong Kong’s social institutions.

In doing so, it has provoked local resentment, a stronger Hong Kong identity, and a culture of resistance. According to a recent poll, the percentage of Hong Kongers identifying as Chinese is now at its lowest point since the handover in 1997.

For the ruling Chinese Communist Party, this is worrisome. And the longer the protests continue, the more it sees its authority challenged. Such resistance, in Beijing’s view, cannot be tolerated.

Beijing’s multi-pronged strategy

In the early days of the protests, Beijing adopted a low-profile approach that focused on censoring news of the demonstrations from filtering into mainland China. This approach, however, changed quickly when the Chinese government realised the protests would likely continue and it needed to mobilise public opinion.

What is Beijing’s aim now? In the short-term, it wants to end the unrest by shutting down the protests completely. It has repeatedly signalled its willingness to use force if necessary.




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Hong Kong fears losing its rule of law; the rest of the world should worry too


Beyond that, given what has transpired over the last ten weeks of demonstrations, Beijing will seek to tighten its political control over Hong Kong even further to check continued resistance.

In order to achieve its immediate and long-term goals in Hong Kong, Beijing has put in place a multi-pronged strategy. A full picture of this strategy has emerged in recent weeks:

1) First, Beijing is firmly backing the embattled Hong Kong authorities. Chinese officials have repeatedly urged the Hong Kong police to adopt tougher tactics against protesters who they see as criminals.

And in the last week, we have seen an alarming escalation in police violence, with tear gas and rubber bullets being used with increasing frequency.

2) Beijing is also ramping up its influence operations in Hong Kong to solidify support among pro-establishment elites, businesses, and other “patriotic forces”.

Last week, the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office and Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong held a consultation forum with about 500 pro-establishment figures in Shenzhen, just across the border.

The key message was that the Chinese government was fully behind them and that their fate was tied to Beijing. This has had an immediate impact on the ground in Hong Kong, with the city’s billionaires “breaking their silence” this week and calling for the protesters to stand down.

Not with a small degree of irony, Beijing and its proxies in Hong Kong have a close relationship with the city’s organised crime groups. On several occasions in the last two months, these groups have assaulted protesters on Beijing’s behalf in an attempt to instill fear in the local population.

3) Beijing has stepped up its propaganda and misinformation efforts against the protesters in an attempt to cast them as villains in the unfolding drama. Criminal elements are also working with nefarious foreign agents to foment turmoil and undermine China, the official line goes.

Within mainland China, such blatant twists of truth are widely believed. And because Beijing has successfully mobilised public opinion there, that makes it harder for the government to back down and make compromises (not that we are seeing signs of that).

In any case, Beijing’s relentless war for hearts and minds continues.

4) Beijing is using punitive measures to cut off support for the protesters. For instance, the Chinese government ordered the Hong Kong-based airline Cathay Pacific to block staffers who took part in the protests from working on flights to the mainland.

It did this to deliver an unequivocal message: support the protesters and we will hit your bottom line. Beijing will likely continue to target Hong Kong and international companies that it sees as being on the wrong side of the political crisis.

5) Beijing is trying to deter escalating protests by signalling its strong determination to intervene with force if necessary.

The Chinese government has repeatedly threatened the use of armed forces as a backstop measure if the unrest spins out of control. Indeed, it may at some point make the judgement the situation warrants military intervention, regardless of the high cost involved.

Beijing’s posturing is intended to send a deterrent message and is part of a wider psychological campaign against the protesters. But we are not at the point of imminent military intervention yet.

6) Despite the unrest, Beijing will likely accelerate its efforts to integrate Hong Kong into the mainland economically and through infrastructure projects. High-speed trains, new bridges, and economic cooperation are all part of this long-term effort. We are also likely to see a further tightening of control over the city’s political institutions, judicial system, and media.

A festering long-term problem

For Chinese leaders, the protest movement has reinforced an important lesson: insufficient government power, civil liberties, and perceived weakness leads to the loss of control, resistance, and social instability.

This will only serve to strengthen Beijing’s resolve to assert its control over Hong Kong more forcefully, which will, in turn, provoke further resentment and resistance from locals.




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To be sure, Beijing has a long-term Hong Kong challenge on its hands. If it wants to resolve the current impasse, hardline tactics are not sufficient. As unpalatable as it is to both sides, Beijing and the protesters must compromise. But there is little prospect of that in the current environment of escalating violence, inflamed passions, frayed nerves, and hardening attitudes on both sides.

But Beijing must recognise that its actions are sowing the seeds of future conflict, just as its past broken promises led directly to what we are witnessing today. As Hong Kong gallops towards tragedy, it is both mesmerising and heartbreaking to watch.The Conversation

Adam Ni, China researcher, Department of Security Studies and Criminology, Macquarie University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Morrison needs to take control of China policy – but leave room for dissent



The Morrison government is at risk of losing control of China policy at the most critical time in Australian history.
AAP/EPA/Thomas Peter/pool

Tony Walker, La Trobe University

The Morrison government is at risk of losing control of China policy. Push-back from within its own ranks is complicating its ability to manage relations with Beijing. China policy is being subjected to a buffeting from hawkish backbenchers who would like to see Canberra adopt a harder line.

Let’s dispose first of straw man arguments about whether Liberal backbencher Andrew Hastie was within his rights to warn of threats to national sovereignty by a rising China that is ruthlessly advancing its own interests.

Hastie has every right to raise alarms about China’s behaviour in his capacity as a member of parliament and chair of the joint parliamentary committee on intelligence and security. He was given opinion space in Nine newspapers to do so.




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View from The Hill: It’s not in the ‘national interest’ for the backbench to shut up about China


However, he was ill-advised to use a reference to Nazi Germany to advance his argument about a China threat. Hastie may not have likened China to the Third Reich explicitly, but by referencing France’s inability to withstand German aggression he was implicitly making the link.

This is what he said:

The West once believed that economic liberalisation would naturally lead to democratisation in China. This was our Maginot Line. It would keep us safe, just as the French believed their series of steel and concrete forts would guard them against the German advance in 1940. But their thinking failed catastrophically. The French failed to appreciate the evolution of mobile warfare. Like the French, Australia has failed to see how mobile our authoritarian neighbour has become.

Invoking Nazi Germany or the Holocaust to advance an argument is treacherous terrain at the best of times, unless the author is clamouring for attention.

One wonders how much notice Hastie’s commentary would have attracted if there had been no reference to the inadequacies of France’s Maginot Line.

It’s reasonable to speculate that his contribution would have gone the way of those written by other China hawks in the so-called national security establishment, many of whom have converted their hawkishness on China into a cottage industry.

One other point might be made about Hastie’s contribution. It is simply not correct to say, as he did, there was a general expectation China would continue to democratise and in time become more like us.

This is a flawed and naive point of view.

China’s ruthless suppression of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests in 1989 was not an aberration. It was consistent with its behaviour since it began opening to the outside world in the late 1970s.




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Its 1979 suppression of a Democracy Wall movement, and the arrest of prominent dissidents including human rights activist Wei Jingsheng, now in exile, attest to a regime’s ruthlessness in stifling dissent.

Beijing’s tolerance of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests will be viewed through a prism of what these might portend for the mainland. If there is any indication of contagion across borders, China will react forcefully, and may do so anyway if disturbances continue.

Before addressing what might be an appropriate response from the Australian government to an eruption of anti-China sentiment on its own backbench, perhaps it would be useful to define the challenges at play.

In its latest manifestation, China is no longer a status quo power. It is one that is seeking expand its power and influence in what it regards as its own sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific, broadly defined to include the southwest Pacific.

These attempts to assert itself are not simply restricted to the militarisation of geographical features in the South China Sea. They also involve pursuit of an economic, diplomatic and propaganda offensive that is designed to advance Chinese interests at home and abroad.

In seeking to promote these interests, Beijing is an indefatigable exploiter of opportunities and weaknesses. If there is a rule of thumb in dealing with China in this latest phase, it is that it will seek to get away with what it can on many different fronts.

In that sense, Hastie has a point: Australia cannot simply adopt a passive response to Chinese single-mindedness in pursuit of what it perceives to be its own interests.

The question, then, becomes what to do?

This is where it becomes crucial that the Morrison government settles on a clearly defined strategy to deal with a disruptive China. What this should involve is a combination of a hedging strategy in partnership with Australia’s allies to balance Beijing’s militarised ambitions, and a separate one in which Australia’s own economic and diplomatic interests are asserted.

The government’s task will be to tread a fine line between security arrangements with its allies, principally the United States, and a relationship with China that is defined by Australia’s own interests and not those of anyone else.

In a thoughtful speech to Asialink before the G20 Summit in Osaka in June, Morrison outlined what appeared to have the makings of a “Morrison doctrine” on how to steer a course in treacherous waters between Australia’s security and economic lifelines.

The prime minister argued for a more activist diplomatic role in the region, aimed at securing Australian national interests in what are choppy waters. He said:

We should not just sit back and await our fate in the wake of a major power contest.

Australia could do worse than pursue an Asian equivalent of the Helsinki Accords that helped keep the peace in Europe during the Cold War.

This is a time for creative Australian diplomacy, not running off to Washington to hide behind America’s petticoat.

This returns us to the Hastie intervention and the national interest question.

Just as Hastie is entitled to express a personal point of view, so does the government of the day have a responsibility to assert what is in the national interest.

Clearly it is not in the national interest for political leaders to disregard comments that might have a negative impact on relations with Australia’s pre-eminent trading partner. China absorbs one-third of Australia’s merchandise exports.

This is what the prime minister had to say:

… the government is fully aware of the complexity that is involved in our region and the challenges that we face in the future… And we are careful as a government to ensure that we don’t seek to make them any more complex than they need to be. And that is what Australians can count on. We will be measured. We will be careful and we will put Australia’s national interest first.

Morrison needs to assert this point of view more forcefully if he is to avoid losing control of China policy. These is nothing inherently inconsistent between a national interest argument and one that enables dissident voices to have their say.

After all, this is not China.The Conversation

Tony Walker, Adjunct Professor, School of Communications, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Hong Kong fears losing its rule of law; the rest of the world should worry too



A Hong Kong pro-democracy protester on 11 August 2019.
Miguel Candela/EPA

John Garrick, Charles Darwin University

What’s happening in Hong Kong right now has direct bearings on Australia. It goes to an issue crucial to our position in a world economic order that is likely to be shaped less by the United States, still our most important ally, and more by China, our ever more valuable trading partner.

At the heart of the Hong Kong protests is the same issue that causes concern about China’s ambitions from the South China Sea to the South Pacific. It’s about the Chinese government’s commitment to an idiosyncratic idea of the rule of law.

Hong Kong has something like a constitution or bill of rights, called the Hong Kong Basic Law. It’s a legacy of British colonial rule, which the Chinese government agreed to preserve because there was value in keeping Hong Kong the prosperous city it had become.

China has a very different approach to law. Its constitution can and has been changed at the whim of the ruling party. There is no separation of powers, and no such thing as an independent judiciary.

Removing the judicial firewall

The trigger for the Hong Kong protests was a proposed law enabling China to extradite Hong Kong residents and visitors. Protesters foresaw democrats and dissidents disappearing into China’s prison system. The judicial “firewall” giving meaning to the notion of “one country, two systems” would be fatally undermined. Hong Kong’s distinctive culture and economy would be destroyed with it.




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The Hong Kong protesters have turned militant and more strategic – and this unnerves Beijing


The idea of law as an instrument of the Chinese Communist Party shapes the Chinese government’s domestic policies, and also its approach to international law. It respects international conventions when it has to, and when it is in the national interest. But there’s a point where it is quite willing to thumb its nose at the whole idea.

This willingness has stiffened under the leadership of Xi Jinping, who has reaffirmed in word and deed that the Chinese Communist Party “is the highest force for political leadership”.

Law of the sea

An example is China’s view of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in its dispute with the Philippines over island territory in the South China Sea.

In 2016 a UN tribunal unanimously found in favour of the Philippines. China refused to accept the verdict. It declared it “would continue to abide by international law and basic norms governing international relations”, but also added:

The Chinese government reiterates that, regarding territorial issues and maritime delimitation disputes, China does not accept any means of third party dispute settlement or any solution imposed on China.

It therefore continues to claim the South China Sea as an “inalienable” part of its territory. In direct defiance of the ruling, it has also built artificial islands within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and built military bases on those islands.

Wider implications

China’s official narrative is that it doesn’t reject international law per se, but simply wants law that accommodates “Chinese characteristics”, including China’s preference for resolving disputes one on one.




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Given that the point of establishing the United Nations and other multilateral institutions such as the World Trade Organisation was to replace “might makes right” with something like an international rule of law, this is likely to prove cold comfort for smaller nations.

As Xi told the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 2017:

  • the overall goal of “comprehensively advancing law-based governance” is to “establish a system of socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics and build a country of socialist rule of law”

  • “major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics aims to foster a new type of international relations and build a community with a shared future for mankind”

  • the defining feature of “socialism with Chinese characteristics” is “the leadership of the Communist Party of China”.




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Beijing’s view of the rule of law is thus very different to what most of the rest of the world understands. The potential consequences are not lost on the citizens of Hong Kong, and they should not be lost on China’s neighbours and trading partners.The Conversation

John Garrick, University Fellow in Law, Charles Darwin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Chinese propaganda goes tech-savvy to reach a new generation



As younger Chinese become increasingly addicted to their mobile devices, the government’s propaganda offices have had to rethink their strategies.
Roman Pilipey/EPA

Wanning Sun, University of Technology Sydney

Earlier this year, a new app was launched in China to put the patriotism of Chinese citizens to the test.

Named “Study Xi to Strengthen the Nation”, the app quizzes users on all things related to President Xi Jinping – his policies, activities, achievements, theories and thoughts. Users can earn points and win prizes for correct answers and compete with colleagues and friends to see who knows the most about China’s leader.

The app is the latest example of a rethink by the Communist Party when it comes to its propaganda efforts and how best to justify the legitimacy of its one-party rule, extol the virtues of the party, and promote patriotism to an audience of young, tech-savvy Chinese.

For those institutions responsible for the production of effective propaganda, this is a real challenge. After all, propaganda in the 21st century has to go beyond forcing people to sit in study sessions on Friday afternoons, read the People’s Daily newspaper, or watch China Central Television (CCTV) in group meetings.




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From sermons to ‘indoctritainment’

Thanks to a number of developments, the old propaganda messages of previous generations can easily be repackaged for millennials. Like the rest of the world, Chinese millennials are keen adopters of the latest mobile technologies and suffer from short attention spans. They are also just as enthusiastic as their Western counterparts about posting jokes, music videos and short, sharp, attention-grabbing memes on social media.

The Chinese government, meanwhile, is putting more of an emphasis on humanising its approach to leadership. Politicians are keen to be seen as relatable rather than authoritative figures.

So, to get its messaging across in a new way, party propaganda has morphed from dry sermons to what I like to call indoctritainment. And these campaigns are often high-end productions.

Increasingly, ideological messages are more effective if they are delivered using a platform that’s already been trialled and proven in marketing. In 2016, for instance, CCTV launched a promotion of the Communist Party in the form of a public awareness advertisement to mark the 95th anniversary of the founding of the party.

The one-minute video, titled “I am a Chinese Communist Party member,” features heartwarming vignettes of individuals from different walks of life – teacher, cleaner, surgeon, policeman, local public servant, fisherman – who are all good Samaritans doing their bit to help others.

The message is clear: the party is being re-branded as an organisation made up of unsung heroes. As the voice-over explains:

I am the first one to arrive, I am the last one to leave, I’m the one who thinks of myself the least, and cares about others the most … I am the Chinese Communist Party, and I am always there with you.

Another video promoting the Chinese military, “I am a Chinese soldier”, demonstrates the point. Even without the English subtitles, it’s not hard to see what the producers were going for: a patriotic Hollywood movie or romantic tear-jerker.

The pop culture treatment, with American accents

Another tactic is the use of popular culture as a way of conveying sometimes dense or dull Chinese government policies, especially if the intended audience is global.

In 2015, a video called “The 13 what” used catchy pop music, colourful animation, and American-accented English to explain China’s 13th five-year national plan.

Channelling David Bowie, Monty Python and the psychedelia of the 1960s, the three-minute video was produced by a digital media production team operating under the auspices of the government’s main propaganda offices in Beijing.

Two years earlier, the same studio also produced the widely circulated five-minute video clip, “How leaders are made”. Xi Jinping appears in the clip as a cartoon character, as do US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Light-hearted, zany, and (again) featuring American English, the video informs viewers that Xi has worked long and hard to move up China’s political ladder. The implication is that Xi’s power is just as legitimate as that of his Western counterparts.

Within a short period after its release, the video had been viewed more than a million times on Youku, China’s version of YouTube.

Propaganda by way of screen bullets

Increasingly, the Communist Party’s propaganda material goes viral only after it appears on popular video-sharing websites with “bullet screens”. This is an interactive feature that enables viewers to “shoot” text comments across the screen as the video is being streamed. It’s very popular with younger audiences.

One of China’s biggest bullet screen platforms is Bilibili, often referred to as “the B site”.

The site used to be occasionally shut down for streaming what the government considers “morally unsound” material.

To stay on the party’s good side, Bilibili now plays host to a wide suite of propaganda produced by CCTV or the Chinese Department of Propaganda. In 2015, the Communist Youth League of China also began to hold regular courses on the site aimed at promoting patriotism among young people.

But how effective is it?

Just how successful these strategies have been is still not entirely clear. While the “Xi Jinping thought” app has captured the imagination of many outside China, party members who have been encouraged – in some cases requested – to download the app seem less than enthusiastic.

And some of these new propaganda efforts have backfired and attracted cynical responses online, even ridicule.




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But judging by the many comments viewers have left on the B site, it seems fair to conclude that some of the tactics have had the intended effect of endearing the party and its leaders to the young and impressionable.

This is a reminder of how naïve it is to assume that technologies are inherently democratising, and that digital disruption is likely to spell the end of communism in China. Such assumptions still permeate most Western media stories about the Communist Party’s new propaganda strategies, but this is clearly not the case.

As the party’s propaganda strategies become more nuanced and sophisticated, so should our frameworks for understanding them.The Conversation

Wanning Sun, Professor of Media and Cultural Studies, University of Technology Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

View from The Hill: It’s not in the ‘national interest’ for the backbench to shut up about China


Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Trade minister Simon Birmingham on Sunday weighed into the debate over Andrew Hastie’s warning about China rise. Birmingham said colleagues in future should ask themselves two questions before speaking out on “sensitive foreign policy matters”.

These were: “Is the making of those comments in a public way necessary? And is it helpful to Australia’s national interest?”

On a narrow view, the warning by Hastie – the chairman of the powerful parliamentary committee on intelligence and security – about Australia not being alive enough to the dangers of an ever more powerful China was not “necessary”; nor was it particularly helpful to a government trying to manage a relationship that gets more complicated all the time.

But the idea that backbenchers should not voice considered views on such a major long term issue for this country shows a certain contempt for parliamentary democracy.

Birmingham, speaking on the ABC, said: “There are a range of ways in which any of us can contribute and we can do that with direct discussion with ministers and with leadership in backbench committees and other ways”.

Decoded, the message to the backbench was: boys and girls, when in public just follow the talking points we give you.

Amid the noisy chatter and clatter of our current politics, serious foreign policy discussions among politicians are relatively rare. But the broad community debate grows ever stronger about China and its implications for Australia – including the now-great power’s trajectory, our dependence on it economically, its reach into this country (including through investment and our educational institutions), and how we juggle our respective relationships with it and the United States.

New Liberal backbencher Dave Sharma entered the China debate at the weekend, with a robust thread of nearly a dozen tweets, in support of Hastie.

A former senior diplomat, Sharma is more steeped in foreign policy than most on the frontbench.

“Hastie is right to ring the bell on this issue, and to warn that our greatest vulnerability lies in our thinking, which is Panglossian at times,” he wrote.

Significantly, Sharma also supported Hastie’s comparison with France’s failure to comprehend properly the rise of Germany before World War 2.

“In WW2, we failed to realise early enough that German ambitions could not be accommodated. National Socialist Germany was not a status quo power, but we mistook it as such, or deceived ourselves that it was,” Sharma wrote.

Hastie’s reference to Germany had been sharply condemned on Friday by Senate leader Mathias Cormann, who said it was a “a clumsy and inappropriate analogy.”

But Hastie was verballed over his invoking of Germany. He wasn’t saying the Chinese and Nazi regimes were the same – he was talking about the underestimation of the threats they posed to other countries.

Hastie could have drawn another parallel – with the failure of countries in the 1930s to fully appreciate the looming threat from Japan.

Sharma noted that rising powers inevitably cause convulsions – “the challenge is to accommodate a rising power IF it is sufficiently status quo in nature that it can be accommodated. This was the thesis with China for much of the early 2000s,” Sharma wrote.

“But if the rising power is revisionist in nature, and cannot be accommodated within the existing order – because it fundamentally does not accept the legitimacy of that order – then the future becomes much tougher”.

Given it was clear China’s ideological direction and ambition had become “far more pronounced” under its current leadership, “our strategy and thinking needs to reflect this shift, which is basically Hastie’s point – that we need to remove the blinkers from our eyes, recognise reality for what it is, and act accordingly,” Sharma said.

“This does not mean we should not be pursuing a constructive and positive relationship with China – we should be. Nor does it compel us to make a ‘choice’. But we need to be honest with ourselves about the challenges of managing this relationship and what might lie ahead.”

Of course Australian government policy in the last few years has been reacting to what has been seen as a heightening Chinese threat – even while the government has often been unwilling to admit as much.

The Pacific “step up” is all about China. So was the legislation, enacted by the Turnbull government, against foreign interference. The exclusion of Huawei from the 5G network was an unequivocal message. Australia’s intensified efforts to counter the cyber security threat have China front of mind.

The Chinese predictably reacted with annoyance to Hastie’s comments. But they are much more attuned to the actions Australia has taken and continues to take – measures which have been and are in the national interest. That’s the basic reason why Australia-China relations are strained.

The government’s trying to shut down backbench contributions to this debate is less a matter of the “national interest” than an exercise of attempted control of its MPs in its own interest. In fact it might be counter-productive for the national interest, which may require the Australian public to acquire a much better understanding than they have now of what could be increasingly difficult times and decisions in the years to come.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The China-Trump trade war has spread to Australia. We’re now at risk of global currency war



The Australian dollar has already slipped, falling to its lowest point against the US since the global financial crisis.
Shutterstock

Hui Feng, Griffith University

When US President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on Friday that he was slapping tariffs on an extra US$300 billion of China’s exports, it was widely expected that China’s currency would slide against the US dollar.

What wasn’t expected was that on Monday it would break the seven Chinese renminbi (RMB) to the dollar barrier, a line held by China since 2008.

The RMB/USD exchange rate is tightly managed by the People’s Bank of China. The rate is permitted to move only 2% away from a midpoint fixed by the bank each day.

Although in its official statement the bank attributed the slide mainly to changes in demand and supply, the slide would not have happened had the bank not allowed it. In the past it spent as much as US$107 billion in a single month defending the renminbi.




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Will Trump’s trade war with China ever end?


It is more reasonable to believe that the devaluation was a deliberate decision taken to offset the effect of the punitive tariffs.

By making China’s exports cheaper in US dollars it will neutralise the effect of Trump’s decision to impose tariffs that would make them more expensive.

But it will have far-reaching implications, so far-reaching as to suggest that Beijing has run out of alternatives.

In part, China is hurting itself…

The exchange rate – the external price of money – affects almost everything, including inflation in China itself, which will receive a boost as imports to China become more expensive.

Chinese inflation is already on the rise due to disruptions in supply of food staples such as pigs.

There isn’t much the People’s Bank of China can do to restrain inflation. Pushing up interest rates might choke the economy given that China’s GDP just posted its smallest quarterly gain since 1992.

It would also make it even more difficult for already heavily indebted state-owned enterprises and local governments to make payments on their debt.

If the Chinese think the currency is going to continue to fall they’ll attempt to take their money out of the country while it still has buying power.

Although the People’s Bank of China has demonstrated its capacity to control capital flight, it has increasingly had to do it using harsh measures that harm legitimate trade and investment.

The devaluation will essentially act as tax on net importers, which in China are households. This means it will work against China’s goal of rebalancing the economy away from investment to private consumption.

…and endangering global recovery

An RMB that breaches seven is also bad news for the global economy. It means weaker demand from China, which will depress global economic growth.

In that way it can be thought of as spreading the cost of US tariffs onto China’s trading partners, which are themselves likely to devalue in something of a currency war. The Australian dollar has fallen through 68 US cents, a low not seen since the global financial crisis.

Asian economies are also likely to devalue, among them South Korea, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. The European Central Bank has also signalled rate cuts and other measures to bring down its exchange rate as has the Bank of Japan.

Other nations will devalue…

The US Fed itself will be under pressure to cut rates further in what the Pacific Investment Management Company has warned
could lead to a “full-blown currency war with direct intervention by the US and other major governments/central banks to weaken their currencies”.

On Tuesday Australia’s Reserve Bank signalled its willingness to cut interest rate again, although in our case the drop in the Australian dollar might have made it nervous. It would prefer a controlled rather than unpredictable decline in the dollar.

John Connally Jr, Richard Nixon’s treasury secretary, once said in 1971 that the US dollar was “our currency, but your problem”. He meant that the rest of the world had to live with whatever the US did for its own reasons.

…meaning none of them will win

As the currency of the world’s second largest economy increasingly moves to the centre of global trade, China is able to say much the same thing. But an international currency war could hurt China as well by endangering the still not complete international recovery from the global financial crisis.

The People’s Bank of China has tried to reassure the world that it “has experience, confidence and capacity to maintain renminbi exchange rate at a reasonably stable equilibrium”.

It might do more for confidence if it wound down its control, as have other countries, relying less on manipulating the exchange rate for strategic reasons.




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The Conversation


Hui Feng, ARC Future Fellow and Senior Research Fellow, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Australia depends less on Chinese trade than some might think



Australia is vulnerable to any downturn in global markets due to a Chinese economic slump. But being dumped as a supplier by China is a different matter.
http://www.shutterstock.com

James Giesecke, Victoria University; Nhi Tran, Victoria University, and Robert Waschik, Victoria University

China now buys almost a third of Australia’s exports – about twice the value bought by second-placed Japan, and about nine times fifth-placed United States.

It’s a situation that sparks fears of a Chinese economic slowdown, or a backlash if we offend China’s government in some way, such as by criticising its actions in Xinjiang or in the South China Sea.

In February and March customs officials in Chinese ports reportedly held up Australian coal imports. This was interpreted as a signal from Beijing about moves in Canberra to limit Chinese influence in Australia.




Read more:
The Chinese coal ‘ban’ carries a significant political message


The Chinese government has a track record of using economic muscle to apply diplomatic pressure, including against Canada, South Korea and Palau.

“We are incredibly dependent on China – in some ways we are a state of China,” said business commentator Robert Gottliebsen. “China is now the world’s number two country and they will not stand for being lectured to by anyone — let alone a minnow like Australia.”



Is Australia really that dependent on China?

As a commodity exporter, Australia is vulnerable to any downturn in global markets due to a Chinese economic slump. This makes the fallout from the US-China trade conflict concerning.




Read more:
What’s worse than the US-China trade war? A grand peace bargain


But being penalised as a supplier by China for some perceived diplomatic slight is a different matter.

Using a global economic model with many commodities and countries, we modelled the effect of Beijing permanently cutting China’s imports of Australian coal by 25%.

Australia’s coal exports to China in 2018 were worth about A$15 billion – or about 1% of what the nation spends on private and public consumption in a year.

One might think losing a quarter of coal exports to China will knock about 0.25% off our spending capacity. In economic terms that’s a big number. Our results, however, point to a much smaller loss – just 1/6th the impact, or about 0.04% lower national consumption. That equates to every person having $24 less to spend in a year.

Four determining factors

Any economic model necessarily abstracts from potentially important real-world elements, so its potential accuracy depends on the detail and data that goes into it.

So perhaps more important than the specific results of a cut to coal exports is how our modelling shows four interconnected factors determine to what degree the economy will be hurt by sanctions on any export.

The first factor has to do with the capacity to redirect exports to other markets. How easily can exporters find other buyers? How much will the price need to be cut to interest buyers? We call these “trade diversion effects”.

If Australia could not divert exports elswehere, China buying 25% less coal would see the volume of total Australian coal exports fall by about 6%. Our modelling shows the likely fall would be about 1/12th of this, at 0.5%.

The chart below shows our results. The blue line shows the effect on the total value of coal exports. The stacked columns show the effect of China’s cutback being offset by sales to other markets – notably Japan, South Korea and countries in Southeast Asia.



To sell more to another buyer, it’s likely exporters will need to reduce prices. Our model anticipates the Australian coal price will fall by about 3%.

The second factor is how easily resources can switch from coal production to other activities.

For any resource that can move to alternative uses, the impact of the trade sanction will be reduced. Labour is an example. A miner no longer needed to meet demand for coal will generally have skills transferable to other jobs, although this might require working at a lower wage in another region.

For any resource that cannot easily move – the capital invested in specific coal-mining equipment or transport infrastructure, for example – lower export revenue will mean lower profits from these assets.

How do lower profits affect Australian living standards? This depends on who owns the affected assets, and how much tax they pay.

So the third factor is the level of foreign ownership. More foreign ownership means more profits go overseas. This dampens any impact of lower profitability on Australian living standards.

For our modelling, we set foreign ownership of the coal industry at 80%, based on Reserve Bank of Australia estimates and an analysis of mine ownership in New South Wales coalfields. With just 20% of the after-tax profits staying in Australia, the impact of any change is minor.

The local economy, however, can also suffer due to lost taxes on the income of those foreign owners.

Taxation effects are the fourth factor.

Australian governments collect taxes through mining royalties (a tax on the value of production), corporate tax (on profits), and withholding tax (on interest and unfranked dividends).

We set the coal royalty rate at 8% of the value of coal production, and the taxation rate on foreign capital at 17% because the effective tax rate on foreign capital is about half the corporate tax rate.

A smaller cost than some think

With all these factors in play, our modelling suggests there is less to fear
from the Chinese government throwing its economic weight around than some think.

We think our conclusions probably hold for many of Australia’s exports to China, but acknowledge our investigation is preliminary.

For example, what would happen if the Chinese government decided to restrict the number of Chinese students studying in Australia? Finding new markets for education services might be tougher than for primary products. Resource redeployment might be easier, however.




Read more:
The world has a hard time trusting China. But does it really care?


Notwithstanding these caveats, this type of modelling could provide a clear framework to assess Australia’s economic vulnerabilities.

Perhaps no price should be put on upholding and expressing our liberal democratic and human rights values, and protecting our security interests, but the cost of economic sanction might well be less than many fear.The Conversation

James Giesecke, Professor, Centre of Policy Studies and the Impact Project, Victoria University; Nhi Tran, Senior Research Fellow, Victoria University, and Robert Waschik, Associate Professor and Deputy Director, Centre of Policy Studies, Victoria University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Hong Kong protesters have turned militant and more strategic – and this unnerves Beijing



A new branch of younger protesters has taken a more militant approach, which has proved effective in rattling the government.
Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

Amanda Tattersall, University of Sydney

The past few weeks has seen a drastic escalation in violence on the streets of Hong Kong. On Tuesday night, a police officer aimed a shotgun at protesters who had gathered outside a police station, while a car launched fireworks into the crowd.

Days earlier, the police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters trying to reach the Chinese government’s office.

And the week before, following a protest of 430,000 people, vigilante thugs, dressed in white and carrying bamboo sticks, beat up democracy protesters at a train station.

This long summer of protests began in response to a proposed extradition bill just days after the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. But now, over eight weeks on, the protesters continue to take to the streets with a broader set of demands – and the confrontations with police are threatening to spiral out of control.

With reports of a build-up of Chinese forces on the Hong Kong border, and no end in sight to the demonstrations, many are now asking – how will this end?

Conflict arising from the Umbrella movement

Protest is a familiar tactic in Hong Kong, but this movement has adopted a series of new approaches from the lessons of other protests over the last 30 years – in particular the failures of the 2014 Umbrella Movement.

In doing so, they are building something that is – at least until now – showing resilience to Beijing’s authoritarianism.

The current protest movement isn’t a single movement. It has two dominant wings – one is passive, the other more militant. These wings accept and recognise each other’s role.




Read more:
Extremist mobs? How China’s propaganda machine tried to control the message in the Hong Kong protests


This is new. In 2014, Hong Kong democracy leaders staged a 79-day occupation to fight for universal suffrage. Called the Umbrella Movement, the occupation had two sets of leaders – older democracy leaders (known as the Occupy Trio) and younger student leaders (notably Joshua Wong and Nathan Law).

Originally, the Occupy Trio had planned a multi-year campaign to build public and political pressure for universal suffrage, but the students were more confrontational. They staged a sit-in at Civic Square on Hong Kong Island and the occupation was off and running.

During the occupation, these different views led to irreconcilable conflict, making it impossible to talk about overall strategy. When the occupation finally ended – without achieving universal suffrage – there was great acrimony between the groups that lasted for years.

A new set of principles

Realising how counter-productive this split was, the protesters were keen not to let strategic differences get in the way this time around.

As organisers made plans for the June 9 rally against the extradition bill, several new principles emerged to define how the different groups could work together and avoid falling into the deep conflict of the past.

They included such maxims as “respect the role of the different groups”, “we all lead”, “no one is left behind” and “be water” (as in, to flow from place to place, building continuous pressure). More than the power of any individual leader, these principles came to define how the movement would function and grow.




Read more:
The Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong: a second Tiananmen?


The principles reinforced one another. The decision not to have a single leader was born from the experience of the Umbrella movement. Every visible leader of that movement was jailed or threatened with jail following the occupation. (Two of the Occupy Trio received 16-month jail sentences this year).

The Extradition movement learned it was too dangerous to have figurehead leaders. If everyone led, what could Beijing do? They couldn’t jail everyone.

And when it came to respecting the role of different groups, this principle allowed those who wanted to pursue a more militant strategy to do so without fear of rebuke. Everyone was encouraged to do what they thought was needed.

On June 9, two movements launched: a peaceful protest of more than one million people, as well as a more militant movement of young people.

The confrontational wing was battle-ready. They had re-purposed everyday items like medical masks, plastic wrap, helmets, goggles, umbrellas and towels into tools of protest. The Umbrella occupation had taught them the police would likely use excessive force – so they dressed accordingly.

The younger protesters come prepared for battle.
Jerome Favre/EPA

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam was unmoved by a million-person march, but did shift her position and suspend the extradition bill when faced with a street confrontation. This sent a loud message to the protesters about what it will take to win under her authoritarian government – militancy was more potent than passive protest.

Protesters got the message. Every mass protest since then has seen these two protest wings in operation. As an elected member of Hong Kong’s government explained to me, they are “codependent” – they need each other to exist.

The two wings initially unsettled Beijing. Every time there was militancy – most dramatically when the Legislative Council Building was vandalised on July 1 – Beijing thought it could be used to their advantage.

The government aired the violence on television, hoping it would turn public opinion against the protesters and split the movement. Yet, older democracy leaders did not criticise the students, instead reiterating that “everyone in the movement has their place.”

Popular opinion is still with the protesters, and the protests are still enormous.

Flowing from protest to protest

Another form of protest also emerged to supplement the two-wing approach – the movement turned “to water”.

The protests now have a flow they didn’t have during the Umbrella occupation. Protesters don’t simply show up for weekly mass marches and then go home; they have begun organising smaller protests in their districts on a daily basis.

Lennon walls” featuring thousands of protest messages have emerged, for instance, in every one of Hong Kong’s districts. Random Airdrop notifications share details about impromptu protests, such as last week’s sit-in at the airport. With everyone leading and the action constantly flowing from one place to the next, this protest is hard to stop.

The Umbrella movement, in contrast, was physically fixed in three locations and maintained with tents and nightly sleep-outs. The rigidity of the occupation was exhausting and took a toll on the participants.

A government can wait out an occupation, but how do you capture something that is constantly moving?

Lennon protest walls have sprouted up on walls and pedestrian bridges across the city.
How Hwee Young/EPA

Where will it end?

Its hard to predict where the current protest movement goes next. At the moment, there are no negotiations between the government and protest leaders. The protest movement has five key demands that continue to sit on the table, ranging from withdrawing the extradition bill completely to an independent investigation into police brutality to Lam’s resignation.

But it is unclear whether the protests would end even if the demands are agreed to. All the while, Beijing makes infrequent statements in support of Lam, but it also has thousands of troops already stationed in Hong Kong – and a build-up of more across the border.




Read more:
Hong Kong protests: why Chinese media reports focus on Britain’s colonial past


What is certain is that a long-standing democracy movement has powerfully connected to the next generation. Young students are terrified about their future and feel they have to do everything they can to fight for their rights.

But the stakes are extremely high. Is it possible for water to move so quickly that it escapes the barrel of the gun?The Conversation

Amanda Tattersall, Postdoc in urban geography and Research Lead at Sydney Policy Lab. Host of ChangeMakers Podcast., University of Sydney

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

How Hong Kong protesters have been winning the battle for public space


Peter Walters, The University of Queensland and Naomi Smith, Federation University Australia

The battle for domination of the physical and digital public realms has been crucial to the fortunes of the Hong Kong protesters. Their overwhelming numbers in the tense stand-off with the might of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has captured our attention over the past eight weeks.

However, there are less obvious dynamics at work as protesters use public space – both physical and digital – to maintain their advantage. An understanding of these public realms is critical to understanding why freedom of expression either flourishes or dies in particular urban contexts.

Hong Kong protesters have drawn the world’s attention to the fragile state of democratic rights in this Special Administrative Region of China. As many as 2 million people, out of a population of 7.5 million, have poured into the streets, protesting the erosion of their special status.




Read more:
Hong Kong: why the ‘one country, two systems’ model is on its last legs


As many as 2 million people have joined the Hong Kong protests.

These protests have been remarkably effective in the face of a PRC-aligned Hong Kong leadership, which has for now backed down on a contentious proposal to make it easier to extradite Hong Kong residents to mainland China.

In physical terms the public realm means places to gather freely with diverse others with high visibility. This makes them a focus for expressions of democratic conviction. Many great cities of the world contain iconic public places, such as Taksim Square in Istanbul, the National Monument in Jakarta, Trafalgar Square in London and, of course, Tiananmen Square in Beijing. But with varying levels of surveillance and restriction, not all of these places qualify as functioning public realms.




Read more:
How city squares can be public places of protest or centres of state control


Taking to the streets …

Hong Kong, one of the most densely built and populated cities in the world, has few recognisable public places. None is capable of holding even a fraction of the numbers of protesters that have mobilised.

For that reason, crowds have taken to the streets. These are usually a degraded form of public space, but protesters have turned them from thoroughfares for vehicles to a vibrant public realm, allowing an impressive show of willpower.

The protests have been well organised and until last week were free from violence. The involvement of alleged China-backed triad criminals escalated the risk for ongoing demonstrations and the fragile public realm in Hong Kong is now threatened.

… and digital space

The success of the protests is not entirely dependent on the use of physical space. The speed and coordination of the protests would not have been possible without access to a public realm in the abstract. We see it in an active and independent press and media, and in the ability of protesters to communicate with each other quickly and freely through the digital public realm provided by social media and encrypted messaging apps.

The sheer volume of people on the streets implied spontaneous anarchy. However, the use of social media, even in the presence of covert and overt surveillance by security forces and China-friendly media, enabled organisers and protesters to retain a tactical advantage.

They have been using anonymous calls in encrypted chat applications like Telegram and Signal to coordinate efforts. These apps allow users to create public and anonymous channels to share information, as well as smaller, more private, group chats.




Read more:
How a cyber attack hampered Hong Kong protesters


LIHKG is often referred to as the ‘Hong Kong version of Reddit’.
LIHKG

The protest was coordinated visibly on LIHKG, an online forum that ranks posts by popularity in a similar manner to Reddit. These forums allow protests to move fluidly and quickly, responding to changing conditions on the ground.

Protesters used social media to rapidly distribute photos to counter security authorities’ attempts to deliberately and drastically underestimate crowd numbers to downplay the strength and size of the opposition.

There was also a need to avoid particular technologies. China employs sophisticated surveillance of its citizens.




Read more:
China’s Social Credit System puts its people under pressure to be model citizens


However, protesters have taken effective evasive measures. These included simple physical acts such as standing in huge queues at the Metro for paper tickets to avoid being tracked on transit smart cards. Protesters also used umbrellas, face and eye masks to prevent facial recognition and to shield themselves from teargas attacks and drone surveillance.

The digital public realm has been used successfully in other contexts as a potent intensification of physical protest. Digital spaces can amplify, broadcast and coordinate physical action.

For example, social media catalysed the Black Lives Matter protests in the US. In 2016 Philando Castile’s death was live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend after police shot him through the open window of his vehicle. Twitter was used extensively to publicise and coordinate the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests.




Read more:
Black Lives Matter is a revolutionary peace movement


Co-opting spaces as public

Urban protests in many cities, like Hong Kong, are defined by their limited access to sanctioned public space. The co-opting of other public commons like highways and inner-city roads becomes necessary. This has been particularly successful in the American context where public space is degraded or privatised, and roads are “neutral” space.

Public space does not always look the way we imagine it. When access to public space is untenable, protesters with sufficient will can turn privatised or commercial space into a new public realm.

The Hong Kong protests have turned the international airport terminal into a temporary public realm for this purpose. The “yellow shirt” protesters did the same in Bangkok in 2008. The continued visibility of these public sites and the desire by security forces to close down protest create an uneasy stand-off, testing authorities’ resolve to respond under international scrutiny.

There is now more to the public realm than just a place to gather. Protesters need to combine their determination with a sophisticated appreciation of the digital environment and the nature and limits of public and private space.




Read more:
Surprise! Digital space isn’t replacing public space, and might even help make it better


The Conversation


Peter Walters, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, The University of Queensland and Naomi Smith, Lecturer in Sociology, Federation University Australia

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Despite China’s denials, its treatment of the Uyghurs should be called what it is: cultural genocide



Uyghurs in Australia are pressing Canberra to take a firmer stance with China on its treatment of the Muslim minority. Thus far, Australia’s response has been relatively muted.
Tracey Nearmy/AAP

James Leibold, La Trobe University

As China grows more powerful and influential, our New Superpower series looks at what this means for the world – how China maintains its power, how it wields its power and how its power might be threatened. Read the rest of the series here.


In China’s far western region of Xinjiang, Chinese Communist Party officials are persecuting one of the worst human rights abuses of our time, what I labelled an act of cultural genocide in last week’s ABC Four Corners report.

Pressure is mounting on the Australian government to go beyond statements of concern and challenge China over its treatment of the Uyghur minority, particularly those Australian citizens and permanent residents being held in the vast network of “re-education camps” in Xinjiang.

Two Australian Uyghur men are meeting federal politicians in Canberra today to push for the government’s assistance in helping family members trapped in China.

Australia was one of 22 countries to sign a recent letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressing concern about the “arbitrary detention” of Uyghurs, but otherwise, its response has been muted.

In recent days, the Chinese government has defended its actions with a dubious propaganda report claiming that Uyghurs were historically forced to become Muslims and have been an integral part of China for thousands of years.

China repeatedly makes false and anachronistic claims like this about the ancient unity of the “Chinese people,” which includes ethnic minorities like the Uyghurs. Its aim is to project modern notions of sovereignty, nationhood and fixed borders back through history.

In reality, the 11 million or so Uyghurs are an indigenous Turkic-speaking people who have inhabited what they call “East Turkestan” for over a millennium. Along with the Tibetans, the Uyghurs have born the brunt of China’s settler colonial project, which seeks to assert its control over remote regions that are closer to Moscow and Tehran than Beijing.

Since March 2017, the Chinese government has interned over a million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in massive, prison-like camps (including possibly 17 Australian residents), where they are subjected to coercive ideological remoulding.

Detainees are forced to denounce their religion, forbidden to speak their language, and taught how to adopt the norms of China’s Han ethnic majority, while praising President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party for salvation.

In their own words, party officials are “washing brains” and “cleansing hearts” in order to “cure” those bewitched by extremist thoughts. In Xinjiang today, non-Han thoughts and behaviour are pathologised as deviant and thus in need of urgent transformation.

What is genocide?

A litany of words and phrases have been used to describe this process. The Chinese government calls the camps free “vocational education and training centres” where Uyghurs willingly learn Chinese language and employment skills in order to assist with their “rehabilitation and reintegration”.

Scholars, journalists and rights defenders have spoken about cultural and religious “persecution” in Xinjiang, arguing the party-state’s policies amount to mass ethnic cleansing, cultural re-engineering, forced assimilation, brainwashing, or even ethnocide.

In August 2018, Gay McDougall, the vice chair of UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, referred to Xinjiang as a “no-rights zone”.

Yet, I believe the scale, sophistication and intent of China’s policies in Xinjiang merits a stronger description.




Read more:
The world has a hard time trusting China. But does it really care?


The term genocide was coined by lawyer Rafael Lemkin in 1944 in reaction to Nazi Germany’s coordinated strategy to annihilate the Jews, gypsies and other non-Aryan peoples. Four years later, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, with Australia one of the first counties to ratify it. The People’s Republic of China ratified it in 1983.

The convention defines genocide as

acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group

It also obligates signatories to punish those who engage in genocidal acts through a “competent” domestic or international penal tribunal.

Whether genocide includes only physical acts or can extend to attacks on cultural heritage has elicited intense debate, but for Lemkin, the term includes

drastic methods aimed at the rapid and complete disappearance of the culture, moral and religious life of a group of human beings.

Genocide also requires specific intent. In the words of political scientists Kenneth J. Campbell, genocide is a

premeditated, calculated, systematic, malicious crime authorised by the state’s political leaders.

This is exactly what Communist Party officials did when they authorised and then legalised the mass internment of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in “concentrated transformation-through-education centres,” ripping more than 10% of the population away from their communities so they could be deliberately re-programmed.

Various methods for erasing culture

Yet, facts arguably matter more than words when it comes to China’s policies in Xinjiang.

We now have ample evidence (including internal party documents) of the deliberate efforts to destroy Uyghur culture and identity. Everyday actions like avoiding pork, speaking Uyghur, wearing a headscarf or praying quietly are now labelled “manifestations of religious extremism,” or what party officials call “malignant tumors” requiring urgent excising in a radical form of cultural surgery.

In the city of Kashgar, for example, a party document highlights the need to sever the lineages, roots and cultural connections of Uyghurs in order to eliminate the fountainhead of potential extremism.

German researcher Adrian Zenz has uncovered evidence of the party’s efforts to separate Uyghur children from their parents in state institutions, where they can be assimilated and indoctrinated by officials. In these institutions, cultural, religious, and linguistic knowledge is intentionally ruptured.




Read more:
Explainer: who are the Uyghurs and why is the Chinese government detaining them?


In some parts of Xinjiang, mosques and shrines are being bulldozed, while others are transformed into empty sites guarded by facial recognition cameras and imams on the party payroll.

In the name of strengthening “bilingual education”, Chinese is now the language of instruction across Xinjiang, from preschool to university. The use of Uyghur language, script, signs and pictures prohibited. Speaking Uyghur is now considered unpatriotic and can get one sent off for re-education.

Perhaps most disturbing, inter-ethnic marriages are being actively promoted to slowly breed out Uyghurness, with cash and other material inducements offered to Han men who take a Uyghur bride.

One can find numerous videos and messages promoting Han-Uyghur inter-marriage on Chinese social media, asserting Xinjiang is now safe and home to many beautiful and eligible Uyghur women who would appreciate a doting Han husband.

Finally, the Chinese government has intensified its family planning regime in Xinjiang to slow the growth of the Uyghur population and eliminate what party officials call “low quality births”.

Beginning in 2017, the region adopted a uniform two children policy that nullified preferential rules allowing rural Uyghur women to have additional births. In the past, Uyghur women were given 3,000 RMB (roughtly A$620) to forgo a third birth and agree to some sort of “long-term contraceptive measure.”

The Communist Party’s calculated war on Uyghur identity is quite literally tearing families and communities apart, while the rich tradition of diversity and tolerance in China is left in tatters.

The resilient nature of culture and memory means that attempts at genocide, thankfully, are rarely successful. Yet the pain they inflict is real.The Conversation

James Leibold, Associate Professor of Politics and Asian Studies, La Trobe University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.