Watching the Shadows
Coronavirus

Podcast: COVID-19 and impending bio-fascism

In Episode 49 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the grim political implications of the COVID-19 outbreak and resultant hysteria. Even before the outbreak, China had detained perhaps upwards of a million ethnic Uighurs in concentration camps as a “counter-terrorist” measure. Under emergency measures imposed in response to the outbreak, a staggering half-billion people have been placed under lockdown in Hubei and surrounding provinces. Italy has now just imposed a similar lock-down, affecting 16 million people in the country’s north. Here in the United States, where Trump is building an incipient concentration camp system for detained migrants, the White House has thus far been trying to downplay the COVID-19 threat—as Xi Jinping did before the depth of the crisis became inescapable. If such a point is reached here as well, the posture of the Trump administration could change fast—with potential for sweeping lockdowns, mass internment of targeted populations, and even exploitation of the crisis as a “Reichstag Fire” to throw or suspend the 2020 elections. The coronavirus hysteria could be a terrifying advance for the global detention state, and progressives must urgently formulate a response. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: Chinese police demonstration video, via Twitter)

East Asia
wenzhou

China: internal resistance to bio-police state

“Citizen journalists” and “netizens” in China who are critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak are being “disappeared”—but online criticism is spreading faster than official censors can contain it, in by far the biggest eruption of dissent under Xi Jinping’s rule. At least one city, Wenzhou, has seen a street protest over the draconian controls the government is instating, in open defiance of the lock-down. Even voices from within China’s political establishment are saying this could be the biggest challenge to the regime’s legitimacy since 1989. (Image via YouTube)

Central Asia
Kazakhstan

Hui Muslims targeted in Kazakhstan ethnic clashes

At least eight people were killed, dozens injured and nearly 50 homes and shops set on fire in ethnic clashes that broke out in a border region of Kazakhstan. The fighting was centered in southern Zhambyl province, near the border with Kyrgyzstan. Ethnic Kazakhs reportedly set upon members of the Dungan minority group and Hui Muslims, related groups that migrated from China in the 19th century and are more numerous across the border in Kyrgyzstan. Rioters also fought with police when they tried to intervene. While it is unclear what sparked the violence, rumors and incitement on social media appear to have played a role. Interior Minister Yerlan Turgumbayev said: “Provocateurs…called for violence through social networks. Hooligans used rebar, stones and other implements. Police officers sustained numerous injuries, two received gunshot wounds.” (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

East Asia
Taiwan protest

Taiwan repudiates fascist world order

Following a bitter campaign dominated by “fake news” generated from China and punctuated by sexist personal attacks on President Tsai Ing-wen, the incumbent was re-elected, overwhelmingly defeating Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang (KMT). Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), received the highest total ever recorded for any candidate in a presidential election in Taiwan. With Han and the KMT calling for closer integration with China, the repression in Hong Kong was an inevitable and pressing context in the vote. The populist Han, described as Taiwan’s Donald Trump, cultivated an “everyman” image despite his own lavish lifestyle. But his closeness to Beijing led to fears that the KMT was willing to accept a “one country, two systems” solution for Taiwan—just as this model was collapsing in Hong Kong. (Photo of Workers’ Struggle demonstration in Taipei via New Bloom)

Southeast Asia
Indonesia

China-Indonesia maritime stand-off

Dozens of Chinese vessels that were fishing in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone off the disputed island of Natuna began leaving the area after days of stand-off. Indonesia deployed eight warships and four fighter jets to the area, and summoned Beijing’s ambassador to complain. China reportedly sent three coast guard cutters into the area during the stand-off. The Natuna archipelago, off the northwest coast of Borneo, occupies a strategic spot in the South China Sea. Its waters contain significant oil and gas reserves, and it guards the eastern opening of the narrow Malacca Strait, a critical chokepoint for shipping lanes. The archipelago falls within China’s “nine-dash line,” covering nearly the entirety of the South China Sea. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Iran
soleimani

Trump and Soleimani: clash of barbarisms

Donald Trump and the man he executed in a targeted assassination, Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani, mirror each other as war criminals who treat the people of Iraq and the greater region as pawns in their power game. In fact, they were long de facto allies—Soleimani had been overseeing a “dirty war” in Iraq against Sunni militants and suspected ISIS sympathizers. His allied paramilitary forces have serially massacred anti-government protesters in Baghdad. In less explicit alignment with Washington, Soleimani provided similar services on a far greater scale to the Bashar Assad dictatorship in Syria. This is why all the media talk (echoing Trump) about how he “killed Americans” reeks of racism and imperial narcissism. However many US troops Soleimani may have been responsible for killing, this was the least of his massive crimes. Similarly, calling him a “terrorist,” implying he was responsible for attacks on Westerners (always the connotation of that label in mainstream Western discourse), is a vast understatement. He was worse than a terrorist: he was a war criminal. And so is Trump—in his destruction of ISIS-held Raqqa and Mosul (which could only have cheered Soleimani), in his targeted-assassination drone strikes, and now in his threat to bomb Iranian cultural sites. (Photo: Iran Briefing)

East Asia
Tiananmen

China detains activists in year-end crackdown

Over a dozen Chinese lawyers and activists were detained or went missing in the final days of 2019, in a crackdown targeting participants who attended a private pro-democracy gathering in the coastal city of Xiamen, rights groups reported. The meeting had been called to discuss a “democratic transition in China,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Wang Yaqiu. The period around New Year is traditionally when Beijing chooses to arrest prominent dissidents in an effort to minimize international media attention, “so it is not a surprise that they chose this particular time to launch a manhunt of activists.” The meeting involved a small group “peacefully discussing politics in a private space.” (Photo: chinaworker.info)

Syria
Idlib displaced

Syria: thousands flee intensified Idlib offensive

More than 235,000 people have fled from their homes in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province over the past days, as the Assad regime and Russia escalate their campaign of aerial bombardment. A report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs states that Ma’arrat An Nu’man and other towns in the province are now “almost empty,” while internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the extreme northwest of the province are rapidly swelling. “Displacement during winter is further exacerbating the vulnerability of those affected,” the report states. Perversely, the renewed offensive comes days after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended cross-border aid convoys into Idlib from Turkey for another year—essentially condemning many of those not directly killed by the bombs to death by starvation and exposure. (Photo: UNHCR)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: against the global detention state

In Episode 45 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes with alarm the rapid consolidation of a global detention state, extending across borders and rival power blocs. In the United States, Trump moves toward indefinite detention of undocumented migrants, with horrific rights abuses widespread in the fast-expanding camp system. In China, up to a million Uighurs have been detained in “re-education camps,” and are facing such abuses as forced sterilization. As India hypocritically protests China’s treatment of the Uighurs, it is also preparing mass detention of its own Muslim population. Russia’s Vladimir Putin is similarly preparing mass detention of the Crimean Tatars. In Syria, the Bashar Assad regime has detained hundreds of thousands, and is carrying out a mass extermination of prisoners, almost certainly amounting to genocide. In Libya, countless thousands of desperate migrants have been detained, often by completely unaccountable militias, and an actual slave trade in captured Black African migrants has emerged. Yet Trump exploits the mass internment of the Uighurs to score propaganda points against imperial rival China—and some “leftists” (sic) in the US are so confused as to actually defend China’s detention state. International solidarity is urgently needed at this desperate moment to repudiate such divide-and-rule stratagems. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo of Homeland Security’s Otay Mesa Detention Center from BBC World Service via Flickr)

Planet Watch
emissions

UN climate change conference opens in Madrid

The 2019 UN Climate Change Conference opened in Madrid—originally planned for Chile, but changed due to the political instability there.  UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged leaders to select the “path of hope.” He characterized this choice as: “A path of resolve, of sustainable solutions. A path where more fossil fuels remain where they should be–in the ground–and where we are on the way to carbon neutrality by 2050. That is the only way to limit global temperature rise to the necessary 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.” (Photo: cwizner/Pixabay)

South Asia
Kalapani

China, India border disputes spark Nepal protests

Nepal over the past weeks has repeatedly seen both anti-India and anti-China protests, concerning charges that both of the country’s giant neighbors are claiming pieces of its territory. A report released by Nepal’s Survey Department found that China has encroached upon 36 hectares of Nepalese territory, largely due to expansion of roads along the border in Chinese-administered Tibet. But the survey was undertaken in response a new map issued by Delhi with India’s change to the administrative status of Kashmir. This map showed a 35-square-kilometer area claimed by Nepal as part of India’s Uttarakhand state. This is the strategic Kalapani zone, at the juncture of the borders of China, India and Nepal, controlled by India since the Sino-Indian War of 1962. It was last at issue in 2015, when India blocked roads into the area, sparking a brief crisis with Nepal. (Map via Kathmandu Post)

Planet Watch
Chile protester

Podcast: world revolution in 2020?

In Episode 43 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the current wave of popular protest and uprisings around the world, and asks if the planet is approaching another moment of revolutionary possibilities, such as was seen in 2011. He examines the prospects for these disparate movements to build solidarity across borders, repudiate ethnic and national divide-and-rule stratagems, and recognize the enemy as transnational capital and the authoritarian states that serve it. With discussions of Hong Kong, mainland China, Indonesia, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey Iran, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Guinea. Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Photo: David Lynch via Twitter)