Oceania
Tuvalu

Tuvalu regains full sovereignty over security relations

Australia and Tuvalu released a joint statement announcing new commitments to improve security relations, and remove the veto power Australia previously had over the small island nation’s security relations with other countries. The announcement concerned implementation and interpretation of the Falepili Union, a bilateral treaty entered into last November, which expands upon the Australia-Tuvalu Security Partnership of 2017. However, it eliminates the 2017 provision that limited Tuvalu’s sovereignty in foreign affairs—a sensitive matter given Australia’s growing regional rivalry with China. (Image via Pixabay)

Southeast Asia
South China Sea

Podcast: geopolitics of the Barbie affair

In Episode 181 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the strange reality that the Barbie move has been banned in Vietnam over a brief image of a world map appearing to show the “nine-dash line” demarcating China’s unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea. While US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan wins headlines, Beijing’s maritime dispute with Hanoi holds unsettling potential for escalation. In a surreal paradox (for those who remember their history) Vietnam has actually been tilting to the US in the new cold war with China. It has also been increasingly resorting to internal police-state measures to protect the interests of foreign capital in the country. All of this constitutes a rebuke both to the neoliberals, who cling to the discredited dogma that “free markets” inevitably lead to peace and democracy, and to the tankies, who rally around both the regimes in Beijing and Hanoi, in defiance of political reality. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via IDSA)

Central Asia
Xinjiang

Podcast: state capitalism and the Uyghur genocide

In Episode 149 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes that the UN Human Rights Office determination that China may be guilty of “crimes against humanity” in its mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang province is dismissed by the tankie-left ANSWER Coalition as “propagandistic.” Meanwhile, it falls to Radio Free Asia, media arm of the US State Department, to aggressively cover the very real conditions of forced labor faced by the Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples of Xinjiang—and how Western corporations benefit from it. While the Western pseudo-left betrays the Uyghurs, US imperialism exploits their suffering for propaganda against a rising China in the Great Game for the Asia-Pacific region. Figures such as Australia’s Kevin Rudd incorrectly portray a “Return of Red China,” blaming the PRC’s increasingly totalitarian direction on a supposed neo-Marxism. Fortunately, the new anthology Xinjiang Year Zero offers a corrective perspective, placing the industrial-detention complex and techno-security state in the context of global capitalism and settler colonialism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

East Asia
Paiwan

Taiwan expands rights for indigenous peoples

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, speaking at an Indigenous Rights Forum in Taipei held to mark Indigenous Peoples’ Day, pledged new measures to protect and promote the languages, cultures and territorial rights of the island nation’s Aboriginal communities. Tsai noted that the new Indigenous Peoples Basic Act seeks to bring Taiwanese law and policy into conformity with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and calls for re-assigning the country’s place names to reflect Aboriginal languages. Her office has established a Transitional Justice Committee to oversee implementation of the law in collaboration with Aboriginal communities. (Photo: President Tsai on visit to harvest festival of the Paiwan and Rukai peoples, Sandimen township, Pingtung county, via Wikipedia)

Central America

Honduras transition in the New Cold War

Hondurans elected self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Xiomara Castro to be the country’s first woman president. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro pledges to revive his program—and take it much further, instating far-reaching reforms. Castro also announced that she will “open diplomatic and commercial relations with continental China,” which was widely taken as meaning a switch of diplomatic recognition. Honduras is currently one of only 14 countries that recognize Taipei rather than Beijing.  It is tragic to see the Central American republics, in their struggle to break free of Washington’s orbit, acquiesce in Beijing’s design to incorporate Taiwan into its own orbit—or, more ambitiously, its national territory.  (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

East Asia

Podcast: China Unbound with Joanna Chiu

In Episode 102 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg interviews Joanna Chiu, author of China Unbound: A New World Disorder, on the precipitous rise of the People’s Republic as a world power, and the dilemmas this poses for human rights and democracy around the planet. How can we reconcile the imperatives to resist the globalization of China’s police state and to oppose the ugly Sinophobia which is rising in the West, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? Some Chinese dissidents living in exile in the US have even been co-opted by Trumpism. Chiu argues that stigmatization and misinterpretation of Chinese, whether in the People’s Republic or the diaspora, plays into the hands of Beijing’s propaganda. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: House of Anansi)

Planet Watch
F-35A

Rapid nuclear escalation, East and West

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned that Moscow will deploy intermediate-range nuclear weapons if NATO does not accede to demands to stop arming Ukraine and guarantee an end to eastward expansion of the alliance. His remarks come amid tensions over Russian military movements near Ukraine’s borders, where the Kremlin is estimated to have amassed some 100,000 troops. Amid similar tensions over Chinese incursions into the Taiwan Strait, a Pentagon report warns that the People’s Republic is undertaking an expansion and “modernization” of its nuclear arsenal to “provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.” And the US is meanwhile replacing gravity bombs with digitally guided nuclear missiles on its new design of the F-35A fighter jet. (Photo of F-35A via Air Force Times)

Oceania
new caledonia

China factor in New Caledonia anti-independence vote

In what was supposed to be a third and final referendum on the matter, voters in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia rejected independence by an overwhelming 96%. But the vote was this time boycotted by the pro-independence forces, who vowed to carry on the struggle. Coverage of the vote uniformly stressed fears by the métros (recent arrivals from France) of Chinese designs on the archipelago—and especially its mineral resources. The indigenous Kanak population, reduced to a minority after more than 150 years of French colonization, largely observed the boycott, and appeared to view Chinese designs as (at the very least) no worse than French. (Map via Geology.com)

Planet Watch
countervortex

Podcast: the countervortex of global resistance II

In Episode 100 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses recent uprisings in two disparate parts of the world—the South Pacific archipelago nation of the Solomon Islands and two of the states that have emerged from the former Yugoslavia. In both cases, people who were pissed off for damn good reason took to the streets to oppose foreign capital, and corrupt authoritarian leaders who do its bidding. But in the Solomon Islands, popular rage was deflected into campism and ethnic scapegoating, while in Serbia and Kosova the people on the ground actually overcame entrenched and bitter ethnic divisions to make common cause against common oppressors. The contrast holds lessons for global protest movements from Hong Kong to New York City. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.

Oceania
solomon islands

Solomon Islands uprising in the New Cold War

Australia has dispatched some 100 police and military troops to the Solomon Islands following days of rioting and looting in the capital Honiara. Calling for Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare to resign, protesters set the parliament building ablaze, and torched and looted shops, causing millions of dollars in damages. The looting centered on the city’s Chinatown, where three charred bodies have been found amid the ruins. Tensions between Guadalcanal and Malaita islanders have been enflamed by massive Chinese capital flows into the former island, while the latter remains comparatively impoverished. The two provincial governments are bitterly at odds over Sogavare’s recent decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the People’s Republic. (Map: University of Texas Libraries)

East Asia
kurils

Podcast: 007 in the New Cold War

In Episode 97 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg dissects the geopolitics of the new James Bond movie, No Time to Die, and how the Daniel Craig reboot of the series has finessed the cultural icon’s role in the New Cold War. Famously, the film was produced pre-pandemic, with its release postponed a year due to the lockdown—and its key plot device is a mass biological warfare attack, anticipating the conspiranoid theories about COVID-19. Yet it could also be prescient in warning of a superpower confrontation over the Kuril Islands—disputed by Russia and Japan, and an all too likely flashpoint for global conflict. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: International Kuril Island Project)

Planet Watch
hiroshima

Podcast: Hiroshima at 76

In Episode 83 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg notes signs of hope on the 76th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, with the city’s Mayor Kazumi Matsui calling on the world’s nations to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. President Trump walked away from US-Russia nuclear arms control treaties, and China is now rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. Ukraine and Syria are ominously likely flashpoints for superpower conflict. But South Africa provides a shining example of progress—under the leadership of Nelson Mandela, newly post-apartheid South Africa became the first and only nation on Earth to willingly dismantle its nuclear weapons. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Hiroshima Day vigil 2014, via Nihon zan Myohoji Buddhist Peace Council)