Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, September 22, 2017

Not in our name

Even in the highly regulated and followed Chinese Internet, political fraud is possible.

China’s Communist Youth League says Twitter accounts opened in its name are fake
The Communist Party’s youth wing will ask Twitter to close down all accounts recently opened in its name on the social media platform, saying it did not set them up.
CYL members
“We reserve the right to take any other legal action against [this infringement],” the Communist Youth League of China’s publicity office said in a statement on Wednesday…

At least two accounts claiming to be run by the youth league were set up earlier this month. Tweets from the accounts written in Chinese began appearing last week…

The accounts were discovered by internet users… both of which appeared to be genuine at first.

One of them… has been tweeting news from the youth league’s official Weibo account, China’s version of Twitter, and following the Twitter accounts of mainland state media outlets such as CCTV, People’s Daily and Xinhua.

In recent days it has been flooded with criticism of the Chinese authorities.

The second account… has been tweeting news from Hong Kong and Taiwan, including stories about pro-independence banners at Hong Kong universities…

The government has in recent months tightened internet controls including shutting down virtual private networks that allow people to access these websites as it tries to prevent internet users from viewing content it deems inappropriate…

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Computerized guanxi

The Communist Party in China might have found a shortcut to the personalized guanxi networks.

CPC introduces new management methods
A big data system to manage Communist Party of China (CPC) cadres has been introduced in the the city of Huai'an in eastern China's Jiangsu Province.

Information on each of the city's 12,000 cadres has been compiled under 356 data fields.

The system will keep confidential data used for cadre selection, covering detailed personal information and work performance history. It was developed by the Huai'an municipal CPC organization department.

"If there is a vacancy, the system is fast to screen all candidates with qualifications matching the position. In the past, people depended on their connections [guanxi] to recommend someone they know," said Zhang Xu, an official with the department.

The database pools information that used to be kept separately by 20 departments…

CPC organizations from both within and without Jiangsu have come to Huai'an to learn from its experiment.

Big data is the latest method used by the CPC to motivate and select outstanding CPC cadres, while punishing those implicated in corruption…

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The persistence of cleavages

The grandchildren of people who fought for the independence of the breakaway state of Biafra 50 years ago are agitating for the independence of Igpo people in southeastern Nigeria. What keeps cleavages alive for such a long time?

Military Declares IPOB 'Terrorist Organisation'
The Nigerian military has declared the pro-Biafra separatist group, IPOB, a "terrorist organisation."

The military made the declaration in a statement on Friday by the Director of Defence Information, John Enenche.

An IPOB demonstration
Clashes between soldiers on a military operation and IPOB members in Abia State have left several people wounded. Although there have been reports of deaths particularly of IPOB members, none has been confirmed.

IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu are campaigning for an independent country of Biafra made up of ethnic Igbos. Although they had said their campaign was non-violent, Mr. Kanu said this week that that stance would be reviewed…

Then again, maybe things are not so clear. I'm certainly unsure about the difference between "pronouncement" and "categorization."

Nigerian Army Denies Declaring IPOB Terrorist Organisation
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, on Monday evening, denied the reports that the military ever tagged the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, a terrorist organisation...

Buratai said the army did not categorize IPOB as terrorist organisation but that the Defence Headquarters just made a pronouncement...

"It is not that we are overstepping our bounds. We are still within the limits. And I ensure you that what the military said was to set the ball rolling and to bring the awareness to the public that this is what this organization is all about. I'm happy that the government has done the right thing right now."

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Let's get this right

Xinjiang, the huge northwestern province of China, has long been an outlier. The old proverb "shan gao, huangdi yuan," meaning the mountains are high and the emperor is far away is often offered as an explanation of why things far from the capital are not the same as they are in the distant countryside.

The Communist rulers of China reemphasized their efforts to include Xinjiang as part of China and Chinese culture (and politics).

China’s new campaign to instil [sic] official historical narrative in Xinjiang
China’s far western Xinjiang is set to roll out an ideological campaign to instil [sic] the official Communist Party narrative of the region’s history in its officials, religious leaders and the masses.
Xinjiang

Yu Zhengsheng, the party’s fourth-ranking official who is in charge of religion and ethnic minorities, presided at a high-level meeting in Beijing [last] week to address “several historical issues” regarding the restive region, official news agency Xinhua reported.

The two-day meeting… made clear the party’s stance on these issues to address the “long-standing and deep-seated” ideological problems in Xinjiang, according to Xinhua.

“[We should] eliminate the influence of incorrect ideas about Xinjiang’s history, culture, ethnicities, religions and other aspects,” the report quoted Yu as saying. He went on to stress the party’s efforts to win public trust and fight separatism…

Xinjiang, home to some 10 million mostly Muslim Uygurs, has been subject to beefed up security measures and a crackdown on religious activities after ethnic violence that has killed hundreds of people in recent years. But the government seems to have opened up a new front in the fight against what it calls “the rise in extremism and separatism” – an ideological campaign around history.

The Xinhua report did not specify exactly what “historical issues” were discussed at the symposium, but it did list what “stances” had been clarified: that Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of Chinese territory since the ancient dynasties; that various ethnic groups in the region are members of the Chinese nation; that the culture of Xinjiang’s ethnic groups is deeply rooted in, and an indivisible part of, Chinese civilisation; and that Xinjiang is a region where a number of religions exist side by side.

The rhetoric is consistent with the party’s official line that was first summarised in a white paper released in 2003…

The official rhetoric also emphasises the multi-ethnic and multi-religious coexistence of the region’s history, and its historical role as a melting pot and Eurasian meeting point.

Such narratives put forward by the party are “a direct rebuttal to those Uygurs who say Xinjiang has always been the heartland of the Uygurs ... and has always been Islamic”, Michael Clarke [an expert on Xinjiang at the National Security College, Australian National University] said…

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Monday, September 18, 2017

The EU: Maybe if we make things more confusing…

James Kanter, writing in the NYTimes, mentions the reputation problems of the EU when writing about some reform ideas of EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Prominent among critiques of the EU is its "democratic deficit." It's a key to understanding the operation of the EU.

E.U. Leader Suggests Simplifying How the Bloc Is Run
Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, laid out plans on Wednesday to simplify the byzantine governance of the European Union…
Juncker addresses the EU Parliament

The complexity of the European Union is legendary. It has a plethora of institutions and no single leader, leaving many wondering who is in charge…

Mr. Juncker, of Luxembourg, leads the commission, a mass of powerful bureaucrats. Donald Tusk of Poland leads the European Council, which consists of the leaders of the 28 member nations and sets the union’s overall political direction. Antonio Tajani of Italy is president of the European Parliament.

Then there is the Council of the European Union — not to be confused with the European Council — which is made up of ministers and has a six-month rotating presidency.

The structure of the bloc… contributes to what scholars call a “democratic deficit,” the feeling that structures and officials in Brussels are unaccountable to ordinary people…

“The European landscape would be clearer and more understandable if the European ship was steered by one and the same captain at the helm,” [Juncker] said…

Mr. Juncker’s wide-ranging speech touched on these themes:
  • The favorable circumstances and relatively healthy economic growth across much of the bloc…
  • A new European minister for economy and finance…
  • Proposals in finance, intelligence-gathering and cybersecurity…
  • A warning that Britain’s exit from the bloc was “very sad and tragic”…
  • A far tougher line with Turkey…



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Friday, September 15, 2017

21st century cold war

This verges on a topic for international relations more than on comparative government and politics. But it could be an example of the use of soft power. It gives new meaning to the idea of a cold war.

The article is probably too long for student use, but it's good teacher background.

RT, Sputnik and Russia’s New Theory of War
Russia Today
After RT and Sputnik gave platforms to politicians behind the British vote to leave the European Union, like Nigel Farage, a committee of the British Parliament released a report warning that foreign governments may have tried to interfere with the referendum. Russia and China, the report argued, had an “understanding of mass psychology and of how to exploit individuals” and practiced a kind of cyberwarfare “reaching beyond the digital to influence public opinion.”…

But all of this paled in comparison with the role that Russian information networks are suspected to have played in the American presidential election of 2016. In early January… American intelligence officials released a declassified version of a report — prepared jointly by the Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and National Security Agency — titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections.” It detailed what an Obama-era Pentagon intelligence official, Michael Vickers, described in an interview in June with NBC News as “the political equivalent of 9/11.” “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the authors wrote. “Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm her electability and potential presidency.” According to the report, “Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

The intelligence assessment detailed some cloak-and-dagger activities, like the murky web of Russian (if not directly government-affiliated or -financed) hackers who infiltrated voting systems and stole gigabytes’ worth of email and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign. But most of the assessment concerned machinations that were plainly visible to anyone with a cable subscription or an internet connection: the coordinated activities of the TV and online-media properties and social-media accounts that made up, in the report’s words, “Russia’s state-run propaganda machine.”

The assessment devoted nearly half its pages to a single cable network: RT. The Kremlin started RT — shortened from the original Russia Today — a dozen years ago to improve Russia’s image abroad. It operates in several world capitals and is carried on cable and satellite networks across the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East…

Russia has dismissed the intelligence-community claims as so much Cold War-era Yankee hysteria… Russian officials are remarkably open about the aims of RT and Sputnik: to “break the monopoly of the Anglo-Saxon global information streams,”

Dmitri Peskov, Putin’s press secretary… argued that this was not an information war of Russia’s choosing; it was a “counteraction.” He brought up the “color revolutions” throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which led to the ousters of Russian-friendly governments… But now, Peskov argued, all you might need to shake up the geopolitical order was a Twitter account. “Now you can reach hundreds of millions in a minute,” he said…

One way of looking at the activities of Russia’s information machine is as a resumption of the propaganda fight between the United States and the U.S.S.R. that began immediately following the Second World War…

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Roadblock to international judicial cooperation

China's President Xi calls for more judicial cooperation among countries. This is an appropriate place to point out that China (along with Russia, China, and Mexico) uses an inquisitorial judicial system.
Chinese procurator badge
The prosecutor (procurator) investigates cases, makes finding (of guilt or liability) and takes cases to a judge, who declares an appropriate sentence or settlement.

In the adversarial system most familiar to people in the US (and Britain and Nigeria) a prosecutor goes to court to prove the guilt of an accused criminal. The accused is represented by an attorney (in most cases) and tries to disprove the accusation. (In civil cases, parties are both represented by attorneys trying to prove the case they brought to court or to disprove the case brought against their client.)

Iran uses Sharia law which is different from both inquisitorial and adversarial systems.

Can you describe some ways in which cooperation between judicial officials in the different systems would be difficult?


Xi calls for more international judicial cooperation
The Chinese government attaches great importance to advancing the rule of law, and China is willing to have more judicial cooperation with other countries, according to President Xi Jinping.

Xi made the remarks in a letter of congratulation to the 22nd annual conference and general meeting of the International Association of Prosecutors…

"As representatives of the public interest, prosecutors shoulder important responsibilities," Xi said…

Xi stressed the Chinese government attaches great importance to the rule of law and has continuously pushed forward legislation in a scientific way, with strict law-enforcement, judicial justice and law compliance by all citizens.

"China works to ensure the country, the government and society are all under the rule of law," the president said.

Xi said Chinese procuratorates are important players in protecting the national and public interest, as they have the functions of punishing and preventing crime and supervising litigation.

Xi encouraged prosecutors from all around the world to share their experience in protecting the public interest and advancing the rule of law to deepen judicial cooperation.

Teaching Comparative blog entries are indexed. Use the search box to look for country names or concept labels attached to each entry.

Just The Facts! 2nd edition is a concise guide to concepts, terminology, and examples that will appear on May's exam.


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