Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Campaign, but no election

There is no election pending in China. But the campaign is in full swing. And when you have government-run media to broadcast your campaign messages while shutting off competition, you probably have it made. But, there was never any doubt about that.

So why did they ban Winnie the Pooh?

China rolls out TV series eulogising Xi Jinping ahead of key congress
A documentary series extolling President Xi Jinping’s ideas and achievements in pushing for reforms is airing on state-run TV in China as the country’s propaganda apparatus steps up efforts to burnish his image ahead of a key Communist Party congress this autumn.

The 10-episode series, "Carrying Reform through to the End," started airing at 8pm on the state broadcaster CCTV on Monday. The programmes will also be replayed on local TV channels the following day and streamed on online media platforms.

The series debut came after China’s broadcast regulator banned TV stations from airing programmes such as costume dramas during the “major propaganda period” ahead of the party congress…

The party’s 19th national congress, to be held in the last quarter of this year, is expected to see Xi’s political theory written into the party’s constitution as part of its “guiding ideology”. A formal report will also give an official verdict on Xi’s first term in office…

Xi was eulogised in Monday’s programme as a great reformer who inherited and further developed the “opening up and reform” policies of the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping…

Wu Qiang, a former lecturer in politics at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, said the documentary was clearly aimed at strengthening the personal cult around Xi to pave way for the autumn congress…

The documentary is likely to dominate the prime-time TV schedules in the coming weeks, but Chinese TV viewers will find their choice of soap operas and other entertainment programmes increasingly limited in the lead up to the autumn congress.

The country’s broadcast regulator has banned CCTV and provincial TV stations from airing entertainment shows such as costume dramas during the period ahead of the 19th party congress and the 90th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army on August 1.

Stations were told to prioritise the purchase and broadcast of a list of “recommended” propaganda TV shows, most of which portray positive images of the PLA, police, firefighters or other civil servants.

The notice, issued by the television department of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television on June 27, circulating online in early July, triggered strong criticism among internet users, many of whom resorted to sarcasm to vent their anger over the changes.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Winnie (not in China)

This reminds me of the political jokes that used to come out of the Soviet Union — published in mimeographed samizdat and smuggled out from behind the Iron Curtain.

Why China censors banned Winnie the Pooh
The blocking of Winnie the Pooh might seem like a bizarre move by the Chinese authorities but it is part of a struggle to restrict clever bloggers from getting around their country's censorship…

Winnie the Pooh has joined a line of crazy, funny internet references to China's top leaders.

The Chinese name for and images of the plump, cute cartoon character are being blocked on social media sites here because bloggers have been comparing him to China's president.

When Xi Jinping and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe endured one of the more awkward handshakes in history netizens responded with Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore shaking hands…

It is not only that China's censors will not tolerate ridicule of the country's leader, they do not want this beloved children's character becoming a kind of online euphemism for the Communist Party's general secretary.

In other countries such comparisons might be thought of as harmless enough and some might even think that having Winnie as your mascot could even be quite endearing: not in China.

Here the president is "Mr Grey." He doesn't do silly things; he has no quirky elements; he makes no mistakes and that is why he is above the population and unable to be questioned…

Winnie the Pooh has actually fallen foul of the authorities here before. This renewed push against online Pooh is because we are now in the run-up to the Communist Party Congress this autumn.

The meeting takes place every five years and, amongst other things, sees the appointment of the new Politburo Standing Committee: the now seven-member group at the top of the Chinese political system.

Xi Jinping will also be using the Congress, which marks the beginning of his second term in office, to further solidify his grip on power by promoting allies and sidelining those seen as a threat…

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Women without power in China

Under Mao Zedong, especially during the Cultural Revolution, the Communist Party loudly proclaimed gender equality. While some women achieved positions of power, they were rare exceptions. Since the Cultural Revolution, the power positions of women have become more rare.

As China Prepares for New Top Leaders, Women Are Still Shut Out
China’s Communist Party leaders will gather this fall for a closely watched congress to decide who will take the party into its eighth decade of power. Yet for all the speculation about who will emerge at the top of the ruling party, one result seems certain: Few, if any, will be women.

Not once since the Communists came to power in 1949 has a woman sat on the party’s highest body, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee… The 25-member Politburo has just two women…

Despite China’s constitutional commitments to gender equality, discrimination remains widespread, academics and feminists say…

Mandatory early retirement for women doesn’t help. Women must retire up to 10 years earlier than men, on the assumption that they are the primary caregivers for grandchildren and elderly relatives…

[T]he percentage of women among full members of the party’s Central Committee has declined in recent years, from 6.4 percent in 2012 before the last party congress to 4.9 percent today.

The figures signal that China is out of step with global trends. According to U.N. Women, more than twice as many women lead a country today than about a decade ago, though the number is still low at 17…

The road to power, controlled by the Communist Party, is more difficult for women on an even more fundamental level, statistics suggest. Only 25.1 percent of China’s 88 million party members are female, according to the latest figures, from 2015…

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Monday, July 17, 2017

Another tool for autocrats

If China is not a "rule of law" state, it's definitely a "rule of regulations" state. What's the difference?

CPC issues revised regulation on inspection to strengthen Party supervision
The Communist Party of China (CPC) Friday issued a revised regulation on inspection, in a renewed effort to improve supervision and governance of its more than 89 million members…

The revised rules clearly stipulate that "political inspection should be deepened, and inspections should mainly focus on upholding the Party leadership, improving Party building, and advancing comprehensive and strict rule of the Party."

The inspections should staunchly safeguard the authority and the centralized, unified leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as the core, and ensure the CPC is always the firm and core leadership of the socialist cause with Chinese characteristics, it said…

The regulation made public Friday also stipulates that Party committees at both the central and provincial levels should conduct inspections on Party organizations of all localities, departments, public institutions and enterprises under their jurisdiction.

In addition, Party committees at the municipal and county levels are also required to establish special agencies to conduct inspections…

Such internal supervision has proven effective in exposing problems.

According to the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, more than 50 percent of investigations into centrally-administered officials were as a result of information found by discipline inspectors…

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

The politics of law enforcement

We can only wonder about the connection between the alleged crime and the electoral politics in Iran.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's brother detained
The brother of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Hossein Ferydoun, has been detained, a judiciary spokesman says…

He [Ferydoun] has been linked to officials at the centre of a scandal involving inflated salaries for managers at the state insurance company. He has always denied any wrongdoing.

The saga has dogged President Rouhani for more than a year.

The judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejeie, said:… "Yesterday, bail was issued for him but because he failed to secure it he was referred to prison."…

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Threatened journalists and information

Information and a free press are usually seen as vital to the existence of a free state. What happens if the press is discredited or if journalists are killed off? Is controlling the press necessary for an authoritarian system?

Is this a case of limited state capacity? Or is the state actively suppressing journalism? Maybe the title question should be "Does Mexico want to save its journalists?"

Can Mexico save its journalists?
Journalists are being murdered in Mexico and this is nothing new. This is one of the most dangerous countries for reporters, rights groups say, and more die here than in any other nation at peace.

But even for a place so used to drugs-related violence and organised crime, the recent bloodshed has been shocking.

Seven journalists have been killed in the country so far this year, most shot by gunmen in broad daylight. Yet virtually all cases of attacks on the press end up unsolved and, in many, corrupt officials are suspected of partnering with criminals…

Since 2000, at least 106 journalists have been killed across Mexico, according to rights group Article 19. Exact numbers are hard to come by as investigations often get nowhere and different studies apply different criteria in counting the dead…

In 2010, pressure from campaigners led to the creation of a special office of the federal prosecutor for crimes against freedom of expression, known as the Feadle, which investigates attacks on journalists.

But the authorities have often ruled that the victims themselves are not journalists or that the incidents have no connection to their work, according to critics.

Like last month. When the charred remains of Salvador Adame, the head of a TV station in the western state of Michoacán, were found, state prosecutors said that the case had to do with personal disputes, possibly a love affair, angering relatives and campaigners…

[Journalist Ismael Bolorquez said,] "The [Feadle] doesn't have resources or teams to investigate. Our system of protection of journalists doesn't work... The government's policies to protect us are a failure."

The result is that journalism itself has become a victim. "Investigative journalism in many places in Mexico is just impossible to be exercised," said Carlos Luria, CPJ's senior programme co-ordinator for the Americas.

"There are no guarantees, no condition, no protection, there is an absence of the state. This is decimating journalism in Mexico."…

Ana Cristina Ruelas, Article 19's director for Mexico and Central America [asserted that]… Corruption is rife in Mexico, and rogue police and politicians were the suspects in more than half of the incidents against the media in the last six years… And most cases were never looked into.

"The state doesn't investigate itself. There is a direct link between the level of impunity and corruption," Ms Ruelas said. "This impunity allows the aggressors to continue attacking the press in broad daylight."…

Distrust grew even further last month, after the New York Times accused the Mexican government of spying on several top journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders by hacking their phones with spyware meant to be used against criminals and terrorists - a claim the Mexican presidency denied.
No silence

"It's very hard to connect the words of the presidency with actions because until now we haven't found a clear reflection of these words in actions that provide results," said Ms Ruelas, from Article 19.

Reporters, however, say the latest killings prove that their work is more urgent than ever: "No to silence".

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hukou reform

Urbanization means there are many rural migrants to cities. However, China's hukou system makes life difficult for the migrants.

The household registration system (hukou) determines where children go to school, where families receive medical care, and where people can take advantage of most government services. The registrations are not transferable. If your family is registered in rural Shandong, you'll not be eligible for any services if you move to Beijing.

This puts a break on recruiting workers who are needed in urban areas and great hardships on those who migrate.

Is the Vice-Premier a high enough official to prompt reforms?

Vice Premier calls for accelerating household registration reform
Zhang Gaoli
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli Friday urged increased efforts to meet urbanization reform targets while speeding up household registration system reform.

Zhang, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, made the remarks when addressing a teleconference on the reform of the national household registration system…

Zhang stressed the target of increasing the ratio of registered urban residents to 45 percent of the total population by 2020. The ratio was 35.9 percent at the end of 2014…

He also called for reforming accompanying policies of urbanization and providing newly-settled urban residents with better public services.

The household registration system, which has divided the nation into rural and urban populations since the 1950s, provides access to education, health care and other public services.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July 12: Net Neutrality Day

Net neutrality makes it possible for tiny, non-profit blogs like this one to survive. Without net neutrality, internet providers like Comcast and Verizon could charge fees to keep blogs like this from competing with better paying customers. Sign on to let the FCC know what you think of the new chairman's idea to end net neutrality.

This is a battle for the future of the internet

Comcast, Verizon and AT&T want to end net neutrality so they can charge extra fees to control what we see & do online. On July 12, we take the first step to stop them. This is a battle for the Internet's future. Before you do anything else, send a letter to the FCC and Congress now!


States within the state

How powerful are the states (in Mexico's case, narco gangs) within the state?

Mexico violence: 28 dead in prison fight in Acapulco
A fight between rival gangs in a prison in south-western Mexico has left at least 28 inmates dead, officials say.

The pre-dawn fight broke out in the maximum security wing of Las Cruces prison in the city of Acapulco…

Acapulco is the largest city in Guerrero state, one of Mexico's most violent areas and a big centre for drug production…

"The incident was triggered by a permanent feud between rival groups within the prison," [Roberto Álvarez, a state security spokesman] said…

This is the latest in a series of violent incidents across Mexico this year. May was the deadliest month in the country since 1997, when official statistics began, with 2,186 homicides.

From December 2006 until May this year, there were 188,567 murders, according to government records.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

External civil society and politics

Civil society is an important feature of any political system. Why does it seem that many nations are resisting foreign aid funneled through civil society organizations?

The authors are political scientists at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway) and the University of Minnesota.

Across the globe, governments are cracking down on civic organizations. This is why.
Why are some governments cracking down on civil society or nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)? By our count, 39 of the world’s 153 low- and middle-income countries enacted restrictive funding laws between 1993 and 2012, targeting NGOs operating in-country with foreign funding…

In many cases, governments hope to delegitimize NGOs by “naming and shaming” these groups as foreign agents backed by foreign funds…

Our research suggests that NGOs need to generate resources from the communities they serve. This will make them accountable to these communities and enhance their legitimacy. In turn, this resource exchange will incentivize local communities to step up and protect the civic sector from governmental interference…

One reason for the spread of civil society was the way donors chose to deliver foreign aid to developing countries. Frustrated by the perceived ineffectiveness of foreign aid to foster economic development abroad, donors have funneled development aid to NGOs, viewing them as more honest, accountable and responsive to the public’s needs than governments…

Governments love foreign aid when it pays for scarce services, but prefer, whenever possible, to keep it flowing through their own bureaucracies…

[T]rouble seems to start when these groups embrace a “rights-based approach” arguing that citizens have a basic “right” to transparent, accountable and adequate public services. When governments will not, or cannot, respond, they become a target for NGO critiques.

Over time, NGO criticisms can make it appear — in government officials’ eyes — that they have sided with the political opposition. At the very least, NGO reports and news conferences may provide a focal point for anti-government rhetoric and mobilization, especially in major cities and in strategic international arenas.

And so governments respond by playing the nationalism card, highlighting the “foreign agent” aspect of these NGOs’ budgets…

Governments know that crackdowns may cost them internationally, but they are often willing to run the risk of censure or criticism. Their bigger fear, however, is widespread domestic protest…

To avoid a politically unfortunate “NGOization” of civil society, domestic groups must raise more local funds. Although difficult, raising money for local NGOs is not impossible — research shows that people in developing countries already contribute to charity, especially religious charities.

The challenge now is to motivate support for locally based, human rights-oriented civic actors. If international donors truly want to help develop civil society groups, a good place to start might be an effort to broaden their fundraising activities on the local level.

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Monday, July 10, 2017

The never-ending campaign

It might seem that political campaigning never ends in the USA. Vladimir Putin seems to be on a never-ending campaign himself.

Putin made a lot of promises to Russians on his call-in TV show. Now, he’s delivering
It was Russian President Vladi­mir Putin. In the flesh. Standing in front of the dilapidated wooden barracks where Anastasia Votintseva shares a single room with her sister and three children.

The Russian leader had come on Votintseva’s birthday, bearing flowers, gifts and good news. Soon, she and her family would have a new home. But first, they were going on a seaside vacation, courtesy of the Kremlin!

If that sounds like a fairy tale about a benevolent czar, it’s supposed to. Putin was delivering on a promise he had made June 15, when Votintseva was one of about 70 lucky Russians whose appeals he took during his annual televised call-in show.

The event, called “Direct Line,” is carefully staged to show that Russia’s head of state, who probably will seek a new six-year term next March, understands his people — and can solve their problems — better than ­anyone…

[A]s television cameras rolled outside Votintseva’s home 750 miles east of Moscow, Putin uttered clipped orders to the acting local governor… to move her family and 11 others to new housing by the end of the year. Then he kissed her, and handed her a huge bouquet of roses and a certificate for a free trip for five to Sochi, Russia’s Black Sea resort…

The important part of this display is not just the delivery of the goods; it’s the way that Putin projects his authority “by dropping responsibility on the irresponsible elite,” as the veteran Russian political analyst Lilia Shevtsova put it in a recent blog…

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Friday, July 07, 2017

National pride at satellite launch

It might not sound like a big deal to countries that have inhabited space stations orbiting the earth, but the announcement of the Nigerian Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA)'s first satellite was the most popular topic in Friday's Nigerian press.

Edusat-1 Satellite Goes Into Orbit Today
The federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) has said that… the Nigerian CubeSat, code-named Nigeria Edusat-1, would be released from the International Space Station 1SS KIBO (Japan Cubicle) into the orbit today…

The Nigerian CubeSat is designed, built and owned by FUTA in collaboration with National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Abuja and Kyushu Institute of Technology Japan…

[Mr. Adebanjo Adegbenro, head of the university's Information Unit] said that with the deployment, the satellites would go round the earth taking images and other critical data, which could be viewed and analysed at the ground stations one of which would be based at the FUTA…

Mr. Ibukun Adebolu from FUTA's Department of Mechanical Engineering… stated… "First, we aim to take low and high resolution pictures of each home country of the participating members of the constellation. Each satellite is equipped with a 0.3 megapixel camera as well as a 5 megapixel camera.

"We hope to capture distinct features of each target country, including borderline images, major rivers etc. The second mission on board each satellite is aimed at space education and outreach. Popular songs and poems are converted into digital format and uplinked to the satellite.

"The satellite stores the uplink file, re-assembles it through an onboard digi-singer synthesiser and retransmits the file as an audio file that can be received on ground by amateur radio operators."

Adebolu noted that the "mission is aimed at promoting interest in satellite technology and space careers among children and youths, who can participate by coding the songs to be re-transmitted during major outreach events…

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Safe computing

It's important to remember basic things for safe computing (e.g. not publishing your e-mail address) even when reading a blog like this one.

Here's one reason.  When I look up where blog readers are located, I find this:



Do you suppose there are that many AP teachers or students in Russia or Turkey? I don't. Those are hackers or their 'bots searching for weaknesses in the system. In more than 10 years, we've only been hacked once (that I know of), and luckily it wasn't serious.

To quote a line from a great old TV show, "Be careful out there."

Legitimacy hurt by absences?

One of the major criticisms of the EU is its "democratic deficit." The legislature of the EU has many structural problems and an attendance problem.

EU's Juncker calls empty European Parliament 'ridiculous'
Juncker
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has launched a bitter attack on members of the European Parliament for failing to show up.

Standing up in almost empty chamber in Strasbourg, he denounced the body as "ridiculous, totally ridiculous".

Estimating the number of MEPs present at about 30, he said it proved that the parliament was "not serious".

Parliament President Antonio Tajani reacted furiously, accusing him of a lack of respect…

It was one of the most acrimonious public rows between top EU officials in recent years.

It is rare for the head of one European institution to take such a public swipe at the legitimacy of another…

In total, the parliament has 751 deputies…

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

"Important" information

Directly from the Communist Party of China: the things you should know. These questions remind me of the question asked on the test given to people who want to become citizens of the USA. Do you think you'd see any of these questions on an AP exam?

Backgrounder: Five things you need to know about CPC
As the Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrates its 96th anniversary… we have selected five things you need to know about the largest political party in the world.

How has the CPC become the largest political party in the world?

When it was established in 1921, the CPC had around 50 members... in 2016, the Party had 89.447 million members…

How are the Party members managed?

CPC members are grouped into more than 4.5 million Party branches and each branch has 20 members, on average…

Almost all urban neighborhoods, communities and towns have Party branches. In the workplace, about 91.3 percent of public enterprises have resident Party branches, which supervise day-to-day operations and play a part in decision-making. Party branches are also present in 67.9 percent of private enterprises and 58.9 percent of social organizations…

What is the symbol of the Party?

According to the CPC Constitution amended and adopted in 2007, the Party emblem and flag are the symbol and sign of the Communist Party of China…

What are the strategic objectives of the Party?

The first goal is about making China a moderately prosperous society… The second goal is to bring China's GDP per capita up to the level of moderately developed countries…

What role does the Party play in economic entities?

In a state-owned or collective enterprise, the primary Party organization acts as the political nucleus and works for the operation of the enterprise…

In a non-public economic institution, the primary Party organization carries out the Party's principles and policies, provides guidance to and oversees the enterprise in observing the laws and regulations of the state…

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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Just what was expected

Chinese President Xi, given his emphasis on unity and obedience, said exactly what everyone expected during Hong Kong's "celebration" of 20 years under Chinese control.

Xi Delivers Tough Speech on Hong Kong, as Protests Mark Handover Anniversary
President Xi Jinping of China delivered a tough speech Saturday at the end of a three-day visit to the semiautonomous Chinese city of Hong Kong, warning against politicizing disputes or challenging the authority of the central government…
Site of Xi's speech
His praised the city for its success as a prosperous global hub of trade and finance, but he also warned against resistance to Beijing’s control and influence, which has bubbled here for years…

He cautioned that “making everything political or deliberately creating differences” will “severely hinder Hong Kong’s economic and social development.”…

Mr. Xi said the key to Hong Kong’s success was the “one country, two systems” formulation, under which Hong Kong maintains its own legal, economic and local political system. But many in the city worry that the system is eroding under growing pressure from mainland China…

Hong Kong residents march to defend freedom as China’s president draws a ‘red line’
Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents marched through the streets in defense of their cherished freedoms Saturday, in the face of what many see as a growing threat from mainland China exactly two decades after the handover from British rule...

“He’s threatening Hong Kong’s people, saying he has the power to make us do what he wants,” said Anson Woo, a 19-year-old student. “But I still have hope. Seeing all the people around me today, the people of Hong Kong are still fighting for what we value.”...

A poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong showed people here attach greater importance to judicial independence and freedom of the press than to economic development. Any notion that Hong Kong as a city is only about making money is clearly not accurate...


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