- This new Southern gothic film looks good Yohana Desta, Vanity Fair
- Could giving kids a pill boost their income years later? Nurith Aizenman, Goats and Soda
- The last communist to challenge Stalin to his face Pietro Basso (interview), Jacobin
- Some new insights into the Hong Kong clampdown Helen Davidson, Guardian
In the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the increasingly belligerent behaviour exhibited by China in South Asia and South East Asia, and China’s imposition of the National Security Law in Hong Kong, it is interesting to see the tone of the English language media on China.
Yet a genuinely comprehensive peek into the Chinese view on crucial political, economic, and geopolitical issues requires a perusal of the Chinese language papers. This is imperative. The Global Times, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, is important because it covers the views of Chinese academics and strategic analysts who, through their opinion pieces, provide a deep insight into China’s approach towards those aforementioned crucial issues.
From the opinion pieces at the Global Times over the past few months, one thing is evident: that with the US becoming increasingly unpredictable under Trump, China is virtually invincible. There is a growing belief that Beijing is formidable both in the economic and strategic context. Strategic analysts and journalists writing for the English language daily have also tried to drive home the point that Beijing is in a position to take on the US and its allies, and that any attempt to isolate China would not be taken lying down.
Other articles in the Global Times warn against anti-China alliances, and explain why these alliances will not be possible due to the fault lines between the US and other countries. It has also not refrained from using strong language against countries like Australia and Canada by insinuating that they are acting as mere appendages of the US.
Aggressive stance vis-à-vis countries which blamed China for lack of transparency with regard to the outbreak of the pandemic
Beijing has been scathing in its criticism not only of the US, which took a firm stand against China in regards to the suppression of crucial information pertaining to the pandemic, but also Australia, which had the temerity to ask for an enquiry into the origins of the deadly pandemic. The Global Times lashed out and labelled Australia as a mere appendage of the US, even dubbing it a ‘poodle’ and ‘dog of the US’.
It has also warned other countries, especially Australia, of the economic consequences of taking on Beijing. An article titled ‘Australia’s economy cannot withstand Cold War with China’, written by Wang Jiamei, concludes by saying:
‘…..If a new Cold War leads to a China-Australia showdown, Australia will pay an unbearable price. Given Australia’s high dependence on the Chinese economy, an all-around confrontation will have a catastrophic effect on the Australian economy’
China has followed this harsh rhetoric with sanctions on imports of certain Australian commodities, like barley, and suspended the import of beef. China has also issued warnings to students and tourists that ask them to reconsider travelling to Australia.
This was done days after China’s envoy in Australia, Cheng Jingye, in an interview to an Australian media outlet, had warned of strong economic repercussions (the envoy was referring not just to the impact on Australia-China trade, but on Chinese students pursuing education in Australia and tourists visiting Australia) if Australia continued to adopt a strong stance against China on the issue of an enquiry into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic (Australia reacted very strongly to this threat).
Beijing unsettled by emerging alliances?
One interesting point is that while commentaries and reportage in the Global Times try to send out the message that China’s rise is inexorable and that Beijing is not daunted by emerging alliances and emerging narratives of reducing economic dependence upon China, it seems to be wary of partnerships and alliances which seek to challenge it. The newspaper repeatedly warns India, the UK, Australia, and various EU member states about the perils of strengthening ties with the US. Even in the midst of recent tensions between India and China, Global Times tried to argue that India would never openly ally with the US and if it did so, this would be damaging. An article in the Global Times states:
It won’t be in the interest of India, if it really joins the Five Eye intelligence alliance. The role of a little brother of the US within a certain alliance is not what India really wants.
The article also tries to dissect differences between the US and India over a number of issues, which are not wrong, but the piece forgets that the two countries do not have differences over strategic and economic issues.
Strong language against Canada
It is not just the US, Japan, Australia, EU member states, and India that the English-language daily has recently threatened. The Global Times has also adopted an aggressive posture vis-à-vis Canada. One article, titled ‘China-Canada ties wane further as Ottawa becomes Washington’s puppet over HK’, suggests that Justin Trudeau was in the ‘pole position in the circle of bootlickers pleasing the US’ and castigates him for the measures he has taken after China tightened its control over Hong Kong via the imposition of National Security Law. Steps taken by Trudeau include suspension of the extradition treaty with Hong Kong and a decision to end the export of sensitive military items to the region.
Cracks in the bilateral relationship had begun to emerge between Canada and China after Canada detained the CFO of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, on a US extradition warrant (at the end of May, a Canadian court had ruled that Wanzhou could be extradited to the US, much to the chagrin of the Chinese), while Beijing in return has detained two Canadians, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavlor (both were charged with espionage in June 2020). It would be pertinent to point out that Beijing has signaled its displeasure with Canada by reducing imports of Canadian products like pork and canola oil.
While Beijing itself is becoming more aggressive and belligerent, it cannot expect other countries to stick to their earlier position on crucial strategic issues. It is somewhat unfair to assume that the Global Times, the mouthpiece for China’s Communist Party, can cover the fact that China is on the defensive. Other countries are now finding common ground in the strategic and economic sphere. While the results may not come overnight, partnerships are likely to concretize and gather momentum, because Beijing seems in no mood to give up on its hegemonic mindset and patronizing approach. Yet, other countries and regional blocs also need to have a clear vision to counter China and divergences over minor issues will not help. It is true that a zero-sum approach vis-à-vis China is not beneficial, but for that to happen Beijing too needs to act responsibly, which seems doubtful given its behavior on a number of issues.
It’s been a heck of a year. Thanks for plugging along with Notes On Liberty. Like the world around me, NOL keeps getting better and better. Traffic in 2019 came from all over the place, but the usual suspects didn’t disappoint: the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, India, and Australia (in that order) supplied the most readers, again.
As far as most popular posts, I’ll list the top 10 below, but such a list doesn’t do justice to NOL and the Notewriters’ contribution to the Great Conversation, nor will the list reflect the fact that some of NOL‘s classic pieces from years ago were also popular again.
Nick’s “One weird old tax could slash wealth inequality (NIMBYs, don’t click!)” was in the top ten for most of this year, and his posts on John Rawls, The Joker film, Dominic Cummings, and the UK’s pornographer & puritan coalition are all worth reading again (and again). The Financial Times, RealClearPolicy, 3 Quarks Daily, and RealClearWorld all featured Nick’s stuff throughout 2019.
Joakim had a banner year at NOL, and four of his posts made the top 10. He got love from the left, right, and everything in between this year. “Elite Anxiety: Paul Collier’s ‘Future of Capitalism’” (#9), “In Defense of Not Having a Clue” (#8), and “You’re Not Worth My Time” (#7) all caused havoc on the internet and in coffee shops around the world. Joakim’s piece on Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice (#2) broke – no shattered – NOL‘s records. Aside from shattering NOL‘s records, Joakim also had excellent stuff on financial history, Richard Davies, and Nassim Taleb. He is also beginning to bud as a cultural commentator, too, as you can probably tell from his sporadic notes on opinions. Joakim wants a more rational, more internationalist, and more skeptical world to live in. He’s doing everything he can to make that happen. And don’t forget this one: “Economists, Economic History, and Theory.”
Tridivesh had an excellent third year at NOL. His most popular piece was “Italy and the Belt and Road Initiative,” and most of his other notes have been featured on RealClearWorld‘s front page. Tridivesh has also been working with me behind the scenes to unveil a new feature at NOL in 2020, and I couldn’t be more humbled about working with him.
Bill had a slower year here at NOL, as he’s been working in the real world, but he still managed to put out some bangers. “Epistemological anarchism to anarchism” kicked off a Feyerabendian buzz at NOL, and he put together well-argued pieces on psychedelics, abortion, and the alt-right. His short 2017 note on left-libertarianism has quietly become a NOL classic.
Mary had a phenomenal year at NOL, which was capped off with some love from RealClearPolicy for her “Contempt for Capitalism” piece. She kicked off the year with a sharp piece on semiotics in national dialogue, before then producing a four-part essay on bourgeois culture. Mary also savaged privileged hypocrisy and took a cultural tour through the early 20th century. Oh, and she did all this while doing doctoral work at Oxford. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with in 2020.
Aris’ debut year at NOL was phenomenal. Reread “Rawls, Antigone and the tragic irony of norms” and you’ll know what I’m talking about. I am looking forward to Dr Trantidis’ first full year at NOL in 2020.
Rick continues to be my favorite blogger. His pieces on pollution taxes (here and here) stirred up the libertarian faithful, and he is at his Niskanenian best on bullshit jobs and property rights. His notes on Paul Feyerabend, which I hope he’ll continue throughout 2020, were the centerpiece of NOL‘s spontaneity this year.
Vincent only had two posts at NOL in 2019, but boy were they good: “Interwar US inequality data are deeply flawed” and “Not all GDP measurement errors are greater than zero!” Dr Geloso focused most of his time on publishing academic work.
Alexander instituted the “Sunday Poetry” series at NOL this year and I couldn’t be happier about it. I look forward to reading NOL every day, but especially on Sundays now thanks to his new series. Alex also put out the popular essay “Libertarianism and Neoliberalism – A difference that matters?” (#10), which I suspect will one day grow to be a classic. That wasn’t all. Alex was the author of a number of my personal faves at NOL this year, including pieces about the Austro-Hungarian Empire, constructivism in international relations (part 1 and part 2), and some of the more difficult challenges facing diplomacy today.
Edwin ground out a number of posts in 2019 and, true to character, they challenged orthodoxy and widely-held (by libertarians) opinions. He said “no” to military intervention in Venezuela, though not for the reasons you may think, and that free immigration cannot be classified as a right under classical liberalism. He also poured cold water on Hong Kong’s protests and recommended some good reads on various topics (namely, Robert Nozick and The Troubles). Edwin has several essays on liberalism at NOL that are now bona fide classics.
Federico produced a number of longform essays this year, including “Institutions, Machines, and Complex Orders” and “Three Lessons on Institutions and Incentives” (the latter went on to be featured in the Financial Times and led to at least one formal talk on the subject in Buenos Aires). He also contributed to NOL‘s longstanding position as a bulwark against libertarian dogma with “There is no such thing as a sunk cost fallacy.”
Jacques had a number of hits this year, including “Poverty Under Democratic Socialism” and “Mass shootings in perspective.” His notes on the problems with higher education, aka the university system, also garnered plenty of eyeballs.
Michelangelo, Lode, Zak, and Shree were all working on their PhDs this year, so we didn’t hear from them much, if at all. Hopefully, 2020 will give them a bit more freedom to expand their thoughts. Lucas was not able to contribute anything this year either, but I am confident that 2020 will be the year he reenters the public fray.
Mark spent the year promoting his new book (co-authored by Noel Johnson) Persecution & Toleration. Out of this work arose one of the more popular posts at NOL earlier in the year: “The Institutional Foundations of Antisemitism.” Hopefully Mark will have a little less on his plate in 2020, so he can hang out at NOL more often.
Derrill’s “Romance Econometrics” generated buzz in the left-wing econ blogosphere, and his “Watson my mind today” series began to take flight in 2019. Dr Watson is a true teacher, and I am hoping 2020 is the year he can start dedicating more time to the NOL project, first with his “Watson my mind today” series and second with more insights into thinking like an economist.
Kevin’s “Hyperinflation and trust in ancient Rome” (#6) took the internet by storm, and his 2017 posts on paradoxical geniuses and the deleted slavery clause in the US constitution both received renewed and much deserved interest. But it was his “The Myth of the Nazi War Machine” (#1) that catapulted NOL into its best year yet. I have no idea what Kevin will write about in 2020, but I do know that it’ll be great stuff.
Bruno, one of NOL’s most consistent bloggers and one of its two representatives from Brazil, did not disappoint. His “Liberalism in International Relations” did exceptionally well, as did his post on the differences between conservatives, liberals, and libertarians. Bruno also pitched in on Brazilian politics and Christianity as a global and political phenomenon. His postmodernism posts from years past continue to do well.
Andrei, after several years of gentle prodding, finally got on the board at NOL and his thoughts on Foucault and his libertarian temptation late in life (#5) did much better than predicted. I am hoping to get him more involved in 2020. You can do your part by engaging him in the ‘comments’ threads.
Chhay Lin kept us all abreast of the situation in Hong Kong this year. Ash honed in on housing economics, Barry chimed in on EU elections, and Adrián teased us all in January with his “Selective Moral Argumentation.” Hopefully these four can find a way to fire on all cylinders at NOL in 2020, because they have a lot of cool stuff on their minds (including, but not limited to, bitcoin, language, elections in dictatorships, literature, and YIMBYism).
Ethan crushed it this year, with most of his posts ending up on the front page of RealClearPolicy. More importantly, though, was his commitment to the Tocquevillian idea that lawyers are responsible for education in democratic societies. For that, I am grateful, and I hope he can continue the pace he set during the first half of the year. His most popular piece, by the way, was “Spaghetti Monsters and Free Exercise.” Read it again!
I had a good year here, too. My pieces on federation (#3) and American literature (#4) did waaaaaay better than expected, and my nightcaps continue to pick up readers and push the conversation. I launched the “Be Our Guest” feature here at NOL, too, and it has been a mild success.
Thank you, readers, for a great 2019 and I hope you stick around for what’s in store during 2020. It might be good, it might be bad, and it might be ugly, but isn’t that what spontaneous thoughts on a humble creed are all about? Keep leaving comments, too. The conversation can’t move (forward or backward) without your voice.
Today is a big day for Hong Kong, as the people are voting for their district representatives. Never before has there been such a high voter turnout: 71.2%. I haven’t found any English website that allows you to follow the results live, so here is a Chinese website: https://dce2019.thestandnews.com/
Yellow is the pro-democracy camp and red is the pro-establishment (pro-Beijing) camp. As of this writing, some results have come in already and the pro-democracy camp is far ahead having occupied more than 90% of the seats (45 against 4).
This is the first stage of the 2019-2020 election cycle. The election will fill 452 seats on Hong Kong’s 18 District Councils. Next year, there will be elections for the territory-wide Legislative Council.
//Those who remain seem determined to fight to the end, no matter the risk.//
//“Everyone is exhausted and [when] someone wants to leave, they can’t. There are even kids that are 11, 12 years old,” said a social worker trapped in the campus//
//“Those people on the front, they are putting their lives on the line to fight for what they believe … they are doing it for all of us.” – Calvin See, 27//
《The New York Times》
//“They were all in good spirits,” he said. “They were not being deterred. They were ready to be arrested. They said, ‘We stand for freedom, dignity, democracy, human rights.’ They said they were staying.” – The pastor, William Devlin//
//“Carrie Lam’s murderous regime has resorted to brutality, which makes Hong Kong become a state of savage existence and astonishes the international communities,” he said in a statement early Monday.//
//“We’re fighting for our rights: we’re fighting for freedom of expression,” said a woman aged 25 who identified herself only as Mary-Jane. //
//”The Hong Kong government has all along decided to treat this as a law-and-order matter and has had no willingness to negotiate or talk or listen in any serious way to the demands of the protesters. At the end of the day, there has to be some kind of political solution,” Roderic Wye told Al Jazeera.//
//”If we don’t come out, no one will come out and protect our freedoms. Polytechnic University is my home,” – A 23-year-old protester and Polytechnic University alumnus//
- The Big Lie about corporate power is disintegrating in front of our eyes Monkey Cage
- How close is Hong Kong to a second Tiananmen? Jude Blanchette, Foreign Policy
- Preaching the American Gospel Glenn Moots, Law & Liberty
- Aging, death, and the law Joona Räsänen, Aeon
The Hong Kong protests are sometimes called “open-source protests”, “decentralized protests” or “water revolution” due to its leaderless and organic nature. It’s a great example of how order can emerge within a decentralized social organization.
The protests may seem chaotic, but if one looks closer one can easily identify the diversity of roles that protesters and different communication tools are playing – making up an harmonious order. Below, you can find the different groups and tools within the movement that I have been able to identify.
|Communication channels||LIHKG, Reddit, Twitter, Telegram, Facebook and more… Communication channels with high encryption standards and servers outside of Hong Kong are preferred as to maintain more privacy and to make it harder for the HK government to close down the servers or seize account information of protesters|
|Protest songs||Glory to Hong Kong, We Will Fight for Hong Kong, Sing Hallelujah to the Lord, Do you hear the People sing, Below the Lion Rock, Boundless Oceans Vast Skies, Raise the Umbrellas, Add Oil etc…|
|Teargas ‘fire fighters’||Fire fighters whose main role in the protests is to extinguish the police’s tear gas|
|Dunkirk moment||When the police shut down the Hong Kong metro system (MTR) after the protests at the HK Airport, most protesters either had to walk home or take the buses back to Hong Kong central. As buses were checked by the police to find, and in many cases arrest, the protesters, some sympathizers of the protests took their cars to HK Airport and give them a ride home|
|Pro-HK pr||Artists mobilize themselves in Telegram groups – some are as large as containing 200+ artists – to create art and other pr material to support the protests|
|Suppliers and first-aid people||Suppliers donate anonymous travel cards, cash, clothes, vouchers, temporary housing etc… The first-aid people give medical care to those injured in the protests. They carry around first-aid kits|
|Protect the Children group||Elderly that come between the police and young protesters during confrontations to give the youngsters time to flee|
In this post, I’d like to share some protest songs that have emerged in the past few months. Some songs were specifically created during the protests, while others are older songs that have been adopted to emphasize the spirit of the movement.
Compilation of several Protest Songs
Glory to Hong Kong
We will fight for Hong Kong
Do you hear the People sing
Boundless Oceans vast Skies
Fly with You (和你飛)
High Wall and Egg (牆與雞蛋)
This song is based on the following quotation from Haruki Murakami’s Jerusalem Prize acceptance speech in 2009:
If there is a hard, high wall and an egg that breaks against it, no matter how right the wall or how wrong the egg, I will stand on the side of the egg. Why? Because each of us is an egg, a unique soul enclosed in a fragile egg. Each of us is confronting a high wall. The high wall is the system which forces us to do the things we would not ordinarily see fit to do as individuals… We are all human beings, individuals, fragile eggs. We have no hope against the wall: it’s too high, too dark, too cold. To fight the wall, we must join our souls together for warmth, strength. We must not let the system control us – create who we are. It is we who created the system.
No Withdrawal, No Surrender, No Retreat (不撤∙不散∙亦不退)
Welcome to the Black Parade
I’ve been following the Hong Kong protests very closely since it started. Watching the live videos of the protests gives you a better impression of what Hong Kong is really like at the moment.
In this post, I’d like to share a link where you can view live videos of on the spot journalists:
The chief executive of Hong Kong has passed the anti-mask law today, further escalating Hong Kongers’ anger. Large groups of protesters in Hong Kong have now declared the establishment of a provisional government of Hong Kong in several neighborhoods.
The main premise of the declaration is that when a government does not represent the people anymore, the people have the right to establish their own government. The English version of the full declaration is as follows:
In the development of human civilisation it is inevitable for a dysfunctional institution to be abolished and replaced by a better one. This is how progress is made. If a government is not of the people, by the people, for the people, then it is inevitable that the people will establish a government of the people. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has proved itself to be not of the people, by the people, for the people. We hereby declare the establishment of the Provisional Government of Hong Kong.
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ We have always identified with this inviolable principle of truth. The government and the legislature are established by the people to ensure that their rights will be protected against encroachment. All the powers of the government are derived from the people. If a government violates this principle, then the people have an absolute right to abolish it and establish a new one.
The HKSAR government, which is controlled by the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party, has turned a blind eye to the demands of the people, deprived the people of their rights, failed to enact laws safeguarding the wellbeing of the people, and taken away the freedoms of the people. Today, against the wishes of the majority of the people, the HKSAR government bypassed the Legislative Council and enacted the Anti-Mask Law in a deliberate attempt to deny people the right of assembly. We believe that the HKSAR government has lost its legitimacy as well as the authorisation from the people. We thereby declare the immediate abolition of the powers of the Chief Executive and the principal officials of the HKSAR government.
The Provisional Government of Hong Kong declares:
- The departments of the HKSAR government from now on shall be placed under the authority of the Hong Kong Provisional Government;
- The chief executive, the chief secretary, the directors and deputy directors of the bureaus, the heads and deputy heads of the departments shall leave office and the new post holders shall be appointed by the Provisional Government;
- All departments shall immediately cease all the new policies promulgated by the HKSAR Government since 2018, and personnel at all levels of personnel shall retain office and maintain the operation of necessary services of the departments until further notice;
- The Provisional Government’s term ends in five years or until the formation of a government under a chief executive nominated and elected by universal suffrage (whichever is sooner); the Provisional Government shall prepare for the election within one year of its establishment and complete the election within three years;
- The chief executive and the appointed officials of the Provisional Government shall not be eligible for appointment as officials of the government or public organisations once they leave office;
- The provisions of the Laws of Hong Kong shall remain in force until new laws are enacted by the Hong Kong Provisional Government;
- The Legislative Council shall be dissolved and the Provisional Legislative Council shall be elected within three months and the Legislative Council shall be elected within one year; there shall be 70 seats in the Provisional Legislative Council: 12 seats each for Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon West constituencies, 10 seats for East Kowloon East, and 18 seats each for the New Territories West and New Territories East.