The Rise of China and the Decline of the U.S. Army

June 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Professor John Mearsheimer’s keynote address at the 2013 Army War College Strategy Conference.

Archaeology of Revolutionary Knowledge

February 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

My review of Pankaj Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire which first appeared in Guernica.

As tsar Alexander III sat down for an evening’s entertainment at the St. Petersburg opera house in late 1887, he little knew that the performance would soon be upstaged by one much more dramatic. Shortly after the curtains rose, a slender, goateed man with azure eyes, dressed in robe and turban, got up from a box nearby and proclaimed loudly: “I intend to say the evening prayer—Allah-u-Akbar!” The audience sat bemused and soldiers waited impatiently as the man proceeded, unperturbed, with his evening prayers. His sole companion, the Russian-born intellectual Abdurreshid Ibrahim, squirmed in fear of his life.

Jamal ud-Din al-Afghani was determined to recruit Russian support in his campaign against the British. Having failed to secure an audience with the tsar, he had decided to use his daring as a calling card. The tsar’s curiosity was finally piqued and Afghani had his hearing.

This could be a scene out of Tolstoy or Lermontov; but so extraordinary a figure was Afghani (1838-97) that inserting him into fiction would have compromised verisimilitude. So, renowned essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra has opted for the genres of historical essay and intellectual biography to profile the lives of Afghani and other equally remarkable figures in From the Ruins of Empire: The intellectuals who remade Asia.

The book is a refreshing break from lachrymose histories of the East’s victimhood and laments about its past glories. It concerns a group of intellectuals who responded to the threat of western dominance with vigour and imagination. Together they engendered the intellectual currents that have shaped the last century of the region’s history. « Read the rest of this entry »

China’s race for gold

July 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

China is at the moment leading the Olympic tables with 6 gold medals. Here’s Al Jazeera’s 101 East on how China manufactures its athletes.

China is home to some of the world’s best athletes. At the Beijing Olympics, the country topped the medals table, winning 100 medals in 25 sports, including 51 golds. As the London 2012 Olympics unfold, it is clear that China’s state-backed sports system is slowly being overhauled. But change might come too late for some athletes. What does China sacrifice in its relentless pursuit of gold?

Thank You So Much

October 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

A message from the father of the murdered nine-year-old Ibrahim Shayban to Russia, China and Bashaar al-Asad.

The Russian and Chinese vetoes to protect the Syrian regime from UN Security Council condemnation are reminiscent of all those American vetoes to protect Israel. Both countries have their reasons for shielding the Syrian regime: Russia’s naval base at Tartus, discomfort over the way the Libya No Fly Zone slipped into more overt intervention, the fear that UN condemnation may one day focus on Russian abuses in Chechnya and Chinese abuses in Tibet and Xinjiang. But both countries should consider their own interests more creatively. Ultimately, their influence in Syria and the wider region will depend on their image in Syrian and Arab eyes. The Syrian regime will not be there for ever. The Syrian people will.

Iran is another state which has repeatedly shot itself in the foot since the Arab revolutions began, first by mischaracterising as Islamic uprisings the deposings of Mubarak, Bin Ali and Qaddafi, then by opposing the revolution which seems most similar to Iran’s in 79 – the Syrian revolution. Iran used to be popular in Syria even amongst many sectarian-minded Sunni Muslims. It used to be popular in the wider Arab region. This popularity was Iran’s best guarantee against marginalisation and even military attack from the region’s pro-Western forces. But its popularity has evaporated this year.

Back to Ibrahim. He was martyred while leaving a mosque in the Qaboon suburb of Damascus. His funeral was held today in Meydan, in the heart of the city. Here’s some footage. Apparently insecurity forces killed two of the mourners when they came out of the mosque into the street.

Commentators have been telling us that central Damascus remains quiet. It’s true that many areas have been quiet, either because the upper middle class inhabitants still support the regime or are sitting on the fence, or because of the overbearing police and mukhabarat presence on the streets. Damascus has certainly not slipped out of regime control, as Homs, Hama, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib sometimes have. Yet Damascus has been bubbling for a long time. Pro-regime commentators will say that Kafar Souseh (which has demonstrated frequently since Shaikh Rifa’i of the Rifa’i mosque was shot) is a suburb, not the city itself – which is true, if Camden Town isn’t part of London. Suburbs further out – like Harasta, Douma, Muadamiya – have been veritable war zones for months. Imagine if Streatham, Hackney, Tottenham and Ealing were in a state of war and commentators told us ‘London remains quiet.’ And Meydan and Rukn ad-Deen have witnessed frequent, large demonstrations, and savage repression. These places are as central as Chelsea and Kensington. Smaller, briefer demonstrations have occurred in high-class Malki, in Sha‘alaan, Shaikh Muhiyudeen, Baghdad Street, Muhajireen. You can’t get more central. The last place is within earshot of Bashaar al-Asad’s house. If the quietness of Damascus reassures the regime, I think they’d better start panicking.

The Nobel War Prize

December 12, 2010 § 6 Comments

by Tariq Ali

Liu Xiaobo's empty chair the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony

Last year’s recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize escalated the war in Afghanistan a few weeks after receiving the prize. The award surprised even Obama. This year the Chinese government were foolish to make a martyr of the president of Chinese PEN and neo-con Liu Xiaobo. He should never have been arrested, but the Norwegian politicians who comprise the committee, led by Thorbjørn Jagland, a former Labour prime minister, wanted to teach China a lesson. And so they ignored their hero’s views. Or perhaps they didn’t, given that their own views are not dissimilar. The committee thought about giving Bush and Blair a joint peace prize for invading Iraq but a public outcry forced a retreat.

For the record, Liu Xiaobo has stated publicly that in his view:

(a) China’s tragedy is that it wasn’t colonised for at least 300 years by a Western power or Japan. This would apparently have civilised it for ever;
(b) The Korean and Vietnam wars fought by the US were wars against totalitarianism and enhanced Washington’s ‘moral credibility’;
(c) Bush was right to go to war in Iraq and Senator Kerry’s criticisms were ‘slander-mongering’;
(d) Afghanistan? No surprises here: Full support for Nato’s war.

He has a right to these opinions, but should they get a peace prize?

« Read the rest of this entry »

The American Empire Is Bankrupt

June 15, 2009 § 1 Comment

Chris Hedges examines moves by Russia/China to dump the Dollar as a global reserve currency stating that “it marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That’s over. It is not coming back.”

I’d also recommend the Michael Hudson article De-Dollarization: Dismantling America’s Financial-Military Empire referred to by Hedges.

This week marks the end of the dollar’s reign as the world’s reserve currency. It marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That’s over. It is not coming back. And what is to come will be very, very painful.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Fuelling a new world money supply

April 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

Mark Braund: for a global reserve currency to work, it must be backed by a resource we want people to use less, like carbon.

A paper written ahead of the recent G20 summit by Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the Chinese central bank, caused quite a stir. Zhou called for the establishment of a global reserve currency, a step which would firmly tip the balance of economic power in the direction of emerging economies like China and India, but would also bring benefits to poorer nations in the developing world.

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