Psst! China’s President Xi just became the leader of the world
If you had been reading the mainstream press in Australia or listening to the radio or watching television, you may be excused for missing the story that China’s President Xi Jinping has just been elevated to world leadership.
By a unanimous vote, the 2,200 delegates to the 19th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People enshrined “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics in a New Era” into the country’s Constitution. It confirms him as the “Mao Zedong of the 21st century” and continues his rule for another five years as party general secretary, and perhaps beyond.
While the majority of Western commentators were laughing their heads off about China’s adherence to imperial ritual, a moment of true historical significance had happened before their very eyes. They missed it.
Back in Australia, the story wasn’t the leadership decisions in China, population 1.2 billion, but Jacinda Ardern, the new prime minister of New Zealand, population 4.7 million (0.06% of the total world population).
In place of coverage on the global baton change from Washington to Beijing, Australians were being fed feverish reports of “Jacindamania” and her cat Paddles being given a Twitter account. (“Chief cat captivates Kiwis”, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 October). LOL!
The Australian’s Caroline Overington was besotted writing breathlessly: “What can we expect from this startling new era of Jacindamania?” (20 October 2017).
Following the NZ election on 23 September, the Australian media, including the ABC, UNANIMOUSLY claimed that prime minister Bill English and his National Party [Tory] had been re-elected. They faithfully followed the “fake news” being peddled by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra which had done its very best to rubbish the NZ Labour Party during the campaign.
Almost a month after the election, Ms Ardern’s Labor Party (35.8% of the total vote) formed the most fragile coalition in NZ history with Winston Peters’ NZ First (7%) and the Greens (5.9%).
Peters, now deputy prime minister, lost his own seat in the election while the Greens co-leader Metiria Turei was forced to resign for telling porkies about her status as a single mum.
Meanwhile in China
“Socialism with Chinese characteristics” is a very opaque beast. It appears to be a hybrid of 1) state-controlled economic management at the top combined with 2) unbridled capitalism at the bottom, but only time will tell.
Xi’s three-and-a-half-hour congress speech opening the five-yearly congress was a mass of contradictions. The key passages were his commitment to a re-energised party; the fight against corruption (“the greatest threat our party faces”); building a strong economy; investing in a modern “action-ready” military machine (“a military is built to fight”); and preparing China to assume its place as a global world power by 2050.
“Achieving national rejuvenation will be no walk in the park,” he said. “It will take more than drum-beating and gong-clanging to get there. Everyone of us in the party must be prepared to work even harder toward this goal.”
The stony-faced bureaucratic president made an uncharacteristic acknowledgement to the development of culture when he said: “Culture is a country and a nation’s soul. Ideology determines the direction a culture should take and the path it should follow as it develops.” But the old Stalinist line persisted when he added that writers and artists should produce work that is thought-provoking but also extols “our party, our country, our people and our heroes”. It sounded so familiar – like Tony Abbott, John Howard or Pauline Hanson.
Police raid union HQ
If the police had raided AWU headquarters in Sydney and Melbourne in the 20th century, there would have been immediate calls by Australia’s biggest union for a General Strike. The ACTU would probably have backed a 24-hour stoppage and closed the country’s capitalist economy down.
However, when the Australian Federal Police (AFP) stormed into AWU offices in two capital cities this week, the union leaders copped it sweet. What a pathetic and spineless bunch. What does Malcolm Turnbull’s Liberal Party government have to do to provoke a response from sleek union bureaucrats with MBAs?
Turnbull mobilised the Coalition’s heavy mob, aka the AFP, to raid the AWU offices to find evidence that the union had authorised a $100,000 donation to the community action group, GetUp!, almost 10 years ago.
So what? If the union leaders aren’t sending donations to GetUp! trade unionists should be demanding to know why not.
As far as I can tell, only ACTU secretary Sally McManus managed a public protest asking trade unionists to donate cash for a media campaign against police raids.
“It is an outrageous abuse of power,” she said. “It’s an attack on democracy and it’s a waste of taxpayers’ money. It is meant to intimidate us. But they have another thing coming. We will not be intimidated or stopped for standing up for what’s right and standing up to the powerful. Big business and the Turnbull Government have too much power.”
Words … words … and more words. They mean very little unless backed by industrial action. She spoke alongside Daniel Walton, AWU national secretary, who looked as if he was going to faint with fear. He could not wait to get on his mobile phone to organise a legal challenge in the courts rather than an industrial challenge on the streets.
Rupert Murdoch’s media and far right Liberals Tony Abbott and Eric Abetz want to shut down GetUp! because its nationwide lobbying has become so effective and electorally damaging. Sydney’s Daily Telegraph set the tone with this headline, “It is time to see GetUp! for what it is – a political party.” (3 June 2017).
Recent GetUp! campaigns have focused on Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s vile attacks on refugees and exposing the Adani mine scandal in Queensland. Unsurprisingly, these campaigns have drawn counter-attacks from Murdoch columnists Andrew Bolt and Miranda Devine.
Big businesses in Australia and overseas funnel millions of dollars to the Liberal and National parties, but I’ve never seen the FBI … oops AFP … raid their party headquarters.
As a suggestion, why doesn’t the AFP goon squad raid the offices of NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayers to seize all correspondence on his proposal to rebuild TWO new football stadiums in Sydney, Allianz at Moore Park and ANZ Stadium at Olympic Park – costing at least $2 billion – or raid Adani offices to check on any public money it has received from the Turnbull Government, Queensland’s Palaszczuk Labor government and Townsville council?
Just asking …
NATO clings to Turkey
When will Turkey be expelled from NATO, the nuclear-armed Cold War military alliance? What are the leaders of the “free world” waiting for? Surely President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s single-party repressive nationalist dictatorship in Ankara constitutes ample reason for expulsion?
The innocent-sounding North Atlantic Treaty Organisation was founded in 1949 at the instigation of Washington. Its mission was to build “freedom” and “democracy” in Western Europe to stop the spread of communism/socialism after World War II.
The first job was to restore capitalism – with Marshal Aid and the Lend Lease programme – and, secondly, destroy the armed partisan groups that had led the anti-Nazi fight in France, Holland, Denmark, Italy and Greece during wartime.
In 1952 Turkey and Greece were admitted to NATO as full members in a move designed to isolate the Left in both countries and allow the construction of US-dominated army, navy, air force and spy communications bases.
US military operations were aimed at the growing pro-independence movements in the Middle East, notably Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Their other role was to protect the oilfields of Saudi Arabia and the 51st US State of Israel. It marked a turning point in post-war history: the Pentagon, the CIA and the arms manufacturers had embarked on a new role as “world policeman”.
To keep the Turkish merchant class happy, the EU granted Turkey a Customs Union agreement in 1995 and officially recognised its candidature for full membership in 1999. The aim was to incorporate Turkey into the EU as a bridgehead to expand trade into the oil-rich Middle East.
Since then, however, the wheel has turned. In July 2014 the EU banned any new countries from joining for the next five years while Turkish public opinion has become hostile to the EU and Brussels. According to all the polls, the majority of Turks no longer want to join.
To emphasise their antipathy to the EU and NATO, President Erdogan announced last month that Turkish armed forces would buy Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles. It is the first time a NATO member state has entered a major weapons deal with Russia. The purchase is a deliberate slap in the face to Washington, the world’s biggest arms manufacturer and NATO supplier, and means that Russian-made missiles will soon be located in Turkey alongside NATO bases with American-made missiles.
Turkey’s balancing act
How will that work? Is it a violation of the strictly-enforced US, EU and NATO sanctions against Russia?
Guney Yildiz, a Turkey think tank specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations, explained: “It makes sense for the Turkish Government because if everything is integrated with NATO, NATO commanders have full control over Turkish military systems.”
At the top secret US-run Incirlik Air Base, in south-east Turkey, 50 nuclear weapons (made in the USA) are aimed at Iran and Russia. By buying a Russian-made missile system Erdogan is using the blunt instrument of weapons diplomacy to play Washington and Moscow off against each other while building pro-nationalist Turkish armed forces with less reliance on the US or NATO.
Erdogan is convinced that the abortive military coup against him in July 2016 was masterminded by Washington, the CIA and his political rival, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in self-exile in a heavily guarded mansion in Pennsylvania. (Some reports suggest that a “tip off” from Russian intelligence gave Erdogan crucial time to rally his supporters and thwart the coupists).
In the past 12 months Erdogan has tightened his grip on all levels of society, throwing tens of thousands of people into jail, sacking others from their jobs, closing schools, libraries, newspapers and other institutions.
Yet despite Turkey’s appalling human rights record, NATO and Washington “freedom fighters” want to keep Erdogan inside their imperialist tent. Their greatest fear is the steady dismemberment of NATO: if Turkey is expelled, who next? Spain, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Albania, Romania or the Czech Republic?
Increasingly alarmed by US President Donald Trump’s war mongering and political instability, more European countries are inspecting the non-NATO states – Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden – and wondering whether to join them as “neutrals”. Not only is it cheaper but it’s a lot less dangerous too.
Baroness calls out capitalism
Baroness Shriti Vadera, a Labour politician, investment banker and voted one of Britain’s top 100 women in 2016, has launched a scathing attack on capitalism at a business conference. Born in Uganda, she fled Kampala in 1972 when President Idi Amin seized businesses owned by the Indian community and expelled them. She was educated in Brixton, south London, before taking a degree in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Somerville College, Oxford.
She spent 15 years at UBS Warburg (1984-1999) where she was a leader of the team that proudly privatised South African Telecom. During the 2008-09 GFC she was in the thick of the Whitehall frenzy to rescue Britain’s debt-soaked banking system and she has been consultant to Dubai in handling its $30 billion debt crisis and Singapore’s investment vehicle, Temasek.
Speaking at a Financial Times seminar this week, 55-year-old Baroness Vadera told the assembled corporate heavyweights: “The underlying promise of Western capitalist economies – that a rising tide lifts all boats – has been broken.” A “better model” is needed, she added.
During my 50-year career in newspapers, the word “capitalism” was never used; it was virtually banned because it was considered “Marxist”.
I hope she is setting a trend and that women who owe everything in their lives to capitalism – like Baroness Vadera of Holland Park, also the senior independent director on the board of BHP Billiton Plc – will now call it out.
Twit of the Year
“Assange is Putin’s bitch. We all know it!”
- Sally Neighbour, executive producer of 4Corners, ABC-TV’s flagship current affairs programme
FOOTNOTE: Normal service has resumed following a hiccup with Facebook last week. I have been guaranteed that future editions of The Weekly Notebook will be posted without any technical problems. I am very grateful to all subscribers who rallied and posted last week’s Weekly Notebook on their own Facebook sites. It worked wonders.