30% of U.S. Shrimp Is Misrepresented, Study Says

TIME

Shrimp may be America’s most popular seafood, but that doesn’t mean we know much about the crustaceans on our plates.

A new study by Oceana, a marine conservation advocacy group, finds that 30% of shrimp products are misrepresented — either mislabeled as the wrong species, called or implied to be “wild” when in fact it was farmed, or mixed in a bag with various species. In one instance, the researchers found an aquarium species not meant for human consumption that was mixed in with frozen wild shrimp.

Misrepresentation varied by region; in Portland, Ore., where shrimp are especially popular, only 5% were labeled in a misleading way. In New York City, of the grocery stores that were visited for the study, 67% sold shrimp that was misrepresented.

The issue stems in part from a lack of general information available when purchasing these products, the researchers said. In many cases, retailers…

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The Rule of Law in China: Lessons From China's 'Top Lawyer'
Image Credit: Flickr/ Stephan Röhl

The Rule of Law in China: Lessons From China’s ‘Top Lawyer’

I have some “star-chasing” photographs that I cherish, including some photographs of me with members of the “post-80s” generation. And I don’t mean photos of beautiful girls who were born after the 1980s – I mean photos of me with scholars who are over 80 years old. Here, I present one of these photos: myself and Mr. Zhang Sizhi, who is a veteran in China’s legal community and “China’s top lawyer.”

Zhang Sizhi and Yang Hengjun

Mr. Zhang hasn’t written many books, so when he recently came out with an oral autobiography I immediately bought it and devoured it. Zhang Sizhi is the real deal: an “old revolutionary.” At the age of 16, in the midst of World War II, he flew over “the Hump” and joined the Chinese Expeditionary Force in Myanmar. Later, Zhang joined an underground branch of the Communist Party and threw himself into the CCP-led revolution. When the new government was established in 1949, Zhang became the first judge in Beijing. Later, though, Zhang chose to pursue China’s least wanted and most powerless profession: a lawyer. During the Cultural Revolution, he suffered along with all of China’s intellectuals, although his road was longer than most: he spent 15 years in a “reeducation through labor” camp. After resuming his profession, Zhang became a model teacher and spent eight years working for the All China Lawyers Association.

In 1980, Zhang Sizhi was assigned as the leader of the defense for the case against the “counterrevolutionary gangs” of Jiang Qing and Lin Biao – the first major legal case in the PRC. That was perhaps the moment when Zhang really became famous, but if it hadn’t been for Zhang’s activities in the legal field over the past 20 years, we probably wouldn’t remember him today.

In the case against Jiang Qing, lawyers had very limited options. At that time, Peng Zhen (then the secretary of the Central Committee’s Political and Legal Affairs Commission) hoped to have lawyers appear in court as a way to demonstrate that China had emerged from the lawlessness that defined the Mao era. Peng wanted to prove that China would make judgments according to the law, and (even more importantly) govern the country according to the law.

However, from Mr. Zhang’s account in his autobiography, we can see that the lawyers were only for show. This is easy to understand – under the legal system at that time, how could the law not be a decoration? Mr. Zhang earned much admiration from his reflections on the role he played in that trial. I believe this experience drove him to stand at the front lines in later years, when China was in the midst of constructing a legal system.  Over the past 20 years, Mr. Zhang’s peers have all retired, but he still stands at the front lines in protecting people’s rights, an especially in protecting the law. In this way, he has won widespread respect.

This year, the Fourth Plenum enthusiastically discussed “governing the country according to the law” and the “rule of law.” Under these circumstances, it’s a great time to read Mr. Zhang’s autobiography. Today, 65 years after the founding of the PRC, some officials and scholars still think that “governing the country according to the law” means using the law to manage the people. They still hesitate between creating a China with the “rule of law” or continuing to promote a “people’s democratic dictatorship.”  It’s both painful and disillusioning.

In a previous blog article, “Without Legal Guarantees, Everyone Is a Vulnerable Group,” I pointed out that some officials are taking advantage of China’s lack of the “rule of law.” Where there are laws, some officials don’t follow them and instead enrich themselves while oppressing the people. It seems like a happy situation for them, but look more closely: after a few years, there will come a time when these high-ranking Party and government officials are pulled in front of a judge and not given any opportunity to provide a legal defense. Even their right to select their preferred lawyers has been taken from them. Under this scenario, we can truly see that the rule of law in China isn’t only meant to protect the people, but is also a shield the protest the legal interest of officials.

In his description of Jiang Qing’s case, Mr. Zhang Sizhi said that Jiang, who had been Mao Zedong’s wife, picked four lawyers as candidates for her defense team, but the “powers that be” didn’t approve a single one. In the end, she was the only member of the accused that that didn’t have a defense lawyer.

It’s said that during the Mao era, China faced a complicated domestic and international situation, and the ruling party had no governing experience. But today, after reform and opening up and especially after the past 20 years of development, there’s no excuse for not “ruling the country according to the law.” If we think for a moment, it’s not hard to discover that behind almost all cases of corruption, social unrest, and “mass incidents” there’s a Party official who violates or does not follow the law. Zhou Yongkang, the former secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Committee, became a huge corrupt “tiger.” Why? Because he controlled the political and legal system and the “social stability” system. He deliberately violated the law in order to deal with those “rights defenders” who would make it impossible for him to continue his corruption. Ultimately, he became China’s biggest “tiger.”

Bo Xilai stood trial in a court, and so will Zhou Yongkang. Tigers and flies from all across China should also appear in court. The reason these officials came to such an end is because they put themselves above the law and didn’t act according to the law. In this sense, the administration’s decision to focus on constructing a robust rule of law for China even as the government fiercely battles corruption will win broad support from the people. Not only that, but “governing the country according to the law” will receive little resistance from Chinese officials – without the rule of law, people who put themselves above the law can definitely embezzle public funds, but they can also lose everything overnight without even being given a chance to defend themselves!

The key to the rule of law is constitutional government – putting the constitution first, so that no group or person can put themselves above the constitution. The key to “governing the country according to the law” is “governing the Party according to the law” and “governing officials according to the law,” not just “governing the people.” After assuming power, China’s new leadership has achieved some preliminary successes in the fight against corruption and in its ambitious plan for reform and opening up. But if there are no legal safeguards, these gains could be short-lived. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen this happen many times.

A longer version of this piece originally appeared in Chinese on Yang Hengjun’s blog. The original post can be found here.

Yang Hengjun is a Chinese independent scholar, novelist, and blogger. He once worked in the Chinese Foreign Ministry and as a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC. Yang received his Ph.D. from the University of Technology, Sydney in Australia. His Chinese language blog is featured on major Chinese current affairs and international relations portals and his pieces receive millions of hits. Yang’s blog can be accessed at www.yanghengjun.com.

http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/the-rule-of-law-in-china-lessons-from-chinas-top-lawyer/

Map: The best places in the world to be a rich foreigner

October 22
This year’s iteration of HSBC’s annual ranking of the best places to live as an expat, published Wednesday, ranked 34 countries on a host of indicators, such as salaries earned, the expat’s quality of life and an expat family’s ability to raise kids abroad. The full rankings are in this chart below. Switzerland tops the list overall, with Egypt coming last.

The bank surveyed 9,288 expats in over 100 countries, but only presented findings for countries where there were more than 100 respondents.

Switzerland topped the rankings, as it had done the year before. Over a quarter of the expats HSBC polled earned more than $200,000 annually, but also maintained a better work-life balance than in their home countries. Switzerland’s beautiful scenery and lack of air pollution is a plus, with vast majorities of expat parents there saying their children lived safer and better lives than in their previous home, according to HSBC’s press release.

Perhaps more interesting is the growing draw of Asia for the expats surveyed, with its booming economies presenting lands of opportunity for expats from all over the world. “Asia emerges from this year’s survey as the best region for financial wellbeing, with nearly one fifth (19%) of expats earning over USD200,000 p.a. and 65% saying they have more disposable income since relocating,” says HSBC.

The rankings look rather different when you separate the findings by category. Asian countries may account for terrific remuneration, but not necessarily the greatest living experience. You’ll note China is not in the top 10 countries for raising children. Many expatriates, particularly those living in Beijing, the smog-clogged Chinese capital, fear the long-term effects of the country’s air pollution on their kids.

Explore HSBC’s data in full through an interactive that rearranges the rankings on the basis of various criteria that you can sort and toggle, ranging from an expat’s ability to assimilate to a local culture to his or her satisfaction with the country’s economy. The report is connected to HSBC Expat, which provides off-shore financial services to clients.

This likely influenced the profile of the expats surveyed for the study. The scores for China and the U.S. probably don’t take into account American immigrant diasporas, nor the hardships faced by a growing community of petty merchants from Africa and other parts of Asia trying to eke a living in China.

In HSBC’s survey of global high-rollers, the expats in the U.S. do applaud their host country for one thing — its education. More than three quarters of expat parents in the U.S. state educate their children. The global average in the HSBC survey was only 37 percent.

Ishaan Tharoor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. He previously was a senior editor at TIME, based first in Hong Kong and later in New York.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/10/22/map-the-best-places-in-the-world-to-be-a-rich-foreigner/

Interesting!

How Capitalism Conquered North Korea
Image Credit: Flickr/ Roman Harak

How Capitalism Conquered North Korea

In the third part, Lankov explores North Korea’s political prisoner camps, which the regime just publicly acknowledged. Specifically, he notes that “the number of political prisoners has roughly halved in the last 20 years.”

The second part of Lankov’s trilogy is perhaps the most interesting, however. In that article Lankov notes that, with the state unable to provide resources anymore, the DPRK elite have transformed into a bunch of entrepreneurs and corrupt officials living off kickbacks from genuine entrepreneurs. In other words, the North Korean regime now survives on capitalism. “Keeping this new elite of entrepreneurs and corrupt officials content has become a major preoccupation for the regime,” Lanov writes, adding: “State socialism ‘is as dead in North Korea as it is in China.’”

Speaking of three-part series, Robert “Jake” Bebber takes to CIMSEC’s Next War blog for a brilliant trilogy of his own on “American Strategy in the 21st Century: Maritime Power and China.” Only the first two parts (found here and here) are currently up on Next War, so let the suspense begin.

The Center for a New American Security’s Shawn Brimley talks “offset strategies” on War on the Rocks.

Over at the Atlantic Council, Robert Manning examines the future of U.S. extended deterrence in the Asia-Pacific.

And he’s not the only one. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made some waves recently for (among countless other things) writing in his recent memoirs that the U.S. plans to, “if necessary,” use nuclear weapons against North Korea if it invades South Korea. “If North Korea moved across the border, our war plans called for the senior American general on the peninsula to take command of all U.S. and South Korea forces and defend South Korea — including by the use of nuclear weapons, if necessary.” At the time of this writing, it’s unclear how this came as a surprise to anyone.

More wonkish readers may enjoy Matthew Fuhrmann and Todd S. Sechser’s new American Journal of Political Science article on extended deterrence, entitled “Signaling Alliance Commitments: Hand-Tying and Sunk Costs in Extended Nuclear Deterrence.”

The Lowy Institute’s Aaron L. Connelly published a report this week on the “likely direction of Indonesian foreign policy under President-elect Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo”

Finally, on The National Interest, Brad Glosserman and David C. Kang dissect the myth of Japanese  remilitarization.

http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/how-capitalism-conquered-north-korea/

Interesting!

In 1964, The Brilliant Isaac Asimov Wrote Some Predictions For 2014 — Wait Until You See How Right He Was

Writing for the New York Times in August of 1964, the great sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov laid out some speculation for what the world would be like in 50 years.

He did it under the guise of an imagined visit to the World’s Fair of 2014… and that happens to be the year we’ve just entered.

Asimov is a notable guy for his numerous works of science fiction, especially as they relate to robots. He was so fascinated by the things science and technology could one day make real that it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to see how accurate his predictions were.

“Men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better.”

WoW World of Warcraft video gameBlizzard

While it’s not a reshaping of the natural environment, but the creation of a new one entirely, his point is most easily illustrated by popular multiplayer games like World of Warcraft. Which world would you prefer? One where you toil at a desk for a paycheck, or one where you get to watch monsters fight?

“Kitchen units will be devised that will prepare ‘automeals.'”soylent milk milkshakeChristaface

We are just now beginning to see the trend of instant food that does its very best not to suck. The two leaders of the pack are Soylent and Finland-based Ambro, which both have products coming to market early this year.

“Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence.”

Roomba880_5iRobot

Speaking strictly for myself, the Roomba 880 is an awesome application of robot technology. No, they’re not the world’s most common household appliance, but they definitely exist and I happen to think they’re very good at their jobs.

“Much effort will be put into the designing of vehicles with ‘robot-brains’ vehicles that can be set for particular destinations and that will then proceed there without interference by the slow reflexes of a human driver.”

Google Self Driving CarThe Trending ReportInside one of Google’s self-driving cars

This one’s a pretty straightforward reality — the driverless car is one of Google’s big pet projects right now. It’s on the way!

“Communications will become sight-sound and you will see as well as hear the person you telephone. The screen can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.”

baby infant phone facetime technologyFlickr via Claudia.Rahanmetan

We already use Skype and FaceTime, and otherwise find ways to visually see our faces talking to each other in real time. We do this on our tablet and smartphone screens, which are also used for (you guessed it!) reading and looking at pictures. A resounding success for Asimov’s predictive abilities.

“In 2014, there is every likelihood that the world population will be 6,500,000,000 and the population of the United States will be 350,000,000.”

Screen Shot 2014 01 02 at 11.41.15 AMScreenshot

Asimov overestimated for the US and underestimated for the world, but his guesses surrounding population are still mighty close.

“The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. “

foxconn ipadThis isn’t quite the scenario from “The Matrix”, but it’s already very much arrived. The machines haven’t risen up and enslaved humanity yet, but they’ve proven their value so many times over that there are now people whose full-time jobs are to keep certain machines (or computers or robots) operating smoothly and efficiently. We don’t do so because a machine forces us, but because we prefer the world where the machine works to the one where it doesn’t.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/isaac-asimov-2014-predictions-2014-1#ixzz3GogOxNKQ

Chinese Salafism and the Saudi Connection
Image Credit: REUTERS/Stringer

Chinese Salafism and the Saudi Connection

This current moreover embraces to a certain extent a rejection of the madhhab (legal school) Sunni traditions that had emerged in Islam’s early centuries. As a relatively modern phenomenon building on the Sunni orthodox revivals of the 18th century, the failures of traditional Muslim authorities to contend with mounting internal and external challenges, as well as the spread of new modernistic discourses, Salafism found a popular following across many Muslim societies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Its growth was facilitated by Saudi Arabia – which embraced its own idiosyncratic brand of Salafism rooted in the mid-18th century religious revivalism that swept central Arabia (usually denoted by its detractors as Wahhabism after its “founder” Mohammed bin Abdul Wahhab) – especially after its annexation of Mecca and Medina in 1924-25, and the subsequent influx of oil wealth, which endowed the country with the religious authority and means (universities, charities, organizations, preachers, and communicative mediums) to promote this current globally.

Among China’s Hui ethnic group, Saudi-influenced Salafism has been present for nearly a century. Aside from the intellectual residue influencing other sects and currents, its most obvious manifestation is to be found in the Salafi sect, which constitutes a small minority within the community of the faithful in China. Concentrated in small clusters across the Northwest and Yunnan, and identified by their “Saudi” clothes, Salafis have elicited fear and opposition from their ideological opponents within the wider Chinese Muslim community, leading at times to outright sectarian conflict.

Since the 1990s, and particularly following 9/11, the Chinese state has placed the Salafi community under close surveillance, fearing that its close connections with Saudi Arabia as well as presumed Uighur Salafi networks, not to mention the sect’s considerable growth over the past few years (attracting not only other Hui, but increasingly Han as well), might herald political and religious violence in the future. These security concerns have only abounded with the rising specter of the Islamic State and the appearance of a few Chinese fighters in the ranks of the contending Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Historical Roots of Chinese Salafism

Although relatively isolated since the 14th century with the disintegration of the Yuan dynasty, the Hui Muslim communities, and especially those in the Northwest of China, remained open to the religious and intellectual influences emanating from other parts of the Muslim world. The spread of the various Sufi tariqas (orders),such as the Naqshibandis, Kubrawis, and Qadiris, during the late Ming and early Qing in China in the 17th century, as well as the consolidation of Sufi tariqas with their own distinct lineages, tombs and practices (such as the Khuffiyya and Jahriyya), is indicative of this permeability, which endured primarily through the Hajj and overland trade networks via Central Asia and Yunnan. Unsurprisingly, the transmission of Salafism – or initially Wahhabi ideas – amongst the Hui follows this template in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Wahhabism gained converts in China throughout the Republican era, primarily as a byproduct of the growing traffic of Muslim pilgrims going to the Hejaz, facilitated by the proliferation of new means of transportation such as the steamship. Between 1923 and 1934, hundreds of Hui Muslims made the Hajj. In 1937 – prior to the full-fledged Japanese invasion of the country – well over 170 Hui reportedly boarded a steamer in Shanghai bound for Mecca. The effects of this were palpable, ranging from a noticeable increase in the availability of Wahhabi literature across China in the 1930s, as observed by the scholar Ma Tong, to high-profile conversions of detractors of the movement, including Sufi Sheiks.

It is from within this context that the first pronounced Salafiyya sect emerged within China and mostly, interestingly enough, in reaction to the perceived “departure” of the Yihewani movement from its puritan and proto-Wahhabi ethos. The founding propagator of an explicit Salafism is usually identified as Ma Debao (1867-1977), originally a Yihewani adherent who officiated in various mosques across the Northwest. His earliest encounters with Salafism came through a visiting – presumably Arab – scholar who settled in Xining, Qinghai in 1934 to teach the Wahhabi doctrine. This exposure led him to reassess some of his views, although his major intellectual transformation would only come when he departed for the Hajj in 1936, a period during which he spent considerable time at the Salafi Dar Al-Hadith school.

On returning to China in 1937, Ma Debao became an enthusiastic promoter of the teachings, quickly gathering a following of his own centered in the Xinwang mosque in Linxia, Gansu and breaking away in turn from the Yihewani movement, whom he perceived to have compromised their beliefs. His Salafi group encountered strong opposition from the established Yihewani clergy and their warlord backers, forcing the movement to assume a more cautious and quietest attitude towards politics for the sake of its survival.

After the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, the Salafis – now unfettered by the Muslim warlords – experienced a brief period of religious growth, with its leadership actively participating in a number of state organs as well as the newly created Islamic Association of China (IAC). This soon came to an end as the 1958 “Religious Reform Campaign,” followed by the Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) and the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), forced the movement underground as many of its leaders and adherents were killed off or sent to concentration camps. It survived as remnants from the leadership settled in Xinjiang and Tibet during these difficult years.

Channels of Saudi Influence

The start of the “Reform and Opening Up” in 1978 signaled the end of a dark period of sustained persecution against China’s Muslim communities, including the Salafis. The dismantlement of restrictions on religious worship, the restoration of mosques, and the reformation of the IAC served to reconsolidate state control over these communities but more significantly, served to showcase (in a resurrection of Chinese foreign policy patterns in the 1950s) Beijing’s tolerance of Islam, a policy principally aimed at courting the support of various Muslim states. The direct outcome of this new “opening” allowed the re-introduction, and even amplification of, Saudi Salafi influences across the country, with implications for both the Salafi and wider Muslim community as a whole. This occurred through various channels, the most important of which was the restoration of the Hajj missions in 1979 (after nearly a decade-long suspension dating from 1964) followed by new regulations allowing private individuals to make the pilgrimage in 1984, that allowed considerable numbers of Hui Muslims – jumping from nearly 2000 in 1985 to nearly 10,000 annually in 1990 – to travel to the Kingdom. There, some of these pilgrims opted to stay for further study or came in touch with relatives from the well-established Chinese Saudi diaspora (which had settled in the Hedjaz following the end of the Chinese civil war and received citizenship there). These interactions exposed Chinese Muslims to new discourses and religious experiences that challenged their own traditional understandings of Islam. They returned to China carrying Wahhabi books, leaflets, fatwas (religious rulings), and sermon tapes that broadly disseminated Salafi ideas.

Other significant channels included the arrival of Saudi organizations and preachers in China during the 1980s. Initially, religious activities were limited to influential groups like the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, the Muslim World League, and the Islamic Development Bank, which operated under the auspices of the IAC and in turn re-directed their efforts in a non-sectarian fashion. Their activities, beyond providing alternative channels of communication between Saudi and Chinese officials, encompassed the construction of various Islamic Institutes, the renovation of major mosques, the initiation of a Quranic printing and distribution project (in 1987, more than a million copies were disbursed across China as a “royal gift” from the Saudi King), and the provision of training workshops for clerics and scholarships for students (initially in China and Pakistan,) amongst others. By the mid-1980s, religious policies were relaxed considerably, allowing for a growing number of Saudi private organizations and individuals (mainly preachers and missionaries bringing in religious literature) to increasingly work outside established IAC channels. In this new environment, these entities began to selectively target their funding towards specific groups – particularly those visibly identified as Salafi in places like Gansu, Qinhai, Ningxia, Shanxi, and Yunnan – and popularize certain discourses that might have been rejected by the IAC for fear of inviting state reprimand.

The activities of these groups were greatly facilitated by a network of Chinese Salafi activists who had graduated from Saudi or Saudi-affiliated institutions like Imam Saudi University, Umm Al-Qura, and Medina University. While numbers are hard to come by, one study from Medina University shows that between 1961 and 2000/2001, over 652 scholarships were granted to mainland Chinese. Nearly 76 percent of these were offered in the 1980s and 90s alone. While significant numbers of the graduates (who ofter never actually completed their studies) gravitated towards middlemen jobs in Guangzhou or Yiwu where they could utilize their Arabic proficiency, a few joined privately run religious academies in Yunnan or Gansu, and some began officiating in mosques after the longstanding official barriers on the hiring of foreign-trained Imams eased in the 2000s. A smaller but far more influential group fostered close ties with Saudi organizations and preachers – a relationship that was beneficial to both sides.

The Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, which came under a U.S.-backed UN ban in 2004 due to its presumed affiliations with Al-Qaeda, is illustrative. Throughout the 1990s, the organization expended considerable funds on the construction of Salafi mosques across China, the maintenance of Salafi-aligned schools (typically “Arabic language” schools that double as Islamic institutions), and the provision of scholarships for interested students – an array of activities that were largely overseen by various (at times competing) circles of Medina University graduates who leveraged their influence within the wider community.

In conjunction with these developments, Beijing had assumed a more cautious attitude by the 1990s, typified by the barring of entry of suspected preachers, continued refusal to offer scholarships for students heading to Saudi Arabia, and the introduction of new laws that restricted foreign religious activities, including one in 1994 that banned donations made outside the auspices of the IAC. Unsurprisingly, these restrictions have grown more stringent over the last decade, but they have not severed the Saudi ties altogether.

The Saudi Impact

Saudi influences have had a somewhat contradictory impact on Hui Salafis and the wider Muslim community in China. On one level, these influences have contributed – to a degree – to the salafisation (namely, a cultural and religious approximation of an “idealized” Saudi orthodoxy) of Hui Muslim society. This salafisation subsumes the adoption of presumably Salafi doctrines, prayers rituals, attitudes, and even culturally authentic attire (the Saudi headgear worn in a manner usually associated with the religiously conservative in the Kingdom) and mosque architecture under what can be described as an Arabization process, although the appearance of these trends is not always indicative of a Salafi influence. The salafisation of Hui Muslims has affected nearly all sects, albeit in different ways. Amongst Salafis, the re-introduction of orthodox sources after a significant period of isolation, and amplified now by globalizing forces, led to the breakdown of the old Salafi community as a new generation of Salafis (the early graduates and pilgrims) in the 1980s sought to “correct” the errors of their elders. This was reflected in the schism that emerged over the interpretation of certain Quranic verses, the appearance of a more activist opposition to Sufism leading to the demolishment of some Sufi tombs in the Northwest, and the enunciation of a takfeeri (excommunicatory) stance towards “deviant” Salafis and non-Salafi Muslims that led to bouts of sectarian infighting. Beyond the Salafis, salafisation is also observable amongst Yihewani and Gedimu (“old” traditional) Muslims who, in many cases, while not describing themselves necessarily as Salafis (due to fears of ostracization or out of a fidelity towards the Hanafi madhab), embraced aspects of this intellectual tradition. In the Yihewani case, it is marked by a revived interest in the Wahhabi origins of the movement.

On another level, Saudi influences have, counterintuitively, encouraged a fragmentation of the Salafi community within China. This has been driven of two factors: First, the introduction of new sources of funding and ideas brought by Saudi organizations, preachers, and affiliated graduates led to the proliferation of new “mosque communities” or jama’at amongst Salafis, a development that was principally shaped by the leadership struggles that assumed an intergenerational character. Second, Salafis – like other sects – were not exposed to homogenous discourses on Islam or Salafism, mainly because of existing cultural and linguistic barriers, and the multiplicity of doctrines and agendas pursued by various organizations and preachers, which have induced a splintering effect along doctrinal and ritualistic lines within the Salafi community, even if less pronounced than elsewhere in the Islamic World.

Indeed, the most significant outcome of these two simultaneous developments is that it has helped give way to the formation of what can be called a “Salafism with Chinese characteristics.” Its proponents – mainly from the 1990s generation, are charting new discourses about Salafism that deviate from that which exists in the Saudi mainstream. Most notably, there is a strong rejection of sectarianism (although there is a troubling growth in anti-Shia sentiment) and an emphasis on ecumenical approaches – a shift that stems principally from what many view as the takfeeri legacy of the 1980s that led to unnecessary confrontations with the wider Muslim community. Indeed, the Salafis today encounter severe challenges in proselytize and even practicing in places like Xining, Qinghai.

The post-90s generation is also far more internationalist and, to a large extent, far more cognizant of the realities facing Hui Muslims within the Chinese state (as a minority of a minority contending with the attention of the state security apparatus). While courting Saudi funding and literature, it is selective in what discourses it seeks to reproduce. This explains why some Saudi-oriented Salafis are increasingly discouraging visits by Saudi preachers, who are unable to appreciate the specificities of Chinese Islam there. More importantly, this new generation is more willing to cooperate with the authorities, and is displaying signs of seeking to participate more actively within the political channels that have been traditionally dominated by Sufi and Yihewani groups.

In all, the Hui Salafi scene and its connections to Saudi Arabia are complex. The community is fragmenting intellectually and generating new discourses that reflect the tensions that confront new religious authorities and groups seeking to navigate the difficult waters between perceived orthodoxy and the realities of their situation. Hui Salafis want to carve out a space of their own within China. Their concerns are not political per se: Across the spectrum, they appear to have embraced the apolitical quietism one expects to see within the Saudi clerical establishment. Even with regards to the Uighur Salafis – if we speak in terms of an Islamic political project – there is little evidence to suggest a burgeoning solidarity between the two groups. Historical hatreds notwithstanding, the evolution of Uighur Salafism has taken a completely different trajectory than that of the Hui and its political/religious dynamics are therefore different. Rather, for the majority of Hui Salafis, their concerns remain solely those of identity and religious legitimization.

Mohammed Al-Sudairi is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar (International Politics). He spent two years in Beijing studying Chinese and undertaking freelance research.

http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/chinese-salafism-and-the-saudi-connection/

Canada’s Laval University Shows How to Do Football Right

vanier04 - crédit Yan Doublet
Since its inception in 1996, Laval football has become, pardon my French, the crème de la crème of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS, a.k.a. the Canadian NCAA). Yan Doublet

The team with the longest extant win streak in college football adorns itself in hues of red and gold—but it is not Florida State. It traces its origins and its French sobriquet to a Catholic priest who emigrated from France—but it is not Notre Dame. And its nouveau riche imprint on the sport may be tracked back to a deep-pocketed alum who took it upon himself to jump-start the program in the 1990s—but it is not Oregon.

No—or should we say, non?—to all of the above. The most dominant team in college football in America—sorry, in North America—is Laval University of Quebec City, Quebec. On Sunday, the Rouge et Or crushed Bishop’s University, 64-3 (“Un Massacre!” blared a local daily), to run its record to 7-0 this season. The victory was the 25th straight for the two-time defending national champions of Canada, and their 69th in a row on their home field just a few miles north of the St. Lawrence River, Stade Telus.

This autumn Laval is seeking to win its third consecutive Vanier Cup (i.e., the Canadian national championship), and, having outscored opponents 373-65 thus far, the Rouge et Or are prohibitive favorites. Not bad for a football program that did not exist 20 years ago.

Newsweek Magazine is Back In Print

Since its inception in 1996, Laval football has become, pardon my French, thecrème de la crème of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS, a.k.a. the Canadian NCAA). This palindromic pigskin powerhouse has won eight Vanier Cups in their 18 seasons and 11 consecutive conference championships. This could be their sixth undefeated season, which does not include 2003, when the Rouge et Or finished 7-1 but in consecutive games trampled Sherbrooke, 94-0, and Bishop’s, 92-3. In that season’s national semifinal, the Dunsmore Cup, Laval trounced Concordia 59-7. Quelle horreur!

“When I came here, I wanted to make Laval the capital of football in Canada,” says head coach Glen Constantin, who signed on as defensive coordinator for Laval’s inaugural season, 1996. That Constantin, promoted to head coach in 2001, has done so in the capital of French-speaking Canada, at a university where French is the official language, is no coincidence. The francophone-ness of Quebec City and Laval is this football program’s raison d’être.

Bilingualism is a major domestic issue in the Great White North, where the majority of the country speaks English and images of British royalty still adorn the currency. Quebec, located just above New England, is the lone Canadian province where French remains the lingua franca. For Constantin, bilingualism is an even more intimate domestic issue: His mother was French and his father English.

“The reason that this team exists,” says Constantin, whose career record is 97-16, “was to give kids an opportunity to play college football in their mother tongue. Quebec is sort of the Texas of Canadian high school football, and before our football program existed, kids here had to leave the province to play college football.”

Laval Stadium - crédit Rémy Gendron (74)The most dominant team in college football in America—sorry, in North America—is Laval University of Quebec City, Quebec. Rémy Gendron

‘They Don’t Want to Lose Their Souls’

It is Sunday morning, roughly three hours prior to kickoff. In a lot just beyond the south end zone of Stade Telus, where parking is free, hundreds of fans tailgate. To the north, the open end of the 12,750-seat stadium offers a sweeping vista of the Laurentian Mountains. In the center of the 110-yard field, a singer rehearses “O Canada” in both English and French. Constantin, an amiable, ursine fellow just a month shy of his 50th birthday, sits in his football office. He is asked about the one season he spent in Division I football south of the border, in 1995, as a graduate assistant at the University of Houston.

Constantin grins and pulls up the blotter that rests atop his desk, then pries a color photo from beneath it. There he is, standing on a sun-splashed field at the Los Angeles Coliseum, the famed peristyle in the background. “It was awesome,” Constantin says of his lone season on an American college football sideline. “My first game, we opened at Florida in ‘The Swamp.’ They were ranked No. 5, and we were, like, 106th.”

Constantin, who aspired to coach in the NFL, was not the only Quebecois native heading south of the border in the mid-1990s. In 1994 the Quebec Nordiques of the National Hockey League broke the city’s collective heart by emigrating to Denver to become the Colorado Avalanche.

As the city wallowed in ennui, a local physical education teacher named Mike Labadie noticed that while high school football was gaining in popularity in Quebec, none of the province’s francophone universities offered it at the university level. French-speaking gridders had no option if they hoped to continue their careers, other than to matriculate at anglophone schools, mostly outside of Quebec. (Constantin played at the University of Ottawa.)

Enter Jacques Tanguay, a 32 year-old scion of one of Quebec’s leading family-owned furniture companies. An avid sports fan, Tanguay threw his support and part of his fortune behind the creation of a football program at his alma mater. Tanguay, through an interpreter, noted the exodus of the Nordiques and the dearth of a francophone football program as reasons for him to invest in Labadie’s concept, but there was another. “I am much closer to the decision-making in amateur sports,” he says. “If I were the owner of a professional sports team, I would not be as involved.”

That’s correct. It may seem an avant-garde idea to the sanctimonious NCAA, but in Canada there is no rule against intercollegiate athletic programs being completely funded and overseen by private enterprise. Tanguay is the de facto Jerry Jones of Laval football – it was Tanguay, and not the school’s athletic director, who fired Constantin’s predecessor, Jacques Chapdelaine, in 2000. Each week, Tanguay meets informally with three other board members who oversee the Rouge et Or. While they make no decisions in terms of players or what transpires on the field, Tanguay oversees the budget and nearly all other matters, A to Zed. In fact, every intercollegiate sport at Laval has its own private board of directors that oversee finances and operations. It’s all so….provincial.

When I ask Giles Lepine, Laval’s gregarious and dashing athletic director, why more schools in Canada do not adopt Laval’s model, he smiles. “They don’t want to lose their souls,” he says. “At least that’s what they tell me.”

Nike founder and Oregon alumnus Phil Knight has donated more than $100 million to his alma mater’s athletic department. Isn’t it—what’s the French term?—naive of us Yanks to believe Knight  is not involved in how that department operates? Laval University president Denis Briere thinks so, which is why he has no problem with Tanguay being his football program’s general manager. “When you know the beast you’re dealing with,” says Briere with an air of nonchalance, “it’s okay.”

Tanguay also finds the NCAA’s separation of private enterprise and intercollegiate athletics—in word if not deed—a farce (Under Armour, for example, recently entered into at 10-year, $90 million licensing deal with Notre Dame).When told that it would be a punishable violation for Tanguay, a millionaire, to buy lunch for Laval quarterback Hugo Richard if the Rouge et Or were an NCAA member school, he laughs. “If those rules were really applied in the States,” Tanguay says, “then there would be no college football in the States.”

Hugo Richard - crédit Mathieu Bélanger (2)Mathieu Bélanger

The Imperialist Coach

There are three big reasons for Laval’s hegemony in the CIS. The first is capital. When asked if money motivated him to launch the football program, Tanguay quips sardonically, “Spending money!” The Rouge et Or were the first CIS football program to have full-time, paid assistant coaches and the first to use video editing. Each spring break, the entire team buses to Orlando, Fla., for a week of spring training, and if you don’t appreciate what a perk that is to a Quebecois youth, then you’ve never spent a winter in Quebec. “The program has enough money to fly us all down,” says the star of last year’s team, Guillaume Rioux, who now plays professionally in Germany, “but we take the buses to build team unity.”

The second reason is an educational wrinkle unique to Quebec that provides all universities in this province a huge advantage. In longhand, it is College d’enseignment general et professionel but all in Quebec refer to it simply as CEGEP: a mandatory two- to three-year educational bridge between high school and university. The closest American analogue to CEGEP is junior college, except that in Quebec everyone attends CEGEP. While high school in Quebec ends at the American equivalent of junior year, it still means that Laval is welcoming freshmen who are two to three years older than players at universities in Canada’s other provinces.

“That’s true,” says Lepine, the athletic director, “and it may give us an advantage against schools from Ontario or the west. But every school in our conference is also from Quebec, and we’ve won the conference 11 years in a row.”

That’s due to the third reason: Constantin, who shares many an imperialist trait with his historical namesake. At the beginning of each summer, Laval hosts a Quebec-wide high school All-Star Game, which is the equivalent of a week-long campus visit for the province’s top players before they head off to CEGEP. At the end of each summer Laval hosts a preseason exhibition game, more often than not against a university from western Canada that Constantin envisions Laval meeting in the national semi-final or the Vanier Cup. This August it was the University of Calgary, currently No. 2 behind Laval in the national rankings. “It’s an opportunity to play some stiffer competition,” says Constantin, noting that Laval paid all of Calgary’s travel expenses, “and yes, it’s a chance to scout them.”

Success breeds success. One-third of the head coaches in the 50 or so CEGEP schools played under Constantin. And while Constantin works hard—he attended a pair of CEGEP games in Montreal on the eve of today’s game—the program’s cachet sells itself to recruits, who receive tuition (approximately $5,000 per year) but not room and board. “When I was growing up, I wanted to be a professional hockey player,” says six-foot-six, 325-pound left tackle Danny Groulx. “But as I kept growing, football became the better choice. And when you grow up playing football in Quebec, then playing for Laval is your dream.”

vanier12Stephane Jobin

A Window of Immunity

Back inside Stade Telus the Rouge et Or lead Bishop’s 7-0 in the first quarter. The ball is on Laval’s seven-yard line when Richard drops back to pass. He spots Maxime Boutin, whose position is technically “porteur de ballon” (ball carrier), in the left flat. Boutin races untouched up the left sideline to the 20, past the 30, the 40, the 50, the 55! – a writer in the press box sighs, “Bonsoir.” It is a 103-yard touchdown (a “touche”) for Boutin, something that is technically impossible in American football.

While no Canadian, not even in Quebec, would claim that football supercedes hockey, Canucks are fiercely proud of their gridiron lineage. They will eagerly yet politely inform you that the first documented football match took place at the University of Toronto in 1861 – eight years before the first American football game, between Princeton and Rutgers.

Canadian football is, like Canadian spelling (“Defence”), similar but not identical to American football. Besides the longer field – and end zones that are 20 yards deep — there are only three downs. Referees toss orange, not yellow, flags. The fair catch is not an option, but the punt team must give the receiver a five-yard window of “immunity.” And there is something called a “Rouge Point,” awarded to a team if the opposing side fails to return any kicked ball (kickoff, field goal or punt) that lands in the end zone beyond the goal line… which demystifies that final score from earlier this season: Laval 43, Sherbrooke 1.

The similarities between CIS football and the Saturday circus in the U.S. are numerous. The Hec Crighton Trophy, named after a former teacher, coach and referee, is analogous to the Heisman Trophy. There are Golden Bears (University of Alberta) and Gaiters (Bishop’s). There is a weekly highlight show, Krown Countdown U., that resembles what would happen if ESPN’sCollege GameDay mated with SCTV’s Bob and Doug McKenzie. During a recent highlights package, co-host Ryan Sullivan quipped of a player who ran back a punt for a touchdown (1:58 mark), “He is gone, like a bullet that was shot out of a gun that shoots bullets.”

And, while American college football diehards are patting one another on the back over the formation this season of a four-team playoff, the Vanier Cup – a national four-team playoff – is celebrating its 50th anniversary. (You’re welcome, America?)

There are differences, though. In CIS football both teams’ benches are on the same sideline, with each extending to the 45-yard line. The origin of that tradition dates back to 2005 and a melee  (0:30) involving the Rouge et Or and the University of Montreal. “They stomped on our logo at midfield during pre-game introductions and it incited a huge row,” says Laval’s charge de communication, Stephane Jobin, “so no player is permitted to cross the 45-yard line unless he  coming in or out of the game.”

Hitting With Empathy

Back at Stade Telus, the sun fades behind the western stands and a chill descends upon half of the stadium’s 13,392 attendees (no other Canadian school draws even half as many fans). Richard, a freshman who took over the starter’s role when the incumbent quarterback, Andrew Skinner, was suspended three games for his part  in a bar brawl last spring (The starting quarterback of the defending national champion involved in an off-field criminal incident?!?), has just thrown his seventh touchdown pass.

Laval leads 61-3. Now it is late in the third quarter. As the Rouge et Or line up for the PAT, the scoreboard clock continues to run. As it will throughout the fourth quarter, regardless of incomplete passes or out-of-bounds plays or changes in possession. Is this yet another Canadian football wrinkle? A mercirule?

“Not exactly,” Laval’s sports information director, Stephane Jobin, will explain later. “It’s just that the coach at Bishop’s asked Glen [Constantin] to do it because he has so many guys banged up. And Glen agreed.”

One day earlier, Alabama beat Texas A&M 59-0 and no such plea was made. But that’s the mark of the most dominant college football team in in the Western Hemisphere: at Laval, even empathy is de rigueur.

http://www.newsweek.com/canadas-laval-university-shows-how-do-football-right-279774

Following the New Silk Road
Image Credit: REUTERS/China Daily

Following the New Silk Road

With this year’s withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, the future of regional security in Central Asia remains uncertain. To fill the void of a departing military presence, the Obama administration developed the New Silk Road initiativeas its exit strategy. The initiative is designed to maintain regional security by linking Central and South Asian countries through trade.

Afghanistan and its neighboring Central Asian countries generally support establishing trade links across borders. However, the countries have differing views on what they think the impact a Western-created policy will have on the region.

Those who support the strategy consider it a reasonable way to forge economic links among major regional actors. They presume that a bolstered regional economy will foster security after the departure of Western troops from Afghanistan.

Several projects have already found monetary and strategic backing in the New Silk Road initiative. For example, the Central Asia-South Asia electricity transmission project (CASA-1000) received $15 million from the United States to build transcontinental power grid lines. The lines will transmit power from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the Pakistan electrical market*. There is also talk of a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline. Both the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank have promised support for these two projects. Finally, Afghan border checkpoints are proposed to better facilitate trade between Pakistan and Central Asia via Afghanistan.

With a few exceptions, however, experts from Central Asia, Afghanistan, the United States, and Europe who were interviewed on the prospects of the New Silk Road initiative are skeptical. The survey was conducted with the support of the Hollings Center for International Dialogue.

Experts focus on different factors when analyzing the policy, depending on their country of origin.

Critics argue that the New Silk Road unnecessarily “geopoliticizes” what should be a standard trade policy. The policy is designed to deliberately exclude Russia, Iran, and China. It signals that the United States “has some sort of master plan or master idea behind pushing” regional projects that were in place before the New Silk Road was even introduced, says Alexander Cooley, professor of political science at Barnard College.

Two problems is that the initiative “comes from the outside” and is “donor-driven,” says Volker Jacoby from the Center for International Peace Operations based in Berlin. The Central Asian governments’ view of the New Silk Road may not coincide with the West’s.

Central Asian political leaders, businessmen, and entrepreneurs consider Afghanistan to be too culturally different and too inherently unstable to be a viable trade partner. The countries fear spillover of drug trafficking and insurgency from Afghanistan if trade links were to open.

Afghanistan is still seen as “a bit of an alien,” says Fariz Irnazarov, country director for the Central Asian Development Institute. Current Central Asian rulers are content trading with China and Russia; “You can’t convince Central Asian governments that Afghanistan is part of the region,” he continues.

On the other hand, entrepreneurs in Afghanistan see Central Asia as a promising economic market. For them, there are abundant possibilities from shuttle trading to energy sector cooperation, says Moheb Mudessir, a BBC correspondent from the Afghan Service. The rich natural resources of Central Asia could play an important role in Afghanistan’s developing economy. Once international aid declines after 2014, Afghanistan hopes to become a transportation hub between Central and South Asia. And yet, Central Asia remains “one of the least involved neighbors in Afghan politics,” he says.

Many Afghan entrepreneurs resent the lack of trust their Central Asian counterparts feel about them. Former director of the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit in Kabul, Paul Fishstein, says northern Afghan traders are treated as “friends and neighbors” when they are importing goods from Central Asia, but they “become enemies” once they try to export goods from Afghanistan into Central Asia.

“There is a certain backwardness to the New Silk Road strategy,” says George Gavrilis, an independent scholar. Building new roads and establishing new border checkpoints will not automatically bring expanded trade. Instead, it usually happens that people seize economic opportunity and “the infrastructure [catches] up,” says Gavrilis.

Experts agree that the main political and security threats to Central Asian are internal, not from Afghanistan. Central Asian authoritarian regimes, fixated on preserving their rule, clamp down on civil society and political dissent, and in doing so they kindle further opposition among their citizens. Interstate trade is stalled by isolationist Central Asian regimes who refuse to open their borders to foreign business.

According to Cooley, the initiative implies that economic development in Central Asia and Afghanistan is hindered by a lack of entrepreneurship. However, the “number one economic barrier is kleptocracy coupled with capital flight,” he says. Any economic project backed by international donors will primarily benefit central elites, not regular entrepreneurs.

Regimes such as these tend to radicalize, rather than pacify, political activists. Dissenters eventually see no other way to challenge the incumbent except through violence. Insurgency in Tajikistan’s Rasht Valley in 2012, deadly riots in Kazakhstan in December 2011, and ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan in June 2010 are examples of how poor governance leads to violent instability.

Poor governance coupled with a corrupt security sector also creates a friendly environment for the proliferation of drugs and the spread of extremist groups. Autocratic ruling regimes often use Western donated military equipment to boost the capacity of their own personal guards rather than maintain the police force.

Alternative Silk Roads

As Western presence dwindles in the region, Russian and Chinese influence is rising. Moscow is pushing to expand the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

In addition, Russia is growing its military presence in Central Asian countries. For example, the Kremlin has increased its military support to Tajik border guards. Thus, in the case of a security threat from Afghanistan, Central Asian countries are more likely to turn to Russia for military help, rather than the United States, says Shair Juraev, a political expert from Kyrgyzstan.

Chinese influence is also expanding. In 2013, China’s trade with Central Asia reached $46 billion – a 100-fold increase since the fall of the Soviet Union. China is “certainly going to change the infrastructure-economic-trade landscape in the region,” says Joshua Kucera, a freelance journalist. China is focused on promoting large infrastructural projects aimed at shipping goods from China west through Central Asia.

Unlike Moscow, however, Beijing’s economic presence in Central Asia has not yet translated into political influence.

Recommendations

Given the criticism and low expectations of the U.S. New Silk Road initiative and the already present roots of political insecurity, Western, Central Asian, and Afghan experts recommend that the United States and European Union delink security assistance from its democracy development packages. The West should specialize in human rights and democratization, prioritizing them above security interests, since these are elements both Russian and Chinese policies lack.

In addition, security assistance provided by the West should be in the form of military training and exchanges of knowledge, as opposed to weapons and equipment. This would prevent authoritarian leaders from being able to use Western-donated, sophisticated military equipment against their own people.

Moreover, donors should focus on assisting the entrepreneurial class. Small and medium enterprises (SME) in Central Asia have the power to demand better accountability from their governments. And yet, to date, SMEs have received little monetary support from Western donors.

Finally, even critics of the New Silk Road agree that it is a politically expedient way out of military engagement in Afghanistan. But they argue that it needs further financial commitment if the West is going to compete with the growing Russian and Chinese presence.

Erica Marat is an assistant professor at the National Defense University. The views here are her own. Deborah Sutton contributed to this report. 

*Corrected. The line is supplying electricity to Pakistan, not from Pakistan.

http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/following-the-new-silk-road/

Riding the NYC Subway Used to Be Fun—Then It Became a ‘Small Death’

TIME

Long before New Yorkers started taking their pants off to liven things up on the subway, the ride was a novelty even with everyone fully-clothed.

On this day 110 years ago — Oct. 27, 1904 — 150,000 people rode the subway when it opened to the public for the first time, regarding the new form of public transit more as a circus act than as part of the drudgery of daily life. The first subway line, which ran from City Hall to 145th Street and Broadway, opened to “the tooting of whistles and the firing of salutes,” according to the New York Times’ report of the day, which noted the awe of those waiting in line for their turn to ride in the tunnels:

The general public would not be admitted until 7 o’clock, and its curiosity was vastly whetted all the afternoon by the unfamiliar appearance of crowds emerging…

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Interesting!

In 1964, Isaac Asimov Imagined the World in 2014

But he couldn’t have known the consequences of the development he predicted—a planet whose climate is badly destabilized, whose inhabitants face mass extinctions in the years ahead.
America’s Independent Electric Light and Power Companies/Paleofuture

In August of 1964, just more than 50 years ago, author Isaac Asimov wrote a piece in The New York Times, pegged to that summer’s World Fair.

In the essay, Asimov imagines what the World Fair would be like in 2014—his future, our present.

His notions were strange and wonderful (and conservative, as Matt Novak writes in a great run-down), in the way that dreams of the future from the point of view of the American mid-century tend to be. There will be electroluminescent walls for our windowless homes, levitating cars for our transportation, 3D cube televisions that will permit viewers to watch dance performances from all angles, and “Algae Bars” that taste like turkey and steak (“but,” he adds, “there will be considerable psychological resistance to such an innovation”).

He got some things wrong and some things right, as is common for those who engage in the sport of prediction-making. Keeping score is of little interest to me. What is of interest: what Asimov understood about the entangled relationships among humans, technological development, and the planet—and the implications of those ideas for us today, knowing what we know now.

Asimov begins by suggesting that in the coming decades, the gulf between humans and “nature” will expand, driven by technological development. “One thought that occurs to me,” he writes, “is that men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better. ”

It is in this context that Asimov sees the future shining bright: underground, suburban houses, “free from the vicissitudes of weather, with air cleaned and light controlled, should be fairly common.” Windows, he says, “need be no more than an archaic touch,” with programmed, alterable, “scenery.” We will build our own world, an improvement on the natural one we found ourselves in for so long. Separation from nature, Asimov implies, will keep humans safe—safe from the irregularities of the natural world, and the bombs of the human one, a concern he just barely hints at, but that was deeply felt at the time.

But Asimov knows too that humans cannot survive on technology alone. Eight years before astronauts’ Blue Marble image of Earth would reshape how humans thought about the planet, Asimov sees that humans need a healthy Earth, and he worries that an exploding human population (6.5 billion, he accurately extrapolated) will wear down our resources, creating massive inequality.

Although technology will still keep up with population through 2014, it will be only through a supreme effort and with but partial success. Not all the world’s population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively.

This troubled him, but the real problems lay yet further in the future, as “unchecked” population growth pushed urban sprawl to every corner of the planet, creating a “World-Manhattan” by 2450. But, he exclaimed, “society will collapse long before that!” Humans would have to stop reproducing so quickly to avert this catastrophe, he believed, and he predicted that by 2014 we would have decided that lowering the birth rate was a policy priority.

Asimov rightly saw the central role of the planet’s environmental health to a society: No matter how technologically developed humanity becomes, there is no escaping our fundamental reliance on Earth (at least not until we seriously leave Earth, that is). But in 1964 the environmental specters that haunt us today—climate change and impending mass extinctionswere only just beginning to gain notice. Asimov could not have imagined the particulars of this special blend of planetary destruction we are now brewing—and he was overly optimistic about our propensity to take action to protect an imperiled planet.

2013 was not the warmest year on record but it will come close. Last month, November, was the warmest since 1880. All of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. A video from NASA shows the dramatic shift in recent years. Watch what happens in the decades after Asimov wrote his essay. (Yellow and red represent temperatures warmer than the average for the years from 1951 to 1980.)

What color will 2014 be on that map? And what about in 10, 20, or 50 years ahead? Predictions are a messy, often trivial sport, but the overall direction the planet is heading is all too clear. As Wen Stephenson wrote in a blistering essay last year, “It’s entirely possible that we’ll no longer have a livable climate—one that allows for stable, secure societies to survive—within the lifetimes of today’s children.” No prediction should scare us more.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/12/in-1964-isaac-asimov-imagined-the-world-in-2014/282728/

The Future of War Is Here: Proxy Warfare

October 24, 2014

Professor White’s not alone in his dismal assessment. The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti reports that a recent CIA study came to a similarly dim conclusion—that US efforts at unconventional warfare had little effect on the long-term outcome of conflicts. Despite those conclusions, it’s unwise for strategists prematurely to dismiss the idea of supporting insurgent groups and working with non-state armed groups in both current and future conflicts.

For those who find proxy warfare detestable, its poor record mightn’t seem worrisome. Unfortunately, global trends suggest future conflicts will be characterized by insurgents, militias, and non-state armed groups who’ll be important in determining outcomes. Reports, including the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends 2030, show that increasingly those groups emerge to fill the security vacuums of failing states. They have easier access to external sources of support. Russia and Iran clearly see proxy warfare as part of their strategic culture. Even most conventional future scenarios—what Douglas MacGregor calls “wars of decision”—will have insurgents seeking to influence outcomes before, during, and after decisive actions. So it’s critical that strategists understand unconventional warfare and how to counter it. No matter how detestable we might find proxy warfare, it does work and our enemies would be happy to use it against us.

The data on supporting insurgent groups helps to illustrate my point. Studies of insurgencies and civil wars consistently demonstrate that external support is the most common enabler of insurgent success and that failure to isolate insurgents from external support is one cause of unsuccessful counterinsurgency campaigns. If external support matters so much in determining the outcome of civil wars, but US and allied efforts have a bad record, what’s the obvious conclusion? The problem isn’t that unconventional warfare doesn’t work; the problem is that we’re not good at it! The US and its allies are either doing something wrong or failing to do something important.

Actually, it’s both. Generally speaking, when supporting insurgent groups in the past, the US and its allies have either committed too little and/or expected too much. It’s important to recognize this failing now and to make a concerted effort to better understand how to incorporate unconventional warfare in future strategy. To be fair, the US and its allies have had some success when they chose to support a side in both insurgent and full-blown civil wars. Successful examples include Afghanistan in the 80s, at the beginning phases of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, and in Yugoslavia during World War II to name just a few. (There are more.) However, according to Mazzetti, the report claims that CIA efforts were less effective when insurgent militias fought “without any direct American support on the ground.” That’s a point I’ve emphasized before. Proxy forces will be more effective (and more malleable) when advisors are on the ground and providing them with capability, trust, advice, and support. Proxy forces live in the dangerous reality of civil war and social anarchy, and therefore have different immediate and long-term interests than their sponsors. It’s a principal-agent problem that has to be addressed. If we don’t commit blood and treasure to their cause, we can’t expect to influence their behavior—or the outcome.

Even if the commitment to proxies is strong, there’s also the danger of expecting too much from unconventional warfare strategies. In those cases where the US has been successful in supporting proxies, the desired outcome was broad. In Afghanistan in the 80s the US sought to punish and expel the Soviet Union from Afghanistan and cared little about what came next. Unconventional warfare with the commitment of only material support was good enough for the US, because Pakistani ISI provided the on the ground advice. In Operation Enduring Freedom, material support, in addition to on the ground advice and capability (air power) to the Northern Alliance was enough to defeat the Taliban—albeit not enough to secure the peace. In Yugoslavia during World War II, the objective was simply to keep Hitler’s divisions occupied. In each case, the objectives of unconventional warfare efforts were simple, broad end-states. The more control one expects over the outcome, the greater the need for a comprehensive strategy within which support for insurgents is merely one strand.

The lessons for anyone interested in military strategy are pretty clear. Future conflicts will be filled with sub-state and non-state armed groups. The capability to assess, influence, support, and integrate those entities into operations and strategy is something every credible military force needs to possess. Strategists need to understand those groups in both the context of the conflict at hand and in theory. The ability to influence such groups requires commitment. And, of course, the ability to influence outcomes requires that unconventional warfare efforts be part of a bigger strategy.

Lieutenant Colonel Jan K. Gleiman is an active duty US Army officer and a visiting fellow at ASPI (where this first appeared) from United States Pacific Command. 

Image: U.S. Army Flickr.

http://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/the-future-war-here-proxy-warfare-11546?page=2

China’s New Normal

TIME

Those who remain hopeful about the future of the Chinese economy got some extra evidence to bolster their case on Oct. 21. The Chinese government announced that GDP in the third quarter rose by a slightly better-than-expected 7.3%.

But don’t get too excited. That 7.3% is the slowest quarterly pace in five years, since the depths of the recession that followed the 2008 Wall Street financial crisis. And it’s likely that stronger exports, not investment or consumption in the domestic economy, are responsible for much of the unanticipated buoyancy in China’s economy.

That shouldn’t be surprising. This is China’s new normal. The double-digit pace the global business community has come to expect is very likely a thing of the past. More and more economists are predicting that China’s growth rates will continue to slow over time. The International Monetary Fund sees growth dropping from 7.4% this year to 6.8% in…

View original post 561 more words

North Korea Reportedly Barring Foreign Tourists Over Ebola Fears

TIME

North Korea tour operators say the country plans to close its borders to all foreign tourists over fears of Ebola.

North Korean state media indicated that the country was boosting quarantine measures for foreign visitors, according to Reuters, but tour operators like China-based Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours say North Korea is establishing a temporary ban on foreign tourists effective Friday.

It’s not clear if the ban applies to foreign diplomats or business travelers, but the New York Timesreports that the Beijing office of North Korea’s state airline said flights to the capital were not canceled.

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At least 4,877 people, mostly in Western Africa, have died amid the worst Ebola outbreak on record…

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The Rise of the Lone Wolf Terrorist

TIME

[time-related-module]

The shooting death of a Canadian soldier outside Parliament in Ottawa, by a suspect named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who was then killed inside the building, appears to be the latest in a series of “lone wolf” attacks inspired by radical Islam.

Wednesday’s attack happened two days after authorities said Martin Rouleau-Couture drove his car into two military members, killing one before he was fatally shot by police, and a month after Alton Nolen beheaded a co-worker in Nebraska. All three appeared to be recent converts to Islam.

There is no official confirmation that any of these attacks are considered to be direct retaliation for the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) but Canada’s Public Safety Minister, Steven Blaney, described the violent actions of Rouleau as “clearly linked to terrorist ideology”.

The country raised its terror alert from low to medium last Friday not because of…

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Chinese Democracy: A ‘Nightmare’ Scenario for US
Image Credit: State Department Photo

Chinese Democracy: A ‘Nightmare’ Scenario for US

A democratic China would be a nightmare for the West, according to a leading former Southeast Asian former diplomat.

One of the paradoxes for the West is that it is better off with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in power in China, Kishore Mahbubani, the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore and that country’s former UN ambassador, told a D.C. audience on Tuesday.

Noting that the general consensus in the United States has long been that a liberal democratic China would be a more responsible global power, Mahbubani warned Americans to be careful what they wish for.

“There is a strong nationalist sentiment in China” that derives from the view that China suffered a century of humiliation at the hands of Western and other foreign powers, Mahbubani pointed out. This sentiment is not relegated to the fringe of society; in fact, this conviction is often strongest among highly educated Chinese elites, especially those who have studied abroad in places like the United States and Europe.

The CCP currently keeps this nationalist sentiment in check, Mahbubani said. These forces would be unleashed, however, if China became a liberal democracy, which would be a “nightmare” for the Western world.

“I have no doubt that doubt China as a liberal democracy would be a much more nationalist, much more dangerous country” because “200 years of pent up anger” would explode, Mahbubani predicted.

By contrast, the CCP is more interested in domestic issues, which are the key to its survival, Mahbubani argued. He also said that CCP leaders believe that time is on China’s side and thus see little reason to aggressively challenge the established global order. The paradox, then, according to Mahbubani, is that China is most likely to play the role of a responsible stakeholder in the global order if it remains under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.

“If you are interested in global peace and security you may want to see the Chinese Communist Party remain in power,” Mahbubani told the largely American audience.

Indeed, Mahbubani added that “China has no interest in disrupting the global order” and on most global issues it is likely to continue deferring to the leadership of other countries for the foreseeable future. He did concede that this is not necessarily the case for important regional issues like North Korea and the South China Sea, where China is already more actively asserting itself.

Mahbubani was speaking at a luncheon hosted by the Center For The National Interest in Washington, DC.

While noting that predicting the future is wrought with challenges, Mahbubani also argued that it is nearly inevitable that China’s economy will surpass America’s on a non-PPP basis in the near future, making China “number one” in the world.

“It is possible China may stumble and fall…. We cannot rule it out” but it’s unlikely to happen given China’s “enormous stock of human capital.” This will allow it to maintain an annual average growth rate of 6-7 percent for the foreseeable future, Mahbubani said, which is all it needs to surpass the United States.

Given this, the former ambassador said, it is surprising that there aren’t far more discussions about how the world will change when China becomes number one. However, Mahbubani noted that this is unlikely to occur in the United States because it is “political suicide” for any American leader to openly contemplate a future where the U.S. is number two.

http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/chinese-democracy-a-nightmare-scenario-for-us/

WW2 U-boat found with ship it sank off North Carolina

Crew of the German U-boat 576 on the deck of their submarineU-576 was lost with 45 members of its crew

Related Stories

The wrecks of a German U-boat and a merchant vessel it sank in the Battle of the Atlantic have been found 30 miles (48 km) off North Carolina.

Researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found U-576 within 240 yds (220 m) of the US freighter Bluefields after 70 years.

It is a “rare window into a historic military battle”, the NOAA said.

The two ships met on 15 July 1942 when the German submarine attacked a convoy of merchant ships en route to Florida.

The U-576 sank the Bluefields and seriously damaged two other ships.

A US Navy Kingfisher aircraft in turn bombed the German vessel at the same time as it was attacked by the merchant vessel Unicoi.

Bluefields and U-576 were lost within minutes, the NOAA’s account of the battle says.

“Most people associate the Battle of the Atlantic with the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic but few people realise how close the war actually came to America’s shores,” said David Alberg, superintendent of the NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

“As we learn more about the underwater battlefield, Bluefields and U-576 will provide additional insight into a relatively little-known chapter in American history.”

Bluefields did not suffer any casualties during the sinking but 45 crew members were lost on U-576.

Germany’s foreign ministry appealed for the wreck site to be treated as a war grave to “allow the dead to rest in peace”.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-29721118

North Korea Bans All Tourism Over Ebola Concerns
Image Credit: Flickr/ Roman Harak

North Korea Bans All Tourism Over Ebola Concerns

North Korea has banned all foreign tourists from visiting the country over concerns about the Ebola virus.

“The country’s closed,” a Beijing-based travel agency specializing in North Korea quoted the state-run Korean International Travel Company as saying in a “panicked” phone call on Thursday, according to the South China Morning Post. “All borders will be totally sealed,” the travel agency added.

The news has been confirmed by other Chinese travel agencies who specialize in facilitate trips to North Korea by foreign tourists.

The complete ban on tourism will go into effect on Friday and will be continued indefinitely. It is possible that businessmen and diplomats will still be allowed in the country during the ban. Beijing-based officials from North Korea’s state-owned airline Air Koryo, reportedly said that no flights to North Korea have been canceled at this time. .

There have been no known cases of Ebola inside North Korea thus far, although there have been signs that Pyongyang is especially concerned about an Ebola outbreak inside the reclusive country. Gareth Johnson, who works at Young Pioneer Tours, a China-based travel agency specializing in North Korea, said, “Three days ago, they said that anybody who’s been to West Africa would have to provide a doctor’s certificate stating that they don’t have Ebola… And then today, they just said no foreign tourists at all.”

Reuters quoted North Korea’s state media, the Korean Central News Agency, as saying in a Korean-language report on Thursday that “travelers and materials are undergoing more thorough checks and quarantine at airfields, trading ports and border railway stations than ever before.” The article apparently did not mention the ban on tourism, however.

North Korea has a history of acting with extreme caution when it comes to international pandemics. For example, it closed all its borders in 2003 to prevent a SARS outbreak despite not a single case being reported in the Hermit Kingdom. That ban was in effect for around four months before normal operations were resumed.

On the one hand, the extreme caution makes sense given that North Korea’s medical system is primitive compared to modern standards. In addition, sealing the borders of North Korea is less costly for the country than a move to close the borders of most other countries would be given the DPRK’s reclusiveness.

Still, under the rule of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean government has given attracting foreign tourism a higher priority as a way to increase the amount of hard currency the government has at hand. For example, Kim Jong-un had the Masikryong Ski Resort built partially to attract foreign tourists to the country. North Korea has also begun offering tailored trade packages intended to attract certain types of foreigners such as military enthusiasts.

Earlier this year, the Choson Sinbo, a news outlet affiliated with the pro-North Korean General Association of Korean Residents in Japan, reported that tourism to North Korea was up 20 percent in the first six months of 2014 compared to a year earlier.

“The amount of foreigners looking to visit Choson (North Korea) is continuing to increase. . . . [and] according to Choson International Travel Agency President Ham Jin, the number of foreign tourists has increased by 20 percent over the previous year in just the first six months of 2014,” the article stated.

North Korea doesn’t release actual numbers on the number of tourists who visit the country each year, but aReuters’ investigation earlier this year estimated that as many as 6,000 Westerners now visit North Korea annually, compared to just 700 a decade ago.

http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/north-korea-bans-all-tourism-over-ebola-concerns/

Interesting!

4 Things We Learned from China’s 4th Plenum
China’s Supreme People’s Court

4 Things We Learned from China’s 4th Plenum

The Fourth Plenum wrapped up Thursday after a four-day discussion focused on the “rule of law” in China. At the plenum’s closing, the CCP Central Committee issued a communique on “comprehensively advancing ruling the country according to the law” (and Xinhua provided a partial English translation). While the details of implementation remain scarce, the document presents a general overview of reforms to China’s legal system. Below, four takeaways from the Fourth Plenum communique.

First, as expected, the Central Committee moved to lessen local officials’ control over the legal system. The communique said that China would create circuit courts that will effectively sever the direct connection between local judges and local Party leaders. Although the courts will of course still be beholden to Party guidance, this will make it more difficult for low-level officials to interfere in legal proceedings to advance their own interests. The communique also promised to “explore establishing cross-administrative region courts and procuratorates,” another crucial step in loosening local control over China’s judicial system.

The CCP also announced that officials will be judged on their effectiveness in upholding the rule of law. From now on, success in implementing the rule of law will be a “significant index” in evaluating government officials – which means official promotions (and demotions) will be decided in part based on demonstrated respect for the rule of law. How officials will be judged on this remains unclear, and it will still be only one of many factors used to evaluate officials. However, the communique also promised to establish a mechanism to “record” the names of officials who try to interfere in judicial cases. Such officials will be publicly named, the communique warned.

Second, the communique promised to increase both the accountability and transparency of government. The document promised to establish “a mechanism to examine the legitimacy of major decision-making in governments.” This new system will include “a lifelong liability accounting system for major decisions and a retrospective mechanism to hold people accountable for wrong decisions.” The CCP will also seek increased government transparency.

Both of these initiatives fit with Xi’s broader focus on revamping the connection between the Party and the people. His “mass line campaign,” which ended earlier this fall, also emphasized the need for Party officials to be responsive to the needs of the people, both to establish effective governance and to boost the Party’s image. In another step designed to make the government more responsive to the people, the communique promised to “seek to allow prosecutors to file public interest litigation cases.” Beijing has been incrementally expanding the scope of public interest cases, particularly ones involving consumer protection and environmental issues. Implemented effectively, such lawsuits could provide a much-needed check on the collusion between big businesses and local officials.

Third, as I mentioned yesterday, the Fourth Plenum placed an usual emphasis on the importance of China’s constitution. The communique continued this trend, insisting that the constitution is the “core” of the “socialist legal system.” “To realized the rule of law, the country should be ruled in line with the Constitution,” the communique said, adding that “the system to ensure the implementation of the Constitution … should be improved.”  The communique, in particular, called for the National People’s Congress and the NPC Standing Committee to have a larger role in making sure China’s constitution is obeyed.

As Cheng Li, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told Reuters, the plenum report is “not a landmark decision.” Implementation of the “rule of law” as outlined at the Fourth Plenum will not suddenly make the Party subordinate to the constitution and the law. But, Cheng added, “It’s the beginning of China’s fight for constitutionalism. The fact that they have talked about the Constitution itself is encouraging.”  If nothing else, the Central Committee’s emphasis on the constitution provides more space for discussion. For the past several years, the term “constitutionalism” has been effectively taboo.

Fourth, the communique made it clear that the “rule of law” does not mean a decrease in Party authority. The English-language “highlights” provided by Xinhua somewhat downplayed the emphasis the original communique placed on the Party’s continued leadership role over the legal system. “Persisting in Party leadership is the basic requirement for the socialist rule of law… Party leadership and the socialist rule of law are identical,” the Chinese-language communique asserts. The communique also points out, as a clarification to its emphasis on the constitution, that “China’s constitution establishes the leading status of the Chinese Communist Party.”

In other words, the Party remains above the law and the constitution. The “rule of law” remains a mechanism for asserting Beijing’s authority, not a means to circumscribe CCP power.

http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/4-things-we-learned-from-chinas-4th-plenum/