Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: If you thought Malaysia’s bitter leadership battle...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: If you thought Malaysia’s bitter leadership battle...: If you thought Malaysia’s bitter leadership battles were over … Infighting at Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party over who will be...

If you thought Malaysia’s bitter leadership battles were over …

If you thought Malaysia’s bitter leadership battles were over …

Infighting at Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party over who will be his deputy threatens to divide government. A whisper campaign is spreading that Anwar is plotting against ally Azmin Ali and the PM, Mahathir Mohamad

Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s prime-minister-in-waiting, is set to visit China next week. Photo: AP

The People’s Justice Party (PKR), led by Malaysia’s prime-minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim, is discovering the flip side to democracy.

A perennial underdog until its surprise victory in May’s general election as part of the Pakatan Harapan coalition that ended Barisan Nasional’s 60-year monopoly on power, the PKR is trying to shake off the infighting that has dogged it as it embarks on an internal voting exercise.

A fierce battle is raging for the position of deputy president as Azmin Ali – Anwar’s long-time ally, right-hand man and economic affairs minister – faces off against Rafizi Ramli, a pollster who predicted Pakatan Harapan’s win in May and a relative newcomer thought to have found Anwar’s favour.

With the duo apparently neck and neck, accusations of vote-buying, bribery, electioneering, violence, and even tampering with the newly introduced e-voting system have arisen – as has speculation over whom Anwar will back.

Detractors have speculated that Anwar, widely considered to be backing Rafizi, is out to eliminate the threat posed by Azmin, whose new-found responsibilities on a federal level have shown his capabilities as a leader.

These machinations may appear like typical intra-party jockeying and par for the course but at stake is no less than the future of politics in post-Mahathir Malaysia. Who after Anwar and who will stand alongside Anwar are key questions the party elections will give some early answers to.

More immediately, and intertwined with the party elections, Anwar’s own designs on power are fuelling speculation. Anwar and the incumbent Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad have a deal that Mahathir will hand over the reins sometime in 2020, but some observers detect signs Anwar is growing impatient and hence the importance of the elections in deciding the fate of his closest allies.

The opposition United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party is convinced Anwar is plotting to prematurely unseat Mahathir and is seeking support for a no-confidence motion against him.

Other rumours have it that Azmin will shift to Mahathir’s party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu), if he loses – potentially splitting PKR.

Thus, what might have appeared to outsiders as an internal party matter has morphed into an issue threatening to divide a government.

Anwar’s party, which commands 50 out of 222 parliamentary seats – the largest bloc in the Pakatan Harapan coalition – is known for its infighting.

That might not be uncommon in political parties, but as analysts note, PKR seems less adept than most at keeping its squabbles out of the public eye. In 2014, Azmin had a very public dispute with Khalid Ibrahim, then Chief Minister of Selangor, Malaysia’s richest state. The two were also vying for the role of deputy president, and Khalid’s loss was one of the factors that eventually sent him into the political wilderness.

Early on in the current party polls, both Rafizi and Azmin made public statements on the other’s effectiveness as a leader.

Political scientist James Chin, from Tasmania University’s Asia Institute, said the results so far showed that the two “big camps” within the party were fairly evenly matched, but he maintained that PKR would not break as long as Anwar was around.

“As long as Anwar Ibrahim is alive he will remain its leader, whether formally or informally. Even when he was in prison, his wife held the position for him in trust,” he said, comparing it to Lee Kuan Yew’s ties with Singapore’s People’s Action Party.

 “What is interesting here is that this practice of stacking branches with voters is exactly what happened in the 1987 Umno crisis – allegations of people being paid to join or bused in to vote. The personalities are different but the tricks are the same.”

The 1987 Umno crisis was triggered by a divisive party leadership election, which saw a faction, led by Razaleigh Hamzah, trying to oust Mahathir, who was then helming an Umno-led government during his first stint as prime minister. Razaleigh, a former finance minister, lost the polls by only a thin margin.

Awang Azman, from the University of Malaya’s Institute of Malay Studies, was wary of allegations that the Azmin-Rafizi tussle was a proxy war for Mahathir and Anwar, although he added this perception was understandable given “the conflict and political history” of the two veteran politicians.

Anwar and Mahathir have had a tumultuous relationship, the former serving as deputy prime minister during the latter’s first stint as prime minister until Anwar was sacked in 1998 and charged, and later jailed, for sodomy and corruption.

The two remained bitter foes until Mahathir resigned from Umno in 2016 and threw in his lot with the then-opposition coalition to lead them to electoral victory earlier this year.

The brouhaha surrounding PKR’s party polls is also due, Awang believes, to its new role in government, which puts its internal affairs under more intense scrutiny as it is no longer overshadowed by Anwar’s own position as a national reformist icon.

“Anwar often stresses the importance of issues such as money politics, brown-nosing, party loyalty and unity, and factional politics. He is sensitive to these as he is acutely aware that PKR is now in government,” he said.

“This is why all the allegations of cheating from both camps are a cause for concern, and why a minister and two members of parliament from PKR, who are candidates in the party’s ongoing elections, have been slapped with warning letters after complaints were lodged against them.”

At the end of the day, both Azmin and Rafizi are loyal to Anwar. But the big problem is succession – to whom will it all go?

Political scientist James Chin

PKR’s elections operations director Sangetha Jayakumar expressed a similar sentiment, saying that the elections were receiving greater attention because PKR was now “actually running the country”.

“We want the right people in leadership. Every party has national elections that are divided within – this is not new,” she said.

“But it bears noting that we practise one member one vote, not representational voting, and that a woman member under 35 has the option to vote for more than 130 positions [in various branches and wings of the party].

“That’s why the e-voting process is so complicated and has received criticism.”

Some of the complaints that have arisen include allegations that the electoral roll has swollen by thousands of voters over a short period, that votes are going “missing”, that there are “coding” errors in the e-voting system, and that the company which designed the system has links with PKR’s Central Electoral Committee.

Azmin has called on the election committee to investigate all reports and complaints to ensure fair and transparent polls.

Member of Parliament Wong Chen, who assisted Rafizi Ramli in setting up his polling data centre, said fresh allegations of cheating could be attributed to “panic” from certain parties who were surprised by the small margin of victory from the vote count thus far.

Wong said the old non-electronic system was “fundamentally flawed”, pointing out that there had been reported cases of ballot-stuffing in the past and that e-voting was “impossible to rig”.

The most pressing question that the PKR internal polls have thrown up is where power rests in a future leadership. Azmin, as incumbent deputy and a federal minister, has provided PKR with an alternative direction.

However, Rafizi, despite having no role in government, has managed to keep the race for the party’s deputy presidency tight due to his popularity within the party.

Said Chin: “At the end of the day, both Azmin and Rafizi are loyal to Anwar. But the big problem is succession – to whom will it all go?”

The PKR polls will continue state by state until November 10.

By Tashny Sukumaran



Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Australian spy chief explains ban on Chinese tech ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Australian spy chief explains ban on Chinese tech ...: Australian spy chief explains ban on Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE, deemed ‘high-risk vendors’ In August, the Australian federal ...

Australian spy chief explains ban on Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE, deemed ‘high-risk vendors’

Australian spy chief explains ban on Chinese tech firms Huawei and ZTE, deemed ‘high-risk vendors’

In August, the Australian federal government decided to bar Huawei and ZTE from supplying equipment to Australia’s 5G network

Australian policy institute claims at least 300 Chinese military scientists came to Australia as PhD students or visiting scholars

Australia’s spy chief has explained why China’s Huawei Technologies or ZTE Corp could not be allowed to help build Australia’s new 5G mobile network, saying a potential threat anywhere in the network could undermine the entire project.

Mike Burgess, the director-general of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), said if “high-risk vendor equipment” is used anywhere in Australia’s evolving 5G network, the future communications system underpinning water supply and electricity grid and health systems, even self-driving cars, could not be protected.

“The stakes could not be higher,” Burgess warned. “Historically, we have protected the sensitive information and functions at the core of our telecommunications networks by confining our high-risk vendors to the edge of our networks. But the distinction between core and edge collapses in 5G networks. That means that a potential threat anywhere in the network will be a threat to the whole network.”

Burgess made his comments at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s (ASPI) national security dinner in Canberra on Monday evening. His comments coincide with ASD making its Twitter debut, announcing its arrival with a message describing the agency as a “long time listener, first time caller”.

In August the Australian federal government decided to bar Huawei and ZTE from supplying equipment to Australia’s 5G network, claiming it was necessary to protect national security. Marise Payne, the foreign affairs minister, said it was not targeted specifically at Huawei and ZTE but applied to any company that had obligations clashing with Australia’s national security.

The decision to ban Huawei and ZTE from running the technology has infuriated Beijing and sparked a PR battle over the trustworthiness of those firms. Both operate with Chinese state backing but are among the biggest technology companies in the world. Huawei, founded by a People’s Liberation Army researcher, and ZTE have been accused by the US Congress of being tools of the Chinese intelligence services.

“The Australian government has made the wrong decision and it will have a negative impact to the business interests of China and Australia companies,” China’s commerce ministry said.

Burgess told the audience at ASPI’s dinner on Monday that strategic and economic power was shifting east, as the global economy changed. He said it was bringing with it a wealth of opportunities for Australia as the country advances its digital economy and trade relationships, but it was also changing the industrial base Australia relies on for critical infrastructure.

“We will need to be open-eyed on the potential threats that any significant change of this kind poses to Australia’s most important interests,” he said. “It would be naive to think we can manage these strategic and technology risks by holding back change. Like everything, it is a question of finding the right balance between leveraging all the advantages that these new shifts bring – and protecting Australians, our values and our way of life.”

The Australian government has made the wrong decision

Chinese commerce ministry

Reforms to Chinese intelligence and President Xi Jinping’s drive to expand China’s influence overseas have led to increasing friction and competition between intelligence agencies in Beijing and Canberra.

The ASPI on Tuesday accused the Chinese military of sending 2,500 scientists and engineers overseas to work on potentially sensitive projects – with the intention of returning to work directly for the PLA.

Researcher Alex Joske found at least 300 Chinese military scientists came to Australia as PhD students or visiting scholars. They worked in fields including signal processing, radar, explosions and navigation systems, as well as self-driving cars and code-breaking, he wrote.

Most PLA scientists do not disguise their background but the institute said it identified “24 new cases of scientists hiding their military affiliation while travelling outside China, including 17 who came to Australia”.

Australia is part of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance with Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, who cooperate closely and share sensitive information.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: spy chief defends 5G ban on huawei and ZTE by canberra


Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Chinese Debt Trap Will Trigger Trade Colonialism F...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Chinese Debt Trap Will Trigger Trade Colonialism F...: Chinese Debt Trap Will Trigger Trade Colonialism For Small And Weaker Nations In Belt And Road Initiative: What Does It Presage? Chin...

Chinese Debt Trap Will Trigger Trade Colonialism For Small And Weaker Nations In Belt And Road Initiative: What Does It Presage?

Chinese Debt Trap Will Trigger Trade Colonialism For Small And Weaker Nations In Belt And Road Initiative: What Does It Presage?

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is feared to be a cobweb for debt trapped small and weaker nations. It woos small and weaker nations with loans in the name of infrastructure development and when their debt are not paid, it captures their land and resources. It violates the global norms for development loan, while leaving little room for debt relief. So far, eight countries have fallen prey to debt trap. They are Djibouti, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Lao, Maldives, Mongolia, Pakistan and Montenegro, according to a study by Centre for Global Development.

There are other weaker nations which are underway to fall prey to debt trap. They are Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar.

India is not party to Belt and Road Initiative. Even then, it is not far from the ripple impact of Chinese debt trap, since its neighbours are likely to succumb to Chinese debt trap.

Sri Lanka plunged into debt trap, which caused handing over its Hambantota Port to China. Djibouti – an African nation — is tending to cede its control on a key port, which is linked to Beijing linked company. The Malaysian newly elected Prime Minister Mahattir Mohammad cancelled US $ 20 billion East Coast Rail Link project – a massive Belt and Road project. Tonga’s Prime Minister Akilis Pohiva urged the Pacific Island nations to request China to wave the debts. Pakistan is creeping into debt trap, running pillar to post for aid.

The growth of debt trap clouds over the leaders of African and small nations in South East Asia, who accepted substantial development loans from China as a part of their participations in Belt and Road Initiative. They feared that when these leaders lose power, the successive governments plunged into huge debt and are stuck with the task of repayment.

Indonesia is a case in point. The debt trap will push these nations in financial turmoil and deter to finance their own development projects.

The Chinese loan is viewed a surreptitious attempt to spread Chinese economic outreach in South East Asia. The growing burden of debt will give more opportunities to China to dominate the terms for trade and investment with the debt ridden countries. This will eventually lead to Chinese colonialization of small and weaker nations in the economic realm. It will pose a strong challenge to India to increase its trade and investment relations with its neighbor and nations in ASEAN. India is on the mega project for the development of North East through development of connectivity with its neighbor and ASEAN.

The Chinese debt trap means the loss of the sovereignty of small nations like India neighbors and weaker nations in ASEAN. Debt are turning into equity and finally ownership goes to China. Besides losing trade opportunities, it will create security concern. For example, with the transfer of the ownership of Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port, China aggravated the security concern for India. The port is likely to be used for China’s military base.

The debt trap triggers concern for India to join RCEP ( Regional Cooperation for Economic Partnership) – the biggest trade block in the world. Every likelihood, RECEP will take a shape by this year end, after failing two targets.

China is the biggest stake holder in RCEP, which includes ASEAN 10 + 6 (China, Japan, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand and India). At present, India has trade deficit with RCEP. Given the China’s predominance in RCEP, the major concern for India is that China’s trade colonization will act headwind to India’s trade expansion in RCEP.

In 2017-18, RCEP accounted for 64.4 percent of India’s world trade deficit. China was the main reason for India’s trade imbalance with RCEP. It alone accounted for 60.4 percent of India’s trade imbalance with RCEP.

The surge in debt burden will increase India’s vulnerability in the trade block. Instead of reaping benefits, it would impart a reverse impact on India. It will peer for a major import market for China and its colonized partner countries. The spill over impact will prove double whammy for India.

In other words, China and its debt trapped nations will be the game changer in the trade block. Indian entrepreneurs feared that the debt ridden nations would open a new platform to China to reap the benefits of tariff concessions through back door. India offers less opportunities for tariff concessions to China, as because it does not have FTA with China.

Under the negotiations for RCEP, India offered concessions three tier tariff structure. India offered big elimination of tariff on 80 percent traded goods with ASEAN countries and 62.5 percent to Japan and South Korea as because It has FTAs with these countries. To China, Australia and New Zealand, India offered least elimination of tariffs on 42.5 percent traded goods , since it does not have FTAs with these countries.

It was earlier perceived that three tier tariff structure would plug Chinese exports to India under RCEP, based on strict Rules of Origin. But, a close view analysis says that the surge in debt trapped nations in the block will give leeway to China to for a back door entry in Indian market. The debt trapped nations will be forced to open the door to Chinese investment more liberally , after losing bargaining power and helped China to make push exports through their land. India is the biggest consuming country in the block. Eventually, India will be the dumping ground for China.

This means that even though sensitive goods , such as electronic goods, may be excluded from tariff concessions from China under RCEP negotiation , they will find new passage to enter India through debt trapped nations. This will cause damage to domestic industry and the country would witness import surge of Chinese goods.


Subrata Majumder

Subrata Majumder is an adviser to Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), New Delhi, and the author of “Exporting to Japan,” as well as various articles in Indian media, including Business Line, Echo of India, Indian Press Agency, and foreign media, such as Asia Times online and Eurasia Review.


Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s Battle For The Soul Of Islam

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Indonesia’s Battle For The Soul Of Islam: Indonesia’s Battle For The Soul Of Islam Nahdlatul Ulama, with 94 million members the world’s largest Sunni Muslim movement, is bent ...

Indonesia’s Battle For The Soul Of Islam

Indonesia’s Battle For The Soul Of Islam

Nahdlatul Ulama, with 94 million members the world’s largest Sunni Muslim movement, is bent on reforming Islam.

The powerful Indonesian conservative and nationalist group that operates madrassahs or religious seminaries across the archipelago has taken on the ambitious task of reintroducing ijtihad or legal interpretation to Islam as it stands to enhance its political clout with its spiritual leader, Ma’ruf Amin, slated to become vice president as the running mate of incumbent President Joko Widodo in elections scheduled for next April.

In a 40-page document, argued in terms of Islamic law and jurisprudence and scheduled for publication in the coming days, Nahdlatul Ulama’s powerful young adults wing, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor, spells out a framework for what it sees as a humanitarian interpretation of Islam that is tolerant and pluralistic in nature.

The initiative is designed to counter what many in Nahdlatul Ulama, founded in 1926 in opposition to Wahhabism, see as Islam’s foremost challenge; the rise of radical Islam. The group that boasts a two million-strong private militia defines as radical not only militants and jihadists but any expression of political Islam and asserts that it is struggling against the weaponization of the faith.

While it stands a good chance of impacting Islamic discourse in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation, it is likely to face an uphill battle in making substantial headway beyond Indonesia despite its links to major Muslim organizations in India, the United States and elsewhere. It also could encounter opposition from the group’s more conservative factions.

Mr. Amin, the vice-presidential candidate, is widely viewed as a conservative who as issued fatwas against minorities, including one in 2005 denouncing Ahmadis, a sect widely viewed by Muslims as heretics. Violent attacks on Ahmadis by extremists have since escalated with mob killings and the razing to the ground of their homes.

Mr. Amin is also believed to have played a key role in last year’s mass protests that brought down Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, aka Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian, and led to his sentencing to two years in prison on charges of blasphemy against Islam.

The vice-presidential candidate appears to have since mellowed. In a recent speech in Singapore hosted by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Mr. Amin projected himself as an advocate of an Islam that represents a middle way and stands for balance, tolerance, egalitarianism, non-discrimination, consultation, consensus and reform.

Mr. Amin’s speech appeared to be not out of sync with the reformist thinking of Ansor.

To achieve its goal, Ansor hopes to win Middle Eastern hearts and minds in a roundabout way by targeting European governments as well as the Trump administration in a bid to generate pressure on Arab regimes to promote a tolerant, pluralistic form of Islam rather than use the faith to garner legitimacy and enhance regional influence.

To further that goal, Yahya Staquf, a diminutive, soft-spoken general secretary of the group’s Supreme Council and a member of Mr. Widodo’s presidential advisory council, met in June with US Vice President Mike Pence and Reverend Johnnie Moore.

Mr Moore is an evangelist who in May was appointed by President Donald J. Trump as a member of the board of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Mr. Staquf also paid in June a controversial visit to Israel where he met with Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu against the backdrop of Mr. Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Mr. Netanyahu’s office trumpeted the meeting as an indication that “Arab countries and many Muslim countries (are) getting closer to Israel” despite Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians becoming with US backing more hard line. The meeting served to strengthen Nahdlatul Ulama’s relations with Mr. Trump’s evangelist, pro-Israel supporters.

While making significant inroads in the West, Nahdlatul Ulama risks being identified with autocrats like United Arab Emirates crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed who strives to depoliticize Islam as a means of ensuring the survival of his regime. It also risks being tainted by its tactical association with Islamophobes and Christian fundamentalists who would project their alliance as Muslim justification of their perception of the evils of Islam.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s association could further bolster the position of evangelists locked into battle with expanding Islam along the 10th parallel, the front line between the two belief systems, with Nigeria and Boko Haram, the West African jihadist group, at its core.

If successful, Nahdlatul Ulama’s strategy could have far-reaching consequences. For many Middle Eastern autocrats, adopting a more tolerant, pluralistic interpretation of Islam would mean allowing far greater social and political freedoms. That would likely lead to a weakening of their grip on power.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s credibility in pushing a tolerant, pluralistic interpretation of Islam rides in part on its willingness to subdue its own demons, first and foremost among which sectarianism manifested in deep-seated prejudice against Muslim sects, including Shiites and Ahmadis. That may be too tall an order in a country in which ultra-conservative Islam remains a social and political force.

As a result, Nahdlatul Ulama’s battlefields are as much at home as they are in the larger Muslim world. Proponents of the reform strategy chose to launch it under the auspices of the group’s young adults wing in an admission that not all of Nahdlatul Ulama’s members may embrace it.

The most recent clash occurred last week on the eve of a meeting in Yogyakarta of the Ansor-sponsored Global Unity Forum convened to stop the politicization of Islam. Attendees included Mr. Moore as well as Imam Umer Ahmed Ilyasi of the All India Imam Organization and imams from the United States.

Beyond militants in Indonesia, Nahdlatul Ulama’s foremost rival is Turkey.

It is a battle that is shaped by the need to counter the fallout of a $100 billion, four decades-long Saudi public diplomacy campaign that enjoyed tacit Western support to anchor ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim Islam in communities across the globe in a bid to dampen the appeal of post-1979 Iranian revolutionary zeal. The campaign created a breeding ground for more militant and violent strands of the faith.

The battle for the soul of Islam finds it most geopolitical expression in the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Turkey as well as Iran. The battle with Turkey has come to a head with the killing earlier this month of journalist Jamal Khashoggi while visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul to certify his divorce papers.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan drove the point home by exploiting the Khashoggi crisis to advise religious leaders that “Turkey with its cultural wealth, accretion of history and geographical location, has hosted diverse faiths in peace for centuries, and is the only country that can lead the Muslim world.”

If Nahdlatul Ulama couches its position in terms of Islamic law and jurisprudence, Mr. Erdogan’s framework is history and geopolitics. “The Turkish president’s foreign policy strategy aims to make Muslims proud again. Under this vision, a reimagined and modernized version of the Ottoman past, the Turks are to lead Muslims to greatness,” said Turkey scholar Soner Cagaptay.

Nahdlatul Ulama’s focus may not be Middle Eastern geopolitics. Nevertheless, its strategy, if successful, would significantly impact the region’s political map. In attempting to do so, the group may find that the odds are humongous, if not insurmountable.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Welcome To The New Age Of The Strongman

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Welcome To The New Age Of The Strongman: Welcome To The New Age Of The Strongman In the latest political lurch to the right, Jair Bolsonaro, self-confessed defender of the mi...

Welcome To The New Age Of The Strongman

Welcome To The New Age Of The Strongman

In the latest political lurch to the right, Jair Bolsonaro, self-confessed defender of the military dictatorship Brazil suffered under from 1964 to 1985, is expected to win the country’s presidential elections this month. Opinion polls show Bolsonaro, who racked up 46% of the vote in the first round, maintaining a healthy 18 percent lead over his leftist rival, Fernando Haddad, just days ahead of the second-round vote on 28 October.

Despite his openly racist, homophobic, and misogynist views, Bolsonaro’s strategy of standing on an anti-establishment ticket has helped him attract voters who are frustrated by the political corruption and violent crime which has plagued Brazil for decades.

And, while Bolsonaro’s rise to prominence can be largely attributed to the series of economic, social and political crises that have dogged Brazil in recent years, it also fits into a global trend that has legitimized the rule of so-called ‘strongman’ figures such as the Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte and Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán. So, why are despots and dictators of every political persuasion enjoying a renaissance?

Bolsonaro’s success reflects the global rise of populism

For Bolsonaro supporters, the appeal lies in his populist roots. Emerging from the military rank-and-file to serve in congress after Brazil’s twenty years of dictatorship, Bolsonaro has never attempted to hide his radical right-wing views – from his claim that he would rather his son die in a car accident than be gay to his belief that Afro-Brazilians are “no use, even to procreate.” His willingness to voice his opinions, no matter how outrageous and offensive, and his ability to leverage the nascent nationalism of his citizens echoes that of other bombastic leaders like Donald Trump.

Bolsonaro’s success can’t be seen in isolation: the mixture of overt bigotry and vows to crack down on crime and corruption that he has carefully honed is resonating with the Brazilian electorate, as it is increasingly resonating in a diverse swath of nations around the world. Over the last two decades, populist parties – often dangling the prospect of a return to prosperity– have enjoyed a staggering surge in support.

A reaction to progressivism and economic shocks

One of the most worrying aspects of the new strongman phenomenon is its near-universal spread, across continents and the political spectrum. In China, Xi Jinping has used his anti-corruption campaign to consolidate his own power by loosening presidential term limits, while Hungary’s Viktor Orbán has just won another term as prime minister by promising to protect the country’s ‘national’ values in the face of liberalism and the perceived threat from unchecked migration.

Serbia’s Aleksandar Vučić has cast himself as a reformer while his praise of accused war criminal Milosevic betrays the nationalist roots he has never fully cast off. But populism isn’t only the flavor-of-the-month in Europe’s post-communist states; it’s also gaining a foothold in affluent societies such as Sweden and Denmark, where social tolerance and liberal attitudes are deeply ingrained.

As Western societies have become more liberal on numerous social issues, those who are entrenched in what they call “traditional values” have felt threatened, making them more likely to turn to strongman leaders who promise to restore national pride and old-fashioned ideals.

Operating above the law

This increased public support in turn emboldens authoritarian leaders, persuading them of their own invincibility— a dangerous cocktail which often leads to egregious human rights infractions and worse. The grisly killing of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has underscored crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s determination to wield power at all costs. Attempts by the Saudi authorities to distance themselves from Khashoggi’s murder, initially by denying the journalist’s death and later by suggesting it was the consequence of a brawl gone wrong, have only served to further illustrate the administration’s contempt for international law.

In a similarly macabre vein, President Rodrigo Duterte recently admitted his role in authorizing extrajudicial killings as part of his controversial war on drugs in the Philippines. Duterte has employed the most draconian crime-fighting measures, even claiming that he personally killed three men, while dismissing the advancement of human rights and democracy as a tool of modern imperialism. It’s a toxic return to illiberal principles which is stifling progress in what was once a prosperous region.

Digging in for the long term

Even autocrats from the past are haunting their countries anew. 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled Malaysia with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003, pulled off a surprising victory this spring to become prime minister again. Mahathir has worked to shake off the shadows of his first premiership, which was characterized by media censorship, nationalist policies, and interference in the judiciary—most notably when Mahathir oversaw a purge of the Supreme Court which left lasting scars on Malaysia’s judicial system, and when he sacked his deputy and had him imprisoned on trumped-up sodomy charges. Despite campaigning as an unlikely reformer, thus far Mahathir’s new stint as PM – from his casual anti-Semitism to his obsessive persecution of his predecessor Najib Razak – seems uncomfortably similar to his previous regime.

In Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega is also presiding over his second administration, marked by a brutal subjugation of protestors and the free press. Once the poster-boy of the Sandinista rebels, he has since morphed into the very kind of fascist dictator he helped to overthrow. Ortega has vowed to remain in office until scheduled elections in 2021, unleashing “Operation Clean Up”—a brutal campaign by squadrons of masked gunmen to beat and sexually assault the hundreds of thousands of protestors calling for him to step down.

Mahathir and Ortega’s political resurrections show that not only are countries choosing to elect new authoritarian candidates like Bolsonaro, they’re also returning to those who symbolized repression and tyranny in the 1980s. With the strongman ascendant, it’s ordinary people who are likely to be crushed underfoot – a development which should profoundly concern the entirety of the free world.

By Rafael Salazar


The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed by the authors are theirs alone and don’t reflect the official position of Geopoliticalmonitor.com or any other institution.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Hillary Clinton, James Riadi, Treason, and the Chi...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Hillary Clinton, James Riadi, Treason, and the Chi...: Hillary Clinton, Treason, and the Chinese Communist Lippo Group “Corruption controversies have marked Riady’s business career. In the...

Hillary Clinton, James Riadi, Treason, and the Chinese Communist Lippo Group

“Corruption controversies have marked Riady’s business career. In the 1996 presidential campaign, James Riady was a major campaign contributor to the Democratic Party. In 1998, the United States Senate conducted an investigation of the finance scandal of the 1996 U.S. presidential campaign. James Riady was indicted and pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations by himself and his corporation. He was ordered to pay an 8.6 million U.S. dollar fine for contributing foreign funds to the Democratic Party, the largest fine ever levied in a campaign finance case. In 2008, Riady’s close business associate Billy Sindoro, an executive of Riady’s Jakarta-based First Media, was filmed handing bribes to officials of Indonesia’s anti-monopoly agency, the KPPU. Riady and First Media were then in a business dispute with a Malaysian company and the KPPU was deliberating that dispute. Sindoro was later found guilty of corruption. In December 2008, the Riady-owned Jakarta Globe published a sympathetic portrait of Sindoro in prison where he lamented he would not be able to spend Christmas with his family.” (source)

“The purpose of the contributions was to obtain various benefits from various campaign committees and candidates for Lippo Group and LippoBank, including: access, meetings, and time with politicians, elected officials, and other high-level government officials; contacts and status for Lippo Group and LippoBank with business and government leaders in the United States and abroad; business opportunities for Lippo Group and defendant LippoBank; government policies which would inure to the benefit of Lippo Group and defendant LippoBank, including Most Favored Nation status for China, open trade policies with Indonesia, normalization of relations with Vietnam, Community Reinvestment Act exemptions for LippoBank, a repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act which limited business opportunities for LippoBank, and a relaxation of Taiwanese restrictions on investment by foreign banks; the deposit of funds into LippoBank by political campaign committees and government agencies; and local government support for Lippo Group’s California property development projects which would in turn benefit LippoBank’s plans for expansion.”

Who needs spies when you can own a whole political party? Treason is a dangerous word, but, in essence, it means selling out your country to a foreign power. For cash or some other favor.

“Testimony before Sen. Fred Thompson’s committee indicated that the Lippo Group is in fact a joint venture of China Resources, a trading and holding company “wholly owned” by the Chinese communist government and used as a front for Chinese espionage operations. China Resources investments in Lippo grew during the course of the Clinton administration, coinciding with illegal six-figure Lippo contributions to Clinton’s cash machine. These contributions seem to not only have bought Lippo employee John Huang a job in the Commerce Department, but special consideration for Lippo business interests at the highest level of the Clinton administration.

Americans should feel safer knowing that a hostile foreign government has control at the highest level of their Executive Branch. Who needs a President when you can be ruled by the Communist Chinese directly?

Riady was exhiled until 2009, when the Clinton’s used their influence to get him back into the U.S.

“Last year, however, the Indonesian mogul finally made it to Arkansas. He traveled there during the first of two previously unreported trips he made in 2009 to the United States. He was allowed in only after receiving a waiver from a rule that forbids entry to foreigners guilty of “a crime involving moral turpitude,” a term that government lawyers generally interpret to include fraud.


Riady’s return to the United States poses a prickly question for Hillary Clinton’s State Department: How and why did a foreign billionaire stained by Clinton-era scandals get a U.S. visa after being kept out for so long under the Bush administration?

Curious how much Chinese Communist money is running Hillary Clinton’s campaign for President? Just go back and look at Bill Clinton’s campaign.

“During the period of August 1992 through October 1992, shortly after Riady pledged $1 million in support of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s campaign for the Presidency of the United States, contributions made by Huang were reimbursed with funds wired from a foreign Lippo Group entity into an account Riady maintained at Lippo Bank and then distributed to Huang in cash.


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