By John Fraser - Friday, November 9, 2012 - 0 Comments
Another massive tome on the life and times of Chairman Mao Zedong is not necessarily a time for rejoicing. Usually you have to be a pretty dedicated masochist to wade through the familiar saga of revolutionary fervour, bloody civil war, vengeful victory, vicious infighting, betrayals beyond most human imagining, and the concluding denouement of senile dementia.
Thanks to access to the extensive and formerly secret ﬁles from the former Soviet Union, however, this new biography offers considerably more new material. Much centres around the early relationship between the ruling Communists in Moscow and the followers of Mao, a period of ambivalent partnership and shifting alliances. It was an unequal relationship, of course, but the new material establishes even further what a canny and ruthless operator the younger Mao was.
Pantsov is a former Soviet specialist in China who now teaches in the U.S.; his other new material sheds further light on the degree of state paranoia Mao induced in his long-suffering people during the Great Leap Forward (1958) and the Cultural Revolution (or at least the white heat part between 1965 and 1968). The depth of rancour between the two Communist regimes was even more dramatic than sinologists have hitherto known.
Despite claims by Pantsov and Levine that they have sketched a more “balanced” picture of Mao, the same ruthless and often reckless maverick still emerges more or less as we have known him for over half a century: unrealistically idealistic, cruel often beyond measure, and ultimately corrupt and decrepit. It is the Chinese people’s bad luck that they have to carry Mao and all his discredited ideological baggage into their brave new era of prosperity and global economic domination.
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By Aaron Wherry - Friday, July 13, 2012 at 8:06 PM - 0 Comments
In the House, explaining why Bill C-38 must be passed, the Prime Minister said it was in order ‘to provide certainty to investors.’ (May 10, 2012). What investors would those be? In the last few years direct ownership of Alberta oil sands by Chinese state-owned oil companies has gone from nearly nothing to over $12 billion. Chinese money is already invested in the Enbridge pipeline and tanker scheme, Petro-China wants to build the pipeline, and Suncor is talking about using lowerwaged Chinese temporary workers–just in time to drive down wages and environmental standards. Sinopec is the fifth largest corporation in the world with a board of directors appointed by the Chinese Communist polit-bureau. And now Sinopec’s 9% share in Syncrude has given it veto power over any future decision to refine Syncrude bitumen in Canada, rather than put it in tankers…
So, back to that wonderful transmission of values through trade. Does anyone else notice that it seems to be working? Canada is absorbing Chinese values respecting human rights, labour laws, and environmental protections. It is indeed a national disgrace.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, April 25, 2012 at 1:08 PM - 0 Comments
She likely did not appreciate the response, but Elizabeth May did get the Prime Minister on his feet with this question at the very end of QP yesterday.
Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister recently said in Colombia that it was a matter of principle that Cuba should be excluded from the Summit of the Americas. As Communist China keeps buying up Canada, I am wondering where the principle is. While Cuba has a long way to go, it recently held an open mass where the Pope invited Cuban Catholics to worship. There is no such freedom of religion in China’s persecution of Tibetan monks, Falun Gong and Christians, which goes unimpeded.
I am asking the Prime Minister, as he hands the keys of Canada to China, what principle excludes Cuba?
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, February 2, 2012 at 6:48 AM - 0 Comments
Recommended to those following the Sino-Forest story: the final report from the independent committee empanelled by the company’s board of directors to investigate the company’s claimed assets and its relationships with suppliers. I have to say the report confirms what I thought in June: the issue with Sino-Forest is not necessarily fraud, but with the practical impossibility of confirming almost anything about its secretive business model. The committee did confirm that Sino-Forest’s cash holdings had been reported accurately, and was able to follow some selected title claims to timber more or less back to the actual trees. But with some extra emphasis on the “less”.
Could a curious investor look at actual maps of timber controlled by Sino-Forest agents, you ask? Well, you see, it’s not exactly kosher for foreigners to carry around maps of remote parts of China. You can borrow them from forestry officials if you really need to. Will the local forestry bureaus confirm Sino-Forest’s claims about plantations operated by its agents? Well, sometimes they’ll give you a certificate of sorts, for all the good it might do. “The confirmations are not title documents, in the Western sense of that term,” the committee report notes. (As I understand it, the Western meaning of “title document” is that it gives one an unquestioned, justiciable claim to ownership of something, whether the Party or the Army or the good Lord in heaven approve or not.) Continue…
By John Fraser - Friday, January 6, 2012 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
Pyongyang’s funerary pomp and strategy of terror mirror the darkest days of its communist neighbour
Nightmares are best left unrevisited, but the death on Dec. 17 of the “Dear and Great Leader” of North Korea, Kim Jong Il, deserves a deeper look down a particularly grisly memory lane. The entire Sturm und Drang of the death and succession to the third generation Kim Jong Un, already dubbed “Respected” and “Supreme Commander,” evokes some of the worst propaganda excesses of the Maoist regime in Communist China, especially during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, nearly half a century ago.
The pictures of North Koreans amassed in central squares across the country, sobbing their grief to the nation and the world, are almost identical to the pictures that came out of China in 1976 when the Great Helmsman reluctantly gave up the ghost. Militarized mass mourning is at the heart of these wretched regimes, as if the forced or brainwashed operatic bawling of the masses can—through sheer volume if nothing else—comfort the worried dinosaurs who struggle to maintain the totalitarian status quo.
When people ask what it was like in China during the Hundred Flowers campaign (1955-57), or Great Leap Forward (1958-60), or the Cultural Revolution itself (1966-68), you just have to say: “Tune in to North Korea.” Ditto for forced labour camps, human rights abuses, avoidable starvation, and all sorts of mind-numbing terror campaigns to engender “enthusiasm” in the masses—a cowed and brutalized population ignored by a world that can’t do much about their lot except call their regime “evil.”
By Alex Derry - Monday, October 3, 2011 at 9:55 AM - 0 Comments
Europe’s highest court bans the hammer and sickle from being trademarked
The Cold War is long over, but a recent intellectual property ruling by the European Union’s highest court shows Communism and capitalism are still at war, even in the world of contemporary fashion. The EU’s Court of Justice has ruled that a Russian designer cannot trademark the coat of arms of the former U.S.S.R. in the EU, on the grounds that it is “contrary to public policy and to accepted principles of public morality.” The decision looked at the case of Hungary, where the hammer and sickle is considered a symbol of despotism, with consideration for “the relevant public living in the part of the European Union which has been subject to the Soviet regime.”
The court’s decision was met mainly with accusations of historical revisionism in Russia, where the coat of arms is considered an unavoidable symbol of Russia’s past. But Oleg Smolin of Russia’s Communist party agrees with at least part of the ruling. “I believe it’s incorrect to exploit the [emblem] as a trademark,” Smolin told Voice of Russia. “A person has to earn money using his or her intellectual capabilities rather than those of the creators of the Soviet emblem.”
By Alex Ballingall - Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 2 Comments
Plans to erect a monument commemorating victims of Communist rule face a lack of public interest (and funding)
The group behind an effort to erect a national monument to the victims of Communist regimes is having trouble collecting the cash to do it. Last year, the $1.5-million project, known as the “Monument to the Victims of Totalitarian Communism,” got the go-ahead from Ottawa’s National Capital Commission (NCC). The Conservative government remains vocally supportive (when mentioning the project, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney still leaves off the “totalitarian” qualifier, added in 2009 at the insistence of the NCC); but the monument has yet to receive any government funding, project coordinator Carolyn Foster tells Maclean’s. Now it is up to the group, Tribute to Liberty, to convince the public to foot the bill.
So far, they have received just $100,000 in donations. Most of that, Foster says, has been gobbled up by administrative costs. At this rate, it will be well over a decade before they have enough money to design and build the memorial (a national design contest will be held once about two-thirds of the project’s total cost has been raised). “We’re a very small operation,” says Foster. “We don’t have the money to do big advertising.”
Beside that, much of the difficulty comes from a lack of public understanding about atrocities committed in places like the Soviet Union or Cambodia under Communist rule, she says. “People can’t get their heads around what the project is about,” she says. Atrocities like the Holocaust are simply better known than Communist crimes, which also included the execution of thousands of people without trial, and the forced starvation and deportation of millions more.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 12:50 PM - 25 Comments
“In my first life, ‘Are you or have you ever been a member of the communists?’” Mr. Martin said to The Hill Times. “That’s what this ridiculous thing is starting to remind me of…
“I came from B.C. where my union had a lot of communists in it, and I moved to Manitoba and I become the head of the Carpenters Union there right away and it was ‘Aw, he’s a communist that was parachuted in from B.C.,’ which was completely untrue and unfair because I went as far as forming the NDP caucus of the Carpenter’s Union in B.C. because I didn’t want to be associated with the reds,” he said. “This does smack of that, that Red-baiting thing that puts you in such an uncomfortable position,” Mr. Martin said.
By John Fraser - Friday, May 27, 2011 at 10:10 AM - 26 Comments
Diplomacy’s wheeler-dealer on the country’s emergence and his own role in it
Henry Kissinger, the extraordinary German-born Jew who bestrode most of 20th-century postwar American foreign policy, has written—at the age of 88—an important book on China, called just that: On China. Who better? At the most basic level, it’s important simply because of who Kissinger is and was: national security adviser and then secretary of state for two presidents (Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford), the realpolitik author of détente with the Soviet Union, which ultimately led to its dissolution; the high and mighty sherpa who cajoled the United States into recognizing “Red China” after decades of dangerous adversarial pyrotechnics; and the man who negotiated the end of the war in Vietnam, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.
Today, he presides over Kissinger Associates Inc., the mother of all international consulting firms, representing everyone from Coca Cola and Fiat and Volvo to (once upon a time) Hollinger Inc., whose former proprietor, Lord Black of Crossharbour (late of Coleman Correctional Center) was a close colleague. It may be fanciful, but I wouldn’t be surprised one day to learn Kissinger was on retainer to the politburo of the People’s Republic of China. As a locally famous consultant at Navigator Inc. of Toronto once said when criticized for taking a consulting fee from a dubious client: “Everyone deserves representation.”
The presiding premise of On China is to provide a detailed strategy on how best Sino-American relations should be conducted in the emerging era, which is a good enough reason to pay attention to such an experienced practitioner. Yet for all his valiant efforts to put a new glaze on well-known views, the inimitable wheeler-dealer of international diplomacy is still pretty easy to find. Although it takes 148 pages to get to it, it wasn’t a surprise to see the fulsome reference to Kissinger’s hero in the first paragraph of chapter six, entitled “China confronts both superpowers”: “Otto von Bismark, probably the greatest diplomat of the second half of the 19th century, once said that in a world order of five states, it is always desirable to be part of a group of three. Applied to the interplay of three countries, one would therefore think that it is always desirable to be in a group of two.”
By Julia Belluz - Monday, April 11, 2011 at 10:24 AM - 0 Comments
A human rights group is pressing President Dmitry Medvedev to finally decide the fate of the Bolshevik revolutionary’s cadaver
Bodies are political—in life and in death. The decades-long dispute over Vladimir Lenin’s stiff corpse is evidence of that. Most recently, a human rights group advising the Kremlin urged President Dmitry Medvedev to finally decide the fate of the Bolshevik revolutionary’s cadaver, which has been on display in a Red Square mausoleum since his death in 1924. A decision about the remains, the group said, would help with the process of reconciliation over a dark period in Russia’s history—mass famine, gulags, genocide and all. Russians seem to agree. According to a January poll, about two-thirds of those surveyed felt that Lenin should leave Red Square.
But leaders have been sitting on a decision about the burial since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin, said Lenin’s remains would be “definitely removed” to signal the end of the Communist era. Strong pro-Communist dissenters delayed the move. Others have argued that closing Lenin’s shrine would be akin to editing out an unsavoury chapter of Russia’s history. But with an election looming, this political body may finally find a new home.
By Erica Alini - Thursday, December 23, 2010 at 2:20 PM - 1 Comment
Beijing is encouraging the spread of female imams among its Muslims
Communism, which preaches the equality of men and women, has done nothing to redress China’s overweening cultural bias against baby girls, but it does seem to be helping women climb the social ladder in a rather unexpected place—the mosque. China, in fact, is the only country in the world with a tradition of female imams, a phenomenon that predates the advent of the People’s Republic, but which the country’s Communist government is helping to spread.
Women-only mosques and female preachers in China date back to the early 19th century, when they first appeared in the central provinces populated by the Hui, a Chinese Muslim group. Morocco also embraced the idea of female preachers in 2006, but the practice remains controversial in the Muslim world, and among many of China’s own 21 million Muslims. Chinese women’s mosques, though, found a helping hand in the government, which grants licences to practice Islam to both male and female imams through state-controlled bodies such as the Islamic Association of China. This kind of political backing is thought to be helping the spread of female-led mosques in areas of the country where women are still far from centre stage.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 11:36 AM - 28 Comments
Barbara Falk compares the Rosenbergs and Omar Khadr.
American justice has been marred in both the Cold War and the War on Terror by a combination of politically motivated prosecutions with larger didactic purposes, the over-reliance on conspiracy charges to lower the burden of proof, and the relaxation of the rules of evidence law. In both eras, the refrain of national security has been invoked. But it is at times of national insecurity that legal safeguards are needed the most, and it is to the most politically unpopular defendants already demonized by the media and in the court of public opinion that the most stringent due-process requirements should be applied. To do otherwise, as both the cases of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and of Omar Khadr attest, is to politicize justice and abuse the rule of law.
By Anna Porter - Friday, October 1, 2010 at 11:20 AM - 0 Comments
It’s been two decades since the Berlin wall came down
The Second World War did not end in the summer of 1945 as we had assumed, but on Oct. 3, 1990. The process had begun with the fall of the Berlin Wall on Nov. 9, 1989, and continued with the determination of West German politicians to have, once more, a single Germany. The “two plus four” treaty, so named after the four great powers and the two Germanys, was signed on Sept. 12, 1990, by secretary of state James Baker on behalf of the United States, Her Majesty’s foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, his French counterpart Roland Dumas, and also by Eduard Shevardnadze of the Soviet Union. There were some tense moments, according to state archivist Herbert Karbach, with everyone hoping the U.S.S.R. would not collapse before that all-important signature. With the signing, full sovereignty was restored to Germany, and the rights of the four wartime Allied powers ended. Reunification followed, in early October.
The treaty, complete with the flashy red seals of all the nations, is kept in the massive Foreign Office buildings in Berlin, which used to be the Reichsbank under Hitler’s National Socialists, and then the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Socialist (read Communist) Unity Party of East Germany.
Upstairs, you can see Erich Honecker’s formerly spartan office, now occupied by the rather more flamboyant Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. The German papers have reported that Westerwelle has just married his long-term partner.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 11:40 AM - 0 Comments
The hero of Solidarity says it would be a ‘disaster’ if Jaroslaw Kaczynski succeeds his dead brother as president
The strangest election in Poland’s post-Communist history took another wrong turn last week with the entry into the fray of famed anti-Communist Lech Walesa. The former Solidarity leader told Poles it would be a “disaster” if they elected Jaroslaw Kaczynski: identical twin of Lech Kaczynski, the Polish president killed in an April plane crash.
“Kaczynski is an irresponsible and dangerous politician,” Walesa said, shattering the sympathetic calm that had blanketed the campaign. It launched mere weeks after the tragedy, which wiped out much of the country’s political and military elite. “We could pay a high price if he wins,” he added.
By Mark Steyn - Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 6:58 AM - 599 Comments
STEYN: Beleaguered taxpayers may finally put a stop to the sheer waste of government spending
Back in 2008, when I was fulminating against multiculturalism on a more or less weekly basis, a reader wrote to advise me to lighten up, on the grounds that “we’re rich enough to afford to be stupid.”
Two years later, we’re a lot less rich. In fact, many Western nations are, in any objective sense, insolvent. Hence last week’s column, on the EU’s decision to toss a trillion dollars into the great sucking maw of Greece’s public-sector kleptocracy. It no longer matters whether you’re intellectually in favour of European-style social democracy: simply as a practical matter, it’s unaffordable.
By Michael Barclay - Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
Franchisees in Germany are alleging the use of dirty tactics
Have you ever felt like your boss was using Cold War espionage techniques to undermine your work? If you own a McDonald’s franchise in Germany, your paranoia may not be as hyperbolic as it seems. One German lawyer is currently representing 24 former McDonald’s franchisees, accusing the fast-food giant of using underhanded techniques to squeeze them out of business and consolidate ownership, specifying the tactics of one company inspector who used to work as an informant for the East German secret police, the Stasi.
As the German newspaper Der Spiegel reports, franchisees are alleging that they were subjected to constant inspections and charged with seemingly random and arbitrary “violations” of the franchise agreements. Employees were surreptitiously wooed by inspectors to snitch on management; private comments between franchisees and restaurant managers were later quoted in performance reviews. When one now-former franchisee attempted to videotape inspections that he deemed as harassment, McDonald’s sought a court order to stop him on the grounds of “infringement of personal rights.”
By Michael Petrou - Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 5:43 AM - 19 Comments
As Russia pressures Eastern Europe, the U.S. looks away
This summer, in a year that marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 22 Eastern and Central European intellectuals and former political leaders sent an extraordinary open letter to the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. The signatories included former prime ministers and presidents from across the region—among them democratic revolutionaries Vaclav Havel, first president of the Czech Republic, and former Polish president and trade union leader Lech Walesa, whose Solidarity movement helped trigger the collapse of Communism in Europe.
All are staunchly pro-American, and many, like Havel and Walesa, veterans of the anti-Soviet struggles that won political freedom for their countries two decades ago. Their letter therefore reads like a missive to an old friend. But a current of anguish runs through it. They fear that the United States is turning away from their region at a time when its engagement is once again most needed. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 9:40 AM - 8 Comments
Say what you want about Stalin; he had an efficient decision process. There was that murderous
It may seem hard to believe now, but until 1989 the museum at Auschwitz basically ignored the former concentration camp’s central role in the Holocaust; for years it was merely a monument to the struggle against fascism. Only after the victory of the Solidarity movement and the collapse of Communism was the place turned into a proper memorial to Jewish suffering.
Disgusting, yes, but hardly surprising. Plaques, monuments, museums—all are political devices aimed at serving one version of the past over the rest. But, however twisted the nature of the Auschwitz memorial under the Soviets may have been, at least you get the sense there wasn’t a lot of pussyfooting around about it. Stalin probably gave an order and it was carried out (or, given his famously opaque management style, his underlings probably just assumed that was what he wanted). Say what you want about Communism under Stalin, at least it had an efficient decision-making procedure. Continue…
By Andrew Potter - Wednesday, September 24, 2008 at 10:56 PM - 10 Comments
GWB did a nice John Crouton impression ce soir, taking his case for a…
GWB did a nice John Crouton impression ce soir, taking his case for a bailout straight to the people earlier this evening, apparently because he felt that situation has reached a critical stage.
I doubt it did much to persuade Bill Perkins, the brains (and moolah) behind yesterday’s full-page piece of citizen activism in the NY Times. The Journal had a neat little profile of Perkins today: he made a small fortune betting that Goldman Sachs would do ok, but he’s so outraged by the reasons why the stock rose that he’s decided to blow it on ads denouncing the feds.
“I see it as trickle-down communism,” Mr. Perkins said. “We have a communist action where everybody is paying for the benefit of the few and hoping the benefits will trickle down to everyone else.”