Censor the Pooh was last modified: September 5th, 2018 by Landon Hsieh
Will the “pan-democrat” camp of Hong Kong (HK) settle for anything short of “democracy” and “political sovereignty” from mainland China? Can there be a fair compromise? What influence still remains of the slogan “one country, two systems,” in 2014?
These and other unsettling questions have been propagating within pan-democrat HK residents, setting fire to pro-democracy movements referred to as the “Umbrella Revolution,” organized by prominent activist groups like “Occupy Central with Love and Peace.” The Umbrella Revolution in HK started with its nonviolent civil disobedience demonstration against Chinese electoral interference in HK in 2002, and retained momentum to this day. In July 2014 demonstrators on the streets taking part in “Occupy Central” were able to convince 800,000 residents of HK to join an informal voting demonstration in efforts to publicly show their disapproval of the current non- democratic electoral system. Although their referendum was dismissed by Beijing as illegitimate and illegal, such movements were also seen as threatening and disrupting to the financial hub of HK, alarming big investors and the big four accounting firms.
Hong Kong was released from British colonial rule 17 years ago, and discontent has been boiling up among the HK residents ever since. They have been forced to waive their rights to fairly choose their own chief executives for the city, giving this power instead to the Politburo of the Communist Party of China. Many pro-democracy activists question the political significance of HK’s Basic Law which has served as the legitimate constitutional document for order in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) since it is supposed to guarantee “a high degree of autonomy,” “Hong Kong People administering Hong Kong,” and a “capitalist society.” Nonetheless, to this day, Beijing has completely denied the formation of a democratic electoral system in HK.
The release of the White Paper by Beijing in June 2014 symbolized a major turning point in the relationship between HK and the Chinese central government. This government proposal outlined several striking justifications for Beijing’s imposition on HK’s electoral and governmental affairs. Li Fei, the deputy secretary general of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, boldly stated that HK would become chaotic if HK were given the right to nominate 2 to 3 candidates for the Chief Executive (CE) position in 2017. Another justification from the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress read that “One country, two systems”is a holistic concept. As a unitary state, China’s central government has comprehensive jurisdictionover HKSAR. The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership.”
Unfortunately, in August this year HK lost its only chance at open nominations of CE candidates when The National People’s Congress Standing Committee in Beijing claimed authority over the case.This setback is inconsistent with the Sino-British Joint Declaration (1984), which clearly promised the citizens of Hong Kong a level of autonomy separate from mainland China as one of the conditions for China resuming the exercise of sovereignty in HK. The future of a fully democratic HK looks very bleak at this point.
Many pragmatic activists and businessmen have voiced their opinion that public demonstrations like “Occupy Central” do more harm than good. The city attracts many foreigners to do business; just last year, roughly 63 percent of all foreign direct investment that came into mainland China was through HK. The simple tax structure, liberal economic policies based on free trade, legal system that is geared toward supporting business owners, and reliable infrastructure make HK a very attractive place to invest in. However, keeping foreign investors and businesses in a country requires political stability and therule of law in the region, something that mainland Chinese and some Hong Kong residents believe is deteriorating.
Business leaders and investors alike know HK as one of Asia’s prime financial hubs of international business transactions. Due to rigorous economic competition around the world, as soon as word spread that HK was politically unstable, other major cities in the Asia-Pacific Region such as Tokyo tried to snatch up the opportunity to sell itself as a stable and free alternative place to do business. In addition, many investors see Singapore as a great alternative of HK. Political instability could have very real and devastating implications in HK, enough to demote it as one of Asia’s economic capitals and harm its international image.
Because of HK’s important role in the global economy, many key nations have taken action to condemn the way Beijing has been treating the peaceful protesters. Great Britain has held bilateral conversations with China to reach an agreement not to use force against protesters, to avoid stationing troops in the city, and to propose revisions to the Basic Law. The United States along with other Western allies have sent disapproving messages by refusing any military negotiations with China, although these Western countries are taking care to avoid economic sanctions. This shows that universal suffrage in HK is not only a domestic issue, but is a transnational issue that must be resolved. Many political scientists predict that political sovereignty in Taiwan will vanish next if China continues to fail to deliver its promises to the people of Hong Kong. China is most likely going to further tighten its grip on Tibet and Xinjiang to control its separatist movements as well.
Other wealthy democratic nations such as Japan and South Korea should mediate productive talks between Beijing and the pan-democrat camp in HK. The international community must address the growing fear in HK pro-democracy activists that they will never have “checks and balances” on the chief executive and the administration. Many left-wing groups in HK also fear that their right to freedom of speech and of association will be threatened, along with other crucial civil rights. The deterioration of the current flexible and independent judiciary system is a legitimate concern as well.
This year the symbol of this pro-democracy movement is an umbrella, which shields non-violent protestors from tear gas and pepper spray police crackdowns. Photography and videos of such violence in a supposedly peaceful protest in HK has been blowing up in the media, threatening the movement’s practicality and questioning the rationality behind it all. While democracy and autonomy in HK are solid reasons worth fighting for, it is difficult to ignore the negative effects of the protests on tourism, business, and everyday life.
It seems for now that the protestors on the streets should pause protesting on the streets and carefully map out their next big move. The people of HK must convince multilateral corporations and big foreign investors that HK’s political sovereignty is in their best interests to get their support. They must be bold enough to claim that an imposition by a country that supports state capitalism will eventually limit their horizons. They should take advantage of the 2017 Chief Executive Election as the next most politically significant event to get more citizens involved to effectively make a bold statement, that enough is enough.
By Noelle Little
The arrest of the Indian diplomat, Ms. Devyani Khobragade, last December in New York sparked a renewed interest in the future of diplomatic relationships between the United States and India. This controversy, in addition to current tension between the U.S. and Narendra Modi, the widely supported candidate for Prime Minister in this month’s elections, presents an interesting reflection of the wider status of future U.S.-India relations. In the time of a rapidly growing China, India is positioned as the U.S.’s largest democratic ally in Asia. One that, despite differences between the two nations, has led to increased cooperation economically and diplomatically. Recently, however, tension between the U.S. and India has grown due to alleged cases of human rights abuse cases involving Ms. Khobragade and Narendra Modi.
Ms. Khobragade was charged by U.S. authorities for the submission of false documentation in order to obtain a work visa for her maid. In addition, it was uncovered that she was paying the housekeeper well below minimum wage at about $573 a month. The controversy, however, is not a result of Ms. Khobragade’s alleged crimes but rather her mistreatment by U.S. authorities. Considering the treatment that we expect of our officials in foreign nations, one would assume that U.S. authorities would in turn give foreign diplomats different treatment than common criminals.
Indian officials have reported that Ms. Khobragade was subjected to multiple cavity searches, as well as being kept in a holding cell with “drug addicts” before she was released on a bail of $250,000. Following her arrest, the Indian government released a statement regarding the treatment of Ms. Khobragade, stating that it was “shocked and appalled at the manner in which she has been humiliated by the U.S. authorities.”
What is perhaps most surprising in this case was the reaction of the Indian government. While a formal statement condemning the treatment of Ms. Khobragade is customary, the reaction against U.S. officials in India is unexpected. Indian officials proceeded to remove the concrete security barriers surrounding the American Embassy compound in India, while also demanding that the embassy release the details about all of their Indian employees. According to The New York Times, Indian officials also asked for “the names and salaries of teachers at the American Embassy School; that the embassy commissary stop importing liquor; and that diplomatic identification cards for consular staff members and their families be returned.”
This strong reaction to the treatment of an Indian diplomat has reawakened a growing concern regarding the future of diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and India. India is currently the world’s largest democracy with a rate of economic growth rivaling that of China. In the past decade specifically, diplomatic relations between the two countries has been generally positive, beginning most notably in 2005 when President George W. Bush signed legislation that allowed for civilian nuclear cooperation with India and redefined U.S.-India relations.
The increasing cooperation between the two nations gave the U.S. a regional ally in response to a growing China. In 2013, President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Singh furthered this relationship through an agreement for Westinghouse to supply nuclear reactors for Indian nuclear power plants. The cooperation between the two nations on the issue of nuclear power has in essence led to a de facto alliance motivated by China’s growing power in the East. After this meeting, Singh and Obama released a statement declaring that India and the U.S. “share common security interests and place each other at the same level as their closest partners.”
However, despite this burgeoning alliance, there are areas of contention that reflect how fragile diplomatic relationships between the U.S. and India may be. The treatment of Ms. Khobragade, in conjunction with the fast approaching elections, has been interpreted as a matter of national pride. India’s staunch support of Ms. Khobragade is in essence a larger refusal to be bullied by a large superpower like the United States.
Ms. Khobragade is not the only Indian official seen as contentious to the future of U.S.-India diplomatic relations. Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, is another point of growing strain within the relations between the two countries.
In India, Narendra Modi is widely believed to be the next Prime Minister after this year’s upcoming elections. Within the Western world, however, Modi is not held in high regard due to his complacency in the mass killing of Muslims in the 2002 riots in his own state of Gujarat.
Human Rights Watch reports that the riots of 2002 were sparked by the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire caused by the attack of a Muslim mob. In retaliation, Hindu mobs killed hundreds of Muslims, displaced thousands and destroyed their homes and property. In the years after this episode of violence, efforts to investigate the cases were stalled while activists and lawyers were subjected to harassment and intimidation. It was not until the Supreme Court intervened that trials began to take place.
At the center of this controversy is the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who is of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Modi and his fellow officials are said to have deliberately obstructed investigations. Furthermore, there is evidence which links Modi and his colleagues to the anti-Muslim attacks, as it is reported that the rioters had detailed information regarding the locations of Muslim residences and businesses. An independent media organization known as Tehelka has film footage of the accused speaking of how Modi provided his blessings for the attacks. As a result, in 2005, the United States revoked Mr. Narendra Modi’s visa under the law that bars foreign officials who are “responsible for or directly carried out … particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
Despite his alleged complacency and involvement with the anti-Muslim attacks, Narendra Modi is still regarded as a front-runner in this year’s upcoming election. Economically, he has brought prosperity to the Gujarat state in India. When it comes to gaining support as a candidate, voters often respond more to improvements in their economic well-being than a candidate’s alleged involvement in a case of human rights abuse. Modi is well known for lowering the rates of corruption, increasing industrial growth, and attracting foreign investment from companies such as Ford and General Motors. While critics point out that business leaders are giving funds to the BJP in return for favors, it is still important to note Modi has increased the development of rural infrastructure in Gujarat, as well as access to reliable electricity and a booming agricultural industry. Internationally, he is recognized for his economic policies and in the summer of 2013 Britain began to re-establish contact with his state government.
But what does this mean for the future of U.S.-India diplomatic relations in the upcoming year? If Narendra Modi is elected Prime Minister, it has potential to further tension between the two nations because the U.S. would be denying access to a foreign head of state; a tension that the U.S. government wants to avoid as India is the strongest regional ally. For the moment, opinions remain split.
Ron Somers, who is the head of the U.S.-India Business Council, has commended Modi for being “a magnet for investment.” A Congressional Research Service report lauded Gujarat as “perhaps India’s best example of effective governance and impressive development.” Meanwhile, Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, vice chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, has expressed that she believes the U.S. will still uphold the denial of a visa to Modi due to his role in the events of 2002. Human rights activists believe the U.S.’s commitment to international human rights will outweigh the desire to further relations with an Indian government under Modi. While perhaps the idealist in everyone would like to believe this is true, given the relationship between the U.S. and nations such as China and Russia, it’s unlikely.
If Narendra Modi should be elected Prime Minister during the elections this month, it is highly likely that the U.S. will attempt to work towards re-establishing diplomatic ties, particularly due to the success of Modi’s economic policies in the Gujarat state and to the U.S.’s desire to maintain India as a strong regional ally. While tension from the anti-Muslim attacks remains, the U.S. does not have a strong history of cutting off all diplomatic relations due to human rights abuses within foreign governments. With India, the U.S. has been committed to strengthening their relationship as a regional ally, particularly with the sharing of nuclear technology, in response to a bourgeoning China.
by Amber Murakami-Fester
“The Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. To accomplish this aim…land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”
So reads Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which has prohibited the nation from partaking in war since its installment in 1945. Japan today only maintains a self-defense force composed of about 225,000 personnel that cannot be deployed except for small peacekeeping operations. The pacifist constitution, however, has been brought to the table for revision since Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, and the Liberal Democratic Party pushed for its amendment beginning in 2011. The potential constitutional revision is the biggest question in Japanese politics today.
An amendment to the nation’s constitution has been discussed on and off for decades. No changes have been made to the Japanese constitution since its inception, when it was written largely under American direction after World War II ended the nation’s imperialist ambitions. The LDP has proposed a draft for a new constitution that includes several amendments, but changes to Article 9 are the most controversial. Specific changes include: the alteration of the title of Provision 2 from “Renunciation of War” to “Security,” an added clarification for the government’s responsibility to protect Japanese territory, and establishing the right to have a “National Defense Force,” which would expand the capabilities of the self-defense army to fight if an ally was attacked by a third party aggressor. The amended constitution would still prohibit Japan from attacking another country of its own accord.
Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party have pointed to potential threats from North Korea and China as reasons for the proposed amendment; North Korea has gained notoriety in recent years for developing a nuclear program, and China has dramatically increased its military spending and regional ambitions.
Stronger military capabilities would also mean lesser reliance on American military protection, which has been a sore spot for Japan-U.S. relations for several decades. Japan has relied on U.S. protection since the end of World War II—in fact, many believe that America’s military involvement in Japan has been the strongest agent for peace in the region. American bases in Japan, however, have proven to be consistent sources of tension since Americans invaded the island during World War II. This is especially the case in Okinawa, where U.S. military presence has been the strongest in the nation since Americans invaded the island during World War II. Reports of sexual assaults on women by American soldiers have been numerous and consistent, and have drawn cries of outrage from residents—around 100,000 Okinawans rallied in an anti-base demonstration in September of 2012, the largest since a protest in 1995 following the rape of a schoolgirl by three American soldiers.
Yet Article 9 of the constitution proves to be much more than a simple self-imposed ban on warfare. Article 9 is a source of pride for many Japanese, who contend that the pacifist constitution has helped to shape Japan into one of the safest countries in the world. Japan, for example, has been famous for having some of the strictest gun laws in the world and subsequently one of the lowest gun-related death rates among developed nations; Japan had 11 firearm-related homicides in 2008, while the U.S. reported over 12,000 for the same year. Although Article 9 does not address gun laws, the sentiment of the pacifist statement has had a profound effect on the national identity as a country. Many believe Japan, whose older residents suffered first hand and remember vividly the devastation of the war, cannot morally partake in warfare and are strongly against the proposed amendment.
Hayao Miyazaki, an internationally celebrated animator who created numerous award-winning films such as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away, has emerged as one of the biggest public opponents of the amendment. He was recently criticized by a number of extreme right-wing conservatives after the release of his newest film, The Wind Rises, for its antiwar undertones. Miyazaki, who is 73 and grew up in the last years of the war, has published an essay on his opinion against changing the constitution, claiming that the newer generation of politicians have not been exposed to the devastating effects war has on human society.
The debate over the constitutional amendment also comes at a time of high political tension in East Asia. Political embroilment over islands such as the Liancourt Rocks, and the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands have been straining relations between the governments of Japan, China, and North and South Korea. The dispute over the islands have resulted in a number of extreme political reactions in each country—a South Korean subway controversially displayed anti-Japanese children’s artwork, and the mayor of Osaka remarked last year that Korean “comfort women,” who were forced into sexual slavery during the war, were a wartime necessity. Relations between North Korea, South Korea and China are each steadily cooling as well. These intensely nationalistic acts have received extensive media coverage in both Asian and Western news, which has exacerbated the tension between the countries. A constitutional change that would expand Japan’s military capabilities is sure to be taken as an aggressive stance by foreign media.
Although Japanese public opinion remains heavily divided on the issue, polls indicate that less and less people are opposed to the idea of a constitutional amendment, and the amendment passing seems to be a question of when, not if. A constitution that has not had so much as a single amendment passed in seventy years is indeed rare, and the desire to have a stronger means of self-defense is certainly tempting in a climate of such intense political unease. The new constitution would also still be in keeping with Japan’s identity as a peaceful nation, supporters say, because the country would still technically be prohibited from declaring war on another country.
But an expansion of military capabilities opens up its own can of worms. Critics of the amendment point to the possibility of having to fight in a war an ally is involved in, depending on how the new constitution is interpreted by those in power. The American military presence in Japan is most likely not going to be affected by the change, and the amendment can only add fuel to tensions in East Asia.
In the current political climate within Japan, a constitutional amendment seems plausible, but Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party must be mindful of the ripples it will cause across the political sphere. If an amendment is to pass, it must be approached with caution and precision, outlining specifically what the “responsibility to protect territory” entails, and what the exact capabilities and limits of the new National Defense Force will be in the constitution itself, not just in a Q&A Pamphlet.
It seems natural to want stronger defenses in a time when foreign governments are doing scary things. But it is a mistake to believe that war is imminent. Joseph Nye, a political scientist at Harvard, points out that “war is never inevitable, though the belief that it is can become one of its causes.” It would behoove Japan to proceed carefully, so as not to find itself in war the Japanese people swore to give up nearly seventy years ago.
by Tina Kim
The next great crisis of our generation may not be global warming, nuclear attacks, looming deficits, or any pending apocalypses. It’s babies—specifically, not enough babies. 97 percent of the world’s population now lives in countries where fertility rates are declining, according to the Wall Street Journal. In 60 years, the global population will begin to decrease and the world will lose its most valuable and fundamental resource: human capital. For the past century, large populations have brought innovations to technology and science and provided the manpower to drive the economy. Moreover, a plethora of taxpayers have allowed governments to fund healthcare, defense, education, and all other spending. However, at some point when the world transitions into a situation where the old largely outnumber the young, we will come face to face with an immeasurable problem.
Throughout the world, countries have already faced the consequences of low fertility rates, varying culturally from region to region. In Asia, “tiger” nations such as China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore have fertility rates well below the 2.1 replacement rate. The “tiger” culture of an intensely competitive workplace and lifestyle leave individuals without much spare time while depriving them of the disposable income necessary to enjoy their lives and raise a child.
“Most of my friends are not married,” a 35-year-old female civil servant in Singapore said in an article from Forbes. “They don’t want to be single but they are too busy with their work commitment. My friends are consumed by work. Money, status, prestige, climbing the ladder. You expect things to change when you get older but it doesn’t. The calculation just doesn’t work out.”
Joel Kotkin, author of The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050, explains this issue as an “economic and spiritual” problem. Economically, the high costs of living and the time and money consuming nature of child rearing are seen as major roadblocks. In addition, unlike in the U.S. (with a few exceptions like New York City), many of these Asian countries have high density apartment living. In high density areas, traffic congestion, overloaded public transport, higher rates of crime, higher costs of basic products and services, and general overcrowding are everyday occurrences. Kotkin, who has interviewed and researched individuals living in Singapore and other East Asian countries, stated that spiritually, people who live in these conditions are reflective of their difficult lives. For these individuals, the growing pessimism towards the future has given them a dismal outlook for the next generation, which has led many to not have children.
In 2009, 20 percent of women between the ages of 30 and 39 chose to remain childless; it is estimated that in some East Asian societies, up to a third of all women will remain childless. In addition, as women become more educated, many have pursued their own careers, which have prevented marriage or child rearing. As a result, women are no longer able to take on the cultural expectation, including that of being the sole caretaker of the child. Countries in Southern Europe, which have had similar cultural views, have also had significantly lower fertility rates compared to their Northern European counterparts.
In Northern Europe, greater male participation in child rearing has offset much of the difficulties faced by other countries. Such cultural differences have influenced government policies and have led to higher fertility rates. An article by the New York Times states that, “many countries with greater gender equality have a greater social commitment to day care and other institutional support for working women, which gives those women the possibility of having a second or third child.” For instance, Scandinavian countries provide state support for having a child and guarantee paternity leaves, which gives women the opportunity to work while raising a baby. More importantly, since both parents are more likely to work, financially, the couple is better able to handle obstacles such as high living costs.
In response, many governments in Asia have instituted measures such as state-funded childcare to encourage parenthood. However, according to Kotkin, these state-funded initiatives will only marginally increase fertility rates. The fundamental determinant in encouraging people to have children would be to improve the difficult living conditions people deal with on a daily basis; addressing problems such as high commodity costs, high college tuitions (and debt), rising housings costs, and in some cases environmental pollution, would be more effective in convincing parents to have children.
To make up for these decreases in fertility rates, countries such as Germany, Japan, and the U.S. have largely depended on immigration to offset decreasing birth rates. For example, Germany attracted migrants to establish a highly skilled and productive labor force in order to create an export oriented market. Thus, Germany is able to pay for welfare and provide social programs that many Eurozone countries have struggled to provide. In contrast, debt-ridden Southern European countries such as Spain, Italy, and Greece offer no incentives or job prospects for people to immigrate. By depending on tourism and real estate, when the economy collapsed due to the housing bubble and the financial crisis of 2007, many of the foreign investors fled these countries, leading to great debts.
But even for Germany and other countries that count on imported labor, the dependence on immigration may not be an option in the future. In the next century, the world’s population will decline and so will the surplus of people in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Even if regions such as Africa and India do have surpluses of people, there is the issue of having an educated and skilled workforce. According to UNESCO, South and West Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa have among the lowest literacy rates in the world, at about 63 percent.
Ultimately, Kotkin predicts that the “diminished labor force and consumer base” will eventually “slow economic growth and limit opportunities for business expansion.” However, there are predictions that the need for human manpower will be replaced with innovations in technology and economic growth will continue. But how many more Steve Jobs can come from a significantly smaller population?
Politically, the smaller youth population will have many problems. On one level, the youth will have less political power and representation, as seniors will be the majority of voters. A UN report states that in 2050 the number of people 60 years and older will increase by a factor of 2.6 (from 784 million to more than 2 billion). These seniors will need social security and healthcare, but how will a disproportionately smaller workforce handle paying for these programs? These individuals have the burden of paying today’s and future government debts, along with healthcare and social security for seniors as well.
Already, there have been protests against governments cutting social programs and raising taxes. With income inequality increasing and the population decreasing, there may be a future where seniors will not be able to count on state support. Governments around the world have become aware of their impending demographic cliffs. However, the general trend among political figures around the world has been to implement austerity measures, which ultimately ignores addressing these core issues. Austerity will no longer work in a future of an unbalanced population, increased income inequity, and a world of reduced economic growth.
Whether governments do anything to address these issues or not, the social, economic, and political consequences are imminent and they will affect people on a global scale. How exactly will this unfold? This generation will just have to wait and see.
Facts and figures obtained from Forbes, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, UNESCO, the United Nations, and a personal interview with Joel Kotkin.
Tina Kim is a second year Communications major and Urban Planning and Public Policy double minor at UCLA. She is co-editor of The Generation.