Quotes: Life in Xinjiang

Many of us are generally aware there is a minority of mostly Muslim ethnic Turkmen in far western China known as Uighurs (pronounced “Wee-gurs”), people more closely related to the population of the Central Asian ‘Stans than to the ruling Han Chinese.

Some will have read about recent and apparently massive, largely arbitrary incarceration of Uighurs in “re-education camps” under local Party Secretary Chen Quanguo. Chen’s previous post was the Tibetan capital Lhasa, where he presided over a spate of Tibetan Buddihst self-immolations under his remit to tame the Tibetan population.

I’ve only just now read some alarming reporting from Ruth Ingram about what life is like among the Xinjiang Uighurs. Some quotes:

“Uyghurs have to keep a notebook detailing visits by not only their friends and relatives, but those of neighbors in their street, the content of the conversations, and the time and date of arrival and departure.”

“They are forced to install satellite navigation in their cars and to install the special Jingwang Weishi app on their phones, which sends the police an identification number for the device, its model, and the telephone number of its owner before monitoring all the information that passes through the telephone, warning the user when it finds content that the government deems dangerous. Failure to carry your phone, refusal to use a smart phone, turning it off completely for long periods, or even restoring your phone to its factory settings can be deemed suspicious.”

“Children who have had both parents taken away are being brought up in state orphanages hurriedly being built for the purpose.”

“‘It’s impossible to tear out weeds one by one,’ said one party official in Kashgar. ‘We need chemicals that can deal with all of them at once.'”

Read the whole article in The Diplomat.

Weekend Reading

This is how it looked here on the farm in late October a few years back. We’re not there yet, but it’s close. Wile E. Coyote has run past the cliff’s edge but has yet to fall. The leaves are set to change, summoning up traffic jams of flatland gawkers, but just now we’re in silent suspension, hanging in the air, waiting for the start of the race to autumn.

I see this morning that larger news organizations have picked up the article I found yesterday in a little website called TheLocal.se. It’s a feel good story. If you skipped over it then, go back and check it out.

That discussion of the post-Cold War world that’s been missing for years is suddenly wide open, so it’s mostly political theory in this weekend’s reading, kind of academic. If you’re deep in an absorbing novel, permission to skip over this week’s list. But given the roiling unease in the Western democracies, the state of our political systems is worth some thought.

The unapologetic American interventionist Robert Kagan has published one of his periodic little books, this one called The Jungle Grows Back, and to support it, here is Kagan’s The World America Made – and Trump Wants to Unmake in Politico. (The American president not falling into any of the academy’s self-defined niches adds a little spice to all the arguments here).

Graham Allison says Kagan’s world was never thus in The Myth of the Liberal Order from Historical Accident to Conventional Wisdom in an ungated article at Foreign Affairs (and Allison has been around just about since the creation of the post WWII order).

David Frum and Stephen M. Walt separately suggest the implausible this week. Frum writes that The Rebublican Party Needs to Embrace Liberalism in The Atlantic, and Walt chimes in with Socialists and Libertarians Need an Alliance Against the Establishment at ForeignPolicy.com.

There’s lots more, across the spectrum. See Peter Beinart’s call for a new Democratic foreign policy (hint: rehabilitate Finlandization), Hal Brands in Bloomberg and Daniel Larison in The American Conservative (who’s not buying Kagan). That ought to get you started.

In case you’re not enamored with political theory, here’s one more thing, completely different. Check out Norwegian Knut Arne Gjertsen’s blog. He has been to the gorgeous Faroe Islands and come back with a bunch of photos and fun tales.

And I’ll leave you with an excerpt from my book Out in the Cold, about the Faroese village of Saksun.

See you next week.

 

Exploring Nordic Lake Pays Off

Fun story here: Exploring the shore around her family’s summer cabin turned out worthwhile for a young girl in Sweden. TheLocal.se reports “Eight-year-old Swedish-American girl pulls pre-Viking era sword from lake.”

Very cute. Museum staff asked the girl to keep the find a secret at first so they could search for more artifacts. She “confirmed to The Local that the only person she told was her best friend, who she really trusts. Thursday was the first day she could reveal her story to her classmates, and her teacher threw a party to celebrate, handing out ice creams and showing Saga’s TV and radio interviews to the class.”

Elephants, and Our Place in the World

A few weeks back I wrote an article about giraffes that was informed in part by the early work of Dr. Cynthia Moss from her 1982 book Portraits in the Wild: Animal Behavior in East Africa. Dr. Moss is the director and founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

I got their latest newsletter yesterday. It makes me want to urge you to read into issues facing elephant populations for yourself. African wildlife has never been under more strain and it is just heartwarming that there are people like Dr. Moss and her team who have made a life of thinking globally and acting locally (and in Dr. Moss’s case, having a global impact).

My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting Dr. Moss in Amboseli a couple of years back, and if you’re looking for a cause, we can’t think of any more worthwhile than hers. We can’t wait to get back under the shadow of Kilimanjaro, to Amboseli.

Consider signing up for the ATE newsletter (from the newsletter link above), and if you do Facebook, like ATE there. For that matter, why not consider a trip to see elephants yourself? Promise, it’ll change your life.

This photo from the EarthPhotos.com Kenya Gallery comes from Amboseli (Click it to enlarge it). Get yourself to Nairobi and there are straightforward connections out to Amboseli, and affordable lodging at the perfectly lovely Ol Tukai Lodge, as well as several other, higher-end options.

We all get caught up in our daily lives, but for those who give at least the occasional thought to our place on the planet, and how we fit in with the larger world of wildlife, a trip into the bush will be way more rewarding than a shiny new big screen TV for Christmas. Promise.

Shock and Awe

President Trump called the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership the worst arrangement ever concocted by mankind anywhere, pretty much. In his words, it would have been “a continuing rape of our country.”

He similarly criticized NAFTA, savaged Mexico and Canada and tore at the United States’ relationship with both close allies. He was particularly vocal in his anger at the Canadian dairy industry “Because in Canada, some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers,” Trump has said.

Thank goodness our savior is making American great again. The Negotiator in Chief has wielded his magic wand and voilà! A miracle! In an article headlined USMCA deal seen as win for Canada’s Trudeau, the Trump-friendly Washington Examiner reveals the awesome might of Trump the Negotiator:

“The move is expected to allow U.S. producers to gain 3.6 percent of the Canadian (dairy) market, up from the 3.25 percent that had previously been negotiated under the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, which Trump pulled the U.S. out of.”

That’ll show ’em.

Quotes: FYROM, Ho Hum

Much anticipated, even apocalyptic to extremists in both nationalist camps, today’s referendum in Macedonia sort of just meandered around and then wandered on back home:

“The referendum results for the change of the name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia went as expected, with 90 percent of voters saying “Yes” to North Macedonia, but only 34.76 percent of them went to the polls.

In order for the referendum results to be valid, at least 50 percent plus one of registered voters needed to participate. Out of the nearly 1.8 million registered voters, only about 630,000 casted a ballot.”