Friday, February 9, 2024

Thousand Year Gaze

 ​Historical Participants,

​  The Carlson-Putin interview, a little over 2 hours, is here, and was watched over 60 million times in the first 6 hours or so.
​Carlson, sitting in the Kremlin, then in his hotel room, reflects on the interview for 9 minutes here:

  ​Post-filtering of the content for American consumption does not reflect what I saw and heard, not at all, but has some factoids: 
Tucker Carlson’s Putin interview: 9 takeaways​ , POLITICO watched the 2-hour love-in with the Russian president so you don’t have to.
​   If I might make the suggestion, I will say that the only independent action is to watch the 2 hour+ interview yourself. Hit the pause button. Have dinner. Come back to it when you can. The pace is different from American media, which is a big part of the message. 
  Vladimir Putin begins with a 30 minute explanation of Russian history, beginning with the Baptism of Prince Vladimir in 988, which was followed by the baptism of his noble-class and the people of Rus. This is the context within which Vladimir Putin sees Russia and his own place in ongoing Russian history. Russia is a "Civilizational State", as is China, as is Iran. This does not directly translate to the 5-year-plan mentality of western financial capitalism, a contextual framework which Putin would not engage, to the recurring frustration of Carlson. Putin returned repeatedly to the spiritual ties which compose Russian society, the respect for Islamic and Buddhist cultures within Russia, and he closed on a note of spiritual healing between Russia and what is currently "Ukraine". This reflects a patience spanning generations, a very long view, a politely diplomatic view.
​  Putin left numerous things politely unsaid. He would not make any potentially fractious assertions, which could be used as political ammunition against Russia.
​  From my own perspective, the "problems" in Ukraine/Galicia began when Germany carved that area out to provide coal and grain to Germany during WW-1, after defeating Russian/Bolshevik forces, continued during WW-2, including the Holodomor, when Stalin sold the food grain to (necessarily) build Russian war industry, starving Ukrainians to death​. This tribal animosity was ​further cultivated by the CIA after WW-2​, through activation of Galician sleeper-​cells, left over ​Galician Nazis, who were ​deployed in an insurgency against the USSR in the 1950s. Many of them died and some ​were brought to to the US and Canada.  The 2008 Ukrainian ​failed-coup, and the 2014 ​successful coup, were part of a long, ongoing plan to divide ancient Russia against itself.
​  That is my baseline read, from which I hear and interpret Putin's history lesson.
​  The other thing Putin left politely unsaid​, though repeatedly asked "why" by Carlson, was that neoliberal financial capitalism needs to consume Ukraine and Russia or collapse into itself, because it is an expansionist financial structure which consumes "assets" like Ukrainian farmland, mines and industry, having already consumed those in the US and EU.
​  Putin spoke repeatedly of "objective changes" in the world, which he sees being opposed in a futile way by western political structures, which are neocolonial, though he does not say that. He does point repeatedly to the destruction of long term western "interests", such as the weaponization of the $US against Russia for a short term gain, which was actually a short term loss for the US, and for Europe, and has begun to loss of global reserve currency status for the $US, now in progress.
  The "objective changes" taking place are those of cooperation between countries, rather than colonial extraction of natural resources from colonized peoples. Putin points out that this model has progressed already to consuming the industrial bases of the US and UK, and is destroying European industrial profitability through cutting off inexpensive natural gas, forcing Europe to pay 7 times as much for liquified natural gas, largely from the US. This is self-consuming short-termism. He points out that several pipelines through Ukraine and Poland could be opened, and that one of 4 Nordstream pipelines could also be opened again.

The Triumph and Terror of Wang Huning​ , One man’s thought has become pivotal in China’s new political and cultural crackdowns. That man is not Xi Jinping.
This article by N.S. Lyons was originally published on Palladium Magazine on October 11, 2021. 
​  One day in August 2021, Zhao Wei disappeared. For one of China’s best-known actresses to physically vanish from public view would have been enough to cause a stir on its own. But Zhao’s disappearing act was far more thorough: overnight, she was erased from the internet. Her Weibo social media page, with its 86 million followers, went offline, as did fan sites dedicated to her. Searches for her many films and television shows returned no results on streaming sites. Zhao’s name was scrubbed from the credits of projects she had appeared in or directed, replaced with a blank space. Online discussions uttering her name were censored. Suddenly, little trace remained that the 45-year-old celebrity had ever existed.
​  She wasn’t alone. Other Chinese entertainers also began to vanish as Chinese government regulators announced a “heightened crackdown” intended to dispense with “vulgar internet celebrities” promoting lascivious lifestyles and to “resolve the problem of chaos” created by online fandom culture. Those imitating the effeminate or androgynous aesthetics of Korean boyband stars—colorfully referred to as “xiao xian rou,” or “little fresh meat”—were next to go, with the government vowing to “resolutely put an end to sissy men” appearing on the screens of China’s impressionable youth.​..
​..Officially referred to as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Common Prosperity” campaign, this transformation is proceeding along two parallel lines: a vast regulatory crackdown roiling the private sector economy and a broader moralistic effort to reengineer Chinese culture from the top down.
​  But why is this “profound transformation” happening? And why now? Most analysis has focused on one man: Xi and his seemingly endless personal obsession with political control. The overlooked answer, however, is that this is indeed the culmination of decades of thinking and planning by a very powerful man—but that man is not Xi Jinping.​  Wang Huning much prefers the shadows to the limelight. An insomniac and workaholic, former friends and colleagues describe the bespectacled, soft-spoken political theorist as introverted and obsessively discreet. It took former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin’s repeated entreaties to convince the brilliant then-young academic—who spoke wistfully of following the traditional path of a Confucian scholar, aloof from politics—to give up academia in the early 1990s and join the Chinese Communist Party regime​...
​..Wang Huning is arguably the single most influential “public intellectual” alive today.​ A member of the CCP’s seven-man Politburo Standing Committee, he is China’s top ideological theorist, quietly credited as being the “ideas man” behind each of Xi’s signature political concepts, including the “China Dream,” the anti-corruption campaign, the Belt and Road Initiative, a more assertive foreign policy, and even “Xi Jinping Thought.”​...
​..A position referred to in Chinese literature as dishi: “Emperor’s Teacher.” Such a figure is just as readily recognizable in the West as an éminence grise (“grey eminence”), in the tradition of Tremblay, Talleyrand, Metternich, Kissinger, or Vladimir Putin adviser Vladislav Surkov.
​  But what is singularly remarkable about Wang is that he’s managed to serve in this role of court philosopher to not just one, but all three of China’s previous top leaders, including as the pen behind Jiang Zemin’s signature “Three Represents” policy and Hu Jintao’s “Harmonious Society.”​  In the brutally cutthroat world of CCP factional politics, this is an unprecedented feat.​..
​..While it’s hard to be certain what Wang really believes today inside his black box, he was once an immensely prolific author, publishing nearly 20 books along with numerous essays.​..
​..While other Chinese teenagers spent the tumultuous years of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) “sent down to the countryside” to dig ditches and work on farms, Wang Huning studied French at an elite foreign-language training school near his hometown of Shanghai, spending his days reading banned foreign literary classics secured for him by his teachers. Born in 1955 to a revolutionary family from Shandong, he was a sickly, bookish youth; this, along with his family’s connections, seems to have secured him a pass from hard labor.
​  When China’s shuttered universities reopened in 1978, following the commencement of “reform and opening” by Mao’s successor Deng Xiaoping, Wang was among the first to take the restored national university entrance exam, competing with millions for a chance to return to higher learning. He passed so spectacularly that Shanghai’s Fudan University, one of China’s top institutions, admitted him into its prestigious international politics master’s program despite having never completed a bachelor’s degree.
​  The thesis work he completed at Fudan, which would become his first book, traced the development of the Western concept of national sovereignty from antiquity to the present day—including from Gilgamesh through Socrates, Aristotle, Augustine, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Hegel, and Marx—and contrasted it with Chinese conceptions of the idea.​..
​..But Wang was also beginning to pick up the strands of what would become another core thread of his life’s work: the necessary centrality of culture, tradition, and value structures to political stability.
​  Wang elaborated on these ideas in a 1988 essay, “The Structure of China’s Changing Political Culture,” which would become one of his most cited works. In it, he argued that the CCP must urgently consider how society’s “software” (culture, values, attitudes) shapes political destiny as much as its “hardware” (economics, systems, institutions). While seemingly a straightforward idea, this was notably a daring break from the materialism of orthodox Marxism.​..
​..Meanwhile, he believed that the modernization of “Socialism with Chinese characteristics” was effectively leaving China without any real cultural direction at all. “There are no core values in China’s most recent structure,” he warned. This could serve only to dissolve societal and political cohesion.
​  That, he said, was untenable. Warning that “the components of the political culture shaped by the Cultural Revolution came to be divorced from the source that gave birth to this culture, as well as from social demands, social values, and social relations”—and thus “the results of the adoption of Marxism were not always positive”—he argued that, “Since 1949, we have criticized the core values of the classical and modern structures, but have not paid enough attention to shaping our own core values.” Therefore: “we must create core values.” Ideally, he concluded, “We must combine the flexibility of [China’s] traditional values with the modern spirit [both Western and Marxist].”​ ...
​..Also in 1988, Wang—having risen with unprecedented speed to become Fudan’s youngest full professor at age 30—won a coveted scholarship (facilitated by the American Political Science Association) to spend six months in the United States as a visiting scholar. Profoundly curious about America, Wang took full advantage, wandering about the country like a sort of latter-day Chinese Alexis de Tocqueville, visiting more than 30 cities and nearly 20 universities.
​  What he found deeply disturbed him, permanently shifting his view of the West and the consequences of its ideas.
​  Wang recorded his observations in a memoir that would become his most famous work: the 1991 book America Against America. In it, he marvels at homeless encampments in the streets of Washington DC, out-of-control drug crime in poor black neighborhoods in New York and San Francisco, and corporations that seemed to have fused themselves to and taken over responsibilities of government. Eventually, he concludes that America faces an “unstoppable undercurrent of crisis” produced by its societal contradictions, including between rich and poor, white and black, democratic and oligarchic power, egalitarianism and class privilege, individual rights and collective responsibilities, cultural traditions and the solvent of liquid modernity.
​  But while Americans can, he says, perceive that they are faced with “intricate social and cultural problems,” they “tend to think of them as scientific and technological problems” to be solved separately. This gets them nowhere, he argues, because their problems are in fact all inextricably interlinked and have the same root cause: a radical, nihilistic individualism at the heart of modern American liberalism.
​  “The real cell of society in the United States is the individual,” he finds. This is so because the cell most foundational (per Aristotle) to society, “the family, has disintegrated.” Meanwhile, in the American system, “everything has a dual nature, and the glamour of high commodification abounds. Human flesh, sex, knowledge, politics, power, and law can all become the target of commodification.” This “commodification, in many ways, corrupts society and leads to a number of serious social problems.” In the end, “the American economic system has created human loneliness” as its foremost product, along with spectacular inequality.​..
​..Ultimately, he argues, when faced with critical social issues like drug addiction, America’s atomized, deracinated, and dispirited society has found itself with “an insurmountable problem” because it no longer has any coherent conceptual grounds from which to mount any resistance.
​  Once idealistic about America, at the start of 1989 the young Wang returned to China and, promoted to Dean of Fudan’s International Politics Department, became a leading opponent of liberalization.
​  He began to argue that China had to resist global liberal influence and become a culturally unified and self-confident nation governed by a strong, centralized party-state.​..
​..This reflected his desire to blend Marxist socialism with traditional Chinese Confucian values and Legalist political thought, maximalist Western ideas of state sovereignty and power, and nationalism in order to synthesize a new basis for long-term stability and growth immune to Western liberalism.​..
​..China’s own emerging contradictions exploded into view in the form of student protests in Tiananmen Square. After PLA tanks crushed the dreams of liberal democracy sprouting in China, CCP leadership began searching desperately for a new political model on which to secure the regime. They soon turned to Wang Huning.​..
​..Jiang plucked him from the university and, at the age of 40, he was granted a leadership position in the CCP’s secretive Central Policy Research Office, putting him on an inside track into the highest echelons of power.​..
​..But Wang is unlikely to be savoring the acclaim, because his worst fear has become reality: the “unstoppable undercurrent of crisis” he identified in America seems to have successfully jumped the Pacific. Despite all his and Xi’s success in draconian suppression of political liberalism, many of the same problems Wang observed in America have nonetheless emerged to ravage China over the last decade as the country progressively embraced a more neoliberal capitalist economic model.
“Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” has rapidly transformed China into one of the most economically unequal societies on earth.​..
​..Most people in China remain relatively poor: some 600 million still subsist on a monthly income of less than 1,000 yuan ($155) a month.​ Meanwhile, Chinese tech giants have established monopoly positions even more robust than their U.S. counterparts, often with market shares nearing 90%. Corporate employment frequently features an exhausting “996” (9am to 9pm, 6 days a week) schedule. Others labor among struggling legions trapped by up-front debts in the vast system of modern-day indentured servitude that is the Chinese “gig economy.”
​  The job market for China’s ever-expanding pool of university graduates is so competitive that “graduation equals unemployment” is a societal meme​... 
​..As young people have flocked to urban metropoles to search for employment, rural regions have been drained and left to decay, while centuries of communal extended family life have been upended in a generation, leaving the elderly to rely on the state for marginal care. In the cities, young people have been priced out of the property market​...
​..Feeling alone and unable to get ahead in a ruthlessly consumerist society, Chinese youth increasingly describe existing in a state of nihilistic despair encapsulated by the online slang term neijuan (“involution”), which describes a “turning inward” by individuals and society due to a prevalent sense of being stuck in a draining rat race where everyone inevitably loses. This despair has manifested itself in a movement known as tangping, or “lying flat.”​... 
​..In this environment, China’s fertility rate has collapsed to 1.3 children per woman as of 2020—below Japan and above only South Korea as the lowest in the world—plunging its economic future into crisis.​.. “Do they not yet know that most young people are exhausted just supporting themselves?” asked one typically viral post on social media.​..
..They ​would identify liberalism’s essential telos as being the liberation of the individual from all limiting ties of place, tradition, religion, associations, and relationships, along with all the material limits of nature, in pursuit of the radical autonomy of the modern “consumer.”
​  From this perspective, China has been thoroughly liberalized, and the picture of what’s happening to Chinese society begins to look far more like Wang’s nightmare of a liberal culture consumed by nihilistic individualism and commodification.
​  It is in this context that Wang Huning appears to have won a long-running debate within the Chinese system about what’s now required for the People’s Republic of China to endure. The era of tolerance for unfettered economic and cultural liberalism in China is over.
​  According to a leaked account by one of his old friends, Xi has found himself, like Wang, “repulsed by the all-encompassing commercialization of Chinese society, with its attendant nouveaux riches, official corruption, loss of values, dignity, and self-respect, and such ‘moral evils’ as drugs and prostitution.”​ 
 Wang has now seemingly convinced Xi that they have no choice but to take drastic action to head off existential threats to social order being generated by Western-style economic and cultural liberal-capitalism—threats nearly identical to those that scourge the U.S.
​  This intervention has taken the form of the Common Prosperity campaign, with Xi declaring in January that “We absolutely must not allow the gap between rich and poor to get wider,” and warning that “achieving common prosperity is not only an economic issue, but also a major political issue related to the party’s governing foundations.”​ ... It’s why record-breaking IPOs have been put on hold and corporations ordered to improve labor conditions, with “996” overtime requirements made illegal and pay raised for gig workers.​  It’s why the government killed off the private tutoring sector overnight and capped property rental price increases. It’s why the government has announced “excessively high incomes” are to be “adjusted.”
​  And it’s why celebrities like Zhao Wei have been disappearing, why Chinese minors have been banned from playing the “spiritual opium” of video games for more than three hours per week, why LGBT groups have been scrubbed from the internet, and why abortion restrictions have been significantly tightened.​..
..Our world is witnessing a grand experiment that’s now underway: China and the West, facing very similar societal problems, have now, thanks to Wang Huning, embarked on radically different approaches to addressing them.​   [Russia and Iran are each differently-different.]

​  Moon of Alabama:  Ukraine SitRep: A Hated New Commander - Critical Lack Of Infantry
The Ukrainian President Zelenski has fired the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces General Zaluzny.
​  Zaluzny was replaced by General Syrski, a somewhat unexpected choice as Syrski is hated by the troops for pushing them into meat grinders without a perspective of winning. Syrski, who was born as a Russian, had lost the cauldron battles of Debaltsevo (2015), Soledar (2023) and Bakhmut (2023). Currently Avdeevka is in a cauldron and likely to fall.

​  Trump will keep Ukraine promise – Polish president
​  Former US President Donald Trump will likely keep his promise to end the conflict in Ukraine within 24 hours if he wins this year’s election, Polish President Andrzej Duda has said...​. “I can say from my personal experience as the president of the Polish Republic… what [Trump] promised to me was fulfilled,” Duda told reporters in Rwanda on Wednesday, according to Newsweek.

"My Memory Is Fine" Biden Fumes, Before Confusing Egypt's Sisi With The President Of Mexico

Iraq Closer To Expelling US Troops After Drone Strike In Busy Neighborhood

​  US Warns Against Impending Israeli Assault On Refugee-Packed Rafah
​  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he has voiced "concerns" to Prime Minister Netanyahu regarding the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) impending ground operation against the far southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip.
​  Hundreds of thousands of civilian refugees have until this point sought out the greater 'safety' of Rafah. But Al Jazeera observes that "Panic is growing in Rafah over an imminent ground invasion after Israel’s prime minister ordered his military to prepare to enter the city in the southern Gaza Strip that is sheltering 1.2 million people with nowhere else to go as he rejected Hamas’s truce plan and rebuffed US efforts to reach a deal."

Israel killing too many civilians – US​ , Innocent people in Gaza should not be punished for the actions of Hamas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said

​  Israel Backing Off Hostage Talks, Draws Up Civilian Evacuation Plans For Rafah Assault
  A new Times of Israel report says that Israeli negotiators are not seeking to come up with new terms for a deal, but are instead trying to pressure Hamas to withdraw the "delusional" terms.​  [It seems that Israeli officials and Hamas ​leadership hold different baseline assumptions.]
​  "The main target now is to create pressure from the Americans and other countries on Qatar, and from there on Hamas, in addition to the military pressure, to bring them down from their delusional demands," said an official cited in the report.

​  The European Commission has bent the knee to protesting farmers - and is dropping key passages in a proposal for a new 2040 goal aimed at cutting greenhouse gas pollution. According to the EU exe​cutive's plan, "all sectors" need to now contribute to the effort - but the previously mandated 30% cut to agricultural production between by 2040 is gone. The revised draft has also excluded a mandate for citizens to make lifestyle changes - such as eating less meat, and a push to end fossil fuel subsidies.​  [The moment of truth?]

​Looking Forward To Spring (pictured prepping the garden)

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