What Are the Cultural Revolution’s Lessons for Our Current Moment?

The great question of China’s Maoist experiment now looms over the United States: Why did a powerful society suddenly start destroying itself?

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/02/01/what-are-the-cultural-revolutions-lessons-for-our-current-moment
Western intellectuals and artists would have felt much less sympathy for the Devil had they heard about the ordeals of their counterparts in China, as described in “The World Turned Upside Down” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a thick catalogue of gruesome atrocities, blunders, bedlam, and ideological dissimulation, by the Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng. Yang mentions a group of elderly writers in Beijing who, in August, 1966, three months after Mao formally launched the Cultural Revolution, were denounced as “ox demons and snake spirits” (Mao’s preferred term for class enemies) and flogged with belt buckles and bamboo sticks by teen-age girls. Among the writers subjected to this early “struggle session” was the novelist Lao She, the world-famous author of “Rickshaw Boy.” He killed himself the following day.

Opinion | Trump Is Wrong About TikTok. China’s Plans Are Much More Sinister.

The West still doesn’t understand the scale of Beijing’s soft-power ambitions.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/17/opinion/tiktok-china-strategy.html
Across the Indian Ocean, where historically India has held sway, China now controls or helps manage ports, airfields, military bases or observation stations, along the coast of Myanmar and in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Pakistan, all the way to Djibouti and Kenya. It is also making forays right in America’s backyard, for example, eyeing the Panama Canal.

Fearing Detention, Two Australian Correspondents Flee China

The forced departures highlight souring relations between the two countries and Beijing’s increasingly heavy-handed tactics to limit independent journalism.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/07/world/australia/china-correspondents-bill-birtles-michael-smith.html
The Australian Financial Review reported that Chinese investigators sought to question Mr. Birtles and Mr. Smith about Cheng Lei, a Chinese-born Australian business news anchor for China’s CGTN television service who was detained in August.

With Hacks and Cameras, Beijing’s Electronic Dragnet Closes on Hong Kong

Under a new national security law, the police are targeting the social media accounts of executives, politicians and activists. American internet giants are struggling to respond.

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/25/technology/hong-kong-national-security-law.html
When officers swarmed him at a Hong Kong shopping mall last month, they pulled him into a stairwell and pinned his head in front of his phone — an attempt to trigger the facial recognition system. Later, at his home, officers forced his finger onto a separate phone. Then they demanded passwords.

The Panopticon Is Already Here

Xi Jinping is using artificial intelligence to enhance his government’s totalitarian control—and he’s exporting this technology to regimes around the globe.

Link: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/09/china-ai-surveillance/614197/
By 2030, AI supremacy might be within range for China. The country will likely have the world’s largest economy, and new money to spend on AI applications for its military. It may have the most sophisticated drone swarms. It may have autonomous weapons systems that can forecast an adversary’s actions after a brief exposure to a theater of war, and make battlefield decisions much faster than human cognition allows. Its missile-detection algorithms could void America’s first-strike nuclear advantage. AI could upturn the global balance of power.

China’s Arrest of a Free-Speech Icon Backfires in Hong Kong

The arrest of the tycoon and democracy activist Jimmy Lai has reinvigorated defiance rather than demoralize his supporters.

Link: https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/chinas-arrest-of-a-free-speech-icon-backfires-in-hong-kong
Last September, when I was in Hong Kong reporting on the anti-government protests engulfing the city, I spent an afternoon in the industrial-looking headquarters of Apple Daily, a popular tabloid owned by perhaps the city’s most unusual tycoon, an outspoken democracy activist and one of the Communist Party’s leading critics. To meet Jimmy Lai, I walked through the publication’s vast open-plan office, where hundreds of staff members busily put out the day’s news. “When I went into the publishing business, twenty-five years ago, it was a no-brainer,” Lai told me in his office, which resembled the appearance of its owner: determinedly functional and, unusually for Hong Kong, absent of status markers. “Information is freedom, and I wanted to be in the business of delivering freedom.” Lai admitted that back then he hardly thought this was a risky proposition. “I believed that all of China was going forward, that it was inevitable China would adapt to openness.”