SEVEN MYTHS ABOUT CHINA AND ITS HISTORY

By | China, Geopolitics, History, Opinion pieces for the press, Taiwan | No Comments

This Article is from The Australian March 2018 We are on the cusp of serious debates about the implications for Australia and the whole Asia Pacific world of the vast increase in Chinese wealth and power this century, not least with the repudiation of political reforms by Xi Jinping and his assumption of indefinite and all but absolute power. In order for those debates to be conducted intelligently and productively, it is vital that we think about China in a clear-headed manner. Unfortunately, the field at present is cluttered with myths about China, sedulously propagated by the Chinese Communist Party,…

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FINEST CHINA

By | Book reviews for the press, China, Geopolitics | No Comments

I wrote Thunder from the Silent Zone some years ago, but much of it still resonates. I recently reviewed and compared the contributions from: Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap? By Graham Allison Scribe, 384pp, $35 China Matters: Getting It Right for Australia By Bates Gill and Linda Jakobson La Trobe University Press, 256pp, $29.99 Will China Dominate the 21st Century? By Jonathan Fenby Polity Press, 144pp, $21.95 My Recent Book Review In The Australian

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WERE THERE RUSSIAN MOLES IN ASIO? WELL YES, PRIME MINISTER.

By | AusPolitics, Critical Essays, Geopolitics, Intelligence | No Comments

  The final volume of the official history of ASIO admits, in muted tones, that there were multiple Soviet moles in the organization during the Cold War. Not one or a possible one, as so often rumoured in the past; but a number of them. The language is vague and elliptical, but the statement is there and it is buttressed by the rhetorical question with which the authors finish the whole work: ‘how extensive was the betrayal and how extensive was the damage?’ The official history was the best possible place to answer this question, but its authors were forbidden…

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EXPERT KNOWLEDGE AND SCIENTIFIC THINKING ARE UNDER SIEGE

By | Book reviews for the press, Cognitive Science, Geopolitics | No Comments

A social Issue of New Scientist, dated 1 April 2017, was devoted to the question ‘What is Knowledge?’ The sub-title was ‘The Biggest Questions about Facts, Truth, Lies and Belief’. It was clearly not intended as an April Fool’s Day joke, but there would be plenty of scope for a spoof which had done just that, given the bizarre beliefs and attitudes to truth held by altogether too many human beings. As Carl Sagan expressed it some thirty years ago, we have created a scientific civilization, but have allowed a situation to develop in which the vast majority of people…

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TURKEY’S PURGES: REICHSTAG FIRE PRETEXT OR DEFENCE OF DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTIONS?

By | Critical Essays, Geopolitics, Islam | No Comments

  On the night of 15-16 July, there was what appeared to be an unexpected and badly bungled attempted coup d’état in Turkey. Over 200 people lost their lives in the violence. The Erdogan government swiftly exerted complete control and began arresting or standing down an astounding number of military officers, policemen, judges, civil servants and, most mysteriously of all, school teachers and academics. Some 2,000 of those arrested were accused only of having ‘insulted’ Erdogan. Almost none of this makes sense. There was no build-up of tensions suggesting a possible coup. Allegations by the Erdogan government that it had…

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ERDOGAN’S CRACKDOWN IS DEEPLY DISTURBING

By | Geopolitics, Human Rights, Opinion pieces for the press, Turkey | No Comments

There is something deeply disturbing about the direction in which Recip Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party are taking Turkey. Writing in this newspaper last week, John Lyons compared the sweeping purges to McCarthyism in the United States, in the 1950s. That was altogether the wrong analogy. The scale and arbitrariness of what is happening are, rather, akin to Hitler’s state of emergency after the Reichstag fire in 1933, or Stalin’s reaction to the assassination of Sergei Kirov in 1934, than to the United States in the 1950s. There is also an analogy with the Islamist revolution in…

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MAO ZEDONG WAS THE FULL CATASTROPHE IN CHINA

By | Book reviews for the press, China, Geopolitics | No Comments

With The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History (2016), Frank Dikotter completes a trilogy on the catastrophic impact that Mao Zedong and his Communist Party inflicted on China between their seizure of power in 1949 and Mao’s death in 1976. The first volume in the trilogy chronologically, though it was written second, was The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution 1945-57 (2013). It covers the civil war, the seizure of power, the mass terror campaigns that accompanied and followed that seizure of power, the vaunted Marxist-Leninist nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange and the crushing…

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SUPERB HISTORY OF WAR THAT SHAPED THE CURRENT MIDDLE EAST

By | Book reviews for the press, Geopolitics, History | No Comments

  Thucydidean in tone and narrative style – dispassionate, systematic, detailed, rational and humane. Remarkable blow by blow account of the military campaign, supported by 30 detailed maps Published in French in 2013, it catches the Arab Spring and the Turkish armistice with the PUK, but misses the unravelling of the Arab Spring, the disintegration of Syria and the collapse of the brief peace between the Turkish government and the Kurdish nationalists French, but not pro-French – Valmy, Robespierre (Ali Khamenei) and Danton (Rafsanjani), but critical, detailed and slightly caustic treatment of French relations with the two warring states and…

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NIALL FERGUSON’S CRITICS JUMP THE GUN

By | Biography, Book reviews for the press, Geopolitics, History | No Comments

Kissinger 1923-1968: The Idealist (Penguin Press, New York, 2015) 986 pp. Harry Gelber’s review (December 2015) of the first volume of Niall Ferguson’s biography of Henry Kissinger – Kissinger 1923-1968: The Idealist – strikes the right note in describing it as ‘the first half of what may yet turn out to be his masterpiece.’ There is no question that Ferguson is poised to deliver something special in the second volume, which, he informs me, will take at least another three years. Even this first volume is a most impressive piece of work. Yet Ferguson’s critics on the Left refuse to…

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CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION

By | Biography, China, Critical Essays, Geopolitics, History, Taiwan | No Comments

On the death of Zhao Ziyang and the future of China  “We Chinese people have an old weakness: we cling to some things so hard that we can’t let go…This weakness has blocked up people’s thinking, has stifled democracy and science, has aided ignorance and backwardness, and is a major obstacle to the advance of Chinese society.” Li Ruihuan (1992)[i] “Rapid economic growth is a stressful process…it churns and reorders economic and political elites. It can destabilize the political order that is responsible for the policies that sustain it, unless the political order itself evolves with the economic structure.” Ross…

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