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Peace News log archive: June 2013

Articles from the Peace News log.
For archive articles from the whole site, look here

With a focus on enviornmental issues, LS provides the second installment of the PN series about activism in China.

China has a long history of slogans and set phrases. During the era of Mao’s Charimanship hundreds of them were coined and printed on coloured posters which were then spread all over the country and in doing so propagating the message and line of action of the leadership. This tradition is still in place today, adapting to the time and context of the 21st century. If in 1966 a common slogan was along the lines of 'Boundlessly loyal to the great leader Chairman Mao, boundlessly loyal to the great Mao Zedong Thought, boundlessly loyal to Chairman Mao's revolutionary line', then Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Chinese Communist party, has simply chosen to cut words from it today and is pushing forwards his own, new slogan: ‘China’s dream’.

Since its first appearance last November, this new phrase has been constantly used in official speeches, and as in the previous tradition, it has spread out across public walls all over China.

Nevertheless, despite its spread it is unclear as to what there is behind it in actual terms. During his summit with Obama on the 11th June, the Chinese leader once again talked about ‘China’s dream’, this time describing it as a ‘dream of fortune, of minorities revival, of people’s happiness, justice, development and cooperation’. But what does Xi Jinping actually mean when saying that China has a dream of happiness, or of development? Whose happiness? And whose development?

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First part of a series to feature on the PN blog about grassroots struggles in China.

In the last few decades, one of the major phenomena occurring on the global scale has been the rise of China. In 1978, the country opened to the outside world after nearly 30 years of almost non-existent contact with what lay outside its borders. Since then, China has grown incredibly, in economic terms, and in terms of the global political balance of power. In little more than 30 years, China has become the second largest economy of the world, and a major economic partner for most countries both in the Global North and in the Global South.

Global attention has been focusing on China more and more, attentively looking at the changes that have been occurring at the government level and at the Chinese Communist party (CCP) level, and what these might mean in terms of international relations. In March, Xi Jinping was formally elected general secretary of the Communist party, an event that has been given extensive media coverage throughout the world. No country can be indifferent to the destiny of China.

Nevertheless, in the Global North, attention to China is often limited to the mainstream, formal life of the country. Chinese civil society is rarely taken into account in the international media, and when something is said about it, it is often derogatory. ‘Lack of human rights’; ‘censorship’; ‘limited freedom of action, speech and thoughts’: these are all-too-often recurring terms in the mainstream discourse in the Global North when analysing Chinese civil society.
In this way, a stereotype that sees Chinese citizens as passive victims of development is maintained and reinforced, thus disempowering civil society and taking away any chance of ordinary people expressing their collective agency.

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Ian Sinclair speaking at the University of Southampton about his book 'The march the shook Blair' that also featured Matt Barr who has recently returned from Iraq.

ImageIn 2003 the UK and US invaded Iraq without a UN resolution. This is common knowledge to anyone who was old enough to pay attention to the news at the time and the following years. Many in my generation also attended the anti-war marches that were organised not only in Britain but across the world, although the London march, attracting between one and two million people according to different estimates, was clearly the largest and attracted the most attention.

What may not be as common knowledge is what has happened in the years following the invasion and this was the topic of the event at University of Southampton on May 29th. The event brought together Matt Barr, a PhD student at the university who specialise in post-conflict decision-making focusing on Iraq, and Ian Sinclair, a freelance journalist and author of the book ‘The march that shook Blair: An Oral History of 15 February 2003’.

Matt who has travelled to Iraq on multiple occasions, including during the 10th anniversary of the invasion, spoke about his experiences there and the impact that the sanctions and the war has had on the people and their communities in Iraq. This could be simple things, like the story Matt told about how after a confrontation involving guns outside the house he was staying the neigbour’s young child knew that a bullet cartridge that has just been fired would be hot so did not pick it with their hands but instead used the cloth of their shirt to prevent getting burnt. Speaking to a mixed academic audience of undergraduates, postgraduates and professors these stories about the people Matt met out in Iraq showed a side to the war, and perhaps more importantly the aftermath, that we were all probably aware of, but knew little about in specific detail and about specific people.

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