“Europe” is Old and Fading Away

I put “Europe” between inverted commas because it is more than a physical and political region of the world—it is a concept, a culture, an historical memory.

It also represents a people. Genetic scientists recognize three major groups of humans: Africans, Asians and Europeans. Simply put, Europeans are people found mostly in Europe and, via emigration during the last several hundred years, in the two American continents.

The Europe that is fading away is not the geographically defined region, but the people who carry the designation “European”. For evidence of this assertion, let’s look at the median age of the five regions I use for this study (please clink on this image and all others to see the charts clearly):

Median Age by Region

The median age is the age that divides a population into two numerically equal groups; that is, half the people are younger than this age and half are older.

The chart shows that the regions of Africa and “Asia-I” contain the youngest populations of the world, with the three other regions containing the oldest.

Before we look at other factors and trends to support my assertion in the headline, I should explain the terminology and country groupings (regions) used in this study:

  • “Asia-I” is comprised of all the countries in Asia, except those I have put into “Asia-II”, below.
  • “Asia-II” is comprised of China (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), Japan and the two Koreas.
  • “Americas” are the two continents of North and South America, combined.

(See the note at the end of this article for countries and populations included and excluded from this study).

Back to the discussion.

To begin to see the import in the wide variation in median age among these regions, we need to see the mass of the people within them:

Percent Population by Region
One can say that the regions containing 75% of the world’s population have the youngest people, and the regions containing 25% of the world’s population have the oldest people.

But what are the trends? What is the population growth rate in each of these regions?

Pop Growth Rate by Region

We see here that world population is currently growing at the rate of 1.1 percent per year. One region drives this number: Africa, at 2.33% per year. If all data from Africa were taken out of the calculation (i.e., if the continent theoretically did not exist), the world growth rate would be 0.88%. This calculation puts into even greater perspective that Asia-II and Europe are lagging far behind in population growth rate.

But there is at least a little population growth in Europe (0.11% in 2012), so how can I say that Europeans are disappearing? Let’s look at net migration rates (percentage of people entering a country minus the percentage of people leaving):

net migration rate by region

Without the migrants from other regions entering Europe, its population growth rate would have been -1.13%; that is, Europe’s population would have declined by 1.13%, or by around 8.5 million people.

As the nail in the coffin, let’s look at how Europeans are replacing themselves through the making of babies; that is, to study the Total Fertility Rate by region.

[Total fertility rate (TFR—Definition from The CIA World Factbook):

… TFR is a more direct measure of the level of fertility than the crude birth rate, since it refers to births per woman… A rate of two children per woman is considered the replacement rate for a population, resulting in relative stability in terms of total numbers. Rates above two children indicate populations growing in size and whose median age is declining… Rates below two children indicate populations decreasing in size and growing older. Global fertility rates are in general decline and this trend is most pronounced in industrialized countries, especially Western Europe, where populations are projected to decline dramatically over the next 50 years. (Emphasis added).]

Fertility Rate by Region

Both Europe and Asia-II do not have a sufficient number of newborn, to replace the old people who are dying, in order to maintain the current population (if there were a net migration rate of 0.0%).

Conclusion:

Both Europe and Asia-II regions have populations growing well below the world average.

Both regions have a median age in excess of the world average and well above those of Africa and Asia-I. The people residing in these regions are getting older while the rest of the world remains very much younger.

The population of Europe is remaining stable only because immigrants from other countries make up for the deficit in European fertility.

If trends continue, Europe will be peopled mostly by non-Europeans.

Why haven’t I included Asia-II in the headline? Because the population of Asia-II is 1,574 million people, while the population of Europe is 754 million people, around half as much as Asia-II.

If the trends continue as they are, Asia-II (this includes China!) will begin to fade away as well.

NOTE: There are 267 countries, dependent areas, and other “entities” in the world, as listed in The World Factbook of the CIA which is the source of all information here. I have placed 156 of these entities (almost all are countries) in the five regions described above.

Not included in these five regions are data from 107 countries and other “entities” all of which have populations under one million; nor are the data from Australia and New Zealand included. Also not included are data from two small countries: Kosovo (Europe) and South Sudan (Africa). The latter two countries are too new to have generated sufficient information. Altogether, the data not included here are from entities totaling 38.8 million people, or 0.55% of the world’s population of 7.022 billion people, in 2012.

Also, I have included Russia in Europe, as well as the Southern Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia. Turkey is in Asia-I.

Extremes of Wealth and Poverty

I often return to the trove of statistical data on the world’s 242 sovereign states and dependent territories, as detailed online in The World Factbook of the CIA.

Here are some conclusions and speculations derived from the data in the chart displayed below, on the ten largest nations, by population, and the 27 aggregated countries of the European Union (EU).

(Please click on all images for clarity in the details)

Demographics of ten most populous countries 2012

These thirty-seven states comprise 65% of the world’s population, leaving 35% populating the remaining 205 states and territories. These 205 entities, except for an additional ten rich states which are included in the 205 (see below), are very poor. Their aggregate GDP per person (even including the few rich countries) is at 82% of the world’s average of US$11,800.

The world’s people see the USA, to a great degree, and the EU, to a lesser degree, as the places to which to migrate. Russia’s net migration rate of 0.29 per thousand can easily be attributed to the return of ethnic Russians from the former republics of the USSR and Eastern Europe.

Asian countries (China, India, and Bangladesh) are expanding their economies far in excess of the world average of 3.6%. Nigeria, in Africa, is in this same neighborhood. These four are the less developed nations in this study, as measured by the GDP per person—their numbers are far below the average for the world.  That the most developed nations (and groups of nations—that is, the EU) have high GDP per person, but below average growth rate, may be due in part to the high numerical base of productivity from which the rate of growth is calculated. The figures for Brazil and Pakistan run counter to this speculation, however.

China and India together hold 36% of the world’s population. China, at the number one spot in population, is ten times as populous as Japan, which is in the number ten position (1.8% of the world).

Russia seems to have particular problems in the male population and in a proper balance between the number of men and women. Male life expectancy at birth for the world is 65.6 years. A newborn Russian baby boy can expect to live only 60.1 years (on the average). The world’s average difference in life expectancy between females and males is 4.1 years, females living longer on average. In Russia, the difference is 13.1 years, with life expectancy at birth for females being 73.2 years. Also, Russia’s fertility rate is below the world average and below the rate at which the population can renew and maintain itself (see the next paragraph for further details). Russia’s population is, therefore, declining.

(Please click on all images for clarity in the details)

World net birth rate, 2007
Source: World Factbook of the CIA

The accepted figure for a country’s fertility rate which will, without regard to net migration, keep a country at a constant population is 2.1 births per woman. The world average is 2.5 births per woman. On the assumption that it is good for a country to have a fertility rate between 2.1 and 2.5 (irrespective of net migration figures), these countries are the outliers: Nigeria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India have a fertility rate greater than 2.5; China, Japan, Russia and the EU have a fertility rate lower than 2.1.

The USA has a fertility rate of 2.1, and a high net migration rate, auguring well for a moderately growing population.

As indicators of the quality of life, especially medical care and health, are the figures for infant mortality (within 30 days of birth) and female life expectancy (at each woman’s birth), the latter including the likelihood of dying as a result of giving birth. The world’s average infant death rate is 3.96%. Four countries exceed this rate, most by a relatively large amount: Bangladesh at 5.91%; India at 4.61%, Nigeria at 7.44%, Pakistan at 6.13%.  Except for Bangladesh, these countries show lower than the world average in female life expectancy.

In looking again at the very high GDP growth rate in India (7.8%) and Nigeria (6.9%), and linking this observation with the poor condition of women and newborn children in these two countries, I get a mental picture of government economic policies not giving proper consideration to the people who should be among the beneficiaries of this economic growth.

The infant mortality rate in the EU is lowest at 0.45%, with the USA second at 0.60%. As a citizen, first, of the USA and now also of Sweden (a member nation of the European Union), I am glad these two countries have developed such that women and infants (and men as well, to be sure) have a better chance of surviving to a much older age than will citizens in most other areas of the world.

And finally, 195 of the 205 other entities are getting poorer, both relatively and absolutely. In order to get a more realistic look at the really poor countries, I made another chart to identify and remove from “the 205”, ten rich countries (not among the most populated or in the EU as in the first chart) where GDP per person is very large.

(Please click on all images for clarity in the details)

Image

So, two-thirds of the world’s population has an average GDP/person of US$18,513  and one-third of the world’s population has an average GDP/person of US$ 1,775.

Just ponder this for a while. One-third of the people in the world live where their country produces goods and services at less than 10%  of the per capita rate (on average) that is produced in the rest of the world. And, the aggregate rate of real growth in GDP of their countries is a negative 1.5% (on average), so their circumstances are getting worse.

The way one interprets figures such as I show here is a function of one’s biases. Perhaps I have focused too much on the negative, or have overlooked some success story. I welcome any other interpretations and criticism.

One final note and a preview: China is the biggest player in the statistics shown here, despite its poor showing in GDP per person. My next article will focus onChina, its growth in economic power and its growing role in world politics.

”What Went Wrong with Africa?”

 

This is the title of a 2004 book by Roel van der Veen who presented his findings and theories at The Swedish Institute of International Affairs on June 7, 2012.

Co-presenting on the headlined topic, “What Africa?” was Erika Bjerström, international correspondent for the Swedish public service television company, SVT.  Her research resulted in the TV documentary Det Nya Afrika (The New Africa).

The two speakers come from two different viewpoints, and it seems that UI set them up as adversaries. To put it simply, Mr van der Veen sees the African cup half-empty and Ms Bjerström sees the cup half full. I found Ms Bjerström’s presentation the more heartfelt and hopeful, but I found Mr van der Veen’s assertions the more persuasive—I will explain.

In 2009 I wrote about the The Dismal Record of African Leadership based on analysis and findings of The Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The foundation’s prize was first awarded in 2007 (Mozambique) and then again in 2008 (Botswana). No prize was awarded in the years 2009 and 2010. The prize for 2011 was awarded to Pedro de Verona Rodrigues Pires, the President of Cape Verde during the years 2001-2011. Cape Verde is a small island nation of slightly more than a half million people. The phrase “what went wrong?” regarding the other, much larger nations of Africa, seems applicable here.

Roel van der Veen, Erika Bjerström, Moderator Victoria Veres at UI, 7 June 2012

Roel van der Veen

Mr. van der Veen spoke first and at length, providing history and analysis of not only Sub-Saharan African countries, but also East Asian countries—through the years ending in 2008. He used the measure of gross domestic product (GDP) per person per year as the basic comparative measure, both historically within selected African countries and comparatively with respect to selected East Asian countries.

Van der Veen asserted that “no continent of earth is as poor as Africa”. He asked, rhetorically, whether we could attribute this primarily to external or internal factors. He cited several external factors including:

  • artificial national boundaries
  • environmental factors
  • the effects of colonization by European countries

He stated flatly that these, and the other external factors which he cited, were not the cause of Africa’s poor condition. For proof he offered comparisons between the countries of Indonesia vs. Nigeria, and Malaysia vs. Kenya. Both sets of countries have artificial boundaries, similar environments, were subject to centuries of colonial rule, and were similar in several other factors.

Yet The GDP/person in the two Asian countries has grown in recent years ‘way beyond their African counterparts which van der Veen used in this comparison: Indonesia since 1981 and Malaysia since 1959.

Mr. van der Veen’s theory (his term) is that no nation-state has developed without the support of its state rulers and apparatus, and that Africa (i.e., the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa) has a method of state governance which prevents development.

So, what’s a state? Mr van der Veen illustrated the generic state thus:

Structure of the Generic State

Van der Veen’s thesis is that, however they gained their position, the rulers in any country depend on a complaisant general populace (“common people” in my diagram) and a satisfied elite to retain power.

When current African countries gained their independence from European colonial powers the existing elites were purged or they left the country. A new elite replaced them which are different from the elites of developing countries. These are local chiefs and other leaders from the local level, not all of whom had similar interests, other than to retain local power. This makes the state a fragile entity because these elites do not have the concept of a state foremost in their interests.

In Sub-Saharan countries the following dynamic occurs: to satisfy the elites the government subsidizes their basic needs, especially food. The state government, as a monopsony,  buys the agricultural produce from the farmers at below world-market prices and sells it to the elites at a profit, but still at below world market prices. “Who cares about the farmers?” is the attitude of the government and the elites, according to van der Veen.

Over time, the farmers are discouraged and some number of them migrates in one of two directions: toward the city, or toward more remote areas to return to subsistence farming. Thus, the agricultural base of the nation-state is reduced and, concomitantly, its wealth. This creates a dangerous dynamic in the relationship between the state and the elites, among other pathologies which are easily imaginable—and evident in the weekly or monthly news one might read from a distance about Africa.

What was different in the Asian states which van der Veen compared with African states? “Massive state investment in agriculture”. He asserted that before there can be industrial development in a state there needs to be agricultural reform and development. This is what happened in Indonesia and Malaysia.

But, what will motivate the state’s rulers to change the status quo, when the default position of any group in power is to maintain it, according to van der Veen? When the change is seen to be in the interests of the rulers, as well as the common people.

The experience of Asian countries was decades of civil unrest and, therefore, uncertainty about the rulers retaining power. The rulers decided to adopt a change in economic policy which, since then, has worked for all three groups of people. The key is to view national politics as secondary to, and dependent upon, national economic policy. This is the opposite of what is found inAfrica.

One of the few remaining trees in the Valley of the Baobabs, Malawi
(postcardjunky.wordpress.com/)

In Africa, currently, the politics of retaining power is of foremost interest, with national economic policy non-existent, or poorly conceived and executed.

There has been a turning point for Africa, however, starting around 2002. Powerful external forces are indeed affecting various African states, including:

  • Globalization, especially Chinese and Brazilian investments
  • High market prices for African mineral resources
  • Fewer wars
  • Technology, especially the use of mobile phones: “people can do more now, despite the state”

Nonetheless, the accumulated and continuing effects of national political and economic policies have caused a general “de-industrialization” of Africa.

Erika Bjerström

Ms Bjerström sees an emerging renaissance. She noted that The Economist magazine in 2002 called Africa a “lost continent”, but in 2012 apologized for having said this, and changed their opinion. (Go to the link under The Economist for their African news pages).

She noted that Mr van der Veen’s data run only through 2008, and that she had travelled seven countries to see and report directly what was happening in: Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Tanzania. She saw positive trends in these countries, including that Rwanda has a national health service, to which she compared the United States unfavorably. She then showed the TV documentary she created from her six-month trip.

Rwandan school children will have their own laptop from the age of seven
(Documentary: “Det Nya Afrika”)

Documentary

In that the language used in the TV film was Swedish, I have to rely here on the summary given in the headline page for the documentary (translated by Bing® with editing my me):

In the shadow of news media spotlight, an economic miracle is happening in Africa. Today, seven of the world’s ten fastest growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa is so much more than hunger, wars and disasters.

SVT correspondent Erika Bjerström and photographer Emil Larsson have travelled over half a year to view a new Africa, full of confidence. They have met with businessmen, politicians and civil servants who exude a new self-confidence and pride in what they are about to do. This documentary is about a miracle that is happening with great speed, while much of the world is still blinded by the old image of Africa.

What I gleaned from the film is that the cities shown looked modern and busy, and that automated factories were producing modern products. The working people lived in non-modern housing, but appeared happy to be working. These seemed to be mostly women. I saw many idle, able-bodied men in this film, however. It appeared that food and building materials were being provided by foreign investors or donors.

I analysed the seven countries presented in the documentary film (using the current data provided by the World Factbook of the CIA). I also compared both Nigeria and Kenya with the two Asian countries mentioned as similar to these by Mr van der Veen. I added Sweden as an example of a developed country. (Please click on the image of the chart)

*Real Economic (GDP) Growth Rate defined

Analysis

Only one country, Ghana, of the seven countries Ms Bjerström visited, ranks within the top ten world countries in current, annual economic growth. The others range from rank 19 to 86. The GDP per person in these seven countries ranges from US$ 900 to US$ 3,100, with a median of US$ 1,500. The average for the world’s countries is US$ 11,800.

The comparisons of Kenya with Malaysia and Nigeria with Indonesia bear out Mr van der Veen’s assertions.

Interchange between the speakers and the audience

The two speakers acknowledged that each of these seven countries has started from a very low base of economic activity, so the figures for percent growth will naturally tend higher than for developed countries. Both also noted there is a big gap between the living conditions of the elite and the common people.

Ms Bjelström cited Africa as being a “victim of climate change” as a factor preventing greater economic growth.

Ms Bjelström referred to the findings of Freedom House for noting there are only five regional conflicts currently, compared to more in the past. I couldn’t find the source for this assertion, but here is a status summary for Sub-Saharan Africa issued by Freedom House:

Despite being home to several of the world’s worst performing countries in terms of respect for human rights, the region saw overall if uneven progress toward democratization during the 1990s and the early 2000s. However, recent years have seen backsliding among both the top performers, such as South Africa, and the more repressive countries, such as The Gambia and Ethiopia. Lack of adherence to the rule of law, infringements on the freedoms of expression and association, widespread corruption, and discrimination against women and the LGBT community remain serious problems in many countries. Across the continent, Freedom House works to strengthen elections and civic mobilization, good governance, defense of human rights, rule of law, and independent media. (Click on the link to Freedom House to access remarks for individual countries).

The “silent revolution” mentioned in the documentary includes government tax revenues going toward social programs. Mr van der Veen asserted that the tax revenue would be better spent on physical infrastructure.

China is investing heavily in selected countries of Africa, mostly in minerals and high-tech industries. Brazil’s investments are offering  “know-how” and “soft-tech.” These and other foreign countries are investing in land and bringing foreign workers to Africa.

Conclusion

Despite areas of improvement and optimism presented by Ms Bjelström, nothing substantive seems to have changed in the economic policies of the African countries discussed. Most of the resources for improvement seem to be coming from foreign countries, not from the basis for a developing country’s wealth—its agricultural base.

 

The Outlook is Grim for the People of Afghanistan

 

On what authority do I state this? I have one specific source and one general source.

The specific source is a day-long seminar held December 1 at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) on the campus of The Royal Institute of Technology entitled Afghanistan After 2014, which I attended.

The general source is the recent and current news of the world which has focused, again, more sharply on Afghanistan because of The announcement by President Obama that the US and NATO military forces will exit Afghanistan by the end of 2014; and, the convening of the Second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan held on 5 December 2011, ten years after the First Bonn Conference. In addition, there have been violent episodes within and without Afghanistan (in Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan), even as I compose this article, that bode ill for a strong and peaceful Afghanistan while the foreign troops leave over the next two years.

I have a small authority having worked for thirty days in 2005 as a volunteer consultant in Afghanistan, in the provinces of Kunduz and Wardak. You can see images and some narrative from this visit here.

I will offer links to current news and other sources of information after I present this summary of the seminar.

Seminar Summary, Four Sessions
(Note: remarks attributed to the participants are transcriptions from my hand-written notes; any errors of fact and interpretation are mine).

Twelve experts and scholars provided a comprehensive look at the history, current issues and possible outcomes for Afghanistan and the region around it. I will identify the participants during the course of this article. The sponsoring agencies for the seminar were:

FOI (Swedish Defence Research Agency)
SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute)
UI (Swedish Institute of International Affairs)

First Session: Reconciliation and Peace—a Possibility?

Masood Aziz, former Afghan Diplomat in Washington, D.C. began the formal presentations.

Ten years have passed since the first Bonn Conference in 2001. The news is generally bad in evaluating these years in Afghanistan. There has been some progress, but the outlook is bleak. Mr. Aziz is pessimistic because the Afghan government is weak, corruption is rampant, and the international community is losing interest.

There is a state of crisis, currently. The Afghan government may collapse after NATO/ISAF troops leave by the end of 2014. The Current USA conversation with the Taliban is going nowhere. NATO lacks a credible plan for transition for after 2014.

With a weak central government, and its possible collapse, the strongest remaining institution will be the Afghan army. (Here Mr. Aziz was not explicit, but it was clear that the prospect of a military dictatorship, or of the military playing a dominant role such as in Pakistan, was on his mind).

Counter-insurgency has been the main purpose of NATO and ISAF (International Security Assistance Force of NATO), not nation-building.

What to do?

Generally:

  • Redouble efforts to support and establish the legitimacy of the national government in the eyes of the Afghan people. If this confidence cannot be engendered, then collapse of the government is inevitable, with attendant violence between ethnicities and factions.
  • Need to buttress the rule of law, versus the rule of men.
  • Afghan security forces need to be at the service of the state.

From Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com)

Specifically:

Development of Afghanistan’s mineral resources may be the game changer, e.g., the Chinese-run copper mine and the Indian-run iron ore mine. However, the danger of the “resource curse” may be a down-side. A major portion of the state income from the development of natural resources should be directed as cash transfers to the people, as is done in other resource-rich countries such as Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Bolivia and Mongolia.

Mr. Aziz ended his prepared remarks thus:

The last ten years of NATO operations in Afghanistan have focused on strategic issues, mostly security. Since 2001 there has been a massive inflow of unconditional money from governments and NGOs causing the state to be dependent on these gifts. This is state-building from the outside, not from the inside and from the ground up via the people. Much of this money and other resources have flowed to former warlords.

Cash grants to the people from the income of natural resource development will force the government to rely on the people through the taxation of their income. This will also give new life and purpose to the National Solidarity Program and strengthen the governments and capabilities of the 34 provinces. Local communities will be empowered to take care of their own security and infrastructure projects. Not all security and infrastructure development need be performed by the national government.

Eva Johansson is head of the Afghanistan Section at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Here are some of her points.

Children are the most often forgotten in the issues addressed. Additionally, SIDA is interested in helping women to participate in the formation of the country. Sweden, through SIDA, has increased its support of these issues to become the second largest donor. The emphasis on security and counter-insurgency has put the issues of women and children in lower priority, despite efforts of SIDA and UNICEF. SIDA continues to be concerned about the condition of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

In the Bazaar, Kunduz, June 2005

Peter Brune, Secretary General of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA/SAK). The Swedish Committee has 6300 people in 12 of the 34 provinces. SCA/SAK have been on the ground in Afghanistan since 1982, providing education and other developmental services to people in the villages (not in the capital, Kabul).

In responding to Mr. Aziz’s comments Mr. Brune said it was a “tough call” to say we’ve failed. Mr. Brune introduced the discussion point that ten years is not enough time. This point was taken up and further developed by other speakers who followed.

Mr. Brune made these other points:

  • There needs to be a link between development and education.
  • It’s important not to be “diplomatic” in assessing and addressing the problems. We need to examine and learn from failures.
  • The state hasn’t failed yet. Girls are going to school; the army is being built, etc.
  • Others should do more of what the Swedish Committee is doing. [Link to a Power Point Presentation showing some of what the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan is doing]
  • SCA/SAK has zero tolerance for weapons in schools. It’s important to separate the military from education and other efforts at the grass roots.
  • We (NATO/ISAF, the Afghan government) are scrambling to build an army. Meanwhile the Afghan and Pakistan armies are facing each other on their common border.
  • There will be consequences in building a strong army in a weak state (thus buttressing Mr. Aziz’s argument).
  • What are the other institutions we can look to? The constitution, the executive and the parliament, none of which existed before the current government was established. [Note: he didn’t mention the judiciary, which is generally seen as corrupt and ineffective at the state level, although not necessarily at the local level).
  • Important people and entities are not talking with each other. For example, the Supreme Commander of NATO forces and SIDA have never met.
  • Real security is to strengthen the state.

Second Session: Reconciliation and Peace—a Possibility?

Robert Lamb is Director and Senior Fellow at Program on Crisis, Conflict and Cooperation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington D.C.

There have been talks about peace talks, but no peace talks. After the Taliban fell many soldiers and commanders went home without veterans’ benefits. Foes of the Taliban included the Northern Alliance, led primarily by warlords, some of whom are still in place.

In the 2001 Bonn Conference the Taliban were excluded and, since they had no part in the deliberations they have no stake in peace. Therefore, they went to Pakistan and became “insurgents”. The talks about peace talks continue, to date. Pakistan now demands to be part of the conversation.

Bad things began happening in 2010. An imposter apparently representing the Taliban conned the government of Afghanistan out of a lot of money, and created extreme embarrassment for all connected parties. In September of this year the chairman of the Afghan High Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was been killed by a suicide attacker. He was meeting members of the Taliban at the time in an effort to negotiate toward peace talks.

It’s not clear what we can do to prevent civil war in Afghanistan. Former warlords, some of whom are now regional governors, are hoarding money and weapons.

We need to prevent the collapse of the Afghan state. (Non-military) development is important, “big time”, but will do no good if the government collapses. We need to keep the potential combatants (in a civil war) co-opted in the Afghan Government. This means tolerating “some very bad guys”.

thoseheadcoverings. blogspot.com

Helene Lackenbauer is an FOI analyst and former political aide to the Swedish Force Commander in Afghanistan.

There are very few possibilities leading toward peace. Who are the actors and what do we provide them? What are our prices for peace? Are we prepared to sell out women’s rights? What do we intend for the Taliban?

Mr. Brune responded: Afghanistan is at war. There are police, weapons, explosives and insurgents. The Taliban is not defined in any way. There can’t be a universal strategy; we have to address each group’s needs and grievances. Peace can be based on justice; all their rights have to be recognized and supported (implying the need for a strong and professional, not corrupt, national judiciary).

Robert Lamb “lifts the gloom”

  • Eleven years ago Afghanistan was a medieval theocracy. How long does it take to for such a state to become a representative democracy?
  • There is a civil service, although it is constantly raided for employees to the better paid NGOs and other private organizations.
  • Free speech exists, even if it may be dangerous.
  • There are radios and telephones.
  • Most areas are less violent than Northern Mexico.
  • Ten years is nothing in the history of nation building. Transitioning from Warlord rule to the rule of law doesn’t happen quickly or easily. Afghanistan is still in the warlord phase and will be for a long time.
  • Seventy-five percent of Afghans think the government is doing a good job, although the jirgas have more effect at the local level. If the state isn’t there, they figure things out (at the local level).

[Here I am not sure whether Robert Lamb continues, or whether Peter Brune and perhaps others are responding]

    • The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan has one-half million girls in school.
    • Students have TV and radios.
    • Rural areas are more negative on the future and are concerned about the return of the warlords.
    • Afghanistan is ethnically divided and is waiting for the next war. If the Taliban returns, they will bring Taliban rules. (Taliban are fundamentalist Sunni Muslims mostly from the Pashtun tribe).

(Note: Languages are Dari (official) 50%, Pashto (official) 35%, Turkic languages 11%, 30 minor languages (primarily Balochi and Pashai) 4%;  Ethnic groups are Pashtun 42%, Tajik 27%, Hazara 9%, Uzbek 9%, Aimak 4%, Turkmen 3%, Baloch 2%, other 4%. Religions are Sunni Muslim 80%, Shia Muslim 19%, other 1%.
[Source].

  • (Upon the likely collapse of the national government) a new Northern Alliance will emerge to oppose the Taliban.
  • The concerns of the people are: civil war, political collapse, financial crisis, jobs disappearing. The current president Hamid Karzai will not be running to succeed himself in the next election—who will rule? If the election collapses, who will emerge, and how?
  • Governors are more powerful than the national government in the eyes of the people. When the Soviets left there was chaos. Will there be the same again? After the Soviets left it was worse than with the Soviets.
  • People in Kabul are more positive. Children are always more positive (Note: the median age is 18 years: source).

Ann Wilkens, former Swedish ambassador to Pakistan and former Chairman of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, emphasized the point that there is not a unified Taliban group in Afghanistan. There are splinter groups, some interested in insurgency, some in drug traffic and some with other aims, for instance relating to religious practice.

Masood Aziz augmented this observation by noting there is a spectrum of different groups and there is a problem in assessing the association of any of them with Al Qaeda, which is of non-afghan origin led by non-Afghans. In addition, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the past and present leader of the Afghan Taliban, has been hiding out in Pakistan, even when he was head of state during the time when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan.

Middle East expert at UI Magnus Norell raised the question of the current objective of the Taliban. He suggested they want influence in the current processes addressing the future of Afghanistan. Ann Wilkens asserted that the institution of Sharia law is their objective. Norell said that these were not mutually exclusive.

Masood Aziz said this is not a valid question because there is no unified Taliban. He further noted that strict Sharia law alienated Afghans during their Taliban rule. Afghans felt an alien force took over their state. Mullah Omar, who has no stated or known religious education or lineage, alienated Afghan tribal leaders during his rule.

Kabul, June 2005

Third Session: Counter-insurgency

Context:

  • “All the bad stuff” is located in Pakistan: the Quetta Shura Taliban and the Haqqani Network, for instance.
  • The tribal and other leaders in Afghanistan have a common enemy in the various Taliban entities, but have no common strategy.
  • The stated US objective is to disrupt and destroy Al Qaeda. Is it working, or should the US change its objective? President Obama has shifted the focus to counter-insurgency.

Stefan Olsson of the FOI stated the problem with counter-insurgency is that it will take ten years to wipe out the insurgents. There is too little time for this (by the end of 2014) and it won’t work.

Harsh Pantof King’s College, London, said the current tension between the US and Pakistan over insurgents in Pakistan will come to a head as a result of a vicious cycle.

Masood Aziz said that the US military has ever-changing nomenclature for what it is they are doing. “Stability” is now in vogue. Previously it was “Clear/Hold/Build/Transfer”. Before that it was “Fight/Talk/Build”.

Military officers are talking to village elders about democracy; they aren’t experts in this. The US military is trying to embed itself in the culture and change it from the inside. It won’t work.

Stefan Olsson said “counter-insurgency is not nation-building”.

We have to realize our limitations in using only the military to bring “stability”.

Question posed to the panel: Will Afghan security forces be able to fill the vacuum left by the NATO/ISAF departure?

One response: The Afghan people would like the troops to leave, but “not too quickly”.

Stefan Olsson: The Swedish government doesn’t know what the end state should be, or when.  The USA seems to want to fight the insurgents to the negotiating table.

In the Afghan security forces the Army officers are from the former Northern Alliance; that is, they are not of the Pashtun tribe as is the majority of the government officers. The Army may not feel itself subservient to a weak national government.

Other responses:

In that the USA/NATO have announced a time certain by which their troops will leave, the Taliban is in a position to wait to intensify their incursions.

The USA needs to stay after 2014, in some fashion, to deal with other countries such as Iran and Pakistan.

Neither the USA nor NATO has a strategy for filling the vacuum created by their departure.

Question from the audience: Can and will India be a force for good in Afghanistan?

Masood Aziz: Pakistan seems to want the opposite of what everybody else wants in Afghanistan. India, which is right next door, is the world’s largest democracy. In contrast, the military dominates Pakistan, but is not all-powerful because of the influence of organized groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which wants to oust the US-backed Pakistani government.

In response to another question regarding the possible role of the EU, Mr. Masood said that the EU has the talent and moral foundation to help build infrastructure for Afghanistan. As an example of “moral force” he recited a story of how a US Peace Corps volunteer in the 1960s left an indelible impression on a now elderly man in a remote village.

Chief Engineer, local construction engineer, and driver — employees of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, 2005

Fourth and Final Session: Geopolitics and the Regional Dynamics

Context: There has been a change in the global balance of power from West to East, in operational terms. The center of world politics has been Europe, but now is moving toward Asia/China.

Harsh Pantof King’s College, London opened the session.

American priorities are changing: Afghanistan is not as important as before, as China emerges as a priority.

Global priorities are going to be influenced/centered in Asia/Pacific.

Pakistan now realizes that it is not the most important ally the USA has in its region. The USA sees India as its most important ally vis-à-vis China, and Islamabad (Pakistan’s capital) is worried. Pakistan has to hedge its bets; it needs a friendly Kabul (Capital of Afghanistan) so as not to be flanked by enemies—India to the east and Afghanistan to the west.

Pakistan’s self-identity seems to have been that it is not India. The Pakistan military has never won a war, but the Pakistan army points the people of Pakistan to India for its raison d’être as an army. Pakistan has tried to marginalize India in insisting they not be included in Afghan talks. Washington finally realized that Pakistan was playing a double game.

India realized this marginalization and now has decided to invest in Afghanistan (refer to the previously mentioned iron ore mine in Hajigak). Additionally, India has been reaching toward Russia and Iran, both of which flank Afghanistan. India likes a western presence in Afghanistan, but Russia and Iran don’t—but India balances this somehow.

China is feeling encircled by the USA. They are reluctant to talk with the USA about Afghanistan and Pakistan. They don’t want to compromise their relationship with Pakistan.

Current events reveal a conflict between the USA and Pakistan, a symptom of the underlying problem of Pakistan’s feeling of isolation and loss of importance to the USA.

Neil J. Melvin, Director of the Armed Conflict and Conflict Management Programme at SIPRI, responded:

The USA is drawing closer to its Asia/pacific allies and courting new ones such as Burma. Therefore, Afghanistan will remain important to the USA in this context, but where does Afghanistan fit? We don’t know yet.

Russia is courting Afghanistan by encouraging it toward the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. (The six-nation SCO comprises China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan attend its meetings as observers. Source).

Harsh Pant added that Pakistan’s uncertainty about the USA’s intentions makes it difficult for them to know how to act.

Former Swedish Ambassador to Pakistan Ann Wilkens stated that the sequencing of events is unfortunate for Pakistan. There are conflicting messages to and from all players in the region. What does the USA want? She noted that the Pakistan army was built by the USA.

Magnus Norell:  A report of the US Marines recommended forgetting nation building and to leave just a small counter-terrorism force in Afghanistan. It should be treated by the USA as a “marginal country”. We’re reading too much importance into it. You can’t solve Afghanistan unless you deal successfully with Pakistan. Let’s not look at Afghanistan as a regional issue. Keep it local.

From the moderator: From the perspective of Iran and Pakistan (which have long borders with Afghanistan) why is everyone waiting to see what the USA is going to do?  The USA doesn’t have the leverage for a regional solution.

Neil J. Melvin: it is a dilemma. Russia, Iran and others want the USA out, but no-one else has the strength to do anything constructive on a regional basis. Iran has around three million Afghan refugees and doesn’t like the Taliban. There needs to be trust building between nations in the region. China is interested in stability and doesn’t want attacks from terrorists, so it keeps a low profile. One of China’s important interests in stability is due to the question of whether to build an additional gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to China through Afghanistan.

From the moderator: the world economy affects Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan and things are looking austere for these countries. How does this factor into the regional issues?

Answer from panel: if the world and local economy were better, it still wouldn’t solve Afghanistan’s problem which is one of governance.

Last question form the moderator: What should we do? What should we focus on?

Reponses from the panel:

  • The West should continue to support Afghanistan economically.
  • Donor nations need more humility in their approach to Afghanistan.
  • Get out and stay out, militarily.
  • Spend aid on education, etc.
  • Don’t pull out (the military) gradually.

The moderators were:

Nathalie Besèr is Advisor to the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI)

John Rydqvist is Head of the Asia Security Studies Program at FOI.

END OF CONFERENCE


Links to information sources:

NATO in Afghanistan
Terrorism and Insurgency
Al‐Qaeda and Afghanistan in Strategic Context: Counterinsurgency versus Counterterrorism
The Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) and the Haqqani network pose the greatest threat to stability in Afghanistan
Quetta Shura Taliban
Haqqani Network
Mullah Mohammed Omar
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP)
Purdah
The pragmatic fanaticism of al Qaeda: an anatomy of extremism in Middle Eastern politics.
NATO/ISAF history and facts about its troops

Links to recent and current news affecting Afghanistan and the region

Afghan National Army prepares for life after NATO
‘West must see Afghan job through’, military chief says
Pakistani Taliban splintering into factions
Afghan Peace Effort Hits Wall
Attacks Point to New Afghan Conflict: Bombings of Shiite Worshippers in Two Cities Kill More Than 60 and Introduce Sectarian Strife Absent for a Decade
Kabul Promises Change, Gets Vow of Lasting Aid
A Counterinsurgency Success in Kandahar
Afghan opium production to expand after troops exit
Hornets’ nest: Why Pakistan may be America’s most dangerous ally
Pakistan Was Consulted Before Fatal Hit, U.S. Says; Deadly Border Strike Came After Forces Were Told Area Was Clear of Pakistani Troops, Officials Say
There Are No Moderate Taliban; the people of Afghanistan understand that accommodating the Taliban will result in fear and chaos.
India Wins Bid for ‘Jewel’ of Afghan Ore Deposits

 

The “Charter 08 Manifesto” initiated by Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists in 2008

 

There is much currently said, written and felt about the rise of China’s economic and political power in the world. I offer this view from the inside for some perspective on the discussion.

All of the following was written by someone else. I have performed a small amount of formatting and editing to promote clarity.

Charter 08 is a manifesto initially signed by over 350 Chinese intellectuals and human rights activists.[1] It was published on 10 December 2008, the 60th anniversary of the [UN’s] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopting name and style from the anti-Soviet Charter 77 issued by dissidents in Czechoslovakia.[2] Since its release, more than 10,000 people inside and outside of China have signed the charter.[3][4] One of the authors of Charter 08, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. [Source]

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THE MANIFESTO

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I. Foreword

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A hundred years have passed since the writing of China’s first constitution. 2008 also marks the sixtieth anniversary of the promulgation of the [United Nations] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the thirtieth anniversary of the appearance of Democracy Wall in Beijing, and the tenth of China’s signing of the [United Nations] International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We are approaching the twentieth anniversary of the 1989Tiananmen massacre of pro-democracy student protesters. The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

By departing from these values, the Chinese government’s approach to “modernization” has proven disastrous. It has stripped people of their rights, destroyed their dignity, and corrupted normal human intercourse. So we ask: Where is China headed in the twenty-first century? Will it continue with “modernization” under authoritarian rule, or will it embrace universal human values, join the mainstream of civilized nations, and build a democratic system?

There can be no avoiding these questions. The shock of the Western impact upon China in the nineteenth century laid bare a decadent authoritarian system and marked the beginning of what is often called “the greatest changes in thousands of years” for China. A “self-strengthening movement” followed, but this aimed simply at appropriating the technology to build gunboats and other Western material objects. China’s humiliating naval defeat at the hands of Japan in1895 only confirmed the obsolescence of China’s system of government.

The first attempts at modern political change came with the ill-fated summer of reforms in 1898, but these were cruelly crushed by ultraconservatives at China’s imperial court. With the revolution of 1911, which inaugurated Asia’s first republic, the authoritarian imperial system that had lasted for centuries was finally supposed to have been laid to rest. But social conflict inside our country and external pressures were to prevent it; China fell into a patchwork of warlord fiefdoms and the new republic became a fleeting dream.

The failure of both “self-strengthening” and political renovation caused many of our forebears to reflect deeply on whether a “cultural illness” was afflicting our country. This mood gave rise, during the May Fourth Movement of the late 1910s, to the championing of “science and democracy.” Yet that effort, too, foundered as warlord chaos persisted and the Japanese invasion [beginning in Manchuria in 1931] brought national crisis.

Victory over Japan in 1945 offered one more chance for China to move toward modern government, but the Communist defeat of the Nationalists in the civil war thrust the nation into the abyss of totalitarianism. The “new China” that emerged in 1949 proclaimed that “the people are sovereign” but in fact set up a system in which “the Party is all-powerful.”

The Communist Party of China seized control of all organs of the state and all political, economic, and social resources, and, using these, has produced a long trail of human rights disasters, including, among many others, the Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957), the Great Leap Forward (1958-1960), the Cultural Revolution (1966-1969), the June Fourth (Tiananmen Square) Massacre (1989), and the current repression of all unauthorized religions and the suppression of the Weiquan Rights Movement.

During all this, the Chinese people have paid a gargantuan price. Tens of millions have lost their lives, and several generations have seen their freedom, their happiness, and their human dignity cruelly trampled. During the last two decades of the twentieth century the government policy of “Reform and Opening” gave the Chinese people relief from the pervasive poverty and totalitarianism of the Mao Zedong era and brought substantial increases in the wealth and living standards of many Chinese as well as a partial restoration of economic freedom and economic rights.

Civil society began to grow, and popular calls for more rights and more political freedom have grown apace. As the ruling elite itself moved toward private ownership and the market economy, it began to shift from an outright rejection of “rights” to a partial acknowledgment of them. In 1998 the Chinese government signed two important international human rights conventions; in 2004 it amended its constitution to include the phrase “respect and protect human rights”; and this year, 2008, it has promised to promote a “national human rights action plan.”

Unfortunately most of this political progress has extended no further than the paper on which it is written. The political reality, which is plain for anyone to see, is that China has many laws but no rule of law; it has a constitution but no constitutional government. The ruling elite continues to cling to its authoritarian power and fights off any move toward political change. The stultifying results are endemic official corruption, an undermining of the rule of law, weak human rights, decay in public ethics, crony capitalism, growing inequality between the wealthy and the poor, pillage of the natural environment as well as of the human and historical environments, and the exacerbation of a long list of social conflicts, especially, in recent times, a sharpening animosity between officials and ordinary people.

As these conflicts and crises grow ever more intense, and as the ruling elite continues with impunity to crush and to strip away the rights of citizens to freedom, to property, and to the pursuit of happiness, we seethe powerless in our society²the vulnerable groups, the people who have been suppressed and monitored, who have suffered cruelty and even torture, and who have had no adequate avenues for their protests, no courts to hear their pleas²becoming more militant and raising the possibility of a violent conflict of disastrous proportions. The decline of the current system has reached the point where change is no longer optional.

II. Our Fundamental Principles

This is a historic moment for China, and our future hangs in the balance. In reviewing the political modernization process of the past hundred years or more, we reiterate and endorse basic universal values as follows:

Freedom
Freedom is at the core of universal human values. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom in where to live, and the freedoms to strike, to demonstrate, and to protest, among others, are the forms that freedom takes. Without freedom, China will always remain far from civilized ideals.

Human rights
Human rights are not bestowed by a state. Every person is born with inherent rights to dignity and freedom. The government exists for the protection of the human rights of its citizens. The exercise of state power must be authorized by the people. The succession of political disasters in China’s recent history is a direct consequence of the ruling regime’s disregard for human rights.

Equality
The integrity, dignity, and freedom of every person regardless of social station, occupation, sex, economic condition, ethnicity, skin color, religion, or political belief²are the same as those of any other. Principles of equality before the law and equality of social, economic, cultural, civil, and political rights must be upheld.

Republicanism
Republicanism, which holds that power should be balanced among different branches of government and competing interests should be served, resembles the traditional Chinese political ideal of “fairness in all under heaven.” It allows different interest groups and social assemblies, and people with a variety of cultures and beliefs, to exercise democratic self-government and to deliberate in order to reach peaceful resolution of public questions on a basis of equal access to government and free and fair competition.

Democracy
The most fundamental principles of democracy are that the people are sovereign and the people select their government. Democracy has these characteristics: (1) Political power begins with the people and the legitimacy of a regime derives from the people. (2) Political power is exercised through choices that the people make. (3) The holders of major official posts in government at all levels are determined through periodic competitive elections. (4) While honoring the will of the majority, the fundamental dignity, freedom, and human rights of minorities are protected. In short, democracy is a modern means for achieving government truly “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Constitutional rule
Constitutional rule is rule through a legal system and legal regulations to implement principles that are spelled out in a constitution. It means protecting the freedom and the rights of citizens, limiting and defining the scope of legitimate government power, and providing the administrative apparatus necessary to serve these ends.

III. What We Advocate

Authoritarianism is in general decline throughout the world; in China, too, the era of emperors and overlords is on the way out. The time is arriving everywhere for citizens to be masters of states. For China the path that leads out of our current predicament is to divest ourselves of the authoritarian notion of reliance on an “enlightened overlord” or an “honest official” and to turn instead toward a system of liberties, democracy, and the rule of law, and toward fostering the consciousness of modern citizens who see rights as fundamental and participation as a duty. Accordingly, and in a spirit of this duty as responsible and constructive citizens, we offer the following recommendations on national governance, citizens’ rights, and social development:

1. A New Constitution
We should recast our present constitution, rescinding its provisions that contradict the principle that sovereignty resides with the people and turning it into a document that genuinely guarantees human rights, authorizes the exercise of public power, and serves as the legal underpinning of China’s democratization. The constitution must be the highest law in the land, beyond violation by any individual, group, or political party.

2. Separation of powers
We should construct a modern government in which the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive power is guaranteed. We need an Administrative Law that defines the scope of government responsibility and prevents abuse of administrative power. Government should be responsible to taxpayers. Division of power between provincial governments and the central government should adhere to the principle that central powers are only those specifically granted by the constitution and all other powers belong to the local governments.

3. Legislative democracy
Members of legislative bodies at all levels should be chosen by direct election, and legislative democracy should observe just and impartial principles.

4. An Independent Judiciary
The rule of law must be above the interests of any particular political party and judges must be independent. We need to establish a constitutional supreme court and institute procedures for constitutional review. As soon as possible, we should abolish all of the Committees on Political and Legal Affairs that now allow Communist Party officials at every level to decide politically-sensitive cases in advance and out of court. We should strictly forbid the use of public offices for private purposes.

5. Public Control of Public Servants
The military should be made answerable to the national government, not to a political party, and should be made more professional. Military personnel should swear allegiance to the constitution and remain nonpartisan. Political party organizations shall be prohibited in the military.

All public officials including police should serve as nonpartisans, and the current practice of favoring one political party in the hiring of public servants must end.

6. Guarantee of Human Rights
There shall be strict guarantees of human rights and respect for human dignity. There should be a Human Rights Committee, responsible to the highest legislative body that will prevent the government from abusing public power in violation of human rights. A democratic and constitutional China especially must guarantee the personal freedom of citizens. No one shall suffer illegal arrest, detention, arraignment, interrogation, or punishment. The system of “Reeducation through Labor” must be abolished.

7. Election of Public Officials
There shall be a comprehensive system of democratic elections based on “one person, one vote.” The direct election of administrative heads at the levels of county, city, province, and nation should be systematically implemented. The rights to hold periodic free elections and to participate in them as a citizen are inalienable.

8. Rural/Urban Equality
The two-tier household registry system must be abolished. This system favors suburban residents and harms rural residents. We should establish instead a system that gives every citizen the same constitutional rights and the same freedom to choose where to live.

9. Freedom to Form Groups
The right of citizens to form groups must be guaranteed. The current system for registering nongovernment groups, which requires a group to be “approved,” should be replaced by a system in which a group simply registers itself. The formation of political parties should be governed by the constitution and the laws, which means that we must abolish the special privilege of one party to monopolize power and must guarantee principles of free and fair competition among political parties.

10. Freedom to Assemble
The constitution provides that peaceful assembly, demonstration, protest, and freedom of expression are fundamental rights of a citizen. The ruling party and the government must not be permitted to subject these to illegal interference or unconstitutional obstruction.

11. Freedom of Expression
We should make freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and academic freedom universal, thereby guaranteeing that citizens can be informed and can exercise their right of political supervision. These freedoms should be upheld by a Press Law that abolishes political restrictions on the press. The provision in the current Criminal Law that refers to “the crime of incitement to subvert state power” must be abolished. We should end the practice of viewing words as crimes.

12. Freedom of Religion
We must guarantee freedom of religion and belief and institute a separation of religion and state. There must be no governmental interference in peaceful religious activities. We should abolish any laws, regulations, or local rules that limit or suppress the religious freedom of citizens. We should abolish the current system that requires religious groups (and their places of worship) to get official approval in advance and substitute for it a system in which registry is optional and, for those who choose to register, automatic.

13. Civic Education
In our schools we should abolish political curriculums and examinations that are designed to indoctrinate students in state ideology and to instill support for the rule of one party. We should replace them with civic education that advances universal values and citizens’ rights, fosters civic consciousness, and promotes civic virtues that serve society.

14. Protection of Private Property
We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

15. Financial and Tax Reform
We should establish a democratically regulated and accountable system of public finance that ensures the protection of taxpayer rights and that operates through legal procedures. We need a system by which public revenues that belong to a certain level of government²central, provincial, county or local²are controlled at that level. We need major tax reform that will abolish any unfair taxes, simplify the tax system, and spread the tax burden fairly. Government officials should not be able to raise taxes, or institute new ones, without public deliberation and the approval of a democratic assembly. We should reform the ownership system in order to encourage competition among a wider variety of market participants.

16. Social Security
We should establish a fair and adequate social security system that covers all citizens and ensures basic access to education, health care, retirement security, and employment.

17. Protection of the Environment
We need to protect the natural environment and to promote development in a way that is sustainable and responsible to our descendants and to the rest of humanity. This means insisting that the state and its officials at all levels not only do what they must do to achieve these goals, but also accept the supervision and participation of non-governmental organizations.

18. A Federated Republic
A democratic China should seek to act as a responsible major power contributing toward peace and development in the Asian Pacific region by approaching others in a spirit of equality and fairness. In Hong Kong and Macao, we should support the freedoms that already exist. With respect to Taiwan, we should declare our commitment to the principles of freedom and democracy and then, negotiating as equals, and ready to compromise, seek a formula for peaceful unification. We should approach disputes in the national-minority areas of China with an open mind, seeking ways to find a workable framework within which all ethnic and religious groups can flourish. We should aim ultimately at a federation of democratic communities of China.

19. Truth in Reconciliation
We should restore the reputations of all people, including their family members, who suffered political stigma in the political campaigns of the past or who have been labeled as criminals because of their thought, speech, or faith. The state should pay reparations to these people. All political prisoners and prisoners of conscience must be released. There should be a Truth Investigation Commission charged with finding the facts about past injustices and atrocities, determining responsibility for them, upholding justice, and, on these bases, seeking social reconciliation.

China, as a major nation of the world, as one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and as a member of the UN Council on Human Rights, should be contributing to peace for humankind and progress toward human rights. Unfortunately, we stand today as the only country among the major nations that remains mired in authoritarian politics. Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby not only constricting China’s own development but also limiting the progress of all of human civilization. This must change, truly it must.

The democratization of Chinese politics can be put off no longer. Accordingly, we dare to put civic spirit into practice by announcing Charter 08. We hope that our fellow citizens who feel a similar sense of crisis, responsibility, and mission, whether they are inside the government or not, and regardless of their social status, will set aside small differences to embrace the broad goals of this citizens’ movement.

Together we can work for major changes in Chinese society and for the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country. We can bring to reality the goals and ideals that our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years, and can bring a brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization.

 

China’s “New Cultural Revolution”

 

This was the title given to a presentation I attended, September 10, at the regular meeting of my Rotary club, the only English speaking Rotary club in Stockholm.

Dr. Tony Fang was the presenter. He is Associate Professor of International Business at Stockholm University, born in China and a resident of Sweden for many years.

To put the title and the substance of Dr. Fang’s presentation into perspective, one needs to review the first “cultural revolution” in China:

“The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution“, or simply Cultural Revolution, was a period of social and political upheaval in the People’s Republic of China between 1966 and 1976, resulting in nation-wide chaos and economic disarray.

It was launched by Mao Zedong, the chairman of the Communist Party of China, on May 16, 1966, who alleged that “liberal bourgeois” elements were permeating the party and society at large, and wanted to restore Capitalism. He insisted that these elements be removed through post-revolutionary class struggle by mobilizing the thoughts and actions of China’s youth, who formed Red Guards groups around the country. The movement subsequently spread into the military, urban workers, and the party leadership itself. Although Mao himself officially declared the Cultural Revolution to have ended in 1969, today it is widely believed that the power struggles and political instability between 1969 and the arrest of the Gang of Four as well as the death of Mao in 1976 were also part of the Revolution.

After Mao’s death, the forces within Communist Party of China that were antagonistic to the Cultural Revolution gained prominence. The political, economic, and educational reforms associated with the Cultural Revolution were terminated. The Cultural Revolution has been treated officially as a negative phenomenon ever since. The people involved in instituting the policies of the Cultural Revolution were persecuted. In its official historical judgement of the Cultural Revolution in 1981, the Party assigned chief responsibility to Mao Zedong, but also laid significant blame on Lin Biao and the Gang of Four. [Source]

During the 33 years since Chairman Mao’s death in 1976, Chinese leaders started their country on a bumpy road toward embracing many of the values in the West that Mao reviled and forbade. Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) was the key person in this transformation:

Inheriting a country wrought with social and institutional woes left over from the Cultural Revolution and other mass political movements of the Mao era, Deng became the core of the “second generation” of Chinese leadership. He is called “the architect” of a new brand of socialist thinking, having developed Socialism with Chinese characteristics and led Chinese economic reform through a synthesis of theories that became known as the “socialist market economy”. Deng opened China to foreign investment, the global market, and limited private competition. He is generally credited with advancing China into becoming one of the fastest growing economies in the world and vastly raising the standard of living. [Source]

Dr. Fang offered these eight points toward understanding the China of today, as compared with, just a short while ago, the China that most of us may remember:

1. Changing symbols, heroes and rituals: Mao is no longer the national hero, now perceived more as an honored ancestor or quasi-religious icon (my interpretation). The term “comrade” has changed to mean partners in a homosexual relationship. Television programs hold competitions similar to “Idol” to elevate winners to cultural icons. Dr. Fang quotes Deng Xiaoping as saying “to become rich is glorious.”
2. Professionalism There is developing, among major enterprises, a strong service orientation.
3. Respect for knowledge
4. Self-expression
5. Direct and assertive communication
6. Individualism/individualization
7. Technology-driven
8. Emerging online civil society

Dr. Fang points out that in emulating many of the perceived values of the West, Chinese have not yet developed the inherent sense of social boundaries. As a result, certain “Western” behaviors in Chinese are perceived as excessive or out-of-bounds by Westerners. Dr. Fang asserts that there is a learning curve in this realm and that time and experience will bring the necessary corrections and definitions of proper boundaries.

I often go to the CIA World Factbook to get the most recently available information for any country in the world. Here are a few current demographics for China:

Population 1,338,612,968
Age structure 0-14 years: 19.8%, 15-64 years: 72.1%, 65 years and over: 8.1%
Median age 34.1 years
Population growth rate 0.655%
Urbanization urban population: 43% of total population
Rate of urbanization 2.7% annual rate of change
Sex ratio total population: 1.06 males/female
Life expectancy at birth total population: 73.47 years
Total fertility rate 1.79 children born/woman
Ethnic groups Han Chinese 91.5%; Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uyghur, Tujia, Yi, Mongol, Tibetan, Buyi, Dong, Yao, Korean and other, 8.5%
Religions Daoist (Taoist), Buddhist, Christian 3%-4%; Muslim 1%-2%. Note: [China is] officially atheist.
Languages Standard Chinese or Mandarin (based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages
Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): total population: 90.9%


Please click on the map to enlarge it

In ending his presentation, Dr. Fang characterized modern China as “embracing paradox, dynamics and change.” This is buttressed by the statement of Robert Poole, vice president, China Operations, at the US-China Business Council in Beijing: “Change is a constant companion to those of us in the China business environment, as the results of 30 years of reform unfold and a dynamic economy emerges.” The China Business Review, March-April, 2009.