Saturday, January 18, 2020

Reflections on 习近平 坚持历史唯物主义不断开辟当代中国马克思主义发展新境界 [Xi Jinping, Persist in Historical Materialism and Open up New Realms for the Development of Contemporary Chinese Marxism]



Over the course the last several months there has been a great push to publicly develop New Era Theory in a very public way in China.  In addition to the production of some often useful scholarly writings by Chinese academics and CPC cadres, these efforts have taken two forms that suggest the importance of the project, not just for the CPC, but also for national and international elements useful for engaging with New Era Theory.   

The first is the decision to publish a number of articles in the journal  求是 [Seeking Truth], the organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC). It is described in its own English language web page as "the most influential and authoritative magazine devoted to policy-making and theoretical studies, with a circulation of 1.26 million in 2010."

The second is that those articles are authored by Xi Jinping himself, the leadership core of the collective developing New Era Thought. That adds a substantial amount of political weight to the project, and also suggests that the interpretive avenues pursued will be authoritative, even if only because they are likable to be made so by the CPC itself.  

Yet their authority has been enhanced  because represent instances of Xi Jinping teaching theory at the highest levels of the CPC--the symbolism is quite clear and clearly directed.  Taken together, these essays appear to represent an effort to rationalize Xi Jinping's contribution to the development of New Era Theory and to flesh out its principles, and implications for policy and the direction of the CPC in the current stage of the historical development of China.At the same time, their authority is enhanced further by their resonance with the theory of Deng Xiaoping, against which New Era Thought must be read. The parallels, now more clearly delineated not in opposition but aligned to their resperctive historical stages of development suggest the enduring power of the discursive and ideological template developed under the core leadership of Deng Xiaoping and its projection forward.  Ironically enough, that includes in quite interesting ways, the ways on which Chinese Leninism continues to wrestle with the legacy of the Revolutionary and Founding Eras under the core leadership of Mao Zedong. 


Now Xi Jinping has again  authored an essay in Seeking Truth Journal.  This time it reduces to writing Xi's speech delivered during the eleventh group study of the Eighteenth Central Political Bureau on December 3, 2013, and titled  坚持历史唯物主义不断开辟当代中国马克思主义发展新境界 [Persist in Historical Materialism and Open up New Realms of Development of Contemporary Chinese Marxism]. This post includes the text of that essay plus a crude English translation preceded by brief reflections.  It ends with links to other essays touching on aspects of New Era Thought emerging from the writings of Xi Jinping. A final version of these Reflections will be published in Volume 15(1) of the CPE Bulletin, Emancipating the Mind in the New Era.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

Call for Abstracts and Panel Proposals/Convocatoria a Sumarios y Propuestas de Paneles--ACSE 30th Annual Conference (Cuba and Venezuela: One Hope, Two Realities: Cuba y Venezuela, Una Esperanza, Dos Realidades)


I am delighted to pass along this call for papers for the 30 Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. This year the Conference will be held at Florida International University and its Cuban Research Institute.  
The callf or papers with details and links follows.  

Me complace transmitir esta convocatoria de ponencias y paneles para la 30ª Conferencia Anual de la Asociación para el Estudio de la Economía Cubana. Este año, la conferencia se llevará a cabo en la Universidad Internacional de Florida y su Instituto de Investigación Cubano.

La convocatoria de documentos con detalles y enlaces a continuación.

Building New Era Thought--An Annotation of the English Translation of Xi Jinping's Address on the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up, Beijing 18 December 2018

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2019)

To the ends of advancing the study of New Era Thought along more useful lines, the Coalition for Peace and Ethics has undertaken a study of Chinese New Era Thought, of which these posts form a part. As part of that project CPE has begun to critically assess the discursive references. More specifically, Flora Sapio and I have been considering the development of New Era Theory by examining carefully some of the key writings of Xi Jinping.  Over the course of several postings we have carefully considered one of what we consider to be a critical elaboration of New Era Thought--Xi Jinping's Speech on the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up, Beijing 18 December 2018.  

One of the most interesting aspects of the writings and remarks of Xi Jinping is the use of references to classical  literature as well as early writings of key Chinese Marxist thinkers. These references are neither bits of self-indulgence; nor are they meant to be exercises in pedantry. Instead each is carefully positioned throughout Xi's remarks or writings to signal, to reinforce, to underline and to message key actors of audiences for these speeches.  As a general rule Westerners--including the analysts in the various intelligence services whose job it is to monitor and analyze these speeches--may tend to miss the references or themselves or treat them of marginal significance given the thrust and objectives of their analytical framework. We believe that is error in two respects.  First it impedes the correct interpretation of the text.  Second, and more importantly, it inhibits a more profound and rigorous analysis of New Era Thought.  That latter point is essential; it is impossible to understand Chinese policy or policy choices without a more intimate understanding not just of their ideology but of the cultural  and literary context, as well as the  messaging implicit in their utilization.  


In this post, Flora Sapio takes a very careful look at some of the sources for key passages of the Xi Jingling Speech. CPE has agreed to make this study, and the analytical essays, publicly available. 

Text Xi Jinping Speech Here:Building New Era Thought.

Larry Catñá Backer Reflections on the Xi Jinping Speech HERE: Toward New Era Thought.

Flora Sapio Reflections on the Xi Jinping Speech forthcoming HERE


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Paper Posted for Comment: "‘By Dred Things I am Compelled’: China and the Challenge to International Human Rights Law and Policy"




I am delighted to share with those interested in such things a recently completed draft of a paper entitled ‘By Dred Things I am Compelled’: China and the Challenge to International Human Rights Law and Policy. The paper considers the emergence of a Chinese  and Socialist alternative to the conventional discourse of human rights developed since the 1940s.

The paper has several objectives.

The first is to rationalize the Chinese conceptual framework for human rights as an entirely coherent theory that draws on the insights and experiences of Chinese experience and its own Marxist-Leninism.   

The second is begin to carefully consider the core conceptual differences between socialist human rights with Chinese characteristics and the "standard" model.  These revolve around the issue of what gets placed at the center of principle and discourse. In traditional human rights the individual human dignity sit as the core kernel from which theory, law and policy is crafted.  In socialist and Chinese human rights the  the human being becomes the central subject of development, development becomes the central element of human rights, and both must be expressed with reference to national conditions and culture.

The third is to consider how the differences between the two approaches has begun to affect those caught in the discursive cross fire and the way these incompatibilities are beginning to be felt int he development of international human rights norms.

The Abstract and Introduction follow below. Comments welcome.  A later version of this essay may appear in (John Haskell and Jean d'Aspremont, eds.)  Tipping Points in International Law: Critique and Commitment (Cambridge University Press).




Monday, January 13, 2020

Protecting Labor Stability in China: 国务院关于进一步做好稳就业工作的意见 [Opinions of the State Council on Further Improving Employment Stability] Released 24 December 2019


One of the more interesting effects of the dynamic state of U.S.-Chinese trade relations is its effects on labor and employment.  While the Western press has sought to highlight these effects as part of their sustained criticism (and some defense) of the Trump Administration's policies (see, e.g., here, here, here, here, and here), Western  media elements have been far less concerned about possible effects on the labor and employment situation in China.

CNN, however, recently reported on Chinese official's efforts to avoid large scale unemployment that has resulted from a  cluster of factors tied to the effoprts, now several years old, to reshape the rulea and context of global trade (China is really worried about unemployment. Here's what it's doing to avoid mass layoffs).
Beijing has made clear that the world's second largest economy cannot spiral into a slump and risk mass layoffs as it tangles with rising debt, cooling domestic demand and an ongoing trade war with the United States. . . .In recent weeks, the government has bombarded the economy with a wave of stimulus measures, from tariff reductions that could help soothe the pain from rising prices, to rate cuts that could fuel more bank lending. . . Authorities are also amping up the language they're using to describe the situation. China's State Council last month called on local governments to "go to all lengths" to prevent massive job losses this year — what it characterized as the country's top policy priority. . . While China's official unemployment data has barely budged over the last several years, hovering between 4% and 5%, Beijing's messaging suggests that it is unusually worried about the slowing economy and the challenges that the year could bring. "Beijing is much more worried about social unrest than about ballooning local debt, which at one point seemed to be a priority, " said David Zweig, director of Transnational China Consulting Limited and a professor emeritus at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Ibid.)
The reference to the State Council actions in the CNN reporting  relates to  a recently published set of guidelines issues by the Chinese State Council: 国务院关于进一步做好稳就业工作的意见 [Opinions of the State Council on Further Improving Employment Stability] No. 28 Release date: December 24, 2019

This post includes the text of the State Council Opinion in the original Chinese along with a crude English translation. Several points are worth considering as one reads through the text.  The Opinion is organized into seven key elements, each subdivided into specific guidance; (1) a brief set of general requirements in one paragraph; (2) "support enterprises to stabilize their positions;" (3) "develop more jobs;" (4) "promote multi-channel employment and entrepreneurship for workers;"  (5) "promote large-scale vocational skills training;" (6) "practical employment and entrepreneurship services;" and (7) "do a good job in basic living security."   Beyond the expected directions to subsidize  public sector enterprises, much of the guidance mirrors what one would expect to see as policy responses in liberal democratic developed states.  But the form of the approaches to ameliorating job losses might mask some underlying differences --especially with respect to the role of the state rather than of markets in creating the conditions, including the macro and micro financial conditions to expand and redirect labor productivity. Recall that the State Council Guidance is directed to "People's governments of provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities directly under the Central Government, ministries and commissions of the State Council, and agencies directly under the State Council." Here one begins t see more clearly the way that markets play an important but different role within Marxist Leninist systems than they might in the West. Left without discusison, as is usual in such documents, are issues of coordination, and capacity (with respect to which ¶ 10 proves interesting).  I leave the more detailed study to those interested but welcome more discussion.


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Lukumi in Cuba--On the Problems of Divination and Interpretation for the 2020 Letra del Año (Letter fo the Year)



I have been writing about the Letter of the Year (Letra del Año)--an annual prediction produced by the unified branches of Lukumi priests of Cuba since the 19th century. The annual divination-guidance has latrely been the joint work of the Babalawos of the different branches of the faith under the aegis of the Asociación Cultural Yoruba de Cuba.

For the last two years the process and content of the Letra del Año has proven difficult for these institutions.  In 2019, there were two predictions  that circulated early, though one was dropped within hours of its circulation (see The Orishas Speak: The 2019 Letter of the Yoruba Association of Cuba (Letra del Año para el 2019 de la Asociación Yoruba de Cuba) (Refran: "Las raíces de IFA son amargas y el fruto es dulce").

This year saw a different kind of challenge for those whose business it is to produce the annual divination-guidance for the faithful for "Cuba and the World" (to whom these Letras del Año are traditionally addressed). First, the 2020 Letra del Año was produced with a substantially minimized interpretation respecting a potentially troublesome divination-guidance (The Orishas Speak: The 2020 Letter of the Yoruba Association of Cuba (Letra del Año para el 2020 de la Asociación Yoruba de Cuba) and a Preliminbary Interpretation). Almost immediately after the production of the Letra del Año a controversy erupted in Cuba respecting a terse interpretation predicting a coup d'etat and a military government, one that the members of the Asociación were quick to contextualize in a press conference widely reported in official government media (and discussed here: "Destitución de un gobierno provocado por golpe de estado e intervención de un ejército" ["Removal of a government caused by coup d'etat and intervention of an army"]: Formal Interpretaiotn of Divination and the Political Sensitivities of States: The Ifa Letter of the Year and Political Scandal in Cuba). 

Now, via its Facebook page, the Asociación Cultural Yoruba de Cuba has distributed a more elaborate interpretation of its Letra del Año. The interpretation, a copy of which is posted below, is worth considering. Its great contribution is in the choice (among all of the oddus) of the two core oddus around the 2020 divination, one each for the dominant orishas of the year: Oschun and Obtalá.  These are meant to be the font through which an interpretation may be made and insight offered. The first of the two stories is that of "The Three Thieves and Oshun's riches." The second is the story of Obatalá and the Corrupt City." The stories are powerfully relevant.  In that respect I also found it useful as well to consider it alongside the interpretation provided  in this blog on 1 January (here). The interpretation of the Asociacón requires no comment, only the suggestion that it ought to be read.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Toward New Era Thought: Reflections on Xi Jinping, Speech at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2020)


In a prior post (Building New Era Thought--Reflections on Xi Jinping's Address on the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up, Beijing 18 December 2018) it was suggested that a year after its delivery, Xi Jinping's Speech on the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up [-在庆祝改革开放40周年大会上的讲话] was now a more useful object of study, providing potentially great insight into the character of scope of New Era Theory in China.
But such speeches, unlike uttered by virtually all of their counterparts in Western liberal democracies (at least at this time in the history of the West) are not meant to be a political consumable with a very short half life. Especially in the case of the speeches of Xi Jinping, they mean not just to produce the usual kinds of internal and external signals (and thus the counting referenced above). These remarks, however, may be more usefully understood for their contribution to the development of the fundamental political theory of the Chinese political model,

It is with that in mind, and with the benefit of the passage of a year that has stripped away the dross of the political situation around which the speech was delivered, a re-reading of the remarks more clearly exposes the substance of the evolution of Chinese Marxist Leninist theory in the new era. More particularly, Flora Sapio and I believe that there is a large measure of insight to be gained from a closer study of these remarks. This was an important speech on self reflection, and on the communication of that reflection which may resonate in different ways for Chinese and for foreign readers. For that reason alone the speech is worth considerable study.
That post included the original text of the 在庆祝改革开放40周年大会上的讲话 in the along with my crude machine assisted translation with the promise of reflections on what the Speech suggested for the emerging New Era Theory from Larry Catá Backer and Flora Sapio.

This post includes the first of the reflections: Larry Catá Backer, Toward New Era Thought: Reflections on Xi Jinping, Speech at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up. I build that reflection around the concept that:
The speech. . . can be most usefully understood as built around three tasks, each of which poses its own set of questions. The first is to deliver a eulogy for the passing Era, the legacy of which must be respected as a core element of the foundation of Chinese Marxist-Leninism.  In that respect, the Era of Reform and Opening Up, with Deng Xiaoping as its core, now officially joins the Revolutionary and Founding Eras, with Mao Zedong at their core. . . .   The second is to describe (this is an intensely political exercise) the evolving facts that mark the fundamental character of the emerging “New Era” era as distinct from that of the passing Era of Reform and Opening Up.  This task is built around the question of narrative view, of describing how the core of Chinese leadership projects its view of the world within which the evolving political theory of Marxist-Leninism must be expressed to suit the times.  . . .  The third and probably most important task was to then “apply truth to facts”—that is, to draw on the passing of the Reform and Opening Up Era  in the national and historical realities in which Chinese Marxist Leninism finds itself to begin to flesh out the answer to the question—“what is What is New Era Thought?
Flora Sapio's comments will follow in a future post. Both reflections will appear in a future issue of the CPE Bulletin, Emancipating the Mind.


Thursday, January 09, 2020

Building New Era Thought--Reflections on Xi Jinping's Address on the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up, Beijing 18 December 2018



“No one is in a position to dictate to the Chinese people what should or should not be done,” he said. “We will resolutely reform what can and needs to be reformed, and we will resolutely uphold what cannot and does not need to be changed.”
(Xi Jinping, Speech Delivered in the Great Hall of the People on the 40th Anniversary of Reform and Opening Up, Translated and quoted in Yanan Wang (for AP, "China will ‘never seek hegemony,’ Xi says in reform speech," Washington Post)
四十载惊涛拍岸,九万里风鹏正举。江河之所以能冲开绝壁夺隘而出,是因其积聚了千里奔涌、万壑归流的洪荒伟力。习近平:在庆祝改革开放40周年大会上的讲话  


 
It was with some anticipation that, now over a year ago, a global audience awaited the remarks of Chinese leader Xi Jinping during the course of celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the adoption of China's policy of Reform and Opening Up, and its incorporation as a core of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC) Political line.  The remarks--在庆祝改革开放40周年大会上的讲话 --were delivered at the end of 2018.

At the time, and as is now customary for the consumption of such remarks, the speech received a short but intense burst of interest contextualized within the constraints of the hopes, fears and strategic objectives of those who are in the business of reading and presenting such matters to the public, and in that way of using these to shape the various political narratives that manage local popular opinion. Its greatest utility at the time appeared to be oracular. However, in lieu of examining its entrails, the oracular priesthood chose instead to reduce the words of the remarks to data and then to extract meaning by summing repeated "key words."  And, indeed, there were lots of repetition to consider:
In his speech, Xi Jinping mentioned the names of six people: Mao Zedong, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, Marx and Lenin. Here is a graph of total appearances  of each in the text of the speech:

(Qiang Gang, Reading Xi’s Reform Anniversary Speech, China Media Project)


At the time, the Hong Kong press noted that 
Xi did not directly address the specific challenges facing the world’s second biggest economy or touch on sensitive issues such as the ongoing trade war with the US. Instead, Xi spent much of the hour-and-a-half speech drawing general conclusions about China’s economic and social development in the past four decades since Deng Xiaoping, China’s former paramount leader, started to embrace market-oriented changes in China. (Xi Jinping: China to stick to Communist rule and its own path to cope with ‘unimaginable’ perils)
That produced disappointment in the global press as well (here, here, and here), along with a small drop in Chinese financial markets (e.g., here). 
"The reason why everybody was watching this speech so closely is that they were looking for hints of any possible concessions that Xi was prepared to make to try and ease the current trade friction with the US," said Brown, noting Beijing's recent agreement to buy more soybeans from the US and reduce tariffs on US cars. "Those concessions didn't happen, other than a vague promise from Xi for China's economic reforms that began 40 years ago to continue," he added. "More, this was a speech about China's identity and position in the world." (Marking 40 years of reform, Xi says China won't be dictated to).
And that, certainly, was a plausible way to read speeches like this.  That, at any rate is the way that Western commentators, academics, and policymakers, tend to approach speeches from the highest levels of the Chinese Communist Party.  But such speeches, unlike uttered by virtually all of their counterparts in Western liberal democracies (at least at this time in the history of the West)  are not meant to be a political consumable with a very short half life.  Especially in the case of the speeches of Xi Jinping, they mean not just to produce the usual kinds of internal and external signals (and thus the counting referenced above). These remarks, however, may be more usefully understood for their contribution to the development of the fundamental political theory of the Chinese political model,

It is with that in mind, and with the benefit of the passage of a year that has stripped away the dross of the political situation around which the speech was delivered, a re-reading of the remarks more clearly exposes the substance of the evolution of Chinese Marxist Leninist theory in the new era. More particularly, Flora Sapio and I believe that there is a large measure of insight to be gained from a closer study of these remarks. This was an important speech on self reflection, and on the communication of that reflection which may resonate in different ways for Chinese and for foreign readers.  For that reason alone the speech is worth considerable study.
This post includes the text of the 在庆祝改革开放40周年大会上的讲话 in the original along with my crude machine assisted translation.  My reflections Toward New Era Thought: Reflections on Xi Jinping, Speech at the celebration of the 40th anniversary of reform and opening up follow next.   Flora Sapio's reflection follow after and the link will also be posted here in due course.




Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Syllabus for Course on "Globalization and the Transnational Enterprise"

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2019)

I have been developing a course on transnational (or multinational; I use the terms interchangeably) enterprises.  That project inevitably now requires consideration of economic (and now more comprehensive systems of) globalization, with which the multinational enterprise is now inextricably interlinked. Getting an alignment between the developing ideologies of globalization (as well as the ideologies of those opposing globalization) and those of the multinational enterprise (and those who view that enterprise with suspicion, has proven to be a challenge.  An even greater challenge has been to avoid an academic silo approach to the materials.  It is an easy trap to teach MNEs as creatures of law, or of politics, or of economics, etc., and in the process strip the engagement of much of its richness.  There is value in such "siloing"--technical expertise, more granular study, etc.  But in the process, and especially for students encountering the MNE for the first time, such narrow approaches run the danger of reducing the MNE to caricature.  On the other hand, one acquires a comprehensive picture of the MNE in the aspect studied (MNE as a legal construct; MNE as an economic vehicle; MNE as a social ecology, etc.).

So, I chose to try for a broader approach to the introduction of the MNE in globalization.  It is aimed for graduate students in international affairs, business, law and the social sciences. This year it will be taught out of the School of International Affairs (last year I tried a more law oriented version taught for the law school). It remains very much a work in progress.  A number of challenges remain: (1) course organization (I chose to divide the materials into 5 broad sections focused on MNE management and self-regulation); (2) course materials (facing the hard choices among a growing body of excellent materials against the realities of student study time and their ability to effectively absorb material); and (3) pedagogy (I chose to avoid the lecture-exam model in favor of a more student centered model built around the application of the teaching materials to the real life experience of an assigned MNE).  I will report on results as the semester progresses. 

This post includes the syllabus and a short description of the problem of the MNE in globalization as the basis for their study.  The syllabus may be downloaded HERE: MNCLawSyllSpr2020. 

The course philosophy may be found at pp. 13-16; the course description is set ut at pp. 1-2. While the syllabus was designed for a semester length course,  it can also be taught in short course forms, either as a 2 week bare bones course, or a longer 4 week intro course.  As this is still vey much a work in progress, suggestions and comments most welcome!


Monday, January 06, 2020

Birgit Spiesshofer: "Green monetary policy - "whatever it takes"?" English Translation of Article published first (in German) in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazine Einspruch! (online) 10 December 2019



Dr. Birgit Spiesshofer has been undertaking truly important and path-breaking work in the area of the responsibility of business for harms that may be attached (that, of course, is the issue of the moment, that is the jurisprudence of "attachment") to the economic activities of enterprises and persons.  Her  monograph, Responsible Enterprise: The Emergence of a Global Economic Order (Munich: CH Beck, Oxford, Hart, 2018), is a remarkable analysis of the "state of the legal art"in this field and an excellent basis for thinking about the paths already being carved out for going forward (for my review of this work, see "The Enterprise of Responsibility:" Reviewing Birgit Spiesshofer, "Responsible Enterprise). 

Dr. Spiesshofer has recently written a short essay, Green monetary policy - "whatever it takes"? It suggests both the complexities of implementing even the most well meaning policy, as well as the constant balancing that most be undertaken when complex liberal democracies operating in a multi-level (sui generis?) confection of states, regions, and the like, seek to respond to critical issues. The essay reminds us that there is nothing easier to make than a for publication slogan; but that to turn that into viable long term policy, much less operational modalities, becomes an altogether more daunting task.  In a sense, climate change (and the resulting necessary policy initiatives among polycentric governance systems) provides a good opportunity for the EU and its components to lead by example, but also to refine their working styles to further a cause with respect to which everyone on earth has a significant stake. 

The essay was originally published as  Grüne Geldpolitik - „whatever it takes“?only in German, in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazine Einspruch! (online) Dece,ber 10, 219. Dr. Spiesshofer has translated the essay into English and the Frankfurter Allgemeine has graciously agreed to its re-posting here.

The essay and Dr. Spiesshofer's brief bio follow.