Published daily by the Lowy Institute

Weekend catch-up: Xi’s thoughts, Kurdistan, Timor-Leste’s government and more

The week that was on The Interpreter.

Photo: Kevin Frayer
Photo: Kevin Frayer
Published 28 Oct 2017 

By John Gooding, Digital Editor at the Lowy Institute and Associate Editor at The Interpreter.

This week the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party wrapped up in Beijing, with 'Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era' making the constitutional cut and five new Politburo Standing Committee members announced. The grand vision set out by President Xi Jinping should be cause for concern in capitals across the world, wrote Bonnie S Glaser and Matthew P Funaiole:

As articulated in the Party Congress work report, Xi's vision for the future may signal an intention to double down on challenging elements of the prevailing world order that Beijing sees as contrary to Chinese interests. Should this come to pass, the international community might look back at the 19th Party Congress as the moment when China's long march toward reclaiming its great-power status was matched with the confidence needed to present China as a buttress against Western liberalism.

Despite having his name on it, 'Xi Jinping Thought' is not Xi Jinping's – it's an evolution of the Chinese Communist Party justifying its Leninist-capitalist hybridity, argued Simone van Nieuwenhuizen:

George Orwell wrote in his essay 'Politics and the English language' that 'political designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind'. In political language, Orwell said, 'one almost never finds a fresh, vivid, home-made turn of speech'. This is especially true of the CCP's carefully cultivated and scripted political language.

Responding to earlier pieces by Nick Bisley and Ian HallMichael Clarke wrote that the Belt and Road Initiative is portrayed by Chinese leaders as iconic of China's return to global power status:

Even if it is only partially successful, BRI will not only contribute to the stability of the CCP and Xi Jinping’s hold on power but also reshape the Indo-Pacific. A better understanding of the motivations and intent behind it is thus necessary to provide us with a clearer view of the potential costs, benefits and dangers of alternative policy responses.

With the Korean Peninsula on edge, Albert Palazzo asked what the world should make of any war that might eventuate:

These broader goals cannot be achieved through war, but war is required to lay the foundation for their realisation. If there must be war, then it must be used as a chance to achieve positive outcomes for all sides.

Peter Layton on what to make of North Korea's letter to Australia's parliament (since publication it has come to light that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade only found out about the letter once Foreign Minister Julie Bishop released it to the media):

This is not a desperate letter from a doomed regime, nor even a revelation that sanctions are not having a tangible impact. It seems more a muddy-the-waters letter to support North Korea's strategy of buying time until it is militarily ready.

Sanctions against Myanmar's military are unlikely to have any substantial impact, argued Andray Abrahamian:

It would be ironic indeed if a new round of sanctions gave the military the domestic legitimacy of which previous sanctions once starved it. What sanctions won’t do is alter the brutal facts on the ground in Rakhine State.

As the fighting in Marawi dies down, Australia's assistance in ending the conflict might make Australians targets, wrote Clive Williams:

If ISIS was to focus on who caused its latest problems in the Philippines, Australia would be well in the frame. The Australian government has been very public about its close defence relationship with the Philippines central government and provision of intelligence support for AFP operations against ISIS-linked groups in Mindanao.

Kurdistan's independence referendum is the latest case of Kurdish groups often acting as their own worst enemy in pursuit of further autonomy, wrote Lydia Khalil:

The Kurds may like to say they have no friends but the mountains, but their family has a history of letting them down too.

A photo depicting YPG units in front of a photo of PKK founder Abdullah Öcalan demonstrates that in joining the Kurdish fight against Islamic State, Australian foreign fighters are arrogant and naïve. Rodger Shanahan:

It is simplistic to simply declare that Australian forces are supporting Kurdish fighters and that Kurdish fighters are against Islamic State, so Australians should be allowed to join Kurdish armed groups. No conflict exists in a vacuum, least of all the Syrian one.

Susan Hutchinson and Nikki Marczak on the ongoing plight of the Yazidis:

In addition to recognising Islamic State crimes against Yazidis as genocide, and committing to hold perpetrators accountable, the international community needs to support the right of Yazidis to live in peace and safety in Iraq, including via the temporary establishment of a protected area for minorities. For a community still devastated by genocide, the current conflict will only exacerbate the pain and prevent its recovery.

Andrew Leigh responded to the reactions to his Lowy Institute Paper Choosing Openness:

In a world of Netflix, Twitter and YouTube, writers owe more gratitude to their readers than ever before. To paraphrase what some airlines say upon landing, I know that you have a choice in what to read. Thanks again to all those who have chosen to open Choosing Openness, and thoughtfully engaged with its contents.

Mike Callaghan on an ongoing review into whether the world's international financial institutions are best serving the world:

The international financial system is significantly different to the one that existed when the IFIs (particularly the IMF and World Bank) were established.

Lyndal Rowlands on the far-from-perfect membership of the UN Human Rights Council:

Australia was not the only country to waltz onto the UN Human Rights Council last week with only cursory scrutiny of its human rights record.

In fact, most of the Council’s current and incoming members have failed in some way to live up to the 'highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights' expected of them by the UN General Assembly resolution that established the body.

There are three options facing Timor-Leste's government, with the presidential dissolution of parliament and fresh elections the most likely outcome, argued Michael Leach:

In March 2017, when the two major parties both supported the Fretilin candidate Francisco 'Lu Olo' Guterres for the presidency, it appeared that this informal 'grand coalition' relationship would continue. Yet three months after the July parliamentary elections, Timor-Leste is on the precipice of a return to belligerent democracy.

Finally, Daniel Woker on the EU's old, and new, challenge:

The EU is by its very origin and nature an ongoing process of federated parts in a democratic whole, with a timeline dictated by history going way beyond the short span of any politicians’ career.

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