Brian Berletic – The New Atlas – for Eurasian Geopolitical News and Current Affairs.

It’s a minefield out there, trying to cut through the bull. These are my own opinions, I don’t base anything on fact, and it’s always up to you to make your mind up.

3 thoughts on “Brian Berletic – The New Atlas – for Eurasian Geopolitical News and Current Affairs.

  • Monte McKenzie

    great reports keep it comming!

    Reply
  • Michael Skywood Clifford

    Both yourself and Scott Ritter (who I follow with great admiration) keep saying that the Ukrainian army is massively depleted because of deaths and casualties in the fighting. However couldn’t it be the case that Nato and anti Russian countries are sending loads of troops into the Ukraine. Surely this is an endless stream of problems for the Russian army.

    Reply
  • Adrian

    6 Nov.2022

    Dear Mr.Berletic,

    The author of “We have been harmonised ..”, Kai Strittmatter, has according to his Wiki lived 14 years in China as correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung. During his early years he studied sinology at the University of Hamburg. His book about the “reinvention of dictatorship” has recently been published in an English language edition. What follows is a machine translation of an interview with him. You will be aware that his opinions about the Chinese surveillance system are quite at odds with those you recently presented about this matter. It would be great if you could review it. The Kindle edition is quite cheap, at any case here in Australia.

    Regards,

    Adrian

    “The most important non-fiction book of the Frankfurt Book Fair 2018! In „Die Neuerfindung der Diktatur“ Kai Strittmatter (Süddeutsche Zeitung) explains how total digital surveillance works in China and what it means for us.October 10, 2018 | Interview: Jörg Steinleitner

    © Kai Strittmatter

    SZ correspondent Kai Strittmatter in an interview about “„Die Neuerfindung der Diktatur“. (this book has been translated into English under the title “
“We have been harmonised. Life in the Chinese surveillance state”
    Mr. Strittmatter, in the foreword of „Die Neuerfindung der Diktatur“ – How China is Building the Digital Surveillance State and Challenging Us with It” (Piper Verlag), you imply that you also wrote the book because Donald Trump was elected U.S. president. Could you explain that, please?

    I had some sleepless nights in the days after the election. It was a feeling of imminent threat, deep down in my gut: now we have a problem. We Europeans. We Democrats. Trump’s lies, the Fake News, the “alternative facts,” I was more than familiar with it all. I have experienced and lived all this for 20 years, in China, but also in Turkey. And what amazed me most was the fact that, first of all, many of my friends back home in Germany didn’t want to take Trump seriously at first, and secondly, that they were honestly amazed by him and his actions. As if this was something completely new, as if it hadn’t happened before in our country. Some still call Trump a “pathological liar.” Unfortunately, this is nonsense: Trump does not lie pathologically – he does what all autocrats and would-be autocrats have always done: he lies systematically and strategically. The lie and the language are an instrument of power for him.

    So you felt the need to explain to people what was happening?

    I wanted to write a book about the mechanisms of autocracy, about how dictatorships work. And I wanted to use China as an example. Because I know China best, but also because one of the greatest challenges for our future is growing up in China. In China, dictatorship is reinventing itself digitally, and at the same time China’s CP is now marching out into the world. And we democrats, we Europeans, are experiencing the perfect storm: We are being heckled on the one hand by Trump and the right-wing populists in our midst, and on the other hand by Russia and China. I had the feeling that everyone was talking about Trump and Russia, but hardly anyone was talking about China. Yet China will be a much bigger challenge for us than Russia. China is much stronger economically, has the bigger ambitions globally, and its influence operations in the West are more cleverly designed and run on a much broader front than Russia’s.

    You have harrowing words for the experiments being conducted in China right now in the area of total citizen control. What is growing up here?
    Something is emerging in China right now that the world has not seen before. On the one hand, Xi Jinping is a hard-core Leninist and has one foot right back into 1950s China: censorship and repression are harsher under him than they have been in decades. Freedoms to which the Chinese had already become accustomed are being taken away again. Cult of personality and ideology are making a comeback not seen since Mao Zedong. That is one thing.

    And the other?

    Xi Jinping is stretching his other leg far into the future, going to a place where no autocrat has ever been before: Xi and the party perceive the information technologies of the 21st century not as a threat, but as a godsend, as magic weapons. With the help of Big Data and artificial intelligence, they want to catapult their actually hopelessly anachronistic Leninist apparatus into the future. And so China is plunging into the digitization of all areas of life with a passion and force unlike any other country in the world at the moment. The party is pursuing this endeavor for several reasons: It hopes to boost innovation and modernization in the economy. At the same time, it hopes that artificial intelligence in particular will provide crisis management mechanisms that will make not only the financial world and the economy, but also the political apparatus, resistant to all kinds of challenges.
    The autocrats of the world have long dreamed of being able to monitor their subjects completely and totally …
    … and the CP now believes it can realize this dream. Already, the CP has covered the country with the “sky net”: an almost gapless network of AI-based surveillance cameras. The party newspaper, the People’s Daily, wrote a few months ago that the system is already capable of recognizing each of China’s 1.4 billion people “within a second”. And this is just the beginning. If the hi-tech plans of the CP now become reality, then we will see the return of totalitarianism in China in digital guise: every step, every breath and every thought of every subject will flow into the data collection systems of the apparatus. Everything will be recorded, evaluated and sanctioned in real time. One Beijing minister already exulted that with the help of AI and Big Data, the Party can finally “know in advance who might be a terrorist and who might carry evil in their shield.” Of course, the party knows this long before the person himself knows it.

    In view of these developments, don’t we also have to take much more rigid action against any data collection in our country – regardless of whether it takes place under commercial or security policy pretexts? What do you propose here for Germany, for Europe?

    In fact, it can be beneficial to look to China. There, everything that is possible is done. Without any debate about privacy, data protection or social consequences. I visited some AI startups there. One of the managers told me the U.S. is still technologically superior to China in many ways – but China is miles ahead of the U.S. in the practical implementation of surveillance technologies “because the government supports us, because there are no barriers here.” Another said he felt like he was in the “Wild West,” saying that enthusiastically. His company – iFlyTek – makes voice and voice-recognition software that Anhui province, for example, already uses to monitor its telephone network nationwide. The system automatically calls the police when it thinks it detects “criminal activity” or the voice patterns of wanted people. On its website, the company advertises that its algorithms are particularly good at analyzing Uighur and Tibetan. At the same time, it operates a joint laboratory with the Ministry of Police. But customers of its software include international car companies such as Toyota, VW, BMW and Daimler.

    This could also be interesting for you:

    What’s it like here in the West?

    Much of what China is doing is also taking place here, even if it is taken to extremes there that often only exists in rudimentary form here. One example is the constant evaluation of our actions online: China is practicing this in a much more comprehensive way in a social credit system, which is supposed to record, evaluate and reward or punish all social, moral and economic actions of every citizen in real time. Quite a few people in the West get moist-eyed with envy when they see what is possible in China. In our country, it’s the representatives of the hi-tech and Internet companies who like to do this. They like to argue that we urgently need to follow China’s example, otherwise we will be hopelessly left behind. My advice to everyone is to simply look and see where such unrestrained activity leads. Namely, in the end, to a totalitarian state. The best example of this at the moment is the Uyghur province of Xinjiang, where not only were around a million Muslims put into re-education camps in the course of last year, but the province is also China’s hi-tech laboratory for surveillance technology.

    You paint a horror scenario.

    I don’t want to demonize the new technologies. On the contrary. I think we can learn a lot from the passion and force with which China is plunging into the digital age. In fact, we should. But if China gives dictatorship a digital update, then it’s up to us to digitally reinvent democracy.

    What should we citizens do in concrete terms?

    First of all, we should take a look. Recognize what is happening there and understand that it will have a major impact on our future. Then: get off our asses. Wake up from all the sleepiness and comfort in which many Europeans are still dozing off. Stand up for our values, offensively, self-confidently, proudly. There is no reason to be despondent. It is possible that there are better systems than ours. China’s, Russia’s or Trump’s are definitely not.

    Back to China: What was the cause of the brutal policy change since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2013 – everything was actually developing just fine, even for the Chinese Communist Party?

    Not really. I came back to China in the summer of 2012, a few months before Xi Jinping came to power. The China I found was a country in which the economy continued to boom, but the people and society were gripped by a deep sense of insecurity. Corruption had exploded, the supposedly socialist China had become one of the most unjust societies on earth, and the air and food were full of poison. The party was ideologically disoriented and showing signs of decay. And perhaps most importantly, citizens had been allowed to debate all this freely for four years – because the CP had slept through the censorship of social media between 2009 and 2012. The mood in 2012 had something of fin de siècle about it. Uncertainty and mistrust were total, including mistrust of the CP. Almost everything Xi Jinping did after taking office was also a reaction to this China he had found. His mission is clear: to save the eternal rule of the CP. To take back control of everything: the Internet, the media, society, the economy. Significantly, Xi Jinping has taken as his guide an old Mao slogan: “The Party rules East and West, it rules North and South, and it rules the center.” Xi Jinping’s party is like God: omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.
    You portray Chinese society in “The Reinvention of Dictatorship” as steeped in lies and opportunism and abandoned by ideals. Do you also see light at the end of the tunnel?

    It is the fate of societies subjected to autocratic rule that they are not healthy ones. The autocrat imposes on the subjects the life of lies and eternal distrust even against each other. Any dictatorship corrupts society and poisons people’s relations with each other. It prefers subjects who are blind and deaf and uncaring. It fears people’s solidarity with each other, it fears truth and idealism. Idealists and people who feel committed to the truth have a hard time in such societies. And yet they do exist, in China, of course. I have met many of them, and I admire them. I always have the feeling: the great people in China are actually doubly great, because their environment demands infinitely more from them. And who knows, maybe Vaclav Havel was right when he once wrote that when the time comes, all it takes is one person to proclaim that the emperor is naked – and the veil of lies that seemed to be woven for eternity falls apart. With Mao, this was the one spark that was enough to start a steppe fire.

    You provide many examples of what happened to people who did not submit to the ban on speech and criticism. Which is the most frightening example for you?

    Oh, there are thousands and thousands of horrors, and each one wipes out a world for itself, so I don’t want to create a hierarchy. For me personally, a particularly inspiring and sad example was the case of Liu Xiaobo, the writer, essayist, and eventual Nobel Prize winner. Liu died last summer as a prisoner after authorities refused to allow him to receive treatment for his cancer abroad. He is the first Nobel Peace Prize winner to die in the custody of a state since Carl von Ossietzky under the Nazis in 1938. His widow Liu Xia, who was made a prisoner in her own home by the security apparatus for nearly a decade without charge, was recently allowed to leave for Germany, in part because the German government and diplomats had long campaigned for her.

    You also find clearly critical words for the economy and policy of the West towards China.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel has not struck a bad balance here. She has expanded trade relations and at the same time always shown backbone when it came to civil rights. I give her credit for that, especially since she is one of the last politicians to fly the flag in Beijing when it comes to our values. Most of the others duck out of the way or even tell the CP what it wants to hear.

    And what about the representatives of German business?

    There, you can regularly be embarrassed. For example, when Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser speaks out about China’s global project of the “New Silk Road” (One Belt, One Road), sounding like the editorialist of the Beijing “People’s Newspaper,” while at the same time the assembled EU ambassadors criticize the project in an unusually clear manner. Or when Daimler’s PR department sends out statements about the Dalai Lama that sound as if they were dictated word for word by CP propaganda. Greed leads pen and tongue.
It is not without irony: Once it was said that the West would change China, that capitalism would gradually infiltrate the socialist system. “Change through trade” was what the same economic representatives often called it. Today, one rubs one’s eyes: Who is changing whom here again? It now often looks as if China is infiltrating capitalism.Today, one rubs one’s eyes: Who is changing whom here again? It now often looks as if China is infiltrating capitalism.

    After all, the Republic of China on Taiwan is a ray of hope for you. Why is that?

    Hardly anyone knows Taiwan. That’s a pity, because the example of Taiwan is incredibly exciting. It is the other China. The democratic, the free one. After the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949, Taiwan was also a dictatorship for a long time, a fascist one. And then, over the last three decades, it has transformed itself into the most vibrant democracy in Asia. Today, Taiwan is the living counter-model to autocracy on the mainland; it is the last thing standing between China’s CP and its claim that Chinese are not genetically built for democracy, so to speak. This is another reason why Taiwan is a thorn in the side of China’s CP. In general, anyone who wants to make a judgment about “the Chinese” should go to Taiwan for a few weeks or months to experience on a very human level how the Chinese behave, how they deal with each other when they grow up in a democratic, free society. When they take responsibility for themselves. When they are not surrounded by eternal fear and eternal mistrust.

    You have spent almost your entire adult life in China. What do you love the country for?

    For its warm people, who are a lot funnier and more open, especially towards foreigners, than the bearish Germans, for example. For the fact that it is not a country, but a universe. Geographically, historically, culturally. A universe of stories to go with it: absurd, breathtaking, funny and tragic. In China you don’t need to be a novelist, as a sober journalist you are already the chronicler of the often fantastic and surreal. For the incredible diversity that characterizes the country and that resists all attempts by the CP to “unify” everything. For all the adventures it gives you, and for which it is enough to walk to the greengrocer in the morning. Above all: for the Youpo mian, the “hand-whipped noodles tossed in oil”. Finger-thick noodles in garlic, soy sauce and a little vinegar, on which you shovel a heap of dried chili flakes, which you then burn into the noodles with a spoonful of boiling hot oil …

    What is the next step for you and China after “The Reinvention of Dictatorship”? The Chinese rulers are known for not being squeamish with critics: Will you ever be able to travel to this wonderful country again?

    Who knows, I am only a small light. And the Chinese Communist Party is often whimsical in its mercy. And if not …

    Wouldn’t that throw you into deep despair?

    The noodles! Ah.

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