China's 21st Century Gulag

China's 21st Century Gulag

The controversy over China’s treatment of its Uighur population is growing, with a chorus of international critics accusing Beijing of building a 21st century surveillance state and gulag system in Xinjiang province, in the country’s far northwest.


Some background, in case you haven’t been following: the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim, Turkic ethnic group that is distinct from China’s Han majority, account for a little under half of the 24 million people Xinjiang, a vast, resource-rich region roughly 3 times the size of Texas. Over the past decade, flaring ethnic tensions and a string of attacks by Uighur separatists have prompted a heavy-handed response from the ruling Communist Party. China says it’s providing security and “vocational training” in a province that’s prone to bouts of terrorist violence, but a growing number of witness accounts and satellite images of alleged internment camps suggests a broad and systematic campaign of ethnic repression is underway. Last month, a UN human rights panel threw its weight behind reports suggesting that up to a million or more Uighurs have been detained.

In recent days, the controversy has escalated: The New York Times detailed a “high pressure indoctrination program” in which detainees were required to listen to lectures, sing Communist Party songs, and write “self-criticism” essays. Human Rights Watch published a report offering evidence of “mass arbitrary detention, torture, and mistreatment” in Xinjiang.

Now the Trump Administration is considering sanctions against the senior Communist Party boss in Xinjiang and other Chinese officials. A bipartisan group of US lawmakers is also pushing for curbs on Chinese tech companies that sell cameras and facial recognition software that helps power the Xinjiang surveillance state, which also reportedly includes fingerprint and iris scans, DNA sampling, and government spyware installed on mobile phones.

A few thoughts:

  1. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on in a country with a system as opaque as China’s. But something ugly is happening in Xinjiang, and the government’s aggressive use of technology gives the situation an extra air of menace. It’s another example of how digital technologies that have brought billions of people closer together and created new economic opportunities around the world can also be used in disturbing ways – in this case, to help a government sort and segregate an ethnic minority.
  2. Human rights might not be the only reason the Trump administration and Congress have become interested in the issue. Sanctions against Chinese tech companies could also be a useful source of leverage in Washington’s ongoing trade and technology confrontation with Beijing.
  3. Many countries around the world struggle to manage the tension between ethnic diversity and social stability. In authoritarian systems like China’s, there are few if any curbs on how far the government can push things, particularly when it values stability above all else. Yet by cracking down so aggressively, China may just be storing up more trouble for later. Using electronic surveillance to track a minority population’s every move or forcing Muslims into re-education camps won’t wipe out ethnic and religious fault lines in Xinjiang, it’ll just make them wider by driving dissent offline and underground, where it is bound to fester.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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