Sunday, 28 September 2014

This Not What Democracy Looks Like

Thousand of peaceful demonstrators in Hong Kong gathered to protest Beijing's failure to allow meaningful democratic elections in the territory are scattered with tear-gas, whilst Chinese state television reportedly tries to explain the events as a mass celebration of the national holiday. Words fail.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

So the results are in, the ballots counted, the results accepted, and the Union preserved by a healthy, if not totally overwhelming margin of nearly 11%. A region voted on its independence without - Moscow take note - the requirement of thousands of Kalashnikov-wielding thugs invading and declaring a suspiciously massive majority for one side.

The cause of Scottish independence has obviously seen a set-back here, though they'll long talk about their 1.6 million votes for an independent Scotland, and anyway thrive on historical remembrances of what might have been going right back to 1707 if not earlier. Unionists like myself cannot rest too easy since 45% of voters voting against the Union indicates that many Scots do not agree that preserving the Union is in their interest - there's certainly work to be done.

Regionalists in the rest of the UK are now beginning to take note of the new powers promised to Scotland. I personally think this will be flash in the pan - other experiments in devolution in England outside of London have been met with outright apathy (particularly the experiment in elections for crime commissioners, which cannot even raise a 20% turnout). The idea that Scottish-style politics will energise the rest of the UK is an odd one when you consider the low turnouts typically seen in Holyrood elections.

For myself, though, playing  very, very small part in keeping the Union together has been a revelation. The next likely referendum in the UK will be those on EU membership, promised if there is a Conservative government elected in the next parliament (though the Conservatives are committed at the moment to staying in), and I intend to help out in them too.

[Picture: Scottish independence referendum results - red is "No", green is "yes". By Wiki user Sceptre]

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

My (Unwritten) Constitutional Patriotism

I attended the Unity Rally in London on Monday, where I took the above picture. Geldof spoke well, and movingly, about the opportunities he found in the UK that he could not find in Ireland, and how it seemed crazy to him, as an Irishman, given the things that drove Ireland to independence, that Scotland should seek it over matters so much more minor and temporary. "If I were Scottish, I might ask myself 'why not?'" he said, "But I'm Irish, so I ask 'Why?'".

 I have to say the last two weeks have left me surer than ever that I am, first and foremost, British, and a Unionist. Some authors on the left have spoken of this kind of sentiment as somehow "fake" or as a kind of evil nationalism (normally whilst ignoring or dismissing the genuine nationalism of the SNP). I can only speak for myself, but I see it as something closer to what the Germans call "constitutional patriotism", but in country with no written constitution. It would be a great shame if this is the last 24 hours in which I can claim it to be so.

  [You can read the BBC report on the rally here. I'm standing to the right of the guy with the sign in the bottom-most picture]

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Say No To A Vote From The Gut.

Scottish voters are due to vote, as is their democratic right, on independence in ten days time. The arguments on the virtues of the SNP's independence plans have been argued and re-argued. By now, if you're not convinced that independence along the lines that Alex Salmond is proposing makes little or no sense, that it will result in economic turmoil, in a country using another's with no say in how its run, in a Scottish exit from the EU, in bad blood, and the end of the most successful union-state, there's little that can be said to change your mind.

The heavy negative impact of independence was why the clear lead the 'No' camp had up until last week made sense, and why the progress 'Yes' has made in recent days in the polls is so bizarre and shocking. My feelings on the issue are much the same as Will Hutton's here:
Without imaginative and creative statecraft, the polls now suggest Scotland could secede from a 300-year union, sundering genuine bonds of love, splitting families and wrenching all the interconnectedness forged from our shared history.

Absurdly, there will be two countries on the same small island that have so much in common. If Britain can't find a way of sticking together, it is the death of the liberal enlightenment before the atavistic forces of nationalism and ethnicity – a dark omen for the 21st century. Britain will cease as an idea. We will all be diminished.

Hutton is right about the character of the feelings pushing some Scottish voters towards voting for independence when arguments based on the facts weigh so heavily against it. He's also right about what the cost would be. I personally will never be able to think of my family in Scotland as foreign, or Scotland as another country, and for me interposing a border between us would be a monstrous act.

There's still hope, of course, that this is all just a blip, that cooler heads will prevail, and that the Scottish people will decisively say 'No' on the 18th of September in the same way they were planning to up until last week. It should also be pointed out that there will be Scottish elections in May 2016, and that whilst Alex Salmond has set a deadline of March 2016, he has no more right to demand such a deadline than he does to demand the currency union that British political leaders have decisively rejected. A win for Unionist parties in 2016 could therefore theoretically render a 'Yes' a dead letter - but this is a slender reed to grasp.

I hope that in time Britain can look back on this much as Canada looks back on the Quebec vote of 1995, where independence also took the lead in some polling before a razor-thin vote against it, and where now the prospect of a split is further away than ever after BQ (the main pro-independence party) was soundly defeated in the last election..

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Xi As The Undoer Of Deng, Continued

I read a very interesting piece over at the Peking Review on Xi's apparent rejection of Deng's low-profile foreign policy, in contrast to the assertive policy of the Mao era:
A phrase that is making the rounds among China watchers is “tao guang yang hui.” I will not attempt to explain the concept: any brief explanation would hide too many nuances, and nuances are important here. I just watched an online debate amongst some of my more scholarly friends, and the battle was about different interpreteations of of the phrase.

One interpretation of the phrase is captured in Deng Xiaoping’s maxim “keep a low profile and bide your time, while also getting something accomplished.” Given the noises China has been making in the South China Sea, the East China Sea, the Indian frontier, and Hong Kong, it appears to some that China has abandoned the tao guang yang hui strategy altogether.
The piece echos a sentiment also expressed in response to the PRC government's announcement that Hong Kong was to be denied meaningful democracy: that the modern-day PRC government under the leadership of Xi Jinping had rejected the pragmatism of the Deng era.
Distrust of the Chinese Communist Party runs deep in Hong Kong, a city built largely by refugees from famine and party-sponsored political violence in mainland China. Deng Xiaoping understood this, and deftly worked around it.

His formula for recovering Hong Kong from Britain in 1997—One Country, Two Systems—was an acknowledgment that the party's credibility in Hong Kong was low and that if it simply moved in and took over it would destroy public confidence and likely wreck the economy. Hence, Hong Kong was allowed to keep its British-style law courts and administration. And it was promised democratic elections for its future leaders.

Today's Chinese leadership shows far less willingness to embrace such political pragmatism, or to employ subtlety and compromise in its dealings with the territory.
For anyone who cared to look, the signs that Xi Jinping would strike a much more strident tone than the technocratic Hu/Wen team, or the mildly reformist governing style of Jiang Zemin, were there even before he assumed power. The turning point for me was the crack-down of 2011, when controversial Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was arrested, as well as many others. Back then I wrote:
It is easy to see where the impetus for this crack-down is coming from. We may be more than a year away from the beginning of Xi Jinping's reign, but it is hard not to see the same crude artlessness in these arrests that Xi has betrayed in many of his public pronouncements.

I hope I'm wrong, but I cannot rid myself of the idea that Xi's rule is going to be disastrous for both the CCP and China. It is hard not to think that we are seeing the end of the balancing act that the CCP has so successfully conducted these past 32 years, and the beginning of an unashamed totalitarianism which few in the CCP ranks want, even if their new leader apparently does. The relatively subtle touch introduced by Deng in 1979 risks being undone, if not the economic reforms of that year and later.
Everything we've seen this year, both internally in the "anti-corruption" campaign that seems to only find corruption amongst Xi Jinping's political enemies, and externally in the assertive tone of China's new foreign policy, supports this analysis.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

CCP to HK: Drop Dead

So, the new elections system for Hong Kong, a system that was probably decided many years ago, has now been made public. As suspected, it will basically be weighted so as to practically exclude anyone from the democratic camp from running.

There's people out there with more insight on this than I have (word up The Big Lychee blog), but I'm struck by a singular thought: this decision will literally leave the PRC government in the position of having to explain why it is that a pro-democrat like Albert Ho could run in the 2012 election, where he stood no chance of winning, but in an electoral system where he could win, the new system will almost certainly block him from running as "unpatriotic" (i.e., not  a supporter of the Chinese Communist Party). No doubt the PRC government will be no more phased by this contradiction than they are by the myriad other contradictions of modern-day China, not least of which is the anachronism of their rule, but people in Hong Kong will not so easily dismiss it.

Journalist Mark Mackinnon thinks this violates the spirit of the handover agreement, but personally I think that already happened when the CCP issued a white paper saying that they could end Hong Kong's autonomy if Hong Kong did not "fully respect" the mainland's political system. The promise of 50 years of unchanging autonomy is empty if the government says it can change it at any time it likes on such vaguely-defined grounds as a lack of "respect".

EDIT: This also seems pretty relevant -

[Picture: former Hong Kong chief executive candidate Albert Ho addresses supporters of Occupy Central, 19 June, 2014, via Wikicommons]

Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Wedding In Poland

Two weeks ago today I was resting on a river bank by a lazy river, nursing an epic hangover after the greatest, most enjoyable and touching bash I had ever attended, whilst my brother worked on composing the above song. There is something awfully self-serving about praising one's own wedding, but the reception we held at Palac Alexandrow, formerly the home of the von Richthofens (including supposedly the famous Red Baron - a fact too good to check), was, to quote my seven-year-old niece, "magical".

The wedding also was a leaving-party of sorts, since I am now returning to the UK to start a new job and a new life. Life's going to get a lot more staid, I'm afraid - after more than a decade of travelling between different countries, speaking different languages, I'm now back in the UK for the forseeable future, married to a wonderful woman, with a house and a car and a serious job.

As a result posting is bound to become less frequent, though I'm not going to abandon this blog, as the world has hardly become a place less worth writing about. I might even get around to finally carrying out the big re-vamp that I've been putting off for the last few years.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The world, and Europe in particular, needs to tell Putin they've had enough.

Nearly four years ago, after a relatively short hop over the East and the South China seas from Kansai International, and a far-too-long lay over in Kuala Lumpur, I sat on a Malaysia Airlines flight and watched the desert shores of the Caspian Sea slip by some ten thousand metres below, and the plane then headed on over Rostov-on-Don and Eastern Ukraine. That was four years ago, but it could just as easily have happened yesterday, and I - and anyone else who regularly flies between Europe and Asia - could just as easily have been on flight MH17 as it was blasted out of a sky by a missile that was almost certainly fired by either the Russian military or their proxies within Ukraine.

Some people - Tom Friedman being a shining example - are given to talking about the interconnected-ness of the modern world, and how the shared interests this should generate should act to limit conflicts as the damage will no longer be limited to a single area of the globe. If this is at all true then the citizens of all the countries affected by the conflict, particularly those closest to it in Europe, need to finally take a stand against Putin's incursion into the Ukraine, an incursion which has now resulted in the deaths of hundreds of perfectly innocent people. They need to do it now, and they need to do it in a definite and un-ignorable way.

That's why the very first thing that needs to be questioned is whether it is appropriate to be hosting the 2018 World Cup in Russia, and whether the teams of countries whose citizens have been killed by Putin's proxies should really be planning to attend a sports tournament that will be a major PR coup for the Putin government.

Monday, 23 June 2014

700,000 votes, China, and Hong Kong.

So Occupy Central's unofficial referendum on the voting system to be used for future elections in Hong Kong is over, and the number of (unvetted, unobserved) votes are in - and it's quite a figure. If (and it is an "if", though probably not a big one) the figures are accurate, something like 15-20% of the eligible voters in Hong Kong voted in an unofficial poll that the Hong Kong government and their Beijing-based overlords have done everything in their power to disuade them from taking part in.

The take-away from this, just as in every other occasion when Beijing has attempted to put pressure on a free society, is that such acts are liable to back-fire by driving people to the other side. It is difficult to believe that so many Hong Kongers would have voted in this poll without all the free publicity that the (unloved, at least in Hong Kong) central government has gifted to Occupy Central, the intransigence of the latest white paper on Hong Kong being the most striking example of this.

I feel the Occupy Central organisers missed a trick, though, in not putting the central government-proposed system, but only "genuinely democratic" options on their ballot paper. Giving the voters the option to vote down the government's proposals would have made their message so much clearer.

[Picture: the leaders of the Occupy Central movement. Via Wiki]

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

What remains of China's dissident movement?

This article about the "Nanfang Street Movement", a translated version of an article that originally appeared in Le Monde about a pro-democracy organisation operating in southern China, is worth a reading if only to sample the quixotic, fringe nature of modern-day opposition to the authoritarian Chinese government within mainland China. Indeed, the dissidents quoted in the article sound so idealistic and earnest for a post-Tiananmen, post-Charter 08 China as to be a little hard to credit, which is a pity because what they are saying is exactly the kind of thing that needs to be said in modern-day China, the kind of voice missing at events like today's London love-in :
It was raining the day three militants, accompanied by a fourth there to photograph the scene, unfurled a banner reading, "A party is not the same as a country. The Chinese Communist Party doesn't represent the people." In the center of the photo from that day, 23-year-old Jia Pin is holding up another message that reads, "Democracy, Liberty, Human Rights, Constitutional Government." At his side a follower carries an even more incendiary one that says, "Unelected parties are outlaws."
At least in my experience, these are not unrepresentative of the (unspoken except in safe circumstances) sentiments of a good portion of the Chinese people regarding their government, though it should also be said that a good portion also buys either largely or wholly into the government's message of their rule being solely benevolent. The poignant thing here is just how small the so-called "Nanfang Street Movement" actually is:
"there are only about 10 activists willing to demonstrate publicly," says Wu Kuiming, a lawyer in Guangzhou who defends members of the Nanfang Street Movement when they are arrested. "Quite a few people support the group, but very few are prepared to risk being arrested during a demonstration," says Wu.
The contrast with 25 years ago, when hundreds of thousands of people marched throughout China demanding reform, to today's dissidents, who would struggle to assemble enough people in one place to form a football team, couldn't be more striking.

It is hard not have a feeling of dread when reading this article, knowing that many of the people described in this article will eventually end up either in jail, in exile, or harassed to the point of quitting, because this is what has happened to every other attempt to organise dissident movements in China since 1989. For anyone who has been watching Chinese affairs for more than a few years, there is something nostalgic in reading dissidents putting their faith in the power of the internet, and in government promises of modernisation and reform - since this was exactly how dissidents like Liu Di spoke ten years ago.

Does this then necessarily mean that groups like the "Nanfang Street Movement" are doomed to the same over-all failure that has encompassed organisations like Charter 08? Perhaps not, though nothing short of an economic slow-down that no-one wants to see (but which may be programmed in to China's current development model) could conceivably create the opening for reform that they are looking for.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

RIP "One Country, Two Systems"

Reading the PRC governments recently-released white paper, snappily titled "The Practice of the "One Country, Two Systems" Policy in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region", it is hard not to think that the promise by which the PRC achieved assumption of control over Hong Kong in 1997 of ensuring 50 years without change in Hong Kong's essentially liberal politico-economic system, is now something of a dead letter.

Why? Well, amid waffle about the help that the mainland gave Hong Kong during the SARS epidemic (an epidemic that spread to Hong Kong due to the failings of the PRC government), and the benefits that Hong Kong receives from the PRC governments efforts to prevent "foreign forces from interfering in Hong Kong's affairs" (which are?), the white paper dropped this bombshell:
As a unitary state, China's central government has comprehensive jurisdiction over all local administrative regions, including the HKSAR. The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR is not full autonomy, nor a decentralized power. It is the power to run local affairs as authorized by the central leadership. The high degree of autonomy of HKSAR is subject to the level of the central leadership's authorization.

(my emphasis)
That is, the PRC government wishes to make it known that it does not consider the promise of 50 years without change to be a binding one, but that Hong Kong's autonomy could be removed by the central leadership before that. What could cause them to remove it? Well, the white paper further goes on to state that:

. . . the "two systems" under the "one country" are not on a par with each other. The fact that the mainland, the main body of the country, embraces socialism will not change. With that as the premise, and taking into account the history of Hong Kong and some other regions, capitalism is allowed to stay on a long-term basis. Therefore, a socialist system by the mainland is the prerequisite and guarantee for Hong Kong's practicing capitalism and maintaining its stability and prosperity. For Hong Kong to retain its capitalist system and enjoy a high degree of autonomy with "Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong" according to the Basic Law, it must fully respect the socialist system practiced on the mainland in keeping with the "one country" principle and, in particular, the political system and other systems and principles in practice.

(my emphasis)
This is pretty clearly a threat to the people of Hong Kong from the CCP: don't do anything that might threaten our death-grip on the mainland, otherwise we'll take away whatever freedoms you currently enjoy that are not granted to the rest of China. That this comes at the same time as Occupy Central is preparing demonstrations and unofficial referenda that may be embarrassing to the central government can hardly be a coincidence.

Some critics have attempted to make this out as merely a restatement of long-running government policy. It is nothing of the kind, as even CCP-apologist Lau Nai-keung has to concede, the PRC government has never actually stated anything like this before. Whilst many simply suspected that the PRC government would be willing to abrogate "One Country, Two Systems" if they felt it suited their interests, they have never gone so far as to actually say so.

So where does this leave us? Well, clearly the prospect of Taiwan ever willingly joining mainland China to form a single country under the "One Country, Two Systems" formula is deader than a Dodo for at least as long as the CCP remains in power. Who would ever trust the CCP not to simply withdraw their promise because they felt that people on Taiwan did not "fully respect" the mainland's political system?

"One Country, Two Systems" is an idea that can work, at least in theory, so long as the two systems are on a par with each other. To state openly that they are "not on a par with each other", is to state that one may over-ride the other, which is to state that there is no real guarantee of two systems coexisting.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Taiwan's advantages are not imaginary.

Via MKL's facebook feed I read this piece on Tsai Yingwen's return to the top of the DPP, a shining example of Want China Times's commitment to talking down Taiwan's achievements over the past two decades:
Tsai doesn't have the firm will, determination and capability to address the sense of "Taiwanese superiority" felt by many in the pro-independence camp — a social psychological barrier that is hindering the DPP's transformation.

The sense of Taiwanese superiority refers to the belief that Taiwan's economic development, democratic politics and way of life are superior to that in mainland China.
 That Taiwan's economic development, way of life, and democratic politics are superior to those of mainland China is not merely a "belief". It is a clear, demonstrable fact, even judging by the most basic metrics.

According to the IMF Taiwan's per-capita income in 2013 was, in nominal terms, more than three times larger than that of mainland China (20,930 USD in Taiwan versus 6,747 USD in China). Clearly, Taiwan's economic development is superior.

According to the WHO in 2013 Taiwanese people had an overall life-expectancy more than six year longer than that of people across the straits in mainland China (80.3 in Taiwan versus 74.2 in China). Again, Taiwanese people appear to live lives that are at the very least much longer than those of mainland Chinese, reflecting a healthier and better-looked-after way of life.

Taiwan has experienced precisely zero deaths due to political disturbances and terrorism in the past year, yet the same can hardly be said of mainland China which has suffered repeated terrorist attacks, and had citizens killed in foreign rioting. In the past six years mainland China has suffered two large-scale uprisings (Tibet in 2008 and Xinjiang in 2009) and has engaged in repeated crackdowns against dissidents, sentencing people like Liu Xiaobo to jail merely for speaking their mind. No amount of bloviating about the occupation of government buildings by students during the Sunflower movement can hide the fact that Taiwan's democratic system is undoubtedly superior to mainland China's authoritarian "Market-Leninist" system.

The piece's main premise - that Taiwan succeeded only because of the US and now needs to "learn from" mainland China - founders on the rock that Taiwan has little to learn from the mainland except "how not to do it". As both Ma Yingjiu's KMT and Tsai Yingwen's DPP have at various time acknowledged, mainland China has much to learn from Taiwan, but the same is not true in the other direction. Indeed, the article does not identify anything concrete that Taiwanese people can learn from the mainland, instead talking only of Taiwan's "failure to see from an international perspective" - a "failure" that has far more to do with China blocking Taiwan's international relations at every turn.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Taiwan and the US Department of Defense report

Flicking through the recently-released US Department of Defense's annual report on the Chinese military, there's quite a few things that stand out for those of us with an interest in Taiwanese affairs:
  • Despite various noises that have been made since the election of the Chinese Nationalist KMT government (which this analyst bizarrely describes as "less hardline-nationalist"), Taiwan remains, in the words of the DoD, "the focus and primary driver of China’s military investment". The KMT may have taken the sting out of the war of words, but force has not been taken off the table. As the report points out, Xi Jinping has been quite open in stating that the Taiwan issue "cannot be passed from generation to generation.”

  • The report points out that "China today probably could not enforce a full military blockade. However, its ability to do so will improve significantly over the next five to ten years." This is something that I think people who over-estimate the PRC's ability to use force against Taiwan at the present time (including, e.g., predicting a forced annexation of Taiwan in 2012) need to think about. China at the present moment is not capable of this level of coercion - but the day when it will be powerful enough to use military force to coerce Taiwan is approaching.

  • The above point is further reinforced by the US DoD's assessment that, whilst the PLA could probably carry out small-to-medium scale attacks on outlying islands with a reasonable chance of success, a full-scale invasion of Taiwan "would strain China’s armed forces and invite international intervention [making an invasion] a significant political and military risk". The report goes on to note that "China does not appear to be building the conventional amphibious lift required to support such a campaign" and that "The PLA Navy currently lacks the the amphibious lift capacity that a large-scale invasion of Taiwan would require", meaning that China is likely to remain incapable of launching an invasion of Taiwan with any degree of certainty of success at least in the near-term. However, the exact nature of the aircraft carriers now being built in China is not known.
Far from the panicked picture drawn elsewhere, it appears that, at least according to the US DoD, Taiwan is not under a significantly greater threat now than it has been over the past decade, though it may be within the next 5-10 years. Narratives that basically require support for one or the other political parties in Taiwan in order to rescue Taiwan from an immediate threat to Taiwanese democracy coming from its own elected government, with no supporting evidence of anything new, should be treated with suspicion.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

"The War of The Running Dogs", and China's role in it.

Lately I've been reading Noel Barber's excellent (if definitely of its time) The War of The Running Dogs*, a book which tells the story of the Malayan Emergency in an engagingly Boys-own-like style. The book's succeeds by largely eschewing the dust-dry blow-by-blow account of technical and political happenings that so many histories of other counter-insurgency conflicts engage in, and instead dishes up gripping accounts of events demonstrative of the situation as a whole.

The conflict, which began 66 years ago next week, following the murder of three planters by communists in attacks marking the beginning of a wave of terrorist attacks aimed at destablising Malaya (as it was then known) in the run-up to its independence, and creating 'liberated zones' into which the British would not dare to go, was marked by many contradictions. The communist rebels were nominally fighting for an independence which was already promised, albeit without a fixed date, and had learned their jungle-warfare skills whilst fighting alongside the British against the Japanese during the Second World War. The British were fighting to keep control of a country which they were going to lose control of anyway, against rebels using British weapons which had mostly been air-dropped into Malaya during WW2. The communist leader, Chin Peng (陈平), who died only last year, had even been awarded the OBE for his role in fighting the Japanese.

For anyone interested in China, it is interesting to look at the ways in which the influence of China was felt throughout the conflict. In a war in which one side was largely ethnic-Chinese, and in many cases combatants on both sides were first-generation immigrants from mainland China, China was always likely to be a significant impact, but the coincidence of the struggle in Malaya with the titanic conflict inside China and along its borders between communists and non-communists during this time made China a major factor.

Whilst the idea (which Barber briefly examines) that the start of the conflict in Malaya was part of a co-ordinated effort by communists across Asia, is something we can safely set to one side as having no basis in fact, the conflict was definitely modeled on Mao's insurgency in China, with its emphasis on dominating the countryside and encircling the cities. Chin Peng certainly seems to have seen himself as a Mao-like figure, although he deviated from Mao's doctrine by not making political warfare at the same time and with the same intensity as he made guerrilla warfare, although this is largely the result of him having already tried the political route to power in the years between the war and the start of the guerrilla campaign with indifferent results.

With the end of the civil war in China in late 1949, officers from China's People's Liberation Army arrived at Chin Peng's headquarters. Barber points out that it was likely their influence that led Chin Peng to back off from his attacks on civilian targets that had served to antagonise the Malayan population in a change of policy that was announced in October 1951. This seems likely given the way it meshes with Mao's philosophy of trying to get ordinary people in the countryside onto the side of communists.

Another change prompted by the end of the Chinese civil war was the extension of British diplomatic recognition to the People's Republic of China in 1950 - a move that was seen in Malaya as a total betrayal at a time when the colonial administration there was fighting PRC-backed communists. We may reflect that, whilst the recognition was only a common-sense move given the communist victory, Britain does not seem to have derived any noticeable advantages from recognising the PRC decades before any other Western European state beyond better facilitating the administration of Hong Kong, least of all in Malaya. Perhaps this should be remembered the next time the advantages of "opening up" relations with an oppressive state are touted.

Finally, China was the last refuge for Chin Peng following his defeat in Malaya and the retreat of the Malayan communists across the border into Thailand, where they kept alive a vicious totalitarian-state-in-miniature which Chin controlled from Beijing. Chin Peng launched his second, much less successful campaign (not covered in Barber's book) from Thailand with a promise of financial support from the PRC personally delivered by Deng Xiaoping. Chin Peng's communists were riven by the Cultural Revolution in a fashion from which they never fully recovered, and eventually surrendered amid the global retreat of communism in 1989.

The net result of Chin's war against the British and their "running dogs" was an independent Malaysia that enjoyed a limited form of democracy hampered and defended by equal part by a security apparatus, that, as I found out when I visited there in 2009, remains in place despite its raison d'etre having largely disappeared.

*Barber claims that this was how Malayan communists themselves unofficially referred to the conflict (officially they called it "反英民族解放战争" - the Anti-British War of National Liberation), however searching around for various combinations of the terms "走狗" and "战争" I haven't found any Chinese language sources using this name. 

[Picture: A leaflet promising Malayan communists who surrender with a machine gun "a new life", and 1000 dollars. Via Wiki]