Germany and China surpass the USA in global leadership approval

An interesting survey from Gallup, based on interviews and telephone conversations with 1,000 people in each country.

The result: the global approval of US leadership in 2017 dropped to 30%, behind Germany on 41% and China on 31%. Both Germany and China remained at the same level from the previous year, indicating stability.

Some graphs tell the story:

GL 01

Notably, Russia and the USA are quite close to one another. Now for the disapproval rating, which for the USA sits at 43%:

In the Americas it has shot up to 58%:

I am most intrigued by the last graph, which indicates how much the approval/disapproval rates have shifted in different parts of the globe:


In much of Europe, the Americas, central and southern Africa, south and south-eastern Asia (including Australia in this last group), it has plummeted, while parts of northern Africa, eastern Europe and Russia have seen an increase! Not sure it will make much difference in Russia.

However, the danger of such graphs is to enhance the idea that Trump’s USA is an anomaly, in contrast to the ‘golden age’ of Obama et al. All manner of concerted efforts are underway to generate this impression, whether blaming the Russians for meddling, questioning Trump’s mental stability, or indeed asserting that his election victory was the result of purely racist elements. Instead, Trump is merely a symptom of a much longer trajectory.



‘Scream of terror of a loser’: the DPRK has the best phrases

Apparently, someone in the United States regime just before Christmas issued a statement about religious freedom, mentioning countries like DPRK, China and Iran as places without such freedom. The Pyongyang Times – a news outlet in English and French – has a couple of items in response. One of them quotes a spokesperson for the Religious Believers Council of Korea, who observes, correctly:

The US is engraved on the memory of the religionists in the DPRK as a group of satans and demons who brutally bombed to destroy religious facilities including churches, temples and shrines in Korea and murdered many believers during the past Korean war. The US is still posing a serious threat to the sacred religious community.

But the second article is perhaps better, mentioning some observations from the Institute for American Studies at the DPRK Foreign Ministry. Apart from noting the hypocrisy of such a statement from the US regime, it observes that the DPRK

regards the US’ stereotyped trumpeting about ‘freedom of religion’ as nothing more than a scream of terror of a loser.

Gotta love it: ‘scream of terror of a loser’. They certainly know how to make a point.

Thankfully, many common people in the USA do not agree with the US regime’s statements.

On Recovering the term ‘Flunkeyism’

As I have been working with material from the DPRK, I came across a wonderful term, flunkeyism. In a basic sense, it means to pay undue reverence to and serve someone who is greater and stronger, exhibiting the characteristics of subservience.

The term came into central usage in the 1950s in the DPRK, when it gained a specifically negative sense. As the communists were seeking to construct socialism in Korean conditions, Kim Il Sung made a significant speech called ‘On Eliminating Dogmatism and Formalism and Establishing Juche in Ideological Work’ (1955). In this context, flunkeyism meant not so much subservience to powers like Japan or the United States, but the larger communist powers of the Soviet Union and China. Kim points out that too many Korean communists were simply repeating formulae, plans, news items and ideas from these places, without knowledge and appreciation of the specificity of Korean conditions.

The opposite is Juche, with the basic sense of self-reliance and being the master of one’s own situation. The idea of Juche has three main components, already outlined in 1930: the need for Koreans to avoid worshipping great powers, that the masters of the revolution are the masses of the people and the need for correct leadership on the road to victory. Each of these points would be emphasised over the coming years, with the other two moving somewhat into the background. Crucially, during the initial phase of Juche theory (1950s), it was opposition to flunkeyism that was the most important.

Of course, Kim Il Sung did not invent either term out of whole cloth. Flunkeyism has a much longer history, going back to Mencius. Being a good Confucian, Mencius used the term in a positive light, writing: ‘He who with a great State serves a small one, delights in Heaven. He who with a small State serves a large one, stands in awe of Heaven’. The Chinese term here is shida, ‘serving the great’. The initial appropriation in Korea (sadae) was used in a similar way, with the Korean Joseon monarchy seeking to follow the example of the Chinese. But with the rise of a desire for Korea to carve its own path, flunkeyism became a decidedly negative term, for it downgraded Korea’s own uniqueness and national traditions.

So we find the emergence of opposition to flunkeyism- sadaejuui, literally ‘serving the great-ism’, or loving and worshipping foreign powers. The term can be double-edged, since it can foster more extreme forms of nationalism. At the same time, nationalism in an anti-colonial context has – since the insights from the Soviet Union – often been closely connected with communism. In this sense, anti-colonial struggles are at the same time anti-imperialist struggles, undermining the efforts at global hegemony by capitalist powers. This is the sense that emerges from the writings of Kim Il Sung. It is also a key to the reunification program in Korea, for a basic desire and position is that the two Koreas will once again unite without outside interference.

It seems to me we need to recover ‘flunkeyism’. We could well do with a good dose of opposition to it – or ‘anti-flunkeyism’ – in Australia. We used to use the term ‘cultural cringe’, with some people feeling that Australia needed to serve some or other greater and more ‘advanced’ place. But ‘flunkeyism’ is a much stronger term. Too often have our politicians, intellectuals and cultural producers been flunkeys, seeking the favours of whichever international power is around.

So here’s to two words for 2018: flunkeyism and anti-flunkeyism.

DPRK statement on human rights: religion

In completing my chapter on ‘Religion and Revolution in Korea’, I found a great site for downloading recent statements on a range of issues. Volume 9 concerns human rights, which articulates some of the main points from the constitution. Of interest for my current purposes is the following (pp. 54-55):

68. Provision of the Freedom of Thought and Religion

In the DPRK everybody is fully provided with the right to choose and follow their thought and religion according to their own free will.

Through their everyday life and experience and through historical process, the Korean people have realized that the Juche idea is an idea that thoroughly defends and realizes their independence and truly guarantees human rights, and that when they advance along the road indicated by the idea genuine happiness and prosperity will be achieved.

And they have acquired this idea as an element of their faith and will on their own accord.

They follow the Juche idea and think and act as required by it.

In the DPRK the church and the state are clearly separated, and everybody is fully provided with the freedom of religion.

In accordance with the Constitution, people are free to choose and follow any religion, and can officially or personally, privately or jointly hold religious service, ritual and ceremony. They can also build religious structures or conduct religious education.

At present there exist in the DPRK the Korean Christians Federation, Korean Buddhists Federation, the Korean Catholics Association, the Chondoist Association of Korea and Korean Council of Religionists.

Foreigners resident in the DPRK and expatriates are also given complete freedom of religion.

An image for our time: the two Koreas as one

What an image!


Ri Son Gwon, chair of the DPRK’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland (left), shakes hands with Cho Myoung-gyon, the Unification Minister of the Republic of Korea (right). This was at the meeting today in Panmunjom, in the demilitarised zone between the two Koreas.

And again:


Amazing start to 2018, sidelining the international players and getting on with their own agenda. The footage of the gathering (found here) is stunning in its simplicity. And I was in this room in 2015 when I visited the DPRK.

It is worth noting that while the corporate media is trying to spin this development as an initiative from the ROK, it was actually Kim Jong Un who got the whole process going with his New Year address. Instead, we have to look to news outlets such as the Global Times to get the story right, use the actual names of the countries and use the correct spelling for names. The same news item indicates the desire of the DPRK to move towards reunification sooner rather than later (see also here).





Moving fast: Inter-Korean talks to begin soon

Well, things move fast sometimes. After Kim Jong-un’s new year address, the south has moved to welcome the opportunity for renewed talks to defuse tensions on the peninsula. The southern Yonhap news has been making some extremely positive noises about the move, with the presidential office hailing the move and urging swift steps to restart talks.

This is a further signal that President Moon Jae-in actually has some spine. It began with his recent call to reconsider (and potentially tear up) a semi-secret deal done between Japan and the previous conservative government concerning the sexual slavery of hundreds of thousands of Korean women during the Second World War. The Japanese have never made an official apology for the systemic organisation of what they called ‘comfort women’ by the Japanese army, with some – like Abe himself – insisting that all of them did so voluntarily. The Japanese have been keen to bury the issue once and for all and thought they had a deal . Not so now, and the Japanese are mightily displeased with Moon’s move.

This was actually an election promise from last year. So too was the offer to restart talks with the DPRK. Initially, the US responded to this effort by sending warships to the area and upping the military exercises in the south. The target was not so much the DPRK, China and Russia, but actually Moon himself. ‘Toe the line’, was the message. But Moon eventually returned to his theme, mentioning the Winter Olympics and his desire to see DPRK athletes there. These will take place in early February in PyeongChang. Not a bad move, since who can object to the Olympics? Of course, they are the banner under which more comprehensive talks can begin.

As for Kim Jong-un and his carefully worded and sober new year’s proposal for talks, this is also an an opportune time. The DPRK is now able to negotiate from a position of relative and greater strength in light of its nuclear development. And they know that Japanese-South Korean relations are at a low ebb. They also noticed that the USA had been systematically sidelined during Trump’s recent Asia tour. When Trump – the ‘master of the deal’ – offered to mediate between Vietnam and China, or between the Philippines and China concerning the South China Sea, he was politely ignored. Even Japan and South Korea, while giving Trump all of the due honours, refused to enter into any serious negotiations with him or his team. All of this is a clear signal that Asian countries realise that the USA is abandoning Asia, so they will forge on ahead without it. In this situation, both Kim and Moon know that they have room and opportunity to make an initial step to solving their own differences.

So when will the talks begin? The proposal is 9 January at Panmunjom, in the building where previous talks have been held.

‘Comrades, friends, ladies and gentlemen’: Xi Jinping’s new year address

While I am on new year addresses by communist leaders, Xi Jinping has given an upbeat address as well. Notably, he has recovered the use of ‘comrade [tongzhi]‘ in all his addresses, after it had slipped out of common usage for a while. For example, in this speech, he begins with ‘Comrades, friends, ladies and gentlemen’. And he is known as ‘Comrade Xi Jinping’.