An end to GPS dominance? Beidou and GLONASS begin to work together

I have begun wondering why – for example – the European Union has not developed its own type of computer chips or operating systems. Instead, they have simply ceded dominance to US-based systems, which have the explicit agenda of controlling the global internet. Thus far, it is only China that has the wisdom, brainpower and economic basis to do so.

When we come to navigation systems, the EU does have Galileo, despite the efforts by GPS to dominate. And we also have GLONASS in Russia and Beidou in China. I prefer to use Beidou navigation on my phone, since it is more stable and accurate than GPS-based maps. But now a new step has been taken, with comprehensive collaboration and synergy between Beidou and GLONASS – as the following article from the People’s Daily reports. Good move, as far as I am concerned, not least because it will eventually knock GPS off its perch.

BeiDou-GLONASS synergies will offset dominance of US GPS

China and Russia will soon put in place an agreement involving their respective satellite navigation systems, aiming to promote the compatibility and interoperability of the BeiDou and GLONASS systems.

As synergies between the two navigation systems are in full swing, industry observers said that such an alliance, which would yield more accurate positioning and have wider applications, could rival the US-based global positioning system (GPS) navigation system’s dominant positions and safeguard nations’ security in the face of US bullying practices that may extend to the navigation sector.

The agreement on cooperation in the use of the GLONASS and BeiDou Global Navigation Satellite Systems for Peaceful Purposes was confirmed by the two sides during the sixth meeting of the committee of the Russia-China Project Committee on Important Strategic Cooperation in Satellite Navigation (RCPCISCSN) over the weekend. The agreement will take effect soon, according to an official press release for the event.

Industry insiders have hailed the agreement as a major step that provides a legal framework for deeper cooperation between China and Russia, signaling a transition to real and comprehensive bilateral cooperation not only in application promotion but also within navigation systems.

The agreement, which was signed in November 2018, specifies bilateral cooperation between China and Russia in the development and manufacturing of civil navigation equipment that supports both the BeiDou and GLONASS systems, according to media reports.

Under the agreement, each country will deploy three monitoring stations within their own territories for the other country to correct navigation signals, according to Russian news site sputniknews.cn in August.

During the meeting, the two sides also considered reports by four working groups involving compatibility and interoperability, satellite-based augmentation systems, the building of stations, supervision and assessment, and combined applications. Major development in these areas has been achieved.

China and Russia also signed an inspection certificate regarding the location of monitoring stations and approved a feasibility study report on agricultural projects.

They agreed on the text of the cooperation agreement on the timing compatibility of BeiDou and GLONASS during the meeting. Multi-modal, multi-frequency radio frequency chips that support both BeiDou and GLONASS were also released during the meeting, with the two sides jointly analyzing the business prospects of more chip application and cooperation in research.

The two countries will maintain close communication on development plans and the project implementation of both systems. They will also actively explore new cooperation areas and projects to promote result sharing and cooperation for mutual benefit between BeiDou and GLONASS.

Rivaling US GPS

The deeper synergies have far-reaching implications for the US GPS navigation system amid a US crackdown on China’s technology rise, observers said. GPS has for decades claimed a monopoly in the global satellite navigation market and it now accounts for the largest market share.

“Bilateral cooperation between China and Russia will create a larger, broader, more stable and more robust satellite network, with more accurate positioning to challenge GPS,” Cao Chong, a Beijing-based industry analyst, told the Global Times on Monday.

The basic composition of navigation signals in BeiDou and GLONASS network is similar, which means users could switch seamlessly from one system to another, Li Ning, member of the Precision Application Committee under Global Navigation Satellite System and Location Based Service Association of China, told the Global Times.

While the GLONASS network mostly serves high-latitude regions, China’s BeiDou navigation system mainly focuses on providing networks for the low-latitude areas, analysts said. The combination would give birth to the optimal world navigation system.

China has launched 46 satellites in the BeiDou constellation. Russia has put 26 satellites for GLONASS into orbit. The GPS had 31 satellites operational as of April 2019.

The partnership will also give China and Russia an advantage in pushing forward the landing of massive applications to compete head-to-head with the US GPS, Cao added.

Some industry insiders also view the tie-up as a way for both China and Russia, traditional partners with mutual trust, to jointly defend national security and counter US hegemony.

“The US has been using its national power to suppress China’s technology rise. What if US suspends GPS service to rising economic powers, just like it ordered Google to cut Android supplies to Huawei? What if GPS sends wrong signals to disrupt normal economic activities?” an industry insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times.

“China and Russia cannot give up their location rights to the US and they must have something in hand that can replace the GPS if needed for national security concerns.”

In 2015, China and Russia set up the committee of RCPCISCSN to establish a government-level mechanism and platform for deeper synergies between their respective navigation systems.

Documentary on China’s 40 years of poverty alleviation

For those interested in a useful overview of China’s extraordinary poverty alleviation project the following documentary series is worth viewing.

 

 

 

 

 

Non-political elections

In Engels’s key work, ‘Dell’ Autorità’, which was originally published in Italian in the midst of the struggle with the Anarchists (who were popular in Italy) and their ‘anti-authoritarian’ push. Engels writes: ‘All socialists are agreed that the political state [Stato politico], and with it political authority [l’autorità politica], will disappear [scompariranno] as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions [funzioni pubbliche] will lose their political character [carattere politico]’. But what, exactly, does political character mean?

The answer is simple enough: by political character both Engels and Marx mean the reality of class struggle and its manifestation in the state. Thus, the manifesto observes, immediately after mentioning the political character of public Gewalt absorbed into the state: ‘Political Gewalt, properly so called, is merely the organised Gewalt of one class for oppressing another’. I do not need to reiterate the details of Engels’s work on the state as a separated public power here (emphasis on separated), except to point out that if public Gewalt – with the senses of power, force and even violence – loses its political character, it ceases to be a manifestation and instrument of class struggle and thus coercion. Clearly, public Gewalt is not necessarily separated from society, for it may take other forms.

The formulation may be relatively simple, but the implications are far-reaching. On this matter at least, Marx offers a couple of hints, of which the second is the most interesting.

In his cryptic notes on Bakunin’s Statism and Anarchy, Marx refers to what may be called non-political elections. How is this possible? Are not elections inherently political? This is so for those who have been indoctrinated by the Western liberal tradition, in which elections are the manifestation of regulated class conflict within the bourgeois state. So let us see what Marx suggests, all too briefly. He begins by pointing out that the character of an election depends in its ‘economic foundation [ökonomischen Grundlage]’, on the ‘economic interrelations [ökonomischen Zusammenhängen] of the voters’. That is, if economic relations are antagonistic, and if classes have formed and are engaged in class struggle, then elections will be ‘political’. What if this situation does not apply and economic relations are not antagonistic? Then ‘the functions have ceased to be political [die Funktionen aufgehört haben, politisch zu sein]’.

Marx then specifies the sense in which he uses politisch, or, rather, its absence. First, there are ‘no ruling functions [keine Regierungsfunktion]’. I have stressed the sense of rule and reign that are part of the semantic field of Regierung, since ‘government’ or even ‘administration’ (also senses of the word) are too weak and do not capture Marx’s sense. This meaning appears in the second point: ‘the distribution of general functions has become a routine matter [Geschäftssache] which entails no domination [keine Herrschaft]’. By this point, Marx is not speaking about the period of the proletarian dictatorship, but afterwards, when antagonistic contradictions have ceased. Now we come to third point, where he observes: ‘elections have nothing [hat nichts] of today’s political character [politischen Charakter]’. If political character means what pertains to antagonistic economic relations and class conflict, characteristic of the bourgeois state and its electoral system, then without that context, elections will lose, will have nothing of the political character of today – not only in Marx’s context where the bourgeois state was gradually being implemented across Western Europe, but also in those parts of the world today that are influenced by this tradition, either in Europe itself or in some of its former colonies.

Do non-political elections already take place today? Let me offer an example drawn from elections in China. Elections are held more regularly than in bourgeois states, both direct and indirect. Thus,  elections internal to the Communist Party are held at all local branches. In a village, in a small company, in a school – wherever there are three or more party members a branch is formed and elections are held for local posts, especially the local branch secretary. Why three? Only then can you have elections to such a post. In society as a whole, elections are held for the local National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Congress (CPPCC). These elections are held annually, are direct and include candidates from all nine political parties.

At higher levels – from the provincial to the national – elections are indirect. That is, people are elected from the lower and local bodies, and are subject to assessment as to whether they have the appropriate skills and experience. Thus, the national NPC and CPPCC require significant electoral processes each year. Thousands of representatives from across the country, from all classes, minority nationalities, religious groups and other sectors of society, are elected to the two bodies. I cannot go into more detail here, but the question remains: do these elections have a political character? No, for the system is known as a ‘multi-party cooperation and political consultative system [duodang hezuo he zhengzhi xieshang zhidu]’, which designates that the system of elections that is not based on class conflict but on non-antagonistic relations among the different groups and their representatives.

Thus, in many respects elections have already lost their political character in China.

Increasing international (and Muslim) support for China’s human rights achievements in Xinjiang (updated)

Update: the letter mentioned below initially had 28 signatories, but it now includes 50 signatories, from countries whose population totals 2 billion. Of these, 28 are Muslim-majority countries.

‘No investigation, no right to speak [meiyou diaocha jiu meiyou fanyanquan]’.

This Chinese saying is particularly relevant for some in a small number of former colonising countries who like to make unfounded statements about China. That they have been used to seeing the world in their image is obvious; that they misunderstand much of the rest of the world is also obvious. But times are changing fast, for the voices from precisely such parts are increasingly strong and being heard.

Xinjiang and its highly successful counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation programs are a case in point. In contrast to the former colonisers, many foreign delegations and journalists from other countries have visited Xinjiang and undertaken proper investigation. Notably, this includes investigators from Muslim-majority and developing countries, which support China’s approach.

One recent result of this process of investigation is a joint letter from the ambassadors of 51 countries (and counting), which was sent to the UN’s human rights council. The letter indicates strong support for China’s successes in Xinjiang and its promotion of a Chinese Marxist approach to human rights.

Why Is Chinese Governance Better?

Recently, Martin Jacques observed that Chinese governance under the CPC is a better, more efficient and higher form of governance than we have seen thus far. To begin with, Jacques is correct. This is particularly obvious if we compare it with bourgeois (liberal) democracy, which is now obsolete and quite clumsy. The latter arose in a specific context, in eighteenth and nineteenth century Western Europe, and may have been appropriate in that part of the world in the wake of the bourgeois revolutions. It has also been transplanted to some former colonies in North America, Australia and New Zealand. But the system is rather crude, with nearly every feature of public life politicised, with antagonistic political engagement in which one policy is promulgated by a particular political party only to be undone by the next. Chaotic, clumsy and outdated.

As is usually the case with Martin Jacques, he tries to explain this reality by going back into China’s more distant past. Strangely, he skips past the central role of Marxism in shaping the current practice of governance in China. So let us see what such a focus indicates (this article is also useful).

Here I draw on a book I am writing on Engels, for it is precisely Engels (more than Marx) who provides the philosophical basis for socialist governance. The book has taken longer than expected, since I need to work carefully through material few consider. In the final chapter, I examine Engels’s ideas concerning what a socialist form of governance might be.

There are two main points.

First, the organs of governance ‘stand in the midst of society’. Engels draws this insight from his careful study in the 1870s and 1880s of what he calls ‘pre-state’ societies, but which may also be called ‘base communism’ and ‘base democracy’. Why ‘pre-state’? For Engels, the state is a ‘separated public power’, which arises from class conflict and stands over against society. By contrast, base communism does not have this separation. All the various organs of governance – and there are many – stand in the midst of society. They are woven within social structures, being part and parcel of society as a whole. In my book, I have developed the category of ‘enmeshment’ to understand how this might work: society, state and economy are not separated from one another, but rather enmeshed within one another.

One might respond: but Engels is dealing with ancient societies, in a historical and anthropological way, so these insights are not relevant for how socialism today functions. The answer: in a crucial but under-studied piece called ‘The Mark’, Engels points out that this type of base communism would be dialectically transformed under socialism, so as to become the type of society and governance that would be appropriate.

This point I have realised for some time, but the second is relatively new: ‘public functions will lose their political character and be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society’. This text is quoted from Engels’s 1873 piece, ‘On Authority’, in which he castigates the impractical proposals of the Anarchists, especially under Bakunin’s leadership. But the core idea of political character disappearing and being replaced by an efficient administration focused on the public good is crucial (it appears elsewhere in Engels’s work and is voiced by Marx).

Let us begin with political character. Under bourgeois democracies, a whole spate of areas are political footballs: education, health, environment, public transport, immigration and refugees, economic policy, and so on. They are the subject of election campaigns, of bewildering changes in policy with changes in the party in power, of implementation and winding back. But if they lose their political character, they cease to be tossed back and forth depending on the whims of political parties.

In place of this political character is efficient administration focused on the public good. Let me give three examples drawn from China. In education, the long-term plan is to improve the already impressive educational system in all respects. This entails careful research, significant funding, trials of new methods in some areas before extending them to the rest of the country, and so on. For this reason, people with whom I speak in China find it unbelievable that the Australian government – as one example – has been reducing funding for education for quite some time now.

Another example concerns public transport, which is reasonably well-known internationally. Simply put, the Chinese rail system is now the best in the world. Three levels of high-speed train operate across the country, while the slower ‘green skin’ trains ply local routes. In cities across China, world-leading metro systems are being implemented at a breath-taking pace. One that I know well is in Beijing, where they are working towards increasing the total kilometres covered from about 500 km to 1,000 km. Currently, it caters for 6 billion passenger trips per year, but this will increase. Again, this is seen as a public good, requiring long-term planning and efficient implementation.

Finally, environmental policy and action, which is called in China ‘ecological civilisation [shengtai wenming]’. The term refers to the modes of life and their relation to the environment: only when this is sorted out can we speak of wenming, which is not so much ‘citification’ (as the Latin origins of ‘civilisation’ suggest) but the just, peaceful, healthy and stable nature of culture. In China, the realities of climate change are not politicised; instead, they needs to be addressed directly. I have seen this with my own eyes, in what may be called the greening of China. The country leads the world in reafforestation, the water, plants and air of major cities have been improving year on year, and green technologies are leaping ahead. Again, this is efficient administration for the public good.

So yes, Chinese governance is clearly the highest form we have seen thus far, precisely because of the CPC and the socialist road. We should of course be careful: Engels’s formulations are not the final word on the matter. He had never experienced the actual process of constructing socialism, let alone a successful communist revolution. But it is rather striking how he and Marx provide the philosophical basis of socialist governance in terms of the disappearance of its political character and the development of efficient and careful administration for the public good. That the Chinese have developed these much further, in light of their conditions and the actual experience of constructing socialist governance, should be clear.

Organisation of Islamic Cooperation supports China’s anti-terrorism actions in Xinjiang

The Xinjiang Autonomous Region has developed what is arguably the most effective anti-terrorism and de-radicalism program in the world. Since 2016, no further terrorist attacks have occurred, a notable achievement in light of the multitude of incidents incited by ‘East Turkistan’ forces since the 1990s. Recently, the UN’s under-secretary of counter-terrorism, Vladimir Koronkov (see here, here and here), visited Xinjiang and indicated strong support for the local and central government approaches to dealing with the problem of terrorism in Xinjiang.

Perhaps even more important are the resolutions of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which has well over 50 members and represents the voice of the Islamic world.

Most recently, the foreign ministers of the OIC met on 1-2 March 2019 and adopted a series of resolutions, the most pertinent of which are the following:

Welcomes the outcomes of the visit conducted by the General Secretariat’s delegation upon invitation from the People’s Republic of China; commends the efforts of the People’s Republic of China in providing care to its Muslim citizens; and looks forward to further cooperation between the OIC and the People’s Republic of China.

This is resolution 20, which must be seen in light of the initial resolutions:

1. Reiterates its commitment to all ministerial resolutions on Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC Member States and calls on Member States to provide assistance to them and to contribute to the settlement of their problems in full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries to which they belong, and through cooperation with the governments of these States;

2. Emphasizes the need to respect the rights of Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC Member States; alarmed by the problems they face, resulting from discrimination, repression or persecution; and stresses the importance of continued coordination between the Member States in order to find ways to assist them to solve their problems, protect their religious, cultural, civil, political and economic rights and preserve their Islamic identity;

3. Emphasizes that the protection of the rights and identity of Muslim communities and minorities in non-OIC Member States is primarily the responsibility of the Governments of those States, consistent with the principles of international law.

6. Emphasizes that the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18 on “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons based on religion or belief” constitutes a historic consensus by bringing together divergent views on eliminating religious discrimination and intolerance on the basis of proposals made on behalf of the OIC and other stakeholders and encourages the OIC member states to extend full support to the Istanbul Process in connection with the Resolution 16/18”.

7. Reaffirms that education is a natural right for all members of the community free from any discrimination as underlined by all the pertinent international accords and treaties and invites the Member States, including Islamic non-governmental as well as civil-society institutions, in coordination with the states concerned, to extend all forms of assistance such as to strengthen the educational system, particularly through sending teachers to contribute to the education of the children belonging to Muslim communities and through the extension of scholarships for studies in schools and universities.

As far as the OIC is concerned, China is doing a great job in Xinjiang. Other countries will soon adopt its approach.

 

Colonial Policy by Other Means: Losurdo on Hong Kong’s Supposed ‘Self-Determination’

A small number of former colonial powers are fond of trotting out the mantra of ‘self-determination’ for parts of the world they would like to control. Hong Kong and Taiwan are good examples (even though the USA has the world’s strongest measures against self-determination of its own states). In the last few days, deliberate misinformation concerning Hong Kong has been peddled in a small number of places. If you want to get a fuller picture, see the reports here, here, here, here and here.

So it is worth recalling Losurdo’s observations on such a matter. The first comes from his essay, ‘Lenin and Herrenvolk Democracy’ (2007):

Colonial domination has left its mark: on the economic level, the inequality of development among different regions has been accentuated; while the hegemonic presence at every level of the great powers and the policy of ethnic engineering, often promoted by them, has accentuated cultural, linguistic, and religious fragmentation. Secessionist tendencies of every kind are once again lying in wait, regularly fed by the ex-colonial powers. When it wrested Hong Kong from China, Great Britain certainly did not conceive of self-determination, and it did not remember it even during the long years in which it exercised its dominion. But, suddenly, on the eve of Hong Kong’s return to China, to the motherland, the governor sent by London, Chris Patten, a conservative, had a species of illumination and improvised conversion: he appealed to the inhabitants of Hong Kong to claim their right to ‘self-determination’ against the motherland, thus remaining within the orbit of the British Empire.

Analogous considerations are true for Taiwan. When, at the beginning of 1947, the Kuomintang, which had fled from continental China and the victorious People’s Army, let loose a terrible repression that provoked about ten thousand deaths, the United States was careful not to invoke the right to self-determination for the inhabitants of the island; on the contrary, it sought to impose the thesis according to which Chiang Kai-shek’s government was the legitimate government not only of Taiwan but also of the whole of China. The great Asian country had to remain united but under the control of Chiang Kai-shek, reduced to a simple pro-consul of Washington’s sovereign imperialism. As the dream of reconquering the mainland slowly faded away, and the stronger became the aspiration of the whole Chinese people to achieve full territorial integration and independence, ending the tragic chapter of colonial history, so the presidents of the United States experienced an illumination and a conversion similar to that of Chris Patten. They too began to caress the idea of ‘self-determination’. Incoherence? Not at all: ‘self-determination’ is the continuation of imperial policy by other means. If it was not really possible to get their hands on China as a whole, it was, meanwhile, convenient to secure control of Hong Kong or Taiwan (249-50).

 

And as he writes in one his last books, Class Struggle (2016):

 

Perhaps it would be better to learn the lesson of old Hegel, who, with the Sanfedista and anti-Semitic agitation of his time in mind, observed that sometimes ‘courage consists not in attacking rulers, but in defending them’. The populist rebel who would be bound to consider Hegel insufficiently revolutionary could always heed Gramsci’s warning against the phraseology of ‘primitive, elementary “rebellionism,” “subversionism” and “anti-statism,” which are ultimately an expression of de facto “a-politicism”’ (337).

Is it time to dump Google?

Last week my gmail account was cancelled without notice. Why? No reason was given.

But it happened the day after the United States regime announced it had blacklisted Huawei from engaging with the United States – arbitrarily and on the basis of vague and groundless accusations. The regime has also been using ham-fisted tactics to try and stop others from working with Huawei, although this will only mean that the USA will have even fewer friends in the world.

Interestingly, a number of US companies – including Google – enthusiastically threw themselves into the fray, indicating that the US regime actively intervenes in, directs and is supported by the major tech companies in the United States. The irony is obvious: they are actively doing what the regime is accusing Huawei of doing. A Danish saying comes to mind: a thief always thinks everyone else is a thief.

However, I do not use Huawei products, although I will make sure to get some from now on. Instead, I use a Xiaomi phone and laptop, which are far better than anything you can get from Apple or Samsung or whatever. I do use Chinese systems on these items, and I do so in China and other parts of the world. (In the current situation, they are the only global products that you can use everywhere.) The only reason that I can come up with for the cancellation of my gmail is that Google is targeting all Chinese products and systems.

Let us be clear, Google is banned in China, not only because it refuses to follow Chinese law for responsible internet management, but also because it willingly hands over its big data to the privatised spy agency in the United States, the NSA. So there is no great loss to China from Google cutting off its limited engagement. But to cut off anyone who as any engagement with China is another step.

Then again, I have never been a fan of Google. I used to have its search engine on my computer, but deleted it. My gmail had only a few addresses and was used for personal matters (I do not use it in China). Google maps is a notoriously bad product and often misleading. And I do not use Facebook, Twitter or the many other useless products US companies use to mine information from their users.

But I do know that many people use Google products, whether its search engines, gmail, maps, phones (they are terrible) or even a whole Google account. It has relied on its pervasiveness in the ‘Western’ world to dominate, manipulate, gather information, and – now – to act as an agent of US capriciousness.

The conclusion for me is clear: it is time to dump Google.

China will not be humiliated again

More than two centuries ago, high quality Chinese goods were in heavy demand. Back then, the goods were porcelain, silk and tea, which the peoples of North America and Western Europe were unable to produce. Gold and especially silver flowed into China, including most of the stuff extracted from mines in Central and South America.

Back then, capricious Western regimes began decrying the ‘trade imbalance’ with China, saying it was the result of ‘unfair’ practices and ‘despotic’ restrictions on ‘legitimate’ Western trade.

From that point on, these same regimes began trying all sorts of tricks to force the Chinese to act ‘fairly’. The British began smuggling opium to China, against which China resisted, especially under Lin Zexu in 1839, who seized and burnt more than 20,000 chests of opium in Guangzhou. The British then initiated the first of the two Opium Wars (1840-1842), providing not only a textbook example of  ‘gunboat diplomacy’, but also the first of a series of unequal treaties. This was the Treaty of Nanjing of 1842, which was not so much a treaty as a unilateral imposition of British imperial demands on the Chinese (including, among other items, the occupation of Hong Kong).

For the Chinese, this was the beginning of a century of humiliation.

Sound familiar?

It should, since the United States is trying the same tactics now. The specifics might be different. Back then it was high quality goods such as porcelain, silk and tea; now it is high-technology, railway expertise, navigation equipment, quantum communication and so on. Back then, the Chinese were accused of using ‘unfair’ practices to develop a ‘trade imbalance’. And back then, a more powerful empire imposed its arbitrary will on the Chinese.

With this kind of history, you can see why China simply will not accept the unilateral and arbitrary demands of the United States in the so-called ‘trade war’. China will not be humiliated again.

Why? One crucial factor is now different: China is strong enough to resist, fight back and insist on its own integrity. Or rather, two factors are different: now the United States is a drug-addled country, tearing itself apart internally and in noticeable decline.

China leads the world in re-afforestation

On one or two occasions, I have written about the greening of Beijing, as well as ‘ecological civilisation‘ as one of the core features of the drive to a xiaokang (moderately well-off) society by 2021. But these are not merely recent developments. Many environmental projects require a long-term approach, stable planning and determined governance – precisely what a communist party in power is able to provide.

Here is another fact that is not so well known internationally: China leads the world in re-afforestation. This has been an ongoing project for several decades, as the following graphic from the People’s Daily shows: