The editorial’s threat that those who continue to participate in the protests should expect dire consequences has the same ominous undertone as a People’s Daily editorial released in the run up to the Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing, the latter being widely regarded as having prompted the ensuing slaughter. (http://wp.me/p15Yzr-r)
Certainly China’s new Paramount Leader Xi Jinping’s line of attack – an approach unreservedly endorsed by Hong Kong’s ever more authoritarian, government – will be “no contact, no negotiation, no compromise”, all the while pouring scorn on Hong Kong‘s ‘Occupy Central’ and ‘Scholarism’ protest movements, blaming American and UK “black hands” for stirring up trouble, and making use of pro-Beijing media and agent provocateurs to drive a wedge between the protesters and Hongkongers inconvenienced by the knock-on effect.
Adopting an attitude that the protests will die a natural death was precisely the same pigheaded mindset embraced by Chinese Premier Li Peng and the Chinese leadership back in 1989. When the leadership realised that the Tiananmen Square protest movement was actually growing they knew that the very heart of the Chinese Communist Party was under threat like never before… Martial law was subsequently introduced on 19th May 1989. The rest is history (a history that has been completely air-brushed away in China).
Dealing with an opponent like the Chinese Communist Party will require very shrewd leadership.
While Hong Kong‘s political landscape will never be the same again, the Chinese Communist Party, as plainly demonstrated by its hardnosed actions in Beijing in June 1989 and in the outer regions of Tibet and Xinjiang, is not for turning.
As June 1989 showed China’s leadership would not give a second thought to spending years in international isolation so long as the Party’s complete domination of the state levers of power continues. Nothing else matters.
Meanwhile, Beijing has at least 6,000 well-trained People’s Liberation Army troops stationed in various barracks around Hong Kong, a useful deployment if over the next few weeks and months the Hong Kong Police Force proves incapable of quelling umbrella revolution protesters, with an increased possibility of the “turmoil” (another favourite word of China’s omnipotent propaganda machine likely to be tossed into the fray in the days and weeks ahead) spreading over the border into mainland China.
Unfortunately for Beijing’s rulers, Hong Kong’s free press, independent judiciary and generally unimpeded education system have given rise to a new breed of unwavering Chinese activists who, brought up to think independently and critically, are determined not only to zealously defend Hong Kong’s basic freedoms of speech, press, assembly, religion – as guaranteed in the Basic Law and related international conventions – but also, confronted with economic marginalisation and assimilation with mainland China, to fight for their own economic survival.
This is just the beginning of the struggle to defend Hong Kong’s distinctiveness, otherwise ‘Asia’s World City’ is in danger of becoming just like any other city in China.
From China (where the masses only get to vote for one party) to Hong Kong (where despite promises of universal suffrage to be introduced in 2017, Hong Kong citizens’ hopes of electing their own Chief Executive by one man one vote is diametrically contrary to the principles of China’s one party authoritarian system. In other words the Chief Executive will always be a hand-picked puppet of Beijing) to Bangkok (at 2.00 am on the 22nd of May,as I was sitting on the airplane in Bangkok Airport during transit Thailand’s military was setting in motion the usurpation of an elected Government, its nineteenth Coup d’Etat) in Dubai (which like China has embraced unbridled capitalism without political freedom), before finally arriving on Tuesday 19th May in an Ireland on the home stretch in the local and European elections campaigns, with the majority of people due to vote three days later.
The last time I voted was in the February 2011 General Election. Following the abysmal mess created by the Fianna Fail / Green Party coalition, I had made a decision to join the Fine Gael Party (I still have the official welcome letter signed by local TD Sean Barrett the Ceann Comhairle, or the speaker of Dáil Éireann). I even met Enda Kenny on his whirlwind visit to Stradbrook Rugby Club to drum up the party faithful Over a cocktail sausage he took my business card, put it inside his breast pocket and said he would be in touch in a few weeks to talk about China (It didn’t register at the time that, although he was to become the next Taoiseach, he was merely just another politician focused on the corridors of power, taking the populist line on anything and everything to get into office).
Anyway, never heard from anyone in Fine Gael again. So be it.
And so to 23rd May.
Should I vote?
Yes. All people have a right to have a say in what is happening in Ireland. The alternative is a China, Hong Kong, Thailand or Dubai. What would happen if everyone decided not to vote? Where would Ireland’s democracy go? Who would run the country? What type of political system would Ireland have?
Does it matter?
Take the France versus Ireland rugby match setting last 15th March in Paris where Ireland, up against a ferocious French onslaught, held on to win 22:20 and be crowned RBS Six Nations Champions. One Irish voice cheering alone wouldn’t have been heard, but when all those Irish fans who travelled to Paris collectively stood and shouted “Come on Ireland!”, then it mattered!
Perhaps my vote on its own isn’t going to matter, but I choose to cast my vote because I support Ireland’s democracy, our ability to elect the people who govern us, our right to be free, and our right to show the Government what we think of them. People power.
Almost 100 years ago, in 1916 a group of Irishmen, including my grandfather, Dr. Michael William O’Reilly, and women stood up to British rule in Ireland and declared an Irish Republic. They were opposed by many of their peers. Seven years later Ireland had a free state. Change can happen.
Around the world on a daily basis people risk their lives by fighting and struggling to earn the right a vote, something which many Irish people take for granted, while past generations of Irishmen and women suffered to get us such a right.
Indifference changes nothing.
Who will I vote for?
It has been a fairly brutal three years since the 2011 general election. Sure after the shambolic financial mess created by the previous Fianna Fail / Green Party Coalition Government, austerity cuts needed to be made.
However, I don’t like the way the country is being fixed. Inflicting crippling austerity, property tax, and water charges, flawed cuts and knee-jerk decisions, instigated by an increasingly aloof Government / political elite, have had a huge negative bearing on the lives of so many ordinary citizens, particularly the middle classes.
I no longer trust the establishment parties and whips that have caused Ireland so much destruction, while Sinn Fein will never get my vote. This time I will have the pleasure of not putting a number beside the Fine Gael and Labour candidates. Instead, I intend to vote for those independent (and People Before Profit) candidates who can really irritate, by constantly nipping at the heels of, the establishment.
It’s time to overhaul what is a worn out political system, but nothing will change if people do not get off their backsides and vote.
… and the opening ‘here we go again’ reactions of Khun Somchai?
ยิ้มแหยะแหยะ “yim yae-yae” : – The “I know things look pretty bad, but there is no point in crying over spilt milk” smile
“… no TV… They plan to bore us to death. But I’ve got tons of books.” (Source: My friend Ataporn Y.)
One of the first acts of the creepy Orwellian-sounding National Peace and Order Maintaining Council (NPOMC), or theMilitary Junta, was to suspend radio and television broadcasting.
ยิ้มสู้“yim soo” :-The “it can’t get any worse than it already is therefore I better smile” smile.
“I think it will be better” (Source: My friend Kitiya K)
… no doubt hoping with this nineteenth military coup since 1932 that the end-game of the political crisis which has paralysed Thailand‘s political system is now in play.
Unfortunately, with Thailand now being controlled by a council of unelected officials, the illusion that what you wish for becomes true in this instance doesn’t augur well.
ยิ้มคัดค้าน “yim thak thaan” :– The “I disagree with you” smile.
Largely rural and working-class Red Shirts are not in any mood for compromise, once again feeling embittered that their popular mandate and Thailand‘s democracy have been stolen without elections, while the military junta will very likely suppress any defiance with force.
Within the near-term quietness it seems the risks to Thailand are intensifying.
Watching this Government’s growing sense of self-importance is quite amazing, in fact galling.
It is appalling to see the way the political supporters of successful parties line up at the trough for governmental patronage. Yet, when asked hard-hitting questions the conceited body language of Kenny, Gilmore, Hogan, Reilly, Howlin, Shatter, and Varadkar says everything: Unapproachable and increasingly remote from anyone who does not toe their line – which is probably a clear majority of our ‘spoilt for choice’ (not!) electorate.
At the end of the day when all is said and done these condescending characters are no different to the Fianna Fail /Progressive Democrats cohort when they were in power: Had they been in power under the influence of ‘Celtic Tiger’ excess, in all probability they would have crafted the same runaway train.
Before these unfriendly Government ministers utterly lose the run of themselves it is worth remembering that the politicians that the public likes best are not the arrogant, big-headed, pompous ones, but the human ones, those politicians who understand the very real challenges that so many missing-in-action voters, young and old, face every day.
Without the electorate these people are just tin gods.
Discussion paper presented by Niall O’Reilly at 6th International ‘Life & Development Forum’ – “We Make Life Better – Hangzhou, White Horse Lake Jianguo Hotel , November 8-9, 2013.
Sustainable development is a continuous, guided process of economic, environmental and social change aimed at promoting the well-being of citizens now and in the future. To realise this requires creating a sustainable and resource efficient economy founded on a fair and just society, which respects the ecological limits and carrying capacity of the natural environment (Source: Wikipedia)
In 2013, the economic situation in Ireland is dramatically different to the earlier part of the last decade, when Ireland was known as The Celtic Tiger. Measured against the standard indicators of GDP, and GNP – trends for economic development, new housing output, tax revenues, and employment levels have dropped sharply.
We have also seen rising unemployment, a banking crisis and a collapse in the property market after a sustained, if unsustainable, boom in the property market. A number of factors drove these unsustainable trends, including: rapid growth in employment, large scale inward migration (annual immigration rose sharply from 52,600 persons in 2000 to peak at 109,500 in 2007) (2), rapid natural population growth (17% increase between 1996 and 2006), fiscal incentives for the construction sector, rising car ownership and weakness in the strategic approach to spatial planning.
At a time of rapidly rising prosperity and development, the existing structures and controls were not strong enough to withstand the pressures that unavoidably arose.
This legacy leaves Ireland facing huge challenges in the period ahead, challenges that are all the more serious when set against the backdrop of a global economic downturn.
The sustainability pressures on the economy continue to be high and while some progress has been made, there is still a distance to travel before Ireland can fully remove itself from what is the most serious fiscal and economic crisis in the history of the Republic of Ireland.
In meeting the challenge, the Irish Government is implementing a radical Framework for Sustainable Development for Ireland – a national recovery agenda, which seeks to integrate sustainable development principles into policy making across all sectors, for the purpose of stimulating:
the transformation of public services
economic growth based on knowledge and innovation
an inclusive, high employment society
a greener low carbon economy
and a good quality natural and built-environment so that Ireland can once again prosper on a competitive global stage.
Lessons must be learnt from Ireland’s recent experience and Ireland will have to ensure structures and systems are put in place that are strong enough to survive periods of pressure which might threaten to weaken sustainable growth and fiscal stability.
It is widely accepted that economic growth, social unity and environmental protection are equally important targets for meeting the prime objective of delivering well-being in a diverse multi-cultured society that promotes participation, a society in which everyone takes responsibility for the environment.
While the establishment of a more sustainable pattern of development for Ireland is one of the key challenges of government and ultimately for society, there is also a clear consensus that a return to ‘business as usual’ is not an option.
At a global level there is a growing consensus that the world’s systems of production and consumption cannot be sustained without posing a huge threat to the environment and to human health. Water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, resource depletion and irreversible biodiversity loss are problems that have to be tackled as a matter of priority.
Consensus is now focusing around the need to put economies on a more sustainable, green growth path on the basis that the cost of sustaining biodiversity and ecosystem services is lower than the cost of allowing biodiversity and ecosystem services to decline.
For Ireland ‘green growth’ and the ‘green economy’ are now fundamental aspects of Government policy as the country shifts away from the ‘brown economy’ on the road to becoming a low-carbon, competitive, resource efficient and climate resilient country, policy which will ultimately improve its citizens’ well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.
Economic, environmental and social progress are mutually related.
Ireland’s Framework for Sustainable Development
This Framework contains measures to help meet the overall goal of achieving continuous improvement of quality of life both for current and for future generations.
The following set of 7 principles for sustainable development are the central aspects of this Framework for Sustainable Development for Ireland:
In relation to “economy”, the principle seeks “to promote an innovative, competitive and low carbon economy with the aim of achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” and to reduce pressure on natural resources
In relation to “satisfaction of human needs by the efficient use of resources” the key objectives are that:
(a) “Prices should reflect the real costs to society of production and consumption activities and polluters should pay for the damage they cause to human health and the environment”
(b) “The needs of current generations should be addressed without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs”
(c) “Resources should be used within the capacity for regeneration”
3. In relation to “respect for ecological integrity and biodiversity” the Framework seeks to ensure that “the abundance of wildlife and extent of habitats should be maintained, improved and restored where necessary, through sustainable management”
4. In relation to “social equity” the main principle is that “social inclusion should be promoted to ensure an improved quality of life for all”
5. In relation to “respect for cultural heritage and diversity” the Framework will ensure that “the quality of landscapes, the heritage of the man-made environment and historic and cultural resources should be maintained and improved”.
6. In relation to “Equity between countries and regions” Ireland will:
(a) “promote fundamental rights, by combating all forms of discrimination and contributing to the reduction of poverty”
(b) “promote consistency between local, regional, national, European Union (EU) and global actions in order to increase their contribution to sustainable development”
7. The 7th and final theme of Ireland’s Framework for Sustainable Development relates to good “decision-making”. In this regard, the framework will aim to:
(a) Guarantee citizens’ rights of access to information and public participation procedures.
(b) Ensure citizens’ access to review mechanisms.
(c) Develop adequate consultation with all interested parties, including citizens, businesses and social partners (such as trade unions), and develop participatory channels for all such interested parties.
Of course there are challenges.
Ireland’s Sustainable Development Framework catagorises 12 the key challenges under the following themes:
Sustainability of public finances and economic resilience.
Sustainable consumption and production.
Conservation and management of natural resources.
Climate change and clean energy.
Social inclusion, sustainable communities and spatial planning.
Education, communication and behaviour change.
Innovation, research and development
Skills and training
The 12th challenge is how to address global poverty and sustainable development.
I will now briefly explain Government-led initiatives regarding two of these themes: sustainable transport and public health
Smarter Travel – A Sustainable Transport Future
Transport, which is a key element of a sustainable development strategy, should be closely aligned to land use planning and the need to create more sustainable communities.
Sustainable transport is central to Ireland’s efforts to combat climate change, air pollution and other negative environmental and social impacts.
Transport trends in Ireland from the mid 1990’s onwards are unsustainable. The main problems associated with transport in Ireland are:
Rising pollution – greenhouse gases and particular air pollutants which are detrimental to health and the environment such as nitrous oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Increasing congestion on roads that lengthens journey times, adversely impacts on family, leisure time, and community life, contributes to the growing problem of obesity, and adds to pollution and costs at many levels including affecting Ireland’s national competitiveness. In Ireland there is a clear appetite to abandon the car for commuter driver, if only this were practical.
Safety also remains a key issue despite the steadily decreasing numbers of road deaths.
In addition, a key characteristic that distinguishes energy use in transport in Ireland is the almost total dependence on oil as a fuel and on import dependency, over 99% in both cases.
Without intervention, congestion will get worse, economic competitiveness will suffer, quality of life will deteriorate and carbon emissions from the transport sector will grow.
In order to achieve a sustainable travel and transport system by 2020, Ireland needs to change its unsustainable behaviour and habits as a nation and as individuals.
Sustainable and smarter transport measures currently being implemented by the Government under the Framework for Sustainable Development are set out in four key goals:
Goal 1 – to “reduce overall travel demand and the distance traveled by private car” and encourage smarter travel, including
focusing population and employment growth in sustainable compact forms, which reduce the need to travel for employment and services
using pricing mechanisms or fiscal measures to encourage behaviour change and discourage people from using the car unnecessarily.
Goal 2 – to “maximise the efficiency of the transport network” by ensuring that alternatives to the car are more widely available mainly through a radically improved public transport service and investment in cycling and walking.
Goal 3 – to reduce reliance on foss1il fuels and emissions by improving the fuel efficiency of motorised transport through
improved fleet structure
energy efficient driving
Goal 4 – to improve accessibility to transport.
To achieve these goals the Government is pursuing a number of key targets such as:
Dramatically improving the placement of spatial and transport planning to stop urban sprawl, and urban-generated one-off housing in non-urban areas
Encouraging e-working through better broadband provision
500,000 more people will take alternative means to commute to work (200,000 people will switch to cycling and walking) to the extent that the total share of car commuting will drop from 65% to 45%
Alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport will be supported and provided to the extent that these will rise to 55% of total commuter journeys to work
The total kilometres travelled by the car fleet in 2020 will not increase significantly from current levels
A reduction will be achieved on the 2005 figure for greenhouse gas emissions from the transport
These key targets are ambitious. However, they are necessary to improve the quality of life of Ireland’s citizens, to secure future energy supply, and to ensure that the transport sector substantially reduces greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the need for all developed nations to do so. These targets represent a complete turnaround in the current trends. They mean that the Irish public must radically alter how they travel, and that Government priorities in the transport sector must move towards more sustainable modes.
Smarter Travel and Sustainable Transport Ideas:
Specification of a maximum permitted level of car parking for Government offices and commercial sites, which have suitable public transport facilities and are within walking/ cycling distance to amenities
The adoption of flexible working policies. The Government has provided leadership in promoting such flexible policies in the public sector
Ensuring that every school and college in Ireland has a school travel plan to encourage students to take alternatives to the car.
Government commitment to a culture of walking in Ireland
A car-sharing website which will help employers to encourage such initiatives in the workforce.
One smart-card to pay for all forms of public transport
Conversion of taxi and public bus fleet to alternative fuels.
A Healthy Ireland
Public health protection is an essential goal for society in delivering well-being and quality of life. Ireland has made significant progress in regard to the health of its population, but some key challenges remain.
The rise in life expectancy in Ireland during the past decade has been unmatched by any other country in Europe with the greatest gains in the older age groups reflecting decreasing mortality rates from major diseases.
In fact, the most important statistic from a health perspective is the number of people over the age of 65 which is projected to increase from over 500,000 now to over 1,300,000 in the next 30 years with the greatest proportional increases occurring in the 85+ age group.
However, Ireland’s ageing population, together with negative trends in obesity (60% of adults are obese), diet, exercise and other risk factors – such as smoking [6,000 deaths a year), and alcohol abuse (related road accidents cost over Euro 600 million a year) means that the level of chronic health conditions will certainly increase.
In addition, there are a range of social determinants of health, for example social exclusion, education, health services, the built environment and lifestyle choices:
People who are less well off or who belong to socially excluded groups tend to fare badly in relation to these social determinants
A healthy environment is also absolutely linked to the health of Ireland’s population which relies for survival on clean air and water and the crops we are able to grow in uncontaminated soil. Public amenities such as forest parks provide opportunities for recreation and add to our understanding of the environment thus supporting healthier lifestyles while contributing to our well-being.
The Irish Government’s Healthy Ireland frameworkis about taking important steps towards making Ireland a healthier and more prosperous country in which the whole population enjoys the best possible health and well-being.
It is designed to include Government Departments, local authorities and public bodies, businesses and employers, sports and voluntary groups, communities and families.
Initiatives within the Healthy Ireland Framework have four goals:
Goal 1: Increase the proportion of people who are healthy at all stages of life:
This means addressing risk factors and promoting protective factors at every stage of life – from pre-natal, through early childhood, adolescence, adulthood and into old age, to support lifelong health and well-being.
Initiatives in this context include:
Increasing the number of adults (by 5%) and children (6%) with a healthy weight by 2019
Increasing by 20% the proportion of adults eating the recommended five or more servings of fruit and vegetables per day
Reducing smoking among young people by 1% a year
Decreasing levels of self-harm across all life stages
Increasing by 20% of proportion of the population undertaking regular physical activity
Goal 2: Reduce health inequalities:
Health and well-being are not evenly distributed across Irish society. This goal requires not only interventions to target particular health risks, but also a broad focus on addressing the wider social determinants of health – the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work and age – to create economic, social, cultural and physical environments that foster healthy living.
Initiatives in this context include:
Increasing the ‘stay at school’ rates of students in second-level schools
Reducing the % of the population in consistent poverty from current 6% to 2% or less by 2020.
Increasing self-reported happiness and well-being across socio-economic groups.
Goal 3: Protect the public from threats to health and well-being:
The Healthy Ireland Framework is designed to ensure effective strategies and interventions to protect the public from new and emerging threats to health and well-being are implemented. Being prepared to prevent, respond to, and rapidly recover from public health threats through collaborative working is critical for protecting and securing the population’s health.
Initiatives in this context include:
Increasing immunization rates for children to 95% uptake
Reducing prevalence of food-borne infections in compliance with Ireland and EU legislation
Complying with indicators defined in International Health Regulations, World Health Organisation (WHO).
Goal 4: Create an environment where every individual and sector of society can play their part in achieving a Healthy Ireland:
It is beyond the capability of any one Government Department or organisation to promote society-wide health and well-being. This can only be done through society-wide involvement in and engagement with health and well-being promotion and improvement activities – from individuals making positive lifestyle choices and projects run by community and local groups, to policy and legislative changes at the highest level of government.
Initiatives in this context include:
Establishing key indicators measuring the level, range and effectiveness of cross government collaboration and effectiveness of structures.
Increasing percentage of people participating in informal, unpaid charitable work.
The current health status of people living in Ireland, lifestyle trends and inequalities in health outcomes are leading Ireland toward a future that is dangerously unhealthy and very likely unaffordable. The work that is underway to build a health service that is accessible and fair will only succeed if Ireland builds an environment that supports people and their families to lead healthier lifestyles.
Evidence and experience from around the world clearly shows that to create positive and sustainable change in health and well-being, it takes the involvement of the whole community, the whole of Government, all of society working in unison.
In conclusion, having endured the worst crisis in the history of the Republic of Ireland, by placing Sustainable Development as a critical component in Ireland’s Agenda for National Recovery the Government is clearly focused on pursuing coherent policies and sustainable actions for the health and well-being of the country’s most valuable asset: Its people.
Given Ireland’s present economic condition investment in the necessary infrastructure elements of the Framework for Sustainable Development will be challenging. However, the real challenge is to change mindsets, so that Ireland’s institutions and individual citizens realise the benefits from altering their behaviour for the common good.
Managing Director, Accurate Group Ireland China Market Makers (Route to Market, Export, Import, Partner Due Diligence)
Doubtless a political elite that has sapped the moral fibre of our nation and is so divorced from the reality of life under the economic hardship that has befallen so many of our citizens will angrily deny the following:
“Our “Great Little Nation” is increasingly being run in an authoritarian, secretive and anti-democratic style which has nothing to do with the sense of pride and moral virtue that propelled the vision of our founding fathers to build an independent Irish state established on sound democratic principles…
… The reality is what it is.. There are a lot of smart people in this country who feel completely alienated by the Establishment because they dare to think ‘out of the box’.. People like the writer of this Irish Times article. We read, we rant, we argue, and our elite chuckle away. The Establishment has never felt threatened and they don’t feel threatened now. Because the system they have created is so watertight there is little possibility of systemic change to the way our country operates.”
Habemus Papam (We have a Pope!) 我们有一个新主席 (We have a new President!)
Within 24 hours of each other two men assumed centre stage as leaders of the two greatest populations on our planet: In the Sistine Chapel Pope Francis – Jesuit Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires – was elected the 266th pope and head of 1.2 billion Catholics (and Sovereign of the Vatican State), while inside Beijing’s Great Hall of the PeopleChinese Communist Party (CPC) leader Xi Jinping became the seventh President of the People’s Republic of China, ruling over 1.4 billion people.
China and the Vatican have had no official relations since 1951 – for 71 years, the Vatican has maintained diplomatic relations with the Republic of China, as Taiwan is formally known – and yet even with the uneasy relationship between China and the Catholic Church both newly appointed leaders actually have quite a bit in common. For instance:
Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing will rule over populations experiencing remarkable transformation, in which ‘21st century’-minded reformists and historical followers are losing faith – growing increasingly skeptical and critical of what they view as obsolete and outmoded traditional methods of governance and doctrine. However, there are still many conservatives within the Catholic Church and China who for the most part are opposed to reform, preferring to maintain the status quo and keep things the way they are.
Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing will lead hugely powerful and rich institutions whose very raison d’êtres are concern for the marginalised and disadvantaged, but whose supporting structures benefit from levels of advantage undreamed of by most of those they are meant to be serving. Both therefore want to be seen as thrifty, humble and genuinely concerned with the plight of the vulnerable and tackling the causes of poverty.
– By choosing the name synonymous with the self-denial and poverty of the revered 13th Century preacher and friar, Italy’s patron saint Saint Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis, the son of an immigrant railway worker, already known for his humility, selflessness, and championing of the poor and vulnerable, signaled his intention to place the plight of the poor and marginalized at the heart of his papacy.
– Despite his celebrated family ties to the CPC hierarchy, being the son of veteran revolutionary Xi Zhongxun (the reforming architect of China’s Special Economic Zones), at the age of 15, during the tumultuous Cultural Revolution he was part of a work brigade sent down by the CPC to the countryside village of Liangjiahe, an insignificant cave dwelling community located in remote and desolate yellow soiled mountains of Shaanxi province in northern China, to serve and learn from the grassroots. There he made a cave his home, patiently “ate bitterness (吃了苦头) like the rest of us (villagers)” Source: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/feb/11/world/la-fg-china-xi-20120212 , and laboured the yellow earth for seven years. Aligned with his rise as paramount leader, Xi Jinping has gone to considerable lengths to reconnect with such formative years by cultivating an image as a man of the grassroots who prefers frugality, humility and self-reliance. Recently, in the run-up to his inauguration as President he vehemently spoken out against extravagance while underlining the need to close China’s yawning income disparities and pull its poor people out of poverty.
Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing both need to address damaging scandals caused by abuses of power and discord among their membership ranks that threaten the very fabric of their organisations. Pope Francis needs to tackle the series of detrimental moral and financial disgraces involving the Vatican administration, Cardinals and other clerics that have afflicted the Catholic Church for years. Xi Jinping’s pressing task is to tackle unchecked corruption among officials that is eroding trust and belief in the CPC. Leadership changes at the top of Catholic Church and CPC have raised the hope that at last meaningful reform and revitalization is on the way. The future cohesiveness of both organisations lies in whether Pope Francis and Xi Jinping can successfully reverse the rot.
Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing are both known to be unwavering traditionalists on key issues.
– Those amongst the burgeoning middle classes in China who like to think that Xi Jinping’s accession to the seat of power is going to result in a wave of political reforms will be sorely disappointed. Holding a doctorate in Marxist theory and ideological education from Tsinghua University’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and as a former President of the CPC Central Party School, Xi Jinping is believed to hold much more conservative views than his father Xi Zhongxun (who expressed his opposition to the nature of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 4th June 1989), a supporter of former ‘liberal’ CPC General Secretary Hu Yaobang. In speeches Xi has frequently called on rising cadres to immerse themselves in Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought, declaring that political morality, “Marxist rectitude” and loyalty to the CPC are more important than professional competence. Source: “PLA Gains Clout: Xi Jinping Elevated to CMC Vice-Chairman,” China Brief, October 23, 2010. He was also an avowed supporter of the ‘Chongqing Model’ for upholding “core socialist norms”. Source: People’s Daily, December 13, 2010; Sina.com, December 10, 2010. [Note: The Chongqing Model was the series of social and economic policies adopted by Bo Xilai, the Chongqing CPC Chief, which epitomised increased state control and the promotion of a neo-leftist ideology. Following Bo’s removal in March 2012 the policies were either discontinued or scaled back.]
Pope Francis and President Xi JinPing were appointed to power through a guarded process in which the only persons who were allowed to participate were old men who are fully dedicated to the cause they stand for.
In terms of the likelihood of the Vatican one day switching its affiliation to Beijing, the similarities between the two established leaders as described above are cosmetic at best. Despite the growing appetite for spiritual values within mainland China’s officially atheist population, there is little prospect the CPC will recognise a foreign pope, rather than the secular Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, as the leader of all Chinese Catholics. Besides faced with momentous internal challenges both the Pope Francis and President Xi Jinping will be too focused on ensuring the survival and prosperity of their own increasingly unmanageable institutions to care.
…..Or at least that’s what reading between the lines would appear to reveal as being the over-riding objective. Today in an address to the European Parliament’s International Trade CommitteeRichard Bruton TD, Ireland’s Minister of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, stated:
“..It was evident at the last Summit that there is considerable richness and potential in our relationship with China. We would like to prepare the ground for the next summit so that the conditions would be ripe to launch negotiations for a landmark investment agreement with market access..”
The paragraph immediately preceding this statement refers to FTA [Free Trade Agreement] negotiations with Japan and India, while further down in his speech the Minister speaks of FTAs with individual ASEAN members.
While the specific language used in relation to China talks about “…a landmark investment agreement with market access..”, given the overall context in which the speech was made, the implication is clear – an FTA between the EU (European Union), China’s largest tradingpartner, and China is the ultimate goal. Such an objective marks a hugely significant turning point in the development of the EU’s China engagement strategy: Marriage is on the cards.
The visit to Ireland in February 2012 by paramount leader General Secretary Xi Jinping, which was hastily followed up by Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny‘s return trip to Beijing the following month, not only demonstrates that China, the EU’s second largest tradingpartner, would make for an eager marriage companion, but it also signifies China backing for Ireland’s unilateral embracement of the role of EU–China marriage maker as a key feature of its Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Given Minister Bruton’s speech to European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, the acknowledgement by General Secretary Xi Jinping at his March 2012 reunion with Taoiseach Enda Kenny in Beijing that …
“… The development of China-Ireland relations can serve as a driving force in boosting China-Europe ties..”
Going forward, Ireland’s eager and unilateral adoption of the role of ‘marriage maker’ would seem to indicate a future political relationship with Beijing deriving far more economic benefit to the country than its trading relationship.
As noted in the Accurate China Insight dated 20th November :
“…Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of The European Union provides a fantastic opportunity for Ireland to yet again punch above its weight in the eyes of China’s leaders and media……. Moreover, EU-China -related summits in Ireland will provide Europeans with their first real chance to measure the mind-set of China‘s new leadership towards its biggest trading partner…”
The power to sink the grand European Union Project. 3 million Irish voters, the only country in the EU voting on the Lisbon Treaty, a watered-down version of the European Constitution, voted on June 12th. A “No” vote, or a turnout of less than 40%, warned the “establishment” parties and social partners, would bury the Treaty and plunge the EU into crisis. A decision with huge consequences for Ireland and the EU, vote “Yes” the “establishment” said.
As in no way! So Dustin the Turkey, Ireland’s 2008 Eurovision Song Contest entry [see my earlier blog: http://nialloreilly.spaces.live.com/blog/cns!5772D98ABC777E23!2410.entry] really did catch the national pulse when he called the Lisbon Treaty [a watered down version of the European Constitution] “gobbledegook”, while our politicians and social partners have proved they are so completely out of touch with their people that it has gone beyond a joke……… It’s difficult to imagine a more out of touch political class.
No amount of back-pedaling by any politician representing the “establishment” parties, or government spin will get Ireland out of the mess they have placed the country in, and what a mess it is… Despite what the politicians will say, this vote against the Lisbon Treaty was as clear an anti-political establishment vote as there ever was. It was also a tipping point when the Irish electorate appreciated that all is not well with the economy and wanted to express this. Now we are all asking: if the Government is not able to understand what the people are afraid of in voting ‘no’, do we think they have the cop on, wherewithal, to fire up the country to face the huge economic challenges of the next few years? Will they make a mess of that too?
While the vote shows the self-confidence of the Irish electorate, and that democracy is alive and well in Ireland, Europe’s 480,000 million citizens may well ask how 800,000 Irish voters managed to wreck their grandiose European Union Project to have a President of Europe, lessen the power of the EU’s smaller member states, and have a stronger foreign and defense policy (which us neutral Irish saw as meaning further militarization), even if they weren’t allowed to hold referendums in their own countries. Voters in France and the Netherlands had already voted against earlier versions of the Lisbon Treaty.
Well fellow Europeans, our ‘no’ vote was not anti-Europe. Everyone in Ireland knows how much we have benefited from, and positively contributed to, our membership of the EU. Ireland’s loyalty to the EU is and never has been in question. We all recognize the importance of being at the centre of Europe, and its contribution to peace on our island.
However, the Lisbon Treaty document was incomprehensible. It was manufactured by the European Commission to prevent electorates around Europe from having a say in it, leaving it to the various parliaments to rubber stamp. In Ireland the Lisbon Treaty required a change to the Irish Constitution and under such circumstances a referendum must be held. We were the only electorate given the opportunity to read the document and make a considered judgement. And what we saw and heard was way too complicated. We just didn’t understand it. Even our Prime Minister admitted to not having read the full document. If any other EU member’s electorate had had a chance to read and try to understand the document they too would have rejected it. As such, given the circumstances, the obvious course to take is if you don’t know, vote ‘No’.
Looking back at the Lisbon Treaty debates from my China pedestal it was clear from the beginning of the campaign that the “establishment” parties were unable to truthfully, frankly, and intelligibly tell the people what was involved, instead telling them to place their in the politicians to tell the people what was good for them and just say Yes, which is tantamount to bullying, making it all the more remarkable that under such circumstances the electorate had the courage to vote ‘no’.
The reality is that the ‘no’ vote will not make the slightest bit of difference to the machinery of the EU as it operates today.
So, what next? The EU asks Ireland to vote again? Not exactly the best way to enhance the EU’s reputation for democratic responsibility, while voices in Ireland saying that the EU doesn’t understand the word “no” would only grow louder. And if the Prime Minister went down the same root he would be taking a serious political risk, if he lasts that long. Tis a Great Little Nation our Ireland. Indeed it is. Unlucky Friday 13th: The ‘Yes’ side should have listened to Dustin. The Lisbon Treaty is dead.
Gobbledegook: The language of turkeys and technocrats; unitelligible, jargon-laden, and nonsensical language with a sound that resembles language but has no meaning.