Taiwan

Protesters surround Taiwan parliament

Some 30,000 Taiwanese demonstrators surrounded the Legislative Yuan, the island's parliament, on May 21, one day after Lai Ching-te (William Lai) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was sworn in as president. They were protesting against the legislative majority's attempts to enact new laws they say would unconstitutionally limit the power of the executive. Three days before the inauguration, physical conflict broke out among lawmakers on floor of the Legislative Yuan, with five briefly hospitalized. At the center of the controversy is a measure to create the new criminal offense of "contempt of the legislature," imposing penalties even on the president for failure to cooperate with Yuan investigations.

Tuvalu regains full sovereignty over security relations

Australia and Tuvalu released a joint statement May 9 announcing new commitments to improve security relations, and remove the veto power Australia previously had over the small island nation's security relations with other countries. The announcement concerned implementation and interpretation of the Falepili Union, a bilateral treaty entered into on Nov. 9, 2023, which expands upon the Australia-Tuvalu Security Partnership Memorandum of Understanding of 2017. "Falepili" is a Tuvaluan term for neighbors, which the treaty says "embodies the values underpinning the deeper partnership, including care and mutual respect."

Podcast: geopolitics of the Barbie affair

In Episode 181 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the strange reality that the Barbie move has been banned in Vietnam over a brief image of a world map appearing to show the "nine-dash line" demarcating China's unilaterally claimed territory in the South China Sea. While US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan has won headlines recently, Beijing's maritime dispute with Hanoi holds unsettling potential for escalation. In a nearly surreal paradox (for those who remember their history) Vietnam has actually been tilting to the US in the new cold war with China. It has also been increasingly resorting to internal police-state measures to protect the interests of foreign capital in the country. All of this constitutes a rebuke both to the neoliberals, who cling to the discredited dogma that "free markets" inevitably lead to peace and democracy, and to the tankies, who rally around both the regimes in Beijing and Hanoi, in defiance of political reality. 

Oil contracts at issue in Somaliland conflict?

Fighting continues in Somalia's northern breakaway state of Somaliland, where three eastern administrative regions—Sool, Sanaag, and Aynaba—have taken up arms in a bid to rejoin the internationally recognized Mogadishu government. Somaliland accuses the neighboring autonomous region of Puntland and the government of Ethiopia (which is officially attempting to broker a dialogue in the conflict) of intervening on the side of the re-integrationist rebels, who are headquartered in the town of Las Anod, Sool region. Somaliland has been effectively independent since 1991, and has seen a more stable and secular social order than the regions controlled by the Mogadishu government.

Taiwan extends military conscription period

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Dec. 27 announced a plan to strengthen and restructure the nation's military defense strategies, including extending the mandatory conscription period from four months to one year. Beginning in 2024, all males born after Jan. 1, 2005, will need to undergo a year-long period of military service. In light of China's expansionist military activities in the South China Sea and the firing of ballistic missiles into waters off Taiwan this year, Tsai stressed the need for Taiwan to be well-prepared for war as a means to avoid confrontation. "The decision is a difficult one, but as the head of the military and for the continued survival of Taiwan, this is an inevitable responsibility," Tsai said.

Roger Waters: another brick in the war propaganda

In Episode 140 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out former Pink Floyd creative genius Roger Waters as a propaganda agent for the criminal regimes of Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Bashar Assad. In his recent CNN interview, Waters blames Ukraine for getting invaded, falsely states that "Taiwan is part of China," and dismisses as "bollocks" that there are human rights abuses in China. He has the unmitigated chutzpah to send an open letter on social media to Ukrainian First Lady Elena Zelenska urging her to use her influence on her husband to "end the war"—to which she rightly responds: "If we give up, we will not exist tomorrow. If Russia gives up, war will be over." We've noted before Roger's spewing of genocide-abetting denialism about the Syria chemical attacks. And he disses his own fans who don't go along with his war propaganda. Roger Waters has become the fascist rock star he once satirized in The Wall. The public acrimony between Waters and his ex-bandmate David Gilmour has now become political, with Gimour's release (under the banner of Pink Floyd) of the song "Hey Hey, Rise Up," explicitly in support of Ukraine. David Gilmour is right, while Roger Waters is now just another brick in the wall.

Taiwan expands rights for indigenous peoples

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Aug. 3, speaking at an Indigenous Rights Forum in Taipei held to mark Indigenous Peoples' Day, pledged new measures to protect and promote the languages, cultures and territorial rights of the island nation's Aboriginal communities. Tsai noted that the new Indigenous Peoples Basic Act seeks to bring Taiwanese law and policy into conformity with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and calls for re-assigning the country's place names to reflect Aboriginal languages. Her office has established a Transitional Justice Committee to oversee implementation of the law in collaboration with Aboriginal communities.

Honduras transition in the New Cold War

Hondurans last month elected Xiomara Castro of the left-populist LIBRE Party to be the country's first woman president, defeating Nasry Asfura of the conservative National Party. Taking office next month, Castro is to replace the National Party's President Juan Orlando Hernández, whose term has been plagued by scandal and accusations of ties to narco-trafficking. The wife of Manuel Zelaya, the populist president who was removed in a coup in 2009, Castro seems poised to revive his program—and take it much further.  "Never again will the power be abused in this country," she declared upon her victory. She has proclaimed herself a "democratic socialist," and pledges to govern through a new model of "participatory democracy," placing a series of reforms before the voters through referenda or "consultas."

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