Sunday, October 9, 2011

Century of progress seen at anniversary of 1911 revolution

China held a commemorative ceremony in Beijing this morning to mark the centennial anniversary of the Revolution of 1911 (or Xinhai Revolution), which ended imperial rule in China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao, former president Jiang Zemin and other leaders attended the ceremony, where Hu delivered a speech to highly praise the revolution and Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the leader of the historic event.

"The revolution was a thoroughly modern, national and democratic revolution which shook the world and ushered in unprecedented social changes in China," he commented in his speech.

The country also saw series of commemorative events held nationwide and overseas, including functions at embassies in Mongolia, North Korea, Brazil and Vietnam, art and photo exhibitions in Wuhan, Nanjing and Chengdu, and the opening of Xinhai Revolution museums in Guangzhou and Wuhan,. A number of movies with related historical content also hit cinemas during Golden Week (October 1-7).

The People's Daily, a newspaper owned by the Communist Party of China (CPC), said in its editorial that the Xinhai Revolution unshackled Chinese people's minds from feudalist ideas and caused the ideas of democracy and equality to be deeply rooted into the country. "Brains and knees are not for kneeling and kowtowing, but for thinking and advancing," the paper added concisely.

The revolution no doubt prepared the country economically and ideologically for the birth of the CPC and for the dissemination of socialism across the country in order to save the nation and its people, the Daily said.

Fei Zhengqing, a renowned scholar in China, asserted that the new political body established after the revolution was nothing but a thin skin which only served as a coating of old China and failed to affect ordinary people and society. His statement has been echoed by some foreign analysts, who stated that the new political system was just a vapid replica of foreign politics, which did not have a root in China's history and tradition or in the soil of society.

The CPC united the vast majority of Chinese people to found the present republic and led the country into a new historic era. Through over three decades of development via reform and opening up, China has found the correct path -- socialism with Chinese characteristics -- to rejuvenate the country, according to the paper.

The path is based on historical lessons and experiences, Hu said, adding that "This path accords with China's realities and the demands of the times, and conforms to the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the Chinese people and the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation."

Before the revolution, Chinese people were unable to stop the government in power from making poor decisions; unfortunately, after the revolution they also failed to immediately establish a political system based on democracy. The transit itself was too unstable to constitute any fundamental change. The very point of today's commemoration was reflection and self-examination, not just to hold a ceremony, commented The Beijing News.

"I think the fundamental meaning of Xinhai Revolution is that it swung the doors of democracy and freedom open to Chinese people," said Comrade Gufeng, a web blogger.

Another microblogger posted that the toppling of the Qing Dynasty brought China the power of hope, and that the zeal of revolutionists gave Chinese people spiritual power. However, according to the post, its limitations and eventual failure have taught the Chinese the importance and strength of the correct ideology and the people's interests. "We should learn from these lessons and avoid similar mistakes," the post said.

Taiwan also had celebrations commemorating the anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, as it coincided with the founding of the Republic of China - a name still used by Taiwan's Kuomindang (KMT). The ROC was the ruling government on the Chinese mainland for several decades before KMT moved to Taiwan in the 1940s. In this vein, the Xinhai Revolution remains a symbol of the shared legacy between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

President Hu said efforts are needed to strengthen the political common ground of opposing "Taiwan independence" and upholding the 1992 Consensus.

He said, "We should . . . end cross-Straits antagonism, heal wounds of the past and work together to achieve the great rejuvenation of the entire Chinese nation," echoing the goals of Dr. Sun Yat-sen and other pioneers of the revolution.

The grand events held on the Chinese mainland attracted the attention of media across the strait.

A veteran journalist, Yu Xuan, told the Global Times that the common commemoration of the revolution, despite the different names and forms, expresses a similar way of thinking among the two sides and a common sense of glory.

The Taiwan United Daily News reported that the Chinese mainland has aimed at establishing a common ground for cross-strait exchanges and at finding consensus on the notion of nationality.

The Hong Kong Mingpao Daily News said the events show the mainland's understanding of the principles of the Xinhai Revolution, as free and open academic discussion of the event was encouraged and an emphasis on consensus was shown with regard to cross-straits relations.

Wall Street protesters : We can take down US fat cats!

Protestors gather in London to mark 10 years of Afghan war

Protestors gathered in the Trafalgar Square to mark 10 years of the war in Afghanistan, while calling on the British government to withdraw troops from the country immediately.
The Stop The War Coalition said up to 5,000 people, including musicians, actors, film-makers and lawmakers at the Anti-war Mass Assembly joined the anti-war activities, and headed along Whitehall towards the Downing Street.
"After 10 years of war in Afghanistan, more than 100,000 NATO troops remain and tens of thousands have died," a spokesman for the Stop The War coalition noted.
"The government claims that the war is contributing to Britain's stability look increasingly hollow," he said.

"Opinion polls suggest the majority of Britons want a speedy withdrawal of British troops. Politicians have to get in step with public opinion and announce a date to bring troops home," he added.

Demonstrators also held a ceremony to read out 120 names of British soldiers and Afghan civilians who have died in the 10 years since the war began, and the same number of balloons was released.

Until now, the number of British military deaths in operations in Afghanistan stands at 382.

Women still sidelined in Saudia Arabia

While charitable observers say the king's decision to allow women to vote emanates from liberalism, the real motivation is the monarchy's fears over the regional anti-authoritarian upheaval.

All Hail King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques! The monarch of Saudi Arabia is a great and generous man, who not only supplies the world with his land's precious black crude (at cartel-inflated prices ), but one who deeply cares for his people. Occasionally, out of the goodness of his heart, he will pardon a rape victim from flogging. Last week, he canceled a ruling that would have seen a woman lashed 10 times for the grave offense of driving a car. The king must be going soft. After all, by being raped and sitting behind the steering wheel, these uncouth women have "dishonored" their families.

To fully appreciate the king's liberalism, witness his latest announcement, made before the Shura council of advisers. "We refuse to marginalize the role of women in Saudi society," the king declared. And so he took the bold step of granting his women (the possessive pronoun is crucial; neither Saudi women, nor men, are "citizens" in the true sense of the word ) the right to vote - in meaningless municipal elections, in 2015, and only if they receive the permission of a male relative.

That last condition has gone practically unreported in the international media, which have covered these latest developments with the sort of gravity that is reserved for actual, people-driven upheavals in the rest of the Arab world. Indeed, one could be mistaken for thinking that King Abdullah is a genuine reformer, given all the favorable attention he has received of late.

Last December, Businessweek praised the king as a "vigorous and progressive leader." A writer for the Global Post website, prompted by the king's recent announcement, says that Abdullah is leader of the "progressive faction of the ruling family" (presumably, that's the one that favors mere lashings, as opposed to decapitation, for homosexuals ). Reuters claimed that the king had "lived up to his reformist reputation" with his "liberal shift."

The same press that lauds a man whose regime bans the construction of Christian churches and prohibits the entry of Jews into the kingdom sees Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman as the real fanatics of the Middle East.

To be sure, in the desert despotism of Saudi Arabia, words like "progressive" and "reformer" are relative. But they lose their meaning when applied to individuals who are religious fundamentalists. "It is as if the world is congratulating a man for enslaving only 10 women in his basement this week because last week he enslaved 11," wrote David Keyes of the organization Advancing Human Rights.

While more charitable observers say that the king's decision to allow women to vote emanates from his innate liberalism, the real motivation is the monarchy's fears over the regional anti-authoritarian upheaval. Abdullah and his supporters, meanwhile, accept neither explanation: They claim that granting voting rights to women is predicated upon nothing more complex than a proper - albeit belated - reading of Islamic law.

There is indeed no proscription against female enfranchisement in the Koran, although the notion of elections itself was alien to the men who wrote Islam's holy book. There is also no prohibition on women driving. The variety of regulations that place Saudi women in a state of virtual slavery is a deliberately misogynistic interpretation of a centuries-old religious text that sanctions male "guardianship" over women.

The Saudi monarch's convenient epiphany about the true meaning of Islamic doctrine is reminiscent of the Mormon Church's 1978 decision to allow blacks to enter its priesthood. That decision arrived after a spate of embarrassing publicity, and took the form of a highly opportune intercession by none other than the Lord himself, who "revealed" to the Church leadership that admittance into the Mormon clergy must be made "without regard for race or color."

It's unclear to what extent King Abdullah's decision is supported by his subjects. It may take some time for Saudi men, inured to treating women like property, to get used to being asked by their wives and daughters if they can vote.

"Now it's driving," a 25-year-old Saudi man recently complained to the BBC about calls to let women drive. "After five years it will be taking off the abaya, after 10 years they will ask to be allowed to wear short skirts." Before you know it, Saudi women will be asking to relieve themselves of chattel status.