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CWA # 167, 5 October 2019

The World this Week
70 years Celebrations in China, Tipping Point in Hong Kong, a Brexit Roadmap, Protests in Iraq, and Khashoggi's death anniversary

  GP Team

The World This Week looks at five issues: the 70 years celebration of the PRC in China; a tipping point in Hong Kong; a new wave of protests in Iraq; Boris Johnson's new Brexit proposal; and the first death anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi.

Rashmi Ramesh, Parikshith Pradeep, Aparupa Bhattacherjee, Nidhi Dalal and Harini Madhusudhan

 

China: Celebrating 70 years
What happened?
On 1 October, Peoples' Republic of China celebrated seventy years of communist rule, basking under the glory of its massive military and economic buildup. President Xi oversaw the vast military parade, mostly a show of strength of communist China. Reportedly, 15000 personnel, 160 aircrafts, more than 500 military equipments were paraded on the Tiananmen Square. 

Notably, DF-41, China's new intercontinental ballistic missile made an appearance. Apart from showcasing the military's human resources and apparatus, there were events and performances by civil society. 
 
What is the background?
In 1949, Chairman Mao Tse Tung pronounced the Peoples' Republic of China, replacing the earlier Republic of China. The communists had won a violent civil war. Mao was a radical socialist; he used the Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward to secure his objectives. Millions succumbed to poverty and hunger until Deng Xiaoping's economic policies brought some relief. 

Economically, China experimented with capitalism, but politically, it did not allow communism to become liberalism. The Tiananmen Square episode became an international blot on China. However, it's economic might grew manifold; today's China stands as a testimony to it.
 
What does it mean?
The location of the celebrations - Tiananmen Square, was symbolic. It marks seventy years of the communist rule, than the massacre that it has been internationally associated with, thus clearly sending a message: politically, China will continue to adhere to the foundations laid by Mao and Deng. The government made all efforts, produced White Papers and published statistics to prove that China had prospered under the Communist rule and the legacy of its leaders. It has been successful in increasing life expectancy, bringing millions out of poverty, achieving double-digit economic growth rate, and cementing its image as an emerging great power.

This celebration comes at a time when there are continued protests in Hong Kong. On 1 October, police arrested scores of protestors, fired tear gas as people blocked roads and expressed their frustration over excessive control. Hong Kong is not the only case in "new" China, where free voices are muted; Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan also fall under the category. The celebrations also come at a time when economically China is facing a trade war with the US, reduced growth rates, and increasing suspicion over the Belt and Road Initiative. However, President Xi proclaimed in his address in Tiananmen that "no force can stop the Chinese people and nation from marching forward." It is to be seen how PRC continues the seventy-year legacy and manages its image internationally.
 
Hong Kong: A tipping point, as a teenager gets shot
What happened?
The police and protesters are in a faceoff after a policeman shot a teenager on 1 October. In a disturbing video posted online, the protester calls for help after a close encounter by the police during the demonstration. Shockingly, this is the first occurrence of gunfire since the starting of protests this year. Despite being hospitalized, the teenager was booked by authorities for rioting.

In yet another incident recently, the protests have erupted in much larger volumes in repose to the government's ban on wearing masks and evoking emergency conditions with support from Beijing. This has resulted in protesters torching police stations and authorities responding in the same tone.
 
What is the background?
The unending protests are transforming Hong Kong into a conflict zone, and protests have become a regular phenomenon. The protests began against the introduction of the Extradition Bill by Carrie Lam's government in June this year. The protestors have succeeded in pushing the government to withdraw the bill, but they did not stop there. They have continued their fight, further demanding democracy and justice in Honk Kong.

While Lam's government has encountered violent protests with non-lethal weapons and vice-versa all these days, the use of guns is relatively new. This incident indicates their aggression in their response to protests. The 2014 umbrella movement when compared to the recent protests did not witness escalating tensions and life-threating conditions. The turnout of events has been both shocking and surprising. It is shocking that the state has hardened its stance and surprising that the protesters have not budged despite repressive efforts by the administration.
 
What does it mean?
Hong Kong has not been successful in crushing the protests. This does not mean that the protestors have succeeded either.

The pressure mounted on the police may lead to further complications in the coming days. Chief Executive Lam called for severe measures and crackdowns despite ensuing district council elections in November. This could provoke the protestors further. 

It is challenging to predict the future course of developments. Harsh actions by authorities will only provide leeway for Beijing to assert its might on Hong Kong. Attacks and counterattacks by both protesters and authorities may further precipitate the conditions. 

Iraq: The Protests Now
What happened?
On 1 October 2019, protests began against unemployment, corruption, and lack of public facilities. Although it started in Bagdad, it gained momentum and has spread across other cities. Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq's Prime Minister, imposed a curfew. On 4 October 2019, the curfew was lifted in Baghdad.  

As of now, the protest seems to be leaderless, mostly comprising of young people.

Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the coalition (that won the largest number of seats in 2018 elections), is pressurizing the one-year-old government to resign. He has asked the legislators to suspend their parliamentary membership and boycott sessions until the government responds to the protesters' demands. 
The protestors have also gained support from other leaders including the Speaker of the Parliament and Iraq's Shia Cleric head.
 
What is the background?
The 2019 protest against corruption and unemployment is not new. Since 2015, there have been protests on these issues. In 2014, the election resulted in a fractured and unstable government. Since 2015, there have been protests led by the youths. When Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi came to power in 2018, he inherited an unstable government. He could not stabilize it.

According to the IMF, Iraq has the world's fourth-largest reserves of oil; still, majority lives in poverty. War against the ISIS has affected Iraq's economy. Besides, Iraq also has not recovered from decades of conflict earlier, the US invasion and economic sanctions from the United Nations. The economic failure and weak governments have been catastrophic for Iraq, especially its youth. 

Lack of employment, healthcare, schooling, water and power supplies have resulted in widespread anger against the government.
 
What does this mean?
The curfew, initially imposed by Mehdi, has further angered the protestors and masses than addressing the issue. The curfew affected food, medicines and health care. The lifting of the curfew might give some respite to the crisis. 

Second, the protest might lead to a political crisis. Sadr's demand for the resignation of the government highlights this. The crisis could further fragment the national politics. In case Mehdi's government falls, the situation in Iraq will only worsen. 

Third, the protests could also lead to the rise of other rebel groups and leaders. 

Fourth, the protests would destabilize the economy further. Iraq's dollar- fell 1.2 cents to a four-month low. Even the bonds have tumbled more than two cents since the start of the week. 

UK: Boris Johnson announces a Brexit roadmap
What happened?
Boris Johnson on 2 October announced a plan. He has proposed that the UK leaves the European Union (EU) on 31 October regardless of striking a deal or no deal. 

He also proposed the removal of backstop from the deal. For Northern Ireland to stay in the European single market for goods but it will have to leave the customs union. This would result in new custom checks and less-free borders. Boris Johnson has proposed doing checks through technology without infrastructural additions. 
 
What is the background?
Originally scheduled to happen on March 2019, the Parliament has thrice rejected the plans submitted by the Prime Minister to leave the European Union. After previous PM Theresa May failed to pull the deal through, Boris Johnson has taken a harder stance towards the issue. He tried to suspend the British Parliament to avoid debates and delays on the deal. 

The Irish border has been a complication in the Brexit plan. While Boris Johnson prefers to have a deal, he needs to convince the British Parliament, his government and the EU council. 

The backstop laws that are currently applicable to all of the UK will be revised to the laws being implemented only to Northern Ireland.

Backstop will ensure continuity of relaxed borders that are in place today. Ireland, the UK and the EU must reach an agreement on the Irish border that would satisfy both the UK Parliament and the EU.
 
What does it mean?
The backstop is a way to ensure that the UK remains in a customs union with the EU and would include additional provisions that would apply to Northern Ireland, in case the relationship between the UK and EU is unmanageable. There are no physical barriers between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland currently. 

After the Brexit, the border between the Republic of Ireland (which is a part of the EU) and the Northern Ireland (which is a part of the UK) will be the only land connection between the UK and EU. This implies that there will be more checks and newer rules for goods to pass the border.

This will also mean that Northern Ireland will be tied to the EU than the rest of the UK.
With less time, a sceptical council of ministers and lack of clear majority for Boris Johnson's government, it is becoming difficult to pass any legislation related to Brexit. No backstop would mean no Brexit agreement. 
According to Johnson, the UK would leave the EU without a deal. The current proposal will also influence the upcoming elections and will force the voters to reconsider Johnson's Conservative Party and Jeremy Corbin's Labour Party.
 
First Death Anniversary of Khashoggi: It is business as usual
What happened?
On 2 October, there were a few demonstrations across the world on Jamal Khashoggi's first death anniversary. A year earlier, he walked into Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul to get papers for his wedding with his Turkish fiancé. He has not been seen since, nor his body discovered. Khashoggi's death was revealed weeks after,  leading to international protests against Prince Salman.

Khashoggi's fiance was protesting in Istanbul. A group of protesters rallied in central London, shouting slogans against MBS and demanding "Justice for Jamal Khashoggi." 
 
What is the background?
Jamal Khashoggi was a Washington Post contributor from a prominent Saudi family. He was a staunch critic of the Saudi government; earlier, he was a confidante of House of the Saud. He walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018. After days of confusion and chaos, it was announced that agents of the Saudi government killed Khashoggi inside the consulate and dismembered his body.

A hundred-page UN report was published on June 2019. It concluded that Khashoggi's death, "constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible." Agnes Callamard, the extrajudicial investigator for the UN, consider that there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials' individual liability, including the Crown Prince.
 
What does it mean?
The killing of Khashoggi is a highly political event. Germany, Finland and Denmark continue to ban sales to Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi killing stands out as the most brazen contemporary attempt to silence a prominent government critic and to discourage further dissent. It became a black mark on the reputation of MBS, Jamal Khashoggi's death will always be associated with him; a taint on the 'progressive' image of the Saudi Prince. 

However, one year later, the strong opposition to Saudi has all but died out. Trump stated publicly, "Maybe he did, maybe he didn't," and continued the arms sales to Saudi after a ban of a couple of months. However, the world has moved on, and the Khashoggi's death will be forgotten. Politics and economy will result in countries and institutions continuing to interact with Saudi Arabia. 

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