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Wednesday, 02 July 2014 00:00

The Red Side of the Moon: China's Pursuit of Lunar Helium 3

This paper was presented at the "Tamkang School of Strategic Studies 2014 Annual Events" (4/25-4/27), and is going to be published by Tamkang University Press as a book chapter by the end of 2014. Two abridged versions of this paper have been published as articles on The Diplomat and The Eurasia Review, but here the paper appears in its entirety.

舉頭望明月 "Upwards the glorious Moon I raise my head." [ 李白 "Li Bai", 701-762]


When poets and lovers gaze at the Moon, they might also be looking at a clean and abundant resource that could meet the bulk of the global energy demand. In a world where energy requirements are bound to increase and fossil fuels are finite resources, the cratered satellite may offer mankind a way out of the energy conundrum: Helium-3. This element is a light, non-radioactive, and extremely rare on Earth isotope of helium that is mooted as the fuel of the future to enable nuclear fusion as a power source. It has been calculated that there are over one million tonnes of helium-3 on the lunar surface down to a depth of a few metres. Mining the Moon for the precious isotope, shipping it to our planet - and developing suitable fusion reactors - would provide clean energy for the next millennia. Alas, the costs and scientific challenges of such an enterprise would be phenomenal. Nonetheless, China - which allocates a stable and expectedly growing budget for space activities - appears determined to make it a reality of tomorrow. For years, Beijing has been systematically and patiently building up the key competence and platforms needed for an advanced lunar exploration program, under the conviction that 'walking on the Moon' is a reflection of a country's comprehensive national power. China stresses that its space program is for peaceful purposes and maintains its lunar mining would be for the benefit of all humanity. However, given the absence of wilful competitors, it is also speculated that the Chinese intend to lock up the resources of the Moon and establish a helium-3 monopoly. Thus, the question of whether China will act as a benevolent lunar dragon or create a helium-3 'hydraulic empire' might become one of immense relevance in the next decade.

Keywords: Moon, China, Helium-3, Nuclear Fusion, Lunar Exploration

1. Introduction

"Secure, reliable, affordable, clean and equitable energy supply is fundamental to global economic growth and human development and presents huge challenges for us." [World Energy Council, World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050, 2013]

According to a 2013 United Nations report, the world population is projected to reach 9.6 billion by 20501. Of those future earthlings, 1.6 billion will live in India, and 1.3 billion in China2. By then, Nigeria's population is expected to surpass that of the United States3. Also, the forty-nine least developed countries are going to double in size from around 900 million people in 2013 to 1.8 billion4. In light of these figures, it is not difficult to understand that humanity is going to face an increasingly acute energy trilemma - how to simultaneously achieve and balance energy security, energy equity (access and affordability) and environmental sustainability - in the coming decades5. "Conservatively, [...] more than a nine-fold increase in annual energy production needs to be made available by middle of the 21st Century"6 and, in the not so distant future "we have to replace oil, and in the next century we have to replace natural gas - and these two, taken together, represent sixty per cent of the total energy use of every country today."7 By factoring in that, as the Chinese government's white paper China's Energy Policy 2012 states, "energy is the material basis for the progress of human civilization and an indispensable basic condition for the development of modern society,"8 it is then easy to see that the trilemma poses a really formidable and frightening challenge.

As the world's second largest energy consumer, China is paying every effort to develop clean and unconventional energy in order to quench its thirst for energy.9 Beijing is profoundly aware of the imperative of addressing the trilemma.10 In fact, powering an economy the size of China's, especially the size it will be in three decades, only by burning massive quantities of finite fossil fuels and relying on conventional nuclear power is not an option.11 Besides making China unsustainably energy insecure and growingly politically unstable, this would eventually result into the country's environmental, socio-economic and political collapse, and destructively impact the rest of the world.12 Also, the rampaging competition for fossil fuels in the international arena would generate intense geopolitical frictions, fuel regional tensions and breed armed conflicts that would make the international system savagely Hobbesian and highly flammable.13 For all these reasons, apart from investing in conventional energy sources, China is also focusing on renewable and unconventional energy, and has made it a strategic priority.14 Beijing has even officially declared war on pollution,15 and is not going to leave any stone unturned in the search for a long-term, stable, and biosphere-friendly energy source.16

China's energy policies are in a state of rapid flux, but coal and other fossil fuels are still the source of the vast majority of China's energy consumption today. Currently, coal accounts for 67 percent of the energy consumed in the Asian giant, oil is the second largest source (17 percent).17 This situation cannot be changed overnight and, as a popular Chinese saying reminds us "water from afar cannot put out a fire close at hand" [遠水救不了近火], id est a slow remedy cannot meet an urgency. For this reason, the Chinese are pouring substantial resources into and placing their bet on the most futuristic and elusive of unconventional energies: nuclear fusion. In essence, developing nuclear fusion means to develop "what has been labelled 'unconventional nuclear technologies' in order to solve the world's impending energy crisis."18 Achieving fusion requires sparking and controlling a self-sustaining 'star in a bottle', "using temperatures of 200 million degrees Celsius to get atoms [...] to fuse together, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process."19 Beijing is also actively fostering conventional nuclear power as a source of electricity generation, although it makes up only a very small percentage of generating capacity at present - a fraction that is expected to grow to 6 percent by 2035.20 However, nuclear fission power plants produce vast quantities of radioactive waste to store, have catastrophic incidents on their record, and are limited by the fact the world's uranium stocks may run out in a couple of hundred years.21 "Fusion on the other hand," as Steven Cowley - director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy and chief executive of the UK Atomic Energy Authority - points out, "gets its fuels, deuterium and lithium, from seawater - not only in plentiful supply but easily accessed, a definite bonus for an increasingly energy-insecure China. Moreover, fusion produces no significant waste. Against the background of a global struggle to dispose of toxic waste piles, this is a weighty advantage."22

Yet, while other scientific challenges have been overcome, a breakthrough in controlled thermonuclear energy (fusion power) seems to be always 'thirty years away'. Notably, The US National Academy of Engineering regards the construction of a commercial thermonuclear reactor, as one of the top engineering challenges of the twenty-first century.23 Most fusion research has focused on deuterium and/or tritium (heavy isotopes of hydrogen) as fuel for generating fusion. Deuterium is found in abundance in all water on earth while tritium is not found in nature but can be produced by the neutron bombardment of lithium.24 However, the nuclear fusion Gordian knot could be untied by shifting to another isotope on the periodic table of elements: helium-3.

2. Helium-3: Rare under Heaven

"But when the black gold's in doubt There's none left for you or for me Fusing helium-3 Our last hope." [Muse, Explorers, The 2nd Law, 2012]

Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. Even though this gas is found naturally as a trace component in reservoirs of natural gas and also as a decay product of tritium - one of the elements used in making the hydrogen bomb - there is extremely little helium-3 on our planet.25 In 2010, University of Wisconsin-Madison's nuclear chemist Layton J. Wittenberg calculated that the potential helium-3 availability from natural and man-made resources on Earth for scientific experimentation was a mere 161 Kgs.26 The stockpile of nuclear weapons, the best current terrestrial source of the gas, provides only a supply of 15 kg circa a year. Helium-3 has applications in many domains. On the one hand, it is used in complex low temperature physical measurements as well as in certain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in hospitals. On the other hand, the gas has such valuable military applications that the US army's security services use it for the detection of dirty bombs.27 Although helium-3 is already in high demand for many reasons, it could become a universally coveted commodity thanks to its extraordinary energy properties, namely for its future use in nuclear fusion to generate electric power with no dangerous and long-lasting radioactive by-products.28

Fission power plants use a nuclear reaction to generate heat which turns water into steam which then hits a turbine to produce power. Current nuclear power plants have nuclear fission reactors in which uranium nuclei are split apart. This releases energy, but also radioactivity and spent nuclear fuel that is reprocessed into uranium, plutonium and radioactive waste which has to be safely and time-proof stored.29 For decades scientists have been working to obtain nuclear power from nuclear fusion rather than nuclear fission. In current nuclear fusion reactors, the hydrogen isotopes tritium and deuterium release atomic energy when their nuclei fuse to create helium and a neutron. Nuclear fusion employs the same energy source that fuels the Sun and other stars, without yielding the radioactivity and nuclear waste that is the by-product of nuclear fission power generation.30 However, the 'fast' neutrons released by nuclear fusion reactors fuelled by tritium and deuterium lead to significant energy loss and are immensely difficult to contain.31 One potential solution may be to use helium-3 and deuterium - "substituting helium-3 for tritium significantly reduces neutron production, making it safe to locate fusion plants nearer to where power is needed the most, large cities"32 - or helium-3 alone as the fuel in 'aneutronic' (power without emission of neutrons) fusion reactors. "Perhaps the most promising idea is to fuel a third-generation reactor solely with helium-3, which can directly yield an electric current - no generator required. As much as seventy percent of the energy in the fuels could be captured and put directly to work,"33 out-pacing coal and natural gas electricity generation by twenty percent.34

Nuclear fusion reactors using helium-3 could therefore provide a highly efficient form of nuclear power with virtually no waste and negligible radiation.35 In the words of Matthew Genge, lecturer at the Faculty of Engineering at the Imperial College in London, "nuclear fusion using Helium-3 would be cleaner, as it doesn't produce any spare neutrons. It should produce vastly more energy than fission reactions without the problem of excessive amounts of radioactive waste."36 Moreover, eliminating the use of slightly radioactive tritium in the fusion process, by using deuterium and helium-3 for fuel, also has the benefit of simplifying the engineering to meet radiation standards. Also, tritium is not an abundant, naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen on Earth, because of its short half-life of 12.3 years. For Deuterium-Tritium fusion, the tritium would have to be bred from lithium, in a blanket surrounding the inside of the fusion reactor, which is a complication that would be eliminated with Deuterium-Helium-3 fusion.37

Actually, the Helium-3 fusion process is not simply theoretical.38 The University of Wisconsin-Madison Fusion Technology Institute successfully performed helium-3 fuelled fusion experiments. To date, scientists have only been able to sustain a fusion reaction for a few seconds, but with nothing near the scale or energy yield necessary to be released for commercial use.39 In fact, the development of commercial fusion reactors is dependent upon demonstrating 'break-even': producing as much energy as it is needed to start the reaction.40 So far, deuterium-Helium-3 or Helium3-Helium 3 fusion has not yet come close to break-even.41 However, with massive investments in nuclear fusion research, commercial fusion reactors might become a reality within the next three decades.42 At that point, the demand for Helium-3 would skyrocket. Presently, even though nuclear fusion does not even work properly yet, helium-3 is so scarce and in demand that in 2010 the US Department of Energy officially lamented a critical shortage in the global supply43 and is already worth US$16 million per kilo.44

Indeed, Helium-3 is really rare 'under Heaven'. How about 'above Heaven'? Actually, the Sun - like all stars - continuously emits helium-3 within its solar wind, which consists largely of ionized hydrogen and ionized helium. The reason why Helium 3 is so rare on the Earth is that the terrestrial atmosphere and magnetic field prevent any of the solar helium-3 from arriving on our planet. However, as the Moon does not have an atmosphere, there is nothing to stop helium-3 arriving on the surface of our satellite and being absorbed by the lunar soil.45 Given that The Moon has been bombarded for billions of years by solar wind, helium-3 is available in the dust of the lunar surface.46 It has been calculated that there are about 1,100,000 metric tonnes of helium-3 on the lunar surface down to a depth of a few metres (since the regolith - i.e. the lunar soil - has been stirred up by collisions with meteorites).47 More precisely, according to two Chinese scientists, the lunar inventory of Helium-3 is estimated as 6.50×1^8 kg, where 3.72×1^8 kg is for the lunar nearside and 2.78×1^8 kg is for the lunar far side.48 Helium-3 could potentially be extracted by heating the lunar dust to around 600 degrees C, before bringing it back to the Earth to fuel a new generation of nuclear fusion power plants.49 Professor Gerald Kulcinski, Director of the Fusion Technology Institute, University of Wisconsin-Madison, maintains that about 40 tonnes of helium-3 - which equate to two fully-loaded Space Shuttle cargo bay's worth - could power the United States for a year at the current rate of energy consumption, without causing smog, acid rain and radioactive waste.50 This would require mining an area the size of Washington, D.C. Besides, several other valuable materials - such as oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide and dioxide - will be produced in the course of recovering the helium-3.51 It comes as no surprise, then, that the gas has a potential economic value in the order of US$ 1bn to 3bn a tonne, making it the only thing remotely economically viable to consider mining from the Moon given current and likely-near-future space travel technologies and capabilities.52

3. "Upwards the glorious moon I raise my head"

"Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars; in the heavens you have made them, precious and beautiful." [Francis of Assisi, Canticle of the Sun, 1224]

A team of University of Wisconsin scientists has calculated that if the entire lunar surface were mined, and all of the helium-3 were used for fusion fuel on Earth, it could meet world energy demand for over 10,000 years. In addition, given the estimated potential energy of a ton of helium-3 (the equivalent of about 50 million barrels of crude oil),53 helium-3 fuelled fusion could free the world from fossil fuel dependency, and is likely to increase mankind's productivity by orders of magnitude.54 But to supply the planet with fusion power for centuries, humanity has first to return to the Moon. Although mining helium-3 on the cratered satellite to power the Earth has been in the minds of scientists and political deciders since the end of the Apollo program in the early 1970s, to date only China has embarked on a long-term endeavour to achieve such an ambitious goal, having established a satellite-based lunar exploration program called the Chang'e Project (Chang'e is a fairy living on the moon in a Chinese legend) in 2004.55 The question is: why China? The opinion of Michael C. Zarnstorff, deputy director of research for Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, can assist in the quest for the answer. "They [China] need a lot more energy due to their increasing population, and they really want to get rid of the pollution problems they have."56 If Beijing is able to mine the lunar helium-3 and effectively use it for fusion power, then it could avert China's environmental crisis. In addition, the People's Republic would become a major energy resource player and "offer a clean energy option to countries looking to wean themselves from oil dependency."57

Besides having "lots of cash and lots of educated people,"58 China is graced with a pervasively strategic culture, according to which thorough preparedness and long-term planning are the keys to success.59 Also, China's one-party political system, in which the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party is the most important factor in determining the future of the country and the generational turnover at the top happens by co-optation once a decade,60 guarantees that strategic policies are consistently implemented over many years, rather than being reneged on or upturned at every budget or change of administration as it is often the case with Western democracies.61 Normally, in the 'State of the Center' long-term plans are ably enacted by highly selected practical visionaries undisturbed by democracy's glitches62 who are acutely aware that addressing the energy trilemma is vital for regime survival and that conversion to a sustainable world economy is the only way to go. Moreover, going to the Moon to harvest helium-3 is synergistically compatible with and reflective of the values and ambitions of President Xi Jinping's 'Chinese Dream'. The 'Chinese dream' slogan was launched soon after Xi's inauguration and has quickly become the new national mantra. The expression is used to describe the aspiration of individual and collective self-improvement in Chinese society and calls for patriotic unity under one-party rule. Interestingly, the 'Chinese Dream' vision also includes a space exploration élan,63 Mr. Xi having emphasized that "the space dream is an important part of the dream of a strong nation."64 Indeed, for a country like China, spacefaring and moonwalking are greatly instrumental to consolidating its legitimacy as a rising power. And many Chinese see their space program as the symbol of their once-impoverished nation's ascension to economic and technological primacy.65

As Joan Johnson-Freese, a United States Naval War College in Rhode Island professor who researches China's space activities, has pointed out: "China's getting a lot of prestige, which turns into geostrategic influence, from the fact that they are the third country to have manned spaceflight capabilities, [...] that they are going to the moon."66 Professor Ouyang Ziyuan (歐陽自遠), the chief scientist of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program appears to agree. "Lunar exploration is a reflection of a country's comprehensive national power. It is significant for raising our international prestige and increasing our people's cohesion," he told the media. But the Moon could also become an energy cornucopia. Professor Ouyang explained that solar panels would operate far more efficiently on the airless lunar surface and believes that a "belt" of them could "support the whole world" provided the generated electricity is sent back to Earth via lasers or microwaves.67 Plus, the Moon is "so rich" in helium-3, that this could "solve human beings' energy demand for around 10,000 years at least."68 In light of the statements above, it is clear that Beijing's lunar program represents a triple-win venture. Internationally, lunar expeditions "will increase China's political influence in the world."69

Domestically, 'conquering the Moon' would bolster the consensus for the political leadership and prop up Chinese national pride. Thirdly, on the energy security side, tapping into the Moon has the potential to make China not only energy self-sufficient and secure, but also turn the Chinese into the 'helium-3 Arabs' of the 21st century, especially in case they get to enjoy the position of monopolists. China would then become not only an energy superpower able to fix its social and environmental problems, but also the center of a global helium-3 hydraulic empire.70 The "spice must flow, and he who controls the spice, controls the universe!" Frank Herbert, the author of Dune, would say.71

Officially China's lunar program has three official main goals. The first is to gain technological skill. Secondly, the Chinese scientists seek to understand the moon's evolution and compare it with Earth.72 Thirdly, "in terms of talent, China needs its own intellectual team who can explore the whole lunar and solar system." Additionally, it is acknowledged that the rationale for a long-term program is that "there are many ways humans can use the Moon,"73 and that Beijing is planning a lunar base.74 As for the exploitation of the lunar resources, on the one hand the Chinese have repeatedly declared that they are going to utilize them "to benefit the whole of mankind,"75 on the other hand, Professor Ouyang has tellingly remarked that "Whoever first conquers the Moon will benefit first."76 In order to achieve such goals and eventually 'use the Moon,' the lunar exploration program consists of three stages: 1) flying around the Moon. Respectively in 2007 and 2010, Beijing launched the Chang'e-1 and Chang'e-2 unmanned lunar probes to circle the Moon and map its surface to get three-dimensional images of the body from space. Scientists then analyzed the information sent back by the orbiters. 2) Landing on the moon. In December 2013 the Chang'e-3 mission, incorporating a robotic lander and China's first lunar rover, reached the Moon. The wheeled rover explored the vicinity of the landing area and radar-scanned the lunar subsurface structure. The second phase of the program will be completed by the Chang'e-4 mission, incorporating a robotic lander and rover, which is scheduled for launch in 2015. 3) Returning from the moon. The Chang'e-5 mission may be launched in 2017 or 2018 to further explore the Moon and collect lunar soil, and then would return soil and rock samples to China for first-hand examination. Only after the completion of these three phases China will be finally able to land human beings on the Moon.77 According to British space scientist Richard Holdaway, China could have astronauts treading on the regolith by 2025.78

4. To the Moon (and beyond)!

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." [John F. Kennedy, Moon Speech at Rice University, 1962]

As observed by former US astronaut and geologist Harrison Schmitt, Chinese scientists and experts have framed Beijing's space program partially in terms of their nation's constant quest for energy and raw materials, "talking about ­helium-3 and solar power as potential energy sources on the moon, as well as its reserves of titanium, rare earths, uranium and thorite."79 This 'pursuit of lunar resources' theme has then been combined with a 'geopolitical competition' discourse conveying a sense of urgency. "If China doesn't explore the moon, we will have no say in international lunar exploration and can't safeguard our proper rights and interests,"80 Professor Ouyang declared in 2010, hinting that progress in the lunar program would confer an edge to China if and when the extraction of the Moon's riches turns political. The 15 December 2013 edition of the Beijing Youth Daily argued that "China can obtain a certificate to sharing lunar interests only by carrying out exploration and gaining actual results." It also contended: "How to protect China's interest in outer space has become an inevitable question."81 Dean Cheng, an expert on China's space program at the Heritage Foundation, got the message clear. "Once you start mining, and even before, questions arise as to ownership, as to profit-sharing (if any), as to who has the ability to establish and enforce claims in space," he said. "A long-term presence in space will give China political capital."82 Thirdly, the lunar program has been presented to policy makers and the general public as a cost effective investment. For example, the chief scientist of the program has stressed that the total spending of Chang'e-1 mission was about RMB 1.4 billion, the same amount as the money used to construct two kilometers of subway in Beijing.83 Similarly, the Chinese political leaders can be reminded that, according to experts in the US , the total estimated cost for fusion development, rocket development and starting lunar operations would be about US$15-20 billion over two decades.84 By comparison, another big nuclear fusion project (on Earth), the International Thermonuclear Reactor Project (ITER) has an estimated total cost of now €15 billion (US$20.5 billion),85 and going to the Moon to mine helium-3 would cost "about the same as was required for the 1970s Trans Alaska Pipeline."86 Actually, US$ 15-20 billion does not appear to be an excessive financial commitment for a country which is to spend US$ 1.7 trillion between 2011-2015 - in the form of investment, assistance for state-owned enterprises, and bank loans - for a plan aiming at covering 11.4 percent of China's energy needs by 2015, and 15 percent by 2020, from non-fossil energy.87

Finally, the seductiveness of China's lunar vision has been enhanced with two additional charms: China's technological advancement and solar system exploration. As for the first, Ouyang Ziyuan's speeches often mention the achievements of the US Apollo program (1963-1972) in order to illustrate the transformational characteristics of any lunar project. The Chinese scientist reminds his audiences that Washington spent US$25.4 billion on the Moon's exploration at that time, which has thus far yielded an output worth fourteen times the original investment, leading to the birth of several new hi-tech industries and technologies such as the rocket, radar, radio guidance and so on, which were then put into civil use.88 The implication is that China's Moon exploration and colonization are going to be the catalyst for revolutionary technological progress that can transform the country's entire industrial landscape and bring a galaxy of economic and social benefits.89 However, helium-3 remains the biggest gem on the selenitic crown. If it is postulated that the commercial value of helium-3 will be US$3 billion/ton,90 and defensively estimated that there are 1 million tons of the precious gas trapped in the regolith,91 then the whole stock of lunar helium-3 would be worth an astonishing three quadrillion dollars. That is more than enough to cover the costs and risks of extracting and shipping it back to Earth. Finally, it should be kept in mind that while rocket fuel and consumables now cost an average of $20,000 per pound to lift off Earth, resources could instead be carried off the Moon much more economically. Given that the lunar gravitational pull is inferior to the Earth's, 83.3% (or 5/6) less to be exact,92 transporting material from the moon requires just 1/14th to 1/20th of the fuel needed to lift material up from the terrestrial surface.93

Financial considerations apart, helium-3 would be crucial for what perhaps is the most ambitious goal of China's lunar program: setting up a lunar base and using the Moon as a stepping-stone for space exploration.94 In order to turn the Moon into an operational headquarters for scientific experimentation and further exploration of the solar system, a lunar base should be established first.95 Helium-3 would be crucial for achieving that. In fact, the immediately available by-products of helium-3 production include hydrogen, water, and compounds of nitrogen and carbon. Oxygen can be easily produced by electrolysis of water. Thus, by mining Helium-3 Moon settlers would be able to obtain the air and water they would need to make lunar colonization sustainable.96 In essence, extracting helium-3 produces the resources we need to gather more of it.97 Lunar helium-3 could also become the premier rocket fuel of the future, turning the Moon into the launching pad or a refueling service station for space-bound missions. It appears that in the permanently darkened craters of the Moon's polar regions there are significant reserves of water (ice) that can be melted, purified and electrolyzed into hydrogen and oxygen.98 One by-product would be hydrogen peroxide for rocket fuel. Hydrogen can be obtained also as a by-product of helium-3 mining. Yet, helium-3 would offer ginormous advantages over hydrogen if it is used a nuclear rocket fuel. As John Slough, a University of Washington's professor of aeronautics and astronautics explains, "Using existing rocket fuels, it is nearly impossible for humans to explore much beyond Earth."99 NASA estimates a round-trip human expedition to Mars would take more than four years using current technology, but according to Slough the same voyage could be completed in maximum-three-month expeditions on a spaceship powered by fusion.100 Helium-3 would then be the best candidate as fuel for the fusion engines because it is abundant on the Moon and would provide far more power per unit of mass than chemical rocket fuels.101 Moreover, helium-3 as fusion fuel greatly reduces neutron production and therefore would be the safest option for the crews of ships.102

In the light of all these elements, it is clear that China is not just re-enacting and repeating the past US space program, but intends to shape the future. Beijing's grand plan to mine lunar helium-3 should be understood as "the first step toward creating a scientific and economic revolution which will power global economic growth and open the entire Solar System to mankind."103

5. Game of Moons

"A trader from Quarth told me that dragons come from the Moon." [Game of Thrones, Season 1, Episode 2, 2011]

Two years before the Apollo 11 mission, a treaty was signed by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union. Inked even as the race to plant a flag on the lunar soil was well underway, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty stipulated that no nation-state could ever own the Moon.104 According to the Treaty - to which 102 countries, including the People's Republic of China (which joined in 1983), are currently parties105 - Activities on the Moon may be pursued freely without any discrimination of any kind, and countries can place vehicles, personnel, stations, and facilities anywhere on or below the surface. However, as said above, neither the surface nor the subsurface of the Moon can become the property of any country or its citizens. In fact, a 2009 Statement by the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law clarifies that: "The current international legal regime is binding both on States and, through the precise wording of Article VI of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, [...] also on non-governmental entities, i.e. individuals, legal persons and private companies. [...]Since there is no territorial jurisdiction in outer space or on celestial bodies, there can be no private ownership of parts thereof, as this would presuppose the existence of a territorial sovereign competent to confer such titles of ownership."106 Also, as leading international law of space scholar Harold Bashor points out: "There are no rights of ownership for any natural resources in place. [...] This is generally interpreted to mean that a country may not claim ownership of any resources until they have been extracted. Yet, any extraction is required to be for the benefit of mankind according to the Common Heritage of Mankind principle."107 Moreover, since the Moon is to be explored and exploited for peaceful purposes, Bashor argues, states have an obligation not to interfere with the activities of any other state on the Moon, and any conflict has to be reported to the United Nations.108 Alas, the current system is predicated heavily on good faith, and whether future Moon-settling countries will behave fairly is yet to be seen. "A system lacking a clear legal framework has thus far worked for scientific ventures, such as the International Space Station. But history tells a different story when big businesses and competing nations turn their sights on a new frontier."109

This said, which states are actually going to play 'game of Moons'? As many as eleven robotic lunar missions including orbiters, rovers and sample return missions are to be launched between now and 2020.110 China (2015; 2017-18),111 Russia (2016;2019),112 India (2017),113 Japan (2018)114 and the US (2018)115 all have missions planned during this period, while new players eyeing post 2020 Moon missions may include South Korea (2020),116 while the European Space Agency's Lunar Lander project has been shelved due to budgetary constraints.117 Those states giving serious study to the launch of manned Moon missions by 2020-2030 are China,118 and Russia,119 Japan (in collaboration with the US),120 and perhaps India.121 Even though it appears that there are going to be several contenders playing the selenitic game, what is really needed in order to extract helium-3 and the other lunar resources is a lunar base. Hence, only two chess-pieces remain standing on the board: the People's Republic of China and the Russian Federation. Officials from both Beijing and Moscow have declared that their countries are going to build a base on the Moon. On 8 January 2014, Zhang Yuhua - Deputy General Director and Deputy General Designer of the Chang'e-3 probe system revealed that: "In addition to manned lunar landing technology, we are also working on the construction of a lunar base, which will be used for new energy development and living space expansion."122 His words echo Oyuang Ziyuan's 2002 mantic statement: "China will establish a base on the moon as we did in the South Pole and the North Pole."123 In Russia's case, the announcement has come from the upper echelons. Deputy premier Dmitry Rogozin, who is in overall charge of Russia's space and defence industries, writing about the "colonisation of the moon and near-moon space" on the 10 April 2014 issue of the official daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta stated that Moscow plans to establish a lunar base for long-term missions to the Moon by 2040. Rogozin affirmed that that Earth's satellite is the only realistic source to obtain water, minerals and other resources for future space missions. A lunar laboratory complex will also be used for testing new space technologies. "This process has the beginning, but has no end. We are coming to the Moon forever," he promised.124 Despite Rogozin's rhetoric, it might be surmised that the Chinese are better positioned in the race for lunar helium-3. For a start, they have more money and resources, began "from a long way back but now they are catching up fast,"125 and "by the end of the decade [...] want to move from being what is classed as a major space power to being a strong space power." Tellingly, "within a little more than a decade, the only working space station in orbit could be Chinese."126 In sum, Beijing backs words with facts. For this reason, when asked if the idea of a Chinese lunar base extracting minerals was remotely plausible, the afore-mentioned Prof. Richard Holdaway: "It is perfectly plausible from the technical point of view, absolutely plausible from the finance point of view because they have great buying power."127 Buying power will be certainly needed, given that a 2009 analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that a four-person research station on the lunar surface would cost US$35 billion to build and US$7.35 billion per year to operate.128

If China wins the 'race for the Moon' and establishes a manned outpost conducting helium-3 mining operations, it would create a scenario similar that of the 2009 movie Moon. In that motion picture, a private company called Lunar Industries has built a mining base on the Moon and enjoys a helium-3 extraction and shipping monopoly - the same kind of monopoly that in the past created the fortunes of ventures like the East India Companies.129 Unlike that fictional universe, in the case of a Chinese lunar base the monopoly would be held by a state. The ramifications and consequences of such a scenario would be 'cosmic'. First, "China is what international relations scholars call a 'revisionist power,' seeking opportunities to assert its enhanced relative position in international affairs."130 Thus, establishing an automated or manned helium-3 operation on the Moon would be a spectacular statement of grandeur.131 Secondly, due to the inevitable depletion of fossil fuels on Earth, Beijing would be in a position to gradually build a helium-3 hydraulic empire in which it would control the supply of the precious gas, and become the only energy superpower. The making of such an empire would be most likely met with resistance. Plausibly, the prospect of China's energy supremacy, which would undoubtedly transubstantiate into pervasive geopolitical influence, would cause geopolitical tension, agglutinate anti-Chinese alliances, and prompt the other space-faring nations - the US in primis - to rush to the Moon to break the Dragon's monopoly. Then, a scenario similar to that described in Limit, a science and political fiction novel by Frank Schatzing set in a 2025, seeing China and the US develop a new Cold War for lunar helium-3 taking the space race of yesteryear to new heights. Thirdly, China might decide to acquire or retain control over helium-3 deposits by annexing lunar regions. International law would be neither an impassable hurdle nor an effective deterrent. Although the 1967 Outer Space Treaty asserts common ownership over everything in the universe beyond the Earth and requires all countries to share in the benefits of space,132 its article 17 permits signatory states to withdraw from the treaty with only a year's notice.133 Unilateral withdrawal by one of the major space-faring powers would undermine the existing international legal regime in space, prompting the other players to secure a piece of the pie in the sky for themselves. This would start a period of colonialism reminiscent of that in 19th century. Having established a permanent manned lunar base, China would be able to substantiate its claim by satisfying an important criterion for sovereignty: the wishes of the inhabitants. Also, claims over lunar areas beyond China's 'red side of the Moon' by other powers would legitimize Beijing's acquisition of its new selenitic dominions (where Chinese sovereignty would provide regulations and protection for private investors to operate).134 Once in control of vast helium-3 fields, China could even astutely play the 'game of Moons' by favouring the settlement and encouraging the territorial claims of non-hostile or friendly powers - for example other BRICS countries - in order to contain Western expansion and access to helium-3 on the lunar surface. Finally, China could decide to use its lunar base as a military asset "to dominate access on and off our planet Earth and determine who will extract valuable resources from the moon in the years ahead."135 More piercingly put, "the Moon could hypothetically be used as a military battle station and ballistic missiles could be launched against any military target on Earth"136 or in space. Our planet's celestial sister could also become one of the battlefields of future 'helium-3 conflicts', which would be simultaneously fought or spill-over on lunar, space and Earth domains.137 If this will turn into 'tomorrow's truth', then helium-3 will not just fuel the future, but also future rivalries and wars. The price for global energy security would then be global geopolitical insecurity.


6. Conclusion: A Call to Cooperation

"There was a time when energy was a dirty world - when turning on your lights was a hard choice. Cities in brown out, food shortages, cars burning fuel to run. But that was the past, where are we now? How did we make the world so much better, make deserts bloom? Right now we're the largest producer of fusion energy in the world. The energy of the sun, trapped in rock, harvested by machine from the far side of the moon. Today we deliver enough clean burning Helium-3 to supply the energy needs of nearly 70% of the planet. Who'd have thought, all the energy we ever needed, right above our heads. The power of the moon. The power of our future." ['Lunar Industries Commercial' in Duncan Jones, Moon, 2009]

The 'game of Moons' scenarios evoked in the previous pages are not anticipations of an inescapable future. On the contrary, lunar exploration and resources development can be international cooperation synergizers and confidence building catalysts. Consistently, the Beijing Declaration, issued at the 2008 Global Space Development Summit in Beijing, calls for international cooperation "in all the applicative fields of space [...] as the world enters a challenging period characterized by globalization, dramatic population growth, serious environmental concerns and scarcity of resources."138 By 2050 there will be a dire paucity of all the economically recoverable fossil fuels (there would still be plenty of coal, but can humankind afford to put up with greenhouse gases?). "Also, all alternative sources of energy, like water power, solar power, tidal power, wind power, geothermal power, and wood will not be sufficient to supply more than 10 percent of the energy which will be needed by the 20 billion people that will be on earth at that time. We will be out of energy and forced to seek a new source,"139 predicted a venerable scholar at the turn of the millennium. And Sister Moon, "precious and beautiful,"140 can tend the Earth its energy salvation. The helium-3 trapped in the lunar soil offers humanity about ten times the energy that could be obtained from mining all the fossil fuels on Earth, without causing apocalyptic pollution. Also by tossing all the Earth's uranium into liquid metal fast breeder reactors, we could generate about half this much energy.141 But some men will have to cross the sky and conquer the Moon, and other people will have to tame particles, to open a new future up to humanity. Indeed, the quest for helium-3 is involved with the dynamics of succumbing to or reversing the process of global collapse. Common destiny and enlightened self-interest both dictate cooperation among all space-faring nations. Two countries in particular have greater responsibilities than the others: the US and China.

In almost every area of space activity, the US has a clear technological and operational advantage over other countries, including China. For example, in 2012 NASA landed the Curiosity rover on Mars, a much more difficult task than the Chang'e 3 mission by any measure.142 However, the US star does not shine as bright as in the past due to budget cuts, and a reluctance to maintain its space leadership143 as revealed by the cancellation of the American project designed to take humans back to the Moon (Constellation Program).144 On the other hand, even though Beijing's overall budget in space programmes is still rather moderate compared with that of the US, China appears to have what Confucius would describe as "the will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach its full potential" in lunar and space exploration. The Chinese are quickly developing their own space technology kung fu and are currently collaborating with other countries such as Russia, Brazil, France, Germany and, very fruitfully, with the European Space Agency145 - but not with the US. Actually, China has recently made several overtures to the US. For example, Xu Dazhe, the new chief of China's space industry, while attending the International Space Exploration Forum in Washington in January 2014 said: "We are willing to cooperate with all the countries in the world, including the United States and developing countries."146 "The US, however, is wary of entering in any type of collaborative interaction with the Chinese, primarily for national security reasons ranging from technology transfer concerns to a general mistrust of the People's Liberation Army's involvement in Beijing's space program. Consequently, in 2011 Washington "has enacted Public Law 112-10, Public Law 101-246 and Public Law 106-391 to suspend all bilateral activities between NASA and the Chinese in spaceflight projects."147 Furthermore, China was barred from participating in the current orbiting space station, largely because of US objections over political differences.148 By contrast, the Chinese said they will welcome foreign astronauts aboard their future space station, which is scheduled to become operational in 2020.149

While the US government's duty and prerogative to protect national security is not in question, the issue of collaborating with China in space activities should be considered in the light of the benefits of going back to the Moon and establishing a settlement for the production of the Helium-3 fusion fuel. Working with the Chinese as part of a global effort to solve the energy conundrum would then become "the next logical step."150 For sure, combining forces would make humanity's pursuit of helium-3 power, quicker, cheaper and more efficient. Starting a cooperative effort, inclusive of China and the US, for lunar exploration would, first of all, require each participant a change of mindset as well as adopting an approach based on the four principles indicated by the Beijing Declaration: mutual benefit, transparency, reciprocity, and cost sharing.151 Actually, the same document identifies the development of a lunar base as the ideal next project for international collaboration on space exploration.152 Creative politics and diplomacy will also play a crucial role in ensuring good governance and fair dividends to all parties. New legal regimes for exploiting helium-3 and other lunar resources could be designed and approved. A new international regime, organization or enterprise for the cooperative development and terrestrial fusion of lunar helium-3 may be needed.153 Many diverse solutions will be possible as long as a sense of common destiny will be shared by the moon-settling nations. The race for making available a safe, clean and revolutionary source of energy to all human beings should not have any loser, only winners. Thus, civilizational or national egoisms should be left back on Earth. Helium-3 power is not meant to be the flame casting deep shadows over a new Dark Age, but the glorious light of a global renaissance: an era in which people will look at the Moon through a clear unpolluted sky. In Washington as in Moscow, New Delhi or Beijing.

1 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Estimates and Projection Section, "World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision." 27 February 2014 (last update),
2 World Bank, "Population Projection Tables by Country and Group." 2014,,,contentMDK:21737699~menuPK:3385623~pagePK:64168445~piPK:64168309~theSitePK:3237118,00.html
3 United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division, Population Estimates and Projection Section, "World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision."
4 Ibid.
5 Christoph Frei et al., World Energy Scenarios: Composing energy futures to 2050, World Energy Council, 2013, p. 218.
6 Harrison H. Schmitt et al., "Lunar Helium-3 Fusion Resource Distribution," University of Wisconsin - Madison, 2011, p. 2.
7 Guenter Janeschitz as quoted in Raffi Katchadourian, "A Star in a Bottle," New Yorker, 3 March 2014,
8 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Energy Policy 2012, October 2012, p. 2.
9 China Briefing, "China to Encourage Corporate Participation in Shale Gas Exploration", 10 October 2011,
10 Chang Chung Young and Fabrizio Bozzato, "The Dragon is Thirsty: China's Quest for Energy," International Conference on the Making of New Asia: Migration, Identity, Interaction and Security, Fo Guang University, Taiwan, 5-6 November 2011. See also: Jenny Lin, "China's Energy Security Dilemma," Projet 2049 Institute, 13 February 2012.
11 Joseph P. Giljum, "The Future of China's Energy Security," The 
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12 See, for example, Scott Doney, "Oceans of Acid: How Fossil Fuels Could Destroy Marine Ecosystems," PBS, 12 Feb 2014,
13 Michael T. Klare, "Fueling the Dragon: China's Strategic Energy Dilemma," Current History, Issue 150, April 2006, p. 180.
14 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Energy Policy 2012, October 2012.
15 Reuters, "China to 'declare war' on pollution, premier says," 4 March 2014,
16 Maria Van Der Hoeven, "Strategizing for Energy Policy: China's Drive to Reduce Dependence," Harvard International Review, Vol. 35, No. 1, Summer 2013, pp. 14-25.
17 Joachim Betz, "The Reform of China's Energy Policies," German Institute of Global and Area Studies Working Papers, No. 216, February 2013, p. 6. Also, biomass and waste: 9 percent; hydro-power: 3 percent; Natural gas: 3 percent; nuclear power: 1 percent; and other renewable sources: 0.2 percent.
18 Mark Piesing, "Big nuke vs little nuke: how the nuclear establishment is stifling innovation," Wired, 21 February 2012,
19 Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?," China Dialogue, 2 December 2013,
20 Ibid, p. 8.
21 Scientific American, "How long will the world's uranium supplies last?", 26 January 2009,
22 Steven Cowley as quoted in Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?"
23 Raffi Katchadourian, "A Star in a Bottle."
24 Egbert Boeker and Rienk van Grondelle, Environmental Physics: Sustainable Energy and Climate Change, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 2011, p. 66.
25 Marsha R. D'Souza, Diana M. Otalvaro and Deep Arjun Singh, Harvesting Helium-3 from the Moon, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 2006, pp. 18-25.
26 Layton J. Wittenberg, "Helium-3 Resources and Acquisition for Use as Fusion Fuel in Aries III," in Farrokh Najmabadi, Robert W. Conn, et al., The ARIES-III Tokamak Fusion Reactor Study - The Final Report, University of California-San Diego, Advanced Energy Technology Group, Center for Energy Research, p. 15-5.
27 Dana A. Shea and Daniel Morgan, "The Helium-3 Shortage: Supply, Demand, and Options for Congress", Congressional Research Service, 7-5700, 22 December 2010, pp. 1-20.
28 Satish Kumar and Kopal Gupta, "Helium-3 As An Alternate Fuel Technology (for Producing Electricity)," Journal of Department of Applied Sciences & Humanities, Vol. IV, 2006, pp. 77-84
29 World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Power Reactors," November 2013,
30 World Nuclear Association, "Nuclear Fusion Power," February 2014,
31 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, "Nuclear Fusion Power," 9 August 2000,
32 Stefano Coledan, "Mining The Moon," Popular Mechanics, 7 December 2004,
33 Singam Jayanthu, Bhishm Tripathi and Arjun Sandeep, "Scope of Mining on the Moon - A Critical Appraisal," Golden Jubilee celebration & MineTECH'11 of The Indian Mining & Engineering Journal, Raipur, 18-19 November 2011, p. 2.
34 Keith Veronese, "Could Helium-3 really solve Earth's energy problems?" io9, 5 November 2012,
35 Gary Pajer et al., "Modular Aneutronic Fusion Engine," Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, May 2012.
36 Matthew Genge as quoted in Henry Gass, "Plans to strip mine the moon may soon be more than just science-fiction," The Ecologist, 4 July 2011,
37 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon To Power the Earth," Executive Intelligence Review, 24 January 2014,
38 Matt Treske, "Moon Power," Wisconsin Engineer, Vol. 116, No. 1, November 2011
39 National Academy of Engineering, "Provide energy from fusion," 2012,
40 Bruno Maffei, "The Physics of Energy sources Nuclear Fusion," University of Manchester, 2012, p.10
41 Mohammad Mahdavi and Behnaz Kaleji, "Deuterium/helium-3 fusion reactors with lithium seeding," Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, Vol. 51, No. 8, July 2009, pp. 85003-0
42 Sergei V. Ryzhkov, "Alternative Fusion Reactors as Future Commercial Power Plants," Journal of Plasma and Fusion Research, Vol. 8, April 2009, pp. 35-38.
43 David Kramer, "DOE begins rationing helium-3," Physics Today, June 2010,
44 Henry Gass, "Plans to Strip Mine the Moon May Soon be More Than Just Science-Fiction," Global Research, 7 July, 2011,
45 Christopher Barnatt, "Helium-3 Power Generation,", 13 September 2012,
46 Harrison Schmitt, Return to the Moon: Exploration, Enterprise, and Energy in the Human Settlement of Space, Copernicus Books, New York, 2007, pp. 48-51.
47 Artemis Society International, "Lunar Helium-3 as an Energy Source, in a nutshell," 2007,
48 Wenzhe Fa and Ya-Qiu Jin, "Quantitative estimation of helium-3 spatial distribution in the lunar regolith layer," Icarus, No. 190, April 2007, pp. 15-23.
49 Alfred O. Nier and Dennis J. Schlutter, "Extraction of Helium from Individual IDPs and Lunar Grains by Pulse Heating," Meteoritics, Vol. 27, No. 3, July 1992,
50 Richard Bilder, "A Legal Regime for the Mining of Helium-3 on the Moon: U.S. Policy Options," Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, January 2010, p. 246.
51 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
52 Christopher Barnatt, "Helium-3 Power Generation."
53 Joshua E. Keating, "Is There Money In the Moon? Maybe Someday," Foreign Policy, 18 June 2012,
54 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
55 Liu Yuanhui, "Reaching the Moon," China Radio International's English Service, 13 December 2013,
56 Michael C. Zarnstorff as quoted in Brandon Southward, "China's quest for a new energy source heads to space," CNN Money, 20 December 2013,
57 Brandon Southward, "China's quest for a new energy source heads to space."
58 Steven Cowley as quoted in Olivia Boyd, "Nuclear fusion: an answer to China's energy problems?"
59 Gilbert Rozman, Chinese Strategic Thought Toward Asia, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2012, pp. 1-6.
60 Xiaowei Zang, Elite Dualism and Leadership Selection in China, Routledge, London and New York, 2004, pp. 147-162.
61 Walter Wang, "Long Term Planning Puts China on a Different Path," CleanTechies, 16 August 2011,
62 Robert Lawrence Kuhn, How China's Leaders Think: The Inside Story of China's Past, Current and Future Leaders, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 2011, pp. 580-590.
63 The Economist, "Reaching for the Moon," 21 December 2013,
64 Xi Jinping as quoted in The Economist, "Reaching for the Moon."
65 Cole Pfeiffer, "Asia's space race: China looks to dominate the final frontier," Foreign Policy Today, 11 December 2013,
66 Joan Johnson-Freese as quoted in Chris Buckley, "China blasts off to moon with rover mission," Seattle Times, 2 December 2013,
67 Lulu Zhang, "Chief scientist chides narrow view on lunar project,", 17 December 2013,
68 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon," BBC, 29 November 2013,
69 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Antoaneta Bezlova "China reaps a moon harvest," Asia Times Online, 30 October 2007,
70 Karl A. Wittfogel, Oriental Despotism: A Comparative Study of Total Power, New York, Random House, 1957.
71 Brian Herbert, Dreamer of Dune: The Biography of Frank Herbert, Tom Doherty Associates, New York, 2003, p. 172.
72 Julie Sullivan, "Why is China interested in the Moon? Lunar Program Secrets Revealed," Headlines and Global News, 30 November 2013,
73 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
74 Marsha Freeman, "China Takes Next Step Toward Lunar Industrial Development," Beijing Review, No. 9, 27 February 2014,
75 Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, China's Space Activities in 2011 - I. Purposes and Principles of Development, 29 December 2011,
76 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Ajey Lele, Asian Space Race: Rhetoric Or Reality?, Springer India, London, 2013, p. 170.
77 Ling Xin, "An Interview with Ouyang Ziyuan: Chang'e-3 and China's Lunar Missions," Bulletin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, vol. 27, no. 4, November 2013, pp. 26-31.
78 David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
79 Harrison Schmitt as quoted in Simon Denyer "China launches 'Jade Rabbit' rover to moon, precursor to manned mission," Washington Post, 2 December 2013,
80 Ouyang Ziyuan as quoted in Jonathan Adams, "Dragon watch: China pulls ahead in moon race," Global Post, 2 November 2010,,1
81 Beijing Youth Daily as reported in The Asahi Shimbun, "ANALYSIS: Lunar success marks China's rise as next space power," 16 December 2013,
82 Dean Cheng as quoted in Jonathan Adams, "Dragon watch: China pulls ahead in moon race."
83 Ling Xin, "An Interview with Ouyang Ziyuan: Chang'e-3 and China's Lunar Missions," p. 229.
84 Steve Almasy, "Could the moon provide clean energy for Earth?" CNN, 21 July 2011,
85 Dave Keating, "Oettinger aims to get ITER back on track," European Voice, 5 September 2013,
86 Harrison Smith as quoted in Cecilia Jamasmie, "Mining the Moon is Closer than Ever,", 1 January 2010,
87 Arthur Guschin, "China's Renewable Energy Opportunity," Diplomat, 3 April 2014,
88 Lulu Zhang, "Chief scientist chides narrow view on lunar project."
89 South Central University for Nationalities, "Chief Scientist of CLEP Ouyang Ziyuan was Named Honor Professor of SCUN," 14 November 2012,
90 Steve Taranovich, "Helium-3 and Lunar power for Earth reactors," EDN Network, 15 March 2013,
91 University of Wisconsin-Madison - Fusion Technology Institute, "Lunar Mining of Helium-3," 12 March 2014 (updated),
92 Fabrizio Tamburini et al., "No quantum gravity signature from the farthest quasars," Astronomy & Astrophysics, Vol. 533, A71, September 2011, p. 5.
, C. Cuofano2, M. Della Valle3,4 and R. Gilmozzi5
93 Ray Villard, "Strip Mine the Moon to Fuel Space Exploration," Discovery Communications, 13 July 2011,
94 Defang Kong and Qian Zhang, "Manned lunar landing under research," People's Daily Online, 8 January 2014,
95 Sarah Fecht, "Six Reasons NASA Should Build a Research Base on the Moon," National Geographic, 20 December 2013,
96 William A. Ambrose, James F. Reilly II and Douglas C. Peters (eds.), AAPG Memoir 101: Energy Resources for Human Settlement in the Solar System and Earth's Future in Space, American Association of Petroleum Geologists, Tulsa, 2013, p. 41.
97 At the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Kulcinski and his colleagues have designed a ten ton regolith mining machine called the Mark 3. They predict that one of their Mark 3 robotic miners could process six million tons of regolith per year and produce 201 tons of hydrogen, 109 tons of water, 0.033 tons of helium 3 (that's 33 kg.), 102 tons of helium 4, 16.5 tons of nitrogen, 63 tons of carbon monoxide, 56 tons of CO2 and 53 tons of methane. The CO, CO2 and CH4 contain a total of 82 tons of carbon. These researchers have chosen to heat the regolith only up to 700 C. See: Gerald L. Kulcinski , A Resource Assessment and Extraction of Lunar 3He, Presented at the US-USSR Workshop on D-3He Reactor Studies, 25 September- 2 October 1991, Moscow.
98 National Space Agency, "Researchers Estimate Ice Content of Crater at Moon's South Pole," 20 June 2012,
99 John Slough as quoted in Michelle Ma, "Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars," University of Washington News and Information, 4 April 2013,
100 Michelle Ma, "Rocket powered by nuclear fusion could send humans to Mars."
101 John F. Santarius, "Lunar 3He, Fusion Propulsion, and Space Development," Proceedings of the Second Conference on Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century (Houston, Texas, 5-7 Apr 1988), NASA Conference Publication 3166, Vol. 1, p. 75 (1992).
102 John F. Santarius, Role of Advanced-Fuel and, Innovative Concept Fusion in the Nuclear Renaissance, APS Division of Plasma Physics Meeting, Philadelphia, 31 October 2006
103 Marsha Freeman, "Mining the Moon to Power the Earth."
104 K.R., "Lunar property rights - Hard cheese," Economist, 16 February 2014,
105 United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies,, (retrieved) 11 April 2014.
106 International Institute of Space Law, Statement of the Board of Directors of the International Institute of Space Law (IISL), 22 March 2009.
107 Harold Bashor as quoted in Leonard David, "Moon Water: A Trickle of Data and a Flood of Questions,", 06 March 2006,
108 Ibid.
109 Joshua Philipp, "Mining the Moon: Plans Taking Off, but Rules Lacking," Epoch Times, 29 January 2014,
110 Craig Covault, "The New Race for the Moon," SpaceRef, 4 October 2013,
111 Ningzhu Zhu, "China plans to launch Chang'e 5 in 2017," Xinhua,
112 Igor Mitrofanov et al., 'Luna-Glob' and 'Luna-Resurs': science goals, payload and status, European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2014, Vienna, 27 April-02 May 2014.
113 The Hindu, "India to launch Chandrayaan-II by 2017," 10 January 2014,
114 Kenichi Fujita, "An Overview of Japan's Planetary Probe Mission Planning," 9th International Planetary Probe Workshop, Toulouse, June 2012.
115 National Aeronautics and Space Administration, "ILN - International Lunar Network," 30 April 2013,; See also: Irene Klotz, "NASA Planning for Mission To Mine Water on the Moon," 28 January 2014
116 Soo Bin Park, "South Korea reveals Moon-lander plans," Nature, 13 November 2013,
117 Stephen Clark, "ESA lunar lander shelved ahead of budget conference," Astronomy Now, 8 November 2012,
118 Shaoting Ji and Wen Wang, "China's space exploration goals before 2020," China Daily,, 10 March 2014,
119 William Stewart, "Is Vlad keen on a trip? Putin eyes up cosmonaut uniform as his deputy premier sets out plans to colonise space and declares 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'," Daily Mail,
120 Srinivas Laxman, "Japan SELENE-2 Lunar Mission Planned For 2017," Asian Scientist, 16 July 2012,
121 Express News Service, "ISRO: No Manned Mission to Moon," 1 January 2014,
122 Zhang Yuhua as quoted in Defang Kong and Qian Zhang, "Manned lunar landing under research," People's Daily Online, 8 January 2014,
123 CNN, "2010 moon mission for China," 20 May 2002,
124 Dmitry Rogozin as quoted in The Voice of Russia, "Russia plans to get a foothold in the Moon - Dmitriy Rogozin," 11 April 2014,
125 Richard Holdaway as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
126 Kevin Pollpeter as quoted in Sarah Cruddas, "Will China have an Apollo moment?", BBC, 11 December 2013,
127 Richard Holdaway as quoted in David Shukman, "Why China is fixated on the Moon."
128 Vincent G. Sabathier, Johannes Weppler and Ashley Bander, "Costs of an International Lunar Base," Center for Strategic and International Studies, 24 September 2009.
129 Duane Byrge, "Firm Review: Moon", Hollywood Reporter, 26 January 2009,
130 John Hickman, "Red Moon Rising: Could China's lunar ambitions scramble politics here on Earth?" Foreign Policy, 18 June 2012,
131 John M. Logdson, "Lost in Space," Politico Magazine, 19 December 2013,
132 Everett C. Dolman, Astropolitik: Classical Geopolitics in the Space Age, Frank Cass Publishers, London and Portland, 2002, pp. 84-88.
133 John Hickman, "Still crazy after four decades: The case for withdrawing from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty," Space Review, 24 September 2007,
134 Henry Hertzfeld, "The Moon is a Land without Sovereignty: Will it be a Business Friendly Environment?," High Frontier Journal, Vol. 3, No. 2, Spring 2007, Page 43.
135 Richard C. Cook, "Militarization and the Moon-Mars Program: Another Wrong Turn in Space?," Global Research, 22 January 2007,
136 Want China Times, "PLA dreams of turning moon into Death Star, says expert," 12 December 2013,
137 Metro, "How the Moon could fuel World Wars," 26 May 2009,
138 Beijing Declaration, Global Space Development Summit, Beijing, 24 April 2008, p. 2.
139 Wilson Greatbatch "War is not the Answer, Nuclear Fusion Power with Helium 3 is the Answer," Prometheus, No. 87, Special Issue, 2003,
140 Francis of Assisi, "Canticle of the Sun," 1225,
141 Satish Kumar and Kopal Gupta, "Helium-3 As An Alternate Fuel Technology (for Producing Electricity)," p. 80.
142 Keith Cowing, "Is China Really Winning a Space Race with Us?," NASA Watch, 20 December 2013,
143 Lamont Colucci, "America Must Retake Lead in Space Exploration," US News, 11 December 2012,
144 Jonathan Amos, "Obama cancels Moon return project," BBC,
145 Jane Qiu, "Head of China's space science reaches out," Nature, 6 March 2014,
146 Xu Dazhe as quoted in PTI, "China wants space collaboration with US," Economic Times, 11 January 2014,
147 Sanford Healey, "The Future of United States-Chinese Space Relations," Proceedings of the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, 11-13 April 2013, p. 342.
148 Peter Rakobowchuk, "Hadfield: The future of Canadian space exploration lies with China," Canadian Press, 28 December 2013,
149 Leonard David, "China Invites Foreign Astronauts to Fly On Future Space Station,, 28 September 2013,
150 Chris Hadfield as quoted in Peter Rakobowchuk, "Hadfield: The future of Canadian space exploration lies with China."
151 Beijing Declaration, p. 2.
152 Vincent G. Sabathier, Johannes Weppler and Ashley Bander, "Costs of an International Lunar Base."
153 Richard Bilder, "A Legal Regime for the Mining of Helium-3 on the Moon: U.S. Policy Options," Fordham International Law Journal, pp. 289-299.

Thursday, 19 May 2011 00:00

Standing Proudly Despite the Chair

Vincent Huang, a campaigner for gay rights took time to explain his experience in the Gay Movement and what bearing his disability has on his role within it and on his outlook on life in general.

Photography and Filming by Pinti Zheng, Editing and Subtitling Conor Stuart

Tuesday, 30 October 2012 17:21

Sakenge Kazangiman: Law and the power of the People

My motivation for participating in this activity, stems from the fact that when I was evaluating the Canada international exchange which I took part in a year ago, I realized that, in certain aspects, aboriginal affairs and the law can work together, as well as internationally on top aborigines about modern law and traditional systems under attack and their response. Afterwards, I took part in the “Aboriginal international affairs personnel training”, which helped me to understand more deeply the influence that can be exerted by aborigines worldwide by establishing ties with each other, which then let me to realize the importance of promoting an international perspective. When I found out about the trip to Fiji, in Austronesia, this year, it made me feel all the more resolutely that I must try the experience again, I must go once more.

When talking to the locals, we realized first hand the similar high pitch of our languages which is proof of our common ancestry. We took part in a class by Professor Morgan of the University of the South Pacific. We asked him if the people of the villages thought they were originally part of Austronesia, and he said that most of them thought they originated from Africa. However, we were surprised by the fact that counting from one to ten sounded almost the same in all of our mother tongues, we could barely believe it! This also seemed to give irrefutable evidence to the Austronesian grouping of languages. I had always thought that the concept of Austronesia was just discourse, I had never experienced it in a heartfelt way. After going through this kind of experience, however, I felt quite strongly that, despite the skin color and external appearance having changed somewhat due to environmental factors; we have clear proof that our institutions, languages and culture share similarities, and this gives me a deeper sense of identity.

In the Oceania Centre for Arts and Culture performance area at the university, we found a pillar on which words had been written. The words were those of deceased scholar Epeli Hau’ofa in his influential essay Our Sea of Islands. The contents of this essay he discusses how the ocean is a means for developing an Oceanic identity. He claimed the ocean was the main link that joined together all the small islands, that we are the ocean. This concept allowed us to look upon the world and the ocean from a new perspective. Hau’ofa devoted himself to creating an Oceanic identity: the islands of Oceania are not isolated, but rather a community linked together by the Ocean, so we should connect with one another. And as a native of Oceania, I think that Taiwan should also be a part of this.

Photo by Sakenge

The indigenous Fijian people, unlike the young Taiwanese, don’t have any identity crisis issues. The indigenous Fijians are not divided into over ten different ethnic groups like the Taiwanese, the difference between some of these groups being the fact that the people are from a different village or with a slightly different dialect. Identity is very personal and subjective, and manifests in a natural way in one’s daily life. After this first personal level of identification, ethnic groups will often try to find reasons behind their defining aspects, using sociological, historical, and anthropological concepts to justify their identity and purposefully separate one group from another.

There are two types of tourism in Fiji; the first is run by foreign businessmen and consists mainly of large-scale resort hotels, and the other is a grassroots ecological experience promoted by individual villages. We experienced both during the course of this trip. I think that part of the negative effects of tourism stem from the fact that the managers don’t really understand the locals, so they present an overly simplistic form of their culture, in addition to adding all the comforts of capitalism. In order to cater to the expectations of the outside world towards Fiji’s culture and nature, these expectations are packaged to create the sense of a holiday paradise; for example the view of cannibalistic natives becomes a selling point for the business, which causes the local culture and ecology to come under attack. I think if some of the power to shape the way tourism works were to return to the village, that would be a good way to mitigate this problem. Villages should have autonomy when deciding how to manage tourism, how to present their culture, and how to defend their ecosystem.

From visiting the villages, we noticed that all of them had a very high level of self-determination and subjectivity. Muaivuso village in particular is collaborating with the University of the South Pacific to defend knowledge about traditional ways of life and protect the ocean through the creation of ocean conservation areas. Although the government provided some technological help, the main driving force has been the people from the village and their tribal spirit. Seeing this has motivated me to go back to the tribe and encouraging them by telling them just how many things can be achieved with their strength of will. This will show other people our achievements, will allow for many possibilities in our hometown, and can also be used as a bargaining chip with the government or mainstream society when trying to defend our rights.


Fiji and Taiwan have a rather similar system of land division and land preservation. The difference, however, is that in Fiji all the land is collectively owned, which differs from Taiwan where it is privately owned. Land preservation is managed jointly by the iTaukei Land Trust Board and the traditional tribal chiefs. If a foreign business wants to make use of the land of any given village, they must first visit the village and gain its consent, before submitting an application to the Land Trust. After that the three parties will come together to discuss the terms and conditions of the contract, and to sign it if an agreement is reached. This high level of respect for the opinions of the tribe can serve as an option to ponder and an example to follow for Taiwan. Maybe we can use village meetings to exercise the communal rights of the tribe, such as discussing the usage of natural resources and the way we open up land for development.

After this trip, I think that establishing international connections and gaining an international perspective are very important! I decided that in the future, I would focus all my efforts on developing and studying tribes, so before I left Taiwan for this trip, I thought that just learning about development in Taiwan would be enough. However, when you represent only two percent of the population, how can you dialog efficiently with mainstream society, when you both have different views shaped by your differing culture?Most indigenous people are not the majority in their respective countries, so they need to use international connections and agreements to interact with the mainstream government, and on occasion even to resist it. However, indigenous people need to have a strong cultural foundation before trying to expand their international point of view. Only in this way can they become a medium of communication between the tribe and the world. Otherwise, the connection with their roots will be lost, including the ability for the tribe to pass on information. If this happens, then the internationalization of the indigenous people will have lost its meaning.

This international exchange was a great opportunity for young Taiwanese aborigine people to have a broader view of the world, as well as allowing us to engage in cultural diplomacy with different indigenous people from around the world. If we form connections with each other, then our youthful power will become ever stronger. I also look forward to the opportunities that will arise from participating in this event, such as becoming the foundation for building a relationship between Taiwan and Fiji, and making sure Taiwan is in sync with the indigenous people of the world.I hope that these international exchange programs can continue in a far-reaching and sustainable way, so that this meaningful activity can continue to help young Taiwanese aborigine students to broaden their horizons.


Translated from the Chinese by Daniel Pagan Murphy


Friday, 29 June 2012 11:53

Got Beef with President Horse?

Is Ma Yingjiu truly the son of Satan?

Upon being reelected in the 2012 presidential election this January, Ma Yingjiu (or Horse England Nine1, as one of my former students called him), must have felt the calm satisfaction of a job well done. He had just defeated a fairly strong opposition by a very tight margin, and would have four more years of control to shape Taiwan the way he saw fit. Little did he know that just five months down the line, he would be the target of (almost) everyone’s criticism.

Thursday, 01 March 2012 12:48

Tsai Ing-wen: Delusions of grandeur?

Recently, during the run-up to the Taiwanese 2012 general election, I remember talking to a Taiwanese friend of mine, a staunch supporter of the DPP. When asking him what he thought of Ma Ying-jeou, the KMT candidate, he answered: “自我感覺良好”, which could be translated as having delusions of grandeur, high views of oneself, someone with impossible targets to meet, etc. A few days later I mentioned this same conversation to my KMT supporting friend, and she responded by laughing it off and saying that Tsai Ing-wen, the DPP candidate, was the deluded one.

Aside from what this says about modern politics, which is basically a never-ending exercise in bickering and name-calling, what my second friend said about Tsai Ing-wen got me thinking; was she really deluded? Was there ever a real chance of her becoming the first female president of Taiwan? The election results were relatively close, although the victory was still clear for the ruling KMT party. The question is, how big a role did Tsai Ing-wen’s gender play in the results? And finally, was Taiwan, a country in which a large part of women are still often fairly submissive and meek towards men, really ready for its first female president?

Taiwan’s democratic history is very recent, by any standards. Since the first election after the martial law which happened in 1996, the Taiwanese have consistently and passionately campaigned and engaged in political activity. In Taiwan, however, most elections are not won based on personalities or appearances, the votes are rather cast based on family ties to either party or on the basis of one’s attitude towards China, which is the main conflicting point of policy. This allows for, barring some scandalous event such as the DPP corruption case of 2006, significantly less fluctuation in the number of votes from election to election, which made this year’s race an uphill battle for Tsai Ing-wen. It also means it is hard to estimate how many votes she might have garnered on the basis of being a woman. This is not to say that getting to the point of being a presidential candidate and coming so close isn’t remarkable in and of itself. On the contrary, many countries with more established democracies in Europe have never had a female candidate, so it is an impressive achievement indeed and says many good things of Taiwanese society.

Tsai Ing-wen is a very intelligent and intellectual woman who brought real depth to her party and forced people to take it more seriously. Departing from the extreme populism of the past, she strived to ensure that people saw that the DPP can be structured and offer a feasible alternative to the KMT. Whereas in other countries her gender would have been a massive issue remarked on constantly, to Taiwan’s credit it wasn’t a huge point in general, and she herself never made it one of the defining characteristics of her campaign.

In a particular example of just how little focus has been given on the fact that Tsai Ing-wen is a woman, both parties condemned former DPP chairman Shih Ming-the’s comments earlier in 2011 when he claimed that Tsai Ing-wen should reveal her sexual orientation, implying that she might be gay solely based on the fact that she is single. The comments also received strong criticism from gay rights and women’s groups who were outraged by the intrusion into her private life. Certain KMT members, however, insinuated that the comments might have been a subtle tactic by the DPP to get some sympathy votes. These accusations were fervently denied by the DPP, and Tsai Ing-wen herself gracefully declined to comment. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to consider the possibility that the KMT might have used her gender, if not in a direct fashion, then maybe in an implied one, as a weapon to further their belief that they are the only party fit to govern the island.

This KMT belief was strengthened by the 2006 corruption case involving DPP ex-president Chen Shui-bian mentioned above, which sadly seemed to point out that this exceptional woman’s race was doomed from the start. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with her personal campaign, and everything to do with the recent history of her party. The messy trial and corruption problems of the recent past have dynamited the people’s trust in the DPP, and made it virtually impossible to win on this occasion. Others have pointed out to me the atrocities the KMT committed during its time in command; but to the voters, the most recent event is always the most vivid, and the DPP’s betrayal of the people’s trust is still fresh in people’s minds. At the end, this has to be the biggest contributing factor to the failure of Tsai Ing-wen’s failed campaign.

To extrapolate from Tsai Ing-wen’s particular case, the status of women in Taiwanese politics is looking positive. According to a United Nation’s survey, Taiwan is the fourth country in the world, and the first in Asia, when it comes to women’s rights. For such a small country and such a recent democracy, this is a monumental achievement. Moreover, over 20% of legislators in Taiwan are female, which is why it shouldn’t be surprising to see more female politicians, such as Tsai Ing-wen, little by little taking back a part of society that is usually heavily restricted to men. Hopefully she will help open the floodgates and start a new trend in which more and more Taiwanese women actively attempt to get involved in politics.

All things considered, I believe that Tsai Ing-wen’s gender was never the issue, but she was rather a crimeless victim of her party’s past. Sadly, if she had been the candidate in 2016, she might have stood a genuine chance, for she is a likeable, smart woman who seems to have a knack for politics. Finally, though, it appears my KMT friend was right, and it seems that her dreams of being president were just illusions, never to be realized.

Photograph by David Reid



Thursday, 10 November 2011 00:00

An all-new flavour? Australia’s Asian Century

Their knowledge of China is thin. They relate to the world outside through a limited range of material symbols rather than through deep cultural engagement.[1]

To those of us following media commentary immediately after Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard pronounced “we are truly already a decade into an Asian century”[2], the above statement would be familiar.

Routine sentiment appeared on the airwaves: Australian students show no interest in studying Asian languages; government funding is misdirected; there is an entrenched failure of Australians to grasp even the most basic cultural aspects of our northern neighbours. Not just China, but India, Indonesia, South Korea and the rest. Even Japan, our old mate, remains as misunderstood as ever.

Sure, Australians love a good curry and are happy to chill out on an island in southern Thailand. Aussies might even feign worldliness so far as to tattoo exotic scripts down their sunburnt and rippling biceps, but they just don’t really comprehend the place. "Asia? I’ll get back to ya on that one, mate".

But the quotation leading this article was not about Australia, it was about Hong Kong, about the professional elite in Hong Kong. A place that is as close to China as you can get—physically and politically—and a demographic whose wealth is arguably much closer tied to the palpitations of the Chinese economy than that of the average Australian is. It would appear that Australia is not alone in puzzling over a "deep cultural engagement" with the emerging Asian powers.

Now it is true that Australia, as a nation, struggles to articulate how it fits into Asia. This is nothing new. The White Australia Policy restricted immigration to Europeans and was in place for over 70 years. Politicians, both maverick (independent representative Pauline Hanson) and mainstream (former Prime Minister John Howard)[3] have expressed concern about Australia’s place in Asia. During my first year as an economic history student in 1997, I was required to read an article in The Economist that reminded us “The idea that Australia’s future belongs in Asia has been around a long time”[4]

As a former British colony, Australia’s links to England have remained, albeit less strong than in the past. While the Queen managed to generate decent crowds and cloying press coverage during her recent tour, Oprah Winfrey might well have been even more popular when she came ‘down under[5]’ last year.

Historically, or so it goes, as the British Empire waned, Australia’s alliance with the USA grew. Gillard recently gushed to a joint sitting of the US Congress, “you have a true friend down under”[6]. Hokey, yes, but an accurate reflection of Australia’s diplomatic, military and political connections. And for many of us, cultural connections too. America still exerts a strong push and pull through electronic and other media.

In this context, many eyebrows were raised in late September 2011 when Gillard announced the impending publication of a discussion paper called Australia in the Asian Century. This weighty tome is designed to uncover the risks and opportunities in a world where Europe and North America do not dominate as they have in the past. Australian government policy needs to be guided in this reoriented world and this paper will help set the bearings.

Of course, Gillard’s enthusiasm for the 'Asian Century' must be put into context. Domestically her popularity has been dire and the political conversation here is constantly bogged down by the opportunistic and oppugnant opposition leader. Insular matters such as regulating poker machines and dealing with boat people have dominated headlines. When it comes to Asia, Gillard has been hidden by the shadows of Australia’s Mandarin-speaking former PM and current foreign minister, Kevin Rudd (aka Kevin07 aka 陸克文). The ‘Asian Century’ discussion paper is a chance for her to shape Australia’s future engagement with the region and kick some domestic political goals at the same time. Tellingly, the leader of the task force, his three colleagues in the committee of cabinet, and the further three members of the external advisory panel are all economists[7]. Eminent and successful economists, of course, but economist nonetheless, and therefore likely to emphasize the broadening financial dimensions of the Australia/Asia relationship(s).

As the impact of Gillard’s announcement has settled, a range of considered opinions beyond the economic aspects have emerged. Some optimistic for the future, some mournful for missed opportunities. Australia’s national broadsheet newspaper, The Australian, has praised Sydney University’s attempt to create academic linkages with China[8]. The leading security strategist, Hugh White, has floated the sensible idea that in order to truly boost the Asian language capacity of young Australians, the government should fund 1-2 year exchanges in the region[9]. In an online (and utterly unscientific) poll, 56% of respondents supported his idea. Bloggers at the Lowy Institute (an international policy think tank) have canvassed various issues inherent in Australia’s Asian connections. From reading these exchanges, it emerges that, among other things, there is resistance among Australian students to learning Asian languages. Many high school students studying foreign languages have an ethnic connection to the particular language, either through their parents or having grown up overseas. Students without this ‘advantage’ do not wish to take these classes for fear of bleeding grades to the better-equipped students. Reflecting a sense of intimidation masquerading as ambivalence, Australians tend to think “Why bother trying in a cosmopolitan world where English is the lingua franca? Learning a language is just too bloody hard, and besides, just because you know the language doesn’t mean you know the place… right? ”.

Not necessarily. Drawing on the long-standing debate about Australia’s ‘China literacy’, Geremie Barmé affirmed at the 2011 Australian Centre on China in the World Inaugural Lecture that

Those who rely for their literacy of China on the translated, whose interests are confined to that which is relevant or useful but in the short term, whether it be in the sphere of business or diplomacy, need to appreciate the fact that whatever their Chinese contacts might say to their face about their ability to 'understand China', perhaps even calling them a 中国通, in the end they'll be considered at best a simple-minded, even malleable, friend. So long as things go well, everyone muddles through. But when they don't, there's no substitute for the ability to think about, engage within and contend with a China that is itself a world of complexity[10].

Pro-China and pro-Tibet supporters mingle with locals at the Beijing Olympic Torch relay - Canberra, April 2008 (P. Farrelly)

I doubt that any Australian (or anyone not versed in the vernacular, for that matter) could claim that they truly understood a country if the didn’t understand the ‘local lingo’. No matter how many topical books and subtitled shows the monoglot devours, he or she will always be scrambling for the full story. Fluency, or even just proficiency, in the native tongue opens a whole different dimension of experience. Walking down the street becomes a new realm of opportunity, with advertisements to interpret and chatter to overhear, goods to buy and transport systems to navigate. With language skills, business meetings, conferences and banquets become even greater opportunities to forge connections. Many businessmen/women would no doubt attest that deals are generally not made on a country-to-country or even company-to-company level, but between individuals.

In conceptualising the ‘Asian century’, a considerable dose of nuance must be applied. The linguistic, cultural and developmental differences within places such as India and China can be almost as glaring as those that separate them. How does one simultaneously understand authoritarian pariah states such as Burma and North Korea and robust democracies such as Japan and Taiwan? Lapsing into monolithic generalisations about Asia presents a genuine risk. Subtlety will be required in ‘Australia’s Asian Century’.

Australia is not alone in trying to adjust to the recalibrated world order, and this in itself is something to consider. The countries mentioned above, along with every other nation under the sun, are trying to make sense of the new global landscape. Politically, economically, militarily, linguistically and culturally, nations around the world are seeking to determine the trade-offs required to best hitch their prosperity on to the Asian high-speed train of development.

The extent to which Australia is connected with Asia is something Australians can no longer stick their heads in the sand about. Our football team, the Socceroos, are preparing to battle Thailand in a waterlogged Bangkok to inch closer to the 2014 World Cup Finals. This weekend the Korea pop juggernaut blasts into town for an arena show in Sydney[11]. These events might well have been inconceivable even just a decade ago, having been shaped by recent (but long-gestating) diplomatic and cultural evolutions. Along with curry and discount flights to tropical islands, they are but two examples of what Helen F. Siu might refer as the “limited range of material symbols” that Australians use to understand Asia. Limited, perhaps, but still signs of some sort of ongoing integration and awareness.

Prime Minister Gillard’s speech from the launch of the ‘Asian Century’ is riddled with use of the ‘new’. New powers. New investment. New strengths. New Asian middle class. New relationships. New century.

And yes, much of ‘Australia’s Asian Century’ is new, some of it strikingly so. But what if you were to ask an old Australian Digger[12] about the ‘Asian century’? Someone who fought the Japanese in Malaya in WWII, who spent time rotting away in the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore. Someone who then went on to do business with the Japanese, helping hitch his homeland’s economy to that of the booming one of his former, bitter enemy. The old Digger might have a different perspective. His century, the 20th, was very much an Asian one. Not just for him, but for Australia too.

How Australia deals with the ‘Asian century’ will be interesting. How Asia deals with the ‘Asian century’ will be interesting too! The team writing the government report will no doubt adroitly address the important economic issues. However, complex cultural and linguistic elements should not be deemphasised. A ‘deep cultural engagement’ with our Asian neighbours will surely benefit all.


[1] Helen F. Siu, “A Provincialized Middle Class in Hong Kong” in Worlding Cities: Asian Experiments and the Art of Being Global, edited by Ananya Roy and Aihwa Ong. Blackwell 2011. Page 136.



[4] ‘A national identity crisis’, The Economist, 14 December 1996.

[5] ‘Down under’ refers to Australia. See this old tourism advertisement featuring Paul ‘Crocodile Dundee’ - The Wonders Down Under







[12] A ‘digger’ is slang for an Australian soldier

Wednesday, 04 May 2011 11:52

My Notes on the 'Wild Strawberries'

Translated from the Chinese by Rob Voigt. Original 我的台北“野草莓”雜記/何東洪 published in Reflextion (思想) 11th ed March 2009


I felt originally that I was quite involved with the “Wild Strawberry (Yecaomei) Student Movement,” and so I jumped to respond to Reflextion Magazine’s invitation and write out some of my thoughts and observations on this sit-in demonstration. Little did I imagine that after responding, though the number of students in Freedom Square did gradually decrease, those remaining would sustain their protest for more than a month, all the way to New Years’ Day, 2009. In the end, a group of students entered the dispute that arose from the rented space, and a portion held unclear and differing points of view with regard to their experiences in the Square, as well as a lack of clarity on their imaginings and desires with regards to the meaning of the “movement.” I had a deep fear of being charged with so-called “violence of generational guidance.”

After all, the students describe their own action as a student/youth self-transformative movement. It wasn’t a break from school, but a face-to-face collective action to confront the violence of the state apparatus. At the same time, in many ways this movement was created out of the accumulation of more than twenty years of efforts to resist the state machinery by various social movements and political organizations, including the support of NGOs and material and financial contributions by everyday citizens. For that reason, the students have no choice but to shoulder a significant amount of societal responsibility – and criticism. As one of the so-called “wild professors,” I know that I too must accept my share of this same responsibility and criticism.

I am not setting out to discuss this movement from an elevated theoretical perspective on the history or limitations of social or student movements (and it should be noted that a significant amount of professors have touched upon this in the past month or so), nor do I seek to look back on these events by way of their development (this sort of analysis must be written by the students from their own experience, although due to regional context and differences in process this will certainly result in argument and contention amongst the varying perspectives). Instead I intend to take this opportunity look back and think deeply on these events; to express the memories of the Square that have haunted my body and mind ever since, acting as a teacher and through my experience of interacting with students, as a “wild professor,” and as one who has previously participate and continues to participate in student and social movements and interact with their membership.



On November 5th, 2008, I got a call from Lee Ming-tsung, who hurriedly explained that due to Chen Yunlin’s visit to Taiwan, many students were involved in a conflict encircling his hotel, that came to be known as the Shangyang Music Store Incident, and as a result they wanted to make an official protest to the KMT. He hoped I could come to Tai Da to discuss the issue. That night I joined Lee Ming-tsung, TC Chang, Michael Lin, and several other students involved in Tai Da’s “Zhuoshuixi Club” in Fan Yun’s office. After a short discussion, I had to leave due to other commitments. As we discussed the plan, I didn’t intervene a great deal, but only addressed those present with questions as to the movement’s goals and methods. On the other hand, Michael spoke earnestly about the need for students to prepare psychologically and organizationally for the long-term struggle this could become, in that fascism was evidently returning in force. At that time, Fan Yun was busy in another office with a meeting, and so did not have a great deal to comment. That night Lee Ming-tsung drafted the 1106 Action Announcement and distributed it through the Tai Da BBS, so that by the second and third day the number of students participating in the sit-in in front of the Executive Yuan had reached four or five hundred, including several dozens of university teachers as well. It was several days later before I found out that one of the Three Appeals in the plan, a demand that “the Legislative Yuan immediately fix the ‘Collective Assembly Law’ that restricts the rights of the people” had been added by Fan Yun.

Unexpected changes and shifts in values often occur between the initiation of a “movement” and the actual experience of it. Some people say that this was a “flash” action enabled by the space provided by the BBS that later become a full-fledged “student movement,” and that at the beginning the majority of participants were merely the “fans” of a few of the Tai Da professors. It is said as well that it only took shape on November 7th with the move to Chiang Kai-shek Temple (I’ve heard students call it “Freedom Square,” but the CKS Temple[1] was what it was called in the “Wild Lily” pro-democratization protest), and thereafter as a result of reports in the media and through the internet did it become called the “Strawberry Generation” movement including students from a larger number of schools.

Evaluating whether what came to be known as “Wild Strawberry” (with its associated slogan “We’ll show you wild”) after its decontamination from the “Strawberry Generation” moniker, and whether it indeed deserves to be called a true social movement, or whether it was a self-reflective movement for the students, cannot be determined merely on the basis of media reports (particularly the month-long sustained reporting of the Liberty Times) or the comings and goings of certain loudmouthed internet critics, or even from the participants’ “official” documents. More crucially, it must be evaluated from the perspective of three major facets of the event: the appeals that were made, the movement’s mobilization, and its organization.



In the two discussions on the Wild Strawberry (野草莓 yecaomei) movement hosted by the Ao online magazine on December 14th and 20th, Chiu Yu-bin succinctly explained the importance of the above-mentioned aspects of the movement: participants had to first have some ideological preparation; the arrangement of topics and their expansion had to link up with the “on-site” action; and the result had to be well-organized work. If we take the body as a metaphor for comparison, we could say that the Wild Strawberry movement was weak from the start, and so had to reach its goals through on-the-spot training, embodying a unique openness and facing unique difficulties.

The “pan-Green curse” was a perpetual disturbance for this sit-in action. On November 6th, I was in Jiayi city, and got a call from a friend who was an assistant for the DPP’s legislation committee. He described that the students drew a line in the Square that politicized persons could not cross, demanding that if they were to enter they could not bring their own banners, markers, and so on, and he felt extremely frustrated at this new development. This was the students’ first time being divided with the pan-Green coalition. I could understand this friend’s dissatisfaction. For the past twenty years and more, Taiwan’s student movements were not predicated on social issues, but rather were drawn out by both social and political offenses. In this sit-in, which began from the so-called “Siege of Chen Incident” in which the Yuanshan hotel where Chen Yunlin was staying of course largely organised and encouraged by pan-Green supporters. Their thinking was, “why then should students and teachers be set apart from the masses, or from supporters of the pan-Green coalition?” Only the students could answer this question, and their answer was simply that they were even more forward-looking than the pan-Green political entity. They allowed anyone, from the masses to social organizations to identify with them and participate, but in an un-politicized manner – how could an entity acting as a “cheerleading squad” for a political party call itself an independently-thinking organization?

On November 10th the press conference hosted by the “wild professors” was held in the Square in support of the students. On November 11th the Taiwan Sociology Journal published the “Petition to Repeal the ‘Parade and Assembly Law’,” and on the 12th the Raging Citizens Act Now (火大聯盟) coalition began their protest action aimed also at getting the law thrown out. On the same day at noon the Sanying community[2] arrived in the Square. Through these three actions, it looked as though the “social force” behind the students was strengthening, but it also “compelled” students to face issues of the specific content of the “third appeal” and provide an explanation of the meaning of the movement. Seeing things in light of later developments, the demands that ROC President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan publicly apologize and that Director of Police Wang, Cho-chiun and Director of National Defense Tsai Chao-ming step down were clearly not achievable by sitting our butts outside the CKS Temple; furthermore, the appeal to “fix the law” was certain to lessen the force of proposals to eliminate the law altogether. Yet at the same time, if following the path of “fix the law” would amount to simply hanging on the coattails of the pan-Greeners, then that too would not be a sound path. The students, with the help of the Jimeng NGO[3] and during discussions on the Square, had the opportunity to become familiar with the relationship between the violence of the state machinery and the weak voices it stifles, particularly with regards to the fact of the suppression of freedom of assembly and civil rights, They found that there exist many contradictions, and this is not a problem than cannot be resolved purely through the development of a national identity or a political choice.

A movement must be properly armed and equipped with its “ideological preparation,” but could the students’ small group organization and distribution of work achieve it?

On November 7th, when I was in Jiayi meeting with a group of professors, we received a live broadcast online of the students discussing the possibility of leaving the Executive Yuan, and retreat to the NTU main gate or to the CKS Temple were also discussed. Finally it was resolved to head to the Hall. Next was the discussion of whether or not, upon reaching the Hall, they ought to apply for a “collective protest permit,” and I couldn’t help but blurt out at the screen, “Do it! You’re going out in a collective protest, why do you even need to discuss applying?!”

Starting from that moment, until all that remained was the final group of ten or twenty students at the Hall in the end of December, in all resolutions big or small the students took a “direct democracy” approach (which everyone playfully described as having a “class meeting”). This was indeed a pioneering step, but it also proved to wear hard on this sit-in.

It may have seemed that this “discussion system” was a necessary measure in responding to “Lee Ming-tsung’s call to action on the BBS” because of the vast variety of groups involved: those dissatisfied with the “the police, symbolizing the state machinery, confiscating the ROC flag”; those supporting Taiwan independence; those supporting the nativism movement; and those who often participated in social movements, organizations and so on. In that case, given that the organizational makeup of the movement was replaced twice, the students’ deep differences could undoubtedly not be fully handled in the near-nightly “class meetings” at 9pm. In the end, the discussion system also became the cause of a large number of participants slowly trickling away.

Starting on November 7th the participants split into 22 small groups for discussion and selected a policy group, some experienced members “ran off” and left, the overall arrangement was reorganized, and work was distributed, leading up to the November 15th larger meeting. Finally on November 21st votes were cast to decide whether or not to stay (with 51 for and 42 against, it was decided to stay), the small work groups were again reorganized, and after the march on December 7th, only a few persistent students remained. The direct democracy approach in the end was unable to solve the issue of decreased student presence during the day (sometimes to the point that there would be no one in the sit-in tent area at all!), with many only arriving at night for meetings. Every student, no matter how many days they had participated, was counted as a full member simply by virtue of their showing up, and all were allowed to vote in the proceedings; and no matter if they were working on the action plan or expanding our appeals, the daily operations of the small groups were all systematically disseminated through the microphone on-site and posted online. This was truly pioneering work worldwide!

During mid-term exams in November, I once tried to enter the sit-in tent to talk with students about the details of the collective assembly law, when I was stopped from one side by a student wearing a surgical mask, saying that they were currently engaged in a “silent sit-in,” and no one was allowed to speak. After a while I simply had choice but to quietly leave!

There were essentially no students on the Square with significant experience participating in social movements who could have led the small group discussions. Some relevant problems in this regard were first that the participating students were always coming and going, and second that the various students gathered in the small groups had various conflicting interests and levels of authority, so it was difficult for them to produce any very substantive results.

Being that this sort of organizational system faced difficulties in pushing forward the appeals of the movement, and that the “class meetings” had no way to solidify the movement’s direction, it was inevitable that students’ interpersonal differences would be expanded and distorted, leading to misunderstandings and conflict on-site. The vote on November 21st was most representative of this effect. After the vote, more than twenty people from both sides of the argument left immediately to take the MRT home, leaving only the working staff and a small number of students sleeping on the Square. In the long and tedious discussion, and under the restrictions of the rules of procedure, neither side was capable of fully persuading the other, though each claimed that their suggestions would deepen the goals and direction of the movement. Such a strengthening of the goals of the movement could not be achieved in this sort of on-site discussion, or rather, argument. Other than on weekends and on the day of the big rally, larger social questions that arose were only clarified for the small number of students present in the day and at the “class meetings,” and the vast majority of the time members of the small groups did not encounter them. It’s not that they didn’t want to come to the meetings, but rather that they were busy with their day-to-day work, and had no time to go into the tent and talk over these issues with NGO groups and social workers.

At noon on November 12th, members of the Sanying aboriginal community came to the Square from the Legislative Yuan. A day prior they had been arranged to talk and have a discussion, but upon their arrival they were “bureaucratically” blocked by a student in charge of maintaining the border around the student area in the Square, saying they had not received the proper “directive.” After a bit of fussing, the community representatives were allowed to come in and give the students a simple talk on their experiences and goals. I saw then in the tent, other than a few students watching and listening intently, everyone else sat with heads lowered, reading their books for the upcoming mid-term exams. That night I saw several students updating the action process poster, explaining this “action” by writing that “the Sanying community came to express their greetings,” and honestly I felt quite disheartened, feeling unsure if it was a small group of students’ ignorance, or arrogance, that took things down to this level.


Photo: Chen Yu-chun


Every day I took the bus to Fu Jen University, and then from Fu Da to the square, so I became accustomed to observing the students. One day on the 802 bus, I saw a boy and girl who looked like grad students, wearing fashionable clothes. The boy was leaning against the window by my side, and from his bag he took out a Louis Vuitton catalogue, intently looking through it from the back page to the front. Afterward he passed it across me to the girl, telling her to give it a look: “there’s good stuff in there,” he said. Then as she was reading it, he took out Edward Said’s “Power, Politics, and Culture” from his bag, and began to read through it ravenously. As I walked towards school a bit later, I pondered over the juxtaposition of such extravagant brand-name consumerism and the radical writings of Post-colonial intellectuals, thinking - aren’t both just forms of fashionable consumer culture? Or is it somehow possible that in a Post-modern, individualistic society they can coexist without leading to conflicts of identity?

On November 9th on the Square, it came through the microphone: “[Such-and-such student], the McDonalds you ordered has arrived!” From the first week of the sit-in, an enthusiastic public provided an endless stream of material support on the Square, including food, and yet there were still some students hankering after McDonalds. To others, maybe this could appear to be an insignificant issue of food preferences, but to those who, like me, have been through Taiwan’s movements against military officials in schools and against censorship, who joined up with peasant movements, who resisted the WTO, and who one night went out with a group of protesters to smash the windows of a McDonalds, it is truly difficult to “reconcile” with that nauseating scene. When I heard the call through the mic, I could only stare through the hazy drizzle and put on an act, calling out to the students jokingly, “we’ve received so many donations of delicious food, and you still have to order that trash from McDonalds?!”

This sort of silly “act” has been a necessary weapon of mine in confronting students for the past few years. I was completely unable to persuade Fu Da students to come to the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, especially those participating in the protests to protect the Lesheng leprosy clinic. I acted comically and told the students, “go take a look, there’s some fun stuff going on over there!” But they simply answered, “we don’t really give a damn what those Tai Da students are up to.” In the end they didn’t go; it seems they preferred to be scooped up into a police vehicle in front of the Department of Health, they preferred to defend the Lesheng clinic to the death on the morning of December 3rd, to be dragged away by the SWAT team, and carried off to the ocean, where the police let them out so they wouldn’t have to deal with the paperwork. Among them there was still no shortage of Tai Da classmates also participating in Wild Strawberry who joined them to help out that day.

My playful act is no sham, but rather an attempt to connect with the “Strawberry Generation,” to “wrestle with them” (this is a phrase I stole from Hsia, Lin-ching upon getting to the Fu Da Psychology department!). My days on the square were a perfect example of me trying to “wrestle” as best I could. Still, I was barely able to achieve anything at all with this strategy, because we “wild professors” made a tacit agreement after November 15th to withdraw to a secondary position in the movement, and let the students take the reins. Moreover, under the oft-referred to “tension between teachers and students,” a common debate on the Square about subjectivity and authority between the two groups, the students’ challenges and criticisms of the roles of specifically designated to teachers in the sit-in were simply inevitable.

On November 21st after the first policy-making group was dismissed and replaced with a new vote, the sense of distrust that arose between different students on the Square also made students begin to question the position of the professors, and to regard us as a large, homogenous unit. Although on November 15th the large rally that made us think it was nearly time to leave and return to campus, it later became evident that from start to finish the students had no way to reach a final decision of that sort. On the night of November 24th, a group of relatively positive teachers at the Square resolved to work together with the new policy-making group, and they pushed me and Chen Chao-ju to the square to explain to the students. Once we arrived, I noticed that a few students seemed affronted by the actions of the teachers. At that moment one student asked me, “Is it that the teachers no longer believe in the new team, you’ve given up on us?” During their “class meeting,” Chen Chao-ju reported that during the day the teachers had gone to the Control Yuan to give a full account of the situation in the name of the “Taiwan Academic Platform to Defend Democracy,” and afterward I explained concisely: “Under the three appeals of the students, the professors continue to support the students under a collective name, and furthermore, with regards to the progress of the movement to this point, regardless of any pressure from on-campus authorities and school officials, we professors will surely support the students to the end.” Afterwards the Director of the Judicial Reform Foundation, Lin Feng-zheng , proceeded to explain that organization’s relevant efforts regarding the Collective Assembly Law, and express a similar mutual support for the students.

In the students’ eyes – and this of course is referring to a good number of days into the sit-in – on the issues of the lack of clarity in leaving or staying, a daily weakening of trust, and the decision-making on various issues at critical junctures, the teachers were seen as “meddling” too much. But in reality, disagreements between the teachers and students were primarily the result of divergent ideas as to the rhythm, viewpoints, goals, and organization of the movement.



The possibilities for difference and agreement amongst the teachers remind of what the Fu Da students said – “we don’t really give a damn what those Tai Da students are up to.” As would be expected, as soon as the sit-in started, all of the professors mentioned in the media or “noticed” as being more radical or influential by the students were from Tai Da. Yet like all of the students on the Square, the Tai Da students were not a monolithic bloc, they were like students from other schools, each holding varying positions regarding the relationship between the social movement and government by the majority party. The “Tai Da students” label, pointing to a “liberalist” political stance, or to a supposed contradiction with the more left-wing stance of the “non-Tai Da students” made apparent in the appeals for the sit-in that were drawn forth at the end of the “Seige of Chen Incident.” This sort of thinking was seen as the reason a number of students with experience in social movements were unwilling to come to the Square early on.

In trying to grasp the political circumstances or develop a movement to its climax, one cannot be led by ideological divisions, or allow them to be the only consideration in deciding whether or not to participate; in joining hands with the political affairs of a political party, it is by no means inevitable that one’s own ideals will be sucked up into their machine. Actually, in the circumstances reflected by Taiwan’s recent experience under eight years of control by the DPP and then a return to a KMT government, the repeal or repair of the Collective Assembly Law and the differences and urgency therein has impelled liberal thinkers and the Left to open an opportunity for dialogue on the “fundamental human rights of the people.” I think this opportunity is one of the most meaningful substantive results of this particular action.

There are many teachers who expressed the hope that the Lesheng Youth Union would come and lead the “Wild Strawberry” movement. The implication therein is of course that the position of the movement was difficult for many to understand, which was complicated by a weakness of discourse, the weakening of an ability to mobilize, disorder in the rhythm of the movement, the fossilization of its organization, and so on. And then also implied is that the young people who were involved with the Lesheng movement and the “95 Alliance” movement for youth labor rights relatively understand the political environment, namely that both parties are draped in many of the same trappings of the capitalist class. Their vigor and creativity, and their accumulation of thoughts and actions, could have been and should have been thoroughly consulted by the Wild Strawberries, rather than looking two generations into the past to draw inspiration from the Wild Lily movement!

Regardless of whether they appeared as individuals or as part of the collective force, the teachers’ ideas about themselves or their interpretation by others could hardly be removed from considerations of the spirit of the “Wild Lily Generation.” Perhaps in the hearts and minds of the students on the Square, only the Wild Lily movement was comparable; or perhaps it was the teachers’ involvement that made the students think their student movement experiences were like playing directed chess, where someone is telling you all the moves. Supposing the former, perhaps students only imagined the scope of what happened in March of 1990, rather than all that has come since the middle of the 1980s, as we have seen many various student protest groups arise in response to new campus issues, social issues, daily organizational work, links between schools, and the clash of innovative thought with an idealized image of society. It is exactly due to the contributions of these student movement groups that the March Student Movement could succeed, although it too was opened up in the space of political circumstances, although its results were also disappointing. Furthermore, the teachers’ saying of “playing directed chess” reflects several intertwined explanations. “When you have a need, you call for us to come, when you don’t, you say we’re too involved,” many teachers complained. Precisely because this was an action without a clear collective face, many of the individual differences amongst the students couldn’t be seen, discussed, and resolved into a unified exterior whole. As a result, the individual advice of certain teachers was channeled through the individual opinions of various students, and as soon as it was brought into the collective discussion, into the “direct democracy” method of the “class meetings,” things could not take shape into a coherent discussion. In addition, discrepancies in levels of authority and knowledge between the professors and students were brought with us to the Square, and upon reaching an impasse these conflicting relationships were reproduced as constricting limitations placed on the movement. “On a structural level, the professors are relatively conservative” – Fan Yun expressed at one discussion forum. As both domestic and international historical examples bear out, certainly, in the expansion of social movements, professors of the academy often lag far behind the stances taken by social and student movements. Still, this doesn’t necessarily apply to every sit-in or protest on the streets. Transcending the asymmetrical relationships of authority and knowledge addressed previously requires conflict, simply put. What did the students’ choices - for an extended sit-in, the decision on December 7th to take “peace, rationality, and non-violence” as guiding principles – what did these demonstrate? The discussions surrounding these issues were quite puzzling.

This sort of transcendence for the greater goals of the movement need not unavoidably take the form of “patricide,” and the accumulated limits and ideological conservatism of those who came before in the process of a given movement also need not once again fall upon the shoulders of the current people. The historical account is not decided in this way; to assess these issues, both sides must first mutually admit that differences in experience continually emerge in the stereoscopic manner; claiming one’s position to be critical or radical, in the current context of a two-sided, Green vs. Blue political situation, is potentially the most conservative move; groups previously labeled as pro-Green are not necessarily currently acting as the safeguards of pro-Green interests.

“Only by remolding past ghosts and monsters into corporeal bodies can we draw out the future’s departed spirits,” the theorist Tom Nairn once wrote. We don’t want to only look back at the spirits of the “Wild Lily generation,” because in these past twenty years those individuals have continued to struggle alongside the most underprivileged lowest strata of society. By referring to their practical experience to gain a clearer picture of the Blue/Green political scene we can find a way to supersede the Blue/Green dichotomy.

Intellectuals reflecting upon the historical stature of student movements do not necessarily have to seek out the less positive examples of students transferring their experiences into careers in politics, business, or some other vested interest. Those who continued to struggle and work in social movements, NGOs, and the like long after they were no longer students are equally worthy of a sincere appraisal. Otherwise, as many say, when those who were brought up in Taiwan’s social movements in the ‘80s now exercise intellectual and bureaucratic power in the academy or as a part of the state machinery, how can we distinguish between those who as before continue to struggle on the ground, living in line with Gramsci’s ideal of the “organic intellectual,” with those sharp-tongued critics who, in reality, have their asses covered and benefit from the protective umbrella of academia or the state?



As I see it, the movement began to show signs of vigor and development only after the first leadership group was replaced, from the last ten days of November to the end of December. The organization of activities and space, as well as students’ independent work within each organization group, began to take things from the “greatest common divisor to least common multiple” - from the public indignation at the “Seige of Chen Incident” to the multi-faceted effort of the sit-in. Although in the middle of November the vast majority of students already knew that this would be a failed movement from the point of view of their concrete appeals, perhaps more important was that those who remained to participate had the genuine opportunity to work together and get to know each other.

Towards the end of December, after the march on the 7th, the evening discussions on the Square continued. Some of the students who had been there since day one felt that continuing the sit-in was the only means to achieve the original aims of the movement. Some of the students began to engage in conversation with non-student fellow citizens on the square, listening to their life stories. On New Year’s Day, as the Wild Strawberry students worked to maintain order at the public gathering, I could see a significant transformation in their demeanor from the expression on their faces; I saw in them a new self-confidence.

Yet I still cannot stand in support of the students’ having used the vast majority of money donated to their cause on the necessary supplies for a “large march.” Other than the construction of a few big banners, action rooms, and two pagodas, midway through the DIY ethos almost totally disappeared from this movement. Several million NTD in surplus became their common undecided burden, or resource. I’d rather have seen them donate the entire sum to other social movements or disadvantaged groups, and then begun anew back on campus, simply bringing their experiences on the Square back to campus to reflect, discuss, and expand their organizational makeup, rather than paying a 35,000NTD monthly rent for the “WildBerry House” to act as a luxurious place to socialize and warm up.

At one of the discussion forums I made a statement that I’d like to now reaffirm. “Many people have worked for many years on various social movements, worked seriously, without any financial resources, and are still able to gain positive results. So then, on what basis do you feel justified to sit here on the Square, not even moving your butts, and so easily raise millions of NTD!”

It would be a tragedy for the Wild Strawberry student movement to think that the movement was exceptional for its generational disparities, or to neglect self-reflection by playing off various disputes as simple differences in approach to the issues. If the students truly want to call themselves a legitimate social movement, then this process must continue by means of a step-by-step accumulation of experience coming to understand society’s structure and history, and through an expansion of work in daily communication and organization. It is not something that can be achieved by making grandiose statements on what has occurred, or by singing one’s own praises on the internet. Movements must require consistent positive struggle and engagement; they are not quick flashes, led by individualism or the anticipation of a hero-figure. Post-modernism cannot take to the streets, even though it did, and so died in action on November 7th when everyone decided to retreat to CKS Temple.

Ho Tung-hung is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei. His research topics include the relationship between nationalism and the sound of contemporary music, and he has been involved with the practice of social movements and music, as well as the formulating of Indy-culture and social movement periodicals. His written works include “Taike Rock and its Dis-content” among other papers.

If unspecified, photos by Kuan-Chieh Hung. For more of Kuan-Chieh's photos from the Wild Strawberries click here.

[1] The official translation is CKS Memorial Hall, however in mockery or anger at the concept of a Memorial they called it the CKS Temple (zhongzheng miao) during the Wild Lily democratization protest.

[2] The Sanying are an aboriginal tribe, based along the Xizhou River, Yingge Township. They are famous among social movements in Taiwan, having  amassed continuous support for their struggle against the government since they were forcibly evicted from their land.

[3] An NGO specifically calling for repeal of the Assembly and Parade Law which restricted the right of assembly (集遊惡法修法聯盟)

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Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00

Green power in Taipei County

The former Governor of Taipei County (Xinbei City), Chou Hsi-Wei, talks about environmental policy in his constituency:

Monday, 06 September 2010 00:00

Attracting youth to politics in Taiwan

The old cliché has it that a nation's future will be determined by its youth. If that holds true, then Taiwan had best start hooking its young on politics now. The problem is that Taiwan currently holds the lowest birthrate in the world and, much like Japan, faces the prospect of a future in which much of the population will be elderly, leaving very few of the dwindling younger generation to, among other things, run for political office and guide their country into this early stage of the new millennium. In fact, according to the most recent statistics released by Taiwan’s Council for Economic Planning and Development, Taiwan’s population will stop growing and start falling in 2022, four years earlier than had previously been predicted in 2008.

This is coupled with the fact that Taiwan is in a uniquely precarious political position. The country, which has been governed separately from China since Chiang Kai-shek evacuated the KMT government to Taiwan after losing the civil war with the communists in 1949, claims sovereignty which is vehemently refuted by China and recognized by only a handful of marginalized nations scattered around Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Statements from the Chinese government routinely make reference to the eventual reunification of Taiwan and China, while the U.S. and Taiwan are bound to the status quo, in which Taiwan governs itself, but makes no strong movements toward formally declared independence from China.

Reports abound in the media that economic and political ties between Taiwan and China continue to grow warmer under the watchful eye of President Ma Ying-jeou of the pro-unification KMT party. This was supposedly exemplified by the signing of the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) in July, a free trade agreement that, among other concessions in regard to banking and investment, will see tariffs on a wide array of Taiwanese and Chinese goods fall or be eliminated altogether. But the fact remains that China continues to point an ever increasing amount of missiles at its neighbor to the west, with that number expected to hit just under 2,000, up from an estimated 1,600, by the end of the year.

Despite this obvious threat, Taiwanese youth aren't exactly chomping at the bit to get involved in political activities or learn about the pertinent issues facing Taiwan. This could pose some big problems for Taiwan in the not-so-distant future. So, what's the best way to get them interested in political matters?

Enter Freddy Lim, an advocate of an independent Taiwan, front man for Taiwan's most well-known metal band, Chthonic, and one of the leaders of GUTS United, an organization composed of artists, musicians, and movie industry figures that strives to get Taiwanese youth to care about Taiwan's political future. Founded in 2002, the group began by organizing concerts surrounding political or social issues, and during the 2008 presidential campaign became more active in attempting to mobilize the young voters of today as well as the voters of tomorrow.

Lim would like to mimic the modern western method of appealing to the young generation through soft means such as music, movies, and fashion. However, living in Taipei, one of the world’s most wired cities, he is wary of the growing contemporary trend of “slacktivism,” by which increasingly keyboard bound youth voice their support in the most passive way possible—at the click of a button.

“Now everybody does their movements on the Internet. I think that’s bullshit. It’s useless. If you really care about something, you should be there, not in front of your computer,” he says while seated at a table at The Wall, a live music venue in Taipei which he is part owner of.

Though appealing to youth via the web will obviously play a large role in attracting the Net generation, Lim is aware of the need for personal contact and interaction in bringing young people into the political fold and helping them understand the relevant issues surrounding Taiwan and other regions that profess to be sovereign but are nevertheless claimed by China. This summer, he has organized politically-themed summer camps in which dozens of students have participated. He also brought notable political figures to Taiwan, such as Raela Tosh, daughter of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) leader Rebiya Kadeer, who came to Taiwan in July to attend a screening of a documentary, The 10 Conditions of Love, which focuses on her mother. Lim had also invited the elder Kadeer to come to Taipei and give a presentation on the plight of the Uyghur people in September of last year, but she was denied entry into Taiwan by the ruling KMT party.

Kadeer campaigns for the rights of China’s Uyghur people, a Muslim minority largely living in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in the northwest of the country. The area is rich in oil reserves, and is currently the nation’s top producer of natural gas. But the Chinese government’s main concern these days seems to be the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a separatist group that has made the American list of terrorist organizations. China has accused Kadeer of having connections to the group, a charge she denies, but the accusation alone was enough for the KMT government in Taiwan to deny Kadeer entry when she tried to come to the country. Kadeer is a former businesswoman and philanthropist who rose to become one of the richest people in China. But in 1999 she was accused by her government of endangering state security. Her crime was sending news clippings pertaining to the treatment of the Uyghur people to her husband in the U.S., even though they were widely available domestically. She spent six years in prison before being released and fleeing to the U.S., where she resides in Virginia, separated from some of her 11 children. Kadeer says her family members that remain in China, like many of the country’s most vociferous political activists, are often targeted for persecution. Two of her sons are currently imprisoned there for allegedly endangering state security.

How does Kadeer’s story and that of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region apply to Taiwan? Xinjiang, along with the Tibet Autonomous Regions, is a modern example of how the Communist Party handles its so-called “renegade provinces,” a label it has applied to Taiwan. China has made no secret of the fact that it remains open to using military force to reclaim Taiwan at any point in the future, and in those regions that hold the word “autonomous” as part of their name, the Chinese military contrarily maintains a strong, controlling presence. The Chinese government has also encouraged the migration of Han Chinese to both Xinjiang and Tibet as a means of further integrating these regions into its One China ideal.

Could this same scenario play out in Taiwan one day? That remains to be seen, but it is a possibility, however remote it may be at present. Taiwan has recently opened the door for a small number of Chinese students to study at Taiwanese universities, though these students will not be allowed to stay in Taiwan and work following the completion of their degrees. Still, this move represents a complete about face from the previous policy of banning Chinese students altogether, a ban deemed necessary to avoid the spread of Chinese governmental and ideological influence in Taiwan. Could this be a sign of future policies that will relax restrictions on the presence of citizens of China in Taiwan? Time will tell, but the admission of Chinese students, along with the fact that Taiwan is likely to lift a ban on individual Chinese tourists traveling within the country, is a sign that China could be wedging its foot in the door in what may become a protracted process of opening that door for larger and larger numbers of mainland Chinese to come to Taiwan, the effects of which Tibetans and Uyghurs alike can attest to.

And yet, the youth of Taiwan seem largely unmoved. This malaise persists despite the efforts of Lim and others to bring to light the risks involved in Taiwan cozying up to China both politically and economically. You can lead a teenager or twenty-something to the relevant information, but you can’t force them to give it more than a cursory glance, never mind become impassioned by it. Lim knows attracting youth to political issues is an uphill battle—one that is not unique to Taiwan.

“Globally, the young people don’t care too much about political things,” Lim laments. “They care more about their own lives, so they don’t pay much attention to serious political issues.”

According to Lim, the way to make politics accessible to youth is to make it fun, rather than boring and preachy, and unenviable task under the best of circumstances. He is always striving to find something that young people can relate to and enjoy, while imparting a basic message that they can latch onto.

“Cool music, cool movies, cool shirts can attract young people,” says Lim before offering an example. “Most of the Tibet protests in Taiwan can only get three or four hundred people. But [at] the Free Tibet concert there were more than 6,000 people. They may not get the idea at that day, but you just need them to get the most simple message and they will go back to search on the Net. That’s what you do, you give them an idea.”

J. Michael Cole, a former intelligence officer at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the current deputy news editor at the Taipei Times, and the author ofDemocracy in Peril, a book detailing the last 18 months of the Chen Shui-bian administration and the first year of the Ma Ying-jeou presidency, agrees with Taiwan independence activist and musician Freddy Lim that in order to get Taiwanese youth involved in political activities, the key to their hearts and minds lies in popular culture.

“I think Freddy is bang on, and I’ve actually been saying this for years. Art is definitely something that reaches out and appeals to younger people.”

Freddy-lim-gareth-griffiths2Cole is a veteran of several political protests, which he has attended both as a journalist and a spectator, over the past two years in Taiwan, and has seen the number of attendees slide considerably. He notes that when Chen Yunlin, chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), first visited Taiwan in 2008, half a million people took to the streets of Taipei to protest the presence of the Chinese official. Two years later, the ECFA protest in June barely managed to draw 50,000 people. Cole conducted a quick survey of the attendees, and the most common explanation for the drop seemed to be that people young and old in Taiwan are starting to feel that protests don’t make a difference, and even the diehard Lim said later that he didn’t really want to be there. But no matter what the number of people who have been at such protests is, people under 40 have been but a small minority.

“What really struck me was you look around and maybe 80, 85 percent of the participants are people in their late forties, fifties, sixties, seventies—some even in their eighties. If you’re lucky, you might see 15 percent of people like young adults, or children, or teenagers, who I suspect are there mostly because their parents are there rather than out of their own volition,” says Cole from across the table at a watering hole favored by the foreign correspondents in Taipei.

In Cole’s opinion, Taiwan’s rapid democratization and the relatively quick jump in the standard of living of Taiwanese in the past few decades has given rise to a generation that has no idea what it is like to live under an authoritarian regime, as their parents and grandparents do. Those who lived in Taiwan between 1949 and 1987 existed under what is known as the White Terror period, during which Taiwan was under martial law, and 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned, tortured, or executed by the KMT. Those who suffered at the hands of the KMT were labeled as “bandit spies,” and were accused of working for the Chinese communists. But on July 15th, 1987, the longest period of martial law in world history came to an end. All Taiwanese who were either infants at the time, or were born after that date, have no concept of what it was like to live under such oppression. All they have are the history books and the stories of this dark chapter in Taiwan’s past that their elders may or may not choose to share with them.

This knowledge and experiential gap between the current generation of young people and older Taiwanese could account for the noticeable lack of youth at political rallies and protests in Taiwan. Simply put, young people have little stake in the consequences of current political actions, for the time being at least. There is no authoritarian regime for them to speak out or rebel against and, for the most part, they live comfortable lives and enjoy the same freedoms as young people would in any of the world’s fully democratic countries. In other words, they have little to gain by becoming politically active, and little to lose by not doing so.

With that being said, they may find themselves with more to lose in the coming years if the ECFA doesn’t work out in Taiwan’s favor. It will likely take something such as this—something that directly impacts the young people of Taiwan—to get them to realize that their participation in the electoral process will have a direct effect on their own future and that of the nation at large. They may not have had a hand in bringing ECFA to the table, but perhaps, if it has negative repercussions for the people of Taiwan, young voters could play a part in rectifying the situation.

“If the ECFA goes wrong, and if it really starts hurting some industries, if it lowers Taiwan’s competitiveness, if it lowers their chances of getting good paying jobs in Taiwan because companies here can now hire cheaper labor from China, then Taiwanese old and young might become more engaged in politics and actually use electoral retribution to kick out a government that is actually hurting them,” speculates Cole.

Nevertheless, as China and Taiwan move closer together politically and economically, as is the current trend, Cole also believes that it could become more and more difficult for young Taiwanese to identify themselves as being overtly political. With the door open for Chinese investment in a growing number of sectors, including the media, those who are in favor of Taiwan independence, which currently represents approximately one in four Taiwanese, could find themselves having to choose between their political beliefs and their paycheck. Meanwhile, the nearly 58 percent of Taiwanese who support the current status quo could find themselves similarly compromised.

“What I fear is that those young Taiwanese who would like to become involved politically, they’re going to weigh their options and say, ‘If I decide to become very open with my political beliefs, this is going to have an impact on my career,’” says Cole.

Are there inherit dangers in this mode of thinking? Definitely, according to Cole, who points to the example of Hong Kong. Prior to the British handover of Hong Kong back to China in 1997, it has been widely documented that Beijing reached out to members of the business and industrial elite in Hong Kong. These elites, who had much to lose from a financial standpoint if the handover resulted in instability, were offered positions as consultants on government committees in an attempt to consolidate power and ensure that Hong Kong’s absorption back into China after 100 years of British colonial rule would go smoothly. Beijing’s current efforts to absorb Taiwan by offering a series of economic carrots could be referred to as a quiet takeover. Nevertheless, it could result in a similar situation playing out in Taiwan, in which the fiscal motives of the elite, or even just the working or middle class, play a key role in the nation’s political future.

“If you have tomorrow’s leaders focusing more on getting a job and stabilizing the economy and not rocking the boat than actually fighting for what their nation stands for, these are the elite that can easily be co-opted,” Cole elaborates. “Starting in the early or mid-eighties, the Chinese government already was working at co-opting the elite in Hong Kong to make sure that when the handover occurred, the transition would be very easy and in Beijing’s favor, which explains why even today you don’t have a fully democratic Hong Kong.”

If the Taiwanese youth are forced into such a delicate situation in which speaking out in support of their own freedom could put their livelihoods at risk, then who will be their voice on the world stage? Part of the responsibility may fall on young overseas Taiwanese not living in China’s looming shadow.

That’s where organizations such as the Formosan Association for Public Affairs Young Professional Group (FAPA YPG) come in. Ketty Chen is the media coordinator for FAPA YPG, a group consisting of Taiwanese Americans aged 18 to 35 that lobbies the U.S. Congress on the issue of Taiwan independence, and a political science professor at Austin College. She believes that, given the fact that Taiwanese Americans have little to fear when advocating Taiwanese sovereignty, they can be all the more vocal with little, if anything, in the way of personal or professional consequences hanging over their heads.

“First, geographically, Taiwanese Americans are able to enjoy the safety of distance while advocating for Taiwan,” Chen states via email. “Secondly, while Taiwanese Americans hold jobs in all kinds of industries in the US, I feel that the proportion of the Taiwanese American population affected by the economic integration between Taiwan and China is not as high as people in Taiwan.”

Despite all the obstacles they face, there are small groups of young people dedicated to spreading political awareness among young people in Taiwan. Sisters Yu-shan and Yu-ting Chang, aged 22 and 20 respectively, volunteer at GUTS United events around Taiwan, and were made aware of political issues by their parents from a young age. For Yu-shan, the low level of involvement of young people in political matters might simply come down to not knowing where to begin.

“Maybe they follow the news, but they don’t know what to do,” she says during an interview outside the Guting MRT station in Taipei on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The sisters are granting an interview before heading to a punk show at The Wall later that evening.

“They think it’s their duty to know what’s happening out there, but they don’t really care,” Yu-ting adds. “

Both Yu-shan and Yu-ting are of the opinion that the voting age in Taiwan, currently 20, should be lowered to 18, which, apart from some countries in the region such as Japan, South Korea and Singapore, is the age of suffrage in the vast majority of countries today. Those who can’t vote, according to Yu-shan, feel that they share no part of the responsibility for the future of their nation. The sisters are also in agreement that both the DPP and the KMT need to do better when it comes to appealing to Taiwanese youth and getting them to care about the future of Taiwan, rather than just paying lip service to those who will one day replace them.

“I think they pretend to like the young generation, but they don’t really take care of us,” says Yu-ting. “When they’re having a campaign they always want the young generation to stand up for them, but when doing real things, they still don’t really care about what the young generation is thinking.”

And therein could lie the heart of the problem.

(Freddy Lim's photos are courtesy of Gareth Griffiths)

Thursday, 01 July 2010 00:00

The sinking of the Cheonan

North Korea’s recent sinking of the South Korean navy vessel ‘The Cheonan’ has generated a lot of buzz and I'm going to jump on the bandwagon. I got wind of an article by Ruediger Frank, a well-known Pyongyang watcher. He proposes the idea that someone in the chain of command ordered the attack on the Cheonan without first gaining permission from the proper authorities.  The notion that someone other than the Dear Leader (Kim Jong-il) ordered the attack has crossed my mind. With this possibility there are a few things to take into consideration.

There are three domestic powers in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: The Party, the Family, and the military. The phasing out of Juche (self-reliance) rhetoric in favor of Seong-gun Jeong-chi (military-first politics) has been underway since the mid-nineties. This put the Party on the backburner as the main power broker and the military filled the void. Where ideology and economy fail, the barrel of a gun becomes the most reliable source of power. Most NoKo observers will agree that Kim was obliged to seek support in the military following the death of his father. As a result, Kim is obligated to work closely with the military in coordinating most matters of state.



What concerns me is the intensity with which some people have been indoctrinated into the ideology of the State. Like any system, there is a broad spectrum of loyalty and conviction among the people. Those people who had less against the State raised voices of rebuke when Kim agreed to dismantle the nuclear facilities last year. People were disappointed that he had shown deference to America's wishes; that he had doubled back on a hybrid ideology of self-reliant militaristic brinkmanship. It goes without saying that those in the military - their careers bolstered by an atmosphere of constant tension between North and South - are scattered similarly along the ideological spectrum; so much in some cases, that an act of insubordination wouldn't be all too surprising were the domestic situation bad enough. A vigilante attempt from below to put a regime, viewed as playing too soft, on the spot. The alternative is that they are trying to provoke a country-crushing retaliation from the South, going out in a blaze of glory in a final fight for the mother land... but I'll leave that scenario to Hollywood.



In the past I've been concerned about the lack of effort the State has put into building the image of Kim's son. In time, however, I've come to realize that it doesn't really matter what the people think of the leader as he will only be a mouthpiece of the military. I highly doubt that the rogue elements in the chain of command are keen to launch an all-out coup, but it's likely that they are dissatisfied with the state of things and want to shake it up a bit, hence the attack on the Cheonan. Kim gives them a face, and the military gives him support. It's a mutual relationship and neither is going to profit from the destruction of the regime.



Despite all the hype, what we need to keep in mind is that people have been predicting the downfall of the North for over half a century: if not from the people rising up in a blaze of democracy, then the inevitable crumbling of a failed economy or perestroika. As long as the army is fed and as long as Pyongyang is fed, the North exhibits enormous staying power. You cannot fight when you're hungry and with a lack of institutions that facilitate communication, any attempts at a revolution are dead in the water. Add to that the fact that people would probably go after each other (get to the armory-find the party cadres… aaah… that feels good) before any foreign powers could get into the action, escalation to all out war is in no one's interest.


The NoKos are betting that attack on the Cheonan will not escalate out of control. It will, however, get everyone's attention both domestically and internationally. It's not entirely unlikely that Kim knew about the attack either. Regardless of the supposed pressure from lower echelons, he'll be in the spotlight again. Nothing's going to change if you don't get things moving first. As usual, we can only guess what domestic amendments in policy the powers that be are looking to implement. Albeit the most frustrating option, our best choice is to listen up and engage the North.

Photos by K. Mathesius


Saturday, 07 April 2007 08:43

The Art of Politics

Politics has a bad name.

To some people who are not politicians politics is the scheming of a few to impose their policies on the many.

To those who don’t like what the government is doing, politics is the reason why things are going bad.

To others politics is all the underhanded ways and false promises politicians make in order to win votes.

But at the same time:

it is because of politics that bad politicians do not always prevail;

it is through political interacting and maneuvering that good policies eventually replace bad ones.

Without politics there would never be a balance of power, only the chaos of anarchy.

Politics is generally associated with government.

It the process through which those who govern make decisions.

Usually politics is practiced through the agency of people with similar ideas who band together in so-called political factions or parties.

Politics, however, is not exclusively confined to governments. There is politics wherever policies have to be decided by persons. There is office politics, church politics, school politics, etc.

Whenever people interact to gain an advantage or power so their decisions will be the ones followed, there is politics.

Politics is conversation, debate and manipulation in order to establish and maintain authority and power.

One of the most important things to remember about politics is that not everyone gets his or her own way.

The only way that there can be united purposeful and practical action is for everyone to agree on one united plan of action.

In politics not everyone gets what he or she wants.

The art of politics is

knowing progress only comes when everyone pulls together;
knowing how to bring those with different ideas to accept yours; knowing when to set aside your ideas to yield to those of others;
and knowing how to cooperate for a common purpose.

There can only be politics when men and women are free,

free to monitor and question,
free to disagree,
free to speak out and discuss and propose new ideas,
free to change direction,
and willing to accept and follow consensus.

Not everyone is a politician,

but everyone, no matter what his or her profession or status in life, needs to know how to interact with others politically.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said that man is a political animal.

This means that all men and women by nature are continually engaged in interaction with others through the exchange of ideas and debate, so that the right decisions can be made about how to live and work together.

This means that every individual has a responsibility to be political.

If I am not, if I simply go my own way letting others do whatever they want, then I am neglecting my obligation to society.

We need to make our voices heard so that everyone gets a share of the common and not just those selfish few who snatch power from those too weak or too unconcerned to stop them.

As I political animal, I should:

know what is going on,
know what is right and wrong,
stand up for what is right and wrong,
and throw in my support for those who are actively engaged in governing.

There are lessons hidden here.

There is a time for pulling for your ideals
and a time for pushing for those of others.

When you know you are right
you have to fight for your rights.

Sometimes the right thing
is to yield to the rights of others.

Politics is art of regulating
the use of power
for the greater good of all.

Good politics
puts public benefits
ahead of personal advantage.

Bad politics
puts selfish interests
ahead of public needs.

Politics without justice
is totalitarian selfishness
and the abuse of power.

Politics without charity
is inhumane cruelty
and the abuse of power.

Politics without ethics
is immoral
and the abuse of power.

Politicians without political support
have no power.

Citizens who condemn politics
are condemning themselves
if they do nothing.

(Picture by Liang Zhun)

Thursday, 22 February 2007 16:06

Analyzing Political Mythologies

That the social sciences do not deal only or even primarily with “hard facts” should go without saying. Social sciences, however, like other related disciplines, show a tendency towards oversimplifying and systematizing so as to give their premises a more “scientific” outlook. As a way of introducing this paper, let us remember that the social sciences intermingle the study of objective data with the investigation of feelings, ideas and representations. The researcher will have to pass restlessly from one pole to another: realities expressed through quantifiable data such as income distribution, educational level or family patterns interact with the collective psyche and values in a way which makes unidimensional causal or functional analyses simply irrelevant. “Society” appears somewhere at the intersection of economics, culture and whatever field we might decide to include in the rather loose definition of human sciences.

Read the entire article (pdf)

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