July 20, 2011


[Aside from the bland icon of the new China, there is a much more dangerous Mao, whose ideas retain their vitality]

 By Pankaj Mishra
In 2008 in Beijing I met the Chinese novelist Yu Hua shortly after he had returned from Nepal, where revolutionaries inspired by Mao Zedong had overthrown a monarchy. A young Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution, Yu Hua, like many Chinese of his generation, has extremely complicated views on Mao. Still, he was astonished, he told me, to see Nepalese Maoists singing songs from his Maoist youth – sentiments he never expected to hear again in his lifetime.

In fact, the success of Nepalese Maoists is only one sign of the "return" of Mao. In central India armed groups proudly calling themselves Maoists control a broad swath of territory, fiercely resisting the Indian government's attempts to make the region's resource-rich forests safe for the mining operations that, according to a recent report in Foreign Policy magazine, "major global companies like Toyota and Coca-Cola" now rely on.
And – as though not to be outdone by Mao's foreign admirers – some Chinese have begun to carefully deploy Mao's still deeply ambiguous memory in China. Texting Mao's sayings to mobile phones, broadcasting "Red" songs from state-owned radio and television, and sending college students to the countryside, Bo Xilai, the ambitious communist party chief of the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, is leading an unexpected Mao revival in China.
It was the "return" of Marx, rather than of Mao, that was much heralded in academic and journalistic circles after the financial crisis of 2008. And it is true that Marxist theorists, rather than Marx himself, clearly anticipated the problems of excessive capital accumulation, and saw how eager and opportunistic investors cause wildly uneven development across regions and nations, enriching a few and impoverishing many others. But Mao's "Sinified" and practical Marxism, which includes a blueprint for armed rebellion, appears to speak more directly to many people in poor countries.
It is tempting to denounce Mao as a monster, and to dismiss the Maoists of today as no less criminally deluded than Peru's Shining Path guerillas, or the Khmer Rouge. Certainly, the scale of the violence Mao inflicted on China dwarfs all other crimes and disasters committed during the course of nation-building in the last two centuries. But political and economic modernisers elsewhere also exacted a terrible human cost from their allegedly backward peoples. In the last century alone, millions died due to political conflict or hunger and were brutally dispossessed and culturally deracinated in a huge area of Asian territory, from Turkey and Iran to Indonesia and Taiwan.

Every nation state whitewashes the abominations of its founders. The influence, however, of the earliest postcolonial nation-builders is severely limited today. Hardly anyone looks up Sukarno's Pancasila for political guidance, or derive inspiration, as Nasser and Jinnah once did, from Ataturk's republican nationalism. So denunciations of Mao don't go very far in explaining his enduring appeal inside and outside China.

That said, there seems little mystery to the invocation of Mao by a new generation of Chinese leaders, who recently also tapped into Confucius as a source of ideological legitimacy. The recourse to Mao is an example of the expedient populism that insecure ruling classes resort to. As an icon of the new China, Mao seems as bland as the basketball player Yao Ming and the French Open tennis champion Li Na. But for many people outside China there is another, much more dangerous, Mao – and he isn't the rash instigator of the Great Leap Forward or the cynical perpetrator of the Cultural Revolution, either. For them, as Yu Hua writes in a forthcoming book, "what Mao did in China is not so important – what matters is that his ideas retain their vitality and, like seeds planted in receptive soil, 'strike root, flower, and bear fruit'."

Mao set out these portable ideas well before his disastrous reign as quasi-emperor of China. Indeed, his diagnosis of, and proposed cure for, China's pre-revolutionary maladies in such tracts as "Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan" (1927), "On Guerrilla Warfare" (1937) and "On Protracted War" (1938) were what gave him his decisive advantage over his many Chinese rivals.
Early in his career he identified a nexus between feudal elites in the hinterland and capitalists in the semi-colonial coastal cities as the enemy, and then successfully mobilised a "people's" army to break it. Mao's theory and praxis was always likely to have greater appeal than classical, urban-oriented Marxism in many agrarian countries, where tiny elites held down, often with foreign assistance, a population consisting largely of peasants.
Nearly half a century ago, nationalist groups in Vietnam and Cuba successfully realised Mao's strategy of encircling the cities from the countryside. Now it is economic globalisers, encircling the countryside from the cities, who provide a freshly receptive soil for Mao's theory and praxis. Far from being rendered irrelevant, they have become attractive again to many people who feel actively victimised rather than simply "left behind" by an expansionist capitalism.
A case in point is the Maoist insurgency in the forests of central India, which feeds on the Indian government's ruthless drive to open up the region's great mineral reserves to private and multinational corporations. Indian Maoists mouthing Mao Zedong's rhetoric about local "compradors" and foreign imperialists may appear to be pathetic dead-enders to those who imagine everyone will at some point settle down to loving liberal democracy and the iPad. But the Maoists, though often corrupt and brutal, have found a large constituency among millions of indigenous peoples (Adivasis), for whom even the fragile security of a subsistence economy has been destroyed by the nexus between global corporations and their Indian enforcers.

The Indian writer Shashank Kela points to a crucial fact about Indian Maoism and its Adivasi rank and file: "It is the circumstances of their lives rather than its ideology that push its followers into a desperate, last-ditch battle with the state in preference to dispossession." As Kela writes, "mining and heavy industry displaced Adivasi communities, destroyed their livelihoods, failed to give them jobs and cut them loose to join the swelling workforce of migrant labourers, a sea of impoverished, overworked human beings, reduced to accepting the worst-paid jobs in city and countryside".
It is far from clear how the Maoist insurgency, and its attempted suppression by Indian paramilitaries, who have claimed more than 10,000 lives in the past decade, will end. After their overthrow of the monarchial state, Nepal's Maoists went on to participate in elections. Indian Maoists are unlikely to give up armed resistance any time soon.
And the Indian state may find it impossible to suppress them militarily. That the benefits of economic globalisation will abruptly start flowing to its biggest victims is even less conceivable in the forests of central India than in the post-industrial cities of midwestern America. "There is not the slightest chance," Kela writes of the Maoist Adivasis, one of the peoples rendered superfluous by industrial capitalism, "that they will ever become a factory proletariat". A long and bloody stalemate beckons; and, while Maoism may be reduced to near-meaninglessness as state doctrine in China, it seems certain that many corners of the world are likely to remain Maoist for a very long time.
@  The Guardian
[Given the extreme poverty of Mongolia, the Obama administration may believe its efforts to build an international spent fuel dump in Mongolia will encounter fewer objections and little oversight, in stark contrast to the longstanding U.S. government plans to bury spent fuel deep beneath Yucca Mountain.]
By: Ken Timmerman
The Obama administration is seeking to help Mongolia become a vast nuclear waste dump for commercial reactors in Japan, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates, according to a draft nuclear cooperation agreement obtained by Newsmax.

The protocol, drafted by Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman in February and revised in May, also expresses the U.S. intent to facilitate commercial projects to develop Mongolia’s uranium deposits, to help the country become a fuel supplier to new nuclear power plants to be built in the UAE and elsewhere in the developing world.

The U.S. Congress approved a “123 Agreement” of nuclear cooperation with the UAE in 2009, with a clear view of warning Iran and reassuring Arab countries in the Gulf that the U.S. would counter Iran’s nuclear ambitions with technology and political support.

The U.S.–UAE agreement specifically states that the UAE will not engage in uranium enrichment, a sticking point with Iran. However, the new protocol with Mongolia calls for U.S. assistance to Mongolia to “cover all aspects of the fuel cycle, including supplying, converting, and enriching uranium.”

The protocol calls for Mongolia to begin providing nuclear fuel services within just 12 months of its adoption, an unusually short time period for matters of such sensitivity, especially since Mongolia has just begin exploration of its uranium deposits and has no known nuclear fuel production facilities.

The immediate purpose of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) appears to be to build a new spent fuel repository in Mongolia, not nuclear fuel fabrication. A Mongolian government delegation will visit the Idaho National Nuclear Laboratory in August to get briefed on advanced fuel cycle technologies developed for use at the now shuttered Yucca Mountain disposal site in Nevada.

Given the extreme poverty of Mongolia, the Obama administration may believe its efforts to build an international spent fuel dump in Mongolia will encounter fewer objections and little oversight, in stark contrast to the longstanding U.S. government plans to bury spent fuel deep beneath Yucca Mountain.

After decades of research that cost taxpayers billions of dollars, Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko summarily shut the Yucca Mountain site earlier this year without even consulting his fellow commissioners.

Long unpopular with environmental groups and Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, Yucca Mountain was the only site worldwide that was designed as a long-term repository for spent nuclear fuel.

NRC chairman Jaczko is a former staff assistant to Sen. Reid and was widely criticized by NRC staff members and by fellow commissioners during Congressional oversight hearings last month.

When Japan’s Mainichi newspapers first revealed the plans to build a nuclear fuel repository in Mongolia in May, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo issued a sharply worded denial.

"The U.S. government is not negotiating a deal to send spent nuclear fuel to Mongolia," the U.S. Embassy said in an official statement on May 10.

But the draft nuclear cooperation agreement obtained by Newsmax shows to the contrary that building a spent fuel repository in Mongolia and helping Mongolia to become a nuclear fuel supplier were precisely the intent of Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman and his deputy, Edward McGinnis.

In discussions with Japanese nuclear regulatory officials on Feb. 3-4, McGinnis said the U.S. has “no interest” in short-term nuclear fuel storage in Mongolia, but was seeking a long-term repository to replace Yucca Mountain.

One reason for this emphasis is purely commercial. Companies such as Toshiba, which now owns the Westinghouse nuclear power division and was deeply involved in negotiating the four-party protocol, must pay significant fees for short-term storage of spent fuel. But once the fuel is buried in a long-term repository, title passes to the host country as does all liability for what happens to it hundreds or even thousands of years later.

The four-party MoU recognizes this problem, since the “expansion of use of nuclear energy is highly dependent on the existence of a global nuclear liability regime” that allows power-plant operators to manage their liabilities in case of accident.

The MoU bears the stamp of the Obama administration’s commitment to nuclear energy as a solution to “the challenges of climate change, energy security, and economic development,” the draft protocol states.

The MoU makes extensive reference to international agreements, and emphasizes the United States commitment to “multi-lateral” solutions for the supply of nuclear fuel and nuclear waste disposal, rather than unilateral American solutions such as Yucca Mountain.

In regard to Mongolia, it recognizes “the intent of the Government of Mongolia to develop a comprehensive fuel services (CFS) program for Mongolia origin fuel, with an emphasis on emerging markets.”

But even though Mongolia’s president came to Washington in May, he was not handed a copy of the MoU, informed sources tell Newsmax.

One reason for the delay was the ongoing crisis in Japan’s own nuclear power industry, following the earthquake and tsunami in March that caused a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

In an apologetic email sent to Poneman last week, a senior aid to Japan’s nuclear power minister, Banri Kaieda, wrote that the minister was preoccupied with restarting Japan’s nuclear power industry and answering critics of nuclear power. “To be frank, I am not sure if Minister Kaieda has read your e-mail at all.”

Poneman had written Kaieda on July 6, urging him to move ahead to approve the agreement “by the end of calendar year 2011.”

“Putting together a concrete commercial deal would go a long way to realize President Obama's vision for a new international nuclear framework and Mongolia's vision for its Nuclear Initiative,” Poneman wrote.

“For the UAE and Japan this could offer a solid business opportunity, but far more than that — it is a political commitment to nonproliferation and a new nuclear energy future," Poneman added.

Poneman and his top aide have developed very close ties to Toshiba and urged the Japanese company to negotiate the nuclear fuel agreement between Mongolia and the UAE, sources in Japan indicated.

Indeed, DoE took the unusual step of inviting Toshiba officials to attend a negotiating session in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 2-3 with Mongolian and other government representatives.

But Kaieda’s aide now frowns on the Toshiba involvement in the Mongolia project. “I know Toshiba is still very positive but the [Government of Japan’s] position is not necessarily the same as the position of a certain private company,” the aide wrote Poneman last week.

Why U.S. officials would be more vigorous in promoting the interests of a Japanese company than the Japanese government remains unclear.

But in conversations with Japanese officials, McGinnis said the United States was unhappy that Russia had offered to supply nuclear fuel for the UAE reactors and that the United States was looking for an alternative.

According to the Mainichi newspapers in Japan, “the deal would enable Japan and the U.S., which lack disposal sites of their own, to counter efforts by Russia and France to market nuclear technology internationally by selling reactors and the disposal of nuclear waste services together as a set.”