Foreign Policy

China considers three-child policy while India ponders two-child limit due to Muslim birth rates

China considers three-child policy while India ponders two-child limit due to Muslim birth rates

I’ve been watching for almost a year now as China has radically changed its child control policies from the infamous one-child policy to an almost-three child policy.

Thirty-five years of forced abortions, sterilizations, hysterectomies and outright murders of any children who managed to survive these procedures have drastically affected the Chinese family and kin structures on which Chinese culture rested. The South China Morning Post said the psychological trauma to Chinese society surpasses the impacts of other calamities, such as the Great Famine of the late 1950s and the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s.

So … now three children?

Last fall, the Wall Street Journal laid out some hints the government was throwing around. And there is a religion connection to this, so please stay with me.

BEIJING—A government-issued postage stamp of a happy pig family—with three piglets—has raised expectations that China may loosen its family-planning policy yet again.

China Post, the national postal service, on Tuesday unveiled its Year of the Pig stamp for 2019, prompting commentators on social media to speculate that the two-child policy is on its way out.

There is precedent: The ditching of the one-child policy in 2016 was foreshadowed by a Year of the Monkey stamp showing two baby monkeys.

Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison—and longtime critic of China’s birth policy—said the government is likely to go further this time. “It’s a clear sign that they are going to abandon all birth restrictions,” Mr. Yi said.

China’s fertility rate is one of the world’s lowest and nowhere near the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. The country disbanded its family planning commission last year.

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China and its creepy facial recognition technology targets Uighur Muslims

China and its creepy facial recognition technology targets Uighur Muslims

The title of the article seemed to be a joke: “A Summer Vacation in China’s Muslim Gulag.”

Appearing in ForeignPolicy.com, the piece was about a Uighur student, called Iman, who was studying in the United States. He knew his homeland was a dangerous place to visit, but he had a mother he’d not seen in years.

So, he had no sooner stepped off the plane in eastern China than he was thrown into jail for nine days, then -– still shackled -– put on a 50-hour train ride to Xinjiang, his homeland in western China. He got to the city of Turpan.

The stress intensified as he was taken to the detention center, or kanshousuo. “I was terrified as we approached.” (As we talked, for the first time Iman directed his gaze at the ground, avoiding eye contact.) “The compound was surrounded by towering walls. Military guards patrolled the metal gate. Inside, there was little light. It was so dark,” he continued.

He was immediately processed. An officer took his photograph, measured his height and weight, and told him to strip down to his underwear. They also shaved his head. Less than two weeks before, Iman was an aspiring graduate at one of the top research universities in the United States. Now, he was a prisoner in an extrajudicial detention center.

Still in his underwear, Iman was assigned to a room with 19 other Uighur men. Upon entering the quarters, lit by a single light bulb, a guard issued Iman a bright yellow vest. An inmate then offered the young man a pair of shorts. Iman began scanning the cell. The tiled room was equipped with one toilet, a faucet, and one large kang-style platform bed -- supa in Uighur -- where all of the inmates slept. He was provided with simple eating utensils: a thin metal bowl and a spoon.

He endured 17 days of imprisonment for crimes he did not commit and then, unexpectedly, was released and allowed to go home and eventually to return to the United States to finish his studies. Not surprisingly, he’s not planning to return to China any time soon, plus his mother herself is imprisoned in the same kind of “re-education center.”

China’s barbaric treatment of its Muslim minority (represented by the blue flag with a crescent and star with this piece) doesn’t get any protests from the worldwide Muslim community, unlike the anger that’s released toward Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. Foreign Policy makes that point in a piece published last week. A sample:

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Is Israeli TV drama Fauda a harbinger of the news industry's coming iteration?

Is Israeli TV drama Fauda a harbinger of the news industry's coming iteration?

The cable television and online streaming explosion has produced a golden age of visual, fictionalized, but ripped-from-the-headlines story telling. Some religious and political conservatives may disdain the liberal-leaning views that many of the shows unabashedly embrace, but for those who create the programming it's an unprecedented era of opportunities.

It's also an era of unprecedented, and often confusing, crossover between news and entertainment. From shows dramatizing or spoofing Washington politics, to those cherry-picking storylines from current international intrigues, it’s often hard to tell the two apart, where fact takes leave and artful fiction enters.

As traditional news platforms continue to implode -- and loose their ability to devote adequate resources to in-depth, reporting-based investigative journalism -- it’s a trend that, for the foreseeable future, is likely to continue, for better or worse, but more likely the worse for informed civic debate.

Personally, I find great artistic merit in many of these shows. I also appreciate their willingness to highlight some of the social ills that plague our -- and virtually every other -- nation. That and because I relish a well-written and well-acted product. It helps to remember that I'm an ex-Los Angeles reporter who spent time on the Hollywood TV and film beats, and who also briefly worked in the feature film industry.

Still, I limit my watching because, well, because the shows are binge-watching addictive and I don't want to spend too much time watching TV, no matter how good and entertaining it may be. I’m old-fashioned. I’d rather waste time reading non-fiction, which my reactive mind argues is somehow healthier for me. But that may just be my generational snob appeal.

In a sense, all the fictional dramas I’m drawn to are some writer’s fantasy, but I tend to be drawn to the show's based on the possible, meaning that while I have little interest in a “Game of Thrones,” a series such as “Big Love,” the departed HBO show about polygamy-practicing, fringe Mormons, quickly sucked me in because of my interest in religious groups and the show’s artistic mastery (and a fantastic cast).

Likewise, my deep interest in Israel’s fate and that of the Middle East in general, has drawn me to the Netflix (in the U.S., anyway) show “Fauda,” which I have allowed myself to devour in binge-size bites.


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Another journalistic take on Brazilian tribes killing their young? Consider this cautious view

Another journalistic take on Brazilian tribes killing their young? Consider this cautious view

This post may -- but is by no means calculated -- to tick off some GetReligion readers.

That possibility is undoubtedly magnified by my taking an alternative position to one of last week’s most popular GR posts, one I believe was so well received because readers identified strongly with its moral point of view.

I’m referring to my colleague Julia Duin’s post on a Foreign Policy story about the Brazilian government’s efforts to outlaw infanticide as practiced by a handful of indigenous tribal groups.

This paragraph gets to the core of the debate tackled in the Foreign Policy piece:

The controversy over child killing has raised a fundamental question for Brazil — a vast country that is home to hundreds of protected tribes, many living in varying degrees of isolation: To what extent should the state interfere with customs that seem inhumane to the outside world but that indigenous peoples developed long ago as a means to ensure group survival in an unforgiving environment?

It comes as no surprise to me that Brazil’s burgeoning evangelical Protestant community is leading the legislative effort. It’s no surprise because as you’d expect, this comports with traditional Christianity’s reverence for human life.

Now, I'm not here to argue theology or public policy. Rather, there’s a journalism point to be made.

Specifically, it's about  journalists' ability to mentally and emotionally distance themselves from their core beliefs about religious and cultural mores long enough to intellectually grasp an alternative viewpoint that's very different than their own -- and even strikes them as appalling.

I'll say more about this a bit below. But first I think it's important to explain my biases.

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God and Man at the CIA? Foreign Policy drags director's faith into analysis piece

God and Man at the CIA? Foreign Policy drags director's faith into analysis piece

Here's a shocker: Many of the appointees of the Trump Administration are very different people than those who served in the Obama Administration.

The sun, I am reliably told, also rises in the East and sets in the West. Bears use the woods for a bathroom. And the supreme pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church -- despite some naysayers out there -- really is a Roman Catholic.

Sorry for the #sarcasm, but it's difficult to suppress the impulse after reading a lengthy piece at the website of Foreign Policy magazine about the issues arising at the Central Intelligence Agency since Mike Pompeo, a now-former U.S. Representative from Kansas, became the agency's director.

The headline says (almost) all: "More White, More Male, More Jesus: CIA Employees Fear Pompeo Is Quietly Killing the Agency’s Diversity Mandate." This is a feature, a "soft" piece, so one has to dive in a bit before finding the blast at Pompeo and his personal faith:

Pompeo, an evangelical Christian, has said previously that Islamist terrorists will “continue to press against us until we make sure that we pray and stand and fight and make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world.”
The concerns are not that Pompeo is religious but that his religious convictions are bleeding over into the CIA.

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Oh my ... British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be a serious Anglican Christian

Oh my ... British Prime Minister Theresa May appears to be a serious Anglican Christian

As the world continues to reel from the populist shocks of 2016, here's another stunner for which I hope, dear reader, you are sitting down.

Seated? Good.

Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is -- an Anglican Christian, who dares to let her faith influence her politics. Maybe.

This stunning insight comes via Foreign Policy magazine's website and a first-person piece by one Andrew Brown, who is said to cover religion for Britain's Guardian newspaper. 

Behold, the headline proclaims: "Theresa May Is a Religious Nationalist." A key passage adds this:

One of the least understood, yet most important, things about British Prime Minister Theresa May is that she is the daughter of a Church of England vicar. The fact that she is personally devout, by contrast, is well-known. I have heard several anecdotes about her time as a member of Parliament and minister when she would turn up at local parish initiatives that could offer her no conceivable political advantage. Such devotion to the church is unusual if not unknown among British politicians. Gordon Brown remains a very serious Presbyterian; Tony Blair went to Mass most Sundays.

Holy condescension, Batman! A politician who clings to her childhood faith and uses it in her daily life. And despite May's personal opposition to "Brexit," the referendum that decrees the U.K. should exit the European Union, she is poised to try and carry that out because leaving the EU is in parallel with Henry VIII's departure from the Roman Catholic faith to set up the aforementioned Church of England. Brown explains:

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Climate change will heat up West Africa's religious conflicts -- and a whole lot more

Climate change will heat up West Africa's religious conflicts -- and a whole lot more

Africa presents a host of formidable problems that limit quality coverage by Western -- and in particular, American -- news outlets. That means there's a gaping hole in the information needed to understand in significant depth Africa's huge role in global social changes and conflicts.

Some of the problems are physical; the continent's colossal size and relatively poor transportation and communications infrastructures, for example.

But some are attitudinal. Press freedoms overall are more limited in Africa in line with the continent's generally less than stellar political profile

Close to home, Americans also have been shown, repeatedly, to favor domestic over international news. And those of us who do pay closer attention to foreign stories tend to prefer those originating in nations with which we have greater historic, geographic and cultural affinity, or substantial national involvement -- which is to say, Europe, the Middle East and, increasingly, Latin America.

What coverage there is of Africa tends to concentrate on the catastrophic -- civil war, terrorism, Christian-Muslim religious conflict, poverty, disease, government corruption and African migrants desperately trying to flee their homelands for Europe.

Here's a sampling of journalistic, think tank and academic pieces that address why Africa coverage is below par. There's a lot here, so read them at your leisure. Click here, and here. And here or, finally, here.

Now, let's narrow our scope to just one region, Africa's sub-Saharan west.

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Foreign Policy's story on ISIS' brutality of women tantalizes but disappoints

Foreign Policy's story on ISIS' brutality of women tantalizes but disappoints

It drew my eyes immediately: a story about how ISIS brutalizes Yazidi women in the name of Islam. It’s not the first time the topic has been covered but I’m always interested in stories with Iraqi datelines; in this case the oil-rich Kurdish city of Kirkuk.

Northern Iraq has gotten a lot more interesting ever since ISIS arrived there and began kidnapping non-Muslim women who were unfortunate enough to be in their way. An article in Foreign Policy Review got in touch with some of these women but the result was heavy on promise but short on delivery. It begins with the author interviewing a captured ISIS fighter:

The prisoner is in his mid- to late 30s, relatively fair-skinned for an Iraqi, with curly auburn hair and light brown eyes. According to the Peshmerga, the fighting force of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), he was the leader of an Islamic State intelligence unit. His jailers explain that the prisoner was responsible for interrogating people in Islamic State-held territory, trying to gather information and root out any internal dissent.
I purposefully twirl a piece of my hair around my index finger. I am aware that the prisoner, as a member of an organization that insists on the complete submission of women, is likely fighting back fury at the sight of an unveiled woman looking at him without fear.
“Tell me about your wife,” I begin. “How did you treat her?”
“My wife completely covered her body and face and never left the house without me,” he replies sullenly. I don’t know how much encouragement he received from his captors before speaking with me, but he seems healthy and uninjured. “She is forbidden from going anywhere without me.”

This is, of course, interesting and I'm hoping at this point we can learn why this man treats his wife as indoor chattel.

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Abortion in China? Bad karma, some Buddhists say

Abortion in China? Bad karma, some Buddhists say

The ongoing drama of the Planned Parenthood videos has attracted the attention of an international audience, not the least of which are pro-lifers in the world’s most abortive country. That would be China, whose 13 million abortions a year is more than 10 times the amount of similar pregnancy terminations in the United States. Foreign Policy just posted this piece on how China’s Christians and Buddhists are trying to get those numbers down.

On July 14, a U.S. anti-abortion group released an undercover video of an employee of abortion provider Planned Parenthood casually discussing, over wine and salad, the harvesting and donation of fetal tissue for medical research...The news quickly reached China, and within days the video had been posted to Chinese video streaming site iQiyi, where it received more than 170,000 views.

China has the highest number of abortions in the world, with an estimated 13 million performed annually. Many in China view abortion as a purely personal decision, a necessary if sad option for people in difficult situations. Unlike in the United States, where abortion clinics face tight restrictions in some areas, similar facilities in China are readily available and widely publicized.

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