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They say the secret to great comedy is timing, but few within our Party will find reason for amusement at North Korea’s latest demonstration of their burgeoning nuclear capability. Kim Jong Un has chosen to perform another test detonation of a new, more powerful nuclear device at a time when our Party is at loggerheads over whether or not to renew our country’s own ageing nuclear capability. There are implications for both our Party, the Pacific region and the global community at large.

Jeremy Corbyn's case for British nuclear disarmament will not be helped by the emergence of a new nuclear power in the world, especially when the regime in question is governed by a maverick like Kim Jong Un who does not appear to be amenable to reason. For example, Xi Jinping is said to be furious over Kim’s decision to test a nuclear device without notifying him in advance, despite China being the DPRK's most significant benefactor. Kim gains nothing by angering China or alienating its leadership, though this has not stopped him from pursuing his nuclear programme in a manner that has antagonised his neighbour and ally.

But what does this actually mean for international defence and strategy? Well… Probably not a lot. Beyond the diplomatic implications, a nation state with Westphalian sovereignty -- albeit one that is frequently and variously described as ‘rogue’ or ‘isolated’ -- can be depended upon to behave in a predictable manner in the arena of nuclear standoff.

This is because there are good reasons to believe that even a totalitarian nation state with an eccentric and unstable figure like Kim Jung Un at the helm won’t deploy a nuclear weapon where there is likelihood of retaliation, even if it looked as though Kim was inclined to do so. Behind every despot is a suite of people who benefit from their patronage and in return shore up their leadership. When all a leader has to offer is the mutually assured destruction of their own society and the society of their most hated enemy, those that have the most to lose and the least to gain i.e. the political elites upon whom the leader is dependent, will see that as quite a hard sell indeed. We can reasonably assume that in such a situation, the apparatus that sustains their regime will turn against them.

In fact, these demonstrations of strength by Kim are designed specifically to appease those upon whom his leadership is dependent. International provocation of this manner places an emphasis on defence and militarisation, shoring up Kim’s support with his Generals. There is, however, a delicate balance to be struck between provocative displays of military might and destabilising acts of brinkmanship that could undermine his own leadership by making him appear imprudent to his own cohort.

It seems that, despite harsh international sanctions, North Korea remains determined to develop a nuclear capability, as well as a delivery system capable of striking the United States. The chances of this ever being used for the purpose it was designed are remote, making the likelihood of nuclear war not significantly greater than prior to Kim's latest test: but this is of course only kept in check by the prospect of his adversary's ability to retaliate.

Proponents of the government's plans to renew the UK's Trident programme  will point to Kim's regime as an example of why maintaining a nuclear deterrent is essential in a world where the scientific knowledge required to build a nuclear device is widespread,  and the resources necessary to construct one are obtainable even by a country incapable of feeding its own people. But those against the renewal of trident will claim the existence of the USA's own triad of nuclear weapons and our membership of NATO is sufficient to keep the lid on thermonuclear war.

It seems, in light of this, we might never be able to have a completely nuclear-free world so long as the potential for a rogue state to develop a weapon exists. And Kim's actions make it clear that this won't change any time soon.


 

Alex Chai is a member of Chinese for Labour and Director of Consensus, a non-aligned organisation fostering open and inclusive debate amongst different wings of the Labour Party. More information can be found at www.labourconsensus.org.uk

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Chinese for Labour and the Labour Party's General Secretary, Iain McNicol, are delighted to invite you to celebrate Chinese New Year at a special reception on Tuesday, 9 February from 6.00 - 8.00 pm.

Chinese New Year 2016 Reception

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Beyond the free bus pass

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Labour’s path back to power is hard. And winning a majority in England is still harder.

The last time we won a majority of English constituencies was 2005. It’s been downhill ever since.

To win back a majority in England, to win the power we need to deliver a fairer, kinder country, we need to win 106 more English seats. That means a swing of 11.5%, winning back seats like Milton Keynes North where today the Tory majority stands at 9,753. Nationally our vote share needs to move from 30.4% to 42%.1 It’s a mountain to climb.

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Winning in 2020 is going to be a big ask. The Conservatives are using the power of government to rig the system, with boundary changes, tougher registration requirements, votes for ex-pats and partisan attacks on the Labour party’s funding. But the underlying electoral map is daunting too. The Tories start well ahead of Labour in terms of MPs and have big majorities in many seats that were ours not so long ago.

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Winning in 2020 is going to be a big ask. The Conservatives are using the power of government to rig the system, with boundary changes, tougher registration requirements, votes for... Read more

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Back in late 2011, four fellow-travellers got together to discuss Labour's economic strategy. The venue was Cote brasserie in Covent Garden. The glamour. Hopi Sen, Graeme Cooke, Adam Lent and myself discussed both the economics and politics of Labour's position. We felt strongly that it was in the wrong place.

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I was sat in one of Beijing’s growing number of Starbucks when I was first told of girl X.

The air outside was thick with smoke from the city’s coal fired power stations and I had taken shelter.  A journalist friend handed me his phone; on the screen was an article from the People’s Daily about China’s youngest lung cancer victim – a girl who could not be named - from Jiangsu province.  She was eight years old.

The pollution outside, an eerie yellow cloud, veiled the city, enveloping skyscrapers obscuring anything beyond the fifth floor.  Girl X’s doctor had, without equivocation, gone on record at great risk to his freedom to declare that that very pollution was accountable for her condition.

As our political leaders meet in Paris this week to reach an agreement on tackling climate change we are asked to imagine a dystopian world where the catastrophic effects of failing to decarbonise our economies takes hold. We don’t have to: Girl X is the face of that future, and cities like Beijing offer us a dubiously voyeuristic opportunity to peer into its abyss.

Beijing_Smog_August_5.jpgThis week, again, Beijing is facing down severe pollution.  For those of us who have lived there, this is nothing new; an annual tragedy which engulfs 21 million inhabitants between the months of December and February.  The blinding inescapable smog, or ‘fog’ as the Government would call it, has even the youngest and fittest hacking up black soot from the back of their mouths - and, in my case, blood. 

Expat friends still living in Beijing joke that they have taken up smoking to guard themselves against the effects of poor air quality, the cigarette’s filter protecting their lungs from the pollution.

The pollution – effluence from China’s rapid, rampant industrialisation – peppers the air with tiny particles some 28 times smaller than the breadth of a hair which lodge deep into the lungs and can enter the blood stream.

The World Health Organisation recommends the level of these particles in the air should be no higher than 25 micrograms per cubic metre.  Beijing’s reading yesterday in one part of the city was 2,242.

To put this into perspective, yesterday in London the air quality index (AQI) – a calculation used by Governments including the Chinese to communicate pollution levels to the public – stood at 28.  A score below 50 is considered good (about 30 micrograms per cubic metre).  In Beijing, at the time of writing, the score read 426.

I remember the count on the day of first hearing of girl X.  It was 876.  The AQI scale is only supposed to reach 500.

It’s no surprise that in order to get the AQI figure I had to use a virtual private network, which routed my internet connection back through the UK, to access a website giving live information on the particulate matter reader atop the US Embassy building in Beijing.  The Chinese government continues to block access to the website.

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Girl X represents the tragedy that faces us if we don’t act.  It also represents the Chinese government’s indifference to the problem and its solution.

Inner-city air pollution is a blight which affects us all.  The framework agreed in Paris gives us the opportunity to tackle the catastrophic effects of climate change from pollution in the long-term.  But we must take action in the short term too.

London isn’t Beijing, but air quality in UK and other European cities is creeping towards a future we daren’t imagine. Carbon-sink building materials and bike helmets which ionise particulate matter might seem like technologies of the future, but they offer potential solutions to London’s worsening air problem. It’s time we have that conversation, before it’s too late.

Article written by Paul Afshar. You can follow him on twitter at @paulrezaafshar

 

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by Sonny Leong is chair of Chinese for Labour and Treasurer of BAME Labour.

The great immigration debate has been one of the constant features of British politics over the last few years and will undoubtedly continue to be, as we hurtle towards the cliff edge of the European Referendum. I firmly believe that the Labour Party, which has always been marked by its values of internationalism and equality, is on the right side of this argument – championing Britain’s status as a nation of immigrants, who have contributed so much to every part of our society.

Yet, as the referendum looms and the discussion focuses on future immigrants, we as a party have not paid enough attention to the people who have already come from across the world to make their lives here – the immigrants of the past, like myself. Traditionally, the Labour party has relied upon the votes of ethnic minority communities, loyal to us because of our unyielding support for and action on equality.

However, for too long Labour has taken these votes for granted. The party hasn’t recognised that its approach to immigrants and their descendants has been too backward looking, relying on past successes, and simplistic, grouping people of very different cultures together because it’s easier. ‘Asian’ comes to mean everything from Bangalore to Beijing; Black comes to mean everything from Mombasa to Montego Bay.

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Chinese for Labour's Patron, Liam Byrne argues that the left must call time on neoliberalism, move beyond both old-style statism and New Labour and embrace a new entrepreneurial socialism.
 
He sets out proposals for a new Clause IV that puts the fight against inequalities of power centre stage – and in place of top-down solutions of the past, Byrne argues for a 21st century 'opportunity state' with a radical new approach to harnessing innovation and entrepreneurialism to increase people's economic, social and political power.

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Recent events have escalated the debate around immigration to beyond the corridors of Westminster. From listening to people in my community, the recent rhetoric has been lacking in both substance and form.

The brutal tone and language deployed by national figures of late has tarnished our reputation for compassion and justice words such as ‘abusing’, ‘tough’, relay exaggerated visions of the living dead creeping up beyond our shoreline. Sensationalist headlines accompanied by images of people clinging onto lorries, desperate for a way out, seeing our country as a place of hope, an escape from poverty, pain and brutality. What happened to our compassion and empathy?

“Students, yes. Over-stayers, no. And the universities must make this happen,” said Theresa May.

Some of the brightest and best in the world choose to save up, work and study at our universities and yet we choose to banish these bright young things back home? We need all the talent we can get. Such a view is not only short-term but woefully lacking in foresight. These students are our future teachers, professors, dentists, architects, designers, engineers and entrepreneurs.  I believe the British public will not fall for such empty rhetoric designed to score cheap political points.

Our success as a nation has been built on immigration within the framework of British laws, values and a culture of inclusion. A report published today by University College London’s Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration concluded that immigrants from the 10 countries who joined the EU in 2004 contributed more to the UK than they took out in benefits. They added £4.96bn more in taxes in the years to 2011 than they took out in public services.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-29910497.

Go to any hospital and look around you at the doctors, nurses and staff to see how immigration has benefitted us. Go to your local high street for a meal and marvel at the collection of world kitchens available for your gastronomic delight. People who settle here and build a life for themselves and their families will be the workers of the future their kids will become our future creating the wealth to ensure our pensions and retirement. This is how we can face the future together, by remembering our values and rejecting divisiveness. Of course we need to ensure fairness and a level playing field for all, policies to enforce the national living wage, clamping down on irresponsible employers and tackling illegal human trafficking.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with people wanting to be British and building a better life. After all that’s what my parents did in 1970.

Vincent Lo is the Vice Chair and Treasurer for Chinese for Labour. If you would like to write for Chinese for Labour, or have any events that would be of interest to our community then please email at alvin.shum@chineseforlabour.org. 

Why Theresa May is so wrong

  Recent events have escalated the debate around immigration to beyond the corridors of Westminster. From listening to people in my community, the recent rhetoric has been lacking in both...

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