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China

China: Has The Convergence Of Scandal, Sex And Corruption Gone Too Far?

Op-Ed: Scandals and sex in China are becoming part of the scenery, but what if the public's eagerness to shame law-breaking officials is in itself undermining the rule of law?

The image of the corrupt public official abounds in modern China
The image of the corrupt public official abounds in modern China

BEIJING - Prosecuted for taking bribes, making false accusations, and illegal business dealings. That was the already unhappy situation of Zhang Jingli, the former deputy commissioner of China's State Food and Drug Administration.

And while he is still under investigation, what is his employer, the State Food and Drug Administration, doing? The government agency is openly broadcasting a video containing some "unsightly" scenes of Zhang's visit to the Heaven on Earth, a high-end Beijing night club. Here, "unsightly" means pornographic. The State Food and Drug Administration defends its decision to release the video as an "internal processing decision."

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Geopolitics

Russia's Military Failures Are Really About Its Soldiers

No doubt, strategic errors and corruption at the highest ranks in the Kremlin are partly to blame for the Russian military's stunning difficulties in Ukraine. But the roots run deeper, where the ordinary recruits come from, how they are exploited, how they react.

Army reserve soldiers go to Red Square to attend a Pioneer Induction ceremony

Anna Akage

To the great relief of Ukraine and the great surprise of the rest of the world, the Russian army — considered until February 24, the second strongest in the world — is now eminently beatable on the battlefield against Ukrainian forces operating with vastly inferior firepower.

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After renouncing the original ambitions to take Kyiv and unseat the Ukrainian government, the focus turned to the southeastern region of Donbas, where a would-be great battle on a scale comparable to World War II Soviet victories has turned into a quagmire peppered with laughable updates by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on TikTok.

The Russians have not managed to occupy a single significant Ukrainian city, except Kherson, which they partially destroyed and now find difficult to hold. Meanwhile, Ukrainian civilians are left to suffer the bombing of cities and villages from Lviv to Odessa, with looting, torture and assorted war crimes.

The reasons for both the poor performance and atrocities are many, and include deep-seated corruption and lack of professionalism up through the highest ranks, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had never served in the army, and arrived in his position only because of his loyalty to the No. 1 man in the Kremlin.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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