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China

Hell No, I Won't Go: One Chinese Man's Fight To Save His 'Shanty' Home

ECONOMIC OBSERVER/SHANGHAI ONLINE NEWS (China)

Song Wenchao has become an unlikely hero in China. The 50-year-old man lives in the only remaining house on a building site in Hunan Province. All the others have been torn down by the Changsha City Government.

Song's home is still standing -- but only because he refuses to leave. It's the house he was born in, he points out. The one his family has been living in for generations.

See below picture of Song Wenchao from the news website www.voc.com.cn


To discourage unwanted visitors there are three dogs - including a Tibetan mastiff, 18 video surveillance cameras and two automatic water jets. Having abandoned the ground floor, Song is now holed up in the house's upper floor. He has even demolished the staircase connecting the two. A banner outside warns: Private. Don't approach. You yourself will be responsible for the consequences of any intrusion.

The standoff began three years ago when Changsha City officials classified Song's house as shanty. The city tried to tear it down. "Authorites appraised the property at 420,00 RMB (nearly $66,000)," Song told the Economic Observer. "We are seven brothers and sisters. The share of this money won't even be enough to buy ourselves each a cremation casket."

Song is outraged. According to Shanghai Online News, a new apartment in the surrounding area costs more than 10,000 RMB ($1,500) per square-meter.

China's economic boom has spread to each corner of the country, and development involving construction is often the only way for corrupt local officials to put money in their pockets. Expropriations and demolitions have become commonplace throughout China. Desperate people brutally forced from their homes have frequently turned to desperate acts of suicide or violence.

Chen Ronghui, a neighbor who was present when the Economic Observer reporter interviewed Song, recalled what happened to his mother two years back: "A bunch of tattooed men with shaved heads forced their way into her home in the middle of the night and bullied by old mother, who was over 70, into signing a document to sell her house."

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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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