Xi Jinping’s impact on Asia Pacific and beyond

What I’m reading this weekend: At the end of February, the Chinese Community Party abolished the two-term limit for the presidency, effectively allowing President Xi Jinping to lead China in perpetuity. It always seemed to me (read: my untrained eye) that autocrats took incremental, almost unnoticeable actions to amass power, as to not raise any alarms and to sustain the pretense that they rule at the will of their people. China’s monumental decision to amend their constitution may be another sign that today’s autocrats are feeling more emboldened, and Xi joins the list of authoritarian strongmen taking bold moves— tangible and symbolic—to grab and sustain their power. Why does this matter? For a number of reasons, but here’s one: at the end of the seesaw sits human rights and civil liberties. I recall a conversation with a group of activists shortly after Trump’s election, who predicted that internal discord within the United States would pull attention and resources from issues abroad and create a vacuum for bad political behavior*. As a result, it could meaningfully unwind the work that activists around the world had done to fight inequality, and curtail social and political repression. And so it goes.

I have been following the tensions in the South China Sea, with a particular interest in how Vietnam is navigating these dynamics, and looked to understand how Xi Jinping’s unyielding power would affect the region (and beyond). If you’re interested, here’s a hodgepodge of content that I came across this week, providing both good context and commentary:

* This is not to say that the U.S. doesn’t act badly, but that’s another conversation for another day.

To see without my eyes

Huh. I can’t believe it’s already March. If this is any indication of how the rest of the year will unfold…

In any case, here’s a playlist I made that dampens any unease I feel as I stare into the abyss of 2018. It has some sludgey lo-fi, opera, new age chill meets electronica banger, a delicate Trịnh Công Sơn track sung by Khánh Ly, that still feels fresh off vinyl—all inspired by Sufjan Steven’s devastatingly beautiful score for Call Me By Your Name.


 

Vulture did a fun profile of Sufjan Steven and his collaboration with director Luca Guadagnino, which included several golden nuggets on their creative process.

To share two that stuck with me…

The magic of sharing sensibilities, or sharing how you intimately process and communicate the various textures of being alive:

“Luca’s a real sensualist, and I very quickly keyed into that because I am, as well […] There’s a physicality to his work that’s really profound, and there’s an emotional experience that’s occurring as well, and they have this divine interaction. So that’s really what I was working on, this idea of first love being really irrational and sensational, and feeling boundless in its experience.”

And the state of flow behind the magic:

“I firmly believe in the power of impulse and instinct, and the ideology of ‘first thought, best thought,’ […] I have to admit that often when I’m writing music, I’m sort of at a loss for how it all transpires. It feels so immediate and impulsive that I feel like I’m almost not in control. I’m not writing in a state of ecstasy, per se, but I feel almost powerless to the creative motion.”

Hope you’ll take a chance on the playlist, and may you find flow, people, and work that speak to your consciousness.

(Also, I make a lot of these things. Follow me on Spotify!)