This week, we discuss:
- ScotRail Plan Chaotic Strikes During COP26
- Facebook Under Fire
- Mounting Military Tensions Between China and Taiwan
ScotRail Plan Chaotic Strikes During COP26
ScotRail engineers are planning to strike during the Glasgow climate summit. A twenty-four-hour stoppage is planned for the 1st and 2nd of November, with global leaders and campaigners due to gather in Scotland from October 31st.
What does it mean?
Unions claim that they have been left with no choice after ScotRail management – operated by the private Dutch transport company Abellio – failed to make a ‘meaningful pay offer’, with 78% of members voting in favour of strike action.
Rail services across Scotland have already faced disruption for months due to industrial action and planned cuts. The strikes would undoubtedly bring chaos to Scottish transport, at a time when infrastructure will be under pressure with an estimated 30,000 delegates from around the world flocking to Glasgow for COP26.
The unions believe they have been “spun out and cynically used” during months of negotiations in an effort to delay strike action until after the conference. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government have said they are hopeful that an “appropriate and fair pay increase” could be agreed, and that they were actively encouraging unions and management to seek a resolution.
Whilst political opponents are attempting to force the SNP’s hand by painting the strikes as catastrophic for Scotland’s reputation on the international stage, it’s more disastrous for Boris Johnson, who has long earmarked COP26 as an opportunity to showcase Britain as a global leader on climate change.
This is a reminder for Johnson that you reap what you sow – his government is pushing for a return to the office, which naturally leads to busier train services. Meanwhile, he used his conference speech to urge businesses to transform Britain into a high-wage economy – under this political backdrop, it’s no wonder transport workers are fighting for a fairer wage.
Facebook Under Fire
On Tuesday, Frances Haugen, a whistleblower, testified before the Senate subcommittee on Consumer Protection. The former Facebook employee’s much-anticipated testimony painted a bleak picture of a company with little regard for its capacity to harm.
What does this mean?
During the hearing, Haugen provided evidence that Facebook is presently unwilling to make its platform safer due to the profits it continues to generate from its current model of user engagement. As such, prior to her testimony, Haugen reportedly filed at least eight whistleblower complaints alleging that the social media giant is hiding research about its shortcomings whilst telling Senators that Facebook had also done too little to prevent violence arising from its platform.
Though Facebook is attempting to publicly hide its shortcomings, their existence has already been crystalised in the eyes of legislators and the public alike. Senators from both parties were excoriating in their criticism of the company and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Hours after Haugen’s testimony, he personally refuted her in a Facebook post, writing that the accusations were at odds with Facebook’s mission.
Unfortunately for Zuckerberg, it is now widely acknowledged that Facebook’s technology encourages some of our worst tendencies as a species – whether that be our insecurities or our addictive natures, such encouragement is considerable in both its scope and impact.
Whilst our increasing inability to detach ourselves from the world around us is in fact becoming a damaging aspect of human nature, this does not render Facebook innocent. And, if the rising tide of bipartisan opposition to Facebook is anything to go by, America’s legislators won’t be letting them forget that any time soon.
Mounting Military Tensions Between China and Taiwan
Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan’s defence minister, along with Tsai Ing-wen, the President, have warned the international community that China will be capable of invading Taiwanese territory by 2025. Chiu has claimed that tensions with Beijing are at their worst in forty years since China has sent 150 warplanes to the Taiwanese air defence zone since last Friday.
What does it mean?
Western foreign policymakers find themselves in a catch-22. For one, Taiwan is a Western-style democracy with liberal values that should be nurtured and defended. However, China has a strong historic claim to the territory, and the US has been largely supportive of this claim in line with its longstanding One China policy – so long as any conflict is resolved peacefully.
Because Taiwan is still not officially recognised by many states around the world, it has been forced to ‘think asymmetrically’ in terms of its political and economic strategies. Consequently, the country has become an important democracy and global supplier with many trading ties around the globe.
But the final word on what a Chinese invasion would mean is best left with the Taiwanese president: “Should this line be broken by force, the consequences would disrupt international trade and destabilise the entire western Pacific. In other words, a failure to defend Taiwan would not only be catastrophic for the Taiwanese; it would overturn a security architecture that has allowed for peace and extraordinary economic development in the region for seven decades.”
This Week’s Must Reads
- ‘The BBC needs to get much better at defending itself’ by David Hare for The Guardian
- ‘As China stumbles, the west must ask: what if its rise is inevitable?’ by Jeremy Cliffe for The New Statesman
- ‘Voters want more from business than profits’ by James Kirkup for The Times
- ‘”A nation of property hoarders”: how Right to Buy transformed UK housing’ by Lynsey Hanley for The Financial Times