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中国-巴基斯坦经济走廊:机遇与风险
中国-巴基斯坦经济走廊:机遇与风险
All the President’s Trolls: Real and Fake Twitter Fights in El Salvador
All the President’s Trolls: Real and Fake Twitter Fights in El Salvador
A Chinese worker sits near trucks carrying goods during the opening of a trade project in Gwadar port, some 700 kms west of the Pakistani city of Karachi on November 13, 2016. AAMIR QURESHI / AFP
Report 297 / Asia

中国-巴基斯坦经济走廊:机遇与风险

2015年启动的中国--巴基斯坦经济走廊可为巴基斯坦带来所需的就业机会和投资。但许多项目也具有加剧沿途的社会分歧和政治紧张的风险。伊斯兰堡当局应在北京的支持下寻求公众的投入,以确保经济利益的公平分配。

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最新动向:巴基斯坦领导人表示,2015年启动的中巴经济走廊(CPEC)是该国经济不景气的“破局之变”。但走廊计划的不透明,走廊沿途剧变对当地人可能产生的影响,以及利润主要流向局外人都可能引发动荡。目前,政府对CPEC的批评声音采取了压制。

重要因素:CPEC可帮助恢复巴基斯坦的经济。但如果该项目在议会和省立法机构没有进行更彻底的讨论、以及与当地人进行磋商的情况下继续推进;则将加深联邦中心与外围之间的摩擦,引起长期被忽视的省份的混乱,扩大社会分歧并可能产生新的冲突根源。

可采取的措施:2018年7月选举之后执政的政府应鼓励关于CPEC的辩论;咨询商业领袖、民间团体和受影响的当地人;确保土地所有者获得公平的补偿;支持雇请当地劳动力;并允许异见的存在。北京当局和有关中国公司应该支持这些措施。

于2013年年中初被构想,并于2015年4月启动的中国巴基斯坦经济走廊(CPEC)是中国一带一路倡议下的一系列项目。该项目标志着历史上由安全合作定义的中巴双边中关系开启了经济联系的新时代。巴基斯坦经济显然需要通过改革才能更好地为本国人民服务,许多官员表示,中巴经济走廊将有助其改善。但就目前实施情况而言,该项目可能会加剧政治紧张局势,扩大社会分歧并在巴基斯坦造成新的冲突根源。在7月选举之后掌权的巴基斯坦政府应该采取一些举措来减轻这些风险,包括在中巴经济走廊计划方面表现出更加透明的姿态,咨询所有利益相关方,包括较小的省份、商业界和民间团体,对待该项目将巴基斯坦利益置于中国利益之下的担忧。就中国而言,在与巴基斯坦携手确定项目的过程中,中国应该与作为中巴经济走廊项目实施区域的利益相关方进行磋商。北京方面应该要求中国企业展示对这些项目实施地区居民的关注,包括雇请当地劳动力。

包括贷款、投资和捐赠在内,中巴经济走廊项目总规模可扩大至600亿美元,。该走廊穿越2,700公里的路线,始于巴基斯坦阿拉伯海港城市俾路支省的瓜达尔,沿着喀喇昆仑山脉公路穿过吉尔吉特 - 巴尔蒂斯坦的昆吉拉布山口,之后进入中国新疆地区的地级市喀什市。在巴基斯坦境内,经济和发展项目将优先考虑交通基础设施、工业发展、能源和当地具有重要战略位置的俾路支省瓜达尔港口的发展;农业现代化和农业生产是项目另一个关键组成部分。

于2013年选举后上台、并于2018年5月31日下台的巴基斯坦穆斯林联盟(谢里夫派)(PML-N)政府将中巴经济走廊描绘为中巴关系和巴基斯坦经济发展的一大跨越。有意角逐中央政府的各派政界人士也普遍赞同这一观点。然而,巴基斯坦商界的一些高级官员和有声望的人士则担忧该项目无法保护巴基斯坦当地的经济利益,对中国投资者的回报过于高企,以及会筑下难以负担的国债。

虽然现在评估中巴经济走廊是否能够实现伊斯兰堡承诺的经济利益还为时尚早,但由于经济发展和资源分配不公平,中央和较小联邦单位以及省份内部长期存在紧张关系,项目可能会面临激发长期紧张关系的风险。俾路支省和信德省等欠发达省份认为,中巴经济走廊的路线、基础设施和工业项目将主要有利于旁遮普省,而该省已经是巴基斯坦经济上最富裕和政治势力强的省份。然而,即使在旁遮普省,当地居民也可能会对中央政府为中巴经济走廊的农业项目征地而强力抵抗。

在俾路支省,中巴经济走廊项目正在加剧当地人民现有的不满情绪。当地人民之前一直认为自身受到剥削并被中央忽视,加之当局对异见人士的压制,因此当地长期以来一直存在叛乱。该省不会从瓜达尔港口这一经济走廊计划中关键的项目中获得直接的经济利益,这意味着当地人对中央政府的愤怒可能会加剧。该项目并没有将一个沉睡的渔村发展成伊斯兰堡和北京所承诺的繁华商业中心,而是造就了一个高度军事化的管制区域,遣散当地居民并剥夺他们的经济命脉。在信德省的塔帕卡县地区,燃煤电厂项目不仅破坏环境,而且迫使当地居民离开家园、摧毁他们的生计。

诸多这类问题源于不透明的政策制定,以及当政者未能对区域和当地问题给予重视。 中巴经济走廊的长期规划(2017-2030)由中央制定,地方领导、企业或民间社会参与却很少。该计划直到2017年12月都尚未明朗,之后也才公布出一些粗略枝干;而当时一些核心项目早已启动。从该项目的起点瓜达尔,到终点吉尔吉特 - 巴尔蒂斯坦,中央政府对当地持异议人士的反应是采取专横的军事安全手段,典型特征包括设置军事检查站、对当地居民进行恫吓和骚扰、以及镇压对中巴经济走廊项目的有关抗议活动。

预见中的地缘政治方面的益处也可能优先于经济上回报。巴基斯坦军方认为,与中国建立更深层次的经济关系 ——哪怕这一关系更有利于北京,也可以帮助巴基斯坦制衡美国对巴不断施加的外交和经济压力,即要求巴方结束对那些针对阿富汗和印度的军事代理人的支持。但随着北京不断扩大其在巴基斯坦的经济布局,中国政府似乎也越来越担心这些代理人对中国国家和地区安全利益将构成威胁。此外,利益的不对等,再加上认为中巴经济走廊项目损害了关键利益方的经济、社会和政治利益的观点,可能会加剧巴基斯坦国内的反华情绪。在中巴经济走廊项目中,已经发生了几起针对受雇于中巴经济走廊项目的巴基斯坦人的袭击事件。

伊斯兰堡应确保中巴经济走廊的导向和目标强调巴基斯坦的经济和政治利益,采取下列措施:

  • 就中巴经济走廊的项目方向建立政治共识,包括在国家和省级议会进行相关讨论,以确保各个省份能够均能受益;同时停止对批评人士的逮捕、骚扰和其它强力手段。
  • 咨询经济学家、商会、巴基斯坦商业理事会、行业协会和其他商界利益相关方,并采取措施在中巴经济走廊经济特区和发展项目的新框架中解决他们关切的问题。
  • 雇请当地劳动力,确保中巴经济走廊项目实行劳工保护和相关措施。
  • 广泛与当地社区广泛协商重大发展项目的潜在成本和效益,并为所有需要安置的人员制定适当的补偿和安置计划;这些人员不仅包括正式的土地所有者,也包括巴基斯坦普遍的非正式土地所有者。如有必要,议会应考虑对1894土地征收法案进行相关改革。
  • 中国政府和中国的企业应该:
  • 在中巴经济走廊项目的确定和/或实施过程中,与巴基斯坦从精英到基层的各利益相关方进行全面磋商和接触,并优先为当地人创造就业机会。
  • 对中巴经济走廊项目进行全面的风险和政治分析,确保相互竞争的各方之间公平共享所得。
  • 在地方、区域和国家层面上促进与巴基斯坦利益攸关方进行有效和广泛的沟通,以体现共同利益。

尽管面临着种种风险和挑战,中巴经济走廊为改善巴基斯坦陈旧破败的基础设施,振兴低迷的经济提供了良机。不过,为了实现这些承诺,伊斯兰堡和北京需要较以往更加随机应变、进行更多的协商,并让受影响最大的省份和社区在中巴经济走廊建设中拥有更大的话语权。当地人需要看到该项目带来的红利;如果绝大多数的利益都流向了外人,这将加剧社会和政治分歧,造成紧张局势,并可能引发冲突。随着巴基斯坦的民主过渡迎来另一个里程碑——连续第二个民选政府即将完成其任期,其继任者应抓住施政新机会,引导针对中巴经济走廊的公共讨论,并采取将巴基斯坦人民的福祉作为核心的相关政策。

布鲁塞尔,2018年6月29日

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele speaks at a news conference during a nationwide quarantine as the government undertakes steadily stricter measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Ilopango, El Salvador May 18, 2020. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas

All the President’s Trolls: Real and Fake Twitter Fights in El Salvador

The plunging homicide rate in El Salvador has sparked debate about the role of the new president’s hardline policies. Much of it transpires on Twitter, where his champions and critics engage in rows that could pre-empt reasoned discussion of how to keep tamping down violence.

El Salvador’s Nayib Bukele won the presidency in 2019 by promising to reduce the country’s then sky-high murder rate and tackle corruption. Homicide rates have indeed fallen sharply since his election. But Bukele’s policies have proved controversial. Critics say the president’s actions, such as cramming gang members into cells without daylight, and strong-arming the parliament and high courts, violate human rights and erode democracy. At the same time, these policies have made him more popular than ever, with many Salvadorans attributing the drop in homicides to his no-nonsense approach.

The conflict between these two camps is fierce. One of its main battlegrounds is online, particularly on Twitter. Bukele relies on tech to address citizens directly, and to that end he regularly takes selfies and posts memes (at one point sharing a picture of himself in a spaceship). Even though fewer than half of Salvadorans have regular access to the internet, Twitter has become so central to Bukele’s public messaging and government operations that The Economist recently ran a story about him titled “My Tweet is Your Command.”

Focusing on competing hashtags, both sides of the political divide engage in ferocious online slanging matches.

Crisis Group has documented a concerted effort from both Bukele’s supporters and his opponents to shape the online narrative around his more controversial policies, in part through artificial means. Focusing on competing hashtags – #BukeleDictador (#DictatorBukele) and #QueBonitaDictadura (#WhatALovelyDictatorship) – both sides of the political divide engage in ferocious online slanging matches. The result is to present Salvadorans with artificially polarised choices: reject Bukele, despite his apparent successes; or support him, and ignore the abuses committed by his government. The reality, as we show in our new report Miracle or Mirage? Gangs and Plunging Violence in El Salvador, is more complicated and nuanced. But as social media-fuelled polarisation intensifies, the risk is that both sides will shun the complexities of tackling gang violence in an effort to win the online popularity contest and the forthcoming elections in February 2021.

The Hashtag Wars

Part of Bukele’s approach to El Salvador’s security and health challenges is undoubtedly hardline. Shortly after taking office, he deployed joint military-police units to fight gangs and tightened restrictions on prisons, including forbidding family visits. He ordered the armed forces to occupy the legislature in a failed attempt to coerce it into ratifying a loan to fund his security strategy. After a temporary rise in homicides, Bukele backed using “lethal force” against gangs. The administration posted images on Twitter of near-naked gang members chained to one another. COVID-19 presented a new threat. Bukele has responded by detaining citizens who disobey the strict nationwide curfew in crowded “containment centers”.

International and domestic critics have responded with a stream of criticism calling Bukele a “dictator”. Still, many Salvadorans view these uncompromising policies as responsible for the reduction in homicides and the country’s relative success at staving off COVID-19. As a result, Bukele still has an approval rating of nearly 90 per cent. Our new report suggests that reality is more complicated. In fact, the declining murder rates may owe not only to the tough measures Bukele publicises but also to changes in the gangs themselves and fragile non-aggression pacts between them and government officials. These nuances are missing entirely from the online fracas.

A concern is whether these hashtags are artificially boosted

Two competing hashtags used on Twitter shine a light on these battles. #BukeleDictador first trended after the occupation of the legislature in February, and again in response to the president’s handling of COVID-19. #QueBonitaDictadura was deployed to fight back against this hashtag and negative press more broadly. To analyse the hashtags, we looked at posts (original tweets, replies, and retweets) through Twitter’s standard API, a set of procedures allowing access to the platform’s searchable data. Since this method restricts us to a week’s worth of posts, for #BukeleDictador we were able to collect 29,948 tweets posted between 27 April and 9 May 2020. For #QueBonitaDictadura, we pulled out 33,251 posts since its first use on 28 April until 9 May.

Documenting Manipulation

A first concern is whether these hashtags are artificially boosted. Inauthentic activity on Twitter takes many forms, from bots (automated accounts) to “sock puppets”, human accounts with deceptive online identities. Such manipulation is often difficult to detect, as no one metric definitively proves an inauthentic account – some people just use Twitter oddly. Accusations of manipulation in El Salvador have largely focused on the use of troll or net centers, involving paid humans running accounts to spread certain messaging. Bukele himself was implicated in a troll center case targeting newspapers in El Salvador, and recently the government accused the left-wing opposition Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) of running a troll center.

There is evidence of suspicious behavior associated with both hashtags. Figure 1 shows posts per hour for each. For both hashtags about 75 per cent were retweets, higher than for most organic traffic (meaning regular user activity). Since retweeting is easier than crafting original posts, a high percentage of retweets is correlated with manipulation. The volume and timing of posts (both retweets and original posts) for the two hashtags otherwise look very different. #QueBonitaDictadura peaked within four hours of its first use, and dropped off almost completely within a week. Though we do not capture its peak, #BukeleDictador was tweeted one to five thousand times a day, a rhythm that continued even in late May.

Figure 1: Tweets and Retweets by Hour Crisis Group analysis of Twitter data

Use of both hashtags points to manipulation in various ways beyond the high proportion of retweets. Some 4.4 per cent of #BukeleDictador posts and 5.6 per cent of #QueBonitaDictadura posts were from accounts deactivated by the end of May, a signal that Twitter may have found users suspicious. The Coefficient of Traffic Manipulation, which measures deviation from regular traffic, similarly points to suspicious activity. Using recent activity and user characteristics, a number of measures try to score accounts according to the likelihood that they are bots. Depending on the method and threshold we use, estimates for the percentage of tweets produced by bots range from very low (15 per cent) to quite high (70 per cent) – the enormous variance shows how challenging it is to identify non-human users. But whichever method is used, the estimates of how many tweets are generated by bots are always similar for the two hashtags. Both appear to profit more or less equally from fake, or non-human, tweets.

#BukeleDictador was propagated by a small number of accounts. Fully 62 per cent of tweets came from 500 users with suspiciously high rates of tweeting: in one week, they collectively posted more than 300,000 times, well in excess of standard estimates for suspicious activity. Two accounts posted more than 3,000 times in two days. Some 26 alleged opposition trolls have been outed by the administration. Eight are no longer on Twitter, but the visible histories of the remaining users in the list show that they dramatically increased posting in late 2019 (in some cases after long dormant periods). In violation of Twitter rules, these accounts frequently copy-pasted themselves – repeating the same exact message, but directed in reply to different users – and occasionally copy-pasted each other. At least two accounts use profile pictures of other people passed off as their own.

Bukele’s supporters, meanwhile, appear to have been building a network of pro-government accounts since the week he took office. Figure 2 shows the date of creation for accounts that tweeted the two hashtags: there is an unmatched spike in #QueBonitaDictadura users joining Twitter in the weeks directly after Bukele’s inauguration on 1 June 2019. This is suspicious. We would expect a smoother bump if supporters joined Twitter to champion Bukele, given that he had been preparing to take office for close to four months and this spike began several days after his inauguration. While other salient events – Bukele’s election, for example, or the military occupation of the legislature – also saw an increase in accounts created, these bumps are smoother and dwarfed by the inauguration. In one day (5 June), nearly as many pro-Bukele accounts were created as in the entire month leading up to the inauguration.

For both hashtags, many of the accounts posting them were created recently, which tends to signal inauthentic behavior: as accounts get deactivated, new ones crop up to replace them. Some 8 per cent of #BukeleDictador and 14 per cent of #QueBonitaDictadura accounts were created in just the previous two months. These users were responsible for 10 and 13 per cent of tweets, respectively.

Figure 2: Date Twitter Accounts Were Created Crisis Group analysis of Twitter data

Amplifying Elites

Though these hashtags were spread in part through artificial means, real political elites set the content. #BukeleDictador gained popularity after being posted on Twitter by deputy Alexandra Ramírez, whom the government alleges coordinated the FMLN troll center. The role of political leaders in designing opposition rhetoric was also visible in another case, when right-wing opposition politicians and a number of other accounts with large followings posted identical, copy-pasted tweets over the course of an hour.

#QueBonitaDictadura was first posted by Porfirio Chica, a communications and public relations strategist who ran a “secret network” and “propaganda machine” that aimed in 2015 to reelect ex-prosecutor Luis Martínez, who is now in prison on corruption charges. Chica claims that his services to Martínez were free, but the website El Faro discovered text messages from him on the former prosecutor’s phone referencing costs. Chica is tightly linked to Bukele; Foreign Policy identified him as a campaign consultant, and The El Salvador Times called him a member of the Bukele campaign’s “circle of trust”.

Just after 7pm on 28 April 2020, Chica tweeted three times in quick succession with the same structure: #QueBonitaDictadura alongside a picture of the security services helping an elderly or disabled Salvadoran. #QueBonitaDictadura was tweeted or retweeted 621 times over the next two hours, including once, shortly after 8pm, by Bukele. At 9pm Última Hora, a digital publication owned by Chica, posted a story that #QueBonitaDictadura reported wide support. Over the next two hours #QueBonitaDictadura was tweeted or retweeted 4,324 times, including eight retweets from the president in a five-minute window.

A version of these dynamics plays out among elites at large. Among our data we identify 54 opposition and 102 pro-government elites who are either verified or have more than 2,000 followers. Elites were responsible for less than 1.5 per cent of posts, but they were disproportionately influential: 19 per cent of #BukeleDictador posts and 31 per cent of #QueBonitaDictadura posts retweeted them. Elites played a particularly influential role in getting #QueBonitaDictadura trending, with most of their posts in the hours directly after its first use.

These hashtags propagated two polarised interpretations of Bukele’s policies: that they are either eroding basic liberties or bringing peace.

International users also play a role in propagating the hashtags, particularly #BukeleDictador. Relying on self-identified location, roughly equal proportions of both hashtags’ users claimed to be living in Europe, the U.S. or Canada. But 12.5 per cent of #BukeleDictador accounts self-identified as Cuban, Venezuelan or Nicaraguan. Bukele broke from the FMLN when he ran for president, and the vast majority of these accounts are dedicated to propaganda for current and former left-wing authoritarian leaders in Latin America, such as Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Nicolás Maduro or Daniel Ortega. The most retweeted #BukeleDictador post among the sample came from an anonymous user claiming to be in Nicaragua, describing herself as “a Sandinista, revolutionary woman, Nicaraguan, chavista, communist, leftist”. This suggests #BukeleDictador extended to a network of international, and often suspicious, accounts.

Competing Narratives

These hashtags propagated two polarised interpretations of Bukele’s policies: that they are either eroding basic liberties or bringing peace. Some of the most retweeted #BukeleDictador tweets accuse the president of violating human rights and democratic values:

  • “Prohibited from public transit. Prohibited from thinking. Forbidden from dissenting. The master of El Salvador has again broken the law and declared a State of Siege. Forbidden from crossing municipal borders. He will decide when you can buy food. #BukeleDictador God will judge you one day, tyrant”. (Retweeted 454 times)
  • “People also loved Hitler and Pablo Escobar. They were popular, but this doesn’t mean one wasn’t a massive genocidal psychopath and the other a murderer and drug trafficker. So stop with the f***ing popularity. #BukeleDictador” (Retweeted 238 times)

#QueBonitaDictadura instead depicted Bukele as the purveyor of peace and security. Some19 per cent of #QueBonitaDictadura posts included one of ten photos of the military providing services, such as helping an old man carry bags of rice. Google Image Search shows that several of these images originally appeared in past tweets from Bukele’s communications department.

Activating Online Networks

#QueBonitaDictadura and #BukeleDictador are two online rallying cries in a broader conflict over the president’s policies and style of governance. Closer analysis of accounts that make use of one or the other of these hashtags shows that they are part of a consistent pattern of using Twitter to promote or denigrate the president. To explore this behaviour, we pulled together the history of the 500 accounts that tweeted #BukeleDictador most often, which we consider suspect anti-Bukele accounts, and the 542 #QueBonitaDictadura users who joined directly after Bukele’s inauguration, which we consider suspect pro-government users. So that we could explore behaviour over time, we included only accounts that tweeted fewer than 3,200 times in 2020, the maximum number of posts we can view through Twitter’s API.

Opposition accounts paint Bukele as corrupt (#WhoPaidForTheOsirisTrip, a reference to a payment scandal), ineffective (#IncompetentGovernment), and authoritarian (#WeWillDefendDemocracy). The hashtag #WhereIsBukele smeared the president for his perceived absence during the coronavirus crisis, which prompted the meme of him in a spaceship (Bukele himself posted, “the rumours of my abduction by aliens are totally unfounded” in response). Pro-Bukele accounts’ most-used hashtags promote the president’s policies (#TerritorialControlPlan, referencing the president’s security policy), smear the opposition (#ReturnWhatWasStolen, a rallying cry against corruption) and show support for him (#I’mWithBukele).

Not surprisingly, both sets of accounts appear most active when Bukele faces a significant crisis. Figure 3 shows variation in tweeting among the sample of opposition (left) and supporters (right). Daily posting is visually represented as a percentage of the mean of each group – since the two sets of users are very different, this allows a better comparison of how their tweeting patterns change over time. The accounts tweeted steadily until a spike in posting just before Bukele’s February occupation of the legislature. Supporters’ top hashtags during this period were #PlanControlTerritorial (#TerritorialControlPlan) and #ElPuebloManda (#ThePeopleRule); opponents’ were #LaDemocraciaSeDefiende (#WeWillDefendDemocracy) and #BukeleDictador. The onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic then led to a sustained period of higher engagement.

Figure 3: Tweeting History for Sample Anti- and Pro-Bukele Accounts Crisis Group analysis of Twitter data

Tweeting for El Salvador

Bukele’s supporters and opponents are both immersed in a sustained effort to shape the online narrative around the president’s policies, including through possible platform manipulation. Though less than half of Salvadorans have regular access to the internet, given the centrality of Twitter to Bukele’s government – he announces firings, establishes policies and criticises opponents on the platform – it is perhaps not surprising that the two camps have taken their fight online. But inauthentic activity may have worrying consequences for how both domestic and international audiences interpret politics in the country.

Our findings show that Bukele’s opponents and supporters use Twitter as a tool to inflame, polarise and simplify political debate in El Salvador.

Our findings show that Bukele’s opponents and supporters use Twitter as a tool to inflame, polarise and simplify political debate in El Salvador. Opposition concerns about Bukele violating democratic principles and civil liberties are important, but labelling him a “dictator” is an exaggeration that overlooks his accomplishments. Supporters present Bukele and his security service as forces dedicated to peace and the public interest, but whitewash their abuses of power. Starkly polarised takes on these life-and-death issues are hardly conducive to responsible decision-making and compromise, and instead seem to encourage legislative gridlock at a time when Bukele and his opposition should instead engineer long-term strategies to cement the welcome decline in homicides.

Elections in February 2021 will determine how many of Bukele’s supporters enter congress, and – as in the rest of the world – the battle for votes is happening partly on Twitter. The fact that at least part of this online battle is the result of artificial amplification of messaging on both sides adds to concern that the Twitter debate is stoking a climate of hostility that serves partisan political interests. This distracts from a very necessary debate about how to cement Bukele’s successes while moving away from “iron fist” policing and toward policies aiming at preventing gang violence.

Miracle or Mirage? Gangs and Plunging Violence in El Salvador