Archive for September, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Great Firewall poised for a Wonderful Future

Chinese netizens and overseas technology experts say the authorities are now successfully undermining key software used to climb over the “Great Firewall”, reports Radio Free Asia (RFA). “Tor”, a tunnelling software seems to have been targeted late, but successfully by China’s censorship technicians, and may now be losing out against the official Chinese censorship technology. Bill Xia, CEO of the company which developed software to circumvent China’s internet censorship warns that this trend will probably continue beyond the national holidays: “China is entering a new phase of technological capability, and is pouring more and more human and material resources into doing this”.

The Great Firewall may be poised for a wonderful future. Shortwave radio, too.

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Related:
Real-Name Registration may become Mandatory, August 1, 2009
Will CCTV and Xinhua shape China’s Global Image? – February 8, 2009
Shortwave receivers made in China: “lousy”, “sounds as cheap as it costs” , Radio Netherlands quotes test reviews, January 1, 2009
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Update:
Beijing’s Latest Updates, October 5, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

“Harmony” Electric Multiple Unit Train

Fuzhou - “Harmony” (和谐号) Electric Multiple Unit (EMU) trains have reportedly started serving on the Fuzhou-Wenzhou railway on Monday. Eight units are said to be heading for Shanghai, six units for Hangzhou and two units for Wenzhou. The distance between Fuzhou and Wenzhou is 298.4 kilometers long (230 of which are in Fujian), and the design speed is between 200 and 250 kilometers per hour, writes Apple Travel. The trains are expected to shorten journeys between Fuzhou and Wenzhou from five to two hours.

The first train left Fuzhou for Wenzhou on Monday at 7.44 local time, reports Singapore’s Morning News (联合早报), quoting Xinhua. The Morning News’ article includes a photo of one of the trains. Journeys from Fuzhou to Wenzhou are to take 100 minutes, it will take five hours from Fuzhou to Hangzhou, and six hours from Fuzhou to Shanghai, reducing conventional train journeys on these routes by more than half, according to the report.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Probably Not what Willy Brandt imagined

When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many observers expected the German Social Democrats (SPD) to become Germany’s leading political party again, as it had been during the Weimar Republic, and much of Wilhelm II’s reign. But in the first (and last) free elections in the German Democratic Republic or East Germany, in 1990, the Christian Democrats (CDU) came in first.

German Unification

Fulda Gap, 2009

Later that same year, the CDU with the incumbent chancellor Helmut Kohl won the first elections in united Germany. The candidate of the defeated SPD back then was Oskar Lafontaine, now co-chairman of “The Left”. It wasn’t before 1998 that the SPD lead a federal government again, after sixteen years in the opposition. Gerhard Schroeder became chancellor, Lafontaine, then the SPD’s chairman, became finance minister with unusual powers, some of which had before been in the jurisdiction of the ministry of economics. But even though the SPD didn’t begin the real reforms of the welfare state (known as the Agenda 2010) before 2003, he resigned his party and government functions after less than half a year in office. In 2005, after the Agenda 2010 had been implemented, he switched to the Left Party and has since campaigned against the SPD.after the SPD’s election victory.

The Left Party and its growth would be hardly conceivable without the PDS, the legal successor to East Germany’s former dictatorial party SED.  The PDS merged with Western voter blocks (mostly former Social Democrats and trade unionists) in 2005. One might say that the PDS was the propellant of the left’s successful participation in elections in East and West Germany, while the Western voter blocks it merged with helped it to gain real influence in the old Federal Republic.

Oskar Lafontaine is often, and arguably correctly, suspected of having left the SPD for injured vanity. He narrowly lost the 1998 nomination, and consequently the chance to become chancellor, to Gerhard Schröder. He has haunted the SPD ever since 2005, and acted as a potential Papa Christmas to everyone who feels that the SPD has become “anti-social”. One might say that in 1990, the SPD was shy with German unification, Lafontaine was vocally against it, and Willy Brandt, former chancellor and the SPD’s honorary chairman, supported it.

Why does an alliance between the SPD and the Left look unfeasible? With combined forces, they could have formed government coalition in 2005.  Instead, the SPD chose to be the Christian Democrats (plus their Bavarian CSU sister party‘s) junior coalition partner. And this year, many SPD voters probably stayed at home because they saw no chance for their party to govern again – certainly not as the leading party in federal government. Willy Brandt, when making his case for German unification, probably wouldn’t have dreamed of the SPD’s troubles today – not in his worst nightmares.

Animosities between the SPD and Lafontaine, viewed as a selfish renegade, may play a role in the inability of the  two parties to join forces. So may Afghanistan. The Left wants the German army to withdraw at once. Then there are historical grudges. The PDS’s legal predecessor in East Germany had been a  merger enforced between East Germany’s social democrats and communists, forced upon the SPD in Soviet-occupied territories by the Soviets and the East German communists. The SPD ceased to exist there, and only continued to exist in West Germany. But the main reason for the rift is that the Left is a pool of protestors, rather than of politicians who would try to reform the welfare state in order to make it sustainable. Take the Agenda 2010. Before it came into effect, a department manager aged, say, forty-five, who lost his job, could count on 53 to 57% of his last earned income – paid with the taxpayers’ money, with no time limit, except for reaching the age where he could claim pensions.

The reforms by the Schroeder government, from 2003 to 2005, weren’t entirely fair. But compared to welfare in America or Britain, they spell luxury – and one may argue that they were fair to the taxpayers, lower and middle incomes included.

The SPD is now the strongest oppositional party in federal parliament. The Left is its main competitor there. The SPD may choose to remain a party which wants to reform the welfare state, in order to maintain it. It may also choose to become more populist, to take votes from the Left. In many East German federal states, it is only the third-strongest party after the Christian Democrats and the Left. But it is the strongest party – and the main governing party – in Brandenburg, an Eastern German state after all. It’s prime minister or Minister-President there is Mathias Platzeck who stood his party’s ground in Brandenburg’s 2004 elections, right in the middle of the Agenda 2010 brawl. He didn’t apologize for the Agenda, and he didn’t distance himself from it. He won in Brandenburg in 2004 by defending the Agenda. Last night, Brandenburg’s SPD won yet another term, against the federal trend.

I hope that the SPD will take a shot of courage from there. Opportunism isn’t the answer to its calamities. Germany needs a true left, which finds a balance between a competitive economy, and social justice (sometimes a pretty shopworn concept). Mere protesters can’t do that. It will take politicians. It will take a party like the SPD. That, the courage to argue  rather than to make hollow promises, and nerves of steel.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Another Chinese Invention…

… is the ride-on mower.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

German Finance Minister to become Ambassador to Switzerland?

German acting finance minister Peer Steinbrück is going to head Germany’s diplomatic mission in Switzerland soon, Taide reportedly learned from usually well-informed sources.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Hermit’s Confucian Cable Tree

Hello Children,

Express Yourself

Expressing Something

maybe you have watched news broadcasts on television before, and seen that there are sometimes people with chopsticks in front of their faces. Those chopsticks are in fact maikefengs. A maikefeng (麦克风) is basically an electric chopstick which converts sound into an electric signal. Somewhere at the end of the cable of the maikefeng, there is a processor (like in the computer where you play the People’s Liberation Army Games), and on the other side of that processor, the electric signal goes into a loudspeaker which can be next to the maikefeng, but also thousands of miles away, inside your television set.

Maybe sometimes, you also see that there are more than only one maikefeng. Especially alien barbarians sometimes don’t understand that. They may even ask why the important personality on television has more than one maikefeng in front of him, while everything goes through the same media channel anyway. Of course, only clueless barbarians can ask such silly questions. Of course, the number of maikefengs actually emblematizes the respect we owe to the important personality.

Let me give you an example. When I speak to the masses, I only use one maikefeng, because I’m not so high-ranking. Besides, our country is Confucian, and by using only one maikefeng, I’m showing how humble and modest I am. (Of course, when I’m Taoist at night, I’m dreaming of being Qinshihuang, with tons of maikefengs in front of hisself).

Confucian Cable Tree: The Medium is the Message

Confucian Cable Tree: The Medium is the Message

Then let’s imagine Nanny. First of all, she’s not very modest, but very arrogant instead. That’s the most important reason why her work is only 60 percent good, but 40 percent bad, while my work is already 65 percent good and only 35 percent bad. Only when you can understand the masses, will your work be very fruitful, and your progress be inexorable. But she ranks higher than me, so she will get some three or five maikefengs.

Then there is our Good Ganbu. He’s retired, but still somehow active, and the thankfulness of our rejuvenated motherland appertains to him. So he gets ten or more maikefengs.

So, because our civilization is very old and refined, a maikefeng isn’t just a maikefeng. It actually expresses something. It is no coincidence at all that Chinese Taoists invented the maikefeng fivethousandtwohundredandninetyten years ago.

That much about the maikefeng for today, children. Got to fly now. Stay patriotic, and keep watching Xinwen Lianbo every night, even if your understanding only grows slowly.

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Related:
Confucian Family Tree Triples, BBC News, September 25, 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Taiwan: Wanted, Hence Unwanted

This is what the secretary-general of Taiwan’s newly-appointed interior minister said yesterday: “For the national security of the country, we forbid Rebiya Kadeer to enter Taiwan.”

Hear, hear.

The minister of the interior himself, Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺), suggested that Kadeer, head of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC) maintained close relations with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which is declared a terrorist group by the United States and the United Nations.

That’s what Beijing keeps claiming. And that in turn may be why the WUC secretary general, Dolkun Isa, is “wanted by Interpol”.

“Wanted” is the correct technical term. But the way either a KMT politician, or the China Post, used it today would suggest that Interpol itself actually wants something or someone – which is not the case. Interpol issues arrest warrants on any judiciary’s request, so long as it is the judiciary of an Interpol member state. And that has become a highly politicized instrument. Google “interpol arrest warrants”, and you will find a lot of people wanted, and a lot of lobbyists’ attempts to get their opponents wanted.

Besides, what was traded as an international arrest warrant against Dolkun Isa in the news recently was a “red notice” only months earlier. Maybe it still is.

Then the stuff about Kadeer’s links to terrorist organizations. Does Taipei base its assessment on evidence of its own? Or do they see terrorist links because they have taken orders from Beijing?

If Dolkun Isa was a Falun Gong staffer rather than the WUC’s secretary general, he might have been more lucky in South Korea this month. Interpol doesn’t get involved in cases of a political or religious nature.

But of course, Beijing tried to get Li Hongzhi wanted anyway. And whoever is (not) wanted, Rebiya Kadeer still wouldn’t get a visa for Taiwan.

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Taiwan News, Editorial Abstracts:
“.. allowing her to visit Taiwan would be a provocative political movement that flies in the face of the country’s campaign to nurture the warming ties with Beijing…” (Apple Daily Taiwan)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Global Affairs: Obama’s Mailbag

White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett and María Otero, Under Secretary of Global Affairs, met the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala on September 13, according to the Chicago Sun-Times of September 14. The paper quotes the Dalai Lama’s office:

Ms. Jarrett discussed with His Holiness on the best way the United States could assist in the resolution for the Tibetan issue, particularly in the light of the first visit by President Obama to China in November. His Holiness conveyed to Ms. Jarrett the issues that he would like President Obama to take when he visits China. His Holiness also conveyed his strong belief that the United States and China need to have very good and principled relations.

Barack Obama will travel to China in November, and won’t meet the Dalai Lama during the latter’s visit to the U.S. in October. One of Ms Jarrett’s and Ms Otero’s objects during their visit to Dharamsala was to explain that because Obama is scheduled to pay his first visit to China in November, it would be better not to meet the Dalai Lama in October. Instead, they said, there could be a meeting after Obama’s China trip, writes the China Post.

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