Archive for December 30th, 2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Obituary: Roberto Alfonso Farrell, 1949 – 2010

This video demonstrates what Boney M‘s short operas usually looked and sounded like.

Our sports teacher was their biggest fan. We were obliged to do Aerobic dances to the Daddy-Cool song in elementary school. We coped.

One of the band’s four singers (and frontman) was Roberto Alfonso Farrell, better known as Bobby Farrell. He probably wasn’t really a singer. The band’s producer Frank Farian is said to have lent him his voice. In the 1970s, that spelled innovation. In later decades, it was considered shanzhai.

Farrell performed in St. Petersburg on Wednesday night, despite feeling unwell. During the past year, an ambulance had frequently been called after his shows, as he had cardiac problems, VoR quotes RIA Novosti.  He was found dead on Thursday morning.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Clean Government with Chinese Characteristics

China News (中新网), via Enorth (Tianjin), Dec 29, 2010 -

China’s government published its first white paper “On Combatting Corruption and on Clean Government” today, detailing the Communist Party’s and the government’s resolute position on tirelessly combatting corruption, and their prersistent remedy of the situation by punishment (惩治), effective measures to prevent corruption, and to win the trust of the public by actual results.

The paper is divided into the eight chapters of “Unswervingly promoting the establishment of anti-corruption and clean government”, “Leading institutions and working mechanisms in establishing anti-corruption and clean government”, “Laws, regulations and institutions in establishing anti-corruption and clean government”, “Power control and supervision systems”, “Innovating anti-corruption by institutional reform”,  “Investigating corruption cases and based on the law and on discipline”, “Establishment of clean-government education and culture”, and “International exchange and cooperation in combatting corruption”, with about 16,000 characters combined.

The white paper states that corruption is a historical social phenomenon, a world-wide chronical disease, and a problem to which the public pays very high attention to. Combatting corruption and strengthening clean government are the Communist Party’s and the government’s firm positions. China upholds clean government at surface and root (标本兼治), a combination of both punishment and prevention, a focus on preventive measures, the establishment of a punitive and preventive system, a stronger emphasis on permanent remedy, on prevention, the building of institutions, a broadening of the fields of combatting corruption from its beginnings, shaping  highly efficient anti-corruption education and systematic advocation, and powerfully carrying out supervision and control, from a position which suits Chinese conditions, setting out on a road of combatting corruption and clean government with Chinese characteristics (走出了一条适合中国国情、具有中国特色的反腐倡廉道路).

“Systematic anti-corruption” has become a concept repeatedly referred to in recent years. The white paper points out that especially when the policies of reform and opening entered the 21rst century, China’s train of thoughts and its practise of reform had been the prevention and controlling corruption. In areas which easily bred corruption, and key links between them, systematic reform and innovation had established  organizations and mechanisms which were suitable for the requirements of the era, to fight against corruption from its beginnings.

The white paper elaborates on China’s system and mechanism of fighting corruption and of clean government. It also points out that China maintains the general plan of governing in accordance with the law,  pays attention to factors that standardize and guarantee laws and regulations, and promotes the legal shaping and standardization of anti-corruption and clean government. Based on China’s constitution, a set of laws and regulations concerning anti-corruption and clean government are defined, and based on the Communist Party’s rules, internal party rules are established, gradually shaping a system of effective laws and regulations with scientific content and rigorous procedures, a perfected and completed, effective on-the-job anti-corruption and clean-government system.

[…]

At present, supervision within the Communist Party, supervision of the People’s National Congress, internal government supervision, democratic supervision of [or by] the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, judicial supervision, supervision by the people and public opinion are forming a supervision with Chinese characteristics. Each supervisional body are independent of each other, cooperate with each other, and have become a united force.

The white paper especially points out that with the internet’s rapid development and wide-spread availability, supervision by the internet had increasingly become a method with rapid reaction, great influence, participatory method for public opinion. China pays much attention to the internet’s positive effect on strengthening supervision, its practical gathering of information regarding anti-corruption and public sentiment. [China] analyzes and deals with its work, improves the regulatory systems for reporting [corruption]. […] It also strengthens the management, guidance and standards of public supervision, protects the regular order of public supervision, to make it perform in legal ways.

To deal with corruption cases based on law and discipline is the most efficient tool to punish corruption. As China tackled corruption at different points in time with different features, it established the focuses of handling them. The white paper provides some numbers concerning punishment for corruption: from 2003 to 2009, People’s Procuratorates of all levels (各级人民检察院) investigated more than 240,000 cases of corruption,  bribery, and derelictions of duty; in 2009, 3,194 persons were investigated for their criminal responsiblity in bribery, from 2005 until 2009, the focus was on combatting bribery in business circles with more than 69,200 cases investigated, involving 16.59 billion Yuan RMB, and 7,036 leading cadres were investigated.

Concerning international cooperation in combatting corruption, the white paper points out that China attaches great importance to international exchange and cooperation, advocating an emphasis on cooperation on sovereignty, equality, mutual benefit, and respect for differences under effective principles, strengthening cooperation with every country and territory and international organization in charge, learning from each others’ experience, and together striking against corrupt conduct.

The white paper quotes a National Bureau of Statistics Bureau survey saying that from 2003 to 2010, public satisfaction with the fight against corruption and the establishment of clean government has steadily risen, from 51.9 per cent to 70.6 per cent, and that the share of the public that believes that passive corruption*) received varying attention rose from 68.1 to 83.8 per cent.

The article’s last three paragraphs acknowledge that the tasks in fighting against corruption remained onerous, that party and government understood the long-term and difficult nature of it, that public confidence would be gained by achieving the goal of clean government, but that China was fully capable of reducing corruption to the lowest extent.

____________

Note
*) the definition of passive corruption (消极腐败) isn’t necessarily about taking, rather than giving bribes. It frequently refers to authorities and departments which put their own interest before that of the public by excessive buildings, overstaffing (which in turn increases the risk of active corruption), bureaucracy (官僚主义), by wasting public means and resources (铺张浪费), and cronyism in recruitment or factionalism (宗派主义). Many of these definitions have been used since the Mao era.

____________

Related
White paper, full text (in English), Xinhua, Dec 29, 2010
Land Disputes worst Problem, AFP, December 16, 2010
Reform without Zijiren, October 5, 2009

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Two halves of a Story: The Prize and the Public

How significant is the article The Iraq War and the American Elections in judging the appropriateness of the Nobel Peace Prize award to Liu Xiaobo?

It depends on the authorship – if it was indeed written by Liu Xiaobo -, it would then still depend on what the article actually says, it would depend on the assessment of Liu Xiaobo’s work as a whole, and on the criteria on which the Nobel Committee, earlier this year, based its decision.

Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong offered an opinion for the Nobel Peace Prize debate this year, and the Guardian published it on December 15. That was five days after the Oslo ceremony, but the number of comments following it shows that it is still widely seen as a topic worth discussing.

This is what Sautman/Yan quoted from the Iraq War and the American Elections article:

[T]he outstanding achievement made by Bush in anti-terrorism absolutely cannot be erased by Kerry’s slandering … However much risk must be endured in striking down Saddam Hussein, know that no action would lead to a greater risk. This has been proven by the second world war and September 11! No matter what, the war against Saddam Hussein is just! The decision by President Bush is right!

No verifiable source here, either, and it is of course the job of Liu’s critics to provide a reliable source when quoting stuff that – or so JR believes – would have the potential to reverse a significant share of mainstream opinion.

But this issue aside, take the time to read the first 50 comments, and the way preconceived opinion, if not bare ideology, prevails there will be striking. There is one comment that is worth reflecting upon, by a certain HerrEMott:

If the Chinese government hadn’t locked him up incommunicado and allowed him to explain his point of view we’d be able to make up our own minds on the matter.

The Chinese and the global public, that is.

But most of the commenting thread that follows the Sautman-Yan article is anger, fear, and loathing, both from advocates of the award, and from its opponents.
Remarkably, none of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize advocates questioned the authenticity of the article Sautman and Yan quoted from. The logical implication of that would have been to address the contents in question. That didn’t happen either. There was no genuine debate.

One can blame that, to an extent, on the way the Chinese authorities and many Chinese individuals reacted to the prize. One can blame it on Beijing’s human rights violations, too – HerrEMott has a point there.

But that’s only half the story. The other half lies with those who are free to discuss and explore these issues, and to oppose, or support the 2010 award based on their own views, and information of their own. That half lies with us – in North America, Europe, and many other places outside China.

JR believes that there will be one impetus first of all that wants to suppress any questions about the appropriateness of the award to Liu. He can feel that impetus himself. After all, Liu Xiaobo is a man who is in prison for reasons Beijing and their party-controlled judiciary haven’t been able to explain.

But those of us who appreciate the prize for Liu Xiaobo (and sure, this blogger is one of them) shouldn’t leave the need for their own homework out of the account.

There is no use in restricting ourselves in a public debate that involves China – neither to please its leaders, nor to avoid “playing into their hands”. The former reason is probably neither a great concern for this blog, nor for most of its readers anyway. The latter one, the worry that something said might help totalitarianism or hurt its victims, may be a concern. But whenever that concern is allowed to determine a debate, it is likely to result into some kind of McCarthyism.

An open society needs its secrets, when it comes to security, or research and development, etc. What matters is that they are processed under the law. But debates as the one about Liu Xiaobo require no secrecy. If the desire not to address certain issues and keeping them down is really the motivation – this is JR’s guess, unless he’s told otherwise -, and if you think this concept out, this approach would be pretty CCP.

Even if your main concern is how to “beat China”, rather than about a performing public in your own country, undue secrecy can’t be the weapon of choice, even if our deliberations were merely practical or cynical. Secrecy and a refusal to address actual issues is a discipline in which China will outperform most other societies and countries.

A public that deals with its real issues (not least issues of its own), needs news readers who are demanding, in terms of information. Hans Leyendecker, a journalist with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, addressed the way our public is  underperforming.

Describing the coverage after 9-11, in a speech to Netzwerk Recherche (inquest network, roughly translated) in Hamburg in April 2002, he pointed out that most information that the media got about the terror network came from intelligence services, where disinformation was part of the business.

The way he described the public debate seems to suggest that many intellectuals and soap boxes happily worked with whatever they got from the media – both advocates and opponents of the Iraq.

But Leyendecker saved most of his criticism for his own trade. Even though much of the information the media got came from intelligence services, where disinformation was part of the business, readers and spectators were bombarded

with alleged revelations. There was a race for the placement of exclusive inanities with the aid of news agencies. Horror scenarios were to generate attention: fear of fear sells.
(….) Increasingly, media refer to other media which don’t know anything either. Something that could at the most be speculation is presented as fact. For a long time, there has been that mainstream named self-reference by communication scientists. Media refer to media, and that becomes news once again.

But how prepared is the public to pay for investigative journalism, online or offline? And how prepared are we to handle information of that kind? Free Internet content and blogs can’t replace the classical press. And the mass media as they are today aren’t up to the job, either.

The European public hasn’t looked good in the Nobel Peace Prize debate. That China looks worse is no excuse.

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