Archive for February, 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Telegraph: two 21rst-Century Projections

Huanqiu Net reporter Li Liang (李亮) reports that on the question if the 21rst century would be China’s or America’s century, two global research organizations were providing different projections, quoting “British media”.

Britain’s “Daily Telegraph”, in an article on February 28, brings up the projections of two globally leading banks on Sino-American competition and says it endorses the one which says that, because of population and natural-resources problems, China wouldn’t match America, and that America would continue to dominate the world in 2050.

The article first points out that Citibank’s [or Citigroup’s – JR] chief economist Willem Buiter had made a “surprising forecast”, according to which China would overtake America, become the world’s greatest economic entity, that China and India’s economies combined would be four times as big as America’s, and thus restore Asia’s leading role of the 16th century.  In addition, Africa would become the region with the fastest growth during the coming twenty years, with a growth rate of 7.5 per cent. Indonesia’s GDP would be as big as that of Germany, France, Italy and Britain combined.

Buiter said that it would take no miracles, but rather that those countries remained on their tracks of reform and openness, and no cases of real bad luck, waste of opportunities, and compounding factors (让聚合理论起作用).

After that, the article turns to an HSBC study which suggests that the West wouldn’t become “forgotten”. HSBC believes that around 2050, China’s total economic weight may excede America’s, but only by fractions, and then “lose momentum”. In 2050, the average American would still be three times richer than the Chinese, and its economic capacity (经济总量) 2.5 times as big as India’s. The main reason was that the US birthrate was at 2.1, while Beijing’s and Shanghai’s were at only 1.0.

In its own judgment, the article agrees more with the HSBC’s forecast. Although both studies were based on Harvard University economist Robert Barro’s (罗伯特) theories, about economic and population growth, but the two studies judge the declining populations of the countries in question differently. Because of factors such as more affluent lives, better education for women, later pregnancies and high housing costs, China’s population would rapidly decline, and “you won’t change that by waving a magic wand”.

Besides, says the article, the “vulnerability of Asian business culture” and the water crisis in China’s North w0uld “affect the stamina of China’s development”.

The Telegraph author is Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, the paper’s international business editor. His original article is here.

Commenter threads both on the Telegraph, and Huanqiu Shibao, currently seem to contain broad spectrums of different views.

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Related
Hu Xijin’s Microblog, ESWN, February 27, 2011

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Monday, February 28, 2011

Science and Education: Scheiß auf Guttenberg

An attack on our Hero's False Feathers is an Attack on the People!

An attack on our Hero's False Feathers is an Attack on the People!

German defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was caught plagiarizing material for his doctoral thesis. Germany’s main tabloid, the Bild-Zeitung, defends  the minister – in the words of its chief columnist, Franz-Josef Wagner, earlier this month:

I have no idea about a doctoral thesis. I failed in my school-leaving exams and I have never seen a university from inside. From outside, I can only say: don’t destroy a good man. Fuck that doctoral title (Scheiß auf den Doktor).

“From outside” was, of course, the biggest joke within those paragraphs. The Bild-Zeitung is inside German politics, and it doesn’t do German politics much good.

The German public loved the defense minister, and still does. That had become clear to me right on the first early morning of the scandal, when the sales lady at the bakery where I stop by regularly told me that it was “just a big fuss”. (I hadn’t commented, just studied the Bild-Zeitung’s headline, while waiting for my coffee.) When, a few early mornings later, she made pejorative remarks about Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, I had my revenge: “What’s the difference between Guttenberg and Berlusconi?”, I asked. She gasped, and looked at me as if I had just dropped my pants in front of her eyes.

“The difference is obvious”, she protested. “Can’t see that,” I replied. “They are both slick, and they both cheat.”

It was a cheap revenge, I know. But sweet revenge, too, on a shameless contempt for education, and on the efforts education requires. I left the bakery lost in thought, with a coffee to go, and with a big smile on my face.

What Ulrich Schmid of the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (NZZ) wrote yesterday   looks reasonable to me. The love of the German public for the defense minister

has hardly anything to do with his political performance. Sure, Guttenberg has his merits. The reform of the Bundeswehr (German military forces) earned him accolades even from political opponents, he tackles tasks, and his analyses are in high demand. But he has little else to his name. Westerwelle achieved nothing less than Guttenberg. But Westerwelle is Guttenberg’s antipode: someone who, whatever he does, will always get bad report cards. It’s the same mentality manifesting here: the overzealous classification into good and evil, and a lack of composure. One is loved as irrationally, as the other is hated.

Just as with Thilo Sarrazin during that affair, the public sticks with Guttenberg as it suspects that the “elites” want to get rid of their champion. But the free ride for Guttenberg, the way he can renounce any moral, is extreme, believes Schmid, even if Guttenberg himself is still a democratic politician.

I wouldn’t go as far as Schmid, who believes that the Guttenberg case shows how politically seducible the German people still are. I’m also suspecting that he is more angry at people for hating Guido Westerwelle, than for loving Guttenberg.

But the way public judgment is currently giving way to public resentment does hurt democracy.

I don’t really care if Guttenberg resigns as defense minister, or if he stays. It’s for the people to draw their conclusions. That’s what the ballot paper was made for. If corrupted government is what they want, so be it. That’s democracy, too. But as far as I’m concerned,

Scheiß auf Guttenberg. I wouldn’t vote for his party (or his party’s sister party) anyway.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Press Review: People’s Livelihood, Past Wrongs, Traitors

First 83 Chinese citizens leaving Libya, one of Huanqiu's alternating topical photos on it's special coverage on Libya.

First 83 Chinese citizens leaving Libya, one of Huanqiu's alternating topical photos on it's special coverage on Libya of Monday.

While Enorth (Tianjin)  and many other local websites focus on the people’s livelihood (民生, mínshēng) most recently, such as comments by chief state councillor Wen Jiabao on housing costs, during a chat with Chinese netizens last weekend), Huanqiu Shibao keeps Libya in its headlines, even if only with rather short news articles behind them. Another focus remain the many happy returns of Chinese citizens, from Arab and Northern African turmoil, into the comfort and stability of their motherland.

Under the regular news collection of “Overseas sees China” (海外看中国), right under a photo showing Japanese war crimes in China, Japanese media (more specifically: Diamond or 钻石) are or is quoted as saying that Japan must have the courage to acknowledge the wrongs of the past. As quoted by Huanqiu, Diamond opens its article with a reference to the gap between Tokyo and Beijing that hadn’t been easy to close, since the eruption of the Senkaku dispute of last year. Diamond quotes former Japanese House of Representatives Speaker Yohei Kono as saying that “to acknowledge wrongs as wrongs” was very important, and no “self-abusive” behavior, as thought by some people. The other side’s (China’s) trust could only be won by acknowledging the wrongs. Only after that, there wouldn’t be psychological barriers during talks anymore. That Japan feared China today, had much to do with the low esteem in which it had held its adversaries in the past (对中国如此恐惧,是日本以往太小瞧自己对手的证明).

In an older Huanqiu article, of December last year, but available within a context menu on the Yohei Kono newsarticle, foreign media (specifically: the Irish Times) are quoted with descriptions of how Japan nervously watches China stretching its muscles (外媒:日本正紧张注视中国伸展肌肉). As is not unusual in Chinese reviews of foreign press, Huanqiu’s account of the original Irish Times article is rather selective.

US ambassador John Huntsman‘s visit to Wangfujing was Huanqiu’s topic on Friday – “who does believe that it was a coincidence”, asks the headline. Adam Cathcart collected some Huanqiu Shibao readers’ comments:

Now China is so well developed! Why are there still people who become hanjian (traitors)? [The term “traitor” apparently targets the activists who had called for a Jasmine walk there.]

You Chinese who have a pulse, stand up to strike down American imperialism!

One shouldn’t however take such responses as flatly indicative for all of the readers’ opinions, not even when it is a rather nationalistic paper such as Huanqiu Shibao. Everything jasmine-related has apparently become an object of heavy censorship. Earlier this month, I have seen several readers’ comments on Huanqiu Shibao which were soon deleted.

Back to the people’s livelihood, Wen Jiabao promised construction of 36 million guarantee-flats (保障房) over the next five years, aka 保障性住房 (affordable housing).

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Related
Sino-Japanese SNAFU in Hanoi: “Full Responsibility”, October 30, 2010

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Zhang Qianfan: against a Confucian Monopoly

This is my second translation instalment of an article by Zhang Qianfan (张千帆) of Beida Law School and of the university’s Constitutional and Administrative Law Research Center, published by Caijing on Thursday.

Part 1 of my translation is here.

[Update, May 2, 2014: the article by Zhang Qianfan was apparently removed from the Caijing website. This appears to be the same article, republished elsewhere.]

In the thirteen scholars’ joint statement, [now broken link, May 2, 2014], this problem is highlighted particularly clearly – almost every point they make contains arbitrary and authoritarian [or despotic, again – JR] language. The first point says that “erecting a Confucius statue corresponds with the wishes of the Chinese people, is in line with the epochal tides”, and even “corresponds with the Chinese people of the world’s wishes and the tide of cultural development”.

If I’m allowed a common-sense question: how do you know that? How do you define an epochal tide? What constitutes an epochal tide or even a  new tide of cultural development? May I asked if an opinion poll was conducted before the Confucius statue was erected? If not, how did you obtain information about what the Chinese people’s, and even “the Chinese people of the world’s wishes” are?

“Some views” isn’t only consistent with the Confucian habit of talking to themselves (自说自话), without anything new, but makes several practical mistakes, too. One is to get people mixed up, to believe that China’s current social chaos was to blame on a lack of faith among the common people, who therefore needed to get saved by Confucianism and Confucius. Then the fourth point of the “views”, which believes that “a lack of culture had led to a lack in trustworthiness in society, neglect of virtues, confusion on values, etc., which started to threaten sustainable economic development”. But as understanding people know, it isn’t the common people who are lacking virtue. What is missing is the systematic implementation of freedom of belief (religion). Let’s not get into unnecessary details again. Give them freedom of belief, and all those “problems” will vanish soon. And otherwise, even if you want to forcibly move them towards belief, they still won’t believe.

The second is simple self-confidence, wrongly believing that culture or faith could be passed on by infusion, and that with the more strength it were applied, the better the results would be, and that, since the power of the state was greatest, the state would be best at promoting and specifying ideological culture or faith structures – so that the state should come forward and promote Confucianism. The third “view” elevates the erection of the Confucius statue to being “a new light and logo” in the adjustment of cultural strategy, promoting the Chinese culture, building a spiritual home and other constructive actions, “all since the beginning of the reform and opening”.  Although the main body behind all the “adjustment”, “promotion”, “construction” etc. isn’t clearly explained, it is evident that this refers to the state, and certainly to the state as the leading backstage.  It should be easy to see that where the state tried to promote a culture of virtue over the past few decades, through state power, the reverse was actually achieved. The erection of the Confucius statue in itself illustrates it: people had no particular opinions about Confucius, then they put this statue here, now all kinds of critics are struggling, and now our scholars come running out, “to fight the fire”.

Thirdly, there is the subconscious, groundless fear*) that Confucian culture can only be saved by state power, and would otherwise go the way of precious endangered species. I believe myself that Confucianism has its advantages, but exactly because of its advantages, there’s no need for alarmism.

Confucianism didn’t need to fear free competition, writes Zhang, just as true gold doesn’t need to fear to be refined by the goldsmith (真金不怕烈火炼). And if the people turned out to be idiots after all, not knowing the value of the good, how should state protection then help, anyway?

The state was there to protect the truly vulnerable – elderly and handicapped people, for example, writes Zhang. He points out how Confucian orthodoxy hadn’t done Confucian thought any good while it was a state doctrine.

He then sums his case up – that the National Museum is the place for sculptures of all thinkers, or for none. While Voltaire said that he was, even though in disagreement with his interlocutor’s opinion, prepared to fight with his life for his interlocutor’s opinion, Zhang would turn Voltaire’s line around:

“Even if I agree with what you say, I’ll fight with my life to stop you from monopolizing the discourse.” (我即便同意你说的每一句话,也要誓死反对你垄断话语的权力。)

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Note

*) 杞人忧天qǐ rén yōu tiān, imaginary or groundless fears. “The man of Chi worried that the sky might fall down.”

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Related

… and a Not-so-Welcome Statue, Beijing Time Machine, January 2011

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Foreign Journalists arrested after filming at Wangfujing

The German embassy works for the release of several German correspondents or journalists who have been arrested on Sunday on charges of violating rules which banned recordings in the Wangfujing area, Beijing, according to the Frankfurter Rundschau (FR) online.  Reportedly, another “jasmine walk” was taking place there today.

Several prominent critics who had supported the movement are under arrest and to be charged with advocating subversion of state power, writes the FR, without naming the critics. But it seems the article refers to some or many of the names C. A. Yeung published earlier this week.

A related Bloomberg report touches both on Beijing and Shanghai.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Arab Future, to the Best in their History

[Main Link: RiaNovosti, Febr 25, 2011] Imagine you were an expert on Arab affairs, and asked this question:

Is the revolution in Libya the last revolution in the Middle East, or…?

Best of their History

Best in their History

Professor Vitaly Naumkin faced this  question (a video of the interview is here), and he probably gave the only kind of answer that does not  make an expert look stupid, or somewhat unethical:

In general, I am against looking at the Middle East as it is a horserace, making a bid who is the next one. I am against it. I think there are regimes, states, nations and I hope that they will avoid the destiny of the fallen regimes. But it is absolutely necessary for the rulers of the rest of the states starting from Yemen to some other states to start reforms that can improve the social-economic and political situation in their countries in order to make people feel free and equal and to give them more opportunities to be represented in power and in public life.
[…]
I believe that the Arab nation is a great civilization and it has a lot of potential to develop and to make this transformation to the best in their history.

Naumkin, director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, and president of the International Center for Strategic and Political Studies and Chair of Faculty of World Politics, Moscow State University, did however make a very plain statement at the beginning of his interview with RiaNovosti on Friday, saying about the Libyan revolution that

I don’t think it was orchestrated from abroad, I think it is a genuine revolution. Whatever we call it – revolution, rebellion, it is a popular move, and it hasn’t been orchestrated from abroad.

And in Egypt?

I think in Egypt there were probably some elements of orchestration, if not from abroad but at least from some well-organized groups probably inside of Egypt. I won’t subscribe to any conspiracy theory because I believe that all these movements are locally oriented and locally motivated but in Libya there is clear influence of the Egyptian revolution.

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Note
Thanks to FOARP for the Novosti interview link.

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Related
Chinese Arab-world Coverage, February 26, 2011
Most of the Egyptians, in actuality…, People Daily, Febr 22, 2011
Deng, and a few Words about History, December 18, 2008
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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Short but Stimulating: Chinese Arab world Coverage

Events in the Arab world haven’t feature prominently on the Chinese media since Thursday, in contrast to most international media coverage. But coverage does, of course, exist.

[Main Link: Enorth / Xinhua international press review, February 24, 2011.] Xinhua quoted from foreign sources for its readers’ reference on Thursday, starting with a Russian Strategic Culture Foundation online article whose title might be translated as “Freedom comes when we come”.

Russian Strategic Culture Foundation website, February 22, 2011

Russian Strategic Culture Foundation, Febr 22, 2011

The American department of state hasn’t, even for a moment, stopped its destructive work in enemy and friendly countries, by means of its powerful machinery of financial lubrication. After all, that’s the mentality of their foreign policies, acting as a democratic dictator (美国对外政策的“民主独裁”心理就是这样).

The Russian article apparently accuses American diplomacy of equating democracy and American ideas, and American foreign interests. The dramatic events that unfolded in the Arab world showed once again that America didn’t understand the concept of internal affairs, such as non-interference with them. It would delete a number of dictators from its friends list, and arrange for new dictators “elected by the people”. So long as it helped solving America’s problems, the state department didn’t mind crowds on foreign squares, and fresh blood spilled there. Britain’s Daily Telegraph is quoted as reporting that Egyptian dissidents, secretly supported by Washington, had promised to organize a regime change campaign in 2011 [apparently a reference to this leak from the US embassy in Cairo].

On April 6, 2008, more than 100,000 Egyptian internet users had supported strikes in the Egyptian city of Mahalla (迈哈莱市). The strikes then turned nation-wide. Early in December 2008, some of the organizers were invited to take part in a meeting of young global leaders where promotion of freedom and fairness by means of digital technology, rejection of violence, extremism and the best ways to counter oppression were discussed. American companies such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, MTV, and Columbia University’s Law School had taken part in the building of the alliance. [This was apparently all quoted from a printed edition of the Telegraph, as I can’t find it online – JR].

The Telegraph confirms, according to the Russian Foundation website as quoted by Xinhua, that the 4-6 movement got Washington’s attention (《每日电讯报》证实,“4月6日”运动得到了华盛顿的关注).

While the alliance’s influence in Mubarak’s resignation was hard to determine, it was an established fact that the 4-6 movement had promised “regime change” to the American state department, three years ago in New York, Xinhua quoted the Russian article.

Xinhua then quoted from the New York Times. While the state department had encouraged Iranian demonstrators to take to the streets, the Obama administration rather urged the king of Bahrain, an important ally (and the naval base for the 5th US Fleet), to smooth away the peoples’ discontent (消除人民的不满).  Two protesters had been killed in Bahrain. But Obama hadn’t mentioned violence in Bahrain. Rather, he had drawn a line of distinction between the successful rebellion in Egypt, and Iran’s repressive action, saying that  “the difference is that Iran’s government reacted with shooting, beating, and arresting people.”

Xinhua’s press review ended with excerpts from The Times‘ (Britain) online edition of February 21, saying that economic aid would help democracy in the Arab world. There are currently no comments on the article.

This Xinhua press review is the latest minor headline on the Arab world which can be found on the Enorth (Tianjin) website. Huanqiu Shibao, on the other hand, is more up-to-date, with a headline story today about the US planning sanctions against Libya, but wanting to safeguard the country’s wealth:

Huanqiu Shibao reporter Zhong Weidong reports that according to Agence France-Presse (AFP), US president Obama announced on February 25 local time that sanctions would be imposed on the Gaddafi government, and added that these were designed to punish the Libyan government’s crackdown on demonstrators and to weaken the regime. The report says that Obama, by his presidential powers, froze Gaddafi’s and his four sons’ assets in America. Obama said in a statement that the sanctions were aimed at the Gaddafi government only, not against the possessions of the Libyan people. The Gaddafi government’s violations of international regulations needed to be investigated. He also said: “Therefore, the sanctions are aimed at the Gaddafi government, and America will protect the wealth of the Libyan people”.

The news article is just this short, but it has gotten 143 comments within some nine hours. I’m not sure if there have been any deleted, but the reactions that can be read there are most or all critical of Washington’s reaction to, or rather, what is seen as Washington’s driving role in the crisis.

The formulation of the headline certainly helped to channel the debate into the right direction –  the mention of Libya’s wealth (and Washington wanting to protect it, even if this only refers to Libyan assets inside the US) is stimulating enough.

One of the more recent comments does however seem to feel that the short Huanqiu newsarticle lacks the bigger picture, and offers his own geopolitical view:

Americans are too bad, they are simply no humans. Whereever China builds, it [America] strikes a war, to contain China’s development. Iraq, for example, and Afghanistan, where China had investment, but when they made war, China’s investments were busted and not returned. America takes the opportunity to start the war machine, build more arms, to reduce the jobless rate, to turn the domestic economic crisis abroad. It pulls the economic growth to alleviate domestic economic pressure, to promote their so-called democracy and human rights, values etc., to occupy the oil resources of other countries once again. They use the control of oil resources to contain China’s economic development.  (美国人太坏了,简直不是人。中国在哪里建设,他在哪里打仗,为的是遏制中国的发展。比如伊拉克,阿富汗等中国都有投资和建设,但是他在那里打仗,中国的投资就泡汤了,收不回来了。美国还借机开动战争机器,加大生产武器,降低失业率,把国内的经济危机转嫁到国外。拉动他的经济增长,以缓解国内的经济压力,推行他们的所谓的民主和人权,和价值观等,又可以霸占别国的石油资源。用控制石油资源来遏制中国经济的发展。 –2011-02-26 17:30)

Recent Chinese media coverage seems to operate a two-stages system. On most regional websites, such as Enorth for Tianjin, the news from Arabia don’t feature prominently anyway. If people show no great interest in the international news, that seems to be the ideal solution for the propaganda departments. But this doesn’t work on Huanqiu Shibao. While every hopeful counterrevolutionary is currently laughed at for drawing links between North Africa and China, Chinese propaganda itself assists its more curious readers in identifying Washington’s “black hand” in the events – from North Africa to China.

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Related
Propaganda Department of the CCP, Wikipedia

Friday, February 25, 2011

Blog Review: Jasmine Revolution brews in South Korea

Rainy Weekend, why so Angry?

Rainy Weekend, why so Angry?

Dalai Lama says, there are feelings we should voice, because speaking out makes us feel better, and there are other feelings we should not voice, because it won’t make us feel better at all, and only lead to feelings spiralling down further.

Which is probably true. But then, where would such a policy leave us bloggers?

MKL’s East Asian network has identified a rising Jasmine revolutionary tide  in South Korea which is set to kick all those English teachers out. Well, not all the English teachers, and not all the English teachers, but all those English teachers. English teachers who are native speakers of English, that is. Not the old ladies who teach in South Korean grammar schools. Maybe not even every native speaker.

If you are familiar with the sometimes ambivalent image of English teachers in China, you’ll know what I mean.

Anyway – some foreigners in South Korea with particularly high moral standards felt offended by the fact that you can find passed-out, i. e. comatose people in the streets who had a few glasses or bottles of alcoholic beverages too many. The foreigners felt so offended that they took pictures of the wine corpses and put them on the internet. They say that they believe that they can educate their host country that way.

By the Dalai Lama standards, they probably should have remained silent about their feelings.

The same seems to be true for the feelings of a South Korean blogger, who has the nerves to compare the pictures taken by the foreign moralists with those taken by American troops in Abu Ghraib.

Both blogs – blackoutkorea and englishteachersout –  are crappy – the content is crappy, and so is the design.

When it comes to MKL’s blog, only the design is crappy. I’d read there much more often if I was allowed to right-click links, to scroll by direction keys, and read the sourcecode. Reading his blog is a bit like walking around a big tank, or to climb it, to read all the messages pasted on it, which is unnecessarily inconvenient on a medium like the internet.

Happy weekend:

JR

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