Archive for January, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Freedom of the Press: “He Who pays the Piper, calls the Tune”

Nowadays, it is the media themselves which pose the greatest risk to the freedom of the press. The quality of journalism is deteriorating because media companies want to make more money out of the media than in the past.

Heribert Prantl, Süddeutsche Zeitung / Goethe-Institut »
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Related
» DW, Negotiations with Politics, Dec 26, 2011
» Why are Mass Media losing Relevance, Febr 26, 2009

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Sunday, January 29, 2012

German Soft Power: beneath your Butt

Yang Peichang (杨佩昌) is either just another overseas Chinese correspondent or blogger in Germany, or he is rather well-known and doesn’t need to introduce himself to the Chinese internet public. “I grew up in a poor region”, he writes about himself, on his blog:

[Main Link: http://yangpeichang.blshe.com/post/9029/755424 - links within blockquotes added during translation]

I know how tough it is for the one-hundred names [common people], and I’m therefore not in favor of wasting huge amounts of tax revenues for big, face-giving projects or celebrations. Rather, I oppose uncontrolled foreign aid of alarming amounts, especially the kind which comes “with no strings attached”, which “does not interfere with other countries’ internal affairs”, or generous support for rogue states.

Yang has lived in Germany for a long time, he writes, and had thus become more aware than before of his compatriots’ many grievances.

So, I hope that the gap between the rich and the poor will be narrowed, that people will speak out freely, enjoy freedom of movement, and exercise their religious beliefs and their right to vote freely.

生长于最贫困地区,知道老百姓有多苦,所以不赞成任何大手笔浪费纳税人钱财的百亿工程、千亿工程、面子工程、献礼工程和庆祝活动; 反对毫无节制、数目惊人的对外援助,特别是“不附带任何条件”、“不干涉他国内政”、对无赖国家的慷慨援助; 曾在德国长期生活,对比后才知道自己的同胞有多委屈,所以希望减少贫富差距、让人民有自由说话、自由迁徙、自由信仰和自由选举的权利。

Phoenix (Hong Kong – usually freely accessible from mainland China) also hosts an edition of Yang’s blog.

On Sunday, Yang published a post on how he accompanied a Chinese entrepreneur on his tour through Germany. His account of their travels is sort of a satirical didactic play, relating how the entrepreneur (and Yang himself) skip an appointment with friends and rather dawdle an entire night away on the internet (with no firewall), how they watch Kurdish demonstrators at the Brandenburg Gate protesting against the killing of Kurds by the Turkish army, plus a young German parading his vintage East-German army uniform and the East German flag in about the same place, how they realize that the German parliament’s sign and Germany’s national emblem next to it are placed lower than peoples’ butts, etc..

All very shocking for the entrepreneur. “Aren’t the authorities concerned that the capitalist system could be subverted?”, he asks, concerning the internet, as he savors unencumbered access to basically anything. Yang perfidiously struggles with himself:

I was unable to answer that question. All I could tell him was that capitalist countries’ leaders arguably took a somewhat superficial approach and hadn’t taken thought about such serious consequences. (这个问题让我无法回答,我也只能告诉他,可能资本主义国家的领导人目光比较短浅,没有想到这么严重的后果吧。)

At every new encounter with the German way of life, the entrepreneur is scared first, and fascinated later. Once he sees that the Kurdish demonstrators aren’t dangerous after all, and that the absence of chengguan doesn’t need to worry him, he has himself photographed with the Kurds, he then has a friendly conversation with the wannabe member of the former East German army who informs him that while Marxism was a failure in general, there was still some truth in it, etc..

It is an idealized description of Germany’s soft power – Yang’s actual topic here. Obviously, the German internet isn’t as free as America’s, and demonstrations need to be approved by the authorities in advance (in principle, anyway, and depending on size – the Kurds may well have taken to the Brandenburg Gate without asking for approval anyway), etc..

But Germany shines brightly in Yang’s blog post – and is approved of even on the community thread at Huanqiu – at least by the one person who pasted it there, that is:

Great countries don’t brag, but draw on their real strength (大国不是自己吹的,是要靠实力的!, 2012-01-29; 10:06),

he writes, and, expressing his endorsement further, by quoting Yang’s summary in full, he adds:

Self-confidence, tolerance, and proximity to the people – only that makes a truly great country (自信、宽容、亲民、高效和共同富裕。这才是一个真正而不折不扣的大国。 2012-01-29; 13:42).

Germany’s soft power is hard to quantify. But it may serve as an efficient backdrop, once in a while.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blogging between the Seasons

This has been a mild winter so far – it felt like fall in November and December, and spring has been in the air for much of this month. It still is, despite the first snow of this winter that fell last week. Most of it melted away, before it started freezing again, yesterday afternoon. After two unusually cold and snowy winters in 2009/10 and 2010/11, I’ve heard nobody complain about too little snow yet, not even around Christmas. In normal years, complaints of that kind would be essential bits of smalltalk.

Between the seasons

Between the seasons

I’m spending no less time at blogging than before, but I’m taking more input than usual – reading, exchanging e-mails, and writing offline to prepare posts. The good thing is that I’ve translated about two thirds of the CCP central committee’s “cultural document” so far, so there’s land ahoy in that field.

Anyway, my posting frequency will remain somewhat lower than usual, during the coming weeks.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

“Advocacy Journalism is not the Problem” -

an Interview with former Deutsche Welle Editor Fengbo Wang on the Zhang Danhong Controversy, Dissidents in Germany, and the Persian Factor

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Wang Fengbo came to Germany in 1991, studied politics in Mainz, and was editor of what is now the European Chinese Post, an overseas Chinese paper. In the interview following this introduction, Wang describes the publication as a dissident paper, a description which appears to be correct. In 1989, he had seen dead bodies piled up in a Beijing hospital, Wang told an EPD (Evangelischer Pressedienst) reporter last year. “Having seen that, there is no other way for you than to be a supporter of democracy”, he added.

From 2002 until December 2010, Wang Fengbo worked for Deutsche Welle‘s (the Voice of Germany’s) Chinese department. He and three more of his colleagues lost their jobs, or freelance contracts respectively, as their contracts weren’t renewed. In April last year, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung published an open letter by the four, to Germany’s Federal Parliament’s lower house (Bundestag), and to the Deutsche Welle broadcasting commission. According to their open letter, Deutsche Welle initially gave budget cuts as a reason for ending the contracts, but later – successively, in the process – added more reasons. Besides, the open letter states, the dismissed employees or contributors were replaced by “younger, unexperienced journalists”. The budget cuts, originally cited as reasons for the Deutsche Welle’s measures, had proven untrue, and the Open Letter sees the four as deferred victims of a “campaign” against Zhang Danhong, formerly the Chinese department’s deputy manager, who came under fire in 2008.

This interview may help to shed some light on the events since the “Zhang Danhong” affair, or it may help to start such a process. To date, information is sparse; however, a member of the employees committee confirmed last year that an open letter published by the four former Deutsche Welle employees had described the situation correctly, even if some of its phrasing had been “overboard”.

JR
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Q: How long did you work for Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department? Were you a freelancer, or a permanent employee?

A: I began to work for DW as a freelancer in 2001. Beginning from 2002, and until May 2007 I worked there as a so-called permanent freelancer-editor (Fest-Freier Redakteur) with a Freelancer-Contract (Honorarrahmenvertrag) by the Chinese Online Editor-Team of DW. In my function and responsibility there was no difference between me and colleagues with a permanent contract. By the definition made by the director of the whole Online Section at that time, I was the “core-manpower” of the team. From May 2007 to December 31, 2010,  I was an editor with a “permanent contract”. Unfortunatelly, this “permanent contract” was initially limited to December 31, 2010. My current lawsuit with DW centers around the dispute wether or not this time limitation is legal.

Q: What did an ordinary working day look like? What would it involve?

A: My career at DW was clearly divided into two phases, and it may sound somewhat like black humor, if I say the dividing line was the Olympic Games in Peking, in 2008. For most employees of the Chinese Deutsche-Welle department, this event was the beginning of a nightmare which is still ongoing today.

In the time before December 2008, I was an editor in the Chinese Online Edition-Team, and my daily work was just the same as the most editors in a free western press organisation. Within the daily routine practice, I usually took two main roles: the duty editor (Chef-vom-Dienst) and a normal editor or reporter. As a duty editor, my responsibility was to work out the daily working schedule (agenda setting), such as the topics of the day, about assigning different tasks, etc.. A duty-editor’s day usually ended with the planned topics being covered and coming up on our homepage. Overall, there were four or five colleagues who belonged to the “core-manpower” of the Chinese Online team and they took turns weekly, to act as a duty editors. During the weeks when I didn’t work as an editor on duty, I did inqiries on assigned topics or issues, did interviews, and wrote my stories based on former research and interviews. The final work was to publish the finished story on our homepage through the content-management-system. This Chinese Online team was small but comprehensive, with the topics-coverage ranging from current world affairs to specific political, economic, cultural and sports issues. Our journalistic output was  usually in Chinese language, and in case that our expertise in issues relating to China was needed by our colleagues of other language-teams, we also wrote in German or English.

From December 2008, with the so-called “Zhang Danhong-Affair” ending with the removal of the head of the Chinese Radio Programm of DW, Matthias von Hein, the Online-Team and the Radio programme began to work as a whole Chinese Programm. This merger of the daily routines came much earlier than originally scheduled, although the merger itself was already going on. Since 2007, Deutsche Welle had been trying to undergo a structrual reform aiming at turning the traditional radio-based broadcaster into an internet-based new media platform. The reform  started with German and English language-programms as pilots and the other programmes – around 30 different languages – were to follow with different time-schedules respectively. The fact that reform put online and radio programs in a competitive situation did matter a lot, as could be seen in the Chinese Programm of Deutsche Welle.

From late December 2008 to December 2009, the head of Asian radio programme, Ms. Golte, acted as the temporary head of the merged Chinese programme. From the first day after the merger, I was silently excluded from the routine responsibilities of a normal editor and was allowed only to layout the hompage for several months. Although later I was allowed to adapt mainly radio manuscripts from the Central Programm in the German language, I, together with all other colleagues from former online-team, continued to be marginalised. We were not allowed to do tasks such as topic-planning and final editing. Effectively, I and other former online-colleagues lost the identities of autonomous journalists, for we had no say in setting topics, and our articles, if any, were subject to the judgement of the final-editor, who, under the offical excuse of quality assurance, often killed a whole text, or passages or sentences that might be “politically not correct”. Of course the DW functionaries would never acknowledge that this practice existed.

In December 2009, Mrs. Woltersdorf took over the Chinese Program and she indeed brought about some changes. Around April or May 2009, we, the former online editors, were allowed to plan topics and to be final editors in rotational turn. Since then, a normal working day typically began with a meeting and each colleague was to present a brief  “media scanning”, telling what they had read from competitors like VOA, BBC, Radio France or Radio Free Asia. The weekly topic-planner has the final say regarding which topic should be covered and which topic will then be assigned to whom. For the Chinese programme still has a one-hour broadcast, for each topic-assignment they usually first work out a radio manuscript suitable a for a maximum duration of 5 minutes as a radio-piece, typically including the so-called original soundtracks usually cut from a short telephone-interview. Theorectically they should then rewrite the radio manuscript into an online text, but practically, the texts published in the webpages of the Chinese programme hardly differ from a radio manuscript. Until today, a large part of non-China related topics seen or heard from the Chinese program are still translated texts delivered by the central editorial department.

Q: You said that the radio and online services had been put into a competitive situation by their merger. That is to say, there was competition between the editors, as after the merger, fewer employees would be needed?

A: The reform idea was to shift DW from Radio to an Internet-based multimedia-platform. The fact that the majority of DW journalists are radio journalists caused speculations as to who will dominate the merged teams, radio over online or just the other way round? To ease the fears and rumours, the DW management gave an official assurance that the merger shall not mean job cuts. In case of the Chinese department around 2007, some colleagues from the radio department went to the general program director, with two thick document folders which had been secretely prepared for about half a year, accusing the online team of having offended copy rights. There might be some minor faults regarding the copy right, but the charge was exaggerated, for many of the articles allegedly  violating copy rights were written just by radio. If any mistake of such kind existed, they should have communicated with the online team immediately, but they kept recording such “mistakes” secretely for about half a year.

Q: Hristina Krasteva, in a paper about Deutsche Welle in 2007, described several “types” of concepts journalists at Deutsche Welle held. Page 96 and 98 describe her try to develop a typology. Does it include your own approach as a DW journalist, or how would you describe your own concept of your work there?

A: I believe the types of self-understanding described in this paper is more an ideal typology than a real-world description. I would say my approach was rather a mixture of these types. I think certain journalistic professional standards shall be valid for all these types. I would say, you can define your roll als being a democracy promoter, or as a mediator between cultures, or as the alternative voice, or only an information communicator, all that is fine. But you have to do it in a professional way, i.e. with journalistic prudence, objectivity, well balanced. You should be aware that as a journalist, you have a different role to play, for example, from a member of a human rights organisation. And generally, I should say, even if you are a staunch fan of advocacy journalism, you should know that you won’t achieve your goal if you try to treat your readers or listeners as if you were their moral sermonizer and political savior.

Deutsche Welle has always been having difficulties in defining its unique attributes since the end of the cold war. To this day, there is still great controversy among the journalists of Deutsche Welle, which target listeners or internet users they are working for. The types of journalistic self-identity in the Krasteva paper, e.g. democracy promoter, mediator between cultures, provider of alternative voices are more wishful theoretical concepts than a description of the reality. The German department of Deutsche Welle is still not able to give a satisfactory answer to the question, i.e. in the age of internet and globalisation, why a German expat should be interested in its  radio broadcasts or internet content, as ARD, ZDF or Spiegel are only a mouse-click away, all over the world. Things become far more complicated, if you try to promote democracy in Iran, Russia or China.

On the other hand, the said typology in the Krasteva-paper describes the very need of Deutsche Welle and its journalists to present themselves to the general public in a way that would justify  the around 300 million-euros budget financed by the state.

In a debate about the future of Deutsche Welle, the former federal culture minister Mr. Bernd Neumann, in 2006, would have seen Deutsche Welle as “the voice of Germany as a country with a great cultural history, and one of the greatest exporting nations”. There is a certain similarity as the Chinese authorities are talking about ” soft power”.  But Deutsche Welle, with all its political legacy it has as part of extended public diplomacy can hardly afford to be just a seller of “soft power”. It has to be political. That is why, at least in my opinion, the DW itself prefers to call itself “the voice of human rights”, for this would better legitimise its huge budget needs.

To tell the world that you are the voice of human rights is a simple thing to say, but how you voice human rights in an effective way is an another, subtle thing. Taking all these aspects into account, I myself prefer a pluralistic and balanced approach as for the question what a DW-journalist is supposed to be.

Q: My personal impression of the Chinese programs from early in the 2000s until 2008 – I was only an occasional listener, and my impressions wouldn’t replace some statistics, obviously – was that Deutsche Welle sold Germany as a brand: how many beautiful fountains Aachen had, Germany as a place for foreigners to study, Germany’s leading industries, etc. Is that a traceable perception in your view, or do you view it differently?

A: There has been a cultural approach as regards how DW should present Germany to the world. Nevertheless, politics, international or domestic, has always been dominant in its coverage. However, as far as the Chinese program is concerned, there has been dramatic change indeed, since the latter half of 2008. The dividing line was the so called “Campaign against Zhang Danhong”. The Open Letter by me and three other former colleagues has explained how and why this could happen.

To the end of 2008, as the Chinese program was becoming more and more narrowed and biased in its view about China, many listeners and online users wrote letters to the public email box of Chinese program, complaining about the “China-bashing” approach of Deutsche Welle. Unfortunately, these listeners or users were branded “50-cent-partisans” (Wu Mao Dang) and that email box for reader’s comments was simply shut down. The internal statistics show that the online-user visits of the Chinese program dropped drastically after the beginning of 2009, to the extent that the Chinese program would be almost not relevant to the international press coverage about and its influence in China. The Deutsche Welle’s management would argue that this was because of the Chinese program’s website being blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall. But that is only the tiny part of the truth. In those several years before 2008, the Chinese website of Deutsche Welle had always been blocked in China, but there had still been visits ranging from about 30,000 to 70,000, and at its peak around 10,0000 visits daily. Since 2009, the regular daily visits have been always around two or three thousand. For I left Deutsche Welle at the end of 2010, i don’t know the statistics since early 2011.

In about August 2010, I was asked by Mrs. Woltersdorf to give a short presentation to a group of Chinese visitors to DW. These visitors were young academic professionals taking part in a one-year research program in Germany financed by the “Kanzlerstipendium”, which is given only to a few selected outstanding young scholars. After the official presentation, they expressed openly that the Chinese program is becoming more and more biased and radical toward China and they do not believe that Deutsche Welle coverage about China is objective any more. They said, as young scholars, most of whom have studied in USA or Europe, they do believe in the universal validity of human rights and the need to improve the human-rights-situation in China. What they are dissatisfied with is the way Deutsche Welle does its work. They feel that Deutsche Welle were a platform only for the voices of political dissidents. Indeed, since September 2010, a very active and known Chinese dissident has become an offical editor of the Chinese program. If Deutsche Welle is losing credibility in this share of Chinese young professionals who are supposed to contribute best to the mutal understanding beween Germany and China, how could Deutsche Welle justify its hundreds of millions of public finance?

For me personally, advocacy journalism is not the problem. It is a great problem if you are practicing advocacy journalism but you tell your audience you are neutral and pluralistic. Beiing honest is the first virtue of journalism. In the case of the Chinese department, the very debate about standards of journalism has been impossible after the “Zhang Danhong affair”.

Q: It’s certainly speculation to guess how online statistics would develop if the Welle took the approach you recommend – but let me speculate anyway, for a moment. Let’s suppose the Welle takes this approach: advocating human rights, becoming very explicit about human rights violations in China at times, and maybe this, too, would offend many Chinese listeners. This would – if my guesswork is correct – still spell rather reduced traffic on the Welle’s Chinese website. But you can’t make traffic the only criterion, can you? Isn’t there a risk of losing your own way as a broadcaster, if you keep toning down your message until the audience is satisfied?

A: I really love this question! For this is the question we, the former online colleagues, have discussed a thousand times! We are usually already one step closer to an answer if we have raised the question. The problem of the Chinese department since the later months of 2008 has been that you risk your “political correctness” if you dare to ask which appoach serves the goal of DW better.

Furthermore I think we shall distinguish advocacy journalism from advocacy of human rights. To say that I am not a fan of advocacy journalism is not to say I am against advocating human rights. That is a big difference. This is rather a question of the path to goal, not the goal itself.

I don’t doubt that DW has a mission to advocate human rights, comparable to the so-called value-oriented foreign policy of the federal government of Germany. But does it necessarily mean that you must do this by not caring about your website traffic anymore?  If you have zero traffic, how could you then promote your great values?
I think that kind of argument is actually based on an unbewared, dangerous presumption, i.e., the general Chinese audience were against human rights and if you try to criticize China for violation of human rights then they shall run away or they shall feel offended.

I myself do maintain a healthy degree of skepticism about any statistical number, especially as the internet is censored in China. What I find ridiculous is the way to work purposefully to target zero traffic. This is something I call the “Persian-paradox”, in some joking way. I was told by a colleague about how the Persian language department of DW has responded to such kinds of questions. The DW management itself is actually much more into increases of website traffic than we the normal editors. Anyway at least no department has been criticized when web traffic increased. The Persian online department was the late-comer in comparison to other five online pilot-language departments, i.e. German, English, Chinese, Russian and Arabic. The Persian online team should have to face the question about the need for their existence if they should keep their site visit numbers at a very low level. During the protest wave around 2009 in Iran, they firstly achieved a relatively high record of visits, but this should have made them feel uneasy. And days later the Persian website of DW was blocked in Iran and they should have felt a great release by telling around in House of DW the good news:  “we are also blocked!”

I cannot tell if the story is true. But i do believe, be it just a fiction, it can best illustrate the dilemma or paradox of DW. I guess the logic behind this should be: If you are not blocked yet, you are not sufficiently politically correct. The compulsory logical conclusion out of this state of mind is a clear one: The DW [outlets] can [only be proved]*) morally good enough by zero traffic from their target-countries. The DW can be only morally good enough by zero traffic from their target-countries. Isn’t this a new form of cold-war mindset? Shall DW be satisfied with the role als a monologue-talker?

I am not saying I have a ready better solution to this conflict of goals. What I want is a corporate climate that encourages such discussions, but instead the opposite has been the case at DW. It is a too-easy , lazy and self-cheating way to be contended with talking the flowery phrases of human rights and then sit back saying: Look, we are blocked by the Chinese goverment and we are therefore very successful!

You don’t have to be blocked to promote human rights. And if you are blocked just because of your promoting human rights, you still have many many ways to reach your target audience, who themselves are not anti-human-rights at all.

Q: Press coverage of China became much more critical around 2008, including some pretty low points – I remember this title story illustration by German news magazine Der Spiegel, in August 2007. Did you feel some kind of cold wind blowing before that? If so, what did it involve? And did the Chinese department or the Deutsche Welle management receive protest letters from Chinese dissidents, or others? Did the signatories to the open letter to the German Bundestag – their open letter was dated September 9, 2008, some indications of the content in English here – contact Deutsche Welle, before writing to Parliament – or were you aware of such contacts with your department, or the management?

A: As a journalist I follow the German press coverage of China regularly, and I was not surprised to find that it became more critical. The mainstream German press has always been seeing China either as a brutal violator of human rights or a newly, fast rising economic giant. In my opinion, more than just a few German field correspondents in China have not been able to really understand what has been going on in China. There could be many reasons for that. But one thing is true: You cannot understand China as a whole if you do not look at the things carefully between the two extreme poles.

Given that the Deutsche Welle management is usually – at least as far as the Chinese programme is concerned -, not open and transparent in dealing with critics of any kind, I don’t know if they had received protest letters before and during the heated campaign against Mrs. Zhang Danhong. I guess they did. But I do know something about the open letter to the German Bundestag by the  several Chinese dissidents in Germany. As far as I know, they have not tried to contact the Deutsche Welle management. If I’m not mistaken, they have written two open letters, with the latter one directly to the German Bundestag. As the first open letter or something like that became public, I called one of the signatories immediately. For I had been the editor-in-chief of the Chinese dissident-newspaper in Germany (now named as European Chinese Post) for about 8 years, I know the majority of these signatories very well, personally. In this phone-call lasting several hours I tried in a very detailed way to explain how the Chinese program has been working and why the general charge against the staff of Chinese program for their alleged affinity to the CP-China is absolutely nonsense. Unfortunately, the next day, I heard they still sent the open letter to the Bundestag. To me, it was above all a great personal dissapointment.

This small group of dissidents is apparently enjoying labeling other people communist. As they themselves disagreed as to who should represent the group to attend a hearing about the Chinese program in the Bundestag, one signatory, on the internet, branded another signatory as the 6th column of CP-China, and the other slapped the other one’s face as they met each other during the Bookfair in Frankfurt in early 2010!

Q: An examination acquitted the Chinese department, dismissed the 2008 open letter’s allegations, and criticized Deutsche Welle’s director Erik Bettermann for acting prematurely by suspending Zhang Danhong.
You stated in your open letter that basically, Mrs. Zhang had only rated China’s human rights performance in a way Georg Blume of Die Zeit (a major German weekly) – this may refer to this article by Mr. Blume.
However, in an interview with Deutschlandfunk in August 2008, she also seemed to compare censorship of Free-Tibet or Falun Gong websites in China with censorship of extreme-right and child pornography in Germany. That was gross, wasn’t it? Did it influence the decision to suspend Mrs. Zhang from working at the microphone, or was that an allegation which came in later – i. e. faultseeking to justify the decision ex post?

A: Censorship in China is certainly quite a different dimension and nature from that of extreme-right or child pornography. I don’t think Mrs. Zhang Danhong wanted to legitimize Internet censorship in China. Through all the years as I worked together with her and by going through all those interviews which caused her trouble, I have never heard or read that she has given credit to censorship in China.

It is not fair to single out one sentence from the whole context in which Mrs. Zhang Danhong made those statements. Under that special circumstances, around Beijing Olympics 2008,  whereas mainstream western press coverage of China showered undifferentiated, generalized and simplistically condemning criticism over China, a journalist like Mrs. Zhang Danhong, with all her China background knowledge and expertise, would instinctively try to give her own much differentiated judgement and in a certain way she was “forced” into playing the role of defending China, although she had no such intention at all. Around 2008, the western press often seemed to forget the simple fact: “the small people” wanted to host the Olympics and they are not the Chinese government.

After all, the fact is that Mrs. Zhang Danhong was punished because of her speech and this happened in a democracy and in a free media institution who is telling the world everyday that freedom of speech is an integral part of human rights.

Q: To clarify, by saying that Mrs. Zhang was “forced” to play the role of a defendant of China or its government, you mean that the other guest or guests in the talk show were playing exactly the opposite role – a role of criticizing China?

A: Later on Mrs. Zhang Danhong has told some of our colleagues how she felt at those talk-shows and expressed that sort of feeling. I could remember her first TV-talk show by the Maybrit Illner, where she was confonted with a German actor who was very polemic in criticizing China. I have never been at such talk shows but I could imagine how difficult it might be to express oneself unmistakenly and perfectly in foreign language before millions of audience.

Q: The examination report, by Ulrich Wickert, hasn’t been published by Deutsche Welle. What’s known about it was published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, in March 2009, and what is publicly known about is content (some info in English here) only became known because a journalist with the Süddeutsche went after it. Do you know details of the report which haven’t been published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung?

A: If you consider how profoundly the so called “Zhang Danhong Affair’s” impact on the Chinese public’s perception of Deutsche Welle – and to some extent Germany’s China-policy – has been, it is a dubious thing that the Wickert-report was treated as a highly confidential document by the management of Deutsche Welle. Despite the fact that every journalist of Deutsche Welle is very concerned about what Mr. Wickert said about Mrs. Zhang Danhong and her Chinese colleagues, nobody has ever had the opportunity to see the paper. Fortunately, I got this paper directly from Mr. Wickert’s office. Mr. Wickert has indeed “rehabilitated” the reputation of the Chinese department, damaged by several so-called Chinese dissidents by coming to the very clear conclusion, that it is sheer nonsense to criticize the Chinese journalists of Deutsche Welle by alleging that they had been too friendly to the Chinese government. Mr. Wickert testified that the several thousands of articles he has examined correspond to high professional standards. He also made a very clear statement, i.e., the DW management has treated Mrs. Zhang Danhong wrongfully. I suppose that is why this paper has been kept secret.

Q: According to your open letter of April this year, Bettermann, the managing director, rejected demands that the Chinese department’s work should be monitored by specialists chosen by recognized human rights organizations, but complied with the demands in practice. You refer to a sinologist, Jörg M. Rudolph, who monitored your work for half a year – secretly first, and openly later, but without a defined set of standards, or standards that would have been made known to the department, all of the time until at least April this year. The standard he goes by, as far as discernible, would be the extent as to how an article or contribution would be “CCP-friendly”, or not. According to your open letter, the Chinese department’s temporary manager at the time didn’t speak Chinese, and the permanent manager who replaced her in December 2009, Adrienne Woltersdorf,  is not capable of “communicating adequately”, spoken or in writing, with the department – was (or is) Mr. Rudolph monitoring the Chinese department on their behalf? Do you know if he is still working there? Can you give an account of how you became aware of the monitor‘s existence, and of how he and you interacted with each other?

A: Nobody knows if Mr. Rudolph is still monitoring the Chinese department today. Mr. Rudolph took this job at the end of 2009 and monitored the Chinese department continuously until at least April 2011. The management has never told us in a direct, open, honest and transparent manner, to which extent, for what purpose and for whom Mr. Rudolph is doing his monitoring work. It is not honest to tell that Mr. Rudolph is there just to help the department’s temporary manager to understand the Chinese language. As Mrs. Adrienne Woltersdorf, who took over the manager postion in December 2009, promised more transparency and professionality, she could not find any excuse to keep the monitor-reports secret. For a short period of about two months, the daily report from the monitor was emailed to every member of the Chinese department. These available reports revealed what the real role of this monitor was. He has very often classified certain articles or contributions as “CCP-friendly” and criticized the authors as too socialized by the communist system. For example: In one comment to my report about how the Chinese were becoming targets of “Neo-Nazi” attacks in the Mongolian Republic, Mr. Rudolph said people like me, who were socialized in China, should  generally not treat topics related to ethnic conflicts. At first I wrote this report in Chinese language, and as other departments showed great interest in this article, Mrs. Woltersdorf asked me to write one piece in German. Before the German one was finished, the above said judgement by Mr. Rudolph was in the hand of Mrs. Woltersdorf. She then kept my report to herself and didn’t pass  it on to the Central Program Department, who supplies topics of general interests to all language departments in German or English languages. Several days later, I sent my article directly to the editor of Central Program and that editor published this text immediately and called me personally in order to compliment me for a well-done report.

I first became aware of the existence of this monitor in early January 2009 as a picture edited by me was taken offline. That picture shows German chancellor Merkel und Chinese Primier Wen Jiabao walking at different paces at a state-visit welcome ceremony.  My caption was: When could Germany and China walk at a same pace? The picture disappeared without asking for my consent before, and it was an unusual practice. I traced that change back to the decision of Mrs. Golte, the temporary manager of the Chinese department. I thought it might be some colleague who reported to her, for at that time and thereafter it was quite a common practice that colleagues denunciated each other to the boss. (Chinese would say: Da Xiao Bao Gao  /打小报告) Mrs. Golte told me that a third person from outside has told her that this picture was politically not correct (!). I kept asking who was this “third-person” and got no further answer. About several months later, as Mrs. Golte said at a department meeting that she values transparency very much, I asked her if she could tell us who is this third person. She had no other choice than revealing the existence of this monitor.

There has not been any direct interactive exchange of ideas between the monitor and the monitored. One single personal meeting happened around later 2009 as Mr.Rudolph showed up in the Chinese department for about 15 Minutes.

Mrs. Woltersdorf is supposed to have a comprehensive knowledge of Chinese language and there should have been no official reason for the need of this monitor, but Mr. Ruldoph has apparently outlived Mrs. Wolterdorf. Mrs. Woltersdorf was forced (officially speaking a free decision, which can hardly be true) to leave the Chinese department in July 2011, but Mr. Ruldolph might be still working there.

Q: She has left Deutsche Welle? Definitely?

A: Mrs. Woltersdorf has definitely left DW. The new chief is the old one – Mr. Matthias von Hein, who took up his office since 1rst January, 2012. How and why this has happened was literally a thriller in real life. I could only say, it was a combination of comedy and tragedy.

Q: When you received your notice, which reasons did Deutsche Welle give for them? And how did the initial and the subsequent reasons differ from each other?

A: Mrs. Woltersdorf, head of Chinese Program since December 2009, told me in a conversation in July 2010 that she had two news to tell me, i.e. a good one and a bad one. I asked her to begin with the bad one. She told me my working contract as a permanent employee would not exceed the official limit to the end of 2010. The good news should be that I would still be a full member of the Chinese program as I would be given a freelance contract. “You should not feel sad, because you may earn even more money that way, continuing to work for Chinese program everyday and as a freelancer.” Mrs. Woltersdorf told me. She said she just had talked personally with Mr. Gramsch, the program-director of Deutsche Welle, and he had decided that, because of the budget-cuts, the Chinese program should cut one permanent postition. “It is a pity that you happen to be the first one whose contract is going to  end in this difficult time. ” Of course, I was not happy with this solution and began to seek to defend my rights by talking with the employee committee, and with the higher-level management of Deutsche Welle. I tried to talk personally with Mr. Gramsch, but this conversation,  which was supposed to be personal and confidential, ended up like a court trial against me, as my very adversary, Mrs. Golte, the head of Asian program, was also present at the talk. The Deutsche Welle management obviously has no intention to hear directly what was actually going on in the Chinese program.

From that time on, DW management has began a series of faultseeking to justify the decision ex post. Mrs. Woltersdorf even refused to sign a memory note of our conversation. In December 2010, as I still believed I could at least continue to work as a freelancer, Mrs. Woltersdorf told me that I was fired, taking effect at the end of 2010. The reason? Mrs. Wolterdorf said to me: “If you do not come to me again with a memory note to be signed, I will tell you the truth: you have made the whole noise in this house!” (“Sie haben den ganzen Krach im Haus gemacht!”)

Until the day I left Deutsche Welle, the management has given me no other official reason than budget-cuts. It might be true that Deutsche Welle as a whole should receive a smaller budget, but the budget for the Chinese program has remained steady so far, if not even increased. Later on in the process of the lawsuit, DW has been trying to invent some fake reasons which are in themselves contradictory. For example, at the local labour court, Deutsche Welle said that I was unable to speak at the microphone. As I presented the court a CD recorded with my broadcasting works, Deutsche Welle said this time in its written defending reply to the regional labor court (Landesarbeitsgericht) that I was unable to live moderate. I suppose the next thing DW would say is that I can’t  sing at the microphone. If i could prove that I could sing, they would again suggest that I still could not sing like Placido Domingo after all.

Q: Did the labor court follow Deutsche Welle‘s reasons, or did they cite different reasons for confirming the station’s decision?

A: For me it was an amazing experience to see how the judge at the local labor court simply neglected any argument based on facts. The judge said that even if the budget was not cut and if I were the best candidate for this job, Deutsche Welle still has the freedom to fire his employee at will. This freedom is the so called “freedom of radio” (Rundfunkfreiheit). But as a learned political scientist, I have my doubts if the freedom of radio station constitutionally overrides the individual basic rights. That is why I am now taking my case to a higher court, which is scheduled to sit on January 23, 2012**).

Q: Have you found work as a journalist again, since – full time or part-time? And if it is OK to ask, what are your feelings about the past three years?

A: Until today I am still trying to find a new job. People of  my age (47) don’t have too many opportunities in the labor market. I have sent hundreds of application letters but I haven’t got a  single invitation for an interview. It was quite a frustrating experience to deal with the employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit). You cannot expect respect and dignity from such social services. I don’t want to go into details because it was very hurting.

Those two years from 2009 to 2010 were an ordeal for me and for several former colleagues who didn’t want to abandon professional standards. Believe it or not, in the Chinese department, the past three years, has been in something like a state of fear. The working conference every morning has become a sort of ritual occasion where some colleagues show how they are anti-China and how they are politically correct. It was offending to experience how people lie and talk big just for fear of losing their jobs!

It sounds like a bad joke but it is real. In the two years after 2008 when I was still in the Chinese department, people turned their heads around several times to make sure that no other one might listen before he or she dared to tell their genuine opinion. The everyday lunch has become a kind of political affair as to the question who walks to the dining hall with whom. One colleague once went to lunch together with me and after lunch she told me that we should not go back together to our office, otherwise people would believe she was allied with a person like me who was in the boss’ bad books. Even when I had already been sacked by Deutsche Welle last year, one former colleague called me and at the end of conversation asked me not to tell other people that she had called me.

What has happened to the Chinese department of DW is first of all a human tragedy.

Q: How has the work of the Chinese department changed since 2008? And – if you have kept listening to the programs once in a while, or reading online – have you seen changes in the programs since you had to leave?

A: Just like what I have described above, since later 2008 the Chinese department has actually been  working not only against the Chinese authorities (doing so is legitimate, of course), but unfortunately also against the majority of its should-be recipients. Unless you equate the Chinese people to the Chinese government or CP-China, as a journalist sticking to a high professional code, you would see this trend as a tragedy of Deutsche Welle. Today, the most normal Chinese people who I personally know associate Deutsche Welle with China-bashing from the West. This is a reputation that Deutsche Welle should not have deserved.

Q: Mr. Wang, thank you very much for this interview.

____________

Note

  *) Correction/update, Jan. 28
**) The hearing has been postponed.

____________

This interview was conducted in English, by an exchange of e-mails.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zhidao.Baidu: Why do all German Stars sing in English?

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Q: Why do all German stars sing in English?

Q: 为什么德国都唱英文歌 难道它们歧视母语么..
2011-7-10 22:38

A: It’s because Germany’s cultural attractiveness doesn’t work, and they therefore have to do it this way. The key is that at the top, they don’t attach much importance to cultural development, and a long-term deficit exists there. One can’t blame individual stars; this deficit began long before they were born, and they can’t reverse that individually. However, for Germans to sing in English isn’t as much a loss of face as for Chinese; and Germans can actually argue to be of common origins with the English language. That’s not the case between China and English at all, but in the charts, many themes are in English, or the lyrics contain a lot of English language.

A (热心网友):
因为德国的文化吸引力已经不行了,只好靠这种走捷径的办法。关键是首脑不重视文化建设,长期亏空,不能怪个别明星,这种亏空在他们出生之前很多年就开始了,不是他们个人能扭转的。不过德国唱英文总没有中国唱英文丢脸,毕竟德国可以辩解说跟英文有渊源。中国跟英文八竿子打不着,可是流行榜单上用英文起题目,或者歌词含大量英文的很多
2011-7-12 05:54

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Da, da, da…


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Trio, 1982
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Monday, January 23, 2012

“A Trivial Matter for the Country”: Huanqiu Shibao wishes Yu Jie “Good Luck”

[...] It may not be the government’s desire to provide these freedoms, but the overall facts are taking shape: it is inevitable that the Internet will bring about open speech for China.

But there is another group, and there’s not many of them, and one could even say there’s very few of them. The books filled with their keenly felt opinions cannot be published in China, and what they say on the Internet is constantly being deleted. There’s also a certain number of others who feel restricted after having experienced the freedom of the outside world. They adopt a hostile attitude towards today’s China, and because of this they have to pay a certain personal price. They don’t deny that they are “antagonistic,” and they demand to the right to remain antagonistic without restriction, and for Chinese law to create a “special zone” for them. But the answer they receive is “no.” [...]

[.....] 但还有一个小群体,他们人数不多,甚至可以说很少。他们痛感想写的书在中国出版不了,想在互联网上说的话总被删掉。甚至有数得过来的个别人,与外界接触的 自由也受到限制。他们对中国现行体制采取了完全敌对的态度,并因此付出了个人人生的一定代价。他们对“敌对”不予否认,而且他们要求有保持敌对而不受任何 限制的权利,中国法律专为他们设一个“特区”。但他们得到的回答是“不”。 [.....]

Translation up to here by China Digital Times

Following paragraphs (my translation – may contain errors):

These [average internet users on the one hand, and the dissidents on the other] are two completely different groups. The former are the main part of modern China, with differing opinions, some doing fine, some full of complaints, but all of them following the development of this country, and moving forward together. For the latter, opposing political power has become their own “occupation”. They believe that this “occupation” will, in the course of China’s social transformation and the Western world’s support, become more and more promising, and they are mentally unprepared for setbacks.

这是完全不同的两个群体。前一个构成了现代中国的主体,他们意见不一,有些处事积极,有些牢骚满腹,但都随这个国家的发展而一起前行。后一个把与政权对抗变成自己的“职业”,他们认为这个“职业”因中国社会的转型和西方世界的支持会越来越有前途,他们对受到挫折缺少思想准备。

Once things become a bit difficult, their moods become suppressed, and not too serious restrictions depress them. For example, they can’t see that their environment has become much more relaxed, compared to what they would have had to face some years earlier. Although there have been ups and downs in the situations of “dissidents” in China, their environment has generally become much more tolerant of them. They lose optimism too easily, become dissatisfied too easily, use extreme language to vent their solitariness, and to attract attention.

因此他们稍遇不顺,情绪就变得很压抑,比外界限制本应带给他们的沮丧还要严重。比如,他们完全看不到自己的遭遇,比如果他们早些年做同样对抗所要面对的,要缓和得多。“异见人士”在中国的生存状态虽有起伏,但大环境对他们的宽容总体上在增多。他们很容易失去乐观,焦躁不安,用更极端的言行发泄孤独,吸引注意力。

They rid themselves of their roots, see their individual extreme moods and mistaken illusions as a general Chinese mood, try to force political ideals, copied from Western books, onto Chinese society, and think of themselves as those who represent Chinese society’s standpoint. But actually, they are completely outdated.

他们越来越脱离草根,把个人极端情绪误当成或幻想成中国社会的普遍情绪,他们把从西方书本上抄来的政治理念强行往中国社会上套,并且总想代表中国社会的主张。其实他们完全落伍了。

Just look at how many legal channels there are in China now, to express discontent! While they became restricted, many new opinion leaders have emerged. Sharp ideas have emerged within public opinion, many of which those “old opinion leaders” neither understand, nor would they know how to discuss them. They are completely out.

看看中国社会现在有多少合法表达不满和异见的渠道!在他们受到限制的时候,新的意见领袖一批批层出不穷。舆论中出现大量新的尖锐话题,很多都是他们那些“老意见领袖”不熟悉、也不知道该如何讨论的。他们在出局。

One important reason for Yu Jie and others to leave is that they have been marginalized in China’s public opinion. They may believe that government restrictions caused this marginalization. That may be one of the reasons. But if they provided Chinese social opinion with vitality, they wouldn’t fade away as rapidly and thoroughly  as they are.

余杰等人出走,一个重要原因是他们在中国舆论中已经边缘化。他们会认为是政府的限制造成了他们的边缘化。这大概是原因之一。但如果他们带给中国社会的话题和主张真的有强大生命力,他们的淡出决不会像实际发生的这样快,这样彻底。

China is in the greatest development for at least two centuries. This basic fact and trend is above judgment, and it is obvious that some people have been completely blinded by extreme thought and depression. That is a pity for Chinese society, and even more so for themselves. We hope sincerely that the new environment he “left” for will invigorate him. It’s a trivial matter for the country, but not for him as an individual. We wish him luck.

中国处在至少两个世纪以来最伟大的全面发展中,对这个基本事实和趋势都无法做出判断,可见一些人已被极端思想和情绪完全蒙住了眼睛。这是中国社会的遗憾,更是他们个人的不幸。真心希望“出走”的环境改变能给余杰带来强有力的触动。这对国家的意义已经微不足道,但对他个人则完全不同。祝他好运。

Reactions in the commenter thread appear to be mixed: some commenters add another “American slave” to their counts, or agree with the author that “America can’t be copied”, while others suggest that what Yu Jie actually said should be published, to be judged by the public. More general grievances are aired, too, about money earned by the people’s blood and sweat being squandered by officials who are “more evil than the Japanese devils”.

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Related Posts: Yu Jie
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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night: Soft Power Starts at Home

The following are an unofficial paper (本站内容未经许可) by a Soft-Power study group at Beijing University (北京大学软实力课题组), published by Renmin Wang (People’s Daily website) on September 16, 2009).

Links within blockquotes added during translation. Main Link: http://theory.people.com.cn/GB/166866/166886/10068388.html

Translated off the reel, and posted right away – if you see inconsistencies or mistakes in the following post, let me know, and we can take another look at the original.

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Low Cultural Development, Lacking Propagation Abroad (文化发展水平低,对外传播不足)

Owing to the low starting point of China’s cultural development, even though it is currently pushed ahead at a faster pace, its attractiveness is still extremely limited.

由于中国文化发展的起点太低,尽管当前推进速度比较快,但是吸引力还是极其有限的。

When it comes to languages, China shows a deficit in its exchange with the West. In 2003, Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer at the time, said that while Britain imported electric household appliances, textiles, and other goods from China, this could be balanced with the English language. The value of English teaching as an export item has risen from 6.5 billion British Pounds to 103  10.3 billion [update: within five years], or about one per cent of Britain’s GDP. As for Britain, it is evident that Chinese language education is hardly worth mentioning. Not only can’t it be compared with its exports of goods, but there is no need to talk about it competing with the Export of British English.

在语言方面,中国和西方的交流处于严重逆差状态。2003年,英国当时的财政大臣布朗来中国时说,英国从中国进口的越来越多的家电、服装和其他东西可以用出口的一样东西来平衡,这就是英语。英语教学作为一项出口项目,它的价值在5年里已经从65亿英镑增加到了103亿英镑,大约占英国GDP的1%。可见,对英国来说,中国的语言教学出口甚至根本就不值一提,不仅无法与产品出口相比较,更谈不上与英国的英语出口相竞争。

As for higher education, the quality of Chinese universities is far behind America’s. There is no Chinese university which makes it into the top ranks of global higher education. Even students from Tsinghua University as an institution of higher learning go to American universities as overseas students, and when American universities make their annual rounds through China to present themselves, they are swarmed with visitors.

在高等教育方面,中国的大学质量远远地落后于美国,没有一所大学能够入围世界顶尖高校之列。由于教育水平落后于人,甚至清华北大这些中国顶级学府的学生,都每年成百上千地赴美留学;而美国大学每年来中国巡展,场场都是门庭若市。

As for academic research, no Chinese national within China has won a Nobel Prize today. As the ministry of education’s social-sciences director Yuan Zhengguo (袁振国) pointed out, every year, nearly 20,000 books on philosophy and social sciences and 200,000 papers are published, but only few of them can be introduced to a foreign readership. For many years, our trade in copyrights has run deficits; and exports in this regard only amount to ten per cent of imports. Besides, the major share of these exports is about copyrights concerning gardening and forestry, architecture (or construction), food, textiles, vintage, etc. Our values, culture, philosophical and social-science ideas, thoughts and concepts are hardly exported at all. Books are mainly exported to some other Asian countries and to the Chinese regions of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, European and American exports outperform China’s by more than 100 to 1. China, the country of origin of a more than 5,000-years-old civilization, only exports television sets, but no thoughts and concepts, and it’s no wonder that people say that China is a “hardware factory”.

在学术研究方面,时至今日,没有一个中国人在国内获得诺贝尔奖。教育部社会科学司副司长袁振国指出,现在全国每年出版哲学社会科学专著近2万部,发表专业论文20万篇,但是能够被介绍到国外的很少。多年来,我们的版权贸易一直存在着巨大的逆差,每年出口的版权只有进口版权的十分之一,而且出口的版权绝大部分是园林、建筑、饮食、服装、古董这些东西,我们的价值观、文化、哲学社会科学理念、思想观念的东西几乎没有出口。出口的图书也主要是到一些亚洲国家和中国的港澳台地区,面对欧美的逆差则达100:1以上。作为一个拥有5000多年文明史的文化发源地,中国只出口电视机,不出口思想观念,难怪有人说,中国是个“硬件加工厂”。

When it comes to the performing arts, the situation isn’t too different. From 1999 to 2002, 285 Russian artistic groups came to China to perform here, but only 30 Chinese groups went to Russia to perform – i. e. about one tenth of the Russian number. Moreover, Chinese performances abroad have long been in the low-price segment. As many performances abroad are controlled by foreign managements, and for the lack of presentable brands [on our part], all China has provided over many years is cheap labor. In sharp contrast, the “Three Tenors”, during their performances in China, made sales of hundreds of thousands of US-dollars; European and American four big musicals1) and the world’s ten big orchestras etc. sell top-price tickets at 5,000 Yuan RMB, and earn huge scales of money. By comparison, China, when it depends on its cultural attractiveness to create economic value, is seriously weakened.

文艺演出也有类似状况。从1999年到2002年,仅俄罗斯就有285个文艺团体到中国演出,同期中国到俄罗斯演出的文艺团体只有30个,相差10倍。而且,中国对外演出长期以来都处于廉价交易的状态。由于很多对外演出都由外国经纪人把持,也由于缺少像样的品牌,中外文化交流开展多年,中国提供的都只是廉价劳动力。与此对比强烈的是,“世界三大男高音”来中国演出的出场费动辄数十万美元,欧美四大音乐剧、世界十大交响乐团等来华演出的最高票价卖到5000元,每次演出都赚了个盆盈钵满。相比之下,中国依靠文化吸引力创造经济价值的能力被严重削弱了。

The soft-culture working group deplores that in the field of movies, in shaping musical idols, etc., China even lags behind South Korea and Japan, and that hardly anyone could name a famous or prominent Chinese writer.

In March 2009, chief state councillor Wen Jiabao emphasized the need to have an animated-cartoon industry (动漫产业) of our own: “Sometimes, I find that my grandson likes cartoons, but if animated or not, it’s always someting by Altman (奥特曼)2).

2009年3月,温家宝总理强调我们应该有自己的动漫产业:“我有时看我孙子喜欢看动画片,但是动不动就是奥特曼。”

[...]

In September 2006, the British Foreign Policy Center released a study with numbers collected from a Chinese national “brands” survey. They came to two conclusions: Firstly, despite the attention China got from other countries, its brands were weak, this country wasn’t understood abroad, and secondly, the views Chinese people held of themselves, and of other nations elsewhere in the world respectively, widely differed from each other.

2006年9月,英国外交政策中心发表了一份研究报告,使用了从中国国家“品牌”调查活动中得到的数据。这次调查得出了两个结论:首先,尽管中国受到各国重视,但其品牌很弱,这个国家不为海外所了解;其次,中国人对自己的看法与世界其他民族对他们的看法有很大差别。

On April 5, 2006, Singapore’s United Morning News (联合早报) wrote in an article titled “China is looking for a new development concept”:
While China grows rapidly in terms of material power, its development of cultural attractiveness or soft power3) hasn’t kept up. (…) A cultural renaissance is an essential condition for turning the dream of a strong country into reality. Without strong cultural power, there will be no great comprehensive national strength. (…) Cultural invigoration is a fundamental [element] in building China’s strategic concept.

2006年4月5日,新加坡《联合早报》的一篇题为《中国寻找新的发展理念》的文章中评论指出:
中国在物质力量高速增长的同时,文化吸引力或者说软力量的建设却没有跟上……文化复兴是实现强国梦的必备条件。没有强大的文化力量,就没有强大的综合国力……文化振兴是中国新战略理念的构建的根基。

In 2007, 中评社4) published an article on the international position of China’s culture, and came to a rather comprehensive assessment:
There is no way to suggest that China’s cultural global influence were great. Compared with America’s culture, China’s, in a global context, is insufficient in many ways. Firstly, it hasn’t become a popular culture within the global society. Secondly, it hasn’t turned into a culture of corresponding influence. And thirdly, it hasn’t turned into a culture that would drive global economic development.

2007年,中评社发表社评文章对中国文化的国际地位做出了比较综合的评价:
中国文化在世界的影响力,绝对不可以说是巨大的。与美国文化相比较,中国文化在世界范畴中许多方面都是不足的。一,没有在国际社会成为一种流行的文化。二,没有形成有相当影响力的文化。三,没有成为推动世界经济发展的一股力量文化。

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Lack of Core Values (核心价值观缺失)

During thirty years of reform and opening up, China has been in an era of fastest-developing social transformation, in which society’s traditional value foundations disappeared quickly. At the same time, all kinds of cultures and concepts, good or jumbled, emerged and gradually entered peoples’ lives and minds. By them, people were knowingly or unknowingly influenced. In such a clash between social foundations and new cultures, the absence of core values became evident.

改革开放30年中,我国一直处于变化最快、发展也最快的社会转型时期,传统价值观的社会基础迅速消失;与此同时,各种外来的文化和观念杂乱纷呈,纷纷进入人们的生活和头脑,人们自觉或不自觉地受到了影响。在这种社会基础与新文化的冲击下,核心价值观缺位的问题就出现了。

Beijing University professor Pan Wei believes that lacking core social values are one of the main problems in China’s reality, and that if China wants to rise, this can’t happen without the rebuilding of core values. Humanities and social science associate professor Kuang Xinnian of Tsinghua University also points out that since the 1990s, Chinese social values were lost, that their significance disappeared, and, to use Dong Li’s words, went into a state of nervous breakdown. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ sociologist, playwright, and the “International Social Science Journal’s” Chinese edition’s deputy chief-editor Huang Jisu believes that Chinese society’s polarization had led to social upheaval and the collapse of national virtues.

北京大学教授潘维认为,社会核心价值观缺位是中国现实中最严重的问题之一,中国要崛起,就无法回避重建社会核心价值观。清华大学人文社会科学学院中文系副教授旷新年则指出,上个世纪90年代以来,中国社会价值失落,意义真空,用祝东力先生的话说,处于一种“精神崩溃”的状态。中国社会科学院社会学家、剧作家、《国际社会科学杂志》(中文版)副主编黄纪苏认为,中国社会的两极分化导致了社会震荡和民族道德的崩溃。

During the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 2007, the NPC delegates and CPPCC members paid close attention to the issue as to how the Chinese people had gone astray in terms of core values, and voices calling for “intensifying the establishment of a system of core value system” were once again raised. Delegates and members contributed ideas and exerted efforts, aspiring for building value orientation which would have Chinese characteristics and with which the Chinese people would universally identify, thus make social forces coherent, promote social harmony, and the building of the nation. At the 17th party congress, secretary-general Hu Jintao put forward that the need to build a “socialist core value system” was actually a tactful acknowledgment of China’s social core value issues.

2007年两会期间,来自各地的人大代表、政协委员十分关注中国人核心价值迷失的问题,“加紧构建社会核心价值体系”的呼声再度高涨,代表委员们纷纷献计献策,希冀尽快形成具有中国特色的、获得国民普遍认同的价值取向,以凝聚起全社会的力量,促进社会和谐与国家建设。胡锦涛总书记在第十七次党代会上提出,要“建设社会主义核心价值体系”,实际上也是在委婉地承认中国社会核心价值观方面的问题。

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The Cultural Management System’s and Ability’s Backwardness (文化管理体制与能力落后)

In China’s transition from a planned to a market economy, reform of the cultural management system is an important aspect. Given that change takes time, the goals can’t be reached in one step, and therefore, even as the government is working hard on deepening the cultural management system’s reform and even as it is making great achievements, the traditional planning systems do still exist to some extent, and cultural managers can’t fully adapt to the new type of cultural management yet. Therefore, China’s cultural productivity can’t be fully released at once, the needs in the people’s cultural life can’t be fully satisfied, and China’s international cultural competitiveness remains rather weak. Especially when it comes to cultural exports, government guidance constitutes two kinds of harm to China’s cultural attractiveness abroad: on the one hand, it limits China’s cultural productivity, and on the other hand, too much government involvement causes misgivings, concerns and antipathy within the international community. They believe that China’s cultural exports, because of the government being a factor, has political aims, and should therefore be handled with caution. Foreign Affairs University president Wu Jianmin  therefore says:

文化管理体制的改革是中国由计划经济体制向市场经济体制过渡的一个重要方面。由于改革需要时间,不能一蹴而就,所以虽然目前政府正在努力深化文化管理体制改革并已取得巨大的成就,但是传统的计划体制还在一定程度上和一定范围内存在,文化管理者还不能完全适应新型的文化管理方式,从而使得我国的文化生产力难以充分释放,进一步导致人民群众的文化生活需求得不到充分的满足,以及我国文化的国际竞争力相对薄弱。尤其在文化输出上,政府主导对我国文化的对外吸引力构成双重损害:一方面,制约了我国的文化生产力;另一方面,政府过多的介入引起了国际社会的疑虑、担忧和反感——他们认为,中国的文化输出因为政府的作用而具有了政治目的,要谨慎对待。为此,外交学院院长吴建民表示:

The enhancement of China’s soft power, and the promotion of Chinese culture heading to the world, must not be a campaign.5) If the significance of propaganda becomes too strong, it can easily evoke the other side’s suspicions and resentment. This would exactly go against the fundamental characteristics of soft power. The promotion of Chinese culture going into the world should resemble the way Du Fu described in his “Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night”:

It drifts in on the wind, steals in by night,
Its fine drops drench, yet make no sound at all.

This is the best and most effective way.

提升中国的软实力,推动中华文化走向世界不能搞运动。因为那样宣传意味太浓,容易引起对方的怀疑和反感。这样做,又恰恰违背软实力的基本特点。推动中华文化走向世界要像杜甫那首题为《春夜喜雨》诗中所说的:“随风潜入夜,润物细无声。”这是最好的办法,也是最有效的办法。

Therefore, to increase our country’s cultural productivity, to broaden our country’s culture’s international influence, reform of our cultural system must be carried forward in a firm, rapid, and dependable manner.

因此,为了尽快提高我国的文化生产力,扩大我国文化的国际影响力,我们的文化体制改革必须坚定不移、快速稳妥地向前推进。

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The Political and Economic System is not Perfect (政治与经济制度不够完善)

Usually, when it comes to developing countries, its system is frequently its weak spot, which is a key reason in its lagging behind. China is no exception. Despite its stable and rapid development, and the system’s contribution can’t be ignored, we also have to acknowledge that no matter if we talk about the political or the economic side, the establishment of a perfect system is still a long way off, and there is still much room for modelling and innovation.

一般而言,对于一个发展中国家来说,制度常常是它的软肋,而且是导致它落后的关键原因。这一点在中国也不例外。虽然三十年来中国的稳定和高速发展,制度创新的贡献不容抹煞,但我们还是要承认,无论是政治方面,还是经济方面,中国要建立完善的制度体系都还有很长的路要走,制度模仿和创新的空间都还相当大。

On the political level, China’s large-scale corruption and frequent mass incidents illustrate many problems: excessive concentration of power, with democratic centralism often being a mere formality, sometimes to an extent where once the boss has spoken, the decision has been made; power goes without effective checks and balances, administrative power accroaches legislative power, acting as the country’s or region’s highest organ of power, not letting the people’s congresses play their due role; the judiciary’s impartiality is harmed by executive power; power lacks effective supervision, and the building of responsible “sunshine government” still remains a long way to go, etc..

在政治层面上,中国大面积的腐败和经常发生的群体性事件说明了很多问题:权力过度集中,民主集中制常常流于形式,以至出现完全是“一把手”说了算的“一言堂”现象;权力未得到有效制衡,行政权力僭越立法和司法权力,作为国家和地方最高权力机关的人民代表大会发挥不了应有的作用,司法的公正性受到行政权力的戕害;权力缺乏有效的监督,“阳光政府”建设依然任重道远等等。

When describing the economic level, the paper re-iterated the transition from a planned to a market economy, and especially the corresponding system’s bureaucratic remnants on the local level. The study group noted that the financial system didn’t meet the needs of China’s economy either, especially when it came to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). An appeal to authority was included, too: “It is exactly for this reason that in September 2007, secretary general Hu Jintao explicitly pointed out the need to attach importance to the financial system’s development and perfection.” In their description of the economic aspects, the authors also cited legal uncertainties concerning property, anti-monopoly measures, and, even more than that, administrative monopolies (行政垄断). Neither cultural differences between China and other countries, nor a lack of united ideological understanding were left out as explanation for a less-than-satisfying legal situation, and inadequate leaning on foreign legal experience was also mentioned as an explanation. But the next line seems to chime in with statements made by state chief councillor Wen Jiabao’s statements two years ago:

Therefore, as a conservative informal system can only look forward to the official system’s innovative lead into the direction of development, the absence of such an official system in turn becomes a particularly serious problem.

因此,保守的非正式制度也只能靠正式制度的创新来引领发展,正式制度的缺位就变成一个尤其严重的问题。

The “Chinese model” had led to nearly thirty years of rapid economic growth, the study group wrote, but had at the same time created problems:

  • the income gaps (between industries, i. e. particularly farming and industries, but also regionally), and polarization. Of course, the measures taken by the fifth generation of leadership had achieved some success (第五代领导人上台以来,坚定不移的采取缩小收入差距的政策措施,目前已取得一定的成效)
  • environmental pollution and a crisis in terms of resources
  • Inadequate social security [or insurance], with undesirable constraints on the building of a harmonious society
  • protection of the public’s, or the masses’, rights.
  • corruption (with a reference to Tianjin party secretary Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), who had described corruption prevention as a matter of life of death for the party.

It is only here that the paper comes back to international issues, and, concerning economic issues, showing a more defiant attitude than in its previous reference, about soft power and propaganda (including the Du Fu quote):

No matter how the international community understands the Chinese model, and no matter what their attitude towards this model is, China’s development pattern needs to be adjusted. In the face of the international economic crisis, these adjustment become only more urgent. What earned the Chinese model general acknowledgment, and the characteristics which earned it the admiration6): strong government leadership, should be moderately extenuated. This is something clear-headed political leaders must recognize. In fact, China’s leaders have understood that the “Chinese model” is still developing.

无论国际社会怎样理解中国模式,无论他们对这一模式抱有何种态度,中国的发展模式都必须进行调整。尤其是在国际经济危机面前,这一调整更显紧迫。像中国模式公认的、也是让这一模式令西方羡慕的一个特点——强有力的政府主导,就需要适度削弱。这是清醒的政治领导人必须认识到的。实际上,中国领导人确实已经认识到,“中国模式”还处于发展之中。

In October 2003, the sixteenth central committee’s third plenary session put forward the concept of scientific development. If conscientiously carried out, it will become a cornerstone in the CCP’s lawful political power. Therefore, it will be a new source of the party’s and even China’s soft power.

2003年10月召开的中国共产党十六届三中全会提出了科学发展观。作为一种符合时代要求的发展观,如果得到切实执行,它将成为中共政权合法性的新基石。因此,它是中共乃至中国软实力的一种新来源。

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The Limits of Diplomacy (外交上的局限)

Over the years, Chinese diplomacy has matured and made huge achievements. This is something no clear-sighted person will deny. But to improve the level of our country’s diplomacy further and to safeguard our national interests still better, there will be a continued need to examine our diplomacy comprehensively, carefully, and thoroughly, identify the shortcomings within, and put it to a still higher level.

这些年来,中国的外交日渐成熟,并取得了巨大的外交成就,这是任何一个明眼人都无法否认的事实。但是,出于进一步提高我国外交水平,更好地维护国家利益的目的,我们仍然需要对我们的外交做全面、细致、深入的审视,发现其中的不足,以使我们的外交更上一层楼。

Our country is guided by Marxist ideology. Historical materialism, and dialectical materialism are not only reflected in our internal development, but also in our diplomatic practice. But given that practice is much more complicated than theory, deviations between practice and theory are hardly avoidable at certain times and in certain situations. When taking a comprehensive look at our diplomatic practice, one will find strong industries but weak culture, the country’s strong international position but also its feeble image, its inherent cultivation but weak external publicity [or propaganda], strong hard power but feeble soft power tendencies which coexist to some extent. For example, international relations depend heavily on economic power. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Africa Research Office’s director He Wenping once said that “when I tell African friends that China remains a developing country, they just begin to laugh”. Their laughter illustrates that in their view, a developing country couldn’t afford undertake the investment and aid China provides in Africa.” In “Charm Offensive – How China’s Soft Power  is Transforming the World”, Joshua Kurlantzick once wrote: “China’s influence comes from its ability to dispense no-questions-asked largesse, and it would decline sharply if China experienced an economic downturn.” Although this opinion is very one-sided, the dependence of our diplomacy on our economic strength does require sufficient attention.

我国是一个以马克思主义为指导思想的国家,历史唯物主义和辩证唯物主义不仅体现在我们的内部建设上,同样也贯彻在我们的外交实践之中。但是,由于实践远比理论来得复杂,在某些时候或某些场合,实践对理论一定程度的偏离是在所难免的。综观我国的外交实践,人们可以看到,一种重经济而轻文化,重国际地位而轻国际形象,重内在修为而轻外部宣传,重硬实力而轻软实力的倾向在一定程度上存在着。例如,国际关系倚重经济实力。中国社会科学院非洲研究室主任贺文萍曾表示,“当我向非洲朋友们解释中国仍是一个发展中国家时,他们就开始笑。”非洲朋友的这一笑充分说明,在他们看来,中国向非洲的投资和援助已经不是一个发展中国家所能承担得起的了。《魅力攻势———中国的软实力是如何改变世界的?》一书的作者柯兰齐克曾说:“中国的影响力来自它派发不加疑问的慷慨,而且如果中国经历经济低迷,它将大幅度下降”。这种说法虽然非常片面,但是我们的外交对于经济实力的依赖性也需要引起足够的重视。

Following the rapid economic development, China’s international position and influence has actually increased rapidly, too. At the same time, the international environment has undergone great changes. Therefore, diplomacy’s domestic and foreign conditions have changed a lot already. In this kind of situation, our country must rethink its diplomatic methods and make adjustments in accordance with the changes in its domestic and foreign environment. Also, to see a continued rise in our country’s international status during the coming years, updates in our leaders’ thoughts about good diplomatic practice in the future are necessary. For example, we may have to re-examine the principles ad positions of our diplomacy, and to fundamentally change our diplomatic strategies.

实际上,随着经济实力的迅速发展,中国的国际地位和国际影响力也在迅速提高。同时,国际环境本身也发生了巨大变化。因此,外交的内外部条件都已经今非昔比。在这种情形下,我国有必要重新考虑自己的外交方式,根据内外部环境的变化做适度的调整。另外,由于未来若干年内,我国的国际地位还会继续迅速上升,这就要求我们的领导人为将来更新的外交做好思想上的准备。例如,我们可能需要重新审视我们的外交原则和立场,从根本上改变我们的外交战略。

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Citizen Quality and Poor Image (国民素质和形象较差)

Our country’s citizen quality has been a soft spot, impeding its image. Notices in the streets of Paris in Chinese, like “please don’t bawl7), or notices in Chinese in New York, saying “please don’t jump the queue” are a great embarrassment for Chinese people, and uncivilized behavior of tourists make into the headlines in New York time and again. There are experts who say that “the biggest difference between China and America is in average citizen quality”, and there are other experts who say that “the difference in citizen quality between China and Japan translates into 30 years”. In 2007, the famous travelling website Expedia interviewed 15,000 persons from the European hotel and restaurant industry, and did a rating survey of tourists from different countries. Chinese ranked as the third-worst, after the  French and the Indians. Former Beijing mayor Wang Qishan (王岐山) admitted frankly his greatest fear – that during the 2008 Olympic Games, with five billion people worldwide looking on, Beijing’s citizen’s cultural quality would not pass the test.

我国的国民素质一直是制约我国国家形象的一项软肋。法国巴黎街头“请勿喧哗”的中文标识和美国纽约地铁站“请勿插队”的中文提醒让中国人十分尴尬,不文明的游客现丑的新闻一次次成为报章头条。有专家称“中国与美国的最大差距是国民平均素质的差距”,更有专家称“中国日本国民素质差距有30年”。2007年,著名旅游服务网站Expedia访问了1.5万名欧洲酒店业人士,对各国游客的表现进行了一次调查评比,中国人排名第三差,仅次于法国和印度。北京市前市长王岐山坦言,2008年奥运会,他最担心的就是在世界50亿双眼睛的注视下,市民的文明素质是否经受得起考验。

A country’s culture is the capital the country can apply abroad (外化), plus, perhaps, the traditional nature of cultural products, just as when people talk about Chinese culture, they frequently refer to traditional culture, which is possibly a greater distance to reality. In contrast, citizen quality is a country’s domestic capital, which is close to reality. Here, having a grasp [or clear idea] of that country’s government’s and people’s behavior, there are more significant [material] you can take into consideration, and which warrants closer attention. In this sense, and in the context of building our country’s soft power, improving citizen quality is no less important than the significance of cultural dissemination. Our country’s tendencies in citizen quality influence the level of our country’s soft power, and an important part of building its soft power.

一国的文化是该国外化的文化资本,加上文化产品可能的传统性——正如目前人们所谈论的中国文化更多的是指传统文化,它可能离现实更为遥远。相比之下,国民素质是一国内化的文化资本,它与现实更为切近,对于在博弈中把握该国政府和人民的行为可能更有参考意义,因而更为重要,更加得到关注。从这种意义上讲,对于我国软实力的建设而言,国民素质的提高具有不下于文化传播的重要意义。因此,我国低下的国民素质势必显著影响我国的软实力水平,必须作为国家软实力建设的重要一环来抓。

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Lack of Influential NGOs and Individuals (缺少有影响力的民间组织和个人)

From the perspective of building soft power, non-governmental organizations, or social [societal] organizations, NGOs, as well as individuals with strong influence within society (all to be referred to as NGOs hereafter) play a dual role.

从建设软实力的角度看,民间组织——或者说社会组织、NGO——以及拥有强大社会影响力的个人(以下简称民间组织)具有双重作用。

On the one hand, NGOs are important as they assist governments in solving social problems. In the wake of social development, issues of humankind’s sustainable development can’t be  solved by merely depending on government and the market, and NGOs are what it takes to make up for government and market insufficiencies. NGOs are also seen as “pressure reduction valves” for a government, and a “balancer” for public opinion, plus a spiritual function which shouldn’t be ignored either. Therefore, NGOs can help governments to solve social problems, thus eliminating society’s dissatisfaction with government. In this sense, NGOs obviously increase governments’ legitimacy and cohesion within society, and are therefore positive factors in increasing domestic soft power.

一方面,民间组织是帮助政府解决社会问题的重要助手。随着社会的发展,仅仅依靠传统的政府和市场两级还无法解决人类的可持续发展问题,民间组织正为了弥补政府和市场的不足而诞生。民间组织则被认为是政府的“减压阀”和民意的“平衡器”,还有着不可忽视的精神功能。因此,民间组织可以帮助政府解决社会问题,从而消除社会对政府的不满。从这种意义上讲,民间组织显然是提高政府合法性和社会凝聚力的积极因素,因而是提高国内软实力的积极因素。

On the other hand, NGOs have some kind of particular advantage, compared with government: objective neutrality. In general, a government is a representative of a country’s interests, but at times, it is also a representative of self-interest. Words and deeds of a government are therefore always suspected of acting out of interest requirements, which marks an inherent disadvantage. So in a real sense, NGOs have a stronger objective neutrality, and in a certain sense, this is the basis of certain NGOs’ coming into life. Therefore, no matter if you face domestic or international society, NGOs are more likely to earn trust, and information they provide is more persuasive.

另一方面,相比政府,民间组织具有一种独特的优势:客观中立性。一般而言,政府是国家利益的代表,有时候甚至是自身利益的代表。因此,政府的一言一行总要被人怀疑是出于利益的需要,其立场具有先天的劣势。而真正意义上的民间组织则具有更强的客观中立性——实际上,从一定意义上讲,这也正是某些民间组织得以产生的根据。所以,在面对无论国内还是国际社会时,它们更能获得信任,所提供的信息也就更有说服力。

Although NGOs have these important social and political roles to play, it is also known to all that our country lacks such organizations, and there is no need to list statistics. The main source for this situation is that the government is inclined to take some kind of politicized view on the development of NGOs, and maintains some kind of vigilant attitude towards them.

尽管民间组织具有这样重要的社会和政治功能,但众所周知的是,我国的民间组织依然非常缺乏,具体的数据是无须列举的。造成这种情况的根本原因就在于,政府倾向于用一种政治化的眼光来看待民间组织的发展,对民间组织持一种防范心态。

To build a truly harmonious society, and to increase our country’s international influence, our country’s government must change its attitude towards NGOs, eliminate inappropriate sensitivities towards NGOs, and create room for their development by adopting tolerant8)  policies on them.

为了建设真正的和谐社会,同时也为了进一步扩大我国的国际影响力,我国政府需要转变对民间组织的态度,消除对民间组织的不适当的敏感性,以宽容的政策为民间组织的发展释放空间。

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Notes

1) I’m not familiar with the big global musicals, but according to Baike.Baidu, Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s “Cats” and “the Phantom of the Opera” would be among the four.
2) Just as with musicals, I don’t know a great deal about cartoons. But Wen’s alleged quote about Altman or 奥特曼 seems to refer to Robert Altman, although I’m not sure if he made animated movies, or rather turned an animated movie into a musical. (Maybe this was part of Wen’s joke.)
3) the Chinese term used here is 软力量 (ruǎn lìliàng), which can be translated as “soft power”. However, it isn’t the term normally used when Chinese academics refer to Joseph Nye‘s soft power concept these days – that would be 软实力 (ruǎn shílì).
4) 中评社 seems to refer to ChinaReviewNews.
5) There may be other translations for 不能搞运动, too, and these paragraphs should be looked at closely to decide if my translation is adequate. It should also be remembered that this, even though published on the People’s Daily’s (Net) theory pages, this is both an “inofficial” document, and, I believe, one that has since been superseded by the CCP central committee’s “cultural document”.
6) or envy – 羡慕, but I seem to understand that this is not necessarily a negative expression in Chinese.
7) “请勿喧哗” – another translation could be “noisy”.
8) another translation for 宽容 would be tolerant.

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Related

» The Center Forever, March 13, 2011
» Confucianism and Modernity, May 30, 2009

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Friday, January 20, 2012

premature publication

key-combination problem: once again, a premature publication. Get used to it; I haven’t been able to identify that unfortunate combination yet.

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