Archive for March, 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Sina Weibo shuts Commenting Function down

I’m not using Sina Weibo to comment there anyway, but I do “listen” there. Theoretically, I could still listen, as temporary restrictions have only been put on popular microblogging services run by Sina Corp. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., as far as commenting on others’ posts is disabled, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday. But in fact, I can’t even read there at the moment – despite my log-in being confirmed.

Please, don’t go away, Weibo!! I can’t live without the Beijing Police Channel !!!!

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Related

» Self-Censorship Training with Weibo, March 23, 2012
» A Common Virtual Space, October 23, 2011

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Update, 11:44 GMT: JR’s Weibo account accessible again.

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Saturday, March 31, 2012

BRIC – One Summit, many Interpretations, and Staying Alive in Tibet

The full text of Delhi Declaration, i. e. the BRIC leaders’ declaration of Thursday, can be found on the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ website.

It describes a number of international trends, including the Eurozone crisis:

The build-up of sovereign debt and concerns over medium to long-term fiscal adjustment in advanced countries are creating an uncertain environment for global growth. Further, excessive liquidity from the aggressive policy actions taken by central banks to stabilize their domestic economies have been spilling over into emerging market economies, fostering excessive volatility in capital flows and commodity prices. The immediate priority at hand is to restore market confidence and get global growth back on track. We will work with the international community to ensure international policy coordination to maintain macroeconomic stability conducive to the healthy recovery of the global economy.

No matter if American quantitative easing in recent years, or the European sovereign debt crisis, low interest rates in these countries usually lead to flows of money into emerging markets, seeking better investment conditions, i. e. interest rates there. However, Anand Shankar, a researcher at the Department of Economic and Policy Research, argued late last year that FII (foreign institutional investment) inflows to India had actually fallen after the November 3, 2010 announcement of the American central bank of quantitative easing 2, but attributes this to factors that do not refute the general rule of capital flows from low-interest-rate regions into emerging markets’ equities.

In China’s case, according to an undated paper (including early 2011 data) by Zhang Liqing and Huang Zhigang of the Central University of Finance and Economics, empirical results show that the effect of hot money on both stock price and housing price is insignificant, and the key factor to fuel asset bubbles is the monetary aggregate*). “Hot money” had, however, been an important contribution to foreign reserve increase. That problem, however, at least according to Michael Pettis, is at least as much China’s responsibility as it is America’s.

The Delhi Declaration basically states that it is the low-interest-rate regions’ responsibility to address the problem, and leaves it there.

The mention of goals like peace, security and development in a multi-polar, inter-dependent and increasingly complex, globalizing world are essentials, but not news – nor are calls on advanced economies to adopt responsible macroeconomic and financial policies, avoid creating excessive global liquidity and undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs. The G20 is determined as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, global governance institutions like the IMF are urged to reform themselves more quickly, the possibility of setting up a development particularly for projects in BRICs and other developing countries was considered on the summit, the Doha Round and global trade get a mention, so does all international, political mega-news, particularly Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and terrorism.

Fortunately, there’s an action plan, too. Or, rather, an appointment diary for the coming fifteen months or so.

Such touch-on-everything statements seem to be the rule at BRIC meetings – at least Stefan Wagstyl, the Financial Timesemerging markets editor, doesn’t appear to see anything unusual in it. They “made the right noises”, he wrote in a blog post on Thursday, but missed the opportunity to back a common candidate for the World Bank presidency from the developing world, even though there is a first-class contender in the race, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The [wo]man would probably still lose, writes Wagstyl, but the point was that the divisions among the Brics are as significant as their common interests – details there.

Maybe this is the most interesting bit within the declaration:

We welcome the conclusion of the Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in Local Currency under BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism and the Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement between our EXIM/Development Banks. We believe that these Agreements will serve as useful enabling instruments for enhancing intra-BRICS trade in coming years.

The master agreement, explains IANS news agency,

is aimed at reducing the demand for fully convertible currencies for transactions among BRICS nations, and thereby help reducing the transaction costs of intra-BRICS trade

.

Russia had made similar suggestions in 2008, in its business with Belarus and Vietnam, plus the increased use of both Ruble and Yuan for mutual Russian-Chinese trade.

South Africa, by now the event’s fifth member, but not represented in its four-letters household name, keeps a low profile in the global summit coverage. But president Jacob Zuma isn’t unhappy:

Africa feels, through the participation of South Africa in BRIC, we have reached, indeed, the mainstream of the global issues. The fact that our independent development banks have signed an agreement to support our projects of BRIC which include those in the continent of Africa brings hope to the African continent, to one billion people who have been, in the main, excluded from the mainstream positive developments abroad.

[Update, December 23, 2012: soundfile removed. Please contact me by email or comment if you are interested in the soundfile - JR]

Wagstyl, being a Financial Times editor (see this post, further up), likes the Delhi Declaration insofar as it makes the right noises – this most probably refers to its call on the advanced economies to undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs. But he also points out BRIC’s weaknesses, using the World Bank presidency issue as a case in point: The truth is that the divisions among the Brics are as significant as their common interests.

In Huanqiu Shibao‘s words, quoting the China News Service:

Chinese state chairman Hu Jintao met with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, on March 29. Singh said that India neither is neither intending nor in a position to participating in any strategies to contain China. India acknowledges that the Tibet Autonomous Region is part of China’s territory and doesn’t allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China activities in India. India hopes to work together with China to protect peace and tranquility on the two countries’ border regions, and to properly solve the border issues through friendly negotiations.
中新社新德里3月29日电(记者 张朔)中国国家主席胡锦涛29日在新德里会见印度总理辛格。
辛格表示,印度无意也不会参与任何遏制中国的战略。印度承认西藏自治区是中国领土一部分、不允许藏人在印从事反华活动。印方希望同中方一道努力,维护两国边境地区和平安宁,通过友好谈判妥善解决边界问题。

And in real-world terms, outside the diplomatic phrasebook:

There are border issues (with two Indian divisions wanting to die on or near what China thinks is her territory), India hosts Tibet’s government in exile (and will probably continue to do so), and it is, above all, noteworthy that there is a need to state that India won’t participate in containing China, even though there seem to be different interpretations about basically every sensitive issue the two sides keep discussing.

Anyway, many among the Huanqiu commenter public aren’t buying the diplomatic achievement. 说一套,做一套 (they say one thing and do another), one of them wrote today, and 其实银度也是老美的一颗棋子 (in fact, India is just America’s chess piece), another recalled.

That said, Sandip Roy, the First Post‘s editor in Calcutta, anticipates trouble for New Delhi, when it comes to its role as a host for Tibetan clergy, officialdom, and refugees:

Jamphel Yeshi burned himself alive to protest Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to New Delhi. Hu is in Delhi, impassive as ever. The Chinese brushed this off as just another nefarious plot by the Dalai Lama.

The country that really loses face is India. Tibetans were once the feel-good symbol of India’s democratic munificence. Now they have become India’s democratic headache, the inconvenient poor relation who refuses to stay discreetly out of sight. India wants the BRIC summit to go off without a hitch, the interactions with Hu Jintao to be photo-op perfect.

But instead an unemployed Tibetan refugee grabs the international media spotlight, dying with 98 percent burns and leaving behind a handwritten call to action.

[...]

These restless Tibetans, a part of India, yet apart, put New Delhi in a fix. “I think India is playing the Tibet card consciously. But it should not allow it to burst. This kite-flying is part of our diplomacy,” Indo-China expert CP Bhambhri told The Telegraph.

The same phenomenon as in Dharamsala and around can be observed among Tibetans in China, and worldwide: the older they are, the more they seem to be horrified by the ongoing series of self-immolations, and – one may suppose – worried about the repercussions they may have on how Tibetan concerns will be viewed by a global public, too.

Tsering Woeser, currently under house arrest in Beijing, wrote in a statement published online on March 8 that such self-destructive measures did nothing for the cause of Tibetan rights, and called on influential Tibetans, including monks and intellectuals, to help end the self-immolations. Gade Tsering and Arjia Lobsang Tupten also signed the statement.

Staying alive allows us to gather the strength as drops of water to form a great ocean,

they wrote.

Previously, on January 25, Woeser had extensively quoted her husband, Wang Lixiong, in an editorial for Radio Free Asia. Woeser and Wang show due respect for the self-immolators, but also note that

No matter how brave and devoted the self-immolaters are in sacrificing their lives, it will make people think that it is mainly an act of desperation. Any act of self-immolation while doubtlessly instigating emotional turmoil, is also always a sign of helplessness and loss.

Wang tries to formulate a sketch of a Tibetan civil society (without using the word):

Village autonomy can be implemented only through the participation of every single common villager; this will turn the people into initiators and they will no longer have to passively wait for long and inconclusive negotiations by leaders; if this is not done, they will demonstrate under gunpoint and even go up in flames as self-immolators to give pressure to the “game” played at a high-level.

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Note

*) Monetary aggregates comprise monetary liabilities of MFIs [monetary financial institutions] and central government (post office, treasury) vis-á-vis non-MFI euro area residents excluding central government, according to a ECB definition (see “background” there).

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Related

» All India Radio Press Review, Aug 21, 2011
» Teaming up for Copenhagen, Dec 6, 2009
» Thich Quang Duc,app. SMSU, ca. 2000

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Wen Jiabao’s School, according to Hu Dehua

Beneath Wen Jiabao‘s carefully layered comments, writes John Garnaut, there

is a profound challenge to the uncompromising manner in which the Chinese Communist Party has always gone about its business. And to grasp what the Cultural Revolution means to Wen Jiabao requires taking a journey through the life of his mentor, the 1980s reformist leader Hu Yaobang who ran the Communist Party in its most vibrant era.

Garnaut extensively quotes Hu Dehua, Hu Yaobang‘s youngest son, to explain Wen’s position. This story counts Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping, and Li Keqiang in as open (Wen Jiabao) and not-so-open supporters of Hu Yaobang.

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Related

Message to a Barbarian, June 26, 2011
The Center Forever, March 13, 2011
Hu is Popular, April 17, 2010
Charter 08 Seminar, December 8, 2009
Hu Yaobang and Hu Qiaomu, April 17, 2009

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

NTD TV China Analysis: Once Upon a Time in Sunday School

Now, what did Wen Jiabao mean?

It is, of course, all about Falun Gong, explains Matt Gnaizda, of NTD TV (New Tang Dynasty Television).

Main Link here

Jiang Zemin

The Bad Guy

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Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao

The repenting Bad Guys

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Sudden access to the Truth: the horrified public

The horrified Chinese public, with sudden uncensored access to the truth (click picture for NTD TV report)

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Which seems to emind me of this highlight from Li Hongzhi‘s opposite numbers in Beijing:

Xinwen Lianbo, March 20, 2009

CCTV Evening News, March 20, 2009 (coverage of a Tibetan delegation providing vivid examples and detailed and accurate data to the American public - click picture)

But what does this mean? It probably means that Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao and Li Hongzhi once attended the same Sunday school.

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Related

» Thoughts and Feelings, NTD TV, Dec 15, 2011
» NPC Delegates’ visit to U.S., March 20, 2009

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Huanqiu vs. “Rumors’ Republic”: no World outside the Current Framework

Hong Kong media reported on March 22 that from the afternoon to the night of March 20, military helicopters had been in the air over Beijing, and that tanks had been spotted in Beijing’s Fengtai District, Singapore’s United Morning News (Lianhe Zaobao) wrote on Tuesday1).

A Huanqiu Shibao editorial, also on Tuesday, March 27, on the negative effects of rumors, got a mention in Lianhe Zaobao’s report, too. The following is Huanqiu Shibao’s editorial in full.

Main Link: http://world.huanqiu.com/hot/2012-03/2559706.html

Stick to Society’s Line of Resistance against Rumors

坚守社会对谣言的抵御防线

During the recent number of days, some rumors spread over the internet and beyond, with rarely-seen vigor. Some of them even entangled Chang’an Street and Zhongnanhai which was strange, absurd, and which created confusion within public opinion. Chinese society should be vigilant, concerning these matters, and must not take a laisser-fair attitude towards the dissemination of rumors.

最近一段时间,一些谣言在互联网内外扩散,活跃度相当罕见。一些谣言甚至纠缠上了长安街和中南海,非常离奇、荒唐,形成了对舆论的纷扰。中国社会应对此有所警觉,不可对谣言的传播听之任之。

Admittedly, direct official information isn’t always in step with society’s demands, which makes it easier for rumors to emerge. From a communications perspective, the number and strength of rumors depends on a matter’s importance, and takes advantage on the degree to which the matter is “blurred”. The clearer official information is, the more it addresses public concern, the fewer opportunities there are for rumors.

诚然,中国官方的正面信息有时跟不上社会的需求,使得谣言出笼更容易找到机会。从传播学的角度看,谣言有多少、多强,大约相当于事件的重要性乘以事件的“模糊性”,官方信息越多越明确,越能针对公众的关切,谣言传播的机会就越少。

But while some of the recent days’ rumors were caused naturally, some were also amplified in an abnormal way. Besides official efforts against rumors, society, too, should build a reasonable and moral defense line against rumors. However, there are some people who preach the dismantlement of such a defense line and who openly tout2) the “adequacy” of rumors, claiming that “rumors make the truth emerge” or “enforces reform”. Apparently, their intention is to turn rumors into a “new political shaft” to break away from the current system’s control.

但最近一段时间的谣言,有些是自然发生的,有些则得到了不正常的强化。除了官方透明度对谣言的对冲外,社会还应对谣言有理性及道德层面的抵御防线。但现在有一些人在鼓吹拆掉这些防线,公开吹捧谣言的“正义性”,宣称“谣言倒逼真相”,“谣言倒逼改革”。他们似乎有意让谣言成为脱离现行体制控制的“新政治轴心”。

Publication of official Chinese information must continuously improve, but this improvement can’t be reached by ways of demolition. When it comes to some major issues, wariness is often very important. The dangers of quick release of information are sometimes greater than those from centrally clarified information. Many factors contribute to these risks, including the possibility of the public misreading temporary information. All these [factors] are real.

中国官方信息的发布体系的确需不断改进,但这种改进不可能是推倒式的。在一些重大问题上,谨慎常常很重要。快速发布信息的风险,有时的确大于搞清楚后集中发布的风险。这些风险由很多因素共同促成,包括社会有可能误读阶段性信息等,它们都是真实的。

When it comes to certain events of major importance, knowledge of the event and the building of a consensus take time. Correct, precise handling of issues is usually at the same time significant for the guidance of Chinese society. At some times, information must be allowed to be released with a bit of delay. This is China’s current national condition, and a refusal to face this is not the reasonable attitude of seeking truth from the facts.

对于一些关系特别重大的事,认识事件、营造共识都需要时间。正确、到位地处理好问题,往往同时具有引导中国社会的意义。一些时候信息不得不发布得稍慢一点,这是中国当前的真实国情,不正视它不是实事求是的理性态度。

Looking back on these years, official publication of information has always been moving forward, and the growing transparency of the entire Chinese society has been a constant trend. Objectively speaking, this is one of the most complicated fields of Chinese reform. Promotion of transparency continues to grow, it grants relaxation in core fields, and coordination and integration between the two is vital for China’s progress.

回头看这些年,中国官方在信息披露方面一直在向前走,整个中国社会的透明度呈明显不断增加趋势。客观而言,这是中国改革最复杂的领域之一。推动透明度继续不断增加,和给中国的核心领域留出必要宽松度,这两者之间的协调和统一,对中国的前进至关重要。

The “theories of rumors’ adequacy” ignore all of China’s realities; they are radicalism which tries to be seen as a grassroots [product]. They want to create a world outside the current political framework, in the minds of the public, and to constantly corrupt acknowledgment of the authority within the current system. The concept of “rumors being adequate” is a tool for disintegrating this country’s political framework, and it is a tool which comes at low costs [for those who are operating it].

“谣言合理论”无视中国各种现实,是激进主义经过草根打扮的表演。它实际要的是在现行政治框架外营造一个公众认知的另一个世界,不断腐蚀现行体制内的权威认同。“谣言合理”了,让这个国家在思想和政治上散架就有了相当廉价的工具。

In reality, there has been no country in human history which made progress thanks to rumors enforcing it. Rumors’ overall effect has been overwhelmingly negative. They have always complicated and confused reality, and corrupted public morals.

实际上,人类历史上没有一个国家的进步是靠谣言“倒逼”出来的。谣言在各国历史上的总体负面作用都是压倒性的。它们总是使真相更加扑朔迷离,败坏世风。

The boycott [or resistance against] rumors should be seen as a public service, to be carried out by everyone as a public service. China is in an imperfect development process, but if all the current rumors could be caught in one phrase, it would be that “China’s calamity has reached its utmost point”. These rumors stealthily harm the inner strength of Chinese society, and inserts the virus of bafflement into society’s system of reason.

应把抵制谣言看成中国社会当前人人都可践行的公益活动。中国在“有缺陷地”快速发展,但如果把当前各种谣言汇成一句话,它就是“中国糟糕到了极点”。这些谣言的流行在悄悄损害社会的内力,给社会的理性系统植入有迷惑力的病毒。

The removal of these viruses requires stronger rational coding. It requires, on the one hand, dealing with [the rumors] point by point, and systematic and comprehensive reinforcement and upgrading on the other. Many people have accidentally kept the bad company of the viruses and have suffered from it. Faced with the choice between the anti-virus and the virus, the vast majority of us is undoubtedly on the side of the former.

清除这些病毒需要更加强大的理性编程,既需要点对点地对付它们,也需要系统整体的不断强化和升级。很多人曾不经意与病毒有过交道,吃过它的亏。在“杀毒”和“病毒”之间,我们绝大多数人无疑是前者的同盟军。

Let us protect China’s progress and unity together. Every one of us has the right to encourage this country, and at the same time, every one of us is a determinant in China’s cohesive power. We live in this country, most clearly understand the need for reform in this country, and understand this country’s specific difficulties most clearly. But sure enough, China must not be a “Rumors’ Republic”.

让我们一起维护中国的进步和团结。我们每个人都有权利鞭策这个国家,同时我们每个人又是中国凝聚力的一个因子。我们就生活在这个国家里,最清楚这个国家改革的必要,也最了解这个国家特有的艰难。但毫无疑问,中国不应是“谣言共和国”。

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Notes

1) the link is unlikely to last for more than a few weeks:

http://www.zaobao.com/zg/zg120327_001.shtml

2) 吹捧 – to praise insincerely, frequently with the goal of (political) earnings on ones mind.

The editorial isn’t signed, but the China Digital Times attributes some of its central message to Huanqiu editor-in-chief Hu Xijin (胡锡进), as of March 25. It was apparently turned into this editorial about two days later, i. e. on Wednesday Tuesday.

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Related

» How the Horse broke itself in, March 22, 2012
» Advice to Dissidents, Shanghaiist, March 19, 2012
» Netizens should tolerate Censorship, March 26, 2011

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

So Nervous: Where Art Thou, Zhou Yongkang?

Zhou Yongkang, a member of China’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee (PSC) and head of the country’s 1.5 million-strong police force, is the latest and most senior leader to fall in the battle for control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) if rumors of his downfall have any substance,

Chris Stewart wrote in an article published by the Asia Times (not sure when). And:

It was certainly a fall foretold.

I might read on to find out how it was a fall foretold once the rumors of his downfall turn out to have any substance.

Rumors fly, the Want China Times wrote three days earlier, on March 24, as Zhou Yongkang misses major party meeting.

Well, anyone who was seriously worried which new directions social management might take may now put his or her mind at ease: Zhou Yongkang is “back”.

Senior Chinese leader Zhou Yongkang on Monday called for improved work by political and legislative departments and stressed the Party’s leadership.
Zhou, secretary of the Committee of Political and Legislative Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, made the comments as the first term of training classes began for officials from political and legislative organs from around the country,

People’s Daily (in English) reported on March 26.

Anyway, JR has sensational news for you today: there are unconfirmed rumors that Jiang Zemin may still be with us. Not even the Nanjing Massacre of finance has necessarily dealt the old man’s heart a final blow.

And while I have long believed Bo Xilai to be a very unpleasant man, I suggest that we take allegations that he was less than human with a pinch of salt. It’s an old Chinese rule that people turn out to be monsters, once they have been toppled. And while that’s a particularly popular custom in China, it isn’t an unknown one to Europeans either.

I mean, seriously, who would have thought that Gaddafi might be evil? Or that the Syrian opposition’s mask would come off and reveal a true face of terrorism?

This is a world full of surprises. Fortunately, the media never sleep, and keep us prepared.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bo Xilai’s sudden Exit and Political Reform: between Negation and Affirmation

Recent comment from He Weifang (贺卫方), a Beijing University professor of political science and law, has caught some attention outside China, too, but apparently mostly in Taiwanese media, and at Deutsche Welle (quoted here by Wenxue City). He reportedly analyzed reports about Bo Xilai‘s fall from power as reflected in two Hong Kong papers, Ming Pao (明报) and Sing Tao (星島). His remarks refer to Wen Jiabao‘s press conference on March 14, but probably beyond the Q & A quoted in my post there.

If He analyzed HK papers’ reports, he also got questions from at least one HK reporter, by e-mail. The two questions and answers (links within the following blockquote were added during translation):

Q1: Bo Xilai’s Chongqing model gained a popular backing when wealth gap yawns wide. His policies in Chongqing indeed narrowed wealth gap and gained popular support from residents there. I was wondering if his demise would end his Chongqing model completely? Or in some way, steer people’s attention from the good aspects of Chongqing model?

A: It is generally believed that the so-called “Chongqing Model” is mainly shaped by three aspects: “red culture” on the political level, “targeted actions against dark and evil forces in Chongqing“, and the reduction of the income gaps between the poor and the rich. The most criticized aspects are the former two, although there is support for the two of them in Chongqing and elsewhere. The third aspect isn’t that controversial. However, all data published concerning the efficiency of the measures taken to narrow the income gap are actually issued by the Chongqing authorities, and therefore lacking neutral assessment. Also, we can see that the whole process is strongly government-led, whose focus isn’t on creating a market logic of equal opportunities. If this approach will or will not lead to mistakes in financial policies, including the rural land policies‘ impartiality, is also questionable. And then there are concerns about life today being lead on future earnings, short-term inputs being made to curry favor with the public, which may come at high future costs.

答:一般认为,所谓的重庆模式主要由三方面内容构成:政治层面上的红色文化,执法层面上的“打黑除恶”以及民生方面的缩小贫富差距。最受诟病的是前两者,虽然在重庆和其他地方,似乎也有一些人人对于“唱红”和“打黑”表达支持。第三方面内容相对较少争议。不过,那些举措究竟对于缩小贫富差距产生了怎样的效果,目前得到的信息都是由重庆当局发布的,缺少中立的评估。另外,我们可以看到整个过程是在政府强势主导下进行的,其重点并非创造机会均等的市场逻辑。这种做法是否会带来财政决策中的失误,包括重庆所推行的农村土地政策的公正性,都是大可怀疑的。还有寅吃卯粮的隐忧,短期内的高投入讨好了民众,但是却需要未来付出巨大的代价。

Q2: Bo Xilai’s ouster is welcomed by liberals and reformists, and what do you think his fall means for China’s current stagnating political reform?I noticed in your post yesterday on sina weibo*) you commented that it has tremendous for political reform in China.Can you elaborate it more?

A: Bo Xilai’s removal means that the currently highest level of policymakers reject the use policies with similarities to the cultural revolution to solve problems within the system and within society. Obviously, the way Bo acted and publicized himself played a role, too. The reason why I believe that this event is important for China’s future is that it shows that in recent years, the once extremely powerful [unable to translate this - JR] 嚣尘上且颇具蛊惑力 traditonal socialist pattern has suffered negation within the CCP mainstream. This negation is very important, but the most important question for the future is about “affirmation”, i. e. what the contents of structural political reform [or reform of the political system] will be, and by which measures and strategies the designated goal will be realized. Chief state councillor Wen Jiabao constantly suggested structural political reform, and on certain occasions, he put forward some specific goals, such as elections, freedom of the press and judicial independence, etc., but the obvious conflicts between traditional socialist ideology with these kinds of democratic and rule-of-law values remain obstacles which are difficult to overcome. Besides, to get rid of the difficult situation [caused by] powerful interest groups constitutes a grave test.

答:薄之免职意味着,现在最高决策层拒绝用类似文革式政策解决制度与社会中的问题,当然,导致这样的结果也跟薄本人过于张扬的个性和做派有关。之所以我认为该事件对中国未来的发展意义重大,是因为它表明,近年来甚嚣尘上且颇具蛊惑力的传统社会主义模式遭受到中共主流的否定。这种“否定”非常重要,不过,未来最重大的问题仍在于“肯定”,那就是政治体制改革究竟包含怎样的内容,以及通过怎样的措施和策略实现设定的目标。温家宝总理不断地倡言政治体制改革,某些场合也提出过某些具体目标,如选举、新闻自由以及司法独立等,但是,传统社会主义意识形态与这类民主和法治价值之间的明显冲突仍是中共难以逾越的障碍。另外,破除权贵利益集团困局也是一个严峻的考验。

He’s comment seems to suggest that Wen Jiabao’s exit, scheduled to happen within less than a year, will neither spell the beginning, or the end of political reform. However, Ming Pao quoted He as saying that Wen should be considered a sincere promoter of political reform (雖然無說清內容,可能是「天機不可泄露」,但可以肯定他是一個真誠的政治改革推動者).

One reason as to why the international media didn’t make much of He’s comments may be that he is no insider, and not one of the CCP-leaning scholars who are – presumably –  occasionally used by the party to distribute statements which party officials don’t want to make themselves. By these standards, there is nothing revealing in He’s comments, but they do seem to offer some perspective – beyond the Hu Jintao / Wen Jiabao years.

I’m not suggesting that affirmation (of new values) is going to succeed the negation of the traditional-socialist ones. He isn’t doing that either – he refers to change management as a grave test (一个严峻的考验). However, while the step after “negation” – i. e. affirmation of new values – is one He would like to see, the party is likely to feel more comfortable with the dcoumented bottom-line the incoming and outgoing leaders seem to have agreed to, in October 2011 or some time earlier. In short, I believe a limbo between what He defines as negation (of old values) and affirmation (of new ones) is the most likely status for the coming years.

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Note

*) A Sina Weibo re-post by He on March 14 local time, concerning the changes to the criminal code passed by the “National People’s Congress” on March 14, was reprtedly censored some time later.

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Related

» Lacking Substance, China Post, March 25, 2012
» The original Deutsche Welle report (as republished on Wenxue City), Deutsche Welle, March 24, 2012
» Reform or Risk…, FOARP, March 14, 2012

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rice, Klein: An Equal Shot at the American Dream?

There seem to be four big American political mainstreams these days, when it comes to competitiveness: there is the  “political left”, with a strong camp of people with a sense of entitlement – to welfare – on the one hand, and one that emphasizes the importance of education and personal skills on the other. On the “political right”, there is a camp of people with a sense of entitlement – to national greatness – on the one hand, and one that emphasizes the importance of education and personal skills on the other. The “left” and the “right” still seem to have certain things in common.

Manifest Destiny (by John Gast)

Manifest Destiny (by John Gast): click picture to see the Goddess of the Frontier in her capacity as a cablecaster.

Condoleezza Rice seems to have managed to combine some elements of both collective “greatness” and personal achievement. Shortcomings in the educational systems have become “a national security threat”, she argued in an interview during the PBS Newshour.

Then, of course, there’s the matter of the competitiveness of our economy, people who can fill the jobs and be the innovators of the future, so that the United States maintains its economic edge, and then finally the matter of our social cohesion. The United States, we’ve always been held together by the belief that it doesn’t matter where you came from. It matters where you’re going.

And that is — absolutely, without education, we cannot maintain that cohesion.

She also explains – indirectly -, why they chose to refer to lacking education as a national security problem:

Putting it into a national security rubric shouldn’t be underestimated, because it’s very easy if it’s just about my child. And my child can get a good education because I can either put that child in private school or I can move to a community where the schools are good, then I don’t have to worry so much about that child in East Oakland or in South Central L.A., or in Anacostia, for that matter, who won’t get a good education.

But when you say this is a national security problem, then it is a common problem for all of us.

One could also say that she is trying to reach Republicans with a sense to entitlement to national greatness. Being a member of a task force on education, along with the head of one of the largest teachers union (Randi Weingarten), she may need to justify the company she is in, after all.

It seems to dawn on me why the CCP and the GOP can do business with each other. They aren’t shy of social engineering when their countries’ manifest destinies, or any other destinies, seem to be at stake.

But that’s not the ideal motivation to get things done. A society shouldn’t only ask itself what it owes its children (beyond individual offspring) once this obligation becomes a “national security threat”. It’s an obligation anyway, the times may be good or bad.

The feelings I’m getting when listening to Rice are similar to those I had when reading about Amy Chua‘s account of how she had educated her daughters. Quoting myself,

Issues of education, the question what kind of life a child should live, are not only a matter of ideology here (that’s unfortunatle, too, but normal anyway), but it has become a matter of global politics. This isn’t what Chua necessarily wants to happen, to be clear. She makes it very clear that achievement is good for a child as an individual. But it was foreseeable that the issue of how children could become beneficiaries of their own efforts wouldn’t become the focus of the debate. It’s  “America’s decline” or “China’s rise”.

It’s probably not what Rice wants to happen either. She wants to sell a topic which is usually considered “left”, to a constituency – her own – which is usually “right”. But education is about individuals’ potentials, and an individual’s right to access opportunities. A society that cares about its children as a matter of principle will have a future, and discussions about “national security”, in that case, could stay where they actually belong: within government and within the military.

Should I wish her and her task force on education success? Learning from the CCP is to learn victory? Here’s a quote from the task force’s recommendations:

Human capital will determine power in the current century, and the failure to produce that capital will undermine America’s security,” the report states. “Large, undereducated swaths of the population damage the ability of the United States to physically defend itself, protect its secure information, conduct diplomacy, and grow its economy.

Students as human capital.  It’s a very common term, but that doesn’t make it less ugly. But what a handy approach: paint an awesome picture of “the enemy” to motivate society, including those who could care less about human rights at home otherwise. In certain ways, Germany’s new president might be a subscriber to similar formulae, but it probably wouldn’t be fair to suggest that he thinks of people as raw material.

Joel Klein, another task force member who joined Rice in the PBS interview, stated the issue this way:

If people believe the game is rigged, if people no longer believe that you can start out anywhere and end up at the top successfully in America, that the American dream is part of the past, I think that erodes a sense of belief and confidence in our nation.
It makes us inward-looking. It makes us envious of other people, all the kinds of things that we have avoided as a people. If that turns against us, then I think our national security will be affected.

But I can’t help but feel that there is something wrong. It’s a nice interview, but that’s probably that. The Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss:

Klein was chancellor of of New York City public schools for eight years, running it under the general notion that public education should be run like a business. He closed schools, pushed the expansion of charter schools and launched other initiatives before resigning in 2010 after it was revealed that the standardized test scores that he kept pointing to as proof of the success of his reforms were based on exams that got increasingly easy for students to take. Now he works for Rupert Murdoch.

Oh.
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Related

» Unlikely Murdoch Ally, N. Y. Times, July 23, 2011
» Creative Destruction or Development, March 15, 2010
» Charter Schools, Wikipedia

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