Archive for ‘Japan’

Thursday, April 17, 2014

“Optimizing Something”: Russia centralizes Propaganda, scraps Shortwave Broadcaster and other traditional Institutions

As the end of March drew nearer, central Europeans could still hear the station from afar, a muted signal behind some gentle, steady noise. The “Voice of Russia” targeted Australia and New Zealand with an English-language program of four hours daily, from the transmission site of Angarsk, near Irkutsk. Those appear to have been the last programs in English. Chances are that some programs in Japanese were also still aired at the time. A shortwave listener in Taipei kept listening to VoR’s Chinese programs on shortwave, right to the end on March 31 (his post contains some recordings).

Listeners who wrote inquiries to VoR got a reaction. But overall, very little, if anything, was mentioned in the programs on shortwave, about the nearing end of the service. For sure, no words of respect were lost about the medium’s use during some eighty-five years of Russian external broadcasting. Maybe they hadn’t been of much use after all, as the message never seemed to sink in in the target areas? In that case, you could hardly blame shortwave.

On April 1, all of VoR’s shortwave transmissions had become history.

APN-Verlag, via Radio Moscow

The old-fashioned way: propaganda booklet by mail, Ria Novosti via Radio Moscow, March 31, 1987.

The “Voice of Russia” (VoR), formerly known as Radio Moscow or Radio Moscow World Service, only exists as a brand now, within the media empire of Russia Today, which also swallowed Ria Novosti. “We will use the old brand for the time being, but leading international specialists are already working on the new brands and they will be ready soon, the “Voice of Russia” and/or Interfax quoted Russia Today’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan. A renewed English newswire would be launched on April 1, and it would be available round-the-clock on June 1.

No additional funding would be needed, the editor-in-chief was quoted as saying: “We are not asking additional money for all that, which means we will have to optimize something to get resources for the creation of something more modern. We will stop using obsolete radio broadcasting models, when the signal is transmitted without any control and when it is impossible to calculate who listens to it and where.”

Indeed, this had been the message of Vladimir Putin‘s presidential decree in December, on certain measures to raise the operational effectiveness of state-owned mass media.

Radio Moscow QSL, apparently featuring the Lenin Mausoleum, 1980s.

Radio Moscow QSL, Lenin Mausoleum, 1980s.

On the same day, December 9, Ria Novosti offered a comparatively candid interpretation of the decree: The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape that appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector,

Ria Novosti wrote, and added that

In a separate decree published Monday, the Kremlin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent Russian television presenter and media manager recently embroiled in a scandal over anti-gay remarks, to head Rossiya Segodnya.

Russia Today is the English translation for the actual Russian name, Rossiya Segodnya. Rossiya Segodnya, however, is apparently not related to the English-language television channel whose name had also been “Russia Today”, Ria Novosti wrote.

Ria Novosti then added some more information, beyond its own dissolution:

RIA Novosti was set up in 1941, two days after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, as the Soviet Information Bureau, and now has reporters in over 45 countries providing news in 14 languages.

Last month Gazprom-Media, which is closely linked to state-run gas giant Gazprom, bought control of Russian media company Profmedia from Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin. In October, Mikhail Lesin, a former Kremlin advisor, was appointed to head Gazprom-Media.

Reuters also reported the Gazprom-Media story, in November last year.

Radio Moscow, the “Voice of Russia’s” predecessor as the Russian (or Soviet) foreign broadcasting service, was a superpower on the air, during the 1980s. 2094 program hours per week are said to have been produced in that decade,  compared with 1901 hours per week by their American competitors at the Voice of America (VoA).

The discrepancy was even greater when it came to transmitters and kilowatts,according to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel at the time: while Radio Moscow had threehundred transmission sites at their disposal, it was only 110 on the American side – and VoA only had one-twentieth the budget of Radio Moscow.

That was to change, at least in relative terms: the Reagan administration had convinced Congress to provide considerable funding. But as the Cold War came to an end, government interest on all sides in foreign broadcasting faded.

As far as Russia’s external broadcasters, now named “The Voice of Russia”, was concerned, not only the financial or technical equipment weakened, but so, apparently, did their self-image. Religious and esoteric organizations populated many last quarters of the Voice’s – still numerous – broadcasting hours in German, and at least among German-language broadcasters, there seemed to be different concepts of what would be successful or professional coverage of Russian affairs, a feature by German broadcaster DLF suggested.

The broadcasting house certainly no longer came across as the elites’ jumping board, as a place where Egon Erwin Kisch or Bertolt Brecht once worked.

The Kremlin, apparently, saw neither glory and soft power, nor a sufficient degree of checkability in VoR and put an end to the station. It’s hardly conceivable that it could still be revived as a mere “brand”, without actual radio whose signals would reach beyond a few square miles.

But “daily Russian life” – something Russia Today is supposed to cover – may still look different from the ideas of the “new generation” of media planners. On ham radio bands with wide reaches, Russian operators are active above average. And even if Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia’s new propaganda mega-medium, may be unaware of ham radio or finds it uncool, her boss, Dmitry Kiselyov, should still like it: a ham radio contest commemorating Yuri Gagarin’s 80th birthday.

After all, the internet is a rather non-traditional form of propaganda.

Will Putin’s message sink in, where Stalin’s, Khrushchev’s, or Brezhnev’s mostly failed? If not, don’t blame shortwave – and don’t blame the internet, for that matter.

____________

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Japan and South Korean Press: some Sex and Radiation

Conventional wisdom has it that there’s a lot of distrust between China and Japan. There’s also a lot of distrust between Japan and Korea (North and South). And there are Chinese-Korean relations (North and South) which aren’t that easy to characterize.

For ordinary people, there seem to be two worlds. There’s the real world, where you meet people – when travelling for work, and when travelling for fun.

And there’s the internet world.

The difference between these two worlds: the internet is highly politicized. That has been true for the printed press, too, but it never seemed to influence people as much as does the online world. Maybe the internet gives people the feeling that they play a role of their own in shaping it. This may actually be true. But the internet is shaping them in turn. When experienced, skilled propagandists and agenda sellers appear on the scene, frequently unrecognized and unrecognizable, chances are that they will manufacture consent or dissent, according to their goals, commercial or political.

Newspaper articles have always angered people, even in pre-digital times. Once in a while, someone would actually put pen or typewriter to paper and write a letter to the editor – in the evening, or whenever he or she found the time. But more frequently, the anger would evaporate within minutes or hours. There would be no visible reader’s reaction.

The internet is quite different. Once people have joined a discussion (which is easy to do), they will stay involved for quite a while, at least mentally.

A dumb headline is enough to create a shitstorm. Try How to date Japanese women who haven’t been exposed to radiation, published by the South Korean publication „Maxim“. According to this report by the Global Post, Korean readers were quick to point [that headline] out as inappropriate given the sensitive nature of Japan’s continuing recovery after the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima disaster. But obviously, once someone is offended, this isn’t good enough, and the offended themselves need to speak out, too.

In no uncertain terms

I thought I’d better depict a Caucasian.

But there were messages from the real world, too:

I’m amazed that the mass media is able to link any article to anti-Japanese sentiment, regardless of what the incident is.

What a spoilsport.

Some statistics: the Maxim editor-in-chief reportedly apologized twice. The first apology was – reportedly – widely read as another attack on Japanese dignity, rather than a real apology.

Therefore, a second apology from the editor-in-chief was needed. It still didn’t seem to read like a sincere apology. Hence, it caught more than 130 Japanese comments in one day.

Is that a lot, or is it marginal? The Japanese who wrote those over 130 comments didn’t need to speak or write Korean. Their debate was hosted by the electronic version and the Japanese-language version of the JoonAng Ilbo, one of South Korea’s top three influential newspapers, Japan Today reported on Wednesday.

Was this a worthwhile story? And how many of the Japanese who commented there were actually Japanese women?

Thanks for your time, dear reader.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasakuni Shrine

Listening to Radio Taiwan International and KBS Seoul‘s foreign service, the unease about Shinzo Abe‘s visit to the Yasakuni Shrine is palpable. I don’t know how Japanese people feel about their prime minister’s visit, or about utterances by Japanese politicians who trivialize their country’s past warcrimes. My guess is that there are many different feelings among the Japanese – but that a majority elects politicians with these kinds of attitudes anyway.

I’m not familiar with the Yasakuni Shrine. There may be reasons to visit ancestors, no matter their past. But when a politician tries to play crimes down, or if he denies them, there is something wrong with him.

If politicians from my country were careless or disrespectful about the sufferings of victims abroad, I wouldn’t believe for a moment that such politicians could care any more about injustices that hit people at home. I wouldn’t believe that he might be able to respect my dignity, or the dignity of his and my compatriots. A politician with a flawed sense of justice wouldn’t get my vote.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Central Committee 3rd Plenary Session Communiqué: a State Security Bureaucracy

Main Link: The Fifth Big State Institution – 第五大国家机构, Enorth/CPBS, November 13, 2013

While the 18th central committee’s third plenum’s communiqué doesn’t appear to reveal a lot about future economic or social reforms in general (I haven’t read it myself), a fifth big state institution (第五大国家机构, or party institution for that matter), in addition to  the CCP central committee, the state council, the “National People’s Congress” and the “The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference” may be taking shape – but to suggest that, Chinese media apparently need to quote foreign media or observers. An article by Enorth (Tianjin) is apparently based on China’s domestic radio (Central People’s Broadcasting Station, CPBS, or CNR) in its coverage – possibly because not everyone has the right to quote foreign sources anymore.

The fifth big state institution would be a state security committee. Analysts are quoted as saying that a double role of dealing with basic domestic and external challenges could be discerned.

Plans for a state security committee had been made or demanded since 1997, but were only now taking shape, says the article. And many other countries had similar institutions: America’s national security council (since 1947), France (since 2008), Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Turkey, Thailand, and Malaysia, for example. In Japan, the establishment of a national security council was underway, too.

A security committee needed to be a permanent institution, experts are quoted. And Ruan Zongze, once a secretary in China’s embassy in Britain and now vice director at the China Institute of International Studies, reportedly suggests that building a state security committee was an important and innovative measure, and indicating the growing dynamics of Chinese foreign policy.

____________

Updates/Related

» Terrorists will be nervous, CRI, Nov 14, 2013

____________

Friday, October 4, 2013

Obituary: Vo Nguyen Giap, 1911 – 2013

-

Vo Nguyen Giap worked as a teacher, journalist, historian and revolutionary, a Voice of Vietnam newsarticle says. The following are newsarticles or excerpts in Chinese (from CNA, Xinhua, and Ta Kung Pao). Subtitles and links within blockquotes added during translation.

1. CNA, Taiwan, 22:49 Taiwan local time

Independence Hero

CNA Hanoi, October 4, summary report

Reuters reports that according to his family people, Vietnam’s highly respected independence hero, General Vo Nguyen Giap has died, aged 102. A government source [in Hanoi] told AFP that “I can confirm that General Vo Nguyen Giap has died today at 18:06″. A military source confirmed the time of death. Vo Nguyen Giap had been receiving treatment in a Hanoi military hospital for several years in a row.

Vo Nguyen Giap was one of Vietnam’s best-known personalities of the 20th century. The guerilla tactics he adopteddefeated France in 1954 and American-supported South Vietnam in 1975, and historians see him among Montgomery, Rommel, MacArthur, and similar military giants.

Vo Nguyen Giap was one of the main founders of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam [North Vietnam], the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, and of the Vietnam People’s Army. He also served as a general of the People’s Army, as defense minister, as member of the politburo, and in other functions.

-

2. Takungpao, Hong Kong, October 4, 23:12

“An old Friend of the Chinese People”

Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnamese important military leader in the wars of resistance against France and America, died on October 4, aged 102.

[...]

Vietnam came under control of groups leaning towards the Soviet Union and opposing China, but because of Vo Nguyen Giap’s position, there remained a balance between leaning towards China and the USSR. When overseas Chinese people [in Vietnam] were treated unfairly after 1975, Vo Nguyen Giap criticized this as “overbearing”. When the rift between China and Vietnam grew after 1978, he suggested “to ease the conflict with China”. he was dismissed [from his political functions, apparently] in February 1980, and made efforts for improvement of Sino-Vietnamese relations in 1990. Relations were normalized one year later [in 1991]. Vo Nguyen Giap was warmly referred to as “an old friend of the Chinese people”.

-

3. People’s Daily online, via Xinhua,

Not a Soldier from the Beginning

October 4 (same news article published by Huanqiu Shibao)

According to American media reports of October 4, the important military leader in Vietnam’s wars of resistance against France and America, Vo Nguyen Giap, has died aged 102.

Vo Nguyen Giap was born in Vietnam’s Quang Binh Province, on August 25, 1911. According to Vietnam Newsagency VNA, he is among the longest-living personalities in worldwide military history. He wasn’t a soldier from the beginning, having studied law and political economics, and later joined Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam Independence Alliance.

After the outbreak of the war of resistance against France, Vo Nguyen Giap directed military operations for several years, as defense minister and chief commander. The Vietnamese army’s victory over the French aggressor troops in the battle of Dien Bien Phu astonished the world. In his own words, it was “[Vietnam's] first victory over the West”.

-

Giap lived in Chinese exile for some time as Japan invaded Vietnam, writes the BBC. His first wife was arrested during that time, and died in a French prison.

In his late years, Giap was a critic of bauxite mining in Vietnam.

____________

Related

» Threat of Invasion, April 29, 2009

____________

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Reforming China’s Financial System: who will bear the Costs?

Warning: JR is trying to explain the economy to himself. His word pool and previous knowledge about this topic are shaky, and the following may or may not make sense – you’ll have only have yourselves to blame if you base your homework (or investment decisions) on this post.

This is not the first time that a “financial crisis” is predicted for China, and certainly not so in Western media, which seem to have become aware of problems in China’s financial system by 2011. It doesn’t seem unlikely that the times of export-led growth in China are coming to an end – a new policy needs to be found, and it will need to be more specific than these.

The third wave of the global financial crisis is likely to occur in the emerging markets, and it is in its preliminary (or brewing) stage in China, Hong Kong’s Beijing-leaning Wen Wei Po (文匯報) quoted Guan Qingyou (管清友), assistant dean of the Minsheng Securities Research Institute, on June 21. However, it hadn’t started yet, Guan added, and there were two reasons for that. America’s Federal Reserve Bank hadn’t sufficient reason yet to exit its quantative easing policy, and the Bank of Japan, Japan’s central bank, was firm in its radical easing policies.

But that was no reason to lean back, Wen Wei Po continues to quote Guan Qingyou. The longer the brewing stage of the crisis lasted, the more fiercely it would become once it broke out. For the time being, there were three firewalls, Guan suggested: China’s current account suprlus with a corresponding amount of foreign-exchange reserves, a capital account that hadn’t yet been completely liberalized, and short-term capital flight would therefore be limited, and thirdly, China’s financial system was relatively stable – this third aspect had allowed China to escape the Asian financial crisis (of 1997) rather unharmed. Despite these reassuring short-term “firewalls”, an aging population, growing financial risks and excess production capacity stemming from overinvestment as well as high housing/property prices were burdens that made it difficult for China to prosper.

It would therefore be possible to avoid an acute currency crisis, Wen Wei Po quotes Guan Qingyou.

On July 2, China News Service quoted excerpts from Hong Kong’s Ming Pao‘s (明報) July 2 edition. Here, too, the Federal Reserve got a mention: there was no fixed end to the third round of quantative easing, and it would continue until the US economy’s recovery was really steady. This positive change would occur later this year, the Federal Reserve is quoted as predicting – “we hope that the Fed is right”, China News Service quotes Ming Pao.

The Fed’s “quantative easing” was at times cussed in the Chinese media (I can’t tell if that was also true for Hong Kong media) during the first years of the financial crisis, for destabilizing the global economy (and, presumably, for devaluing both the dollar and the U.S. bonds China holds  as America’s creditor). But few Chinese observers appear to be waiting for an end to quantative easing too impatiently.
Ming Pao, according to China News Service, uses some stronger language than Wen Wei Po in describing the need for Chinese financial market reforms: just as the economy was slowing down in China, and while the global markets weren’t stable, the Chinese central bank was trying to defuse the bomb in China’s financial system:

To meet their needs for working capital, mainland private enterprises are often seriously dependent on short-term funding. And if Chinese everywhere scramble for working capital, the whole Asian supply chain may become affected. This is bad news for the close regional ties between exporting and processing enterprises in mainland China. If the tightening period drags on, this will also negatively affect northeast Asian countries depending on Chinese growth.

内地的私营企业为满足营运资金的需求,往往 严重依赖短期资金。因此,若中国供货商到处争夺营运资金,整条亚洲供应链都可能会受到干扰。对于与内地出 口加工企业关系密切的地区出口商来说,这是个坏消息。若内地的紧缩周期拖长,对于那些俨如中国经济增长寒暑表的东北亚国家来说,将会不利。

The more resolute China’s [financial?] reform plans, the more painful the labor pain will be. The decision makers will try to increase the efficiency of capital use within the financial system. There is no “painless” way of dealing with the problem of debt dependence.

中国的改革计划愈有决心,这种阵痛的时间就愈长。决策者试图提高资金在金融系统内的运用效率。要处理之前遗留下来的债务依赖问题,实在没有“无痛”的方法。

Access to loans had long been a problem for smaller and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Occasionally even the press seemed to confront the central bank with the issue. A Zhejiang Satellite TV reporter asked People’s Bank of China (PBoC)  governor Zhou Xiaochuan in March 2011 how, under a tightening policy, harm for the SMEs can be avoided, given that banks could easily raise interest rates, and the SMEs had absolutely no bargaining power. Zhou’s answer amounted to a speech, rather than to an answer, and the only “practical advice” it contained basically amounted to a one-liner: We also encourage small companies to choose from the market.

The central bank hasn’t earned itself better grades very recently either, at least not by the Economist‘s standards: stirred by one trillion yuan added to the commercial banks’ loanbooks during the first ten days of June, the PBoC concluded that some banks were expecting a fresh government stimulus to revive a slowing economy and had “positioned themselves in advance”. But rather than going into another illicit lending orgy, the commercial banks had – arguably – only recognized existing loans in deference to the regulator’s instructions.

The message the BBC‘s Laurence Knight reads into the PBoC’s decisions is that the newly-ensconced government of President Xi Jinping is deadly serious about “rebalancing” China’s economy. (Knight’s story also contains a history of China’s recent “cheap-money era”, i. e. the stimulus package, and how small borrowers have been marginalised from the mainstream financial system.

But if the Xi leadership is indeed deadly serious about addressing the reform of the financial system, the question remains who will need to bear the pain Ming Pao (as quoted by China News Service) predicted on July 2. Michael Pettis, finance professor at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, can think of one sector which must not take the burden:

You can only resolve a bad debt problem by assigning the cost to some sector of the economy. In the past it was the household sector that implicitly paid to clean up the debt, but if we expect rapid growth in household consumption to lead the economy going forward, and this is what rebalancing means in the Chinese context, we cannot also expect the household sector to clean up the bad debt in the same way it has done so over the past decade.

But if growth led by domestic demand – instead of export-led growth – is indeed the goal, neither Guan Qingyou’s comments as quoted by Wen Wei Po nor Ming Pao’s article as quoted by China News Service seem to hint at such a solution.  And when it comes to China’s colonial possessions, investment appears to remain the only answer, to economic and political problems alike. But then, excess production capacity may hardly be the main issue there, in the short run.

Monday, June 3, 2013

June 4, 1989: the Unsinkable Boat of Stone

Tiananmen Square has a meaning to China – not just Beijing – as deep as the Place de la Bastille‘s for Paris, or that of the Alexanderplatz for Berlin. On 400,000 square meters, Tiananmen Square – according to relevant tourist information – provides space for one million people. That’s how the square has been used – for gatherings ordered by the Chinese Communist Party, when Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic, for Hua Guofeng‘s eulogy on Mao Zedong in 1976, and for military parades celebrating the People’s Republic’s 35th, 50th, and 60th birthday.

In 1997, on Tiananmen Square, a limited number of people celebrated the return of Hong Kong. The limitation had conjecturable reasons – eight years and four weeks earlier, Chinese army and police troops had quashed a student movement – that movement, too, had its public center in Tiananmen Square.

Ever since 1911, Tiananmen Square had been a place for gatherings outside the scripts of the powers that be. The first, probably, was the May-Fourth movement, sparked by the transfer of formerly German possessions in Shandong Province to Japan, rather than to China, in 1919, after World War One. Chinese intellectuals had begun to perceive their country not just as a civilization, but as a nation, interacting with other nations and falling behind internationally. In 1919, there were no celebrations. There were protests.

The May-Fourth movement has since been canonized. CCP historians see the movement as the beginning of progressive processes during the first half of the 20th century, leading to the CCP’s rise to power. But even Hua Guofeng’s eulogy on Mao, in September 1976, had been preceded by expressions of grief months earlier, in April, for the late chief state councillor Zhou Enlai. The more radical followers of Mao Zedong considered that an affront.

Personal impressions from the 1976 “Tian An Men incident” apparently made Wu Renhua, later a dissident, honor Hu Yaobang with a wreath on Tiananmen Square, in April 1989. Hu Yaobang had just passed away, and some points seem to be noteworthy:

When Hu died, he had been removed as the CCP secretary general for more than two years. Apparently, the party leadership had considered him to be too reform-minded. Expressions of grief from the population might be considered an affront by the party leaders, too, and they probably did, even if it took more than six weeks for the party to put an end to the movement of intellectuals and students in  which Wu Renhua had been taking part.

By then, the movement had long gone beyond their original motivation of honoring Hu Yaobang. Through anti-corruption protest, it had turned into a movement for democracy.

Also, Wu Renhua, then an about thirty-three years old lecturer from the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, was part of the movement, but – according to his own account – rather going along with it, than driving it. His actual confrontational attitude towards the CCP  only built after the massacre – an outrage that he had never seemed to expect from his country’s leaders.

And even if the University of Political Science and Law played an important role in the 1989 movement, the Beijing University, the Beida, had the traditional, leading role.

Rivalries among the 1989 dissidents are nothing unusual today. Frequently, they are personal rather than political, accompanied by allegations that X is self-important, that Y is a CCP collaborator, or that Z is remote-controlled by Falun Gong – somehow unpredictable or dangerous.

June 4 has become an unsolved complex in Chinese history. Whoever studied in a major Chinese city in 1989 will know that complex. “Sure”, a Shanghainese told me in the early 1990s, “we were all protesting.” To her, however, the matter was closed with the end of the movement – ostensibly, anyway. Many Chinese people born after 1989 hardly know about the existence of the movement, and among those who do remember it, at least some consider the crackdown a rather lucky outcome: be it because they don’t think that the students were able to handle politics in 1989, be it because they see a foreign conspiracy against China’s stability and China’s rise behind the former movement.

By 2008, a trend had changed. Many Chinese people who used to feel respect for (Western) democracies had changed their mind. Frequently negative coverage by Western media on the Beijing Olympics certainly played a role here – the negative foreign echo was spread selectively, but broadly by Chinese media. Some overseas Chinese in Germany even organized a silent protest against the biased German media who had failed to spread their patriotic message and who had therefore muzzled them. Add how the mighty had fallen in the financial crisis – China’s period of growth still continued, thanks to state stimulus programs that tried to compensate for falling imports by Western economies. Criticism from abroad – that’s how the Chinese public was informed (frequently correctly) – was an expression of foreign envy. The ideas so vigorously discussed in 1989 have given way to the truculent nationalism of new generations, Isabel Hilton noted in 2009.

In 1990, Yang Lian (楊煉), a Chinese poet in exile, published this:

The darker the sky, you say that the boat is old,
the storms it bore are long gone,
it is for us to erase the Self, let the boat of stone rot away.1)

That, of course, is the last thing a boat of stone will do.

What is the role of the 1989 dissidents today? According to C. A. Yeung, an Australian blogger and human rights activist, hardly any role. Dissidents abroad, above all, appear to be out of touch with many activists inside China. This may also be true for Wei Jingsheng, an exiled Chinese who lives in Washington D.C..

Wei wasn’t part of the 1989 movement. At the time, he had been a political prisoner for some ten years. He was only released in 1993, and soon, he was re-arrested. Since 1997, he has been in America.

It requires a strong – and at times probably dogmatic – personality to resist the pressures Wei faced. No confessions, no concessions to the Chinese authorities through all the years of imprisonment. To people like Wei, “foreign interference” in China’s “internal affairs” is no sacrilege, but necessity. Such “interference” may not create space to live for open dissidents in totalitarian countries, but it does, at times, enable dissidents to survive. In that light, it was only logical that Wei attended a hearing of the German federal parliament’s culture and media committee on December 2008, about the alleged proximity of Germany’s foreign broadcaster’s Chinese department (Deutsche Welle, DW)  to the CCP. DW Staff and program should defend human rights and democracy as a matter of principle, Wei demanded.

It turned out that Wei didn’t actually know the DW programs, jeered Xinhua newsagency.  Wei didn’t disagree: “As a matter of fact, I have said from earlier on that I would not listen to the broadcast of the Deutsche Welle’s Chinese service that has been speaking on the CCP’s behalf.”

Such appearances in foreign parliaments may appear fussy, and near-irrelevant. But in 2002, Dutch author and exile observer Ian Buruma had still believed that Chinese dissidents abroad could play a big role:

Let’s say there are suddenly serious splits in the Chinese government. Things start to move rather quickly. All kinds of things are going to happen. And then, it can be that you suddenly need people who know how to operate in Washington, who know which buttons to press and [who] have contacts in Congress, and so on. And this has happened in the case of Taiwan, for example, where you had dissidents in the 60s and 70s who hung around, languished, were considered to be irrelevant until things began to change in Taiwan politically and suddenly, they were important.2)

But maybe, by now, that role has diminuished further – if Buruma’s original observations were correct. Maybe Wei Jingsheng and other dissidents, among them those who had to leave China after June 4, 1989, will play a role similar to the one Wolf Biermann, an East German exile in West Germany, anticipated for himself long before the Berlin Wall came down: at times cheering from the sidelines, providing advice once in a while, but hardly authoritatively. Only on his return to East Germany, Biermann mused, his actual exile would begin, as hardly anyone would recognize him: Dann beginnt erst mein Exil.

The actual historical events of spring 1989 are a different story, however. These days, the CCP neither condemns the events, nor does it condone them. The topic is entirely shunned.

In Hong Kong, people haven’t forgotten. After all, the June-4 crackdown came as a shock for a society that was to return to the motherland eight years and a month later. June 4 is part of tradition there. For many Hong Kong activists who demand more democratic rights for Hong Kongers themselves, solidarity with mainland activists or dissidents is part of their self-image.

The only official evaluation so far: Deng Xiaoping defends his reform policies of economic openness and political repression, June 9, 1989

The only official evaluation so far: Deng Xiaoping defends his reform policies of economic openness and political repression, June 9, 1989 (click picture for video)

In 1995, Deng Xiaoping‘s daughter Deng Rong suggested in an interview with the New York Times  that only later generations could judge the 1989 events. She didn’t know how people thought about it – but my father at least, in his heart, believed that he had no other way.

It may take years before a re-evaluation of the 1989 movements may begin. Or it may only take months. The CCP could initiate one if it feels strong enough, or the citizenry could initiate one if the party gets weaker.

Nobody inside or outside China knows what is being thought about the movement. And many Chinese may only find out what they think once it becomes a topic – when it gets unearthed, gradually or rapidly, in a controlled or spontaneous process.

____________

Notes

1) Yang Lian: Alte Geschichten (I-IV), Der einzige Hafen des Sommers, aus: Masken und Krokodile, Berlin, Weimar 1994, quoted by Joachim Sartorius (Hrsg): Atlas der Neuen Poesie, Reinbek, 1996, S. 67.
天空更加阴暗  你说  这船老了
一生运载的风暴都已走远
该卸下自己了  让石头船舷去腐烂
夏季  是惟一的港口

2) Jatinder Verma: Asian Diasporas, BBC (World Service), Sept 2, 2002

____________

Monday, May 27, 2013

Press Review: Li Keqiang in Germany, and the only Disharmony

Xinhua, via Enorth (Tianjin), May 27, 2013 —

Chief state concillor Li Keqiang met with German president Gauck on Sunday.

国务院总理李克强26日在柏林会见德国总统高克。

Li Keqiang conveyed the cordial greetings and best wishes from chairman Xi Jinping. Li Keqiang said that current Sino-German relations were continuously reaching new developments on a high level, with both countries facing rare opportunities. With Merkel, we have deepened the Sino-German strategic partnership, and we held talks about strengthening cooperation in all kinds of fields. The two sides have issued a press communiqué, clearly stating the key areas and the direction of cooperation for our two countries. China is looking forward to strengthen dialog and exchange with Germany on the principles of respect and equal treatment, to enhancing understanding and mutual trust, to jointly cope with challenges.

李克强转达了习近平主席的亲切问候和良好祝愿。李克强说,当前中德关系在高水平上不断取得新发展,两国合作面临难得机遇。我同默克尔总理就深化中德战略伙 伴关系、加强各领域合作举行了很好的会谈,双方发表联合新闻公报,明确两国重点领域合作方向。中方愿本着相互尊重、平等相待的原则,同德方加强对话交流, 增进了解和互信,共同应对挑战。

Discussing China’s development and domestic situation, Li Keqiang said that all along during the past thirty years, China had moved forward, and the economy had achieved huge successes. Construction of a democratic legal system and the cause of human rights had constantly progressed. As a big developing country with 1.3 billion inhabitants, China’s path towards modernization was still long. We are acting from our own country’s national situation [国情, guóqíng, also translated as national characteristics or national circumstances sometimes], adhere to the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and at the same time, we want to draw on the civilizational achievements and experiences to achieve comprehensive development even better.

在谈到中国的发展和国内情况时,李克强表示,中国过去30多年一直在改革开放中不停顿地前行,经济社会发展取得巨大成就,民主法制建设和人权事业不断进步。中国作为一个拥有13亿人口的发展中大国,要实现现代化还有很长的路要走。我们从本国国情出发,将坚持走中国特色社会主义道路,同时愿借鉴人类社会的文明成果和有关发展经验,更好实现全面发展。

Gauck welcomed Li Keqiang to Germany and asked him to convey his cordial greetings to Xi Jinping. Gauck said that Germany and China both had a long history and magnificent cultures, and relations between the two countries had developed fine in recent years. Germany admires the achievements of China’s economic and social development and wants to strengthen cooperation and dialog with China in politics, economics, the humanities and other fields, and to promote further development in the relations of the two countries.

高克欢迎李克强访德,并请转达对习近平主席的亲切问候。高克说,德中都拥有悠久历史和灿烂文化,两国关系近年发展良好。德国钦佩中国经济社会发展取得的成就,愿同中方加强政治、经济、人文等领域的合作与对话,推动两国关系取得新发展。

Li also met with Brandenburg’s minister-president Matthias Platzeck in the regional capital Potsdam, next to Berlin. In Potsdam,visiting Cecilienhof Castle there,

Rheinische Post (RP) onkine, May 26, 2013 —

Li Keqiang re-emphaszized his country’s claim on an uninhabited group of islands in the East China Sea. Japan had to hand the territories back to China. “This was a hard-earned fruit of victory”, Li said, pointing to international post-war agreements. The islands, contested between the two countries, had once been stolen from China by Japan.

Li Keqiang bekräftigte in Potsdam den Anspruch seines Landes auf eine unbewohnte Inselgruppe im Ostchinesischen Meer. Japan müsse die Territorien an China zurückgeben. “Das war die Frucht des Sieges, der hart erkämpft wurde”, sagte Li unter Verweis auf internationale Abkommen der Nachkriegszeit. Die zwischen beiden Ländern seit langem umstrittenen Inseln seien China einst von Japan gestohlen worden.

Märkische Allgemeine, May 26, 2013 —

In front of the castle [Cecilienhof], some flurry arose when two Tibet activists wanted to register a spontaneous demonstration. Security forces stopped the protest “along the route of protocol”, as a police spokesman told the MAZ [Märkische Allgemeine Zeitung].

Vor dem Schloss kam kurz Unruhe auf, als zwei Tibet-Aktivisten eine spontane Demonstration anmelden wollten. Sicherheitskräfte unterbanden jedoch den Protest “entlang der Protokollstrecke”, wie ein Polizeisprecher gegenüber der MAZ sagte.

Platzeck, whose heart beats for Dortmund, revealed that the Chinese guest was a soccer fan and that they had talked about the game [between Borussia and Bayern], too. It had turned out that Keqiang had more been in favor of Bayern Munich. That, however, had been the only disharmony between the two politicians, Platzeck assured.

Platzeck, dessen Herz für Dortmund schlug, verriet, dass der chinesische Gast ein Fußball-Fan sei und man auch über das Spiel am Vorabend gesprochen habe. Dabei stellte sich heraus, dass Keqiang eher für den FC Bayern gehalten habe. Dies, so versicherte Platzeck, sei aber die einzige Disharmonie zwischen den beiden Politikern gewesen.

____________

Related

» Merkel vows, Bloomberg, May 27, 2013
» Industriousness and Wisdom, Jan 9, 2011
» Full of Vitality and Vigor, July 16, 2010

____________

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers