Posts tagged ‘accountability’

Saturday, December 13, 2014

After Zhou Yongkang’s Arrest: Xi Jinping rules – but how safe will he be in [2013] 2023?

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A regular stream of news from the anti-corruption front keeps flowing to keep the Chinese public happy.

Hammer and Chisel

Hammer and Chisel

Zhang Xinhua (张新华), an industrial manager, sentenced to death on Wednesday, for embezzlement of some 340 Million Yuan RMB, a China News Service (中新网) article republished here by Enorth (Tianjin) reported on that same day.

Li Zhijiang (李志江), a former member of Taiyuan’s CPC city committee‘s standing committee and former head of the party’s organizational department there, has been removed from his posts for violating the spirit of the CCP’s Eight Provisions (中央八项规定精神), neglecting his job (or dereliction of duty, 失职), and other mistakes. This seems to have happened some time ago, a People’s Daily online article, rendered here by Youth Net, wrote this week.

And former development and reform commission deputy director Liu Tienan (刘铁男) goes to jail for life, CCTV reported, also rendered by Youth Net, on Wednesday. Liu had come under scrutiny late in 2012, thanks to the research of an investigative journalist.

Zhou Yongkang (周永康) is no longer a party member, and his arrest was announced on December 5. In its Banyan column, The Economist is critical of how China’s former “security” tsar is being treated by his – also former – comrades:

He has always looked a rather nasty piece of work, and China’s press now tells us just how nasty. Zhou Yongkang is a thief, a bully, a philanderer and a traitor who disclosed state secrets. The spider at the centre of a web of corrupt patronage, he enriched himself, his family, his many mistresses and his cronies at vast cost to the government.

But some delighted Chinese readers might also wonder how Zhou could possibly make it to the top if he was such a thoroughly bad egg.

Basically all the foreign press considers Zhou’s big fall – the biggest fall of the biggest stakeholder ever since the Gang of Four – as proof that CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping is now in full control at the helm. But The Economist also warns that

[..] Mr Zhou’s case carries a danger for Mr Xi. By advertising the party as motivated by its zeal to combat corruption and as led by those promoted solely on merit, he may raise expectations of transparency and honesty that he will find hard to meet.

There are other big question marks, too. By recent standards – i. e. for the past two decades or so -, there has been an arrangement among China’s top leaders of how they come to power, and how they leave power. Any member of the collective leaderships with Jiang Zemin (until 2002) and Hu Jintao (until 2012) at the core would be a member of the politburo’s standing committee for a maximum of ten years. And no leader after Jiang Zemin would stay in power for more than ten years either.

Jiang and Hu never seem to have tried breaking that rule.

This theory of how succession works in Beijing suggests that Deng Xiaoping, after having had to sack two party secretary-generals,

made an unprecedented move – he simultaneously appointed two generations of successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. One generation had to pass on the leadership to the next after two terms, after 10 years. This arrangement had one advantage, in this way there existed a mutually constraining relationship between two generations of successors; when Jiang’s time was over, he had to pass leadership on to Hu and thus, he would not generate the courage to betray the inflated ego of Deng Xiaoping; after handing the power over, Jiang would automatically come under Hu’s authority and so in order to protect himself, he would avoid a life-and-death struggle between two factions. Hu, on the other hand, had to rely on the legitimacy granted by Deng Xiaoping so as to guarantee that he would actually take over power according to plan and also so as to avoid that he would, like many successors in the past, leave the stage in poverty and misery; hence, he was very much concerned about treating Deng Xiaoping’s ideas as his guiding principles, protecting them with everything he had.

One may wonder if Xi Jinping is going to accept the same arrangement for himself, in 2022/23. It can be hard to be a pensioner in Zhongnanhai.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Zhou Yongkang’s big Fall and Citizen Power Fantasies

Zhou Yongkang has been arrested and expelled from the Communist Party, the BBC quotes Chinese media reports, and quotes a cute Sina-Weibo post from an apparently Chinese user: We have zero-tolerance against corruption!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Spanish House of Representatives President meets with Shortwave Supporters

Jesús Posada, president of the House of Representatives, the lower house of Spain’s parliament, met with representatives of several professional organizations who are trying to bring Radio Exterior de España (REE) back to shortwave. The Association of the Spanish Press in Madrid published this information on Wednesday, quoting from a release by a public platform formed by these and other officials and activists. Among the shortwave supporters received by Posada at the House of Represenatives were Joaquín Cadilla, president of the organization of longline fishermen (Organización de Palangreros Guardeses / ORPAGU), Aurelio Martin, vice president of the Federation of Journalist Associations in Spain (Federación de Asociaciones de Periodistas de España, FAPE), Augustin Yanel, secretary general of the Federation of Journalists Trade Unions (Federación de Sindicatos de Periodistas, FeSP), and Amparo Rodriguez, in charge of communication. The platform bases their complaint against the closure of the Noblejas shortwave transmitting site on the right of access to information (derecho a la información – my translation is almost definitely not legally appropriate), stating that there are thousands of Spaniards – fishermen or seafaring people, civilian and military- who have no access to the internet or satellite broadcasts.

The note also says that on about November 25, Spanish Radio and Television (RTVE) president José Antonio Sánchez will answer questions of a parliamentary commission concerning the criteria for closing Noblejas transmitting center down and dismantling it. The oppositional Socialist group requested the session.

APM also lists the members of the platform, as well as associate members.

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Updates / Related

» Solos en el Océano, El Pais, Nov 9, 2014

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Related

» Petition, October 14, 2014
» REE abandons shortwave, Oct 3, 2014

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

China’s Legal Reform Projects: Slowly, very slowly

The fourth plenary session of the 18th CCP central committee took place from October 20 to October 23. Less than a month before the opening of the plenum, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted a politburo statement of September 29 as saying that the plenary session’s focus would be on improving the administration of law. At the center of that, according to the SCMP, would be a battle against corruption.

In July, Stanley Lubman, a lawyer and longtime observer of legal issues in China, wrote in the Wall Street Journal‘s (WSJ) China blog (China Realtime) that the CCP’s central leading group for judicial reform of the party and the “Supreme People’s Court” were signalling a serious intention to implement measures that could lead to a shift of power over finances and personnel in basic courts, from local governments and local “people’s congresses” to provincial governments. Pilot projects were planned in Shanghai, Guangdong, Jilin, Hubei, Hainan and Qinghai. If successful, these reforms could boost citizens’ chances to challenge local cadres over issues such as illegal land seizures or concealment of violations of product safety and environmental laws. However, this didn’t mean that courts would be insulated from pressures from those higher-level officials on their decision-making. Importantly, nothing in these reforms is aimed at diminishing Communist Party control over outcomes in the courts.

Lubman also links to a creative-commons translation cooperative, China Law Translate, which describes the pilot projects on the provincial and municipal (Shanghai) level in more detail.

Ultimate CCP control reservation apart, Lubman’s article came across as sort of optimistic. Less so an article by Russell Leigh Moses, dean of academics and faculty at the Beijing Center for Chinese Studies, published on October 24. If the communique issued after the plenary session was something to go by, this was a plenum that wasn’t interested in engineering far-reaching changes to China’s legal system. China would move slowly, very slowly, suggests the headline.

That said, the term under the party’s leadership (党的领导 / 党的领导下), quoted from the communiqué by Moses as a reminder that the conception and implementation of law belongs only to the Communist Party, can’t have surprised any observer.

According to the Economist, the CCP’s new enthusiasm for the rule of law springs from the campaign against corruption – see first paragraph of this post, too (SCMP quote). The battle is old (Xi Jinping’s predecessor as party and state chairman, Hu Jintao, warned in November 2012 that corruption, if not tackled by politics, could prove fatal to the party.

The battle is even older than old. Shen Zewei, China reporter for the Singaporean daily Lianhe Zaobao (United Morning News), quoted a Taiwanese researcher, Lee Yeau-tarn, in 2009 that Chiang Kai-shek had been able to implement land reform in Taiwan, but not in the mainland, because the KMT had been intricately connected with the despotic gentry.

This suggests that even Moses’ forecast could prove overly optimistic for China.

The Economist’s November 1 edition, however, sees the glass half-full – or even more positively. After all, one of the weekly’s editorials argues, the constitution, emphasized by the CCP leadership,

enshrines property rights. Of the many thousands of “mass incidents” of unrest each year in rural China, 65% relate to disputes over the (often illegal) seizure of land by officials. Mr Xi wants to make it clear that their behaviour is not just illegal but also unconstitutional. That sounds scarier.

Farmland reform, which was at the focus of the 17h Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s Third Plenary Session in 2008, back then under the Hu Jintao/Wen Jiabao leadership -, is also moving slowly, very slowly. And the fourth plenary session of this 18th central committee might be considered another push into the direction of a more just, and more efficient, use of land – six years later.

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Related

» Dead Cats, rotten Fish, Nov 7, 2011
» Rural Land Certificates, July 10, 2011
» Wen Jiabao’s Endgame, April 21, 2011
» Tossing the Mountain around, Nov 8, 2010
» Farmland Reform, Oct 8, 2008

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Huanqiu Shibao on Occupy Central: “This Country has Ways and Means”

An article published by Huanqiu Shibao on October 22 went through much of the usual reflections on how Occupy Central was – supposedly – harmful for Hong Kong, but then offers a question that may as well be considered an ultimatum:

Those who, with Western forces at their center, continue to applaud the “Occupy Central” participants, and those exiles who ran away during the early years, may look at “Occupy Central” as a hopeful indication that the fortunes would be turning in their favor. A formation that opposes China’s rise is taking shape. Their goal is to severely wound China, as a prelude to bringing down China. May we ask if this is the intention of the young students who are taking part in “Occupy Central”?

以西方为中心的外部势力会继续为香港“占中”者喝彩,那些早年跑出去的流亡者们会视“占中”为他们时来运转的希望。一个针对崛起中国的阵形眼看着一天天成型。它的目标是要重伤中国,作为“扳倒”中国的序曲。请问这是香港参与“占中”年轻学生们的初衷吗?

If not, we ask these students to leave early. For the very small minority of those who look at China as a mortal enemy this country has ways and means to deal with them.

如果不是,请那些学生早早离开。至于极少数视社会主义中国为死敌的人,这个国家自会有对付他们的办法。

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Related

» Chorus of Condemnation, Oct 7, 2014
» OC coverage links, Oct 3, 2014

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Updates/Rlated

» Anti-China scheming, “Global Times”, Oct 22, 2014

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

China News Service: “Hong Kong Citizens rise in a Chorus of Condemnation of Occupy Central”

Main link: “Rising Wave of Voices opposing Occupy Central”, CNS/Enorth, Oct 10

Enorth (Tianjin), Sohu (nationwide), Hua Shang Net (from Xi’An, main focus on trade and apparently ), and possibly some more websites with readers who are less interested in politics than People’s Daily or Huanqiu Shibao readers carried an article from China News Service (CNS, 中国新闻) on Monday, describing the “Occupy Central” movement as seriously damaging the territory’s  social order and as damaging the good international image of Hong Kong.

CNS is China’s second-largest newsagency, after Xinhua.

No warranty that the CNS comprehensive report quotes the papers from Hong Kong accurately and in a balanced way. Some of the CNS article comes across as manipulative or wrong, but the anger of Hong Kongers whose incomes are affected (maybe not the tram drivers as said in the CNS article, but certainly many cab drivers, shop owners etc.) appears likely to put Occupy Central at odds with many.

The Alliance for the Protection of Universal Suffrage and against Occupy Central and their ballot (which topped Occupy Hong Kong’s) got some coverage in European media in summer, but appears to have been mostly forgotten since.

Not only reports from a totalitarian country like China can be misleading – self-deception is a universal weakness.

Links within blockquotes added during translation. Corrctions, and advice on how to fill the gaps I couldn’t translate (see last paragraph), will be welcome.

Wave of Voices from all Walks of Life in Hong Kong opposing “Occupy Central” keeps rising

香港各界反对“占中”声浪日益高涨

Comprehensive report — A few people who started a so-called “Occupy Central”, an illegal gathering, in the early hours of September 28, has kept going on for eight days so far. They have caused traffic jams, created conflicts, hampered all professions, seriously damaged Hong Kong’s social order, affected the peaceful lives and safety of the masses, and also damaged Hong Kong’s good international image, thus arousing strong dissatisfaction and a continuously rising wave of opposing voices against “Occupy Central”.

综合报道,香港少数人自9月28日凌晨起发动所谓“占领中环”的非法集会,至今已经8天了,他们堵塞交通、制造冲突、妨碍百业,严重破坏香港社会秩序,影响民众生活安宁和安全,也破坏香港良好的国际形象,引起香港各界和民众的强烈不满,反“占中”声浪日益高涨。

42 members of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council published a joint statement on October 3, expressing concern about the endless illegal occupation, calling for reasonable dialog among the citizens, urging the “occupiers” to stop and to reflect and to end their behavior that was destructive for society as possible, to let society get back to normal.

香港42名立法会议员3日发表联署声明,对无休止的违法占领行动表示忧虑,呼吁市民理性对话,要求“占中”者“停一停,想一想”,尽快停止破坏社会行为,让社会恢复正常。

36 Hong Kong SAR delegates to the National People’s Congress have also published a joint statement supportive of the police’s legal maintenance of social stability, calling on the “occupiers” to stop harming the general public’s development interests. The delegates called for cherishing and protecting Hong Kong’s long-term stability and prosperity, for mutual respect, and for not harming the general public’s devlopment interest.

香港特别行政区的36名全国人大代表也发出联合声明,支持警方依法维护社会稳定,呼吁“占中”者不要继续损害广大市民的发展利益。代表们呼吁,珍惜和维护香港的长期稳定繁荣,相互尊重,不应损害广大市民的发展利益。

Hong Kong Civil Servants General Union also called on the “Occupy Central” demonstrators not to hamper public servants on their way to their workplaces, because civil servants were serving the city, and if their access to work was blocked, citizens would be the ultimate victims.

香港公务员总工会亦呼吁“占中”行动的示威人士,不要阻碍公务员上班,因为公务员都是为市民服务,如果上班受阻,最终受害的是市民。

Hong Kong’s tourism industry was a “disaster zone” affected by “Occupy Central”. On a press conference on October 3, Hong Kong tourism trade union(s) expressed dissatisfaction about how “Occupy Central” affected many touristical, consumption and business districts, even leading to travel warnings in some countries by which tourism was taking a serious hit.

香港旅游业是被“占中”殃及的“重灾区”。香港旅游联业工会联会3日召开记者会,表达不满“占中”影响多个旅游、消费及商业区,导致有国家对香港发出旅游警示,重创旅游业。

Hong Kong railworker union(s) also published a statement, strongly condemning “Occupy Central” as a collective and as individuals. The statement points out that traffic on the streets of Central were affected, leading to a sharply increasing workload for the railworkers, excessive work and physical wear and tear. Also, tram drivers, because of the suspension of some road sections, had been compelled to take unpaid days off. Incomes were declining every day.

香港铁路工会联合会也发声明,对“占中”的团体和个人予以严厉谴责。声明指出,占中令路面交通受影响,而铁路运输从业员工作剧增,连日超负荷工作,体力损耗极大。另一方面,电车司机因部分路段停驶而被迫放无薪假,收入每天都在减少。

As the harm done to the economy by “Occupy Central” intensifies, Hong Kong citizens rise in a chorus of condemnation. On October 2, many private associations held activities opposing “Occupy Central” actions. Mr. So, a citizen, said that “demonstrators have blocked all kinds of traffic and important roads, bringing chaos into our lives”.

“占领中环”非法集会对经济社会造成的危害愈演愈烈,香港市民齐声谴责。10月2日,香港多个民间团体举行活动,启动反对“占领中环”行动。市民苏先生表示, “示威人士堵塞了多处交通要道,把我们的生活全搞乱了。”

On October 3 and 4, citizens opposing “Occupy Central” came to “Occupy Central” strongholds in Causeway Bay and in Mong Kok, asking police to restore social order as soon as possible. Some of the citizens who had spontaneously come to the scene chided the “occupiers” for keeping others from “making a living”and demanded the “occupiers” to open the roads for the citizens’ use.

10月3日和4日,有反“占中”市民到铜锣湾及旺角等“占中”据点,要求警方尽早清场并恢复社会秩序。部分自发到场的市民斥责“占中”者“阻人揾食”(阻碍别人谋生计),要求“占中”者让出道路供市民使用。

The jamming of many roads by “Occupy Central’s” illegal activities has caused the trade of taxi drivers in Hong Kong great losses. On October 5, the cab drivers at Central Piers strongly condemned “Occupy Central’s” activities, demanding an immediate end to “Occupy Central’s” illegal forcible occupation of roads, supporting police law enforcement, and announcing collective civil claims against “Occupy Central’s” initiators.

Ever since the beginning of “Occupy Central’s” illegal gatherings, Hong Kong media have called on the “occupiers” to immediately abandon the occupation activities and to restore social order, as well as Hong Kong’s peaceful life and harmony.

“占领中环”非法集会发生后,香港媒体连日来呼吁,“占中”者应立即放弃占领行动,恢复社会秩序,还香港安宁和谐。

A “Ta Kung Pao” editorial pointed out that if an offense is allowed to succeed once, “Occupy Central” could defeat society and put it in opposition to the central government [Beijing], creating areas of anarchy – would this still justify the pride of seven million citizens in their international center of finance and “One Country, two Systems”? The editorial called on the “occupiers” to immediately clear the roads. An article by Hong Kong’s “Wen Wei Po” titled “The initiators of ‘Occupy Central’ have a responsibility to end it” said that “Occupy Central” had paralysed traffic, damaged social order, and displayed signs of getting out of control. “It is the responsibility of the initiators to immediately put the occupation activities to a halt. The paper, on October 4, wrote that “Occupy Hong Kong” had caught widespread indignation and discontent, that public opinion was rebounding, citizens were beginning to oppose “Occupy Central”, not only demanding harmony and stability, but wanting to live and work in Hong Kong in accordance with their own wishes. “Occupy Central” was not reaching the hearts of the citizens. “Ming Pao’s” editorial points out that looking at the general situation, “Occupy Hong Kong” should end its activities if they wished Hong Kong well. [Didn’t get the meaning of the following sentence: 如果“占中”的始作俑者戴耀廷等人发出呼吁,叫停“占中”,将是对历史负责的一步.] “Oriental Daily’s” editorial [title: 独有英雄驱虎豹,更无豪杰怕熊罴] believes that “Occupy Central” is simply a political fraud, and from head to tail unable to separate from the shadows of foreign forces wanting to bring chaos to Hong Kong and aiming for subversion in mainland China.

《大公报》社评指出,一个违法就能得逞、“占领”就能胜出的社会,一个公然与中央对抗、制造“无政府状态”的地方,还是值得七百万市民引以为豪的国际金融中心和“一国两制”的香港吗?评论呼吁参与“占中”者立即离开马路。香港《文汇报》文章《“占中”发起人有责任叫停占领行动》称,“占中”瘫痪交通、破坏社会秩序,已呈现失控状态。“占中”发起人有责任马上叫停占领行动。该报4日社评认为,“占中”天怒人怨,民意终于大反弹,市民群起反对“占中”,不仅说明要求和谐稳定、希望安居乐业才是香港社会的最大民意,也说明“占中”不得人心。《明报》社评提出,盱衡整体情势,权衡利害得失,若为香港好,“占中”应当停。如果“占中”的始作俑者戴耀廷等人发出呼吁,叫停“占中”,将是对历史负责的一步。《东方日报》社评《独有英雄驱虎豹,更无豪杰怕熊罴》认为,“占中”根本就是一个政治骗局,从头到尾都离不开外部势力的影子,都以搞乱香港、颠覆内地为政治目的。

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Related

» Bao Tong: Take a Break, Sinosphere, Oct 5, 2014

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Deutsche Welle projects: “cooperating” with CCTV, “countering” Russia Today

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Main link: Druck auf die Deutsche Welle, October 1, 2014

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1. News article: “Pressure on Deutsche Welle”

Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg advocates a role for the foreign broadcaster as an English-language counterweight to Russian propaganda outlet Russia Today, according to an article published by Kölnische Rundschau, a paper from Cologne, on October 1. “It’s not about responding to massive Russian propaganda with ‘counter-propaganda’, but about conveying our free democratic concept by means of good journalism, in accordance with Western standards, the paper quotes Limbourg.

The two parties that have formed Germany’s federal government in a “grand coaliton” since December 2013 differ about the idea. While Roderich Kieswetter, a member of parliament from chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU), likes the idea that someone “counters with medial elucidation”, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) parliamentary budget commission member Johannes Kahrs is skeptical: “I don’t think much of propaganda”. He added that “to state our values should be as much a matter of course as paying the DW employees in accordance with tariffs”.

Neither CDU nor SPD have committed themselves to increasing DW funds so as to enable the station to counter Russia Today.

Either way, Kölnische Rundschau writes, Limbourg is “under heavy pressure”, “on several fronts”. German news magazine Der Spiegel had reviewed DW’s China coverage critically – ever since freelance journalist Su Yutong had been fired, a constant stream of accusations that Limbourg had “kowtowed” to Beijing kept flowing, and Limbourg’s cooperation plans with Chinese state television CCTV had been “another step on a course that was being criticized as precarious”. Christian Mihr, head of the German section of Reporters without Borders (RSF), had told conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that his organization “sharply condemned” the cooperation, and the Green-leaning paper taz pointed out that CCTV had broadcast several “public confessions” of journalists and bloggers. Markus Löning, the federal government’s human-rights commissioner, criticized Limbourg’s plans as “dangerously naive”.

Kölnische Rundschau also points out that some 200 employees have lost some or all of their work at DW. Freelancers are said to be particularly affected by saving measures.

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2. Assessment

Are Limbourg’s plans doomed already? Not necessarily. While recent decisions are controversial, Limbourg might still see them through – or back down in certain, but not all fields, depending on how support and opposition develop. When it comes to “cooperation” with party mouthpieces from China, there’s probably a lot of silent support in Germany that isn’t always reflected in the media. At least some circles in German business, the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA), criticized German media this summer for being “inaccurate” in their China coverage, according to a report by Deutsche Presseagentur (dpa),:

It was “the common task of governments and companies on both sides to promote a good reputation of Chinese companies in Germany”, the recommendations, on hand at dpa newsagency in Beijing on Tuesday [July 8], say. This was about a “fair and accurate” presentation. Background [of these recommendations?] is Chinese criticism of German media which “irresponsibly and inaccurately report about Chinese human rights and political issues”, a position paper still in progress says.

APA chairman Hubert Lienhard, talking to journalists, resolutely denied the existence of this paragraph in the raft. However, only a week ago, a draft of the paper containing this criticism circulated in the German embassy in Beijing. Accusations like these were, however, not adopted in the recommendations to the two heads of government, recommendations the APA commission does not want to publish. […]

It is this kind of climate where business interests gain weight, and where principles go down. That said, at least publicly, the German federal government wasn’t sympathetic towards the APA recomendations.

While former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, chairman of the board at Nord Stream AG, a consortium for construction and operation of the Nord Stream submarine pipeline between Vyborg in Russia and Greifswald in Germany, tirelessly advocates cooperation with Russia, Moscow doesn’t appear to have nearly as much sway over German published opinion or business as Beijing.

This doesn’t seem to suggest that countering Russian propaganda should be a priority. But it’s an easier target than Chinese propaganda.

And many Western “opinion formers” have apparently felt haunted by Russian propaganda, or by what they consider to be the effects of it, right at home.

Confucius Institutes are apparently much less offensive.

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Related Tag

» Deutsche Welle

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Related

» Chinesische Rochade, FAZ, Sept 26, 2014
» Weichgespült, DJV, Sept 15, 2014

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Spanish Foreign Radio abandons Shortwave, and Opportunities

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Radio Exterior de Espana (REE/RTVE) plans to close down its shortwave radio transmission site near Noblejas. This means that Spanish foreign radio would no longer be on shortwave at all. There had been guesses that REE shortwave would close down on September 30. Now, it is suggested that broadcasting may continue until mid-October, according to Glenn Hauser‘s audio magazine World of Radio, October 2 edition (downloads here).

Some places are too slow for online streaming

Some places are too slow for online streaming

One may wonder how many means of communications are abandoned because they aren’t considered cool anymore. And one may also wonder how many things may be kept in use without a great deal of debate because their virtues seem go without saying.

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The World doesn’t revolve around Europe

It depends on where you are. When it comes to shortwave broadcasting, it depends on whether you are in Europe, or whether you are in Asia. Try the cheapest shortwave receiver you can lay your hands on, wherever in this world you may currently be, and you will get tons of signals from China – some from the domestic service for the need to reach remote areas within the country, some for the external service China Radio International (CRI), and some simply to jam “hostile” stations like Falun-Gong operated shortwave transmissions from Taiwan.

Either way, Beijing demonstrates that shortwave matters in China.

India, too, depends on shortwave for reaching remote territories within the country (and in some areas, Naxalite activities, too, may make it advisable to bridge certain distances by AM signals, be it medium- or shortwave). According to Adventist World Radio‘s (AWR) Wavescan program on August 10, quoting statistics from four years earlier, All India Radio (AIR), the country’s main radio network, operated 54 shortwave transmitters, 149 medium-wave transmitters and 172 FM transmitters in about 2010.

Time will show how serious DRM – digital radio mondiale – will get as a technology in India – four years ago, there were discussions to convert some ten percent of the existing shortwave transmitters to DRM capability.

On the 2014  National Association of Shortwave Broadcasters (NASB), an American organization, George Ross, frequency manager at the shortwave broadcasting station KTWR in Guam, told an audience that besides India, the largest group of listeners to the station’s DRM shortwave signals were Japanese. On August 31, AWR broadcasted excerpts of the talk earlier this year in Greenville, N.C., where Ross enthused about India going DRM – and how Japanese shortwave listeners responded to tests actually targeted at India. It was also Japanese listeners, according to Ross, who conducted a survey that eventually justified KTWR DRM broadcasts in Japanese.

If there is an industrialized country where shortwave still matters, it’s Japan. The survey provided from KTWR’s Japanese listeners suggested that there would be 11,000 listeners to Japanese DRM broadcasts from Guam right away, with a lot of growth potential once such broadcasts began. The two most likely locations in Asia where shortwave would be listened to, in Ross’ view, were India and Japan.

The story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that both Jeff White the producer of Wavescan, and George Ross, are dedicated to shortwave. Jeff White owns WRMI, a shortwave station in Florida, and both he and George Ross take a great interest in DRM as a measure to make signals both more reliable and much more energy-efficient. If Indians will start to use DRM receivers to a large scale any time soon, if a critical number of Indian listeners can afford DRM receivers or if the Indian state would subsidize DRM-ization of the audience side remains to be seen – these are a lot of “ifs”.

But to me, the most thought-provoking issue here isn’t if the future of shortwave will be analog or digital. It is that there seems to be a future for shortwave at all. And what is even more food for thought to me is that India, Japan and China are places where shortwave broadcasting matters and where it continues to matter. Places where – according to conventional wisdom – the future is.

 

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Where’s the Strategy?

Rhein-Main-Radio-Club from Frankfurt, confirming a broadcast via HCJB Weenermoor, a 1.5 kW transmitter in northwestermost Germany.

Rhein-Main-Radio-Club from Frankfurt, confirming a broadcast via HCJB Weenermoor, a 1.5 kW transmitter in northwestermost Germany

When Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, discontinued shortwave both to Europe and to the Far East, at least they had a strategy. It wasn’t a smart one – or, at any rate, to tell the world that old listeners didn’t matter anymore – unless they were opinion formers or opinion leaders in the target areas (guys considered to have regular access to the internet) doesn’t look terribly smart to me. You can be pretty sure that many of those people who are going to make big decisions in China tomorrow do not have access to the internet today.

But REE doesn’t even seem to have a strategy at all. They just want to save – reportedly – 1.2 million euros per year. That’s why they want to close down their shortwave transmission site.

That’s no intelligent decision. And at home, it isn’t helpful either.

After all, shortwave is technology that is easy to grasp, even for absolute beginners. If engineering is an interest Spain wants to encourage among the kids, to throw shortwave away looks like no great idea. To retain existing listeners is much more effective than gaining new ones – although the latter business shouldn’t be neglected either.

In terms of tech, it’s hardly a coincidence that Japan is one of the most avidly shortwave-listening countries. Nor does it look like a coincidence that Germans, people from a comparatively successful economy, on a private basis, keep their country on the shortwave map with a number of small shortwave transmissions (rule of thumb: 1 kW-transmitters).

In the words of Ralph E. Gomory, a mathematician from the U.S.,

[w]e need successful industries and we need to innovate within them to keep them thriving.

Gomory didn’t mean to make a case for shortwave. But if you want to keep an interest in technology awake, among the public in general, and among the young in particular, make sure that there’s applied, easily comprehensible communications technology around.In that light, even during times of economic and political troubles, a transmitting site like Noblejas should be considered an opportunity, not a liability.

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Related

» A new SDR receiver, Oct 2, 2014
» A chat with the International Space Station (German), Merkur Online, June 29, 2014
» HAM Flower, Idealli, June 2008

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