Posts tagged ‘expertise’

Friday, September 20, 2013

China’s low Profile: As Close as They can

Links within the following blockquotes were added during translation / quotation — JR
Kerry Brown, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Sydney, recently asked in an article for the BBC if China’s “non-interference policy” was sustainable.

Although China’s global influence had grown during the past decades, Brown wrote,

[..] Chinese leaders still stay as close as they can to the principles of peaceful coexistence and non-interference set out by Zhou Enlai. Despite the fact that the world has changed so radically in this time, these principles are useful because they avoid China being dragged into situations that overstretch and challenge it, they avoid it being pushed into a corner where it can be painted as a foe of the US and the rest of the developed world, and they allow it to continue focusing on its own formidable internal development issues.

Indeed, China’s profile remained low in the Syrian conflict, so far, and seemed to follw Russia’s diplomatic wake rather than pursuing a globally visible role of its own (which does not necessarily mean that Beijing sees eye to eye with Moscow on each and every issue).

At the same time, not only foreigners wonder where China is when it comes to the current crisis (or its recent defusing). Domestic Chinese press does describe China’s position at times, not least to keep face-conscious readers happy, probably.

Xinhua newsagency, for example, carried an interview with China’s special Mideast envoy Wu Sike (吴思科) on September 10 this year. Excerpts:

The Syrian “chemical weapons” issue is confusing, and it hasn’t yet been possible to determine who is right and who is wrong, I have once lived in Syria for four years, and my impression of the locality was very good. Before the chaos caused of the war, it was a society of moderate prosperity [or a moderately well-off society], with many historical relics, and very friendly people. But now, according to UNHCR statistics, the number of refugees who fled abroad has surpassed two million, with one million of them children, and six million people are displaced within Syria. These aren’t just numbers; this is the suffering of homeless Syrian people who even lost loved ones. Who wants to be responsible for aggravating their crisis?

虽然叙利亚“化武”问题扑朔迷离,孰是孰非迄今尚无定论。我曾经在叙利亚生活过4年,对该地区印象很好,那里在战乱之前处于小康社会,历史遗迹很多,人民非常友好。
但是目前根据联合国难民署提供的数据,目前逃往国外的叙利亚难民已超过200万,仅儿童难民数量已超过百万,叙利亚境内还有600万人流离失 所。这些不仅仅是一个又一个的数字,而是一个个被迫流离失所甚至失去亲人的叙利亚人民的苦难。有谁能背得起加剧叙人道危机的责任?!

[.....]

Wu Sike describes his role in Mideast diplomacy:

Last year in December, I took part in a conference in Bahrain, and the participating countries all thought that the United Nations should mediate. Now, America tries to be above international situations, which is a really high-handed behavior. But the intriguing thing this time is that America’s allies, such as Italy or Germany aren’t positive [about America's approach]. Therefore, China unequivocally advocates opposition against military methods, and advocates political means to solve the Syrian conflict. War will only complicate the situation further, intensify contradictions and clashes, and is no way to solve the problem. Therefore, political means should be used for a solution.

吴思科:去年12月份我在巴林参加会议,与会的中东各国都认为应该由联合国出面进行斡旋调解,现在美国的做法是企图让一个国家凌驾在国际组织之上,是非常霸道的表现。
但是这次耐人寻味的是,美国的盟国如意大利、德国并不积极,因此中国明确主张反对用军事的方式,应该用政治的方式,去解决叙利亚的争端。战争只会让局势更加复杂,让矛盾冲突更加剧烈,不是解决问题的方法。因此应该用政治手段解决。

[.....]

The Mideast situation is complex. When I visited Cairo, Arab-League general secretary Nabil Elaraby believed that the current problem was that the Syrian government believes that they still have strong troops to overcome its opponents. But the opposition believes that if only they persist for another day, there will be people abroad who will support them. Neither side wanted to abandon military means to protect itself, and there’s an impasse. Under such circumstances, efforts by the international community are required. The UN have now started an investigation of the chemical-weapons incident. To go to arms before the investigation’s findings are published runs counter to the purpose of the “UN Charter”. All parties should wait for and respect the findings of the investigation.

中东地区的形势错综复杂,我在开罗访问的时候,阿盟秘书长阿拉比认为现在的难点是叙利亚政府认为自 己手中还有强大的军队,能够征服他的反对者。而反对派认为只要自己坚持一天,国外就有人会支持,双方都不愿放弃军事手段来保卫自己,这是一个死结。因此, 在这种情况下,需要国际社会的努力。
目前联合国已经开始对叙利亚化武事件展开调查,在联合国调查结果公布前就诉诸武力有悖于《联合国宪章》宗旨,有关各方应期待并尊重联合国的调查结果。

====================

Two years earlier (and this should not suggest that Wu Sike never talked again, prior to September this year), Wu Sike also commented on Mideast affairs. Back then, his Mideast and Syria comments were embedded in a broader picture of Chinese diplomacy.

Public Diplomacy Net was established on May 1, 2011, with former Chinese foreign minister Tang Jiaxuan, former chairman of the foreign aff airs committee of the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference” Zhao Qizheng, Commission for Africa member Ji Peiding and Chinese special Mideast envoy Wu Sike as the website’s advisors.

Soon after, in September 2011, Wu Sike was interviewed by the website, or responded to netizens’ questions. The main topic at the time was a white paper on China’s peaceful development, issued earlier that month on September 6, but as Middle-East special envoy, Wu was also asked questions related to the Middle-East peace process and the growing Syria conflict.

One of his answers further down in the following blockquote could count as an answer to the question at the beginning of this post, asked by Professor Brown, as to why China sticks to a low profile. The Chinese wording for “low profile” – or hiding your brightness and biding your time, depending on your translation, is 韬光养晦, is attributed to Deng Xiaoping.

Wu Sike’s answer to the first question of the interview is lengthy, and contains several paragraphs.

Main Link: http://www.pdcec.com/bencandy.php?fid=60&id=7964

Public Diplomacy Net (PDN) / Wu Sike (WSK)

PDN: Special Ambassador Wu, the information office of the state council published the “China’s Peaceful Development” white paper on September 6, please explain the main content of the white paper to our netizen friends.

公共外交网:吴特使,国务院新闻办公室于9月6日发表了《中国的和平发展》白皮书,现在请您向网友们介绍一下白皮书的主要内容。

WSK: The white paper on “China’s Peaceful Development” has received broad attention at home and abroad. It is the declaration of China’s peaceful development, a roadmap, with absolutely important significance. It provides, for the first time, a comprehensive and systematic explanation of China’s path of peaceful development, the strategy and foreign policies of China’s peaceful development. It states Chinese path of peaceful development, the goals of peaceful development, and actively responds to the questions about how China wants to apply its strength and foreign relations and similar issues.

吴思科:国务院新闻办于9月6日发表了《中国的和平发展》白皮书,引起国内外广泛关注。白皮书是中国和平发展的宣言书、路线图,有着十分重要的意义。白皮书首次对中国和平发展道路、和平发展战略和对外大政方针做了全面系统的阐释,表明了中国的发展道路、发展目标,并积极回应力国际社会关切的中国如何运用实力以及与外部世界的关系等问题。

The white paper explains China’s development path, and strategic direction still more comprehensively, systematically and clearly to the world. Peaceful development has become China’s national will. The white paper officially defines the conceptof “core interests“, it points out that China will resolutely protect its core national interests, including the country’s sovereignty, security, territorial integrity, national unity, China’s political system and general social stability as established by the constitution, the basic guarantees for sustained economic and social development.

白皮书向世界更加全面、系统、清晰地阐明中国的发展道路和战略走向。和平发展已经上升为中国的国家意志,白皮书正式界定了“核心利益”的概念,指出中国坚决维护国家核心利益,包括:国家主权,国家安全,领土完整,国家统一,中国宪法确立的国家政治制度和社会大局稳定,经济社会可持续发展的基本保障。

The white paper explains how the big country with its 1.3 billion people develops on the path of socialism, sums up its content and its characteristics, especially emphasizes that peaceful development is socialism with Chinese characteristics’ essential content, raises peaceful development to the rank of national will, turns it into the overall national development plan and fundamental policy, and implements domestic and external practice.

白皮书,阐述了这个有13亿人口的走社会主义道路的大国如何发展,这次把内涵及其特点进行归纳,特别是强调和平发展是中国特色社会主义道路的本质内容,把和平发展上升到国家意志,转化为国家的整体发展规划和大政方针,并且落实到对内和对外的广泛实践中。

China is a responsible big country, the white paper uses the “promote and build a harmonious world, maintain the standing-of-one’s-own-and-peace foreign polciies, advocates the new security concept of mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality [of states, apparently] and cooperation, an international concept of active international responsibility, pursuing good-neighborly regional cooperation concepts”, thus summarizing China’s peaceful-development foreign policy.  Among these, Active international responsibility has appeared in a public official document for the first time. Cooperation on environmental issues is discussed as an organic part of a harmonious world.

中国是负责任的大国,白皮书用“推动建设和谐世界,坚持独立自主和平外交政策,倡导互信、互利、平等、协作的新安全观,秉持积极有为的国际责任观,奉行睦邻友好的地区合作观”概括了中国和平发展的外交政策。其中,积极有为的国际责任观是首次出现在政府公开文件中;把环保合作作为和谐世界的有机组成部分进行论述。

Peaceful development is the national will. Therefore, as Chinese citizens, we need the concept of peaceful development to be reflected in our practical work. Also, we need to let the world understand the firm idea of China’s peaceful development.

和平发展是国家意志。因此,作为中国公民需要把和平发展的理念体现在我们的现实工作当中。另外,我们还需要让世界了解中国和平发展的坚定理念。

After studying the white paper, I felt that there needs to be a deepened understanding from two aspects:

研读了白皮书以后,我感觉要从两个方面加深认识:

One is that peaceful development is the call of our times. We can see from the world’s historical development that [a country's?] strength leads to hegemony [or tyranny], and when a great power rose, it always replaced another great power by force, making both of them suffer. History has developed to a new era, and this road should be taken. In these times of globalization and rapid technological development, we should build a harmonious world with the methods of win-win. This is the requirement of global development and a certainty of historical development.

一是和平发展是当今时代的呼唤。从世界历史的发展过程中来看,国强必霸,历史上大国崛起,都是通过武力取代另一个大国,最后总是两败俱伤。历史发展到一个新的时期,这条路不应该走下去了。在当今经济全球化和科技高速发展的时代,应该通过合作实现共赢的方式共建一个和谐世界,这是世界发展的需要,也是历史发展的必然。

The second [aspect] is the fulffillment of “peace” as China’s concept with its great and far-reaching significance, as seen from China’s traditional culture. From ancient times, China’s philosophy has been about the “unity of nature and humanity”, that national characteristics [or identity] “values peace”, that there is diversity in harmony, about exploring inclusiveness, about open-mindedness, good-neighborliness and friendliness – this is the guiding spirit of China’s exchange with the outside world.

二是践行“和”之中国理念意义重大而深远。从中国的传统文化来讲。中国自古以来的哲学就是天人合一,民族特性都是“以和为贵”,和而不同,讲究包容性,有开放的心态,讲求睦邻友善,这是中国对外交流的指导精神。

[This para is an incomplete translation] The Silk Road which opened more than two-thousand years ago, has enriched our culture and development through trade and cultural interaction, agriculture and our species. It has made lives richer.

中国2000多年之前就有通向西域的丝绸之路,通过贸易和文化的互通有无带动中国的对外交流,也促进了我们中华文明的发展,农业发展上来说也丰富了我们的物种,使生活更加丰富。

More than six-hundred years ago, China’s famous navigator Zheng He took his seven voyages to the Western seas, to western Asia, eastern Africa, to thirty countries and regions. It was a big fleet, but they didn’t carry armed force. They carried concepts of friendship and peace. They promoted bilateral exchanges, and bequeathed us a much-told tale. Historically, China maintained an ideology that valued peace.

600多年前,中国著名航海家郑和七下西洋,到了西亚、非洲东部的30个国家和地区。船队阵容强大,但是他们没有带去武力,带去的是友谊、和平的理念,促进双方的交往,留下了历史的佳话。在历史上,中国就是坚持以和为贵的指导思想。

After the establishment of New China, we first issued the five principles of peaceful coexistence. This is both a fundamental policy in Chinese diplomacy and a manifestation of traditional Chinese civilization: mutual respect, no interference into each other’s internal affairs, etc.. After that, through our continuous development and changes, we have continuously enriched the five principles on their [own] foundation. In economic exchange, China maintains equality and mutual benefit and cooperational win-win. In terms of security concepts, mutual trust, hand-in-hand cooperation, it’s facing the traditional and non-traditional global security threats.  Another advocacy is a kind of green development concept, humankind’s common care for the earth, and environment protection.

新中国成立以后,我们最早提出和平共处五项基本原则。这既是中国外交的基本政策,也是中国传统文明的体现,互相尊重、互不干涉内政等。此后,随着我们不断的发展变化,在和平共处五项原则上不断地丰富其内容。在对外经济交往方面中国坚持的是平等互利、合作共赢的方针;在安全观方面,相互信任、携手合作、共同应对世界面临的传统和非传统的安全威胁。另外主张一种绿色发展观,人类共同呵护地球家园,共同保护环境。

PDN: This interview has attracted many netizens’ attention, many have asked questions, and in the following, we would like to ask special envoy Wu Sike for some answers.

公共外交网:本次访谈得到众多网友的关注,网友们提出了一些问题,下面就网友关心的话题请吴特使给予解答。

WSK: Fine.

吴思科:好的。

PDN: A netizen asks, which role is China playing in the Middle-East peace process?

公共外交网:有网友问,您认为中国在中东的和平进程问题中起到了怎样的作用?

WSK: The hot spot of the Middle East is a global concern. China’s regional peace and stability is also closely interrelated with global peace and stability. Therefore, China has always paid attention to the Mid-East situation, and has made unremitting efforts for Mid-Eastern peace.

吴思科:中东的热点问题是举世关注的,中国地区的和平稳定也是与世界的和平稳定密切相关,因此中国始终关注中东地区的形势,为推动中东和平进程作出不懈的努力。

PDN: What is the base line of “peaceful development”?

公共外交网:请问“和平发展”的底线是什么?

WSK: China’s peaceful development is our national policy. We will unservingly take the path of peaceful development, and also, the “white paper” has clearly defined China’s core national interests, which won’t waver in the least, either. Only when there is respect for the other side’s core interests, peace can be effectively protected, and sustainable development be put into place.

吴思科:中国的和平发展是我们的国策,我们会坚定不移地走和平发展之路,同时这个“白皮书”也明确界定了中国国家的核心利益,这也是不容丝毫动摇的,只有相互尊重对方的核心利益才能够有效维护和平,实现可持续发展。

[...]

PDN: What is your understanding of “hide your brightness, bide your time“?

公共外交网:您如何理解中国的“韬光养晦”?

WSK: To keep a low profile and to actively make a difference is an important principle of China’s diplomacy. To keep a low profile is no makeshift measure. China needs to achieve comprehensive rejuvenation, to make efforts for another long period, and in this process, we always need to be modest and prudent, learn others’ strengths, and while developing economically, we need to change the ways of development, achieve scientific development, and even if Chjna has developed strongly, we must maintain peaceful policies. That’s in the fundamental interest of the Chinese people, and in line with the interests of the peoples of the world.

吴 思科:坚持韬光养晦,积极有所作为,这是中国外交的一条重要原则,韬光养晦不是权宜之计,中国要实现全面复兴,还需要经历一个很长时间的努力,在这个过程 中我们始终需要谦虚谨慎,学习别人的长处,在经济发展的同时还需要转变发展方式,实现科学发展,即使中国发展强大了,也必须继续坚持和平的方针。这是中国 人民的根本利益所在,也符合世界人民的共同利益。

PDN: How does China pursue win-win in cooperation?

公共外交网:中国如何寻求合作共赢呢?

WSK: China has always adhered to the policy of cooperational win-win, and has explored this new method of cooperation. Cooperational win-win has created favorable conditions for our country’s economic development, and has also made a contribution to global economic development. As for myself, I have been involved in promoting Chinese cooperation with Arab and African countries, achieving cooperational win-win projects which are too many to enumerate. These projects have been mutually beneficial, this is cooperation needed by both sides, and they have ample prospects.

吴 思科:中国在对外合作方面一直遵循合作共赢的方针,并不断探索扩大这种合作的新的方式,这种合作共赢、共同发展的合作理念为我国的经济发展创造了有利的条 件,同时也为世界经济的发展做出了贡献。我本人就曾经参与推动中国和阿拉伯国家、非洲国家的合作,实现合作共赢的合作项目不胜枚举,这些项目都为双方带来 的共同利益,。这种合作是双方的共同需要,也有着广阔的前景。

PDN: What, in your view, are the main points about the China’s peaceful development “white paper”?

公共外交网:您认为本次发表的《中国的和平发展》白皮书中,最大的亮点是什么?

WSK: I think they are the clear definition of China’s core interests, at the same time explaining the six big characteristics of China’s peaceful development, which are scientific development, development standing on one’s own, opening up development, peaceful development, cooperation development, and common development. You could say that this is a high degree of summarization with strong guiding significance for what fits our national situation in the sixty years since the establishment of New China, and especially for the more than thirty years of reform and opening up.

吴 思科:我认为最大的亮点是明确界定了中国的核心利益;同时阐述了中国和平发展的六大特征,就是科学发展、自主发展、开放发展、和平发展、合作发展、共同发 展。可以说这是对新中国成立60年特别是改革开放30多年来我国探索适合自己国情发展道路实践的高度总结,有很强的指导意义。

PDN: As the Middle-East envoy, how do you see the current situation in the Middle East?

公共外交网:您作为中国中东问题特使,如何看当下的中东局势?

WSK: The Middle East is experiencing the biggest upheaval and change since more than half a century, with far-reaching effects to the region. In a situation of international change, big developments, and major adjustments, people there are seeking change, seeking development, improvement for the peoples’ livelihoods, and these are absolutely reasonable demands. We hope that some countries in the region can achieve peaceful change, find their own ways of development that fit into the new situation, soon achieve stability, with the fulfillment of the peoples’ demands. We also hope that in the Mideast hotspots, issues can be solved through negotiations, and peacefully, which is in the interest of all countries and peoples in the region, and also beneficial for global causes of peace and stability and development.

吴 思科:当前中东正经历近半个世纪以来最大的政治动荡和变革,对该地区正在产生深远的影响。在国际形势大变化、大发展,国际格局大调整的情况下,该地区的人 民求变革、求发展、求改善民生,这是完全合理的诉求。我们希望该地区的一些国家能够实现和平的变革,找到新形势下适合各自发展的方式,早日实现稳定,使人 民的诉求能够得以实现。同时也希望中东地区的热点问题能够通过谈判的方式实现和平解决,这既是该地区各个国家和人民的利益所在,也有利于世界的和平稳定和 发展事业。

[The following two questions and answers discuss the way China is seen from outside, the "China threat talk" (所谓中国威胁论), "cold war mentality", hopes and fears about China's development, etc, and China's role in peacekeeping missions.]

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What the Heck are “National Conditions”?

From Qianjiang Evening Post (钱江晚报), Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, founded in 1987.  Although named “evening paper”, it is sent to subscribers in the morning. The following signed editorial was apparently published online on Friday.

Links added during translation.

If “national condition” is some kind of dough, National Food Safety Assessment Center deputy Wang Zhutian has put it into a mold.

“国情”是个面团,国家食品安全风险评估中心主任助理王竹天把它捏成了方的。

This official, assigned to watch over the food security of 1.3 billion Chinese people, said in reply to questions concerning the definition of our country’s food security issues that we are a developing country, and that we need to define our standards in accordance to our “national condition”. If we took European air-quality standards, we wouldn’t be up to the standards.

这位身居13亿中国人食品安全站岗放哨要职的官员,在回答我国食品安全标准制定的问题时说,我们是发展中国家,还要按照“国情”来制定我们自己的标准。如果我们都拿欧洲空气做标准,那么我们都不合格。

This national-condition stuff – China Civil Aviation Cadres Institute associate professor Zou Jianjun has shaped it.

“国情”这团面,中国民航干部学院副教授邹建军把它捏成了圆的。

He voiced disdain for a flight data statistic  – he believes that to put Beijing Capital Airport and Shanghai Pudong Airport into a punctuality statistic with an overall of 35 airports worldwide, where they rank last and second-last, won’t perfectly reflect actual punctuality, and emphasizes that currently, our economic development doesn’t match Europe’s or America’s, and to put them all together [in the same statistic] was unreasonable.

这位专家对美国航空数据网站发布的一组数字表示不屑。他认为,北京首都机场、上海浦东机场双双包揽上个月全球35个国际机场准点率排名倒数第一第二名,这个数据不能完全准确反映实际准点率,并强调,目前我国经济发展水平并未与欧美相同,放在一起比较并不合理。

According to Wang Zhutian’s theory, the “national condition” of food safety standards – i. e. an acknowledged “national condition” – China, in its primary stage of socialism, should forget about wild hopes for eating with the same peace of mind as people in developed countries.

按照王竹天主任的理论,食品安全标准的“国情”,就是一个认命的“国情”,社会主义初级阶段的中国,别奢望吃上与发达国家一样放心的食品。

I don’t know how much of a natural connection there is between melamine in milkpowder and the incessant stream of poisonous rice and ginger, and the degree of  a country’s economic development. If there is a relation, is it that not enough tax money is spent on supervision? Or is it that the money spent by consumers on food doesn’t qualify for eating with their minds at ease?

我不知道奶粉中的三聚氰胺、层出不尽的毒大米毒生姜,与一个国家经济发达程度有多少必然的关系。如果有关系,是指纳税人提供给监管的钱不够花?还是消费者现有的食品购买支出,没资格吃上放心的食品?

From the common peoples’ dining tables to the state council’s meetings, the entire country is filled with fear about food safety issues, and this supervision official puts his “national-condition” dough into the mold. If “national conditions” become the food-safety supervision officials excuse for inaction, it will be a crudely-made protective umbrella for the inaction, and “national condition” will be a warning to compatriots to resign themselves to the destiny of accepting cheap standards.

吃的安全问题,从黎民百姓的餐桌上,摆到了国务院常务会议上,全中国都在为食品安全问题提心吊胆,偏偏这监管的官员,把它摆到了“国情”这个任他们拿捏的面团里。如果“国情”可以成为食品监管不作为的借口,可以成为放任食品粗制滥造的保护伞,那么,“国情”就是个告诫国人自认命贱的标准。

To grasp the theory of “national condition”, some of our experts and officials aren’t ahead of the rest of us with their standards, but the skin of their face is thicker than ours. The airports we built [in this country], in the words of our achievers, experts and officials, are of “international standards”.  Our high-speed trains, are testimony that there is “no match for them elsewhere in the world”. But when comparisons are about operation capabilities or quality of service, “national conditions” serve as shields. Our experts and officials don’t feel the least of shame that in many fields, China trails behind internationally.

在把握“国情”的理论上,我们现在的一些专家和官员,已经不是在与别人比水平有多高,而是在与别人比脸皮有多厚。建机场,夸成就,专家和官员嘴里,那是一个“国际一流”。修高铁,说功劳,那是一个“世上无双”。但是,比运营能力、比服务水平,“国情”就被扯出来做挡箭牌了。中国很多事情在国际上“垫底”,我们在这些专家和官员身上,感受不到丁点儿羞耻。

You don’t get on your plane or train? It’s “national condition”. Delays in arrival? “National conditions”. Rising prices? They have nothing to say. When spending money, they have nothing to say. Showing off their (small) achievements? Nothing to say. When earning high salaries and state remuneration from taxpayers’ money, when counting their money, have they ever mentioned “national conditions”?

坐不上飞机火车的时候,他们说“国情”。晚点的时候,他们说“国情”。涨价的时候,他们不说了。花钱的时候,他们不说了。表功的时候,他们不说了。拿着纳税人供奉的高薪与厚禄,在点钱的时候,他们说过一句“国情”了吗?

What kind of condition is a “national condition”? First of all, it should be the people’s conditon, the responsibility entrusted to officials and experts, the willingness to be worthy. Apart from the people’s feelings, it is this inaptness, this demand on compatriots to acknowledge their own worthlessness which is China’s most unfortunate “national condition”.

“国情”是个什么情?它首先应该是民情,是官员与专家寄托在百姓身上负责任、愿担当的感情。抛开民情,站在那个与自己的能力、品行不相匹配的位置上,以“国情”的名义让国人自认命贱,这才是中国最不幸的“国情”。

What’s the “national condition”? Above all, it should be the people’s sentiments, the responsibility for the common people, entrusted to officials and experts, the desire to be worthy.

“国情”是个什么情?它首先应该是民情,是官员与专家寄托在百姓身上负责任、愿担当的感情。

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Related

» One on One, Wang Zhutian, CCTV, May 12, 2013

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

German Press Review: Kim’s Sugarcubes, and the “Battle of Opinion”

The actions of the North Korean regime are not incalculable, writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung‘s (Munich) Reymer Klüver, the paper’s U.S. correspondent until summer last year, and now with the foreign-politics department at Süddeutsche Zeitung. The Kim clan’s provocations were actually quite calculable in its provocations which served only one goal: to show the world and its own people its power. The regime in North Korea doesn’t act incalculably. It acts irresponsibly.

The message is aimed at the Obama administration, believes Klüver, as the test was conducted on the day when the American president delivered the agenda for his second term in office, and at South Korean president-elect Park Geun Hye is about to take office. The reactions, too, were calculable: the US would demand stronger sanctions, China would agree after some hesitation, and basically, the response wouldn’t be different from the one to the previous nuclear test. Even if a bomb of the same explosive power as the previous one was indeed smaller than before, and therefore more suitable to be fitted to a nuclear missile, North Korea remained far from being a threat to America.

What makes the test dangerous all the same would be that Kim might gamble away, and that his provocations could spin out of control. A conflict on the South Korean border could lead to just that kind of scenario. Even worse, non-proliferation might be used to earn some badly needed foreign exchange. There was speculation about North Korean cooperation with Iran on its third test. What would keep a gambler like the dictator in Pyongyang to sell Iran or others his knowledge and even material?

China could influence North Korea, if it wanted to, writes Klüver, but it didn’t want to use it. 90 percent of North Korea’s oil imports depended on China. But China’s calculations could be shifting, Klüver adds: a Peking government paper had mentioned a “high price” that North Korea would have to pay in case of a nuclear test. The Chinese, Klüver recaps, needed to take responsibility for their irresponsible neighbor.

Der Spiegel (Hamburg) chooses the tabloid approach, as far as its choice  of stock photo material is concerned. Underneath a video link photo (from Reuters) that shows Kim Jong-un in flames, the headline is North Korean nuclear power messes with America (Atommacht Nordkorea legt sich mit Amerika an). Der Spiegel’s Andreas Lorenz points out that this could start an arms race, with the US, Japan and North Korea beefing up their missile defense. Xi Jinping acted hardly differently from his predecessor Hu Jintao, Lorenz notes, as he criticizes Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests, but also trying to soften international sanctions. North Korea is an important supplier of commodities to China. And the encapsulated country serves China’s military as a strategic buffer zone between China and the other East Asian states and the US.

Lorenz also quotes the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times” as suggesting that there was no need for China to placate angry feelings about its role. And Lorenz quotes US expert Siegfried Hecker with concerns that North Korea could sell its atomic-bomb know-how, to Iran, for example.

Die Welt (Berlin) suggests that Kim had thrown the Chinese sugar cubes (i. e. sweetened the third test).

Namely, the third test was preceded by several sessions of North Korean security panels on which Kim ostensibly emphasized the leadership role of his Communist Party. For the first time in the regime’s history, these sessions were made public, writes die Welt’s Torsten Krauel. Kim thus signaled that the third test was controled by the civilian leadership and not, as it had been previously, as an – intransparent to the outside world – decision between an ailing dictator and an incalculable army. (Dem dritten Test gingen nämlich mehrere Sitzungen nordkoreanischer Sicherheitsgremien voraus, auf denen Kim demonstrativ die Führungsrolle seiner Kommunistischen Partei hervorhob. Diese Sitzungen wurden erstmals in der Geschichte des Regimes publik gemacht. Kim Jong-un signalisierte damit, dass der dritte Atomtest unter der Steuerung und Kontrolle der zivilen Führung stattfand und nicht, wie beide Male zuvor, in einer nach außen unklaren Entscheidung zwischen einem kränklichen Diktator und einer unberechenbaren Armee.)

Therefore, Xi Jinping and (theoretically) Barack Obama, too, now had a a definite contact person, believes Krauel.

Alleged North-Korean cooperation with Iran has long been a leitmotif in Die Welt’s coverage, but while more moderate papers like Süddeutsche Zeitung are discussing these allegations too, this week, Die Welt goes one step further and discusses how America could conduct a war on North Korea. However, Krauel concludes that different from Iraq during the years after the Kuwait war, the United Nations weren’t in a state of war with North Korea.

Therefore, it seems to be inevitable to talk with each other in East Asia again, even with a dictator like Kim Jong-un – as unpromising and depressing this prospect may currently look. (Wahrscheinlich führt deshalb tatsächlich kein Weg daran vorbei, in Ostasien wieder miteinander zu reden, sogar mit einem Diktator wie Kim Jong-un – so aussichtslos und bedrückend diese Aussicht derzeit auch erscheinen mag.)

The German mainstream press in general has become much more supportive of militarization of politics than in the past. That is my rough observation, and not backed by statistics. But apparently for the first time, research has been published about how leading German press people – mentioned by name – are interlinked with think tanks, national and international forums, foundations, policy planning groups, etc.. And a presentation of this research also clearly quotes leading press commentators with statements like

Politics must not shun the battle of opinion on the home front if they are convinced of what they purport. [...] The battle for the “hearts and minds” must be conducted among at home, too. (Der Meinungskampf an der Heimatfront darf die Politik nicht scheuen, wenn sie von dem überzeugt ist, was sie vorgibt. [...] Der Kampf um die “hearts and minds” muss auch bei uns geführt werden.)

A newsman’s words, to be clear.

This should not lead to overreaching conclusions. The research does not suggest that everyone is in the boat of an extended security concept (erweiterter Sicherheitsbegriff, including energy and financial-industry issues). But among four leading journalists of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Die Zeit and Die Welt, definitions of security and threat catalogs had been uncritically adopted (unkritisch übernommen).

There are papers with editorial managers not known for relevant networks – the left leaning Tageszeitung (taz) and Frankfurter Rundschau (FR). Some of their articles correspond with views among the elite, some sharply criticize the extended security concept, according to the report.

Here is another observation that disturbs me: My choice of press-review sources – Süddeutsche Zeitung, Spiegel, Die Welt further above in this blogpost was spontaneous. My information sources of choice when it comes to North Korea’s nuclear test were just these papers. No taz, no Frankfurter Rundschau. However, there’s an excuse:

I thought the Rundschau was no longer online, as they filed for bankruptcy on November 12, 2012.

But in fact, they are still here.

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Related

» Questions Raised, November 10, 2012

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Gatekeepers of Information: When Democracy begins to Rot

Aaron Swartz, the American coder, hacker, and internet activist who took his own life last week after two years of – possibly political – prosecution – would have needed critical solidarity. There is no need to believe in people like him, but there is a need to see their rights, and to see the infringements on their rights. There are many of Mr. Swartz’ kind, and most of them go unnoticed. When I wrote about Deutsche Welle‘s Chinese service, and published this interview, I kept in mind that while the judicial system doesn’t always amount to justice, the main problem – probably – is general apathy.

I see a parallel between Mr. Swartz’ case, and China – and I think I can afford to point this out without being considered a CCP apologist. Obvious abuse of state power (if in a legal sense, remains to be seen, but clearly abuse in an ethical sense) leads to flaring tempers both in America and in China. It is a universal experience – most people can relate to it in one way or another. But those moments are rare.

One news agency in Germany – an agency with an official church background – published a long report, with a lot of verification in favor of the four Deutsche-Welle journalists that had been sacked. Apparently, not one single paper or broadcaster in Germany cared to air it. One regional radio station had it on their website for a limited period – they announced in advance that it was only temporarily online. I haven’t seen it anywhere else. I’m imagining how news-and-analysis people put their eggheads together and write smart articles when things like these go on in China. In a democratic country? No, never! News that is in the public interest will always see the light of day! Truth does not burn in the fire or drown in the water!

Noone seemed to demand coverage about the four sacked journalists, either. The report was apparently available to all the German press, in a common database. So there is no reason to believe that the press people were unaware of the story. Unfortunately, the newsagency didn’t put the story online. Maybe that would have helped. Maybe.

Their problem there at the press, as I interpret it: their industrial-relations and journalist issues ware a sensitive issue all over the commercial (and publicly-owned) media. Hence no interest in covering it.

As long as the big papers don’t cover a story, it won’t have happened. The traditional media are still the gate-keepers for politically relevant information. That’s where questions about the “4th estate” need to be asked. They may address many issues and flaws, but to address ones own doesn’t come easily.

There are a few “beacons” in public awareness, like Julian Assange or Bradley Manning. Their merits – and mistakes, in my view -, would need to be debated extensively, rather than simply be praised or condemned. People like them seem to serve as some post-modern kinds of Jesuses-on-the-cross. People pay their respects to them as they do to Brian, as he hangs on the cross in that great Monty-Python movie, and then go back to their routines.

That kills every issue. When “Jesus” is in charge, you don’t need to do anything. When Assange and Manning are saints, you can’t live up to their example anyway. Only a society that is prepared to look into the shades of grey, to judge, and to decide what to do, can become a more fair society.

It is right to mourn Mr. Swartz. But the main question is: how to handle the issue? It’s a question to society. To get either careerist or politicized prosecutors fired – guys who were apparently not obliged to prosecute, but did it anyway -, would be a beginning. It wouldn’t only be an achievement for those who make it into the headlines, but also for the many who go unnoticed, in their neighborhoods, and nationwide. Power needs to learn to respect the “common people”.

That’s why I maintain that the main difference between China and most Western country isn’t about human rights. It is about totalitarianism. Our press isn’t controlled centrally, but business (and, at times, political) principles control it anyway. We can speak out, provided that what we say is backed by evidence, but too many people who matter won’t speak out. That’s when things start going into the wrong direction, even in democratic countries. Democracy is nothing static. It can rot, if it isn’t defended against adversaries from within (who frequently like to present themselves as democracy’s greatest champions).

Here is another problem: networking. It’s another field where Western countries are becoming more similar to China. The law is becoming unpredictable here, given the technicalities. You can twist every paragraph – or any well-paid lawyer can – until it fits the interests of the powerful. Much will depend on your connections. Not only in China.

Still too vague? OK – let’s talk Turkey: when torture becomes something a public intellectual can advocate in a European paper without becoming a pariah in his own established network, things are going wrong.

If our fundamental rights matter as much to us as our economic prospects do, it’s time to go from mourning to action, however small. Just as meditation is a skill one needs to learn, awareness for the small, but important things one can do in the real world, can be learned, too.

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Related

» Shredding a Principle, Aug 16, 2012
» When your Employer suspects…, Feb 18, 2012

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Rising China, Rotten Diplomacy: No Game-Changer in Sight

Chinese leaders established a China Public Diplomacy Association in Beijing on December 31 last year. English-language party mouthpiece China Daily carried a news article on page 4 one day later, either because of the expected importance the new organization might carry, or because of the relative prominence of at least two participants in the event, foreign minister Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) and former foreign minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星, now chairman of the National People’s Congress foreign affairs committee).

What strikes me in the article is that Yang Jiechi isn’t his own party boss in the foreign ministry. His vice minister, Zhang Zhijun, is. Wu Bangguo on the other hand  is both chairman and party secretary of the National People’s Congress (see notes underneath that post). Not sure how many ministers (if any) double as minister and their ministry’s party secretaries. At the ministry of health, it is also the vice minister who doubles as party secretary, while at the ministry of culture, the minister takes both the state and the party function. Minister of Public Security, Guo Shengkun, also doubles in both functions. He took both the positions in December.

Does this indicate something about Yang Jiechi, or about the importance of his job as foreign minister – i. e. the importance of irrelevance of diplomacy? Not necessarily. But there are other indicators, too. Yang wasn’t even a member of the 17th politbureau (let alone its standing committee). Late in November, in an article for CNN, Linda Jakobson pointed out that the power status of diplomacy within the Chinese leadership was unlikely to rise.

So, one shouldn’t expect the China Public Diplomacy Association to become a game-changer. It’s nice for the (public) diplomats that the 18th National Congress – referred to by Yang Jiechi as quoted within the article translated below – gave public diplomacy a mention in its report. But if that’s something to celebrate, it sheds a sad light on the discipline as a whole. No wonder that Zhao Qizheng, director of the CPPCCs foreign affairs committee, longs for the good old days of Zhou Enlai‘s “convivial diplomacy” (official, semi-official and people-to-people diplomacy). Zhou, after all, was a member of the politburo’s standing committee – and for the first nine years after the establishment of the PRC, he was also its foreign minister. In the 1970s, foreign relations were still a job for the top, and in February 1979, Deng Xiaoping celebrated the improving Sino-American relations with an attack on Vietnam.

We probably have to see the inaugural session of the China Public Diplomacy Association in the light of those glory days – it’s a contrast that doesn’t make either official or unofficial diplomacy look important these days.

Maybe the new situation, frequently mentioned by Yang in his congratulatory speech, is just that situation. But then again, maybe not.

Form your own opinion if you can.

Source:
Committee for Friendship with Foreign Countries of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Shanghai Committee, January 8, 2013.

Main Link: Tell China’s story well, let China’s voice be heard. China Public Diplomacy Association established, Zhou Taitong attends. (讲好中国故事 发好中国声音 中国公共外交协会成立 周太彤出席)

On December 31, 2012, the China Public Diplomacy Association inaugural meeting was held at Diaoyutai Guest House, with foreign minister Yang Jiechi, foreign ministry party secretary and vice minister Zhang Zhijun and other leaders participating and unveiling the association’s nameplate. Shanghai Municipal People’s Consultative Conference vice chairman and Shanghai Public Diplomacy Association’s vice director Zhou Taitong represented Shanghai’ Public Diplomacy Association at the meeting.

2012年12月31日,中国公共外交协会成立大会在北京钓鱼台国宾馆举行,外交部部长杨洁篪,外交部党组书记、副部长张志军等领导出席并为协会揭牌。上海市政协副主席、上海公共外交协会副会长周太彤代表上海公共外交协会出席会议。

At this first general assembly, the “China Public Diplomacy Association charter (draft) was passed, National People’s Congress foreign affairs committee chairman and former foreign minister Comrade Li Zhaoxing was elected as the association’s first president. [1] Former ambassador to Britain and to the Council on Security Cooperation in Asia and Pacific Region Ma Zhengang; [2] China Museums Association deputy director, China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification director, and [3] Central Research Institute of Culture and History staff member Comrade Shu Yi were elected as deputy presidents, and China Institute of International Studies fellow Song Ronghua was elected secretary-general.

在协会召开的第一次会员大会,通过了《中国公共外交协会章程(草案)》,选举全国人大外事委员会主任委员、前外交部长李肇星同志为首任会长,选举中国前驻英国大使、亚太安全合作理事会中国委员会会长马振岗、中国博物馆学会副会长、中国和平统一促进会理事、中央文史研究馆馆员舒乙同志为副会长,中国国际问题研究所研究员宋荣华为秘书长。

Minister Yang Jiechi delivered the congratulatory speech. He pointed out that public diplomacy, in a new situation, is an objective requirement for perfecting the design of our country’s diplomacy, and important in broadening our country’s diplomatic work. The 18th National Congress report says that “we must sturdily promote public diplomacy and cultural exchanges”. This exacts higher demands on the promotion of public diplomacy under the new situation. In the new situation, promoting public diplomacy and cultural exchanges means putting efforts into mutual knowledge between China and the world, deepening China’s relations with the world, as well as promoting China’s and the world’s benign interaction and common development. We must develop and expand equality and mutual trust, be tolerant of each other and learn from each other in the spirit of win-win cooperation, we must strengthen dialog and exchange with the peoples of the world, promote mutual understanding, trust, friendship, and cooperation. Developing public diplomacy requires ample use of resources from all walks of life and bringing all factors from society into play. We hope that the China Public Diplomacy Association will carry out and implement the spirit of the 18th National Congress, make major contributions to the cause of China’s public diplomacy, and build fine foundations for the public-opinion environment and the will of the people.

杨洁篪部长在会上致贺辞。指出,公共外交是新形势下完善我国外交布局的客观要求,是我国外交工作的重要开拓方向。党的十八大报告提出,“我们将扎实推进公共外交和人文交流。”对新形势下推进公共外交提出了更高要求。新形势下,推进公共外交和人文交流,就是要着力促进中国与世界的相互认知,深化中国同世界的关系,推动中国与世界的良性互动和共同发展。我们要大力弘扬平等互信、包容互鉴、合作共赢的精神,加强同世界各国人民的对话交流,促进相互了解、信任、友谊与合作。开展公共外交需要充分利用各界资源,发挥全社会的作用,希望中国公共外交协会认真贯彻落实党的十八大精神,为推进中国公共外交事业做出重要贡献,为国家发展和外交工作营造良好的舆论环境和民意基础。

Yang Jiechi emphasized that public diplomacy absolutely needed innovating ways and means, strengthened communication and exchanges with the masses, it needed to draw on the wisdom and the will of the people, domestic and foreign coordination, wholistic planning of the overall domestic and foreign situations, it needed to tell China’s story well and let China’s voice be heard, it needed to explain a real China to the world, and to establish a just and comprehensive view of China.

杨洁篪强调,一定要创新公共外交方式方法,加强对民众的沟通与交流,汲取民智和民意,国内国外相互配合,统筹国内国外两个大局,讲好中国故事,发好中国声音,把一个真实的中国介绍给世界,树立公正全面的中国观。

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Related

» Destined to Fail, The Diplomat, January 7, 2013
» A related discussion, Peking Duck, Jan 7, 2013

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Diplomatic Relations: Boring Dogs, Casual Oppression, and Poor Career Decisions

Japan’s new ambassador to China, Masato Kitera (木寺昌人), will watch China’s Japan policies closely, Huanqiu Shibao quotes China Radio International online (国际在线, CRI) – which in turn had quoted Kyodo News, from an interview on Thursday. No matter which shape Japan’s next government would take, diplomatic relations with China would be important. There was nothing supernatural in the world of diplomacy, and problems in politics could only be solved with by perseverance. An emergence of new problems couldn’t be ruled out, but he would then have to address and explain them in good faith.

Japanese analysts had close contacts with Japan’s governing Democratic Party, and given his rank as assistent chief cabinet secretary, the government’s decision to appoint him as the country’s ambassador to China showed some kind of importance attached to relations with China, and serious efforts to break the current confrontative deadlock. However, Huanqiu also quotes views that the Noda government was approaching a defeat in the coming elections, and a new government could make it difficult for Kitera to be influential in its policies towards China.

According to the usual Huanqiu emoticons underneath the article, eighteen reader-voters find the article (or the news it contains boring, and thirteen find it ridiculous. Only one is “angry”.

A commenter finds it tiresome to see that meaningless (or boring) Japanese dog again. It should leave and pick up one of the bones from its American daddy instead, the commenter suggests. Another expresses hope that some day, there would be no need to attach importance to Japan which was just a dog (what else). “Let’s strengthen ourselves, and casually oppress Japan.”

But generally, the boredom appears to be genuine: there were only five comments during the first hour (if not two hours) the article had been online.

Masato Kitera was chosen as ambassador in early October this year. According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on October 6, he is a career diplomat with little Chinese experience, but renowned for his mediating skills.

In contrast to CRI/Huanqiu’s comparatively optimistic news article today, the SCMP article in October quoted Zhou Yongsheng (周永生), a Japanese affairs expert at China Foreign Affairs University, as saying that [n]aming someone who has no China experience simply tells us that Tokyo does not pay much attention to Sino-Japanese ties.

Zhou Yongsheng had appeared to be more sanguine in July this year. When Japan’s current ambassador, Uichiro Niwa, left Beijing for a brief return to Tokyo to report on Chinese actions concerning the Senkaku Islands, Zhou suggested that the Japanese government wanted to gain first-hand information about China’s attitude concerning the Diaoyu Islands. And [t]he Japanese government has become aware of the trend of ever-stronger Chinese reactions concerning the Diaoyu Islands, and the need to attach importance to Chinese reactions and trends, Zhou believed back then.

Shanghaiist, also in October, kind of agreed with Zhou’s second thoughts: Kitera was [...] a man who has never served in any important roles related to China and (by taking this post) clearly makes poor career decisions.

Kitera will reportedly be posted in Beijing on December 25.

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Related

» Too Complex to keep the Peace, Sep 18, 2012
» Fully Understood, July 27, 2010

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Unblogged Stuff: through her Teeth, Factions N & N+1, at the Grassroots

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Big flu – hence rather little blogging. What I might have blogged about otherwise:

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1) about Han Suyin

An obituary about Han Suyin, a Chinese-British writer who devoted her life to spreading Chinese culture and literature around the world, according to China Daily, or a cheerleader for Mao’s Cultural Revolution, according to the New York Times.

You’d have to subscribe for reading the rest there, but Peking Duck got there in time to provide a bit more from the NYT article – how Han Suyin “lied through her teeth” about the “great leap forward”, as she reportedly admitted later.

I’m not sure which verdict would hit me harder: to be referred to as Mao’s cheerleader by the NYT, or as a guy who spread Chinese culture and literature, by China Daily. Faced with only these two choices before passing the gate of reincarnation, would you want to be a blunt or a subtle propagandist? Would you want to be one who will say “I knew what I did”, or one who will say “I didn’t know” or “I had to make a living and couldn’t afford to take a closer look”?

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2) about the CCP’s 18th National Congress

What happens before such meetings matters more than what matters during them, but The Hindu shows that studying the peope who are raising their hands there can still make some sense.

Woeser wrote an article for the Tibetan service of Radio Free Asia (RFA) in April, describing Wang Lixiong‘s (i. e. her husband’s) views of how different factions in the party have been institutionalized – and why, in  his view, placing hopes on “inner-party democracy” is misguided.

German Fairy Tale Road, Bremen

German Fairy Tale Road (Bremen)

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3) about Neil Heywood

Granted, the headline  Beijing Cream chose is somewhat speculative, but that’s about as true for every bit I’ve read about the man’s life and death before.

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4) about the Chinese press

Thumbs-down on that one, Beijing Cream. The Global Times isn’t “the Chinese press”.  Or, if it is, “Facts about Germany” is “the German press”. (That’s not to say that the Chinese press would take a more benevolent view than the GT, though.)

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5) Etc.

Maybe I’d blog about the “100 reporters at the grassroots”, too.  But I suppose it isn’t really big news and can wait for a while.

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Related

» Old Friends of the Chinese People, April 27, 2012

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Is China Misunderstood? And if Yes, How?

  • “People in China have as many freedoms as people in Europe, as long as they don’t organize to challenge CCP rule.”

Not really. Frequently, challenging one bureaucrat amounts to challenging the party. What you can and what you can’t do depends on your connections, and even if you are pretty well connected, no independent court will protect you and the liberties you have taken to do things when the party decides that it has a stake in your case.

  • “The Chinese Communist Party has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese people out of poverty.”

That’s conventional wisdom. But isn’t it the party’s decision to leave more space for  privately-owned business – i. e.  a withdrawal from business administration – which has led to that success?

  • “Authors like Mo Yan show that you are quite free to criticize leadership decisions – even if you are formally part of the system.”

Mo Yan spoke up for Liu Xiaobo (with some disclaimers included in his talk), and that was a good decision – but if he wasn’t part of the system, and right in the limelight, such a public statement might have earned him an invitation for a cup of tea at the next public security office – or worse.

What is true is that China is much more of a mixed economy these days, than thirty years ago. What may also be true is that the cadres, too, have become much more affluent. Some leaders, especially top leaders, have become rich.

And this seems to amount to a strange excuse, frequently offered by CCP apologists: because the Communist leaders – and top leaders not least – are so corrupted, their theories can’t be taken seriously anymore. Or rather: even as a democrat, you don’t need to take their theories seriously anymore.

That’s a nice license to do business with the guys. Unfortunately, it’s a faked license.

It is true that what the CCP cadres do has little to do with their original theories. But that only means that their concept of class relations has changed. Contrary to what coverage frequently suggest,  that’s no bashful change. It’s clearly documented, not least in Jiang Zemin‘s Three Represents which are part of the official party theories. All this hasn’t hasn’t changed the CCP’s view of who should rule the country, and how they want to rule.

The CCP claims the function to decide what Chinese culture is, and what isn’t. They are the “standard bearers” and the “developers” of Chinese culture. They have left cultural organizations and individuals more leeway than during the Maoist days, just as they have left businesses more leeway – see above. But all that is revocable. It is part of the party’s development project. Obviously, people make use of the leeway they have – but given that the party has the last word on what will make it, and what won’t, its claim to be the developer is often taken remarkably lightly.

Above all, however, there is one constant: that while the outside world has certain good things to offer, it is, above all, a threat. The concept that an imagined innocence, “cultural” purity, or general well-being of the Chinese people can only be safeguarded by the CCP’s monopoly to power has never changed since the party came to power. A country that swallows the humiliations that come from this power monopoly and ultimately has to blame the outside world for exactly these humiliations can’t be a terribly friendly country.

The Libyan or the Syrian regimes have never been popular among Americans or Europeans. The Chinese regime isn’t, either. There is a lot of fault-seeking going on. Every incident, every blooper, and every corruption case among more senior officials are highlighted in the Western press, as if corruption was something particularly Chinese, or even something particularly CCP. But that seems to be arrogance, and wannabe virtue, rather than objectivity. Just as there was a preparedness to believe that basically, Libyans or Syrians were prepared to tolerate, if not support, their leaders, there is a preparedness to believe the same thing of China and the CCP.

When taking a benevolent view of Western governments and the Western public perception, they were also prepared to believe that at least the Syrian regime would give way to democracy (or theocracy) peacefully, rather than clinging to power by all means. If we may believe Western governments’ statements these days, they are absolutely shocked that, once having shown signs of vulnerability, such regimes aren’t tolerated by their own people anymore. By the same logic, Western governments are even more shocked to learn that such regimes would go “from house to house” to find and slaughter oppositionals, suspected or proven. By the same logic, Western governments and the Western public are outraged to learn that a regime may actually bomb its own cities, at war with many of its own people.

They would quite probably be just as “shocked” if such events occured in China. And then they would start explaining why they did have reasons to believe that the CCP regime was “responsible” and “accountable” to the people, why they did have reasons to believe that the party would put the people first, and put itself next.

And as long as shit doesn’t happen, they’ll tell you how the status quo in China is still better than any conceivable alternative. (That said, many foreign party apologists aren’t that much more interested in trying to imagining alternatives, than the CCP itself.)

People who are using excuses like the ones quoted at the beginning are most probably those who actually “misunderstand” China most fundamentally. But it’s a wishful misunderstanding. A less friendly word for it would be complicity.

That complicity is no crime. Or, if it is, this blogger, too, is complicit. I accept that our governments and businesses need to find compromises with totalitarian dictators, at least for the time being.  What I don’t accept is the beautification of the regime. Whoever justifies its existence needs to be prepared to accept the same standards in his home country – not necessarily as a ruler, but as a subject to such rule. (One problem among Western decision makers is that they themselves can only think of themselves as rulers, not as subjects.) But if you argue that, because of the “circumstances”, this or that has to be good enough for Chinese citizens, this or that has to be good enough for you, too – provided that the “circumstances” (seem to) demand it.

To be clear: this is no suggestion that Western intelligence services should sponsor underground organizations in China. It is a suggestion that people should stop thinking of China as some kind of “democracy”, or a “democratizing country”, only because it makes it easier for us to justify our business with China. The issue isn’t how Westerners could “westernize”, “democratize” or whatever-ize China. It is to make sure that our own values don’t become blurred in the process of interaction.

A paranoid scenario? Up to you. But take a look at the debate between U.S. president Barack Obama and his challenger Mitt Romney on foreign policy. Not a single mention of China’s political system. Rather: long debates on how to “shape” the Middle East.

And all that – my take of it, that is – to flatter power delusions among the American public.

That’s where the circle closes. Power isn’t irrelevant. But without a conscience – an understanding of what we are doing -, it may be wielded in a pretty CCP way: self-flattering, self-serving, and oblivious.

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Related

» Enabling “Democracy in International Relations”, The Peking Duck (guest post), Oct 2, 2012
» Asma Al Assad, the All-Natural Beauty, The Richest People, Febr 23, 2011
» Huang Mengfu: It’s Complicated, Jan 7, 2009

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