Posts tagged ‘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.

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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.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Societal Governance: Falling Growth, Rising Vigilance

The Chinese economy grew by 7.7 percent in 2013, 0.2 percent more than the central government’s target of 7.5 percent, but marking a 14-year low, according to the BBC. The story doesn’t explicitly say that there will be a further slowdown, but suggests that more growth would hardly be investment-led (as it was in the past), quoting an economist as saying that the government’s moves to curb shadow banking and local government debt will cap the growth of investment.

What may be rising further are “public-security” budgets. In November, party and state leader Xi Jinping had announced the establishment of a national security committee, and Chinese media were frank in announcements or interpretations right away. Tasks and challenges had become more complicated in the fields of national security, and the coordination and standardization (or unification, 协调和统一), innovative societal governance (社会治理), innovation of effective systems to defuse contradictions in society were needed, and it was easy to see that the new security committee needed to have both internal and external functions to react to both internal and external challenges.

A report by Central People’s Broadcasting  Station System (CPBS, aka China National Radio) pointed out that processes like these were going on not only in China, but in the United States, Japan, France, and other countries, too. Not least, the report quoted Ruan Zongze (阮宗泽),  a researcher and diplomat, the creation of a national security committee indicated the growing dynamics of Chinese diplomacy.

Such growing dynamics can certainly be visited in the German press. The home minister of the Free State of Bavaria, Joachim Herrmann, announced in a press release in March 2013 that China and Bavaria would cooperate yet more strongly in combatting international terrorism and drug trafficking. Herrmann issued the release after meeting Guo Shengkun, who had become minister for public security in December 2012, i. e. three months earlier.

Early this month, People’s Daily (online) published an article by Guo, which describes public-security work as safeguarding political security, security of state power, issues that relate to the ruling position of the party (事关党的执政地位) as well as national core interests mattered in Guo’s article, emphasizing several times that his position was based on prior speeches of party secretary general Xi Jinping, which indicated the party’s new height in understanding of how to maintain national security and social stability (我们党对维护国家安全和社会稳定规律特点的认识达到了一个新高度).

Guo’s article mentioned lots of ideological ingredients for these new heights of insight, but little or no recognizable threats. It doesn’t seem far-fetched however that incidents like these are among those on Guo’s mind.

Sina Weibo, according to reports, is losing users – the BBC links the decline to a crackdown on “online rumors”. It remains to be seen if innovation will come from Chinese media – “social” or other. Earlier this month, in a review of China’s media landscape of 2013, or China’s political discourse in 2013, Qian Gang, a contributor to the China Media Project, found a trend which in his view, went from some kind of constitutionalism to the two must not rejects. The two must not speaks as a term

summed up a new political position emerging from the Party leadership, that “the historical period after economic reforms [in 1978] must not be used to reject the historical period before economic reforms; and the historical period before economic reforms must not be used to reject the historical period after economic reforms.”

A number of terms in the media were checked by Qian, suggesting that terms associated with constitutionalism and democracy were reaching new lows. And while Qian considers the term “Chinese Dream” mainly motivational, he believes that media reference to “Mao Zedong’s Thought” is a measuring stick that can be used to look at Chinese politics.

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Related

» Edward Bernays, NYT obituary, March 10, 1995

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Update/Related

» Fresh Cash, Jan 21, 2014

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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.

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Updates/Related

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

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Obituary: Vo Nguyen Giap, 1911 – 2013

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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.

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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”.

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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”.

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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.

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Related

» Threat of Invasion, April 29, 2009

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Friday, August 16, 2013

Song Luzheng on Democracy: “Idle Masses indulging in a Life of Pleasure and Comfort”

Song Luzheng (宋鲁郑) is a journalist and (semi-)official living in France. The following are excerpts from an article published by Guanchazhe, a Shanghai-based website, on Thursday, and republished by the nationalist Huanqiu Shibao (online), also on Thursday. The article also appears on his regular blog.

Quotes made by Song Luzheng within the excerpts and translations underneath are my translations from Chinese to English. The wordings of the actual English-language originals (including book titles) by Niall Ferguson and Thomas Friedman may be different.

Main Link: The Tragedy of the Egyptian Raids confirm, once again, the Predicament of Democracy (埃及清场悲剧再次验证民主困境)

The bloody way in which the Egyptian military cracked down on the Morsi supporters has shocked the world. One after another, European countries condemned the “big terrorist massacre”, but Kerry, the secretary of state in charge of America’s diplomacy, of the world’s most developed democracy, with a surprising smile on his face on a press conference, didn’t condemn the military massacre in the least, and only uttered  that this was “deplorable”, that “violence was no solution and only brought about more instability and economic disaster” (but who used violence? The protesters?). Also, the only “sanction” the Obama administration imposes is “the military exercises with Egypt may be cancelled”. This is completely different from condemning the situation in Syria and taking action. Apparently, public intellectuals under American influence, abroad and at home, are in a hurry to stand on the side of the military which massacres peaceful Egyptian citizens.

埃及军方如此残酷的血腥镇压穆尔西的支持者, 举世震惊。欧洲各国纷纷表态谴责这起“恐怖大屠杀”,而世界上最发达的民主国家美国,其主管外交的国务卿克里竟然笑容满面地出席记者会,对埃及军方主导的 大屠杀毫无谴责,仅仅说了一句“悲惨的”,并不痛不痒地说“暴力不是解决方案,通向暴力的道路只能带来更大的不稳定、经济灾难”(但谁在使用暴力?抗议者 吗?)。与此同时,奥巴马政府的官员提出的唯一“制裁”措施竟然是:“可能取消与埃及的军事演习”。这和美国谴责叙利亚的态度和采取的行动完全不同。看 来,受美国影响,海内外的不少公知们很快也要站在屠杀埃及平民的军方一边了。

Most of today’s developed countries, with the exception of Britain, went through times of destruction, writes Song, and adds:

In fact, China went through a similar experience, only at a higher cost. This was the Republic of China, founded in 1912. Simply-put, the Republic of China didn’t bring China independence, nor did it bring China unity, let alone an era of strength, prosperity and dignity. In its short 37 years, the economy went into bancruptcy, there was warlordism, large-scale civil war, invasions by foreign enemies, territorial disintegration, corruption from the top to the bottom etc., and until it [the ROC] withdraw from the stage of history, China had almost reached the status of a savage nation. Life expectancy was at 35 years, illiteracy up to 80 percent. The only time in several thousands of years that China fell behind India was at that time. Not even the Cultural Revolution managed to do that. China at the end of the Qing dynasty faced three challenges: extreme poverty and weakness and encirclement by big powers, national disintegration, and military split by warlordism, and the Republic of China not only failed to provide solutions, but worsened even further. If one says that the Qing dynasty was a big collapsing building, the Republic of China not only failed to work on the Qing dynasty’s foundations, but even lost that foundation. It was at that time that Outer Mongolia was lost without a war, as the first territory in China’s history.

其实中国自己也曾有过类似的经历,只是代价更为不菲。这就是 1912年建立的中华民国。简言之中华民国是一个既没有带给中国独立、也没有带来统一,更没有带来富强与尊严的时代。在其短短的三十七年间,经济陷入破 产,军阀混战,大规模的内战,外敌入侵,国土分裂,从上到下的完全腐败,等到它退出历史舞台的时候,中国已几乎到了“蛮荒亡国”的地步:人均寿命不足35 岁,文盲高达80%。中国几千年唯一一次落后于印度就在此时,甚至文革都未能做到一点。清末中国面临的三大挑战:极端的贫困和积弱不振、列强环伺的生存危 机、国家的分裂和军队的军阀化,中华民国不但一个都没有解决,反而更加恶化。如果说清朝是倒塌的大厦,中华民国则不但连清理地基的工作都未能做到,而且把 地基都丢掉了。外蒙古也就是这个时期,成为中国历史上首个不是因为战败而丧失的领土。

Although a high price for democratic transition was a historical law [anyway], there were still more special factors at work in Egypt, according to Song: it was particularly poor, it was under the impact of the global economic crisis and of revolution at home, an unemployment rate of 31 percent (only nine percent before the revolution), and adding to that, illiteracy was at 27 percent, with female illiteracy at 69 percent.  A well-performing democracy needed an economic base and universal education. Lacking secularism in the Islamic world is also cited as a factor.

Also, some Muslim societies have long lacked a spirit of compromise and tolerance. This national character displays itself in a firm position and no concessions. This led to a situation where, when a ruler [Muarak] made concessions, prepared to move toward democracy, the country missed out on this top-down transition model which would have come at rather low costs, and even after a democratic success, and used extreme methods to solve conflicts. This happened both in Tunisia and in Egypt. When Muarak announced that he wouldn’t stay in office for another term and that his sons wouldn’t participate in elections, and that after his current term, there would be comprehensive, free and fair elections, the masses rejected this. As a result, power was transferred to the military, thus extending the transition period.  And after one year of rule by Morsi, the first president elected by the people was pushed off the stage by another street revolution, causing nation-wide confrontation and resulting in an unprecedented bloody tragedy. This kind of lack of compromise has already strangled Egypt’s democracy in its cradle. History shows again and again that what is born in a pool of blood is only violent, not democratic.

再者,有些穆斯林社会长期缺乏妥协和宽容精神,这种国民性在革命时可以表现 为立场坚决,绝不退步。却也造成当执政者做出让步,准备走向民主时,国家错过从上而下的、代价较低的转型模式,甚至在民主成功之后,采用极端手段来解决冲 突。这一幕在突尼斯和埃及都反复上演。当穆巴拉克宣布不再连任、自己的儿子也不参选、任期届满之后即进行全面、自由、公正的选举时,却被民众拒绝了。结果 权力被交给军方,大大延长了过渡期。随后又在穆尔西执政一年后,再次以街头革命的方式,将首位民选总统赶下台,造成全国性的对抗,终至演变成空前的血腥悲 剧。实际上,这种不妥协,已经把埃及的民主扼杀在摇篮中。历史已经一而再地证明,在血泊中诞生的只有暴力,而不是民主。

Revolutions like these were most likely to happen in demographically young countries, Song continues. Japanese media had pointed out that therefore, a revolution was unlikely to happen in a country like China, which was older on average, and with only one child per family.

The West itself was equally in trouble, writes Song, enumerating the share of respective national debt as a share of GDP. All of those shares were above the internationally accepted warning line of 60 percent.

The trouble was that democratic systems were based on the expectation that the people were perfect, and wouldn’t allow abuse. Unreasonable public expectations made politicians accept even unreasonable demands:

By using the ballot box in this Western system, people can force politicians to accept unreasonable and even perfectly unreasonable demands. Today’s Western debts come from deficit spending [今天西方国家普遍出现的债台高筑寅吃卯粮], high levels of welfare are hard to sustain and impossible to reform, the masses idly indulge in a life of pleasure and comfort, and falling competitiveness and falling economic growth have their sources here.

西方危机的深层根源就在于它实行的一人一票的民主制度。当今民主制度有一个理论假想:政府是应有 之恶,要进行限权,但对人民却又认为是道德完美、能够做到绝对正确。事实上,人民的全体和个体的人民一样,都有先天性的人性缺憾,比如好逸恶劳贪得无厌、 目光短浅急功近利等等。而任何权力包括民权没有限制都会被滥用。于是在西方这种制度模式下,民众可以通过选票迫使政治人物接受并非理性、甚至完全不合理的 诉求。今天西方国家普遍出现的债台高筑寅吃卯粮、高福利难以为继却无法改革、民众日益懒惰贪图享乐、竞争力下降经济增长乏力的根源就在于此。

When it is said that traditionally socialist countries with absolute public ownership of means of production (and economic equality) has proven a failed utopia, the failure of Western democratic societies as another big Utopia with absolute equality (one man, one vote) is now also being proven.

如果说过去传统社会主义国家生产资料的绝对公有制(即经济上均贫富)是人类已经证明失败的乌托邦,那么西方民主社会另一大乌托邦即政治权力的绝对平等(一人一票)的失败也正在被历史所验证。

Song mentions the role of Wall Street’s five largest investment banks in the 2008 U.S. elections:

While collusion between officialdom and business in China still requires secrecy, it happens in broad daylight in the West.

由于西方的民主制度法必须通过选举,而选举成本堪称天文数字,这又给了资本介入的契机。我们知道2008年华尔街五大投行全军覆灭,但高盛集团的政治献金仍然高达数亿美元(如果说中国官商勾结还需要遮遮掩掩,在西方则是光天化日)。

Apparently based on the bestseller “This Town”, Song details his statement about democracy.

This book’s grim conclusion is this: transactions between power and money has become a thorough procedure. America has become exactly the way of the Roman empire in its late stage, before its collapse: Systematic political corruption, evil action as the usual practice, and legal offense in vogue.

这本书得出的冷酷结论是:权钱交易已经彻底地程序化。美国正如罗马帝国崩溃前的末期:制度化的政治腐败,作恶成了惯例,违法成了时髦。

[...]

In the face of the crisis of Western democracy, more and more scholars are waking up. Niall Ferguson, one of the West’s most renowned and influential historians, called “one of the world’s 100 most influential people” by “Time”, wrote -  after writing “Money and Power” and “Civilizaton” – about “The Western Civilization’s four Black Boxes”. In this book he argues that questions about the decline of the West lies in the degeneration of the institutions. Representational government, free markets, the rule of law, and civil society were once western Europe’s and North America’s four pillars, but are now in decay. The root lies in the irresponsibility to which the voting people have turned, living at the costs of future generations.

面对西方民主的危机,越来越多的学者开始醒悟。当代西方声誉最高、影 响力最大的历史学者,被《时代》周刊称为“影响世界的100人”之一的尼尔·弗格森,在《金钱与权力》、《文明》后,又推出一本新作:《西方文明的4个黑 盒子》,在这本书中,他认为西方衰落的答案就在西方的建制正在退化。代议政体、自由市场、法治、公民社会,曾是西欧、北美社会的四大支柱,但在今天这些建 制已败坏变质。根源则在于作为选民的人民变得不负责任,使一代选民得以在牺牲未来数代人利益下过日子。

This is also why the “New York Times’” columnist Thomas Friedman, in his new book “[The World is] Hot, Flat, and Crowded”, goes as far as titling one chapter “If America could be China for one Day”. He gives an example: “If need be, China’s leaders can change the regulatory system, the standards, infrastructure to safeguard the country’s long-term strategic benefit. If such issues get discussed and implemented in Western countries, I’m afraid it takes years or even decades.” [...]

这也是为什么《纽约时报》专栏作家托马斯·费里德曼新书《世界又热又平又挤》有一章的标题竟然是这样的: 假如美国能做一天中国。他举例道:“如果需要的话,中国领导人可以改变规章制度、标准、基础设施,以维护国家长期战略发展的利益。这些议题若换在西方国家 讨论和执行,恐怕要花几年甚至几十年的时间。” [.....]

This is where Song Luzheng gets back to Egypt, as a painfull lesson for Egypt itself, but a fortune for China (埃及的惨痛教训,对于中国实是极为宝贵的财富).

There are the three major human civilizations: Christian civilization, Islamic civilization, and Confucian cvilization. Only the Western democratic system can keep pace with China’s political civilization. But this kind of Western system has developed to today’s dysfunctionality, increasingly unable to adapt to the challenges of globalization. Apparently, Chinese civilization cannot be refused to play an important role among the world’s civilizations!

目前人类三大主要文明:基督教文明、伊斯兰教文明和儒家文明,真正能和中国政治文明并驾齐驱的只有西方的民主制度。但西方这种制度发展到今天已弊病丛生,日益无法适应全球化的挑战。看来,中华文明将不得不再一次在世界文明中扮演极为重要角色!

We can say that the decline of Western democracy and China’s institutional civilization full of vitality are humankind’s greatest and most influential change. In the old days, China’s  huge contributions to humankind weren’t only reflected in economics, but more importantly in its institutional civilization. These days, as China is becoming strong and prosperous again, it will also, once again, carve out another height of institutional civilization for humankind.

我们可以说,西方民主的衰落与中国制度文明充满生命力的崛起将是二十一世纪人类最伟大、影响最为深远的变革。昔日中国对人类的巨大贡献并不仅仅表现在经济的富庶,更重要的是制度文明。今天的中国,在重新走向富强的同时,也将再一次为人类开拓出更高的制度文明。

____________

Related

» Those Southern Newspaper’s Commentators, Jan 28, 2013
» Refuting Western Rhetoric, china.org.cn, Nov 18, 2012
» JR turns to Science, Dec 17, 2011
» Make America collapse, Feb 14, 2010

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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.

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