Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ma Ying-jeou on War Commemorations: CCP should face History Honestly

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou said on Tuesday that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commemorations of the Japanese War were manipulating history in an unacceptable way. Ma spoke on a Special Exhibition on the Truth about the Japanese War (對日抗戰真相特展).

According to Radio Taiwan International ‘s (RTI) Chinese service, Ma Ying-jeou said that remarks by former Chinese leader Hu Jintao during the 60th Japanese War commemorations hadn’t been correct either. According to Ma, Hu had said that the KMT army had fought the frontal battles against the Japanese, while the CCP had fought the Japanese behind enemy lines. In fact, Ma said, KMT troops had fought both kinds of war. However, Hu Jintao’s remarks had been closer to the truth than the way mainland Chinese media were now painting a picture with the CCP as the leading force in the war of resistance.

President Ma said: Mainland reports emphasize again that the war of resistance had been CCP-led. We cannot accept this, in the light of the sacrifices of so many officers and soldiers. One can’t talk to a point where inaccurate situations emerge.

馬總統說:『(原音)大陸報導又再強調抗戰是中共所領導,這是我們所不能接受的,因為這麼多官兵犧牲,不能說到後來還是出現不真實的情況。』

At another venue on Tuesday, a symposium on the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ma said that events marking the victory over the Japanese in WWII were not affecting relations between Taiwan and Japan, RTI’s English section reports.

“I think we should focus on the issues at hand. [We should] have empathy and a clear concept of what is right and wrong. That’s the basis of making friends, and a basis for enabling the Chinese-speaking community and the Japanese people to build a long-standing friendship.”

In Taiwanese CNA newsagency’s quotation:

I have learned that when outsiders address my attitude towards Japan, they often believe that I belong to an anti-Japanese camp, because I frequently attend Japanese-war commemoration events, and because of my support for comfort women, and there are others who, because of my acknowledgement of Yoichi Hatta‘s contributions for Taiwan’s farming population, think of me as belonging to a “pro-Japan camp”. I don’t think that I’m belonging to either. I’m in the Friends-of-Japan camp, because I believe that taking matters on their merits, to feel for others, and clear distinction between kindness and resentment is the way real friends interact with each other, and it is on this principle that the Chinese nation and the Japanese nation can built lasting friendship.

我發現外界討論到我對日本的態度時,常常因為我常常參加抗日的紀念活動,並且支持慰安婦,而說我是反日派;也有人因為我肯定八田與一對台灣農民的貢獻,說我是「親日派」,我相信我都不是,我是「友日派」,因為我認為「就事論事、將心比心、恩怨分明」才是真正朋友相處之道,而這樣的原則,也才能真正讓我們中華民族與大和民族,建立可大、可久的友誼。

A Beijing-leaning Hong Kong news agency, CRNTT (中國評論通訊社), writes that the exhibition was organized by Taiwan’s ministry of defense. According to the report, Ma said that while the CCP did play a role in the war of resistance against Japan, the war had been led by the government of the Republic of China and Chiang Kai-shek, and this was an irrevocable fact which needed to be honestly faced. The CCP’s involvement had been limited, and this needed to be honestly acknowledged, CRNTT quotes the Taiwanese president.

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Related

» China’s press commemorates WW2, May 11, 2015

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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Refined Propaganda: China’s “National Security Law”, and PLA Exercise in Hong Kong

CCTV coverage, July 4

See what happens? – Xinwen Lianbo, CCTV, July 4.
The exercise didn’t feature
prominently in the broadcast,
and was only shown among a
collection of short news
owards the end of the program.

 

 

“People’s Liberation Army” (PLA) troops stationed in Hong Kong conducted a military exercise at Castle Peak (青山, Green Hill) on Saturday morning, China News Service (CNS, 中国新闻网) reported on the same day. More than 500 Hong Kongers “from all walks of life” were invited as guests, according to the report. An imaginary enemy was occupying twelve successive mountain hills there, according to the screenplay, looking for opportunities to infiltrate the city area and to do damage there (训练场内,依次相连的12个山头被一股假想敌占据。指挥所、迫击炮阵地、地堡工事,假想敌在高地构筑阵地,企图伺机对香港市区实施渗透破坏).  It was the PLA’s task to “annihilate them on the spot”, before they could enter the city (在他们尚未进入市区之前,解放军需要将其就地歼灭).

If the CNS report (whose audience will be mainly mainlanders) reflects what the invited Hong Kongers felt, it was as much a revolutionary opera as an exercise:

In the morning at 10:50, three signal lights rose into the air, and the long-awaited PLA-simulated naval gunfire was opened. At command, the enemy targets were shrouded in smoke.

上午10时50分,三发红色信号弹升空,等待已久的解放军模拟舰炮火力率先开火。一声令下,敌方目标即被硝烟笼罩。

[…]
The turns of firepower attacks didn’t stop. Armed helicopters had just taken off, when mortar bombs arrived at high speed. As the flight speed was too fast, and as the sunlight hampered the eye, the trajectories weren’t clearly visible, but explosions, one to another, could be seen on the opposite hilltop. Six rounds of ten mortars firing, and the enemy targets had suffered heavy destruction.

轮番的火力攻击,并未就此收手。武装直升机刚刚飞离,迫击炮弹急速而来。因飞行速度过快,加之阳光刺眼,现场还没看清弹道,炮弹就已在对面的山头上密集爆炸。10门迫击炮6次齐射,敌方目标遭受猛烈的压制摧毁。

You can probably imagine the rest.

Either the SCMP reporter, the CNS correspondent or this blogger’s translation has got some details wrong though. According to the SCMP, it wasn’t six mortars, but six military helicopters that were mobilised fired on targets set up on the mountain from distances of about 1km.

Either way, the SCMP quotes former Hong Kong security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee (叶刘淑仪) as saying that

I don’t think we need to read too much into the timing. I think the garrison has a duty to assure us that they are well-prepared and ready to defend Hong Kong if there is any threat to our security

Her comments referred to a possible link between the exercise, and a sweeping and controversial national security law, passed by China’s “National People’s Congress” three days earlier.

Apparently, the guests did the propaganda work within Hong Kong, telling the SCMP reporter that the timing of the exercise was unimportant, and that the PLA was merely trying to show Hong Kong that it had the power to protect the city.

Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US broadcaster supervised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), points out that the exercise on Saturday had been the first time that the PLA troops stationed in Hong Kong had invited media and guests. Two of these, Regina Ip, Ma Dingsheng (马鼎盛, apparently a Fenghuang/Phoenix-affiliated miltary commentator from Hong Kong), are quoted both by the SCMP, and RFA.

The Economist points out that state security is a job for the top, conveying

the remarkable range of Mr Xi’s worries, with potential threats seen to be emanating from sources as diverse as the internet, culture, education and outer space.

While the vagueness of the “national security law passed in Beijing could be followed by detailed regulations later, it was unlikely that its key terms will ever be defined more precisely. To Mr Xi, vagueness is a useful weapon.

There could be a little relief in Hong Kong, however, the Economist adds, given that the bill would not be applied in the territory.

That said, the bill isn’t lacking ambition outside mainland China. Ît obliges not only Hong Kong or Macau, but Taiwan, too, to defend China’s sovereignty, notes the SCMP. Huanqiu Shibao (环球时报, in an article rendered here by Sina), notes that the passing of the “National Security Law” had ccaused shock in Hong Kong and Taiwan (全国人大常委会高票通过新的国家安全法,在香港和台湾引发震撼).

The Huanqiu article suggests – without becoming to specific about this question – that worries in Hong Kong that people seen as daring oppositionals like Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) could be arrested when visiting mainland China were unfounded, as the bill was not applied in Hong Kong for the time being (即使法律暂时不在香港执行).

There were, of course, many people in Hong Kong who welcomed the new state security law, Huanqiu adds. But the article also quotes BBC coverage according to which the government and the public in Taiwan (literally: the court and the commonality, 台湾朝野一致反对大陆新国安法) unanimously opposed the bill.

The propaganda approach is pretty global, and China appears to have learned a lot from the Western political class, in terms of more refined propaganda. Pretty much the way most of Germany’s mainstream media make people believe that Greece’s political class and activists are pampered (and costly, for Germans) idiots, Huanqiu fosters a climate in which mainlanders will no longer ask why the liberties customary in Hong Kong shouldn’t be applied in mainland China, but rather, why there should be “special treatment” for anyone within “Greater China”.

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Related

» One Movement, two Pictures, Nov 27, 2014

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Saturday, July 4, 2015

From “taz” to Deutsche Welle: a “Charming Opportunity”

Ines Pohl had been editor-in-chief at the green-liberal taz (“tageszeitung”) since 2009, and will “reinforce the team at the DW studio in Washington” by the end of 2015, Deutsche Welle (DW) wrote in a press release on Friday.

Her work stands for the values that characterize journalism at Deutsche Welle. Her switch to Deutsche Welle is a genuine gain and will strengthen our coverage of the USA, particularly in the coming election campaigns

Ihre Arbeit steht für die Werte, die den Journalismus in der Deutschen Welle ausmachen. Ihr Wechsel zur DW ist ein echter Zugewinn und wird unsere USA-Berichterstattung gerade im kommenden Wahlkampf stärken,

the press release quotes DW program director Gerda Meuer.

Three correspondents work at the Washington studio, according to DW. Pohl herself is quoted by DW as being charmed by the opportunity to do journalism at DW in its entire digital and interactive scope (Und die Möglichkeit, bei der DW Journalismus in seiner ganzen digitalen und interaktiven Bandbreite zu machen, ist für mich reizvoll).

German daily Die Welt notes that DW’s new English-language (television) program is director Peter Limbourg‘s pet project, meant to  make the broadcaster more competitive internationally. And the paper suggests that presumably, having been a member of the Internationale Journalistenprogramme (IJP)  board of trustees, along with the DW director, facilitated Ines Pohl’s switch to DW. She is also a member of the “Reporters without Borders” (RSF) board of trustees – until December 2014, Limbourg had been a member of that panel, too, but resigned the post on the organization’s request, according to an RSF press release that month. There had been disagreement between Limbourg and RSF about DW’s cooperation with Chinese television broadcaster CCTV.

Pohl apparently left her post as taz chief editor on June 30.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Argentinian Radio on Strike

Radio Argentina al Exterior (RAE) QSL card, 1980s

Radio Argentina al Exterior (RAE) QSL card, 1980s. The station is still active on shortwave in a number of languages – Spanish, Portuguese, English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese.

Radio Nacional employees went on a 24-hours’ strike at 6 a.m. local time on Thursday (3 a.m. UTC), and there will be another strike on Monday, July 6, also starting at 6 a.m., writes APSF (Asociación de Prensa de Santa Fe), a labor union. According to the notice, the strikes are motivated by demands for a rise in payment for all employees at the country’s public radio, and demands to put an end to staff precarization (i. e. to enter permanent work contracts).

A blog post by Prensa Radio Nacional writes that patience has a limit, and that the listeners must know this., apparently defending the radio staff against accusations from the broadcasting authorities.

The workers who are today accused of letting their audience down are exactly those who prevented privatization and thanks to whom we still have this public radio you like to listen to.
This radio today is not the fruit of those in the spotlight, but of the silent efforts made by technicians and journalists in the durable station plant.

Los trabajadores a los que hoy acusan de dejar sin “aire” a los oyentes son los mismos que impidieron  en los 90 los intentos de privatización y gracias a ello, tenemos hoy esta radio pública que a ustedes les gusta escuchar.
La radio actual no es fruto de unos iluminados sino del silencioso  esfuerzo de los operadores técnicos y periodistas de la planta estable de la emisora.

Director Maria Seoane and vice director Vicente Muleiro hadn’t met with delegates from the committees for years, writes Prensa Radio Nacional, and kept focusing on small issues rather than the pressing ones, according to the blogpost.

They say that they belong to the national and popular camp [apparently a union motto], but they are not in a dialogue with the workers, whom they ignore and whom they try to make invisible.

Ellos dicen pertenecer al campo Nacional y Popular pero no dialogan con los trabajadores, los ningunean y tratan de invisibilizarlos.

This strike could have been avoided, and as journalists at the information service we like our work, despite zero recognition from the part of the authorities.

Este paro se podría haber evitado, a los periodistas del Servicio Informativo nos gusta nuestro trabajo, a pesar del nulo reconocimiento que existe por parte de las autoridades.

The criticism follows these quotes but is, unfortunately, beyond my very limited language skills.

The strike includes Argentine foreign radio, Radiodifusión Argentina al Exterior (RAE).

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Related

H/t to Medios y Opinión‘s link collection, July 2, 2015

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Friday, June 12, 2015

The BoZhu Interviews: If you want to Believe the Best or the Worst about China, it’s easy enough –

Ji Xiang about getting started with China, stereotypes, and finding a balance between Chinese and Western ways of life.

Ji Xiang is a blogger from Europe who lives in China. In his first blog post, in 2008, he explained how he got his Chinese name. And he is probably one of very few foreign China bloggers who started blogging almost right on arrival in the country, and have kept to the habit ever since.

Q: Ji Xiang, you are Chinese by name, but you are actually from Europe, right?

That’s right. My mom’s British, and my dad’s Italian. I grew up in Italy, although I have also lived in Britain. It’s not too obvious unless you look at my blog very carefully though. Interestingly, some of my readers have assumed I was American in the past.

Q: Could that be because your stance comes across as more “pro-Western” than that of most sinologists or Westerners who speak Chinese? It seems to me that both Foarp and you stand out as rather critical of what might be called “cultural relativism”, or a preparedness to find human rights violations tolerable because of a country’s culture, a “situation on the ground”, etc.

Well, I’m not sure if that makes you seem more like an American or not. Foarp is after all British. But to be honest, I think a lot of Westerners who speak Chinese have the same sort of opinions as I do. I don’t think of myself as “pro-Western” really, I am quite aware of all the bad things Western countries have done around the world, and the shortcomings of the “West” (if there really is such a thing as the West. But that’s another debate). But that doesn’t necessarily mean being pro-Chinese.

When it comes to human rights violations, I don’t really buy cultural justifications. I mean, East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea have created systems where basic human rights are respected, so it obviously isn’t only Western countries which can reach that point. The argument that human rights have to be put aside when a country is still poor and developing is more complicated. I think certain basic rights, like the right not to disappear, be tortured or speak your mind without going to jail, should be respected, and I don’t think the right to have a full belly clashes with these other rights.

There might however be a good argument for not holding elections in countries where most of the people are illiterate, or divided along ethnic or tribal lines. Say in Yemen or Burkina Faso. Even in Arab countries, it is clear that elections often bring religious fundamentalists to power.

Q: You went to China as a teacher in 2005, and came back to the country as a student. How did you get interested in China? You’ve spent a number of years there now, haven’t you?

I actually taught in China in 2004, and that was just for a summer. I then went back to China because I got a scholarship to get a master’s degree there. I have spent over six years in China by now.

Q: Was 2008 a good time to start a blog? You might have started one in 2005, the heydays of the (English-language) “Chinese blogosphere”. Was there a key moment where you felt that you should share your experiences, which got your blog started?

Well in 2005 I didn’t live in China, and had only spent a few months there. I had no basis for writing a blog about it. I only discovered recently that that was supposed to be the heyday of the “Chinese blogosphere”. Pity I missed it. I started my blog when I started living in China full-time. In the beginning, it was mainly to share my experiences with my family and friends back home. Now it’s turned more into a blog of commentary about China.

Q: Do the statistics or feedback give you an idea about who your readers are?

A bit. Most of my hits are from the United States, but I think that might be to do with the fact that most of the VPNs people use in China redirect there. Curiously, I also seem to have a lot of readers from Germany, Ukraine and Russia (well, you are one of the ones from Germany). Other than that, my most read posts are the ones with titles which people can come across randomly on Google.

Q: Apart from the blogs your blogroll, are there others – about China or other countries and topics – that you read regularly?

To be honest, not really. I mostly look at those few blogs on China which are on my blogroll (which includes your one). And there is my uncle’s blog, he lives in Israel and blogs about his life there and Israeli topics.

Q: Did family history contribute to your interest in China?

Not really. I don’t have any relatives who have lived or live in China. Having said that, the first time I came to China was with my parents. They are active in the international Esperanto movement, and in 2004 the World Esperanto Congress was in Beijing, so they were going to China to attend it and I went with them. That’s when I first got interested in China. Being able to speak Esperanto helped plug me in to the community of Chinese Esperanto speakers, which has been a nice way to get to know some cool, unusual Chinese people.

Q: Most bloggers will sometimes be surprised by the responses a post of them triggers. Have there been reactions and comments that surprised you during the past seven years?

After visiting Vietnam, I wrote a post on why the Vietnamese dislike China. It got quite a few reactions from Vietnamese readers, most of them proving my original point. One of them actually claimed that Daoism, the I Ching and the idea of Ying/Yang originally came from Vietnam and not from China. Total nonsense as far as I know. Unfortunately unreasonable nationalism is widespread throughout Asia. At its basis lies a wall of mental rigidity and misinformation which is very hard to break through.  Then again, Europe was probably similar up until the Second World War. And Westerners have their own unreasonable prejudices, just look at the persistence of antisemitic tropes among some people, or how so many Europeans will complain that immigrants get more benefits from the state than locals even when it just isn’t true.

Q: It seems that you’ve got most of your Chinese education in the North. Is that so, and do you think it differs from learning Chinese language, ways of interaction, etc., in the South?

You are correct. Although I’ve traveled all over China, I live in Beijing. It’s a stereotype to say that the North is best for learning to speak Mandarin, but actually I think you can learn just as well in most big Southern cities, because nowadays most people speak it there too. I think the Southern Chinese do tend to be a bit more like we imagine the Chinese to be (quiet, indirect, reserved), but in the main I don’t think the cultural difference between Northern and Southern China is that huge. It might not even be as big as the one between Northern and Southern Italy! Whether you live in a small or a big city, and a rich or a poor part of China, probably makes more difference to your experience. But I’ve never lived in Southern China, so I stand to be corrected.

Q: How would you describe your daily life? Is it becoming still more “Chinese”, concerning your choice of food, newspapers, internet sources, or television?

In some ways I am, and in some ways I’m not. I would say that my lifestyle has stopped becoming more Chinese for a while. In fact, after an initial enthusiasm for “going native”, which many foreigners have at first, I think I have found a balance. In a city like Beijing you can find loads of foreign amenities, and it would be silly not to make use of them. On the other hand I wouldn’t want to live in a bubble like some expats do. It really comes down to who you hang out with, and I still hang out with lots of Chinese.

When it comes to food I am pretty Chinese: I like eating Chinese food when it’s properly made, and I even do my best to cook it at home. I have long stopped eating street food or patronizing cheap, hole-in-the-wall type places though, because of concerns about the hygiene and the quality. Many Chinese seem to have come to the same conclusion. Foreigners who pride themselves on being able to eat in such places without minding the consequences are either young foreign-exchange students, or they are pretty dimwitted.

When it comes to media, I still look at Chinese newspapers every now and again to see what they say, but for real news I mostly turn to foreign sources. Of course the language is one issue (it is obviously still much quicker for me to read in English or Italian), but also I think the European media is just superior in terms of giving you a decent picture of what goes on in the world, and, when it comes to sensitive issues, even in China! Same for entertainment: although I sometimes watch Chinese shows and films, in the main I still watch far more foreign ones. I make full use of Chinese internet sites like Baidu or Weibo though.

Q: Do you see changes on Weibo, in terms of real-name requirement, censorship, etc.?

When I got an account in 2011, it still wasn’t necessary to give your ID/passport number. As far as I know now it is, although I have heard you can still get away with giving a false one. In any case, I am sure that if they really want to they can find out who you are.

Q: Generally, when reading your blog, I got an impression overtime that you might think of China as a project, as a country or civilization headed into a rather benign future, compared with Western societies. And on the other hand, your criicism of China, or its political system, sounds pretty much like the general global criticism of it. Is this an accurate impression?

I’m not entirely sure where you got that impression from. I have unquestionably been getting more pessimistic about China, its system and its prospects over the last few years. I think to an extent the current system is geared in such a way that China always gives the impression to outsiders that it’s almost on the cusp of becoming a decent, progressive, modern and confident society, but then it never quite does. I think the political system is good at producing GDP growth, but pretty hopeless at solving the country’s huge social problems. Yes, China has more and more subways and high speed railways, and that’s useful and good for the people, but surely a country like China could do so much better than just that?

I hope China gets better with time, but I don’t think it’s a given that, if you wait 20 or 30 years, it’s all going to be much better. That’s how a lot of Chinese seem to think: just wait a few decades, and everything will solve itself. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

I think my criticism is also a bit different from that of someone who’s never lived in China, because I am far more aware of aspects like the rise of Chinese nationalism, which many foreign commentators seem blissfully unaware of.

Q: That unawareness seems to be quite a phenomenon. This is what Bruce Anderson (himself not necessarily a human-rights champion) said about Edward Heath, in a BBC radio documentary. Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt might be another case in point.

Is there something Russia (for example) could learn from China, in terms of soothing external propaganda, or winning influential people over abroad?

Well, Chinese officials certainly are very good at flattering foreign visitors, saying the right things to them, and appearing reasonable and friendly. I don’t have much experience with the Russians, but I doubt they are as good at it. It’s probably not something you can learn either, it’s deep-rooted in the culture.

You have to remember that most Westerners know little about China, and obviously want to be open-minded. The unawareness of the rise of Chinese nationalism probably also lies in the fact that China does tend to leave other countries alone, as long they don’t have any territorial disputes with China of course, and as long as they don’t express any views on what China defines as its “internal affairs”. Of course China’s neighbours are very aware of its nationalistic side, especially the ones which have territorial disputes with it. But people in other parts of the world don’t get to see this side of things. And its not obvious to the casual visitor either.

The European media also focuses too much on the Middle East and almost never talks about Asia’s potentially explosive problems, like the dispute in the South China Sea and the anti-Japanese feeling in China or Korea. The only thing they ever talk about is the issue of Tibet, which has certainly damaged China’s image.

Then again, the real issue is one of projection. Many left-wing Westerners are predisposed to think well of any power which challenges the United States anywhere, regardless of what it really is or does. If you want to believe the best about China (or the worst for that matter), and you don’t live there, it’s easy enough. Right wingers on the other hand may see China’s rise as a vindication of free market economics, or god knows what. Everyone sees what they want to see in China, and no one knows much about it. This has always been the case.

Q: Do you have arguments with Chinese nationalists?

Well, in a sense I do, because I have political arguments with people in China, and most Chinese are nationalists at some level, although the level varies. The level of open-mindedness towards opinions which clash with modern Chinese nationalism, as the schools and media have constructed it, also varies. I know many Mainlanders who are perfectly open minded even about issues like Taiwan, and don’t just toe the line. I think they are a minority however. And by the way, they aren’t necessarily the people with most international exposure. On the other hand if you are talking about dyed-in-the-wool fenqing, rational debate is all but impossible.

Q: You have blogged in English for nearly seven years, and quite recently, you have also started a blog in Italian. What’s next? A blog in Chinese?

My written Chinese is really not good enough to blog in it. I would actually be more likely to start a blog in Esperanto, a language I also speak.

Q: Ji Xiang, thanks a lot for this interview.

The interview was conducted by an exchange of e-mails.

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Related

All BoZhu Interviews

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Zhou Yongkang gets Life

A pretty fair comment by the BBC’s Carrie Gracie there »,

and a pretty prescient look onto what might be Xi Jinping‘s present tense and future here:

 

The BBC assessment also contains some Weibo utterances – frightening examples for what alcohol, a lack of good sex, and tons of ham-handed propaganda can do to the human brain:

“Tiger Zhou didn’t escape lawful punishment. It should ring a warning bell for others”, “Support justice. Everyone should obey laws!”, “He knows law but breaks law. He deserves to be punished. We’re determined to battle corruption” …

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Related

» How safe will he be in 2023, Dec 13, 2014

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Twenty Years ago: Island Democracy seeks Recognition

1. A Democracy introduces itself

It had been a long and challenging journey, the president said. But there he was, at the lectern at Cornell University, his alma mater, delivering his Olin lecture.

He represented a country with a per-capita income of USD 12,000, its international trade totalling US$180 billion in 1994, and foreign exchange reserves of over US$99 billion, more than those of any other nation in the world except Japan.

His country had developed from a developing country to an industrialized country, and, in a peaceful transition, into a democracy.

Almost every president of the world may tell this kind of story. But this one, told on June 9, 1995, at Cornell University, was a true story. And the president who told it wasn’t welcomed by his colleague Bill Clinton, but shunned instead.

There were no official diplomatic relations between the visiting president’s country, Taiwan, and the United States. Washington recognized the Chinese government in Beijing, which claimed to represent both China and Taiwan.

That the Taiwanese president in 1995, Lee Teng-hui, had been allowed to visit the US didn’t go without saying. He wasn’t a state guest, but the university’s guest.

But his concern wasn’t that of agricultural economist or an academic – it was a politician’s concern:

I deem this invitation to attend the reunion at Cornell not only a personal honor, but, more significantly, an honor for the 21 million people of the Republic of China on Taiwan. In fact, this invitation constitutes recognition of their remarkable achievements in developing their nation over the past several decades. And it is the people of my nation that I most want to talk about on this occasion.

He only fulfilled this promise by half, if at all. Much of his talk was about himself: how he had listened in America and in Taiwan, and how he had learned. That he spoke on behalf of his people. That he heard the yearning of his people to contribute to the international community, with the Taiwan experience, development and democracy.

2. Lee Teng-hui

Even back then, twenty years ago, Lee was seen as the “father” of Taiwanese democracy, even if the ultimate goal or final success of democratization hadn’t yet been reached.

Like all Taiwanese of his generation (and the generation before), Lee grew up as a subject of the Japanese Emperor. From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan had been a Japanese colony. As a colony, Taiwan’s experience with Japan was less bad than China’s in the Japanese war from 1937 to 1945. And parts of Taiwanese population – especially the elites, and not only those of the upper classes – were co-opted by the Japanese elites. Lee Teng-hui’s family was probably co-opted, too. Lee’s brother, Lee Teng-chin, was killed in the Second World War, as a member of the Japanese military. His name is registered in the internationally controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which also contains the name of 14 A-class war criminals.

Reportedly, Lee also tried Communism, out of hatred against the KMT, Chiang Kai-shek‘s Nationalist Party, that had fled to Taiwan to “recover the Chinese mainland” from there.

After Communism, Lee tried the Christian religion, apparently with lasting success. And finally, he had himself co-opted by the (more or less) hated KMT: in 1971, he joined the one-party dictatorship, became minister of agriculture shortly afterwards, then Taipei mayor in 1978, and vice-president in 1984. Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek and his father’s successor as a Republic-of-China president on Taiwan, supported the careers of “indigenous” Taiwanese like Lee, at the cost of the faction of traditional KMT officials who had fled Taiwan along with the Chiangs.

Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988. The KMT’s central committee elected Lee Teng-hui as party chairman and made him president of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Lee had tried a lot of things, and he had achieved a lot. And he had no small plans for his country.

3. The Will of the People, the Chicken, and the Egg

What a people wants, and if it “can want” anything, is up for arguments.

When a man follows the leader, he actually follows the mass, the majority group that the leader so perfectly represents,

Jacques Ellul wrote in the 1960s, and added:

The leader loses all power when he is separated from his group; no propaganda can emanate from a solitary leader.

Basically, it seems that political leaders in democratic mass societies opportunites to shape their countries are limited. But Lee had become president in extraordinary times. Opposition groups, and “illegally” founded political parties among them, had demanded the lifting of the decades-old martial law for a long time. And when Lee began his second term as president in 1990, after the two remaining years of what had originally been Chiang Ching-kuo’s term, students occupied what is now Taipei’s Liberty Square. Once Lee had been sworn in again, he received a fifty-students delegation and promised Taiwan’s democratization, less than a year after the Tian An Men massacre in China.

Democratization was hardly only on the minds of the opposition, or on Lee’s mind. Chiang Ching-kuo might have had similar plans, even if less ambitious, and American influence probably continued to matter, too, even after Washington had switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing, in 1979. But with Chiang Kai-shek in office, a bloodbath in reaction to the 1990 events would have been much more likely than democratic reform.

4. Full Speed, 1995

Lee Teng-hui’s Cornell speech was part of the first presidential election campaign ever since the KMT had seized power in Taiwan. The mass media, still quite under KMT control, made sure that Lee’s visit to the US wouldn’t go unnoticed at home. On June 6, 1995, Taiwan’s domestic media had started coverage, and that culminated on June 10 (local time in Taiwan), with the Olin lecture.

Back then, when Lee approached a convincing election victory in March 1996, there were misgivings within the KMT about Lee’s loyalty to the KMT goal of “unification” of China and Taiwan. In summer 1999, toward the end of his first democratically legitimized presidential term (and his last term), Lee defined Taiwan’s relations with China as state-to-state relations, or at least special state-to-state relations. Not for the first time, Beijing reacted angrily to the “splittist” in Taipei’s presidential palace.

5. The “New Central Plains”

A lot seems to suggest that in 2000, when his presidency ended, Lee helped to bring about a victory of the oppositional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and their presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian. That spelled completion of the Taiwanese democratization project, but at the cost of Lee’s KMT.

After that, Lee continued his search for ways and visions for Taiwan. In “Taiwan’s Position”, a book published in 1999, Lee focused on his country’s Chinese heritage, but without making clear if he referred to China or Taiwan.

My active advocacy for  the “reform of heart and soul” in recent years is based on my hope to make society leave the old framework, applying new thought, face a new era, stir new vigor, from a transformation of peoples’ hearts. This goes deeper than political reform, and it is a more difficult transformation project, but we are confident that we will, based on the existing foundations of freedom and openness, achieve the building of a new Central Plain.

近年来,我积极倡导“心灵改革”,就是希望从人心的改造做起,让我们的社会走出旧有的框架,用新的思维,面对新的时代,并激发出新的活力。这是一个比政治 改革更加深入、也更为艰巨的改造工程,但是我们有信心,可以在社会自由开放的既有基础上,完成建立“文化新中原”的目标。

Lee had first used the term of “new central plains” in 1996. Scholars kept arguing about what he actually meant with the term. But these were hardly Chiang Kai-shek’s central plains, and, no less likely, Beijing’s.

But obviously, without the KMT, who had expulsed him for his “Taiwanization” business in 2001, and without public office, Lee wasn’t nearly as influential as before. Or, as propaganda expert Jacques Ellul put it in the 1960s, Moses (isolated from the masses) is dead on the propaganda level.

Incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, again a KMT president with rather “Chinese” manners, led a technocratically efficient government, but has been lacking success in terms of propaganda – and in terms of policies that would benefit all classes of society. Now, another “Taiwanese” politician is trying her luck. Tsai Ing-wen concludes her visit to the US today. In March 2016, Taiwan will elect another president. It could be her.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

“Star of the East” Aftermath: at Ease, under the Party’s and Government’s Help

A breathless Xinhua article published online by the People’s Daily today, with coverage which reads as if the whole story had unfolded only within the past twenty-four hours.

The Xinhua article seems to be the authoritative account of what happened, and how the authorities reacted. It was announced on Saturday evening's Xinwen Lianbo.

The Xinhua article seems to be the authoritative account of what happened, and how the authorities reacted. It was announced on Saturday evening’s Xinwen Lianbo. Click picture above for video.

On June 1, at about 21:30, the “Star of the East” from Chongqing’s Dongfang Ferry Company, on its way from Nanjing to Chongqing, suddenly capsized, hit by a tornado. In the furious storm and the surging waves, 456 passengers and crew were in a desperate situation.

6月1日21时30分许,重庆东方轮船公司所属旅游客船“东方之星”轮在由南京驶往重庆途中,突遇龙卷风顷刻翻沉,狂风暴雨,巨浪滔滔,456名旅客和船员陷入绝境。

Life is greater than the heavens!

生命大于天!

Under the strong leadership of the Party’s Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the Secretary General, under the State Council’s work group’s direct command, the party committees and governments of Hubei, Hunan, Chongqing and elsewhere, the united action of the central authorities, the People’s Liberation Army’s and Armed Police and maritime authorities rapid mobilization abilities, nationwide mobilization for search and rescue action quickly unfolded.

在以习近平同志为总书记的党中央坚强领导下,在国务院工作组直接指挥下,湖北、湖南、重庆等地党委和政府,中央有关部门统一行动,人民解放军、武警部队及海事部门迅速调集力量,一场举国动员的搜救行动迅速展开。

After receiving the report, Central Committee Secretary General, State Chairman, and Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping issued important instructions right away, ordering the State Council work group to go to the site to guide the rescue work, and that Hubei Province, Chongqing Metropolitan, and other work groups unfold all efforts with their adequate strength, and properly deal with the aftermath.

接报后,中共中央总书记、国家主席、中央军委主席习近平立即作出重要指示,要求国务院即派工作组赶赴现场指导搜救工作,湖北省、重庆市及有关方面组织足够力量全力开展搜救,并妥善做好相关善后工作。

Standing Politburo member and Chief State Councillor Li Keqiang immediately issued written instructions and, on behalf of the Party’s Central Committee and the State Council, and on behalf of Secretary Xi Jinping, hurried to the site by plane, directing the rescue and emergency reaction work.

中共中央政治局常委、国务院总理李克强立即批示,并代表党中央国务院、代表习近平总书记急飞事件现场,指挥救援和应急处置工作。

After the description of the political will behind the rescue work, the article goes into more technical and bureaucratic detail. Further down, the article mentions that the relevant local party committees and governments (i. e. Hubei Province, the Changjiang Maritime Bureau, Yueyang City, Shanghai, Jiangsu Province, Chongqing, Zhejiang Province, Fujian Province, Shandong Province, Tianjin Metropolitan authorities etc), on their own initiative, coordinated their actions. Support from companies with nationwide significance is also acknowledged.

The article also quotes reportedly positive coverage from the Wall Street Journal (WJS), and a Weibo message allegedly resent more than 100,000 times within a day, saying that “what most touched me is that the water level was lowered to facilitate the rescue work, with the Three Gorges Dam damming up water”.

That’s the role “social media” are meant to play in China, under the CCP’s guidance. Issuing authoritative information and news is for the authorities:

To publish authoritative news on ones own initiative is an effective medium to respond to society’s deep concerns. By the afternoon of June 6, the relevant authorites had done 13 press conferences, convened by the ministry of transport, the National Health and Family Planning Commission, the ministry of civil affairs, by the People’s Liberation Army, Hubei Province, and other people in charge who explained the situation and replied to the reporters’ questions, supplying information regarding the rescue and salvage work and the investigations in a timely, accurate, open and transparent manner.

主动发布权威信息,是回应社会关切的有效渠道。截至6日下午,有关部门已在事件现场召开了13场新闻发布会,交通运输部、卫计委、民政部、人民解放军及湖北省等相关负责人到会发布情况,并回答记者提问,及时、准确、公开、透明地传递救助、打捞、调查等信息。

After the incident, Associated Press, Reuters, CNN, BBC, and other foreign media, some 62 of them, arrived at Jianli, Hubei Province, covering the rescue work, the aftercare for the relatives, and how the aftermath was dealt with. Front command staff also organized three trips to the site for foreign media.

事件发生后,美联社、路透社、CNN、BBC等62家境外媒体先后抵达湖北监利,就事件救援、家属安置及善后处理等采访报道。事件前方指挥部还3次组织境外媒体赶赴事故现场采访。

The article’s firt page ends with the same character it started with: Xi Jinping giving an important speech on the morning of June 4, concerning the next steps of rescue work.

Assuming high responsibility for the people’s life and safety – the attitude of the party’s and state’s highest decision-making levels is distinctive!

对人民生命安全高度负责——党和国家最高决策层态度鲜明!

the Xinhua article jubilates, and concludes the first page of its online article (there are two more pages) with what it says is a quote from French daily Le Monde:

“At a time of disaster, the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party have built the image of responsible national leaders.”

“中国共产党领导人在灾难时期树立了负责任国家领导人的形象。”法国《世界报》

The following two pages are mostly a chronicle of the rescue efforts, of blood, sweat, and respect for the dead (对逝者的尊重), apparently written to evoke the readership’s national pride and trust in the authorities.

Zhu Hongmei, a survivor saved from the wreck around noon of June 2, is hospitalized in Jianli. The article’s final line:

At Jianli County People’s Hospital, Zhu Hongmei’s condition is stable. She says that with the Party’s and government’s help, she feels at ease.

在监利县人民医院,病情平稳。她说,有党和政府的帮助,心里踏实。

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Related

»Mourning the Victims, Radio Japan, June 7, 2015
» Rescuers, Families Bow in Silence, NYT, June 7, 2015
» En quête de réponses, Le Monde, June 5, 2015
» Search complete, L. A. Times, June 6, 2015
» To the Directorate for Religious Affairs, Russian Orthodox Church, June 4, 2015
» Reluctant to embrace Transparency, NYT June 4, 2015

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