Friday, August 11, 2017

Trump Rhetoric against North Korea reveals Need for modernized US Foreign Policy

Donald Trump was born rich. That’s why he’s qualified to serve as US President. You only have to look the other way when he’s making decisions. To talk bullshit to the press (or on Twitter) is a decision, too. This is what he told the press in New Jersey, on Tuesday:

Q: Any comment on the reports about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities?

A: North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.

Thank you.

Senator John McCain stated the obvious, still on Tuesday, in a radio interview: “You got to be sure you can do what you say you’re going to do.”

If that’s logical, it’s too logical for President Trump – and for some of his supporters, who refer to McCain as a “traitor” who “sabotaged” their idol. Because, who knows, if everyone would have kept his  mouth shut, Pyongyang might have been very afraid.

Trump is either a madman, or a bigmouth. We may be hopeful, for now, that he’s a bigmouth first. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t do damage. In fact, Washington is heading into a loss of face like the world has never seen. George W. Bush was the first wrecker’s ball operator against American credibility, and Trump is his worthy successor.

But sometimes, when an idiot is running the farm, his operations reveal structural weaknesses that began long before his reign.

It has been said countless times by now that there are “no good options” when it comes to North Korea. That’s easy to say, and when it’s said frequently enough, it begins to sound like an inevitable truth.

But the debate if there are “good” options, or only more or less lousy options, has little to do with North Korea. Instead, it has a lot to do with America. Whenever there’s a debate about foreign policy, it sounds as if America was in full control, and just needed to decide if they want to “take out” this or that dictator.

There would be a fairly good option, concerning North Korea – the only question is if Trump is the president who can do it. Maybe he can – after all, he has no face, and therefore can’t lose face.

Either way: what is the fuss about the impossibility to recognize North Korea as an equal in international relations? Not as an equal in ethical terms, obviously, but as an equal member of the United Nations?

The problem is that both America and China follow the Yang Jiechi doctrine: that [your country] is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that’s just a fact.

America is a hegemon in decline. That means that, to maintain its international influence, it will have to modernize its foreign and military policies. It needs to find partners, rather than junior partners. And it needs to understand what constitutes a problem, and what doesn’t. America can no longer afford to exhaust all other options before doing the right thing.

If America can do business with China – a totalitarian country -, there is no plausible reason as to why it shouldn’t do business with North Korea, too. North Korea’s neighbors would hardly object. A policy – or mere rhetoric – that suggests a war on their territory is not popular there. And Pyongyang would be only to happy to reduce its dependence on Beijing.

Therefore, the first step should be to accept North Korea’s status as a nuclear power. If China should have any concerns about that, let it be Beijing’s problem. America may offer some inexpensive assistance, if deemed auspicious, but why should they tackle the main responsibility for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula if Beijing considers North Korea a bargaining chip against Taiwan?

Let’s face it: there is nothing any power on earth can do when Beijing protects the regime in Pyongyang. But there is a lot that can be done to defend South Korea, Japan, and – not least – Taiwan.

Therefore, Washington should reach out to Pyongyang.

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Updates/Related

Moon: Peace a national interest, BBC, Aug 14, 2017

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sino-Belarusian Cooperation: Many warm encouraging words

Links within blockquotes added during translation – JR

Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration Nikolai Snopkov called on the Chinese business to adopt a more active position on the matter of establishment of joint ventures in Belarus during the negotiations with a Chinese delegation led by Xiao Yaqing, Chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission at China’s State Council on 1 August,

the Belarusian Telegraph Agency reported on Tuesday. If you go by the way the newsagency quoted Snopkov, he struck a self-assured tone:

I believe that the corporations attending the current meeting that are discussing projects with Belarus will take an active position on the matter of setting up joint ventures in Belarus. We have heard many warm encouraging words from Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. I think this will give an impetus to the effort to implement the most effective projects in the shortest possible time.

The Belarusian administrator also referred to the platform for his country’s cooperation with China, the Belarus-China industrial park Great Stone (aka China-Belarus Industrial Park).

A leaflet from the industrial park’s administration explains Belarus’ relevance for the Chinese “One-belt-one-Road Initiative” as seen from Minsk:

The Republic of Belarus borders with the European Union and Russia, and is a trade corridor between the Europe Union and the EAEU.

Snopkov also mentioned the role of “powerful effective competitive state-run corporations”. Minsk and Beijing appear to agree that state-owned enterprises should continue to play an important role in their economies. In its July-22 edition, the Economist noted*) that

Strengthening the SOEs is consistent with Mr Xi’s belief in tighter state control of just about every aspect of society. A regulatory clampdown on bank lending to big companies, for example, is a way not just to clean up shadowy fnancial practices but to influence how private firms spend their cash.

Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko, himself a leading expert for everything from nookies for the motherland and delivery times to potatos and military technology, would hardly disagree.

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Note

*) Much, but not all of the “Economist” article can be found in this English lesson on the Sohu platform.

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Related

Gratuitous military assistance, BelTa, June 21, 2017

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Zis is like Zed

So much to write about.

 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Liu Xiaobo, 1955 – 2017

It won’t be long before Liu Xiaobo‘s first post-mortem biography will be published. But it won’t have the last word. There will be further biographies, and each of them will be contested. That’s because of the man himself, and because of his country. He was a man with a conscience, and his country has been a totalitarian dictatorship for nearly seven decades – if you count the KMT’s martial law in, it’s been a dictatorship for much longer than that.

Liu Xiaobo’s political lifespan lasted for three or four decades. That doesn’t count as long in China. The Communist Party’s propaganda works tirelessly to create and sustain the “People’s Republic’s” population’s imagination of a civilizational history of five or more millenia. And at the same time, the party needs to sustain the notion that the most recent seven decades had been the best in China’s history. Not only the past fourty, after the leadership’s decision to “reform and to open up”, but the past seven decades, including Maoism. CCP propaganda’s aim is to build an image of its rule where the pre- and post-1978 decades are one political unit, without substantial contradictions within.

In all likelihood, Liu Xiaobo had foreseen that trend. Many Chinese dissidents, no matter if opponents of China’s cultural restauration, or opponents of the KMT’s military dictatorship on Taiwan, saw a Chinese complacency at work, considering itself the center of the universe.

Cultural criticism is rarely a rewarding trade, but in China, it can be lethal, as shown in Liu Xiaobo’s case.

Liu’s last camp and prison term, which began in 2009 and ended with his relase on medical parole, with cancer in its final stage, had been based on the accusation that he had “incited subversion of state power”. But the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court’s verdict – passed on Christmas day of 2009, probably to keep the level of international attention as low as possible –  only reflected the CCP’s fear of Liu, not the likely divide between the dissident and his people. A likely divide only, because in a totalitarian dictatorship, these things are more uncertain than in an open society. Hu Jia, himself a dissident who spent more than three years in prison from 2007 to 2011, noted during Liu’s dying days that only about one out of a hundred Beijingers knew who Liu Xiaobo was. Michael Bristow, the BBC’s China correspondent  in 2011, made a similar observation back then.

The 1980s mostly came across as a period of economic optimism, but accompanied by phenomena that were viewed negatively – particularly corruption, which was one of the factors that propelled the June-4 movement at its beginning.

Liu’s answer to what was frequently seen as China’s ailments was “westernization”. Stays in Western countries seem to have intensified his idea, just as Deng Xiaoping is said to have had his own cultural shock when visiting Singapore, in 1978.

But there lies a difference between the great statesman, and the great dissident. Singapore, a highly developed city state led by a family clan, is a model not only for authoritarian Chinese nationals – Taiwanese law-and-order-minded people tend to prefer Singapore as a holiday destination, rather than “messy” Hong Kong.

Liu Xiaobo’s model of development was Hong Kong of the 1980s. It was also the crown colony that provided the intellectual in his early thirties with some public resonance. In one of the interviews, given by Liu to a magazine named Kaifang at the time, Liu made statements that astonished the interviewer:

Q. Under what circumstances can China carry out a genuine historical transformation?
A. Three hundred years of colonialism.  Hong Kong became like this after one hundred years of colonialism.  China is so much larger, so obviously it will take three hundred years of colonialism.  I am still doubtful whether three hundred years of colonialism will be enough to turn China into Hong Kong today.

Q. This is 100% “treason.”
A. I will cite one sentence from Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party: “Workers do not have motherlands.  You cannot take away what they don’t have.”  I care about neither patriotism nor treason.  If you say that I betray my country, I will go along!  I admit that I am an impious son who dug up his ancestors’ graves and I am proud of it.

Both the “insults” and Liu’s expressly stated pessimism probably made for a divide between him and many Chinese (as far as they got to know his story). Or, as Roland Soong, a blogger from Hong Kong, noted next to his translation of the 1988 interview, as of 2010, “I suggest that unless Charter 08 (or any other message) can connect with many people in other social strata, it will remain a mental exercise among ‘public intellectuals.'”

And nothing works in the modern middle kingdom, unless it comes with a festive up-with-people sound. (In that sense, China is globalizing indeed.)

When Soong translated the interview quoted from above, and added his assessment of the Charter 08, the global financial crisis had been wreaking havoc on Western economies for about two years, and at least one of the Charter’s demands had fallen from the tree since: #14 called for

Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

There wasn’t necessarily a conflict on this matter, between the party leadership and the authors of the Charter – time will show how the CCP is going to handle the remaining state sector of the economy. But among everyday Chinese people, this demand would hardly strike a chord. Besides, who can imagine a transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership “in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner”?

In the Charter’s preface, the authors wrote:

The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

It was a cautious description of the status quo: Liu and his co-authors understood that only a critical minority would side with them. And indeed, there was more to endure in the pipeline. The educational dictatorship China is now entering encourages anticipatory obedience rather than awareness, and it is likely to succeed. When you keep beating people up long enough – and provide them with a hopeful perspective for the future -, there is little that can help people of conscience to counter the propaganda.

This may be the main difference between Liu and his enemies (and many of his admirers, too): in the eyes of many, only hard power – no matter if you refer to it as “the people’s power” or as the “authorities” -, creates reality. If the realities are good, you don’t need to get involved. If they are evil, you can’t get involved. And when realities come in many shades of grey, you either needn’t or can’t get involved. The power of the powerless is no reality in these peoples’ world – unless they begin to tilt, so that re-orientation appears advisable.

That’s a stabilizing factor, so long as realities remain what they appear to be.  But appearances can be deceiving, often until the very last hour. Who of the Egyptians who ditched their longtime president in 2011, in colossal demonstrations, had known weeks before that he wanted to get rid of him? A mood had capsized. It wasn’t about awareness.

A manipulated and intimidated public tends to be unpredictable, and that can turn factors around that were originally meant to add to “stability”.

China’s leaders feared Liu Xiaobo. They feared him to the extent that they wouldn’t let him leave the country, as long as he could still speak a word. But in all likelihood, they fear China’s widespread, politically tinged, religious sects even more, which have a tradition at least as long as Chinese scholarship. Falun Gong is only one of its latest manifestations.

By suppressing public intellectuals not only before 1978, but after that, too, they provided space for nervous moodiness. The Communists themselves want to “guide” (i. e. control) public awareness, without leaving anything to chance.

But chance is inevitable. Totalitarian routine may be able to cope for some time, but is likely to fail in the long run, with disastrous consequences.

In that light, the CCP missed opportunities to reform and modernize the country. But then, the party’s totalitarian skeleton made sure that they could only see the risks, and no opportunities, in an opening society.

What remains from Charter 08 – for now – is the courage shown by its authors nine years ago, and by the citizens who affirmed it with their signatures.

Each of them paid a price, to varying degrees, and often, their families and loved ones did so, too: like Liu Xia, who had hoped that her husband would not get involved in drafting the Charter, but who would never dissociate herself from him.

Nobody is obligated to show the same degree of courage, unless solidarity or conscience prescribe it. In most cases, making such demands on oneself would be excessive. But those who hate the Lius for their courage – and for lacking this courage themselves – should understand that their hatred is wrong. One may keep still as a citizen – but there is an inevitable human duty to understand the difference between right and wrong. By denying our tolerance toward despotism and by repressing awareness of our own acquiescence, we deny ourselves even the small steps into the right direction, that could be taken without much trouble, or economic hardship.

May Liu Xiaobo never be forgotten – and may Liu Xia find comfort and recovery.

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Updates/Related

再生:致刘晓波, Woeser, July 13, 2017
Rebirth, Woeser/Boyden, July 16, 2017
Wiedergeburt, Woeser/Forster, July 27, 2017
The abuse hasn’t stopped, Wu Gan, July 25, 2017

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Chinaplus

Friday, July 7, 2017

Taiwanese Media Reports: Association of International Broadcasters maintains Radio Taiwan International’s Membership, despite Chinese Motion to replace it

Making Taiwan appear “inofficial” has become easy business for Beijing, when it comes to politicians. The row about the country’s inoffical embassy in Nigeria may be one of the recent cases in point.

But influencing journalists doesn’t appear to be quite that easy. A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry in Taipei is quoted as saying that

At this year’s first meeting of AIB’s executive board, the possibility of ejecting RTI to make room for China Central Television [CCTV] was discussed, but RTI vice president Travis Sun’s (孫文魁) proactive handling of the matter has dealt with the situation.

AIB stands for the Association of International Broadcasting, an organization headquartered in Britain, and RTI stands for Radio Taiwan International, Taiwan’s foreign broadcasting service. According to the Taipei Times –  quoting weekly Taiwanese magazine The Journalist – the Chinese motion was rejected after RTI’s protests won the support of British, German, French and Russian committee members.

According to the AIB website, RTI vice president Travis Sun is among the six members of the organization’s executive committee.

According to “The Journalist”,   Travis Sun had been voted into the committee with the highest number of votes. Also according to “The Journalist”, CCTV and other Chinese media had previously been invited to join the AIB, but had declined, because of RTI’s membership. Following China’s motion this month, the AIB secretariat drafted three resolutions for discussion by the executive committtee. One suggested that the Chinese media could enter with an inofficial membership. The second suggested inoffical membership or termination of membership for RTI, and the third suggested to abandon the idea of Chinese media obtaining membership.

It appears that Sun appealed to AIB’S journalistic values to defend RTI’s membership, and successfully so, and all that, apparently, on the phone. According to the Taipei Times, RTI didn’t send personnel to participate in the AIB’s annual meeting in London due to “internal reasons,” instead being represented by personnel from the Taipei Representative Office in the UK. Also according to the Taipei Times, during a June 20 teleconference, Sun had been confronted with the secretariat motions.

Reportedly, Britain, France, Germany (that would be Deutsche Welle‘s committee member), and Russia (i. e. the delegate for RT) decided in RTI’s favor.

The Russian committee member, Alexey Nikolov, is currently serving as the executive committee’s chairman, according to “The Journalist”. The article mentions the “Voice of Russia” as the media organization he represents. That would now be Sputnik News Agency and Radio. According to AIB and RT, Nikolov is RT‘s managing editor, or managing director.

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Related

AIB members

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Updates/Related

Taiwan not abandoned, Sentinel, June 30, 2017

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Radio Taiwan International Test Transmissions

Radio Taiwan International (RTI) is going to air two analog and two DRM test transmission on shortwave today (Thursday UTC), as posted there with times and frequencies, by Alokesh Gupta.

2016 special QSL for reports on
shortwave transmissions from Tamsui transmitter,
New Taipei (click picture for more info)

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

China’s “Core Interests” are becoming peripheral

With the national security law, it has become even clearer that the term refers to what Chinese leaders see as three sacrosanct rights of the nation,

the New York Times (NYT) noted in July 2015:

maintaining the political system, with unquestioned rule by the Communist Party; defending sovereignty claims and territorial integrity; and economic development.

That represented “a considerable expansion” of China’s previous “core-interest” concept, which had been believed to refer to Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

The NYT article described a history of expanding the concept. Earlier this year, probably under the flag of “economic-development core interest”, it has reached South Asia.

Arguing that most of India’s “peripheral countries are also Beijing’s neighbors”, a “Global Times” author wrote on March 21 this year that

When an increasing number of Chinese companies get established in these countries, it is inevitable that Beijing will boost defense collaboration with them to protect not only China’s, but also the region’s interest.

If India tried to “balance China” in the region, rather than being part of the pursuit of China and regional countries for common development, grave consequences would be in the pipeline:

If such tendencies in India continue, China will have to fight back, because its core interests will have been violated. This is not what we hope for, but the ball is in India’s court.

In short: with the core interest of economic development comes defense collaboration abroad.

The core is becoming peripheral.

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Related

Your Sea is our Sea, my Sea is my Sea, July 16, 2015
The Stupid Little Mermaid, March 12, 2009

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