Friday, December 2, 2016

Is the Truth losing in Today’s World? (And if Yes: How so?)

That’s what Richard Stengel, currently undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, believes, according to a Washington Post article:

“We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today,” Stengel warned in an interview. “Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

And, adds the author of the WaPo article, David Ignatius:

How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

Fascinating stuff – fascinating, because it feels like a déjà vu to me (and I’m wondering for how many others who have a memory of some decades).

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages.

When I studied and worked in a fairly rural place in China, I had a number of encounters with – probably mainstream – Chinese worldviews. That was around the turn of the century, and these were probably the most antagonistic, and exciting, debates I ever had, as the only foreigner among some Chinese friends. Discussions sometimes ended with the two, three or four of us angrily staring at each other, switching to a less controversial topic, and bidding each other a frosty good-bye.

But there was a mutual interest in other peoples’ weird ideas. That’s why our discussions continued for a number of weekends. At at least one point, I felt that I had argued with overwhelming logic, but my Chinese interlocutor was unimpressed. I blamed Chinese propaganda for his insusceptibility, but apparently, propaganda was exactly his point: “If propaganda helps to keep my country safe, I have nothing against propaganda,” he replied.

I found that gross. The idea that propaganda should just be another tool, something you might volunteer to use and to believe in, so as to keep your country and society stable, was more alien to me than any Chinese custom I had gotten to know.

The idea that truth is, or that facts are, the essential resource of a (working, successful) democracy looks correct to me. Democracy can’t work without an informed public. But when it comes to German mainstream media, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t trustworthy.

I agree with the WaPo article / Richard Stengel that the US government can’t be a verifier of last resort. No government can play this kind of role. The Chinese party and state have usurped that role, but China is known to be a low-trust society – that doesn’t suggest that they have played a successful role as official verifiers. While many Chinese people do apparently think of their government as the ultimate guardian of national sovereignty and individual safety from imperialist encroachment, they don’t seem to trust these domestic public security powers as their immediate neighbors.

And the ability of any Western government to be a verifier ends as soon as an issue involves state interests, government interests, or governing parties’ interests.

The US government as a verifier of last resort concerning the Syria war? That idea isn’t even funny.

The German government as a verifier of last resort when it comes to foreign-trade issues (within the European Union, or beyond)? Bullshit.

But what about the American media? I don’t have a very clear picture of how they work, but it would seem to me that US television stations usually address the issues that earn them most of the public’s attention. If that is so, it should be no wonder that Donald Trump profited more from media attention, than Hillary Clinton.

But if tweets, rather than platforms, become the really big issues, the media must have abandoned the role that has traditionally been ascribed to them.

German (frequently public-law) media are strongly influenced by political parties, and apparently by business-driven foundations, too.

I don’t know if something similar can be said about American media, but even if only for their attention-seeking coverage, they can’t count as well-performing media either.

What about “social” media? According to Stengel, as quoted by the Washington Post, they give everyone the opportunity to construct their own narrative of reality.

Stengel mentions Islamic State (in 2014) and Russian propaganda campaigns as examples. In the latter’s case, he points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations during the elections in particular.

I believe that Stengel / Ignatius may have half a point. Russia – provided that they were indeed behind the leaks – only targeted Clinton’s campaign, not Donald Trump’s.

But then, wouldn’t it have been the task of the US media to unearth either campaign’s dirty secrets? Russian propaganda performed, even if only selectively, where US media had failed. It exposed practice in the Democratic Party leadership that was hostile to democracy, but acting under the guise of defending it.

How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth, Ignatius finally asks, and quotes Stengel once again, and addressing the role of “social media”:

The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos.

Now, I’m no advocate of free broadcasts for ISIS videos. But if the best hope is the removal of accounts and videos by the commercial providers, it would seem that there isn’t much hope in human power of judgment, after all – and in that case, there wouldn’t be much hope for democracy as a model of government.

Ignatius:

The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”

Wtf? Human-machine processes? Has the “Global Times” hacked the WaPo?

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Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

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Monday, November 28, 2016

A few Thoughts about Castro

Fidel Castro, in the course of about half a century, became an icon for people who would have liked to challenge America’s leading global role. And he was hated by many Americans. When I asked an otherwise friendly American friend (by letter, back then) in the early 1990s why the embargo was still in place, I got a long and angry answer, as if I had I had trespassed. And when I made some not-too-critical, but not really reverent remarks about Castro the other day, I got an angry answer, too. What you get in a conversation about Castro really depends on your interlocutor (and, of course, on your diplomatic skills).

What is frequently ignored however, is the Cuban people. It is true that fear, intimidation and human rights violations has helped to keep the Cuban Communist Party in power. so have state and party propaganda. Decades of getting the same stories told over and over and over again, in school, the media, and  arguably by Grandpa at home, won’t fail to leave  traces on most human harddisks.

Few political leaders of the 20th and – so far – 21st century trigger as strong emotions as Fidel Castro does. Castro is idolized, and demonized. And more frequently than not, peoples’ reactions to his memory depend on where they belong, or who they side with: America, China, or Russia, for example.

It would take biographic research to judge Castro and his rule. It would require reading one or two biographies, at least. The information that daily mass media offer won’t provide insights into how Cuba has endured, or profitted from, Castro rule since early 1959.

But you wouldn’t run into too many people without clear-cut opinions about Castro.

That’s why countries and civilizations can be surprising to outsiders (and even to insiders). Things happen, and they may appear to be unlogical or bizarre. But they happen for reasons – good or bad -, and the driving forces behind them aren’t necessarily idiocy.

To understand Castro’s rise to power, and the reasons as to why the Cuban Communist Party has been able to cement its dictatorship to this days, we would need to walk the Cuban streets of the 1940s and 1950s, not those of the 2010s.

Research – scientific or journalistic – needs to take us there.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Obituary: Ryu Mi-yong, 1921 – 2016

Ryu Mi-yong, chairwoman of the North Korean “Chondoist Chongu Party”, died of lung cancer on Wednesday, November 23, aged 95, according to North Korean newsagency KCNA (no permalink).

Thanks to the profound trust and love of the great leaders she could make a dramatic U turn in her life and enjoyed a worthwhile life after permanently settling in the DPRK together with her husband Choe Tok Sin,

writes KCNA, referring to the couple’s defection from South to North Korea in 1986. Reportedly, they had moved to the United States, or fled there, ten years prior to their defection. Her husband, late Choe Duck-shin (or Choe Deok-sin, or Choi Duk Shin), had been the Park regime’s foreign minister from 1961 to 1963. From 1963 to 1967, he served as South Korea’s Ambassador to West Germany.

And if KCNA portrays her correctly, like many converts, Ryu Mi-yong was tougher than the rest:

She revered Marshal Kim Jong Un as God of the nation and the sun of salvation of the world and the people and worked heart and soul to bring earlier a new day of unity of all Koreans and country’s reunification till the last moments of her life.

直到生命的最后一刻,敬仰金正恩元帅为民族的上天、救世济民的太阳,为早日迎来全民族的团结和统一的未来献出了一切。

The “party” she chaired apparently draws on a Korean religious movement called Cheondoism.

According to Yonhap Newsagency, South Korea’s reunification ministry, on November 19 granted Ryu’s second son a travel permit to the North, for humanitarian reasons, given that his mother had been terminally ill.

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Updates/Related

“Chondoism, translated into reality”, Pyongyang Times, Sept 29, 2016

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Saturday, November 19, 2016

People’s Daily: “Little NATO” drawing nearer as Japan and South Korea initial Intelligence Sharing

South Korean parliamentary opposition leader Woo Sang-ho of the main oppositional Minjoo Party said on Monday that they would impeach or dismiss the defense minister if the government went ahead with plans to sign a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).

Chinese Communist Party organ People’s Daily wrote on Wednesday or Thursday that if signed, this would be the first military cooperation agreement between the two countries after World War 2, and criticized the tw0 governments’ moves indirectly, by quoting a military expert.

→Link

On November 14, South Korea’s and Japan’s initialled a “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”. If officially signed, this would be the first military cooperation agreement after the second world war. Military expert Zhang Junshe said in an interview with People’s Daily online that if the agreement in question was signed, the two countries would bypass America and exchange intelligence directly. This was significant good news for Japan and America, but for South Korea, this was like drinking Zhen poison to quench its thirst, or to allow the wolf into the house. The agreement could damage peace and stability on the Korean peninsula, and negatively affect peace and stability in the entire North-East Asian region.

14日,韩国和日本政府草签了《军事情报保护协定》。如该协定正式签署,这将是两国自第二次世界大战结束后签署的首份军事合作协定。军事专家张军社在接受人民网采访时表示,若该协定正式签署,日韩两国将绕过美国直接共享情报,这对日美两国是重大利好消息,但对韩国而言则如同饮鸩止渴、引狼入室。该协定可能破坏朝鲜半岛的和平稳定,对整个东北亚地区的和平稳定也会带来不利影响。

According to a report by South Korea’s “JoongAng Ilbo” on November 15, South Korea hopes to use Japan’s reonnaissance satellites, radar, and other advanced equipment to gather intelligence, while Japan could make use of intelligence gathered by traditional Korean manpower.

据韩国《中央日报》15日报道,韩国希望利用日本的侦察卫星和雷达等尖端装备获取情报;而对日本来说,则可利用韩国传统人工收集的情报。

Currently, there are separate “Military Intelligence Protection Agreements” between South Korea and the US and Japan and the US respectively, but the exchange of military intelligence between South Korea and Japan needs to go through America as a “connecting airport”, with no “direct flight”.

目前,韩美、日美之间分别缔结有《军事情报保护协定》,不过韩日两国交换军事情报需要通过美国这个“中转站”,双方之间并无“直航”。

Zhang Junshe pointed out that Japan had advanced military technology at its disposal and could rely on advanced reconaissance satellites, radar, and other first-class equipment to gather information concerning North Korea’s nuclear tests, missile launches etc., while South Korea, owing to its geographical advantage, could gather first-hand intelligence gathered by agents and spies. If Japan and South Korea signed the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”, the two sides could bypass America and exchange intelligence directly.

张军社指出,日本具有先进的军事科技,可凭借其先进的侦察卫星和雷达等尖端装备获得朝鲜核试验和导弹发射等情报信息,而韩国凭借地理优势,可获得更多由特工、间谍人员等获得的第一手人工情报。日本和韩国一旦签署《军事情报保护协定》,双方将可以绕过美国直接交换军事情报。

Some media reports point out that military cooperation between South Korea and Japan was a sensitive issue, because of the history of Japanese colonial rule over South Korea from 1910 to 1945 on the one hand, and also because of territorial disputes between the two sides. With historical and territorial issues unresolved, the South Korean government has always faced continuous resistance. On June 29, 2012, the South Korean government even brought a signing to an “emergency halt”, right on the scheduled day of signing.

有媒体报道指出,军事合作在韩日两国合作中属敏感范畴,一方面缘于日本1910年至1945年在朝鲜半岛推行殖民统治的历史,另一方面缘于双方现在的领土争议。在历史和领土问题均未解决的情况下,韩国政府推动签署军事情报方面协定一直面临重重阻力。2012年6月29日,韩国政府甚至在原定协定签署日当天“紧急叫停”。

This time, South Korea and Japan have signed the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement” at tremendous speed, and South Korea said that it had only taken about a dozen days to conduct and intitial the agreement. Reportedly, the two sides will also work hard to sign the agreement by the end of November, after completing domestic procedures.

此次日韩两国“火速”草签《军事情报保护协定》,从韩方宣布重启有关协定谈判到协定草签仅用了十几天。据称,双方还将力争在完成国内手续后,于11月底前正式签署协定。

How could a agreement that had been stalled for years be settled in a dozen days? The background factors are providing food for thought.

一个多年无法的协定如今为何在短短十几天便得以尘埃落定?背后缘由耐人寻味。

According to Zhang Junshe, Japan has, after the end of World War 2, never profoundly reflected on the crimes it committed to the countries of North-East Asia. While America and Japan had made efforts all along to facilitate the signing of the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”, the opposing domestic voices in South Korea had always been very strong. The South Korean masses fear Japanese militarism’s rise from the ashes, so as to trample over the Korean peninsula once again. There are various reasons for Japan and South Korea to rush the initialling of the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”. From South Korea’s perspective, with president Park Geun-hye’s “Choigate” scandal almost inescapable for the government, the country is facing a serious domestic crisis. By signing military cooperation with Japan, domestic sight can be shifted and passed on to the crisis, thus easing the pressure on Park Geun-hye’s government because of “Choigate”. Also, as South Korea’s agreement to the American deoployment of the “THAAD” anti-missile system had led to a deepening of contradictions with China, Russia, and other neighboring countries, South Korea’s choice to deepen previous cooperation with Japan can also, to a certain degree, ease pressure from neighboring countries. In addition, America is very positive about facilitating the Japanese-South Korean signing of the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”. America has always hoped to strengthen military cooperation between its two Asia-Pacific allies, but for historical reasons, Japan and South Korea have, for a long time, given an appearance of unity while being divided in fact. If Japan and South Korea officially sign the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement” at last, this undoubtedly spells an important result for America’s “Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific”, conducive to pulling Japan and South Korea together for the formation of a “small NATO” concept.

据张军社介绍,二战结束以来,日本从未对其在二战期间对东北亚各国所犯下的罪行作出深刻反省。虽然美、日方面一直在努力促成日韩签订《军事情报保护协定》,而韩国国内的反对声音一直十分强烈。韩国民众唯恐日本军国主义死灰复燃,再次践踏朝鲜半岛。此次日韩“火速”草签《军事情报保护协定》,原因是多方面的。从韩国方面看,目前朴槿惠政府深陷“闺蜜门”事件难以自拔,韩国内部面临着严重的政治危机。韩国此时与日本签署军事合作,可以转移国内视线,转嫁危机,减轻“闺蜜门”事件给朴槿惠政府带来的压力。此外,由于韩国同意美国在韩部署“萨德”反导系统,导致韩国与中国、俄罗斯等邻国矛盾加深,所以韩国选择加强与日本之前的合作,某种程度上也能减轻周边国家对其造成的压力。另外,美国对促成日韩签署《军事情报保护协定》非常积极。美国一直希望它的两个亚太盟友加强军事合作,但日韩两国因为历史问题长期貌合神离。若日韩最终正式签署《军事情报保护协定》,无疑是美国“亚太再平衡”战略的重要成果,有利于实现美国拉日韩两国构建东北亚“小北约”的构想。

Ma Yao, special researcher with the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Shanghai International Studies University, told media that for a long time, the main obstacle for building trilateral US-Japanese-South Korean military cooperation had been in South Korea, and the progress in South-Korean-Japanese military cooperation meant that the obstacle for trilateral military cooperation was reduced and might never return. This was a “watershed” in South-Korean-Japanese cooperation in the military field.

上海外国语大学国际关系与公共事务学院特约研究员马尧在接受媒体采访时表示,长期以来,美国构建美日韩三边军事合作的主要障碍在韩国,而韩日军事合作方面的进展意味着三边军事合作的障碍或将不复存在,这是“韩日在军事领域合作的分水岭”。

For Japan and America, it would clearly be significant good news if Japan and South Korea signed the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”.

日韩若签署《军事情报保护协定》,对日本和美国而言,显然都是重大利好消息。

Zhang Junshe pointed out that under the guise of the North Korea crisis, Japan could take advantage of the situation and get involved in the affairs of the Korean peninsula, broaden its right to discourse, thus increasing its influence in Northeast Asian affairs. For America, closer military cooperation between Japan and South Korea is conducive to advancing its control of the two allied countries further, to serve its “Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific” strategy, to achieve its goal of controlling North East Asia, and to advance and achieve the protection of its regional hegemony.

张军社指出,日本未来可以以朝鲜危机为幌子,趁机介入朝鲜半岛事务,扩大其在朝鲜半岛事务中的话语权,进而提升其在东北亚局势中的影响力。对美国而言,日韩两国更紧密的军事合作有利于其进一步控制这两个盟国,为其“亚太再平衡”战略服务,实现其控制东亚的目标,进而实现维护其地区霸权的目的。

The next paragraph translation is a stub (or whatever). It apparently refers to undoing the limits put on Japan’s military power after WW2, and the Shinzo Abe government’s goal to “normalize” Japan’s military policies.

You can contribute to a translation.

In March 2016, Japan’s new military legislation was officially implemented, allowing Japan to go from ordinary times to “有事”时, from its own ground to freely using force abroad.

2016年3月,日本新安保法正式实施,使日本获得了从平时到“有事”时、从本土到周边再到全球自由对外使用武力的权限,从而使日本绕过和平宪法束缚,初步实现长期追求的“军事正常化”目标。

If Japan and South Korea sign the “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement”, this will open a channel for Japan to get involved in matters of the Korean peninsula. For South Korea, this undoubtedly means  drinking Zhen poison as a thirst quencher and allowing the wolf into the house, turning South Korea into the biggest victim. Zhang Junshe says that South Korea’s government, in order to shift the pressure from “Choigate” and to respond to America’s call, to resist China’s and Russia’s resistance against the “THAAD” deployment in South Korea, and to involve Japan, presents itself, on the surface, as retaliation against North Korea, it actually helps America to form a military alliance system in the Asia-Pacific region, and provides the conditions for Japan to step into the Korean peninsula.

若日韩签订《军事情报保护协定》,“则为日本介入朝鲜半岛事务打开了一个通道,这对韩国而言无异于饮鸩止渴、引狼入室,韩国将成为最大的受害者。”张军社如是说,韩国政府为了转移“闺蜜门”事件的压力,同时响应美国的号召,抵抗中国和俄罗斯对“萨德”入韩的反对,将日本拉拢过来,表面看是为了对付朝鲜,实际上是在帮助美国在亚太构建军事同盟体系,为日本插足朝鲜半岛提供条件。

Zhang Junshe also said that the main goal of the Japanese-South Korean “Military Intelligence Protection Agreement” was to strengthen shared intelligence about North Korea, and that this kind of military alliance directed against third countries was an expression of cold-war mentality that would cause fierce reactions from North Korea. It could damage peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and negatively affect peace and stability in the entire North East Asian region. As North Korea’s closest neighbor, China could therefore also face more security threats.

张军社还说,日韩《军事情报保护协定》主要目的就是要加强有关朝鲜情报的共享,这种针对第三国的军事同盟是冷战思维的表现,必然引起朝鲜方面的激烈反应,可能破坏朝鲜半岛的和平稳定,对整个东北亚地区的和平稳定也会带来不利影响。中国作为朝鲜半岛的近邻,也可能因此面临更多安全威胁。

South Korean Arriang News TV reported on Friday that the agreement could become effective without parliamentary approval in South Korea (where the government lost its majority in April this year). However, 59 percent of the public disapproved of the agreement.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Election Observation by the Way

6080 kHz would be a great frequency to listen to the Voice of America‘s (VoA’s) election coverage – if the Voice of Turkey wouldn’t start to interfere with their English program, at 04:00 a.m. UTC. That drowns VoA completely.

4960 kHz, also from the VoA’s Sao Tome and Principe relay, offers an acceptable alternative, provided that you live in the countryside and have some outdoor wire in the air.

Monday, October 31, 2016

German FM Vietnam Visit: Counter-Balancing China?

“Vietnam is Germany’s important strategic partner”, Nhan Dan‘s Chinese edition quoted German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, in one of its headlines on October 29. Nhan Dan is the organ of Vietnam’s Communist Party central committee.

German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier left Berlin on October 29 to begin a trip intended to strengthen the two countries’ strategic partnership.

德国外交部长弗兰克-瓦尔特·施泰因迈尔10月29离开柏林,开始启程对越南进行访问,旨在加强两国战略伙伴关系。

German foreign minister Steinmeier is leading a delegation with members in charge of economic and cultural affairs.

德国外长施泰因迈尔率领负责经济和文化事务代表团对越南进行为期三天的访问。

The German foreign minister sees Vietnam as Germany’s important economic, political, cultural and strategic partner. The head of Germany’s federal parliament, Norbert Lammert, visited Vietnam in March 2015, and Vietnam [then] state chairman Trưong Tan Sang’s visit to Germany in November 2015 strengthened the two countries’ relations further.

德国外交部将越南是为德国重要的经济、政治、文化战略伙伴。德国联邦议院议长诺贝特·拉默特2015年3月对越南进行访问和越南国家主席张晋创2015年11月对德国进行访问为两国关系增添了新动力。

In the framework of the two countries’ strategic-partnership action plan, Germany’s and Vietnam’s cooperation activities are developing further, in a variety of fields, with new projects being added every year. One of these important projects is the “German House”, under construction in Ho Chi Minh City, which is going to be a headquarter for German organizations and companies in Ho Chi Minh City.

在两国战略伙伴行动计划框架内,德国与越南合作活动在各领域上继续向前发展,每年都有新的合作项目。两国重要合作项目之一是在胡志明市兴建 “德国屋”,这里将成为在胡志明市德国组织和企业的总部。

Bilateral trade between Vietnam and Germany amounted to 10.3 billion USD in 2015, with German imports from Vietnam at eight bn, and exports to Vietnam at 2.3 bn USD. Major export products from Vietnam are footwear, textiles, farming and seafood products, electronic components, wooden furniture, etc.. Major import products from Germany are machinery, transport, vehicles, chemical products, and measurement instruments, etc..

越德两国2015年双边贸易金额达103亿美元,德国自越南进口80亿美元、对越南出口23亿美元。越南对德国主要出口产品是鞋类、纺织品、农海产品、电子零件和木家具等;越南自德国进口主要产品是机械、运输车辆、化学物品和化学仪器等。

On Sunday, Nhan Dan reported a visit by Steinmeier to a German company’s investment site in Haiphong. According to the newsarticle, the gypsum production site, built by German gypsum producer Knauf, is one of the biggest investment projects in Haiphong.

Vietnam’s foreign broadcaster Voice of Vietnam‘s (VoV) German service adds a short description of the Phu Lac wind farm.

Betram Lang, a MERICS researcher, wrote earlier this month that

[i]n times of rising diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea, the European Union (EU) tries to bolster the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a counterweight to China in the region. To this end, the EU has offered generous financial support to foster the regional integration process and sponsor the still politically toothless ASEAN secretariat. It almost tripled previous financial commitments to 196 million EUR between 2014 and 2020.

That however was proving difficult: While Cambodia has been positioning itself as China’s closest ally in South East Asia since at least 2001, other ASEAN countries have recently sought their own kind of ‘privileged relationship’ with the PRC as well.

China’s online media apparently don’t report Steinmeier’s Vietnam visit – most of the Chinese-language coverage appears to be from Vietnamese sources.

Before heading for Vietnam, Steinmeier reportedly called on Vietnam’s leadership for political reforms in Vietnam, an issue that Vietnam’s state-controlled media didn’t cover (not in Chinese, anyway).

In a speech at the opening ceremony for a German and European Law program of study at Hanoi Law University, Steinmeier came back to the topic of political reforms. Successful modernization required the rule of law, and a strong civil society, he said.

Steinmeier also addressed the South China Sea conflict – in a diplomatic way -, plus ASEAN:

For us, but for Vietnam with its important and further growing role in ASEAN and the United Nations, one thing is clear: Peace can only be secured when international law and politics work together. International law aims at guide power within tracks, and the powerful in politics must accept these tracks. The latest decision, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, was an important legal step. What matters now is that the groundbreaking elements of the decision will gradually be turned into practice of international law.

Für uns, aber auch für Vietnam mit seiner wichtigen und weiter wachsenden Rolle in ASEAN und in den Vereinten Nationen ist jedenfalls eines klar: Frieden wird nur gesichert, wenn Völkerrecht und Politik zusammenspielen. Das Völkerrecht zielt darauf ab, Macht in Bahnen zu lenken, und die Mächtigen in der Politik müssen diese Bahnen akzeptieren. Der jüngste Schiedsspruch, basierend auf der Seerechtskonvention der Vereinten Nationen, war ein wichtiger rechtlicher Schritt. Jetzt kommt es darauf an, dass die wegweisenden Elemente des Schiedsspruches Schritt für Schritt auch völkerrechtliche Praxis werden.

Vietnam’s opposition to China’s naval strategy in the South China Sea has been stronger than that of other ASEAN nations. But geostrategic considerations are only one aspect of Germany’s Vietnam policy. Vietnam’s economy keeps growing fast, and East Germany and Vietnam in particular share a history of economic cooperation.

Deutsche Welle, once Germany’s foreign radio station, in a March 2015 report, commemorating fourty years of German-Vietnamese ties:

When that country [East Germany] collapsed, almost all its Vietnamese workers suddenly lost their jobs. They did not want to return to Vietnam because the employment prospects in their home country were very poor. The Vietnamese economic boom was yet to come.

Even so, the majority of these Vietnamese were still repatriated because they did not have a residence permit.

The conflict over contract workers and the regulation of old debts strained the German-Vietnamese ties for several years, according to Gerhard Will. “Only during the course of negotiations, it became clear to both countries what they could offer a lot to each other,” writes Will, who has been a Vietnam expert and worked at the German Institute of International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

[…]

In 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed the “Hanoi Declaration” to establish a “strategic partnership” between the two countries. The two leaders expressed the desire to continue economic partnership and cooperate in the areas of development policy, environment, education and science. The German-Vietnamese University in the city of Ho Chi Minh, founded in 2008, is considered a model project in terms of bilateral cooperation.

There is also a West German-Vietnamese history. 33,000 immigrants may not sound like a big number these days, but it did in the 1970s and 1980s.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

KMT’s Communication: one Party, two Interpretations

It’s nothing unusual that Beijing bemoans a lack of pro-China “patriotism” among members or supporters of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan, but on Wednesday (Oct 26), on a regular press conference, a “Taiwan Affairs Office” (TAO) spokesman commented on a debate within the oppositional Kuomintang (KMT), a party with a Chinese history, according to Taiwanese news agency CNA. Former president Ma Ying-jeou, in office from 2008 to May this year, had worked to promote both closer economic ties to China, and some kind of political understanding. The “1992 consensus” always featured prominently in Ma’s China talk, but not so in president Tsai Ing-wen‘s. Now, the question within the KMT appears tobe  if one China, two interpretations (the traditional KMT view of the “consensus”), or one China, one interpretation should be a position to aspire to.

The TAO spokesman, apparently commenting on controversy within the KMT, also reiterated the “1992 consensus”. He mentioned neither two, nor one interpretation, probably because Beijing has never done that anyway.

Previously, the TAO had commented on the issue a fortnight ago. Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Taiwan’s vice president from 2012 to 2016 (serving during president Ma Ying-jeou’s second term in office), had criticized current KMT chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu‘s (洪秀柱) cross-straits policies. In reaction to Wu’s criticism, KMT cultural and communications commission director Chow Chi-wai (周志偉) had quoted Hung Hsiu-chu as saying that the established KMT formular, “one China, two interpretations”; had not been cancelled, and that the KMT’s central committee would work to continuously strengthen communication further.

The English-language China Times pointed out in a report on October 16 that Hung had advocated moving towards a “one China, one interpretation” status during her presidential campaign in 2015. Hung, in a meeting with KMT legislators, had affirmed that to advocate the “different interpretation” version in a scheduled meeting with Chinese party and state chairman Xi Jinping was her “responsibility”.

However, she also said that the lawmakers probably did not understand the meaning of the “1992 Consensus” and how it had been reached.

Hung’s communication style could be described as erratic. Even people who might want to trust her, may not be in a position to do so when it comes to national security issues.

Apart from that, anything like “one China, one interpretation” is a reliable killer of any hope the KMT may have to win national elections.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Duterte’s China Visit: We need your Help, Son of a Whore

Guanchazhe quotes “German media” (read: Deutsche Welle‘s (DW) Mandarin website) as reporting that Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, wants to gain distance from America and become close to China (疏美亲中). The second part quotes extensively from the DW article (with credits), but leaves out the more pointed remarks (“this president”, “closely observing”).

Deutsche Welle, on Wednesday:

Philippines president Duterte said on Wednesday (October 19) that it was time to say Good-bye to America. He told Filipinos living in Beijing that an alliance with America that had lasted for many years had brought the Philippines extremely little profit.

菲律宾总统杜特尔特周三(10月19日)在北京表示,是时候和美国说再见了。他对生活在北京的菲律宾团体说,菲律宾从多年的美菲同盟中获利甚少。

Discussing American criticism of how he had drug dealers executed extrajudicially, Duterte said, “I’m really angry. If you do that, you are insulting the people of a country.” He said that just as he didn’t want American interference, he didn’t want American military exercises. The reason for you to stay in our country is for your own interest, therefore, it’s time to say good-bye, friend,” he ostensibly shouted into Washington D.C.’s direction.

在谈到美国批评他法外处决毒贩时,杜特尔特说,”我真的很生气。如果你们这样做,你们是在侮辱一个国家的人民”。他表示,再也不要美国的干预,再也不要美国的演习。”你们留在我的国家是为了你们的自身利益,所以是时候说再见了,朋友”,他似乎在向华盛顿喊话。

“I won’t go to America again, I would only be insulted there,” said Duterte, as he once again denounced US president Obama as “raised by a whore”.

“我不会再去美国,在那里我只会受侮辱”,说完杜特尔特又再次骂美国总统奥巴马是”婊子养的”。

This Philippines president also said he had enough of foreign-policies arranged by the West and said that “in the past, they made us stay distant from China, but that wasn’t our own wish, and I will open a new road.”

这位菲律宾总统还表示,他受够了菲律宾受西方摆布的外交政策,并说,”以前让我们远离中国,并非是我们自己的意愿,我会开始新路线”。

Since the beginning of his presidency in June, Philippine foreign policy has taken a big turn, contrasting with previous president Aquino III policies, distancing the Philippines from Washington, the old ally, and expressing goodwill to China.

自从杜特尔特今年6月底上台以来,菲律宾的外交政策相比前任阿基诺三世时期发生了大转弯,开始疏远多年来的盟友华盛顿,向北京示好。

Duterte, who is currently in China, has praised the country. According to AFP, he said on Wednesday that China was “good”, and hasn’t invaded any place in our country for generations”; thus hinting at America’s colonial history in the Philippines. “During the Cold War, China was described as the bad guy. At that time, our schoolbooks were full of Western propaganda.”

目前身处中国的杜特尔特对中国大加赞赏。据法新社报道,他在周三说中国”不错”,”世世代代以来,从没有侵略过我们国家的任何地方”,影射美国对菲律宾的殖民历史。 “在冷战时期,中国被描述成坏人。那些年里,我们的教科书中都是西方制造的政治宣传”。

China is closely observing Manila’s expressions of goodwill, of course. Foreign-ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in Wednesday’s regular press conference that China “expressed admiration” for Dutertes strikes against drug criminality”, and said that “China supports Dutertes leadership in the construction of his country by the Philippine people, their efforts for economic development, and we are willing to actively participate in economic and social construction. China is willing to cooperate with the Philippines in trade, production capacity, infrastructure building and in other fields.”

对于马尼拉的示好,中国方面自然看在眼里。中国外交部发言人华春莹在周三的例行记者会上表示,中方对杜特尔特打击毒品犯罪”表示赞赏”,同时称,”中方支持杜特尔特总统领导菲人民建设国家、发展经济的努力,愿积极参与菲经济社会建设,同菲方在包括经贸、产能、基础设施建设等领域开展合作。”

There are doubts within the Philippines however, regarding Dutertes position towards China. Richard Heydarian, political scientist of De La Salle University in Manila, told AP that the Philippines’ mainstream media felt that “it can’t be right to be show that much respect for a country that invaded Philippine territory.”

不过,杜特尔特的对华立场在菲律宾国内受到了一些质疑。马尼拉德拉萨大学的政治学教授海德林(Richard Heydarian)对美联社说,菲律宾的主流媒体认为,”对于这个侵占菲律宾领土的国家如此恭敬,这让人感觉不对”。

The initiator of the Hague arbitration case concerning the South China Sea, former foreign minister Albert del Rosario, said that the Philippine’s foreign policy shouldn’t be contemptuous of America as a long-standing ally, or replace it with another country (China).

南海海牙仲裁案的发起者、前菲律宾外长罗萨里奥(Albert del Rosario)也表示,菲律宾的外交政策不应该唾弃长期的盟友美国而取悦另外一个国家(中国)。

That, however, doesn’t appear to be on Duterte’s mind. In a CCTV interview, he said that he wanted to extend a fraternal and friendly hand, ask for Chinese help, and, looking right into the camera, “frankly said, we need your help.”

然而这些,似乎并不在杜特尔特的考虑之中。在接受央视采访时,杜特尔特称,自己要伸出兄弟友谊之手,向中国寻求帮助,他直面镜头说:”坦率地说,我们需要你们的帮助。”

The DW article comes across as slightly sardonic. Guanchazhe, obviously, ignores that. It does, however, quote “foreign media” as reporting doubts from within the Philippines. Guanchazhe also seeks and finds an answer to such voices of doubts, delivered by foreign-ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, on the same press conference as quoted further up.

Some reporters at the foreign ministry’s regular press conference on October 19 asked: Western media follow Duterte’s China visit closely, but there are voices among them who “pour cold water” on the enthusiasm. How does the foreign ministry comment on this?

Foreign-ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said that the Chinese and Philippine people were all very happy and full of hope concerning Duterte’s visit, but in fact, there were also people with anxious, disappointed or complex feelings. The return of Sino-Philippines relations to the tracks of a more healthy and stable development was, however, good news, both for China and the Philippines, and for regional peace and stability. I believe that provided that they hope for peaceful and stable development of the Asia-Pacific region, people will welcome this.

10月19日外交部例行记者会上,有记者问到,西方媒体非常关注杜特尔特访华一事,但其中有“泼冷水”的声音,中方对此有何评论?

外交部发言人华春莹就此回应,对于杜特尔特此访,中菲两国人民都很高兴并抱有期待,但的确也有人焦虑、失落,五味杂陈。中菲关系重回健康稳定发展的正确轨道,无论对于中菲两国,还是地区和平稳定,都是利好消息。我想,只要是真正希望亚太地区和平稳定发展繁荣的人,对此都会持欢迎态度。

Guanchazhe quotes Mainila Commercial Times as reporting that China Railway Group Ltd was going to invest three billion USD in Philippines infrastructures in the future.

The Guanchazhe article’s effect on the readership, if uncensored, is handsome. The “overjoyed” button was clicked 321 times by 07:15 UTC, 41 clicks went to the button “timely”, and only five clicks hit the “absurd” or “sad” button.

We can sign a contract with Old Du, for step-by-step investment, thus ensuring Chinese interests, but also the stability of Old Du’s political power, how about that,

我们可以和老杜签个合同,投资分段进行,既保证中国利益,又保证老杜政权的稳定,怎么样?

suggests The Little Venerable, and Clear Spring from a Rock serenely declares:

If you say good-bye to America or not doesn’t matter. what matters is an independent and self-determined foreign policy, without being used by others.

与美国再不再见的不太要紧,关键是要独立自主的外交政策,别被人利用了

According to Radio Japan‘s Mandarin service, Duterte meets Chinese party and state chairman Xi Jinping on Thursday.

Carrie Gracie, the BBC’s China editor, suggested two days ago that

a clear-cut courtroom win against China, coming just after Mr Duterte took up office, has created opportunities for a new approach. China cannot take that legal victory away. And meanwhile in the nearly four years since the Philippines began its legal case, it has suffered economically as Beijing has frozen Manila out of the benefits of Chinese wealth. China has actively discouraged tourists, investors and importers from looking to the Philippines. With the legal card in his back pocket, Mr Duterte wants that economic chill to end. He sees no reason why the Philippines shouldn’t, just like most other countries in the region, have its cake and eat it – enjoy the economic benefits of China’s growth at the same time as sheltering under the US security umbrella.

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Related

Inherent Territory, May 13, 2012

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Updates/Related

Indonesia detains Taiwan vessel, RTI, Oct 20, 2016

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