Archive for February, 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009

President Ma unfreezes 228 Memorial Foundation’s Budget

Different from the same time last year, Taiwan now has a president who is apparently deemed quotable by the Chinese press (though of course not referred to as president there).

Ma Ying-jeou is quoted by many PRC publications as saying that Chiang Kai-shek bore responsibility for the 2-2-8 massacres in 1947. 228 stands for the memory of massacres committed by KMT troops in Taiwan on February 28, 62 years ago. Wikipedia has some information and links (the neutrality of the article is disputed).

In a speech at the February-28 Museum in Taipei the day before yesterday, President Ma said that whether the truth to be found is communally divisive, the Academia Sinica should continue its historical research on the February 28 incident.

On February 24, he told  that of course he [Chiang Kaishek, 蔣介石] is responsible. Although president Jiang said that one should not retaliate, he was the national leader. Of course he is responsible, I have never denied this. Ma said that when rating the merits and shortcomings politicians, it shouldn’t be done blanketly in either direction, but issue by issue, but when there were wrongs and problems, one shouldn’t hide them, but check the facts and make them public with a calm and sober heart (重點是要把真相查證清楚,用平常心讓真相公諸於世).

Taiwan’s legislature, already dominated by the KMT at the time, had frozen the 228 Memorial Foundation‘s budget last year. Ma promised last Sunday to unfreeze the budget, but DPP legislator Lee Chun-yee (李俊毅) expressed doubts on a press conference that the ruling KMT would allow the foundation to operate independently.

Related: “Ma can not have his 228 cake and eat it”, Taipei Times, Feb 27

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why Are Mass Media Losing Relevance?

How can the public perform, when there has long been a second public, when above all, the conspirational sets the tone?
Hans Leyendecker

The brawl about the Voice of Germany was about allegations that its Chinese service had become a mouthpiece of Beijing’s propaganda. There is no final result of the investigation yet – several thousands of older news articles are apparently still under review -, and the Liberal Democrats seem to consider the Chinese service’s coverage angled until proven otherwise.

But in general, the discussion goes into a different direction at the moment. Erik Bettermann, the Voice of Germany‘s director, demands more funding. Without that it would be impossible to compete with other international services, and to provide quality journalism. Not so much to make sure that the Voice doesn’t get politically hijacked, but for its relevance in general.

Money isn’t everything. But even accurate translation from German into Chinese by professionals takes time. Fact-checking takes time, too. The Voice is different from commercial mass media in that it gets public funding and in that it speaks many languages, but its main task is to keep people informed. Without being a reliable (and comprehensive) source of information, it doesn’t matter what its charter wants.

Newspaper circulation in developed countries has declined, with consequences for the papers’ funding. Just at a time when more professional staff would be needed to compete with information sources from the internet, the papers’ budgets are getting squeezed.

Hans Leyendecker is one of Germany’s rather few investigative journalists. In a speech to Netzwerk Recherche (inquest network, roughly translated) in April 2002, he pointed out that most information that the media got about the terror network (this was a bit more than half a year after 9-11) came from intelligence services, where disinformation was part of the business.

Nevertheless, readers and spectators were bombarded with alleged revelations. There was a race for the placement of exclusive inanities with the aid of news agencies. Horror scenarios were to generate attention: fear of fear sells.

(….) Increasingly, media refer to other media which don’t know anything either. Something that could at the most be speculation is presented as fact. For a long time, there has been that mainstream named self-reference by communication scientists. Media refer to media, and that becomes news once again.

So these are some reasons – probably the main reasons – why the mass media are losing relevance. One might say that they deserve it. But I believe that what we would get if everything went from paper to the internet would be even worse. I don’t expect solid information for free. If I still get some, so much the better.

Blogging is usually the last thing I need for information. I’m not saying that it offers nothing. But it offers me rather little, even compared to the mainstream. I think there are blogs that are worse than mine, but unless I’m translating something from Chinese that hasn’t been published in English elsewhere, I don’t feel that I’m doing something really useful. It’s more for my own pleasure than for the pleasure (let alone information) of others. Above all, many blogs seem to express the distrust that the bloggers feel towards the mainstream. It looks like an answer to the mainstream, but generally looks conspirational to me itself. Sit down in front of your computer with an important and controversial issue on your mind, and try to find reliable information on that issue from the blogosphere. Good luck with that, and see you again next year.

China’s media situation is different from ours. Any blog might become real added value so long as it writes about stuff that the mainstream isn’t allowed to report. Zola with his Nailhouse coverage is one example. At the same time, commercial newspapers in China are probably having much better business than Western ones. With all the hype about China now being the biggest internet country, it’s easy to forget that most Chinese people do not have access to the internet, and that of those who have, not everyone will climb the firewall. And Zola is also one example that a citizen journalist’s scope in mainland China is limited after all.

What would it take to increase the relevance of the mass media? What would it take to help the public perform better? Independent, trustworthy research, and much more investigative journalism. It’s hard to tell where commercial papers should get the funding from, especially as they will only be trustworthy when their editors are sufficiently independent from the financers.

But in the end, journalism that moves away from self-referential coverage will pay off. Newspapers may become a great investment once again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When the Unfree Sees a Free Pest Bird…

From one of Hu Jia’s letters, on Zeng Jinyan’s blog:

When the Unfree See a Free Pest Bird, They will Like it

In the Severe-Punishment Detention Center (the Western part contained the death row), we treated the mice [or rats?] as pets and fed them. The youngest of us four inmates in the cell was 30, the oldest was 47 years old, but the fun was universal. Also, everyone felt that as it was the Year of the Rat, one shouldn’t reject the rats.

We appointed one inmate who was one year younger than me to take care of the spiders, too. He had to look for mosquitos to feed the spiders.

When I was transferred from the detention center to prison, I saw a lot of people taking care of grasshoppers and snails, too, conscientiously seeking leaves for them. For some inmates, it is a way to sustain themselves spritually, affecting happiness, anger, and sadness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Zeng Jinyan: Short Family Reunion

Zeng Jinyan met Hu Jia in prison yesterday, after more than three months. Her impression is that he looks much older than last time. “Maybe he sees me the same way!”, she notes. Hu Jia passed the work security tests and will start working soon, either welding or other heavy-industry kind of work. He had a medical examination on Febr. 4 (but still doesn’t know the result).

The supervision mode has been changed from tight (严管) to normal (普管). Ms Zeng explains that theoretically, this means that could make three phone calls or send text messages. On February 26, one third of Hu Jia’s prison term will be over.

Ms Zeng had brought their daughter Bao Bao with her, and the family had some happy moments together.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Net Nanny: Bad Time to go to Tibet

No unhealthy stuff

No unhealthy Stuff

Esteemed Foreign Tourists,

this is a bad time to go to Tibet. Don’t even try to go there now. It would be an offense. Everything is alright there, the patriotic forces are in full control, it’s just that people in our colony the Autonomous Region are too busy celebrating their liberation from serfdom. That festivity is a new but genuinely indigenous custom there, invented by the CCP people themselves, just as the Three-Self Patriotic Movement was a spontaneous reaction by Chinese Christians to defend themselves against the invasion and bullying of laowai colonialists and imperialists in the early days, and just as our illustrious Great Firewall was spontaneously invented by patriotic netizens who don’t want to be exposed to all that porn.

Before you can go to Tibet, you have to study their history very carefully and attend a course and an exam. Contact your local Confucius Institute for a comprehensive brainwash comprehensive instructions (twenty hours) at a special price. So, maybe next year you can go to Tibet. Meantime, you are free to do sightseeing of the great Han civilization elsewhere in China. Anytime. (Changes Reserved.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

African Merchants in Guangzhou

… a greater chance to have success in China than (…) in Nigeria.

An audio slideshow by Evan Osnos and David Hogsholt, The New Yorker, Febr. 9.

Related: China in Africa, Hearts and Minds, Febr. 13.

Monday, February 23, 2009

China’s Growth Rate: JR predicted it in November…

… and was right, as usual.


[Ahem. This wouldn’t be complete without this update.]

Monday, February 23, 2009

Nannynews: Pakistan Cedes Swat Valley to China

nannynewsnannynews –– Pakistan’s president Asif Ali Zardari is scheduled to visit China for four days starting Tuesday. President Zardari’s visit comes barely two weeks after Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the country’s military chief, made a five-day visit to China.

Just as Gen. Kayani did earlier, the president is likely to discuss a Chinese lease on Swat Valley, until recently part of Pakistan, but now under the rule of Islamist freaks who had made a sport of killing people whose beards weren’t long enough, preferrably policemen.

The lease, if agreed to during president Zardari’s visit, is scheduled to last for 99 years. If the PLA succeeds in pacifying the region, China will have a safe foothold in one of the world’s strategic hotspots, once known as the “Switzerland of Pakistan”, renowned for its lush valleys, mountainsides and snowcapped peaks.

A Pakistani security expert who had tea with Nanny the other day but doesn’t want to read his name here explained that nobody in Islamabad is happy with letting the Chinese have Swat Valley. But, as he explained, Islamabad is no longer to able to control the place, and thinks that the PLA may be more efficient than Pakistan’s military.

“At least they [the PLA] aren’t known for abusing kids,” he said. “And who knows? Maybe in 2108, the Valley will return to our motherland and become our prosperous Special Administrative Region.”

Related: Anti-Beard campaign in Kashgar (Marx exempted)RFA, Febr. 20

Related: Tsar Peter the Great´s Beard TaxUnderthejacaranda, Febr. 22

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