Archive for May, 2009

Sunday, May 31, 2009

June-4 Demonstration in HK

Numbers vary: More than 1,000 march in Hong Kong to mark Tiananmen anniversary, reports the Earth Times. The report also looks back on remarks by Hong Kong’s chief executive Donald Tsang which had sparked furore.

Organizers of the June-4 march were still calculating the numbers, writes Thaindian News, while police, who traditionally underestimate the turnout for pro-democracy events, said around 4,700 people took part in the march.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China lists some upcoming June-4-related events in Hong Kong.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Foreign Broadcasters and their Critics

Germany’s foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) was in troubled waters last year, after allegations that Chinese members of the staff had shown a bias in Beijing’s favor. It would now appear that the broadcaster’s management wants to avoid rough seas by keeping a written report by an elder journalist and author, Ulrich Wickert, under the carpet. Mr Wickert’s report acquitted the Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department, but it came with an unfavorable verdict on the station’s crisis management.

One shouldn’t simply imply that the broadcaster wants to sit the problem out. They may really want to keep those of the staff who were embroiled in the struggles last year out of the firing line now.

That would be laudable. But it can’t work. The Chinese audience, so far as they are aware of the case, won’t simply forget about it, and Chinese media dwelled on it long after news emerged which did raise questions about the Chinese department’s professionalism, at least in detail. The former deputy manager’s interview with herself, which slipped onto the broadcaster’s website unchecked, certainly didn’t look good.

So far, the station seems to act in public like if nothing had happened at all. Deutsche Welle had already played an important role in the promotion of democracy before, said Eric Bettermann, its director. With the station’s Global Media Forum, scheduled in Bonn in June this year, the broadcaster wants to offer a platform for the global media community. Bettermann did address quality challenges, according to the Kölner Stadtanzeiger‘s report of February 9. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ulrich Wickert had delivered his report to the broadcaster on February 4 – five days before the announcement of these latest lofty plans.

While the Deutsche Welle’s management thinks of playing an important role in the promotion of democracy, how is its quality improvement process going?

A report by the Guardian of Friday hit me right between the eyes today. It describes how the BBC deals with complaints – the topic in the case reported was Tibet.

Prof Barry Sautman of Hong Kong University had been interviewed about Tibet on Radio 4’s Today pogram. A complainant took issue with the approach the moderator took there, saying that listeners had been treated to about five minutes of pure propaganda about how Tibet is, and has always been, an integral part of China and that subversive elements are trying to split the mother country. The BBC Trust investigated and decided the case.

This makes me wonder who investigated complaints about the Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department before Chinese dissidents and other critics – apparently all of a sudden – managed to set the agenda.

There seems to be a procedure in place at Deutsche Welle (see para 19). But you can read comments from Germany’s political parties’ media spokespeople once in a while more frequently, than from the station itself. Maybe the Voice of Germany should take professional care of quality programming on its own. Does it? And did the critics of the Chinese department make use of the procedure? If not – why not? Did they write their open letter to Germany’s parliament after their complaints hadn’t been dealt with, or did they choose a path of maximum publicity?

Maybe after a successful implementation of quality assurance measures, it will be a good time for Deutsche Welle to become a convincing advocate for democracy – and transparency. The station’s improvement process should be as public and transparent as its ambitious contributions to global democratization. Maybe.

But there is no use in preaching it without living it. The best thing Deutsche Welle can do is to be a reliable source of information. All the rest is either by the way, or even useless.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Confucianism and Modernity (1)

C. A. Yeung gave me a hint of an essay by Wang Zhicheng (王志成) the other day. The following is my rehash in English of Prof. Wang’s essay’s initial paragraphs in Chinese. Most of what is based on his essay is “quote / blocktext” here, although it’s not meant to be a word-by-word translation. Inaccuracies from my part are almost preassigned, and corrections are very welcome. Prof Wang Zhicheng teaches at Zhejiang University’s Humanities College. _____________________ Wang Zhicheng describes how Confucianism seems to be at odds with modern political and economical developments and how questions about national and individual identity arise, in the eyes of Confucian scholars.

Globalization, pluralism and consumerism put Confucianism into a difficult position, unparalleled by any previous era. Prof Yu Yingshi (余英时) wrote Modern Confucianism’s Difficulties (现代儒学的困境) in 1988. He saw three challenges, the first of which arose right after the times of Confucius himself, with the emergence of Yang Zhu and Mozi. The second challenge came with the development of the Taoist school at the turn of the Han (汉) and Jin (晋) Dynasties. The third came during the late Ming (明) Dynasty. According to Yu, these three counter movements all came at times of disintegration of society. However, they didn’t constitute breakthroughs against Chinese culture, as Confucianism always reestablished itself and regained its vigor. Confucianism didn’t only interpret philosophy and religion, but arranged family matters, state matters, and “all-under-heaven” life from birth to death of every human. It built political, societal, economical, and educational institutions. Confucianism permeated daily life. Confucianism perfected its control over society by institutionalization. It was connected with the societal institutions. It leaned on these institutions. But during the more recent disintegration of Chinese society, political and societal institutions as they had been known evaporated. From the reformers around Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, and Tan Sitong in 1898, to the May-4 movement in 1919 – just during those two decades -, China lost its traditional system. Yu is aware that May-4 spells New Culture Movement, i.e. Western culture, the core of which were democracy and science. For the New Culture Movement, Confucianism became a target. When the Chinese, certainly the intellectuals, strived for democracy and science most fervently, it was also the era of most fervent anti-Confucianism. The starting point for Confucianism’s troubles was right there. As the link between Confucianism and the system broke, Confucianism inevitably went under. So how can Confucianism still have an effect? Apparently, there was no way. Confucianism had become a roaming ghost, according to Yu. Seven or eight years later, Yu once again explored the chances for Confucianism to become part of the modern Chinese way of life. With Confucianist Thought and Daily Life (儒学思想和日常人生), he completed his reflections on Confucianism’s future direction. In that book, he continued to consider how Confucianism can continue to play a role after the split-up between Confucianism and the system. Yu came to the conclusion that the only modern way for Confucianism to play a role and to create values is that it becomes part of peoples’ daily lives. Prof Yu believes that the process of Confucianism becoming part of peoples’ lives began during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This was a turning point, writes Yu. Starting with Wang Yangming (王阳明), Confucianism no longer counted merely on high society, but on the common people (普通百姓, putong baixing) as well. Yu also interprets the eight aspects of Great Learning (大学, da xue). He believes that there is no essential connection between the inner sage (内圣) and the outer king.(外王) [Note: “The myth of the sage king constitutes the ideological core of Confucianism…”] When the logical link between investigation of things, devotion to knowledge, sincerity, correctness, and rectification (格物、致知、诚意、正心、修身 – these are a inner-sage’s qualities) on the one hand, and keeping the families in order, governing the state, and keeping the whole world at peace (齐家、治国、平天下 – these were the jobs of the outer king) is broken, one can only calmly accept Confucianism becoming a part of daily lives. So Prof Yu wants Confucianism to withdraw to the cultural level only, playing a role in people’s daily lives. Confucianism should no longer exert influence through the institutional system. It should no longer have a direct link with the workings of the outer king.

_____________ Roughly translated from Prof Wang Zhicheng’s essay. To be continued. Update: Continued here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Welcome to the Club, Beijing…

… and greetings from Europe. You see, this is how it feels when your backyard is burning, and there is little you can do. This is how it felt when former Yugoslavia was burning, and the EU had to wait for the Americans to extinguish the fire.

If something like this should rise above your Eastern territorial border in the not-too-distant-future and you think it’s a sunrise, think again. No, I’m not talking about your embassy there…

Kim Jong very Il.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Zhao Ziyang’s Memoirs: Not what Du Daozheng intended?

Du Daozheng ( 杜导正), former editor-in-chief of Yanhuang Chunqiu ( 炎黄春秋), has reportedly withdrawn support for Prisoner of the State, the English version of Zhao Ziyang‘s memoirs which he originally helped to record. Meantime, Bao Tong (鲍彤), Zhao Ziyang’s Policy Secretary in the 1980s, is said to have been taken away from his home in Beijing for an “excursion” (which suggests that he may have been abducted, similar to other dissidents in the past).

Underthejacarandatree has a detailed post on recent events, based on various sources.


Run-Up to June 4, May 15
Bao Tong: Beijing should explain how Charter 08 violates the Law, Asia News, Dec 17, 2008

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nepal’s “new” Government: Little to Celebrate

The Nepalese Maoists allege  that foreign powers, especially India, played a role in the downfall of their government and the formation of the new coalition, reports the BBC. The previous government, headed by Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Prachanda, had resigned after Nepal’s president had invalidated the sacking of the country’s army chief, General  Rookmangud Katawal.

Katawal, on his part, had ignored calls to integrate former Maoist fighters into the army, thus violating the peace agreement. If India played a role in the downfall of the Maoist-led government or if it didn’t remains to be seen. There is reason to be hopeful that Nepal’s southern neighbor will play a reasonably constructive role, given that India’s  Congress Party, not the Hindu Nationalist Party, have  won the general elections this month.

I’m not trying to judge if sacking the army chief was a “mistake”, as new prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal says, or if the sacking procedure chosen by Prachanda was, etc.. But the army chief is an obstacle to peace.

If this translation of a January 2008 speech is accurate, Prachanda may be an obstacle to peace, too. There are two ways to interpret how the Maoists became Nepal’s strongest party. One is that they were most popular. Another is that they blackmailed the voters into voting for them, as a continuation of the civil war would have been the only alternative. In that light, the army chief’s refusal to integrate the fighters – or a substantial number of them – looks understandable. But the peace agreement must be honored. The Economist highlights the background of the struggle between the two sides – and the point where the country’s old elites, the Nepalese Congress Party and the Communist UML, and the president for that matter, are making a mistake indeed:

The difficulty of making a non-Maoist government is a clue to how misguided it would be. Mostly drawn from Kathmandu, a pampered capital, the Maoists’ opponents have consistently underestimated them and the rural grievances that fuelled their struggle.

The Economist, May 16, 2009, page 59

238 members of the 601-members parliament are Maoists. If Nepal’s political leaders fail to write a constitution, there will be another civil war. The risk of integrating Maoist fighters into the army may lead to civil war, too – but not as easily. Both China (a permanent UN security council member) and India (campaigning to become one) should show responsibility and help Nepal to find peace, rather than betting on expanding their own influence.

But usually, nations follow their own interests, rather than acting as Papa Christmas for others. The safest way to peace and prosperity is for the Nepalese to understand their own country’s national interests.


Related: Nepal’s (potential) Tibet Dividend, March 6

Monday, May 25, 2009

Entrance Exam Surveillance Equipment

Several universities in Beijing are currently installing and testing surveillance equipment in venues where college entrance exams ( 高考, gaokao) are taken, to prevent the use of telecommunications by competing students during entrance exams, reports Beijing Youth Daily (picture there). Beijing’s gaokao information website publishes a short news article stating that monitoring systems are gradually installed on all sites where exams are taken. The annual college entrance exams are scheduled to begin in about ten days, according to the site.


Related: National Higher Education Entrance Examination, Wikipedia

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Meaning of Life

Nino, blogging from a small town in Slovenia [update: blog removed, July 2009], suggests that bloggers should write a post about what life means to them – in their native languages, plus an English translation of it, in about five sentences. Here goes.

Es soll wissenschaftlich erwiesen sein, dass ein Mensch schlechte Erfahrungen nicht leicht verarbeiten. Schlechte Erfahrungen werden ohne großes persönliches Zutun Teil des eigenen Charakters. Glück vergisst man leicht. Man kann sich aber glückliche Momente bewusst machen. Das kann man üben – dieses Bewusstsein entsteht dann auch neben dem Arbeiten und der manchmal sorgenvollen Zukunftsplanung. Der Sinn des Lebens besteht darin, das Glück zu bemerken, wenn es hier ist.

They say science has proved that people don’t cope with bad experience easily. Bad experience becomes part of your own character without any effort by yourself. Happiness on the other hand is easy to forget. But we can make ourselves aware of happy moments. It’s a matter of exercise, and it then happens even along work and sometimes gloomy planning for the future. The meaning of life is to realize when happiness is here.


Related: Zeal of Living, Febr 15

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