Archive for March, 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gao Zhisheng alive, ID “Verified”

Gao Zhisheng (高智晟) said in a brief phone conversation, apparently with Reuters and AP, that he was fine now, but not in a position to be interviewed. He had been sentenced, but released, and according to the New York Times, he was speaking from a place near Mount Wutai (五台山), the site of many Buddhist monasteries and temples.

The BBC quotes Reuters as saying that they had taken steps to verify Gao’s identity.

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Gao Zhisheng, Wikipedia (continuously updated)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Be careful what you ask for, Margie Mason!

The angle from which this video was shot suggests that it was a Hong Kong airport staffer’s revenge on a woman who gave people a hard time after missing her flight.

There were several other reports from Hong Kong, too, on people losing it in rather bizarre ways, in otherwise everyday situations. I’m wondering: would such things occur less easily if smoking was a more acceptable habit in Hong Kong?

I know – smoking kills, leads to chronic diseases, impairs our performance at sports, and may also have an effect on our performance at work. But when reading how Margie Mason, a medical writer with Associated Press (AP), recommends Hong Kong to mainland China as a shining example as to how improve peoples’ health and life expectancy, the airport woman comes to my mind. Maybe she is leading a very healthy life in that she is hanging it all out. But the video may have left a negative effect on her health after all – and it all may not have happened if she had gone outside for a moment – there are ashtrays available a minute’s walk away from the checkin counters – and lit a cigarette instead of molesting the staff, and embarassing the old man who was apparently her travel companion.

Smoking frequently kills. But it also frequently kills feelings. It may not be the most efficient kind of anger management, but in the absence of better tools, I’m wondering how often a cigarette will have saved, rather than terminated lives.

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Related
Killers on Amrum, but No Smoking, January 12, 2010

Friday, March 26, 2010

Namibia: Vision 2030

Jia Qinglin (贾庆林), chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), arrived in Windhoek on Thursday for an official visit, at the invitation of the National Council of Namibia, the upper house of parliament. The National Council is constituted by delegates from the country’s regional councils, and the ruling SWAPO currently holds 24 out of 26 seats there. Jia said the China-Namibia relationship had developed smoothly since the two countries forged diplomatic ties in 1990, hailing frequent high-level exchanges and fruitful cooperation in politics, trade, culture, education and public health, reports Xinhua.

The Namibian writes that the Namibia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCI) had called on the government to ban “piecemeal type” foreign investors who don’t create jobs or boost economic growth, but rather “kill” existing local businesses. And Tjekero Tweya, the country’s newly appointed deputy trade and industry minister, suggested that as a country with developed technology, China should explore and invest (with local participation) in breaking new frontiers rather than bringing in skills and technology that already exists in Namibia.

Trade and industry minister Hage Geingob announced new provisions for the country’s Foreign Investment act. He intended to exclude foreign investment from certain small and medium enterprise (SME) sectors. Much of his concern had been sparked by the “activities of Chinese businesspersons”, according to the Namibian.

“As a ‘true friend’ of Namibia, we expect China to assist (through cooperation) us to develop the industrialisation vision of Namibia as stated in Vision 2030 instead of importing unskilled labour and resources which already exist in Namibia,” added Tweya.

The road of Namibia’s relations with China is bumpier than Jia Qinglin’s pre-visit statement might suggest. Namibia’s finance minister announced in summer last year that his country would no longer make use of a US-$ 100 mn export buyers credit provided by the Export-Import Bank of China (ExIm). Also in July 2009, Namibia launched an investigation into allegations of bribery in a government contract with Chinese state-owned Nuctech Company Ltd. According to a New York Times article on the dark side of China aid, the investigation is still in progress.

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Related
Africa, where the Worlds meet, March 8, 2010
Quote: Makuwerere Bwititi, January 15, 2010
Old Comrades never cheat, August 27, 2009

Friday, March 26, 2010

Tibet: “America’s Consistent Policy”

为了讨好西方,波兰允许“藏独”组织在70个城市、40余所学校组织所谓的抗议活动。中国驻东京、堪培拉、新德里、法兰克福、布鲁塞尔等多处使领馆,都受到了“藏独”分子不同程度的骚扰和冲击。

To ingratiate itself with the West, Poland allowed “Tibet independence” organizations to organize so-called protests activities in seventy towns and more than fourty schools. China’s embassies and consulates in Tokyo, Canberrra, New Delhi, Frankfurt, Brussels etc. were subjects to varying degrees of harassment and impacts.

[http://xz.people.com.cn/GB/139187/139208/11228652.html
Update, June 22, 2010: The original link to the article in Chinese is apparently no longer available.]

The above is a reference to the Tibet Initiative‘s flag-hoisting campaign in many countries, including Germany, on March 10. The author of the quoted article is Huang Shejiao (黄舍骄), China’s former ambassador in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Huang accuses America’s China policy for still rampant anti-China actions (国际反华势力在涉藏问题上的反华行径仍然十分嚣张) and quotes Kenneth Lieberthal as saying that undermining China’s unity and containing China’s development was a consistent U.S. strategy (一是利用西藏问题破坏中国的统一、牵制中国的发展,是新中国成立以来美国的一贯方针,或者说是美国的“国策”。美资深中国问题专家李侃如坦言,这是“美国一贯的战略”).

Huang provides no link or source for his Lieberthal quote. He may be referring to a Politico-moderated web chat on March 3 where Lieberthal said that

[it] is, I believe, a misconception to see America’s policy toward China as having toughened suddenly in 2010. President Obama came into office with a very pragmatic approach to China. He saw that U.S.-China cooperation (or at least our not undercutting each other) could be important to handling major global issues more effectively. Having no past experience with China, he determined to spend much of 2009 establishing the basis for a very good working relationship with Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders. That entailed, among other things, postponing decisions that inevitably would raise tensions (such as Taiwan arms sales) where those decisions could be put back for a period of months without doing harm to other interests. But the U.S. informed the Chinese very clearly during 2009 that early in 2010 we would be making some of those decisions. For example in his November trip to Beijing in 2009, President Obama directly told Hu Jintao that Obama would see the Dalai Lama in early 2010. It is, therefore, incorrect to see these 2010 decisions as a change in U.S. policy. They, in fact, reflect the implementation of a consistent U.S. strategy — and one that the Chinese were well aware of during 2009.

Related:
Xinhua: NPC Tibetan Delegates, visit to U.S., March 20, 2009

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Experts on Google’s Withdrawal

It’s a good thing to study Chinese issues – and to learn the Chinese language can be a good thing, too. But there is no need to become that much of an expert that one starts speaking Beijing Newspeak oneself, possibly without even realizing.

This is sort of how Beijing newspeak, acquired by foreigners, would explain internet censorship in China:
It isn’t really that bad. After all, in many cases, you won’t even realize that there is censorship while surfing the internet.

Cool. And in many cases, you won’t even realize if Google gives up your data to American authorities under whatever kind of “war on terror” procedure. Does that mean that we should take this possibility easy? Most Beijing newspeakers would probably advise us to take that issue very seriously.

Wherever the cyber attacks on Google came from, Chinese dissidents found their Gmail accounts hacked. Google co-founder Sergey Brin found that “quite troubling”. There was at least one official request in the past that should have troubled Yahoo as well, around 2003.

Google is just a company – but maybe it has made its recent decisions because they do actually mind their business?  Isn’t it a search engine’s purpose to provide the search results a user is looking for? When that function becomes seriously compromised, it is right to pull the plug. To do so is both justified and practical.

“Do no Evil” is just a slogan. So is “Impossible is Nothing”. Or “Microsoft Works”. Or “Enjoy Coca-Cola”.

Once in a while, “Do no evil” is referred to rather sarcastically in countries other than China, too – for the company’s alleged, apparently undisputed,  intransparent cooperation with American authorities in a “war on terror” framework for example. Frequently,  Google’s commercial use of data is questioned, too.

But when Western analysts, experts etc. start pointing out that Google is no saint, or that Google’s decision to pull the plug in China was based on whatever kind of dirty agenda – undermining Chinese stability or giving up on a Baidu-dominated market, they are missing the point. A company under criticism already has good reasons to show that it takes its tasks  serious.

And privacy? If you care about privacy, don’t bother to open an account with Google. If you aren’t sure that you fully understand their policy, don’t open one with them, either. I for one don’t fully understand Google’s policy, and I  do care about my privacy.

But to adopt Beijing’s approach and consider the end of google.cn a “political attack” on Beijing is blindness in action. A lot is being made of the lack of evidence that Google was attacked by Chinese government proxies.

But no evidence has been shown yet that Google was  minding anything but its actual business. There is no reason to buy into CCP conspiracies without good evidence either.

That said, it’s understandable that Beijing can only interpret Google’s move as  a political one. In the eyes of a totalitarian government, everything is political.

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Related
Google in the Mirror of Colonial History, March 22, 2010
Hermit: Google is a Political Scam, March 21, 2010

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Child on an Ice Floe

From Gerhard Hauptmann‘s The Abridged Account of my Life (Die abgekürzte Chronik meines Lebens, rough translation):

Someday, the boy finds himself in the poor room of a shoemaker who took measurement on him for (custom) shoes several times. The shoemaker is dressed in black and wears a pair of brandnew shoes himself. He made these shoes with his own hands, but hasn’t put them on by himself. The soles are carefully scraped. Strangely, the master craftsman, pomaded, washed, in a white tie and a black suit, socks and new shoes, lies in state. For the first time, the boy sees a dead person in a coffin.

Whenever after he sees the carefully scraped sole of a new shoe, he has to think of the shoemaker, and therefore of a dead person. But for now, he doesn’t think on from here and comes back into a state of unworried cheerfulness. Occasional physical pain can’t change his happy condition.

(…..)

What does change his condition?

It is, but only for a few hours a time, or even just for the glimpse of a moment, one thought. It is the thought of his uniqueness, and his loneliness. It feels like if despite these many people around him, and those many more living across the globe, he is deserted. It feels like if the world was a drifting ice floe. How could it be a consolation for the individual that many other creatures – animals and people – are with him on the same ice floe, drifting into disaster? Fearful ideas of this kind are fed by cosmic dreams from time to time, sometimes during healthy times, but more often during his child illnesses. He takes whopping visions of terrestrial and astral events with him into daytime.

There are photos of the moon which make the surface of the earth’s huge satellite traceable. (…..) The senses seem to refuse to think of these huge masses as hovering. In his dreams, the boy sees himself as a lost nothing of smallness, attached to this huge planet, rotatingly rushed to the multiple abyss of space.

Monday, March 22, 2010

CRI: Google in the Mirror of Colonial History

China Radio International (CRI) intensifies its coverage of GOOGLE’S CHINA THREAT.  “If Google wants to leave, just do it, and I will turn to Baidu. For sure we can survive without Google,” the station quotes an anonymous comment from Shandong Province on the news portal Xinmin.cn. And Chinese blogger Ding Wenqiang is quoted as saying that it’s like breaking up with boyfriends or girlfriends. People will find new ones soon. Website operators on the other hand worry about the uncertainty concerning services like AdSense. CRI dedicates a theme page particularly to Google’s withdrawal, under the title WITHDRAW – A LOSS FOR GOOGLE. Another story describes Google’s legal issues with intellectual property owners and authorities in European countries as a showcase as to how the company is doing evil in every place.

But it is apparently on the airwaves where CRI pulled out all the stops, as Le Figaro‘s China blog quotes the station:

During 100 years of colonialism and semi-colonialism, there has only been a single similar study case. That was Britain’s East Indian Company which wanted to control India’s sovereignty.”

On its website, CRI’s French service quotes advice contrary to the applied historical science.

Chinese Experts: It’s better not to politicize the Google affair (Des experts chinois : mieux vaut ne pas politiser l’affaire Google).

It’s hard to deny that Chinese publications are quoting from a variety of sources.

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Related
Hermit: Google is a Political Scam, March 21, 2010
BJRB: Hegemonists should Harbor no Illusions, Febr 6, 2010
Google: Bravo, tu as Gagné, January 16, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Let’s have a Spat, Across the Firewall

protest against biased German media

Hurt feelings, Munich, March 29, 2008: Chinese people working and studying in southern Germany accuse German media of "muzzling their voice"

When I started posting on this blog, it seemed to be firmly on this side of the Chinese firewall. Maybe blogging was my reaction to criticism of Chinese students and residents in Germany of Germany’s media. Or to the behavior of some Chinese patriotic crackpots in my hometown who molested a small shop in our central railway station for featuring an outdated but nice and colorful poster with monks in a rollercoaster in its shop window.  For sure, I wanted to review my own attitude towards China, a country I had stayed in for many years. And by blogging, I wanted to take part in discussions with other foreigners about their experience and views. My memories were coming back, and it seemed that the Olympic Games in Beijing and the run-up to them were becoming a showcase, in whatever way. Something to “cover” from afar, in a personal, but public diary.

Besides, I liked the tagging and categorizing functions on WordPress. To have a big cupboard with all kinds of files, accessible from anywhere, looked like a great idea.

But for a while, the blogging platform was uncensored in China. And even after the Chinese firewall kicked in again, there were sometimes readers directly from there (without tunelling or other anti-censorship software), and after a while, there were even comments from China. Given that mylaowai.com was also an inspiration for me to start this blog, I expected some clashes.*) But to date, I haven’t had to remove or edit anyone’s comment. The dialog, even across the firewall, has often been checkered, but always civil. Maybe it is because it’s habitual in China to interact this way, when communicating with relative strangers.

The public anger that followed the – sometimes messy – Olympic Torch ralleye through Europe probably surprised many foreigners who hadn’t been to China, or who had never stayed for a longer period. To anyone else, it can’t have been a big surprise. I remember some exchanges with Chinese friends – not with colleagues – after NATO had bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. It led to fairly long and sometimes angry discussions. It was a new experience for me, and for the Chinese, and they found a politically correct way to integrate it into the established protocol:  Zhu Rongji had said that bianlun (debate) between Chinese people and foreigners was very normal, so let’s have a spat.

My views on China come across as opinonated. I was told more than once, right into my face, that I was arrogant. I agreed. “I’m German. It’s one of our national characteristics. It isn’t personal.”

I could have said that arrogance was one of my weaknesses. But then, you need to live up to your reputation.

Reading online these days how many people, countries, and organizations are dubbed arrogant by the usual Chinese suspects, I’m no longer sure that arrogance should count as a weakness anyway. And if it is, maybe it’s no particular national characteristic after all.

Whenever people, arrogant or not, address each other as equals, offense becomes unlikely – especially on the internet. There is no hierarchy anyway, as there would be in real life. You take your personal traits with you when going online, but you are nobody’s boss and nobody’s subordinate. It is easier to become offensive if you feel like it when communicating online, but frequently, it is also easier to draw it mild than in real life.

Civility and science go hand in hand. So do civility and popular science (or information, more modestly speaking) – the more one sticks to the issues, the more one can learn, and share.

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*) I’m not fundamentally against throwing some mud – it can be both entertaining and revealing. But as a rule, it makes factual arguments more difficult, hence my commenting rules. I prefer it this way from this side of the firewall. I’d probably choose a more juicy approach from the other side, in a different situation.

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