Archive for September, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

ASEAN Unity: Smile, and show your Teeth

China expressed concern Tuesday over a possible joint statement from the US and ASEAN concerning the South China Sea, adding that it opposes the internationalization of the maritime issue, according to Chinese newsagency Xinhua. Any country having nothing to do with the South China Sea issue getting involved in the dispute would only complicate rather than help solve the issue, Xinhua quotes Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu (姜瑜). “The issue can only be resolved bilaterally through friendly negotiation in a peaceful manner,” said Jiang, adding that there has already been smooth negotiation between China and the relevant countries.

Meantime, the Manila Times, in an editorial of today, calls on ASEAN to be united in wanting a peaceful resolution to problems in the South China Sea, a difficult task given that many of its members also have competing claims over the Spratlys.

If the Philippines were to have a chance of tapping those potential riches, it will need the protection of international law — one that would have teeth given the support of the United States. […] We recognize, however, that the Philippines and other Asians cannot — and must not — rely on American protection alone. The US, of course, has its own interests to protect, and that much is clear from the statements of its officials. […] When he meets the other Asean heads and President Obama, President Aquino will hopefully step in stride with our neighbors and resist the direction set by his predecessor, Mrs. Gloria Arroyo, who ditched Asean unity and signed the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking with China and Vietnam for oil and mineral explorations in the South China Sea.

The Philippines, under President Aquino, should stick it out with Asean, which has shown that it can stand up to China. Working together in the past, Asean persuaded the Mainland to drop its resistance to the “internationalization” of the South China Sea issue. On its own, the Philippines does not stand a chance against China.


South China Sea: Five Questions to a Hegemon, Aug 18, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Senkaku Islands: “Zero Chance”

Main link:

Huanqiu Shibao (the Chinese Global Times edition) quotes Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times today, concerning the Senkaku Islands.

Kristof, a famous American columnist, has provided several points of evidence that the Senkaku Islands (aka Diaoyu Islands) have belonged to China since ancient times:

近日,美国一位著名专栏作家尼古拉斯•克里斯朵夫(Nicholas Kristof)列出多项证据,证明钓鱼岛自古属于中国,并认为美国在日美安保条约中的 “义务”和其对钓鱼岛主权的态度不符,处于”很荒谬”的地位。

Huanqiu Shibao informs us that Kristof is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Kristof is – correctly – quoted as calling the American position as an ally of Japan, which involves the Senkaku sovereignty issue, as “absurd”.

In his blog post, on September 10, titled “Look out for the Diaoyu Islands”, Kristof asks: “who has sovereign rights over the Diaoyu Islands? As quoted by Huanqiu Shibao:

I believe it should be China, even though the answer isn’t so clear. (我觉得应该是中国,尽管答案不是那么明确”。) For one, China’s naval records state that the Diaoyu Islands have been Chinese for several centuries (第一,中国的航海记录显示,钓鱼岛“数个世纪以来”就是中国的). Secondly, Japan itself printed a map in 1783 which indicates that the Diaoyu Islands belong to China (第二,日本在1783年印制的一份地图也标明钓鱼岛属于中国). Thirdly, when Japan seized Taiwan with the Shimonoseki Treaty in 1895, it also bagged the Diaoyu Islands (第三,1895年,日本根据马关条约割占台湾,将钓鱼岛也一并收入囊中).

The dispute between China and Japan leaves America in an awkward position, Huanqiu quotes Kristof: The US-Japanese security treaty covered all places administered by Japan. In case of an exchange of fire between China and Japan, America was obliged to send troops to help the Japanese. However, America had stated that it had no opinion (or position) concerning sovereignty over the islands. “That’s to say, we don’t acknowledge that the Diaoyu Islands are Japanese, but still have to help Japan to fight for the Diaoyu Islands –


As for real life, Kristof said that “the US simply have no reason to have a nuclear conflict with China for some islands which are actually Chinese” –


In his actual entry, Kristof expresses his feeling that China had a better claim to the Diaoyu Islands, but also points out other points of view that could be taken, including the concept that they could be terra nullis, or terra nullius. He also points out what he would see as the best approach for China and Japan – to agree to refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice -, and that

at some point a weakened Chinese leader might try to gain legitimacy with the public by pushing the issue and recovering the islands. It would be a dangerous game and would have a disastrous impact on China-Japan relations, but if successful it would raise the popularity of the Chinese government and would also be a way of putting pressure on Taiwan.

Huanqiu Shibao doesn’t mention such paragraphs. Nor does it report Kristof’s explicit opinion that

In reality, of course, there is zero chance that the U.S. will honor its treaty obligation over a few barren rocks. We’re not going to risk a nuclear confrontation with China over some islands that may well be China’s. But if we don’t help, our security relationship with Japan will be stretched to the breaking point.

This is actually the most interesting paragraph of Kristof’s post.

Why didn’t Huanqiu quote that one? Because it is too absurd to be believed, even if written by a famous Pulitzer Prize winner? Or is it because this wouldn’t fit into the deliberate public scaremongering about a huge threat posed by Japan against the peace-loving (but well-fortified) Middle Kingdom? China National Radio (CNR) was full of alarm siren noise – with the exception of Shanghai, for organizational reasons – and excited patriotic comments by the laobaixing last night (or this morning, Chinese local time). After all, September 19 [correction: every third Saturday in September] has, since ancient times, been National Defense Education Day.

Many of the commenters who reacted to Kristof’s post drew a link from the Senkaku Islands to Taiwan – probably not so much for historical reasons, but for present-day ones. That’s no surprise – terra nullius is a concept that could apply to Taiwan, too, along with several other concepts. Japan’s position on Taiwan is that Tokyo relinquished sovereignty over Taiwan after World War 2, but without a successor specified in that role. In other words, Japan never recognized Taiwan as part of China.

An American refusal to go to war with China over the Senkaku Islands would only be legitimate if the American-Japanese security treaty doesn’t cover that territory anyway, or if the treaty is changed to that end. Such a move would be understandable – too much of the responsibility of defending the sovereignty of China’s neighbors is on America, while exactly those neighbors themselves enjoy beautiful business ties with their esteemed nuisance next door. If a refusal to help defend the islands would do America’s international standing a lot of good is a matter for Washington to decide. But even though JR is no bearer of the Pulitzer Prize, he believes that America would actually end up helping Japan in a fight for the Senkakus, if need be. As for the legal issues, JR is inclined to agree with Nttorney, a commenter on Kristof’s blog, who suggests that

If the issue were to be taken to the International Court of Justice, China would likely lose, as international laws take into account territorial claims coupled with continuous settlement or use, rather than historic claims. A claim, no matter how remote that some land belongs to some country, is trumped by a counterclaim coupled with actual use. In this regard Japan has a longer history of actually using the islands.

Which is probably the main reason as to why the judges will never have to rack their brains about it.


Today in History, September 18, 2010
Chinese Military Buildup “closely watched”, August 17, 2010
Zhao Nianyu’s Three Taiwan Commandments, June 19, 2010
… that was long ago, June 16, 2008
Canada’s Arctic Sovereignty, Northern Perspectives, Winter 1994/1995

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Today in History: Senkaku Islands

Some current developments from the sacred Senkaku Islands Diaoyu Islands plus a bit of historical background is available at Those two gentlemen might disagree with such a distorted take.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Nobel Prize for Chinese Scientists: Heavy with Awareness

Chinese-American physicist Chen Ning Yang (or Yang Chen Ning, (杨振宁 has slightly adjusted his time table: within twenty, maybe even within ten years, a Nobel Prize winner would come from China itself, he told University of Electronic Science and Technology (电子科技大学) students on September 10: (“20年内甚至可能只需要十年,中国本土就会产生诺贝尔奖!”). The university’s press information was full of praise of the lively and humourous, profound and still simple language (生动诙谐、深入浅出的语言 / shēngdòng huīxié, shēnrùqiǎnchū de yǔyán) in which Professor Yang shared his experience in study and research with the students.

In 2009, his talk was reportedly still about twenty years, and Cong Cao, a senior research associate with the Neil D. Levin Graduate Institute of International Relations and Commerce at the State University of New York, strongly disagreed with him. To some extent, Cong based his pessismism on past political traumas (and probably on lost time after 1949), but also on his perception that

China’s education system binds students to their mentors. A mentor is an authoritative figure as formidable as a father, and to challenge him is unacceptable. However, the loyalty discourages criticism of seniors, and has proved to be a major handicap.

Cong added that a strong planning mentality added obstacles to an efficient research environment, even though he conceded that

in the last 30 years, China has been improving its research environment by setting up the National Natural Science Foundation of China, introducing peer review, supporting young and promising scientists, and calling for “tolerance of failure.”

In his banquet speech in Stockholm in 1957, after receiving the Nobel Prize himself – as a Chinese-American scientist -, Yang said that he was

heavy with an awareness of the fact that I am in more than one sense a product of both the Chinese and Western cultures, in harmony and in conflict. I should like to say that I am as proud of my Chinese heritage and background as I am devoted to modern science, a part of human civilization of Western origin, to which I have dedicated and I shall continue to dedicate my work.

In his banquet speech, Yang apparently made no reference to Tsung Dao Lee (李政道), who was awarded the Nobel Prize together with him, while Tsung (four years Chen’s junior) did mention Yang. (Yang did, however, refer to his colleague in his Nobel lecture.) According to James Glanz of the New York Times, they never talked to each other ever after (not until 1999 anyway, when Glanz wrote his article), each of them claiming the lion’s share of credit for the work. The D. Kim Foundation refers to the two as “friends, but also rivals”. In his talk to the University of Electronic Science and Technology on September 10, in any case, Yang reportedly said that he and Lee won the Nobel Prize for Physics together for their theory on parity non-conservation (宇称不守恒理论).

But then, this was a fact that could hardly be denied.


Fourth Modernization, one Step up, July 30, 2010
Tsung Dao Lee: The Great Buddha and the ambitious Monkey,, Stockholm, 1957

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Freedom, without Ifs and Buts

Thilo Sarrazin, a member of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), a former Berlin senator of finance, has resigned his post at the board of the German Central Bank after publishing a controversial book. By doing so, he avoided a struggle between himself and the bank, and probably the federal president, too, to remove him.

His resignation isn’t bad news. The Central Bank’s task is the stability of our currency – the Deutschemark in the past, and the Euro now, as an influential member of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB). A board membership in such a bank is a full-time job, and it requires restraint when commenting on day-to-day politics. A too provocative bearing doesn’t serve the organization’s reputation well.

That said, the way the federal president himself initiated the struggle for Sarrazin’s dismissal didn’t serve the federal president’s office well either. He told the Bundesbank board to act on Sarrazin, and therefore later found himself in a partial position when he had to decide about the resignation.

There are a lot of do-gooders who do more harm than good to this country’s development. Especially within Sarrazin’s SPD. And when Sarrazin’s “racism” is the issue, there seems to be no room for subtleties. The World Socialist Website wrote on Saturday that Hamburg’s former first mayor, Klaus von Dohnanyi, who has offered to defend Sarrazin in a party hearing that could lead to expulsion, had

justified “Sarrazin’s basic thesis,” which he summarized by saying that Germany was “in danger of seeing its intellectual elites melt away,” as they were having too few children, while groups that have thus far “not distinguished themselves through their work or performance” have produced more children, and thereby depressed “the long-term performance level of the nation.”

Dohnanyi also explicitly defended Sarrazin’s racist theory that there were “special cultural characteristics of ethnic groups, and that Jews had a slightly different genetic structure.” His contribution ended with the call: “Please don’t shrink from words such as race, Jews, Muslims.”

To be clear: I haven’t read Sarrazin’s book, and I’m not going to spend time on it. Sarrazin doesn’t look like a reliable source to me. But I’m not trying to judge either if there are genetic factors that may help people to develop skills, or if every skill is “learned”. I simply don’t know the answer, and one of my tasks is to assist people in developing their skills, to the best of their individual abilities.

The lines by Dohnanyi the World Socialist Website refers to are apparently those he wrote for the Sueddeutsche Zeitung on September 6.

Sarrazin’s assertion that there are particular, cultural characteristics of ethnic groups can’t be denied by anyone with experience. The American Encyclopedia of Social Sciences refers to this as “social race”. Sarrazin sees rejection of integration within parts of Islamic groups, and therein dangers for our educational and performance-oriented society. Integration was also a duty of migrants
[literally, a “Bringschuld”, i. e. a “debt  to  be  discharged  at  creditor’s  domicile” – the creditor would be the society the migrant joins – JR].
Is that wrong?

Sarrazin also mentioned “bi0logical” points. He cites a certain hereditability of intelligence. Wrong? He means to say [or believes – “meinen” can mean both “mean to say”, or “believe” – JR] that certain ethnic groups’ or social communities’  insufficient endeavors can, in the long run, affect the mensurable intelligence level of these groups. And in an interview, asked for possible genetic shares in intelligence inheritance, he suggested, referring to scientific American publications, that jews, too, (whom he admires for their intelligence in his book) might feature a somewhat different (i.e. superior) genetical structure – he has since regretted this statement. Racism?

His main criticism of muslim migrants in Germany isn’t directed against their (unknown) individual IQs, or their religion. He criticizes the refusal of the part of migrants in question to educate their children to learn the German language, to ambitious learning, and preparedness for integration.

Categories like “race”, “jews”, and “muslims” exist, writes Dohnanyi. It is permissible to think about them and to use them. Cowardice in thought wasn’t called for, just as racism wasn’t called for. Dohnanyi argues that no other European left party would cancel a membership because of such a book – and that he was prepared to defend Sarrazin in such a hearing. After all, he expected a fair hearing, and cites Willy Brandt, who had said that freedom came first – “without Ifs and Buts” (ohne Wenn und Aber).

I see no good reasons to doubt that Dohnanyi wants every individual be judged on his or her individual merits. If he quoted Sarrazin correctly, one might say the same thing about the former Berlin finance senator.

Many of Sarrazin’s critics, if they want to convince people with facts, rather than with wobbly and blurry references to Germany’s nazi past, will have to do better. But as cabaret artist Volker Pispers once said: “our intellectuals measure everything in units of Hitler”.


… ohne Wenn und Aber: Freiheit, Willy Brandt, June 14, 1987

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lai Yiyou: How Japanese was my Island? (II & end of article)

The following is the second instalment, and finish, of my reproduction of an article by Lai Yiyou (赖奕佑), a researcher with Tsinghua University’s Institute of International Studies. I’m not putting it into blockquotes, as this is only a rough (and possibly at times inaccurate) account of what he wrote himself in Chinese. Part one of my reproduction of Lai’s article is here »

Unequal treatment under Japanese colonial rule in terms of daily life and education, and the Japanese rulers’ distrust of the Taiwanese, had left a negative impression on the Taiwanese, writes Lai Yiyou. But the way the KMT ruled Taiwan after the war was colonial, too – and the KMT viewed the Taiwanese as Japan’s accomplices. The way the Taiwanese – consequently – began to see Japanese colonial rule in a more positive light still served some Japanese media to acquit their own country these days.

But even as Chiang Kai-shek’s government emphasized the KMT’s role in having defended China against Japan, Chiang also took a rather friendly stance in relations with Japan. For American and Japanese acknowledgment, and for the sake of the goals Washington, Tokyo, and Chiang had in common within the post-war international environment, Chiang also abandoned demands of Japanese war compensation, thus “rendering good for evil” (以德报怨, yǐ dé bào yuàn). The cold-war structures made Taiwan lean not only on political and military relations with America and Japan, but also made Japan a major direct investor in Taiwan, with 27.53 per cent of all foreign direct investment from 1952 to 2008. Japan wasn’t simply the old colonizer, or the mere old imperialist force against China, but a contributor to Taiwan’s economic growth. This defines the way Taiwan views Japan these days, writes Lai.

After the lifting of martial law, Taiwanese authors started writing down their memories, and making them public. Local history, including that about Japanese rule, came to public attention again. The government also started research projects of its own. Lai emphasizes that those who started to rediscover their local or family histories were no trained historians, and that therefore, their research of daily life under Japanese colonial rule wasn’t “vigorous” (回忆录的作者并不是训练有素的历史学家,因此对于生活在日本时代的记述也就不会在历史文献上做一番严格的考证,对于记述内容自然偏向生活经验的陈述而非严谨的历史考察).

Taiwanese didn’t like Japanese mass culture simply because this were politically wanted, writes Lai. And younger Taiwanese peoples’ awareness of Japan mostly amounted to awareness of Japanese mass culture, not to knowledge of the past. When it comes to differences between Taiwan and Japan these days, the Diaoyutai islands were issues, but not the Yasukuni Shrine, or history textbooks. Taiwanese politicians these days were no longer in position to guide the opinions of the young, but had, ever since the 1990s, rather themselves been driven by the aspirations of the younger Taiwanese.

On the fifth page of his article (as republished by Huanqiu Shibao), Lai Yiyou evaluates the Taiwanese public’s state of mind by – apparently – socio-cultural means. Rewriting this part of his article into English exceeds my language skills, but Lai apparently wants to prove that a collective understanding of the past can be distorted, by politics and otherwise. I’m not sure if this is a criticism of how the Chinese public views Taiwan’s attitude toward Japan, or if it is a criticism of the Taiwanese attitude itself.

For sure, Lai points out that it wasn’t really that much the case that Taiwan’s leaders had shaped the views of the Taiwanese towards Japan, but rather that their policies had reflected the existing views of the Taiwanese (与其说是领导者决定了台湾人的对日情感,不如说是领导者的政策反射了台湾人的对日观感). However, Lai does criticize the KMT for not properly handling the “Taiwanese provincial feelings” (战后国民党政府无法妥善处理省籍情结的结果) which was responsible for some of the “beautification of Japan”, and attributes another portion of responsibility for the “pro-Japaneseness” to the political aspirations of Taiwanese “localization” (本土化), after the lifting of martial law in 1987.

In a diverse media environment, all currents of thought had a chance to emerge, writes Lai. If the Taiwanese confronted the Japanese colonial past in a proper way [“proper” seems to refer to Beijing’s way of recording history], he hoped that this wouldn’t lead to new emotional barriers between the people on “both sides of the Taiwan Strait”, and that it wouldn’t give rise to mainlanders perceiving another divide between themselves and the Taiwanese (笔者希望这样的趋势不要成为两岸人民情感交流的隔阂,或者再次成为中国大陆人民划分台湾人的心结).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lai Yiyou on Taiwan: How Japanese was my Island?

Huanqiu Shibao republishes an article by Tsinghua University Institute of International Studies researcher Lai Yiyou (赖奕佑) today on how to understand the development and change in Taiwan’s view of Japan (如何认识台湾对日观的发展变化), first published this month in the monthly China Review (中国评论). Lai argues that Taiwan’s colonization by Japan from 1895 to 1945 couldn’t explain why a larger proportion of later arrivals on Taiwan – referred to as people from other provinces who had no experience with Japan’s colonial rule there, i. e. refugees from China – idolized Japan (外省族群喜欢日本偶像) even more than the original population of the province (本省族群). Lai offers the interdependence between Taiwan, Japan, and America “during the Cold War” as an explanation – in terms of political, military and economic relations.

It had been – falsely – argued that colonial castration had led to pro-Japanese tendencies and logics in Taiwan, writes Lai. This had been a prejudice, and a misunderstanding. Differently from Koreans, who viewed Japanese colonial rule as an era of shame, Taiwanese considered the Japanese building of Taiwan as virtuous government. It’s necessary, Lai argues, to see the differences in Korea’s and Taiwan’s history after Japan’s capitulation in 1945 and to analyze that era could help to see the real nature of the problem and avoid repeating old mistakes and sorrows.

Only some six million people lived in Taiwan in 1945, but after 1949, the migration of Chiang Kai-shek’s KMT and its loyalists, defeated in China’s civil war, brought more than one million migrants to the island, none of whom had experienced Japan’s colonial rule on Taiwan.

Secondly, Min Nan [people who were offspring of earlier migrants from the southern part of Fujian province] as well as Hakka people and Taiwanese aboriginals, were affected by Japanese rule in ways different from the general population, were frequently overlooked in analyses.

The policy of Japanization (皇民化) was no satisfactory explanation either. Even though Taiwan was ceded to Japan in 1895, Japanization only started in late 1936, for the last eight years of Japanese rule over the island. Only one per cent of Taiwanese spoke Japanese as their household language in 1942, according to a survey, and the number of those who had changed their names into Japanese was even smaller. Not to mention the new arrivals in Taiwan in 1949, even the locals (本省人, běn shěng rén) could hardly be considered to have been successfully japanized.

Lai’s article also points out the comparatively short reach of Japanese language education.

He then refers to a post-war photo of 1945, where Taiwan “returns to the motherland”, but which shows the Republic of China flag flying upside down, similarly to one of the new Russian flags in Moscow in January 1992, during a meeting of Russian and American scholars. The incident symbolized the Taiwaners’ distrust for the new rule, even though it was “natural” that Taiwan returned to the bosom of the motherland (台湾自然回到祖国的怀抱). The KMT soon turned out to be a disappointing ruler, especially after the 228 incident, in 1947.

The way Lai describes Chiang Kai-shek’s rule over Taiwan, and the way Chiang viewed the island, isn’t different from what I have read about the era before, except that Lai emphasizes that Chiang viewed Taiwan as a former Japanese colony (台湾在蒋介石的心理上不仅是过去曾被日本统治的殖民地,也是他最后赖以维持政权的反共基地,而台湾的地位也从国共内战的后方变成国共内战的前线). It didn’t hurt Japan’s image in Taiwan as its former ruler that KMT propaganda pointed out Chiang Kai-shek’s contributions in defeating Japan, argues Lai. After all, the Japanese invasion of China, and Chiang’s war against them, extensively taught in Taiwan’s schools by the KMT educational system, was a Japanese-mainland story, rather than one about Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan. Until 1987, the narrative of the Japanese war was mostly written by the new arrivals – by wài shěng rén. There was little or no mention of struggles from within Taiwan to resist Japanese rule.

My reproduction of Lai’s article only covers the first three of seven pages published by Huanqiu Shibao. I wouldn’t mind if someone else picks it up here and takes it further, given that I have little time for blogging at the moment.

For now, I can only wonder how beautifully Chinese Taiwan would be today, if the CCP had taken care of the Taiwaners’ post-1945 education, instead of the KMT. Obviously, there would have been no disappointment, the Wuxing Hongqi would have flown in the right direction, and there would be no need to mention anti-Chinese struggles in Taiwan, because there wouldn’t have been any.

I will come back to translating the article, if nobody else does, because I’ve become curious – not so much about Lai’s account in itself (but then, positive surprises may still be in the pipeline), but about the new slant he is apparently offering for Beijing’s propaganda against Taiwan.

Will history ever become scientific in China?


Media Coverage, Unspoken (and Spoken) Rules, Aug 11, 2010

How Japanese was my Island, Part II and Finish »

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Obituary: Bärbel Bohley, 1945 – 2010

Bärbel Bohley was born in Berlin in 1945, two weeks and a half after the end of World War 2, studied arts, became a painter, and worked with Katja Havemann in the “Women for Peace” Group, founded in 1982. In 1988, she took part in demonstrations commemorating Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and was arrested. After a prison term, she was expelled, went to England, but was back in East Germany six months later. In 1989, she co-founded the New Forum.

She played a leading role in bringing the collapse of the East German regime about, but viewed German unification with scepticism. “We wanted justice”, she once said, expressing disappointment about how unified Germany came to terms with human rights violations in East Germany, “and we got the rule of law” (“Wir wollten Gerechtigkeit und bekamen den Rechtsstaat”). And: “I know no political party that would breed responsible citizens (“Ich kenne keine Partei, die mündige Bürger hervorbringt”). In 1996, Bohley said that what had been achieved in Germany since reunification was “less than what we dreamed.”

“But it is far more than what we had before.”

Bärbel Bohley died of lung cancer this morning, aged 65.


Human Rights and the Isolation Factor, July 5, 2008

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