Archive for December 5th, 2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Die Zeit: Making Fun of “The Coming Insurrection”

German and Chinese people are usually nice to each other – as nice as they can. It must be for cultural reasons. I guess we are all afraid of situations where they might hit the roof. Neither Chinese nor Germans are usually good at getting angry and saving their own face at the same time. In other words,  both Chinese and German people can easily climb a tree – but they aren’t good at climbing down again.

Of course, I can’t tell if this is only true for German and Chinese people I know (myself included), or if this rule really applies beyond our circles.

Premature Concept

Our political system stifles creative solutions.

Fortunately, for both our ancient cultures and nations, there’s the internet for venting anger.

My old chum Taide has translated an article by Adam Soboczynski for Germany’s weekly Die Zeit into English. And as Sobo compares current German anger movements with the American Tea Party movement, he has earned himself a long trail of devastating comments. (Germans have nothing against America, except that the average German thinks of himself as someone smarter than the average American. If you equate a German not just with the average American, but with the kind of Americans he deems reactionary, so much the worse.) One could think that Soboczynski has hanged himself in the meantime, after reading the first ten or so comments on his article.

But that would be a misconception. Most probably, he wrote his article precisely because he knew that he would earn himself a lot of new critics – or retread his old critics. I’m not very familiar with commenter threads at Die Zeit or Der Spiegel, but at first glance, I’d think that you’ll find the same usual suspects there, most of the time.

The major irony about Soboczynski’s article is that the way many of his critics react to it seems to confirm his point. It’s a fruitful interaction at the author’s terms, and predictable at that.

When Germans or Chinese air grievances and feel that those aren’t taken sufficiently seriously, they’ll feel deeply offended in most cases – more so than Americans or British people would. JR isn’t trying to analyze the issue here – he’s no psychologist, and besides, he is at times overexposed to both German and Chinese psychographs, for personal and professional reasons. He’s too close to the problem.

But while he believes that Soboczynski made the comparison with The Coming Insurrection (European) and the Tea Party Movement (American) mainly for stoking the fire on his commenting thread, JR feels that the two movements may have a high degree of bigotry in common. They feel mucked about by illegitimate powers that be, they use the political classes of their respective countries as scapegoats for grievances that are usually not about daily life, but rather about a feeling of lacking political empowerment. According to Taide, Soboczynski wrote:

Apparently, every sense of formal aspects of democracy have been lost: people don’t want to get involved in the political parties’ mean business, but shortcut opinion formation by referenda. Ggovernments relying on discreet communication are deemed undesirable; people celebrate WikiLeaks. People wish to restrict minorities (such as migrants or smokers) by referenda, while the state is unnecessarily still protecting them.

Stuttgart 21, Wall of Grassroots Democracy

Stuttgart 21, Wall of Grassroots Democracy - Wikimedia Commons, Mussklprozz.

Of course, JR frequently feels angry, too. He may feel angry in his capacity as a smoker, for example. He’s discriminated against. His human rights are at stake. But as mentioned before, there’s the internet. And – in Germany – the Autobahn. (If you understand German, don’t miss the comments underneath the video.)


Why Wikileaks can’t Work, December 1, 2010
Anger Manipulation, July 12, 2009
“The Art of Happiness”, December 9, 2008
L’insurrection qui vient, March 22, 2007

Sunday, December 5, 2010

JR’s Sunday Sermon: Scrooge’s Transformation

Scrooge's Transformation: Redressing the Evils of the Past

Scrooge's Transformation: Redressing the Evils of the Past (1978)

During British prime minister David Cameron‘s trip to China in November, John Humphrys, host of the BBC‘s Today program, asked Wu Jianmin (吴建民), former president of the China Foreign Affairs University, a rather simple question about Liu Xiaobo:

What did he do? What did that Nobel Peace Prize winner do ?

Wu Jianmin’s reply:

I’m not a jurist. I don’t know – maybe you can talk to some Chinese who are informed about that. I’m not informed about his case. I didn’t look at his case.

At first glance, Wu looks ill-prepared for the question. If a former China Foreign Affairs University president isn’t informed about a case which creates a lot of international (and not only ‘”Western”) attention, what is he informed about at all? At what of kinds of cases would he look at in his spare time?

But the fact is that Wu didn’t need to look for a better answer to questions like Humprhys’. In cases that involve “national security”, no Chinese jurist needs to look for better answers either, unless he’s a defender. And even if a defender does have better answers, it won’t matter, if the CCP wants to see a defendant in jail.

National security was reportedly cited as a reason to bar Mo Shaoping (莫少平), Liu Xiaobo’s defender before he was reportedly disqualified, from travelling to Britain in November, apparently on the day or one day after Wu Jianmin referred the BBC to more informed Chinese sources than himself. The Telegraph:

The heavy-handed response confirmed the worst fears of diplomats that the prime minister’s trade visit to China would be derailed by concerns over China’s human rights record.
Some delegates [there were 43 business leaders travelling with Cameron, according to the BBC] have privately voiced their fears that the visit, which is the first by a Western leader since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel prize in October, could end in disaster at a time when the British government is desperately trying to improve trade relations with China.

There was no reason to worry. Business comes first.

The BBC’s interview with Wu centered around business conflicts, and business conflicts only. You’ll need to listen to “communists” these days – outside China – to be provided with a different view.

While South Africa’s governing ANC emphasizes the need for good relations with Beijing, the Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (COSATU) take is that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Scrooge's Transformation: Broiler Industry Efficiency

Scrooge's Transformation: How Breeding Companies Help Improve Broiler Industry Efficiency (2010)

Business is legitimate – but there needs to be the primacy of politics when dealing with other countries which put politics first themselves. If  you want  real win-win situations, don’t rely on business people from your country.

Too many of them only become principled about judicial miscarriages when they affect them, rather than Chinese people.


Business Dispute: Just a little Bit Longer, June 16, 2010
The Primacy of Politics, June 13, 2010
German Presidency: Politician wanted, May 31, 2010
“Reluctant to Face a Stronger China”, July 29, 2009

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