Archive for January, 2011

Monday, January 31, 2011

Learning Chinese with the CCP: Dangwai

On the eve of the traditional Spring Festival, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China held a forum with non-party members (党外人士, dǎng wài rénshì), inviting delegates from the central committees of each democratic party, comrades from  the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, and personalities without party affiliation to a happy get-together at Zhongnanhai, to greet the new year,

reports Xinhua (via Enorth).

Jia Qinglin chaired the meeting, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang attended.

Hu Jintao, central military commissions' chairman, Xinwen Lianbo, January 24, 2011

Hu Jintao, attending a spring festival military gala in his capacity as CMC chairman, Xinwen Lianbo, January 24, 2011

State affairs were discussed together (共商国是) and old friendship recalled to greet the new year. CCP Central Committee secretary-general, state chairman and central military commissions’ chairman Hu Jintao, on behalf of the CCP’s central committee and the state council, extended his sincere greetings and Spring Festival wishes to the central committees of all democratic parties, to the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce comrades, to all persons without party affiliations, and to the wide membership of the United Front (统一战线). Hu Jintao emphasized that the accomplishment of the tasks of this year’s development goals depended on people from every party, every group, every nationality, every [social] class, and from all walks of life working together for the nation. Ninety years after the establishment of the CCP we should summarize and express the CCP’s and every democratic party’s, the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce’s, and non-party affiliate’s magnificient progress (光辉历程), in deepest sincerity to each other (肝胆相照 gān dǎn xiāng zhào), and their shared fate (风雨同舟 fēng yǔ tóng zhōu), guide the United Front’s wide membership to carry on and further develop the glorious tradition (继承和发扬光荣传统, jìchéng hé fāyáng guāngróng chuántǒng), uphold and perfect the ideals and beliefs of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, uphold and perfect cooperation and consultation among the political parties under the leadership of the CCP and their close cooperation with the CCP, and ensure that the policies laid out by the CCP central committee are implemented.

[Listing further attendees, including Du Qinglin (杜青林), head of the United Front work department of the CCP, and “Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League central committee” chairwoman Lin Wenyi (林文漪) as speakers at the meeting.]

Everyone agreed that 2010 had been an outstanding chapter in the great progress of reform and opening of the country (2010年是我国在改革开放的伟大进程中写下精彩篇章的一年). Led by the CCP’s central committee with Hu Jintao as its secretary-general, the nationalities of China had made their way forward united, of one mind, and persistently, promoted every project’s development and achieved new important successes.

The Xinhua article keeps emphasizing the CCP’s leading role, and lists the topics of affairs discussed: the strengthening of social services in rural China, water conservation, the development of strategic industries, cross-strait cultural exchanges, and suggestions as to how effectively correct unhealthy practices (不正之风, bù zhèng zhī fēng) which hurt public interests.  Hu Jintao conscientiously listened to all the speeches (认真听取大家的发言), and then delivered an important speech himself (发表了重要讲话), thanking for the United Front work of 2010, and pointing out the importance of implementing the CCP’s 17th party congress resolutions, the Deng Xiaoping Theories (邓小平理论), and Jiang Zemin’s “Three Represents” (三个代表), scientific development, economic transformation, and outstanding questions in socio-economic development. The 12th Five-Year plan would be crucial in building a moderately prosperous society (小康社会, xiǎo kāng shèhuì).

Hu emphasized that questions of the people’s livelihood and society’s harmony and stability was of the greatest concern to the national development plan.

We hope that all comrades will persist in putting the people first, profoundly understand the importance of doing the work among the masses in the new situation, support the party in uniting the masses, contacting the masses, and serving the masses, and that they will understand the situation in society (社情) and public opinion (民意), follow the public opinion (顺民意), and alleviate the people’s worries (解民忧).

Hu Jintao pointed out that ever since the founding of the CCP, ninety years ago, it had been proven in practise that one heart and one mind [literally: virtue]  in thought (思想上同心同德), one heart and one direction for the goals (目标上同心同向), and one heart and one direction in terms of action (行动上同心同行) had been the outstanding features of the cooperation and consultation between the democratic parties under the leadership of the CCP, and the guarantee of our victory in  continuously winning the revolution (不断夺取革命, bùduàn duóqǔ gémìng), construction, and reform. We hope that all comrades will conscientiously sum up historical experience, further encourage patriotic dedication (进一步激发爱国奉献, jìnyībù jīfā àiguó fèngxiàn), contribute to a sense of responsibility and creativity, and continuously improve skills of participation in state affairs.



风雨同舟 (fēng yǔ tóng zhōu) to share a common fate, to be in the same storm-tossed boat
团结 (tuán jié) to unite, unity
民意 (mínshēng) public opinion / popular will
民生 (mínshēng) the people’s livelihood
以人为本 (yǐ rén wéi běn) with the people first, people-oriented
十二五 (全国十二五规划) (shí èr wǔ) The 12th Five-Year plan
社会和谐稳定 (shèhuì héxié wěndìng) society’s harmony and stability
群众 (cānzhèng yìzhèng) the masses
参政议政 (cānzhèng yìzhèng) participation in state affairs

United Front (PRC), Wikipedia
Don’t simplify the Big Topic, January 30, 2011
Taiwan needn’t fear United Front Tactics, Focus Taiwan, Jan 27, 2011
World Media Summit: be more Xinhua, October 10, 2009
China’s United Front goes to Europe, China Post, Febr 11, 2009
Hermit: Delegates make a Big Difference, March 6, 2009
Hu stresses a United Front, Xinhua, July 13, 2006

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Huanqiu Shibao: Don’t simplify the Big Topic

Huanqiu Shibao, China’s paper for global affairs and hot potatos, published an editorial on the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt on Sunday.

Western democratic culture still appeared to be expanding, but while the first color revolutions (“颜色革命”)  at the end of the cold war had been whole-heartedly welcomed, reactions to the more recent events were more muted, writes Huanqiu.

Western countries had interests beyond democracy in the Middle East, given the strong foundations of islamic fundamentalism there.

The Middle East is the area where ideological and emotional confrontations with the West are most intense, and that is also a reason as to why the West has long supported non-democratic political power there.

Democracy may not have taken root in South Korea or Japan either, hadn’t it been at the price of having foreign troops stationed on their territories, writes Huanqiu. In many other places outside the established Western societies, democratic countries had failed, which had led to doubts that Western political systems were practical on a global scale.

It is predictable that Tunisia is still far away from real democracy, and no matter where the chaos in Egypt will lead, democracy is far away there, too. Democracy’s success requires sustenance from a lot of economic, educational, and societal change, and the problem now is that every country has some people who simplify the big topic of democracy.

Western exports of democracy came with no after-sales service, and given the relative decline of its power, the West can’t add the necessary innovation and changes the democratic system would need.

While democracy was a very acceptable principle to humankind, ways had to  be sought to implement it in ways which didn’t require the upheaval (动荡dòng dàng) and and misery (痛苦tòng kǔ) of revolutions, argues the Huanqiu editorial. Possibly, there should rather be a competition between countries on innovative ways towards democracy (这或许应当成为各国走向民主的创新竞赛).

I’m not sure who Steven Hill is – “Steven Hill is an author”, the Taipei Times laconically noted at the end of an article written by Hill which it published on Sunday, titled China is walking a democratic path, . But it comes timely, and yes, the democratic path he describes would differ from the Western model.

Of course, as Chinese democracy develops, it is unlikely to replicate the Western model. Confucian-inspired intellectuals like Jiang Qing (蔣慶), for example, have put forward an innovative proposal for a tricameral legislature. Legislators in one chamber would be selected on the basis of merit and competency and in the others on the basis of elections of some kind. One elected chamber might be reserved only for CCP members, the other for representatives elected by ordinary Chinese.

On the village level, democratic experiments had led to encouraging results, Hill writes, citing Yang Yao ((楊姚, an economist), measured in a reduction of corruption.

Jiang Qing (蒋庆 in simplified characters), the Confucian-inspired intellectual referred to by Hill as he describes possible political systems for China’s central level, belongs to a school of Confucianists who believe that the old sage’s philosophy  is a self-sufficient civilizational system*) which can provide a practical foundation for the way China should organize its political system.

“Confucius said: ‘Harmony is something to be cherished'”, Hu Jintao reportedly told the National People’s Congress in 2005. Muammar Qaddafi, not always a harmonious personality himself, would probably agree with Confucius these days, if the Economist quoted him correctly last week:

“Tunisia now lives in fear. Families could be raided and slaughtered in their bedrooms and the citizens in the street killed as if it was the Bolshevik or the American revolution.”**)

But not only Islamists may have different opinions. After all, to torch oneself as Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian vendor, did on December 17, is hardly “islamic”.

And if there are Europeans or Americans who mute their enthusiasm for Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution”, the Economist isn’t one of them:

“To see an Arab country shaking off the shackles of despotism is a rare and unalloyed joy”, one of its editorials said on January 22***) – “and don’t fear Islam.”

It is not an easy calculation. Many Islamists think God and the Koran should take precedence over parliaments, parties, pluralism and popular debate. At the extreme end of the Islamist spectrum are hard men whose rule would be a lot harsher than that of Mr Ben Ali and his ilk. But in few Arab countries is an extreme version of Islam either preponderant or popular. The Muslim Brotherhood, the true opposition in Egypt, embraces a range of attitudes. The more tolerant and sensible in its number are probably the most popular. Seeing that undemocratic secular regimes have failed to give them satisfaction, Arabs should be allowed to votre for Islamists if that is their wish. It is a risk – for themselves and for the rest of the world. However, as the past few weeks have shown, winking at secular despots, as they tighten the screws on their disgruntled people, may in the long run be riskier.

If similar things could happen in China is a question many observers – near and far – have asked themselves in recent days, but usually in a light-hearted or at least casual way, rather than in real belief.

The Telegraph‘s China correspondent Peter Foster digs fairly deep into the well of history, China’s included, but still finds that a successful “emancipation by degrees” could avert revolution in China.

Cup of Cha sees an aspect in the Egyptian uprisings which strikes fear in the heart (see there), but the Chinese have been willing to put up with government corruption, cynicism and cronyism because the economic situation in China is good overall.

And Wang Xuejin (王学圻), a moviemaker who attended the Cairo Film Festival and then reportedly found himself stranded at the airport, hungry and scared, may not be in a revolutionary mood either. He might, however, wish to see a few heads roll at China’s embassy in Cairo. As reported by Ning Caishen, a microblogger:

a friend sent a text message from Cairo: Due to the chaos in Cairo, Wang Xuejin has been trapped at the Cairo Airport for 15 hours already.  The telephones are not working.  We just saw that the whole country is engulfed in chaos, with arson and bombings sweeping through the city.  We came here with the State Film Authority to attend the Film Festival held by the embassy.  Our embassy in Egypt are indifferent to our lives.  They are hiding themselves to save their own lives.

That said, re-posters of the message paid the highest salute to the embassy for their effectiveness.

*) according to Wang Zhicheng – see translation of 2009
**) The Economist, January 22, 2011, page 30
***) The Economist, January 22, 2011, page 13

No Hidden Ambitions, September 24, 2010

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Li Qiming sentenced to Six Years in Jail

Li Qiming (李启铭) has been sentenced to six years in jail, and to pay the equivalent of [correction: 69,900 USD] 13,000 USD to the family of Chen Xiaofeng (陈晓凤), a student killed by Li’s hit-and-run drive on the campus of Hebei University on October 16 last year, reports the BBC.

The story had become news in China because it emblematized the feelings of many Chinese that cadre kids and the offspring from big business people were getting away with all kinds of offenses. Li Qiming has been quoted as telling campus guards who stopped him after killing Chen and injuring another student that “my father is Li Gang” (the deputy director of a local public security branch bureau), and “sue me if you dare”.

Wangdu County People’s Court found that Li had been driving drunk, injured one student and killed another, then tried to escape, and was fully responsible for the accident.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Education Debate reaches Cosmic Dimensions

To parents, the question how their children will fare in life isn’t a trifle. But that alone doesn’t explain why Amy Chua (蔡美儿, Cài Měier), a Yale Law School professor and the child of ethnic Chinese migrants from the Philippines, has become a big topic in the international media. Chua related the recipes of her success as a mother to the readers of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and the gist of it is that her two daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin.

Big deal. I know a number of children – mostly either from very religious families or children of academics – who are educated in similar ways here in Germany. Sometimes it seems to work, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, the results are often remarkable. When it doesn’t, the results are sometimes disastrous. Education, in Germany, is similar to soccer. Every idiot has an “opinion” about it. Everywhere else, too, I guess. After all, we all once attended school.

I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of parents in America whose “recipes to success” look very similar to Mrs Chua’s. That isn’t necessarily good. And it isn’t necessarily bad. The results depend on the children, and on their parents.

A blogger named Lloyd Lofthouse who taught English, journalism and reading in the American public schools from 1975 to 2005 and experienced the decline of the American family while working 60 to 100 hours a week teaching, writing lesson plans and correcting the work his students turned in, blames the Self-esteem Arm of Political Correctness (SAP) for the problems of education in America.

In America, any semblance of a parent’s freedom of choice of how to raise a child all but vanished starting in the 1960s when the Self-esteem Arm of Political Correctness (SAP) became the only acceptable way to act, think, and speak as a parent.

Parents that deviated from the self-esteem model were driven underground and Chua was perceptive enough to see that.

Amy Chua herself describes how tough she is or was as a mother, and explains what Lofthouse refers to as the SAP concept as follows:

First, I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.

For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child “stupid,” “worthless” or “a disgrace.” Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child’s grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher’s credentials.

Mr Lofthouse used to be a teacher. No wonder that Mrs Chua’s remarks struck a chord when he read them. But if all parents had subscribed to SAP while he was a teacher, Lofthouse would probably have worked 120 hours a week, and suffered a nervous breakdown or a fatal heart attack long before 2005. Or the parents would have had a word with the school principal, and have Mr Lofthouse fired.

The whole issue isn’t discussed in a way now that would benefit education, be it at home, be it in school. The “Chinese mothers are superior” theme is catchy, but it’s a sham package. Amy Chua herself points that out within the first paragraphs of her controversial article (even if only reluctantly):

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

But with the choice of the title of it, she has awarded her case all the makings of a bestseller. It’s president Obama’s sputnik moment in the field of education (and the public atmosphere that surrounds it), and therefore, it resonates with the public more, than if she had simply written a book of educational advice.

And that’s the problem. Issues of education, the question what kind of life a child should live, are not only a matter of ideology here (that’s unfortunatle, too, but normal anyway), but it has become a matter of global politics. This isn’t what Chua necessarily wants to happen, to be clear. She makes it very clear that achievement is good for a child as an individual. But it was foreseeable that the issue of how children could become beneficiaries of their own efforts wouldn’t become the focus of the debate. It’s  “America’s decline” or “China’s rise”.

That’s not only unfair to a child. It’s also unpractical.

Children aren’t raw material, or just different slices from the same batch of material. The “tough love” Chua preaches can have different effects on different children. Some will indeed never doubt that their parents love them after all, however tough the love may be. But others will.

Parents aren’t all the same either. Some may be sensitive and intelligent enough to soften or change their demands on their child, once their approach becomes destructive. But others won’t.

Yangcheng Evening Post (羊城晚报, Guangdong Province) took a more sober look at the issue a few days ago than Chua, her intercessors, or her opponents, even if not without some noticeable pride in the “Chinese (education) model” and its sudden relevance in America.  The paper ends its article by quoting Chen Kai (陈凯), an associate professor at the China University of Communication, who suggests that a synthesis of the two approaches of “too much criticism” and “too much praise (“批评太多”,一个是“表扬太多”) could be the most promising way.

Radicalism is no good when it comes to education. Debates beside the actual issue – the children – isn’t helpful either.


Why should young Children Learn Mandarin, July 2, 2009

Update / Related
[Jan. 30, 2011] “Empower, don’t enslave them”, Tina Tsai, January 13, 2011

[April 8, 2011] The link behind Tina Tsai’s link currently leads to a (justified or not) “attack-page” warning  –


Friday, January 28, 2011

World Service drops Languages, and 648 kHz

The BBC World Service celebrated its 75th birthday in 2007. King George V delivered his first Christmas message in 1932 on the airwaves of what was then the Empire Service. Back then, it’s director-general, John Reith, warned the global audience:

“don’t expect too much… The programmes will neither be very interesting nor very good.”

I don’t know if the programs were really that bad. But I’m wondering if the BBC World Service today – or the British government – have decided more recently  to fulfill  Reith’s old promise at last. By now, jingles have been interspersed into the program – even if still on a modest scale, when compared with commercial pop-and-gambling radio on FM. Besides, such  announcements of programs that are then aired only days or weeks later are often pretty good ones.

What was much more annoying than the announcement jingles was the introduction of programs like “Outlook”, or “World have your Say” – the latter is a phone-in show with the  global audience (“Jonathan, thank you VERY much for calling, but the phone line from Lagos is SO BAD, so we will try to come back to you later, on a better line”). All that while the world can have its say on the internet every day. I’d have preferred good documentaries on the radio – and what the Economist writes this week*) is exactly how I feel about it:

Some chewy news programmes on the English-language World Service are also to close, and there will be an expansion of more accessible programmes, notably a cheap, cheerful and shockingly superficial audience-participation show called “World Have Your Say”. It looks ominously like dumbing-down,  under the cover of cuts.

Five language services will close completely (including Russian), and Mandarin will only remain available online (I doubt that the website will be of much benefit to most Chinese listeners).

BBC German Service, 50th Anniversary, 1988

BBC German Service, 50th Anniversary, 1988

Besides, the World Service will stop broadcasting on medium wave, 648 kHz, to Europe. That has mainly been the frequency I tuned to when I wanted a quick and thorough review of the latest world news. I first listened to what was “BBC London” with an old couple in our neighborhood, also on 648 kHz. At the time, I can’t have been much older than ten. The program they listened to was in German then – the German service was closed down in 1999. One program with advice for tourists piqued listeners’ curiosity about Britain’s travel destinations, and the World Service’s best documentaries were broadcast in German, too.

During most times of the day, the frequency carried programs in English. I learned more English from the BBC, than I learned in school. Some of its programs were particularly designed for language learners. And I  became interested in the wider world because the BBC told me that there was one, and what it looked like. Radio can stand out in peoples’ lives. It’s hard to imagine  a website doing that.

The good thing is that the closure of 648 kHz doesn’t come at a really bad time. I would have missed the World Service much more if they had closed the frequency ten years ago, or even earlier.

And I won’t listen on the internet. I’ll read blogs on the internet, and some online newspapers, especially in Chinese. I’ve always thought of the web as a medium to read, rather than one to listen to. I won’t keep my computer running for entire Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons, just to listen to radio stations. To me, that doesn’t make sense.

More generally-speaking, and not just about my own listening habits, I think it is strange that the World Service becomes more and more dependent on the internet, while its programs stand out less from other internet content than they would have in the past.

But I don’t want to be too critical of the British decision. After all, it’s their money, not that of us foreign listeners, and without paying a cent for it, I had the chance to learn English – and many other things – from the BBC World Service.

So thanks a lot, Auntie Beeb.


*) The Economist, January 29, page 31: “Dosvidaniya, London”

Radio Bremen abandons Medium Wave, July 29, 2010
Why are Mass Media losing Relevance, Febr 26, 2009

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Just another German Review of the Chinese Press

protest against biased German media, Munich, 2008

This time, they've muzzled you for real

If this is what the Voice of Germany (DW, Deutsche Welle) calls a review of the Chinese press, a review of the booklets “about Germany”, distributed by German consulates among the interested Chinese victims should count as a review of the German press, just as well.

The author of the article “Chinese Press Elated” read all those papers and sources she thinks would matter – the Global Times, for example, which is quoted as saying that all the fears of a cold war were now gone. In the words of the GT itself:

The joint statement signed by the presidents of China and the US, setting out a new cooperative partnership, put to rest any fears that new Cold War might break out between China and the US.

Then, the Welle quotes from Xinhua. Then from  China Daily. All English-speaking papers, as if there wasn’t a Chinese department somewhere in the same building, a few doors away from the Voice’s German department, probably.

The Global Times, ladies and gentlemen there in Bonn, is not the Chinese press. The Chinese press, as a rule, writes in Chinese. English-language papers are an exception in China, not the rule. And they don’t necessarily write the same stuff as those in English do. You should know. After all, you are a house of many different languages yourself.

Oh my. Why am I getting so excited? It’s been a tough day so far, and I should be tired and relaxed instead. After all, it’s breaktime.


If these reporters actually had to cover the news to get a paycheck…, The Guardian, January 23, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lee Kuan Yew: Free Trade to counterbalance China

Unfortunately the U.S. Congress is against any new free-trade agreements. If the next Congress continues to oppose FTAs, valuable time will be lost, and it may be too late to try again. Congress must be made to realize how high the stakes are and that the outlook for a balanced and equitable relationship between the American and Chinese markets is becoming increasingly difficult. Every year China attracts more imports and exports from its neighbors than the U.S. does from the region. Without an FTA Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the Asean countries will be integrated into China’s economy — an outcome to be avoided.

Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀), Singapore Senior Minister, Forbes, December 20, 2010 – complete article here »


The Primacy of Politics, June 13, 2010
A Division of Labor that can’t work, February 23, 2010
Credos and Platitudes, September 21, 2009

Monday, January 24, 2011

Li Qiming to appear in Court on Wednesday

Li Qiming‘s (李启铭) trial at Wangdu County People’s Court is scheduled to open on Wednesday at 9 a.m., reports YNET. Li is accused of driving drunk and having struck two students with his car at Hebei University, Chen Xiaofeng (陈晓凤) and Zhang Jingjing (张晶晶), who were inline-skating on the campus. Chen Xiaofeng, from Shijiazhuang, died from her injuries. Zhang suffered fractures in her leg. When campus security stopped Li, he reportedly told them that “My father is Li Gang” (我爸是李刚), and “sue me if you dare”. Li Gang is deputy director of the Northern District’s public security branch bureau (保定市北市区公安分局) in Baoding.

If the court follows the indictment, Li faces a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, according to the Global Times.

The New York Times described in November how the story became part of popular culture: a

gripping socio-drama — a commoner grievously wronged; a privileged transgressor pulling strings to escape punishment — that sets off alarm bells in the offices of Communist Party censors.

Once all the beans appeared to be spilled despite all alleged efforts to the contrary, the propaganda departments apparently decided that to air some grovelling – and unpleasant – public self-criticisms were in order to help pacifying the public.

ChinaHush republished several videos from the Chinese media in October.


Reality you can Believe in, January 22, 2011

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