Archive for June 24th, 2011

Friday, June 24, 2011

Spreading Mottos in Chongqing: You can Settle Down there

Not everyone in China is in love with Chongqing’s red song concerts, but former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder apparently is.

Where people sing, you can settle down – wicked people sing no songs (Wo man singt, lass dich ruhig nieder, böse Menschen haben keine Lieder) is an old saying in German-speaking countries.

Schröder reportedly quoted the lines in an interview or in a conversation with a Chinese reporter in Chongqing, expressing regret that he wouldn’t be able to listen to a red song concert this time, as he was in quite a hurry.

The rest is guesswork. Had Schröder found a polite excuse for avoiding such a concert, or will he be back to Chongqing, soon? Will the megacity’s beautiful event culture as we know it still be alive by then? And will he sing along?

Singing read songs is part of a wider activity, which apparently originated – or, partly, reappeared – in Chongqing. The concept 唱读讲传 stands for 唱红歌、读经典、讲故事、传箴言, i. e. Singing revolutionary songs, Reading classic books, telling stories and spreading mottos.

According to the Chinese collaborative website HuDong, the singing-reading-telling-spreading activities are a mass concept which was started in Chongqing in June 2008, and was widely acclaimed there, and elsewhere in China. The HuDong article was apparently written by a fan (or by a task force at Chongqing’s CCP propaganda department). The author(s) argue(s) that the concept isn’t out of date at all, because

if a country and a nation have no correct thought and advanced culture, it will lose its backbone. The current deep changes of the economic system, the structure of society, and the profound adjustment of interest patterns must be reflected in the ideological field. There is diversity in peoples’ minds, and although the mainstream is positive and healthy, while some peoples’ material life conditions have improved, spiritual life is somewhat empty. To change that condition, and to ensure a safe passing of the torch in the cause of the party and the country, the red flag must be righteously upheld, the ideology of Marxism must be consolidated in its guiding position within the ideological field, and the attractiveness and the cohesive power of socialist ideology must be strengthened.

一个国家和民族没有正确的思想、先进的文化,就会失掉主心骨。当前,经济体制深刻变革、社会结构深刻变动、利益格局深刻调整,必然反映到意识形态领域。人们的思想日趋多元多变多样,虽然主流积极健康向上,但一些人物质生活改善了,精神生活却有些空虚。为了彻底改变这种状况,保证党和国家的事业薪火相传,必须理直气壮地举红旗,不断巩固马克思主义在意识形态领域的指导地位,增强社会主义意识形态的吸引力和凝聚力。[Links within these lines omitted.]

According to the HuDong article, CCP politbureau member and Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙来) had deplored the phenomenon of young people who sang decadent songs (唱 .. 靡靡之音, chàng mímí zhī yīn), who were reading “fast-food” kinds of literature (读 .. 快餐文化, dú kuàicān wénhuà), told “low and vulgar stories” (讲 .. 低俗故事, jiǎng dīsú gùshì), and “spread pornographic or dull scripts/pieces” (传 .. 黄段子、灰段子, chuán huáng duànzi, huī duànzi). The advocated mass activities exactly manifested the party’s stance on the needs of development (and many other positive things).

The concept is being promoted nation-wide. Last Sunday, for example, the propaganda department of Chongqing’s CCP branch co-hosted a topical seminar in Beijing. But the singing-reading-telling-spreading movement still appears to hail from a local school of ideology, even if acclaimed nationwide, as suggested by the HuDong article. The English-language Global Times, itself a party mouthpiece, quotes He Bing, vice president of the Law School at China University of Political Science and Law, as saying that

There have been 104,000 “Red Song Concerts” in Chongqing, with 80 million participants. It cost 1,500 yuan ($231) per person for onsite renting and costume expenses, 210 million yuan in total. Adding in the offwork compensation and transportation the final cost is 270 billion yuan. Why don’t they use the money for health insurance?

Bo Xilai has been discussed on many China-related blogs. This blog has only devoted one blogpost to him so far, because this is a hobby-horse, and I’m feeling that Bo would be a rather unpleasant personality. But if the sing-a-longs are indeed popular far beyond Chongqing, they may be serving as an expression of approval for Bo’s policies “in line with the people’s wishes”, when it comes to “battling corruption”. But here, too, not everyone would agree. Zhang Wen (章文), former head of the editorial department of Xinhua’s Globe magazine, criticized Chongqing’s “battle” for disrespecting legal proper proceedings, and explained what may have motivated Bo to address “social” rather than economic issues to become a local, or nationwide, hero.

For more initial clues about Bo’s policies, a link collection by King Tubby might be a good point to set out from. You could also try an even more recent piece by the Chinese Law Prof Blog. Or a more extensive article by former SCMP editor-in-chief Willy Lam.

But be warned. This all spells fast food literature.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Cui Tiankai on South China Sea: Keep it Simple

Chinese news articles about the South China Sea1) insist that territorial disputes should be negotiated one-on-one – China plus one opposing claimant at a time -, and should not be “internationalized”. In an international press review2), Huanqiu Shibao, on Friday, also seemed to depict America’s more recent involvement in the South China Sea dispute as something Vietnam, the Philippines, and other claimants should not rely on, as both America and China were playing a bigger game.

I have read similar Chinese arguments several times this or last week, which seemed to suggest that America and China were the players, and the smaller countries bordering on the South China Sea were more like chess pieces (without necessarily using the derogatory term – it is usually reserved to describe the way America itself interacts with Vietnam).

Huanqiu also refers to statements made by Chinese deputy foreign minister Cui Tiankai (崔天凯). Ahead of US-Sino consultations in Honolulu, Cui said in Beijing that that China had not stirred up trouble (挑起事端, tiǎo qǐ shìduān) concerning the South China Sea issue, but that some countries were currently playing with fire (一些国家正在玩火). China hoped that America wouldn’t burn itself (希望美国不要引火上身).

Much of Chinese media coverage on Friday seems to depend on Huanqiu’s press review. However, in a short notice, Caijing quotes Phoenix TV (凤凰卫视, Hong Kong)3):

According to Phoenix Satellite TV, Chinese deputy foreign minister Cui Tiankai said that the South China Sea sovereignty dispute should be solved by the involved parties themselves, and American involvement would only make matters more complex. Cui said on that day in an interview with several foreign media that China hadn’t stirred up trouble concerning the South China Sea, but paid much attention to frequent provocations (对其他各方频繁挑衅非常关注, duì qítā gè fāng pínfán tiǎoxìn). He said that America wasn’t one of the countries [a party] to the South China Sea sovereignty dispute and would best not get involved, and let the issue be resolved by the countries involved. Using an analogy, Cui said that a few (个别) countries were playing with fire, and he hoped that America wouldn’t burn itself.

The New York Times‘ translation of 希望美国不要引火上身 is “I hope the fire will not be drawn to the United States”. “To be honest with you, the Chinese public is following very closely whether the United States will adopt a just and objective position on matters like these”, the NYT quotes Cui.

The US-China consultations are to begin on Saturday.

Three months ago, Huy Duong, in an article for The Diplomat, pointed out a number of strategic mistakes that had been made by the Philippines since 2004, and recommends a common approach to the dispute by Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Also in an article for The Diplomat, some two weeks ago, he wrote that during the latest Sino-Vietnamese tensions,

China failed to state its claim in terms of UNCLOS maritime zones. Nor did it specify any limit or cite international law to support its claim.



1) The South China Sea is referred to as the South Sea (南海) in Chinese. It may also be noteworthy that the waters aren’t referred to as 中国南海 (which would be “China South Sea”. “China” is frequently added to Tibet, Xinjiang, or Taiwan to express or claim sovereignty on such core interests.

2) Such press reviews are frequently selective, if not distortive – hence no mention of the foreign sources here, unless verified.

3) Besides “quoting” the foreign press, referring to Hong Kong media is also a frequent approach by mainland Chinese media.



» Deng Xiaoping and a FEW words about History, December 18, 2008
» United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), Wikipedia


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