Archive for June, 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 The author(s) argue(s) that the concept isn’t out of date at all, because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.

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Notes

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.

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Related

» 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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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Anti-Corruption Websites Down

History: wo hui lu le

Now History: 我贿赂了

A number of websites, including

appear to have been taken down, about a fortnight after they had been discussed by Chinese mainstream media.

Another, 他行贿了 (tā xínghuì le) [correction: 他受贿了, tā shòuhuì le] is still online, which might be explained with a more cautious  approach to discussing and investigating alleged corruption cases. Rather than discussing specific cases online (even if requesting posters to refrain from giving names of officials they accuse), they are said to take reports only by e-mail and to verify before publishing a case.

At least one of the websites has closed down voluntarily, ahead of the CPC birthday, reports the Global Times, and adds advice for people who paid a bribe, quoting a law professor at the Party School of the Central Committee of the CPC:

“If a person really paid a bribe, he or she should go to the prosecutors to confess and then provide proof.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fresh Ideas: Yes you Can (default on your Debts)

On the phone, saving the world

On the phone, saving the world

Two leading German social democrats (SPD) – one long past his career, and one a potential nominee for chancellorship – believe that if Greece defaulted on its debts, it wouldn’t lead to economic disaster. “The psychological effects of a smaller EU member state’s default would be only temporary”, says Helmut Schmidt, chancellor from 1974 to 1982, and co-editor of Germany’s weekly Die Zeit. If the Greek government defaulted, Europe should – more than ever – help to get the Greek economy going again, in terms of employment, productivity, and national income.

Peer Steinbrück, finance minister from 2005 to 2009, who hasn’t ruled out running for chancellorship in 2013, calls for genuine cancellation of Greek debts. A mild conversion of debts would only allow for a short reprieve, said Steinbrück.
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Related
» Euroland, Aching to Grow, June 14, 2011
» How to become Virtuous, M. Pettis, June 14, 2011

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ai Weiwei freed on Bail, Hu Jia to be freed on Sunday

Ai Weiwei (艾未未) has been freed on bail, reports Xinhua, quoted by sina.com‘s finance news website (新浪财经). Investigations to date had revealed that Ai Weiwei’s company (北京发课文化发展有限公司) had evaded huge amounts of tax payments and intentionally destroyed vouchers. Ai Weiwei had shown “a good attitude” in that he had pleaded guilty, and given that he was suffering from chronic disease, and demonstrated willingness to actively settle the outstanding tax bills, he had, in accordance with the law, been released on bail.

Taiwan’s newsagency CNA quotes Ai’s older sister Gao Ge (高阁) as saying that Ai had returned to his home in Beijing, and that his health was not too bad, although he had lost some weight. Chinese authorities had hinted that Ai had evaded taxes on a massive scale (中國當局暗示他涉及逃漏鉅額稅款).

Ai said in a telephone converstation with the BBC on Wednesday that he was now at his home in Beijing – “I can’t talk to media but I am well, thanks for all the media attention”.

Amnesty International, also in a statement on Wednesday, said that

Ai Weiwei’s release on bail by the Chinese government must not ease the international outcry about other activists detained during this year’s ‘Jasmine’ crackdown.

Ai’s release is said to be coinciding with visits by China’s chief state councillor Wen Jiabao to Britain and Germany, and Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Asia Pacific, is quoted by AI’s website as saying that the human rights campaigner’s release could be seen

as a tokenistic move by the government to deflect mounting criticism. […] “It is vital that the international outcry over Ai Weiwei be extended to those activists still languishing in secret detention or charged with inciting subversion.”

Meantime, AIDS campaigner Zeng Jinyan (曾金燕) visited her husband Hu Jia (胡佳) at Beijing Municipal Prison on Monday, she told Associated Press (AP) in an online conversation, as her mobile phone was apparently switched off.

Hu’s three-and-a-half-year jail term is due to end on Sunday, but other dissidents released from jail recently have been kept under house arrest, according to AP, as quoted by the Guardian.

Zeng wasn’t prepared to give interviews, possibly for fear that speaking to the foreign media might jeopardise Hu’s release, writes AP.

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Related
» Comments – Zeng returns to Beijing, June 2011

Updates / Related
» The Crackdown continues (“tax issues”), Nov 16, 2010

Related Tags
» Ai Weiwei
» Hu Jia
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Economic Growth: The Sea is for Free

I don’t know the exact numbers right now, but transport is usually several times more costly per mile (truck, train, etc.) than seaborne.

The argument comes to my mind as I’m reading one of  Spiegel Online’s top stories of today: “How China itself puts the brakes on its growth” (Wie China sein Superwachstum selbst ausbremst).

Infrastructure in investment, a main driver for economic growth, can’t last forever, argues the author, Sebastian Dullien, as it won’t continue to make sense forever. Making the RMB convertible would be another tricky task in the near future. Cheap labor was declining, too.

But cheap labor is only referred to as it appears in the coastal provinces – labor migration from the hinterland, that is. But much of China’s hinterland still has a strong potential for growth – for many years to come. Whereever there are navigable rivers, trading manufactured goods from China’s west to its east should be possible.

But here, Beijing needs to make the right decisions, to make the already well-off provinces invest in and buy from hinterland provinces, or to make companies there successful sub-contractors to established companies along the coastline.

Either way, when it comes to our press, the narrative of an ever-growing China seems to abate, and that’s good. The narrative of unstoppable economic growth had become a political argument, and one that frequently bought off political decisions in the West during the past two decades at least.

If decency wasn’t able to stop this kind of corruption within European politics, maybe more sober business assessments still can.

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Related

“A Fly-Head-Sized Benefit”, January 8, 2010

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rain at Last / Blogging

Weather Report

Rainpipe - Home while it Lasted

Rainpipe - Home while it Lasted

I prefer warm and dry days to rainy and cold ones. But after a spring like this one, it’s a relief to see that it’s raining, and that the rain has become continuous.

It feels good, too. When I was caught by a squally shower a few days ago, on my way home by bike, even that felt good. Some farmers may look at it as a bad joke, but it’s surprising how much of the crops still seems to recover, even if the first silage of the year was very poor.

Blogging

All in all, the English-language, China-related blogosphere seems to have become much calmer than what it used to be – here, too. Probably for a number of reasons, but not least for these commenting rules, readers may think carefully before commenting on these blogposts, and that’s a good thing. But across the board, or where I’m reading, anyway, comment activites have slowed down. One might attribute that to a decrease of interest in China, at least among newsreaders, even if not in terms of business or investment. But the opportunities to read about China, including translations from Chinese-language sources, have broadened a lot.

Danwei has drawn its own conclusions:

So we have decided to change our focus. We’re relaunching on Danwei.com. We will publish periodic issues based around a theme, rather than daily news updates.

That said, Justrecently’s Beautiful Blog has never been about daily news updates. I merely focus on topics that interest me, and see this blog as, well, part of the internet. I may miss out on important trends or even big single events, and I take this opportunity to recommend every blog or website I’ve linked to at my blogroll to the right, underneath the comment section and the Three Represents (Net Nanny / Hermit / Good Ganbu). Besides, when looking at this blog’s statistics on a month-to-month basis, from 2011 back to 2008, “visits” have risen every year so far. So there seem to be some interested readers, and ClustrMaps (according to who the numbers would be much smaller than what the WordPress stats suggest) shows hits from all over the globe, including China.

So I’ll happily muddle on. No Facebook account, no YouTube channel (although I’ve given that some thought more recently – still pondering the idea), and no Twitter. A blog appears to be the ideal platform to write (publicly) what I want to write.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Religious Affairs: Kung Fu, not Sex

Xinhua — A State Bureau of Religious Affairs official has condemned rumors that Shaolin Temple abbot Shi Yongxin (释永信) were embroiled in a sex scandal and a corresponding legal case. Suggestions made on the internet that the abbot had been arrested for using the service of prostitutes were rumors which adversely affected to the image of Buddhism and Shaolin Temple, which was very sad. Such rumors should not be believed, not be spread, and religious personalities should be respected, state newsagency Xinhua quoted the Bureau on Saturday.

Being the abbot of Shaolin Temple, Shi also belongs to China’s political establishment. He was a member of the Ninth National People’s Congress, and is or was chairman of the Henan Province Buddhists Association, and vice Chairman of the Buddhist Association of China.

Shaolin Temple had denied prostitution allegations in a post on its website on May 8, reacting to posts on Weibo (微博, or other microblogging platforms).

Shi’s name can frequently be found on the internet, connected with sonorous car brands. He has been criticized for commercializing the Temple.

There will be Traditionalists and earthly-minded people alike who feel inclined to believe in the recent rumors, as a popular picture about a Buddhist monk is about lazy fat people in robes and living on the alms of working people, who still wouldn’t deny themselves the joys this side of the cupboard has to offer.

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Related
» China’s Golden Vase of National Unity, Dec 26, 2010

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