Archive for July, 2011

Monday, July 25, 2011

Business Ethics: “Voluntary Guidelines are Insufficient”

The United States needs enforceable standards of ethical behavior when American companies work with authoritarian governments.

Enabling China, New York Times, July 24/25, 2011

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Related
» China: Authoritarian or Totalitarian, March 9, 2010

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Voice of America Mandarin Budget: “Keep Shortwave, for Now”

Cut spending, don’t raise taxes, America’s Republican Party keeps arguing. Not that history suggests that Republicans would act accordingly in practise, but it sounds so beautifully housewifely. Those folks understand how thinks work in real life, the classical Sarah Palin fan (usually herself a housewife, with a hard fiber hairdo and a squinched face underneath) will feel.

America's Space Shuttle Program, featured on a VoA QSL Card of 1986

America's Space Shuttle Program, featured on a VoA QSL Card of 1986

In past budget cut deals, Ronald Reagan preferred raising taxes over budget cuts, as Economist data is showing. George Bush senior on the other hand chose a mix where cuts exceeded tax increases, but by a modest ratio, compared with both Bill Clinton‘s in 1993/97, and Barack Obama‘s proposals this year. Both the past and present Democrat incumbents presided over budget reforms where spending cuts outweighed tax increases by far.

But then, it all depends on where you cut.

Obama cuts off VoA funding for China; gives it to NPR,

Ed Lasky wrote in a post for the American Thinker, in February. The VoA’s (Voice of America) shift from shortwave radio to digital media

is wrongheaded on many levels. The internet is quite easy to filter or just cut off.  Plus, many people in remote areas lack access to the internet,

Lasky wrote. Which might be as true as it reads, if the Chinese Communist Party’s approach in pursuing their agenda was about as fiery as Ed Lasky’s in pursuing his. Internet filtering in China is effective in many cases indeed, and besides, by far not every Chinese internet user even knows the basics about “surfing”. Try and open a browser in an “illegal”, i. e. unregistered internet café, and in about every second case, the address bar’s history is going to display quite a number of rather unimaginative porn searchwords which were entered by a previous user, rather than actual urls.

But you can be pretty sure that things would need to become very serious before the Chinese government would just cut off the internet – VoA wouldn’t be “good” enough for that much trouble. China is no banana economy, and cutting off the internet would come at a cost even the CCP needs to avoid.

Either way – the VoA’s Mandarin service’s radio broadcasts may not be exactly as dead as first reported. A bill by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (Republican) reserves US$13.76 million from the total budget for government-sponsored broadcasting next year to be strictly used for Mandarin and Cantonese radio and TV broadcasts, the Taipei Times reported on Sunday. It’s only a small step into preserving the radio and tv broadcasts, the Taipei Times’ article points out. And obviously, the VoA’s Madarin service’s future will remain part of the general budget struggles between the administration on the one hand, and the House of Representatives, and the Senate, on the other.

But this is a situation where I feel that Rohrabacher – quite a reactionary in my view – has  a point.

The Chinese people are our greatest allies, and the free flow of information is our greatest weapon,

he was quoted by the Washington Times in February. And matters of taste, style, and the (implicit, but blanket, I believe) allegation against the Obama administration aside, he also has a point in saying that

This is another alarming sign that America is cowering before China’s gangster regime.

America isn’t cowering to Beijing, but the sign was still understood that way by the Global Times at the time – there was apparently no difference in how Beijing and Rohrabacher perceived the cuts. The Global Times, an English-language CCP mouthpiece, wrote in February that cuts at the BBC‘s and VoA’s Mandarin services demonstrated

a blow to the ideological campaign that certain countries have waged for over half a century. In addition to competition from other media, they were being marginalized due to their biased and unprofessional reporting [original Global Times link apparently no longer valid – http://en.huanqiu.com/opinion/observer/2011-02/623814.html%5D.*)

Every China expert is prepared to give you lessons in how to get your message across in China, when it comes to business. But in the VoA’s case, you’d better turn to Rohrabacher for advice. The VoA has been a tradition in Chinese since 1942, and cuts in a field where China is only beginning its own efforts seem to suggest that efforts to offer the Chinese public a foreign perspective have been abandoned.

That said, Rohrabacher’s and many other stakeholders’ or observers’ advocacy would come across as more credible if they sounded somewhat less sectarian. It is true that the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) decision to turn the Voice digital sent the wrong signal. It is also true that it would signal weakness, given the views of the target audience. But to suggest that America  was therefore indeed cowering before China’s gangster regime doesn’t hold water.

The Taipei Times also makes a good point, but shreds some of it again, right away, with a hyperbolic assertion. The New-York based media research organization which conducted the VoA audience research in China, prior to the BGG’s decision to shut shortwave down, then relied on contractors in Beijing to conduct the survey, the paper points out. Doubts about the accuracy of research under these conditions  therefore seem to be in order – but not because of

the prospect of punishment facing anyone in China who admits to listening to VOA broadcasts.

People may get punished for a lot of things in China, even if their behavior would usually be considered completely legal, and even by Chinese authorities. But punishment for listening to the Voice of America is one of the less likely breaches of China’s own law.

In an article for the Public Diplomacy Council (PDC), Kim Andrew Elliott, an expert, if you like, recommends:

Keep shortwave, for now. The BBG is correct that shortwave radio ownership and listening rates are very small in China. Even domestic FM and AM radio has been much less popular than television in the country. Nevertheless, because of the high cost of shortwave transmission, and the unpopularity of shortwave in China, there is incentive for a premature declaration of victory in internet censorship circumvention efforts. Shortwave arguably remains the medium most resistant to interdiction. It is the only medium with a physical resistance to jamming, because radio waves at shortwave frequencies often propagate better over long than short distances. When an objective, independent assessment determines that average internet users in China can conveniently work around government censorship, the shortwave transmitters can be turned off.

I don’t agree that shortwave radio ownership and listening rates would be small in China, and I’m getting the feeling that all the assessments to this direction are based on surveying a rather well-off and well-connected Chinese middle class only. But on all other points he makes, Elliott is most probably right. And he argues in a rational, rather than in an ideology-driven way. He actually thinks about the listeners.

There is a list of twelve recommendations in his article, and each of them is in itself a recommendable read.

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Update / Related

» China Radio International: Confucius’ Pavilion of Acid Pleasure, Comment, July 24, 2011

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Update / Note

*) New link: Global Times now, rather than Huanqiu English: http://opinion.globaltimes.cn/observer/2011-02/623814.html

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wanchai Flag Attacker Explains

Zhū Róngchāng (朱榮昌), a 74-year-old mainlander who lowered and burned a flag at Hong Kong’s Golden Bauhinia Square on Friday, was passed on to a mental hospital’s custody (Siu Lam Hospital, 小欖醫院) by Kowloon Magistrate’s Court on Saturday. His case was adjourned to August 5, to await medical findings.

Zhu targeted the PRC flag, according to a BBC Chinese Website report, shouting “Down with the Communist Party” (打倒共產黨).

Zhu stated in court that his action hadn’t been aimed at China, as Sun Yat-sen‘s flag, not the “marxist” one, actually represented the country (朱榮昌星期六在法庭上稱,他燒燬的是「馬克思的旗」,不代表中國;「孫中山先生的國旗」才代表中國).

According to Hong Kong’s “National Flag and National Emblem Ordinance” (國旗及國徽條例), a person

who desecrates the national flag or national emblem by publicly and wilfully burning, mutilating, scrawling on, defiling or trampling on it commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine at level 5 and to imprisonment for 3 years,

the BBC quotes the ordinance.

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Updates / Related

青天白日旗才是正宗, Ming Pao (Toronto), July 24, 2011

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Canada Extradites Chinese Fugitive: “The future, yet to be seen by both countries and others, will stand as witness to the outcome”

It may be no coincidence that China Daily is the likeliest source for  information about countries which have concluded extradition treaties with Beijing so far. To governments of countries where the rule of law applies, but who entered such treaties with China all the same, the issue should be, and quite likely is, a rather awkward one.

Radio Canada International QSL, 1988

Once upon a Time: Radio Canada International QSL, 1988

But it may emerge on the front pages when the agreed rules are actually applied.

China’s most wanted man flies home,

reads the Vancouver Sun‘s headline. The man in question is Lai Changxing (賴昌星), about whom the Vancouver Sun article says that

China accuses Lai of running a multibillion-dollar smuggling operation in the southeastern city of Xiamen in the 1990s in one of China’s biggest political scandals. After his escape to Canada, Lai set in motion one of the most complex refugee cases in this country’s history.

Canadian officials had dismissed Lai’s or his defense team’s arguments that he could be tortured, executed, or that he will die of some mysterious illness or something bad will happen to him, as Darryl Lawson, one of his defenders, is quoted by the Vancouver Sun. J. Michael Cole, the Taipei Times‘ deputy news editor, writes that while a death sentence brought by a Chinese court may not be in the pipeline for Lai, one of Lai’s brothers died while in detention in a Chinese jail – referred to as as a mysterious prison death by the Globe and Mail on Friday.

It is assumed that the assurances of the Chinese government, as per its written promises, will be kept, as the Chinese government’s honour and face is, and will be, bound and kept respectively, by the monitoring for the lifetime of the applicant…,

the Globe and Mail quotes Federal Court judge Michel Shore. These assurances included an arrangement which would also allow Canadian officials to visit Mr. Lai and sit in on some of his court hearings, Shore argued.

Another counsel to Lai, David Matas, had told the court that

Canadians were only promised access to “open court,” meaning officials couldn’t attend any hearings closed to the public – common practice for politically sensitive proceedings. He added that it would be next to impossible to find a lawyer to represent Mr. Lai who wasn’t influenced by the Communist Party, since the government had turned him into the “poster boy” for corruption.

But none of the issues raised by Lai, due to the Chinese government’s assurances, amounted to clear and convincing proof necessary to support his irreparable harm claim – that’s how the Globe and Mail indirectly quotes Shore. Lai’s extradition went ahead on Friday.

The court may not be to blame, if the  extradition treaty itself really requires clear and convincing proof that no harm may be done to an extradited person before stopping the process.

If Lai should indeed die in prison, before or after trial, by whatever cause declared by Chinese authorities, those who support the extradition treaty in general and Lai’s extradition in particular may still argue that there is no clear and convincing proof that harm had indeed been done.

Once upon a time, Canada was seen as a champion of human rights.

It’s hard to see that these days. But then, business with the Soviet Union never counted for a lot.

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Updates / Related
» U.S. cooperating with China, Reuters, July 28, 2011

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

An unauthorized Auto-da-fé in Wanchai

A 74-year-old mainlander was arrested and indicted on Friday after lowering the flag at Golden Bauhinia Square in Wanchai without authorization (擅自, shànzì), and setting it on fire. The flag was immediately replaced, reports Xinhua (via Enorth). According to Xinhua, the indictment is about violating the National Flag and National Emblem Bill (国旗及国徽条例). Kowloon Magistrate’s Court starts hearing the case on Saturday (today).

The report does not specify which of the two flags – that of Hong Kong, or the PRC – was vandalized.

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Flag-raising ceremony, YouTube, 2008

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ma Ying-jeou: Beijing’s Senkaku Claim isn’t Taipei’s Claim

In an interview with Japanese newspapers Yomiuri Shimbun and Nihon Keizai Shimbun on Thursday, Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou ruled out the possibility of Taiwan aligning with China in dealing with issues related with the disputed Tiaoyutai Islands, reports CNA newsagency. Diaoyutai (釣魚台群島) is the Chinese name for the Senkaku islands.

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Related

Japan’s Defense Policy Change, December 17, 2010
For the Sake of Balance, October 1, 2010

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Taiwan Survey: 50.5 Per Cent Expect Peace Agreement with China, if Ma is Reelected

32.3 per cent of respondents to a regular Global Views Research Center (GVRC) survey , published on July 20, approve of Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou, while 55.1 per cent disapprove.
Public trust was at 40.2 per cent, while 43.5 per cent gave a negative evaluation.

Compared to the June 20 data, Ma’s approval rating has gone down by 2.0 per cent, and public trust by 0.6 per cent. In June, Ma’s approval rate had risen by o.4 per cent, and public trust in him had gone down by 1.2 per cent.

More worryingly for the Ma administration, the July numbers seem to suggest that more people than in June have made up their mind now, and mostly to Ma’s disadvantage. His support rate fell from 41.2 per cent (June) to 37.3 per cent (July), only 0.1 per cent ahead of DPP presidential nominee Tsai Ing-wen, whose support rate rose from 36.3 (June) to 37.2 per cent (July). Both the ruling and opposition camps have been plagued by negative developments over the past several months, Focus Taiwan quotes the GVRC’s director Tai Li-An, with controversy surrounding the DPP’s legislators-at-large roster and factional strife [..] also posing challenges to Tsai’s presidential bid, and recent farmers’ protests over the Ma administration’s land expropriation policy and glut-driven slumps in some farm produce prices, as well as squabbles between the KMT and its allies such as the People First Party and the New Party affecting Ma’s support rate.

In terms of foreign policy, the most striking issue quoted by Focus Taiwan is that 50.5 per cent of respondents believe that Ma would sign a peace agreement with China, while only 35.6 per cent expected the two sides to move toward unification. Numbers like these, which seem to expect peace and a continuing status quo at the same time, would suggest that Ma is expected to deliver almost ideal results in cross-straits relations. But then, domestic issues are apparently the correspondents’ main concerns.

Tsai Ing-wen was campaigning in Taichung on Thursday.

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Related

Ma, Tsai neck and neck, Taipei Times, July 22, 2011
“No Agricultural Development”, Taipei Times, July 22, 2011

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Namibia: Nuctech-related Court Hearings Postponed until January

Two defendents in a Namibian corruption case are challenging key parts of Namibia’s Anti-Corruption Act of 2003 and the Prevention of Organised Crime Act of 2004 for doubts in their constitutionality, The Namibian reported in March. The legality of the appointment of senior Cabinet member Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana as both Minister of Justice and Attorney-General in 2005 was reportedly also questioned by the two defendents.

Apparently on Monday, High Court Judge President Petrus Damaseb postponed further hearings of the two defendents, Teckla Lameck and Kongo Mokaxwa, and of a third defendent in the same case, Yang Fan, a former representative of Chinese company Nuctech, until January 19, 2012.

Three High Court judges will hear the constitutional challenges on November 29 this year, the Republikein reported on Monday.

The three defendents are free on bail, according to the Namibian’s report of March.

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Related

Older Related Posts, since July 2009 »
Nuctech: Investigations in EU and Namibia, July 20, 2009

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Related External Link(s)

» The Namibian who will oversee Fifa’s Ethics Hearing, BBC, May 25, 2011

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