Archive for August 20th, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sarkozy can’t Explain the British Riots, but his Presidency might provide some Clues

The lasting dangers to a free society don’t stem from hoodies or looters – not even from no-go areas. The Economist‘s  Lexington column, not directly related or not necessarily intending to relate to this issue, as it was published some three months before the Birmingham, London, and Manchester riots erupted, pointed to America and had this to say, under a headline which read

Save the fourth amendment

It is only a mile or so from the colonnade of the Supreme Court to some of Washington, DC’s most dangerous neighbourhoods. But these two parts of the nation’s capital could be in different countries. On any given night, armed police prowl north-east Washington in search of guns or drugs. So routine are these patrols that black men sitting on stoops or standing on corners will reflexively lift their T-shirts when the police approach, to show that they have no pistol tucked into their waistbands. Often the police will frisk them anyway, and search their cars as well. You might almost forget, in light of these encounters, that the fourth amendment to the constitution establishes the right of the American people to be “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

Large-scale riots in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois erupted six years ago,  when three boys who rightly or wrongly believed that they were being chased by the police reportedly tried to hide in a power substation, where two of them were fatally electrocuted.

There are no easy answers when it comes to the challenges of social tensions on the one hand, and civil liberties and human rights on the other. But one of the immediate answers given to the Clichy riots should have disqualified the man who uttered. His answer should have disqualified him, in the eyes of the voters, from any further career in national politics:

“Dès demain, on va nettoyer au Karcher la cité. On y mettra les effectifs nécessaires et le temps qu’il faudra, mais ça sera nettoyé” (From toorrow, we will clean the city up with a Kärcher. We will make the deployments as needed, and spend the time it will take, but this will be cleaned up),

Nicolas Sarkozy, then France’s interior minister, said on June 19, 2005, referring to the rioters as racaille (probably best translated as rabble). He assumed the office of president of the French Republic on May 16, 2007, barely two years later.

Kärcher is a German manufacturer of cleaning systems and equipment, known for its high-pressure cleaners.

That the French people voted Sarkozy in doesn’t in itself provide an answer to the question of social tensions, and a public desire for law and order on the one hand, and human rights and civil liberties on the other. But I do see the French presidential vote of 2007 as a vote against the latter, and only seemingly for law and order.

Quite erroneously, Americans, French, Germans, and many Britons, too, seem to believe that abuse of state power will “only” be directed against black or colored people (see the Economist quote at the beginning of this post), against Maghrebians (see Sarkozy), or against justifiable targets in a “war on gangs” (Britain this month).

Not so fast. The Writing Baron, a Briton living in Taiwan, and most probably no particularly “anti-social” contemporary, describes some earlier unpleasant encounters with the British police (see ii. Police and some personal experience).

Encounters with German police can be pretty unpleasant, too – and there isn’t much reason to expect these to become nicer in the future.

Courage is the price that Life exacts for granting peace, Amelia Earhart, an American pilot, wrote early last century. It won’t be the courage of our political leaders alone – if at all – which will lead to both peace and freedom in our societies. Liberty and peace will depend on each of us, personally.

But in certain cases, just a minimal sense of fairness and decency, or mere judgment,  could prove helpful, too. Nicolas Sarkozy shouldn’t be the president of the French Republic. That much is for sure.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Chinese Press Review: India, Philippines, Vietnam

In a tough confrontation (硬碰硬), the Philippines can’t win against China, Huanqiu Shibao, the Global Times‘ Chinese edition, quotes Philippine president Benigno Aquino, via Bloomberg. Or, as quoted by Bloomberg itself, Aquino said that if we engage them in a boxing match there’s 1.3 billion of them and 95 million of us, there’s no way we will win. Aquino will be on a four-day state visit from August 30, writes the Inquirer (Philippines):

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario told the Inquirer the trip “demonstrates that the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute is not the sum total of our relations with China.”

Restraint suits common interests (保持克制符合大家的共同利益), People’s Daily (quoted by Huanqiu) notes approvingly. After all, the territorial issues had always been absolutely complex (领土问题历来十分复杂), involved common peoples’ feelings (牵扯老百姓感情), and were sometimes intertwined with some countries’ domestic problems (有时还和一些国内问题纠缠在一起). Lack of restraint could lead to unexpected consequences, warns the People’s Daily article which also includes references to Vietnam (from where no gestures of restraint similar to Aquino’s have been reported yet).

Peace and harmony firmly on their minds, both the Global Times and Huanqiu Shibao recently published rather benevolent impressions from a tour to India, by a Chinese newspeople delegation. Li Hongwei (李宏伟), Global Times / Huanqiu deputy managing editor, was apparently a delegation member and wrote the article, published by the English-language Global Times on August 11, and by the Chinese-language Huanqiu Shibao on August 18.

When it comes to Chinese and Indian views on development, both the English  and the Chinese- language version use trains as symbols:

The Wenzhou accident, which cost 40 lives, shocked China as it exposed apparent flaws in the country’s high-speed railway that may have been developed too rapidly.

The Hindustan Times reported the West Bengal crash also exposed apparent flaws in that country’s railways which turned out to be an unintended silver lining: The trains were only traveling at 30 kilometers per hour, sparing a higher death toll,

GT wrote on August 11. The English version, just as the one on its Huanqiu sister publication, also quotes a “man in the street”, an Indian cook, with a remark very much in tune with a CCP propaganda narrative: Indian public officials simply don’t get things done. The cook is also confronted with information from the Chinese newspeople delegation that disclosure of government wrongdoing is quite broad in the Chinese media.

Both versions emphasize Indian admiration for China’s speedy development, and they both point out that China’s GINI coefficient is higher than India’s – while China’s poor population accounted for only 2.8 per cent in 2007, while India’s was at 25 per cent. The Chinese version, published online a week after the English one, seems to aim at improved relations between its readership and India: India’s Pursuit of China becomes More and More Patient (印度追中国越来越有耐心), reads the Chinese version’s  headline.

India’s democracy is also mentioned – both as an explanation for India’s more favorable GINI coefficient, and possibly for what, the author muses, amounts to a higher Indian tolerance of poverty: what’s different between the two (India and China) is that Indian society seems to be more tolerant of inequality. This could be the case because India never went through an egalitarian revolution (这可能是因为印度从未经历过平均主义革命的缘故).

Anna Hazare‘s current anti-corruption campaign can’t have gone unnoticed by the Chinese delegation during its India tour. But although much of the article’s focus is on corruption as an impediment to more efficient development, Hazare gets no mention. This may suggest that when the Global Times published Li Hongwei’s Indian impressions, a Chinese version of it was already being considered. The English- and Chinese-language publications have become more similar to each other during the past year, but certain topics that would be fine with English news articles (which are mainly written for foreigners) are off-limit for articles written in Chinese.



» Be More Xinhua, October 10, 2009


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