Archive for November, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The BoZhu Interviews: “I’ve Become more Aware of How Easily People Adapt to new Circumstances” –

FOARP about Democracy, Arguments between Memory and Ego, and the End of Reform in China

FOARP (Fear of a Red Planet) is a blogger from Britain who lives and works in Poland. He has also lived in China and Japan, and his first long-distance flight took him to Taiwan, ten years ago. The following interview is all about the past ten years.
His blog’s homepage can be found here.

The interview –

Q:  Most foreign China blogs seem to get started at the beginning of an expat’s stay there, or at some time during their stay. Your first post says, “It’s Good to be Back”, in October 2007, after your return to Britain. Why the delay?

A: Until 2006 I had never even looked at a blog, much less comment on one. I guess like a lot of people I saw such things as a giant time waster (which they are) and as inconsequential (which they may or may not be). The change happened after I started working for Foxconn, where my job consisted of periods of intense activity interspersed with the occasional period of inactivity, in which I turned to reading/commenting on blogs as a way of fighting the boredom.

Q:  Not too long after your return to Europe, you became an expat again, a Briton in Poland. How did you get there? Had you been there before? Do you speak Polish? And does life in Poland have an effect on how you view the world?

A: Actually I left the UK back at the end of 2009, when I travelled to Japan and worked for a patent firm there. I came to Poland at the start of this year to work in-house for a Finnish MNC where I get to use my Chinese, my knowledge of intellectual property, and get to travel a lot. Coming to Poland for the job interview was my first time in the country. My Polish classes are funded by the company – at the moment I can speak some Polish, ale niezbyt dobrze.

I would say that both my experiences in Japan and my experiences in Poland have affected my view on the world. Working in Japan taught me a lot about people, some good, some bad. I made some very good friends, but also worked incredibly long hours, alongside people who basically sacrificed their personal lives on the altar of work. Poland is almost the polar opposite. Perhaps it is the communist inheritance with its emphasis on work-to-rule, but the Polish draw a very solid line between their personal lives and their work lives and clearly distinguish between them.

Living in both these places also put a different perspective on my experiences in China. Japan obviously has many cultural similarities with China (although I think the idea of a genuine ‘Confucian’ world is an incredibly dangerous oversimplification). However, Japan’s cultural inheritance has not cursed it to eternal dictatorship.  Poland’s story as a country which has emerged from dictatorship is also obviously relevant.

Q:  Relevant in which ways?

A: Poland managed to successfully ditch communism without harming economic growth, or even ever suffering a real recession, and without excessive bloodshed after the end of the martial law period. It hasn’t had the same exposition that East Germany experienced due to the activities of the Gauck commission though. Perhaps the ideal post-communist liberation would be economically Polish and politically East German, but then East Germany had the rest of Germany to assist it.

Of course, the experience of Taiwan is perhaps more to the point.

Q: When did you decide to go to China? Did you study the language, along with law, before going there?

A: I graduated with a degree in Physics and Astrophysics and no idea of how I was going to use it to find a job back in the summer of 2001. The one thing I was certain of, however, was that I wanted to see the world and to learn a language that would be useful. It was basically a toss-up between Russian and Chinese, and Chinese won.

Before I arrived in Taiwan in November 2001 I had studied Chinese for about 3 weeks but that was about the limit. Firstly in Taiwan, and then later at a university in Nanjing, I taught English and used the money from that to pay for my studies. It was only after studying Chinese for a few years that I felt confident enough to take on a job in the patenting department at Foxconn at the start of ’06, which was also my first introduction to patenting. After working there for about 18 months I decided that I wanted to try to get some qualifications related to patenting, and so returned to the UK where I studied my master’s in intellectual property as well as a diploma in law. The job market being as it was in ’09, I ended up going back overseas after graduating.

Q:  Did life in China have an effect on how you view the world?

A: Since I was 21 when I went to Taiwan, and 22 when I arrived in Nanjing, it’s kind of hard for me to distinguish between the changes that naturally occur after 21 and the effect that China had. Compared to most of the people I knew back home, though, I would say that I’ve become more cynical, and more aware of how easily people adapt to new circumstances and get used to them.

Some experiences which I had in China which had a big effect on me:

  • SARS – my interesting life in China was converted in a very short time into something approaching semi-apocalyptic within a few days of the government switching from cover-up to over-reaction.
  • My boss in Nanjing’s attempted murder of his secretary, his subsequent suicide, and the response of party authorities to it.
  • Learning the language – a great confidence-booster and something I will use the rest of my life.
  • The sight of the hundreds of new recruits who showed up from the countryside every day at the gate underneath my office windows at Foxconn.
  • The expat community – put simply, my fellow expats included some really clever, smart people, as well as some real scum-bags. The real shock was discovering that the two were not as mutually exclusive as I had previously thought.
  • A friend of mine crying when she described the poverty of her home town. It had never occurred to me before that that people could be that ashamed of a poor background.

Reading the above it sounds like I had a really bad time in China, actually I had a ball, it’s just that I also had to take the rough with the smooth – and in China there’s a lot of both.

Q:  I guess if there was something that would boost my confidence, it would be earning a degree in Physics and in Astrophysics… One of the purposes of your blog, as stated in October 2007, was to keep your Chinese polished. How closely do you follow Chinese and non-Chinese blogs on China respectively? Do you (as a reader) or they (as bloggers) focus on certain, recurring kinds of news and topics?

A: I try to keep up my Chinese by watching the occasional soap-opera and reading news articles, as well as the stuff I translate at work. Chinese bloggers who I follow have dwindled – Song Qiang and Wang Xiaofeng only post about once a month. On the English language side, blogs I’ll look at at least once a day include the Peking Duck, China Geeks, China Law Blog, Imagethief (when he posts) and, of course, Just Recently’s Beautiful Blog.

As a reader I’m not so interested in the business/legal side of things – outside of work, anyway. Politics and history are the things I like to read the most. A couple of new (to me, anyway) blogs I’ve been getting into recently: Sinostand, Seeing Red In China, and Roll, Roll, Run. Why not any with a more positive spin on the Chinese government?  Well, I simply don’t believe such a spin reflects the truth.

Q:  Have you seen big changes in your own blog or blogs, and in the Chinese, or foreign “China blogosphere” since you started blogging yourself?

A: The biggest change happened between 2006 and 2008, with the introduction of comprehensive blocking. Put simply, this destroyed the expat blogosphere in China, since the humorous complaining that had made up 90% of what was posted about life in China became impossible to access without a proxy, thus preventing people finding them by accident the way people did with websites like Talk Talk China. These blogs fed off comments, so without them they withered and died.The growth of the nationalist movement since 2008 and its effect on the Chinese internet has been well enough described elsewhere that I don’t need to go into it.

In my own blog, I’ve found out that the best use for it is as a sort of log book of what I thought about something in particular at a particular time. Nietzsche said something about how, when your memory and your ego argue, it is your memory that eventually gives way. I like to use my blog as a way of counteracting the temptation to unconsciously re-write what you really thought about something at the time. You see this a lot when you ask people if they supported the Iraq war – my friends accuse me of it.

Q:  In your view, has China changed since you started blogging? Has Britain? Has the world? How so?

A: The biggest change in China has been the ditching of reform – combined with the predicted slow-down this could spell big trouble. Or it might not.For the UK, the economic crisis has had a big effect, but I believe in the long term there will be some positive outcome from it. I’m hoping that the crisis in the Eurozone will teach people that they are much better off having their own economic destiny in their own hands, and not decided for them by Frankfurt, Brussels, or Athens. The death of the idea that continuous borrowing on the never-never is an acceptable way of running the country is also something I hope the current crisis will bring about.

For the world in general, I see two changes this year. The first is the re-emergence of democratisation as an engine of change. From 9/11 until this year it seemed that democracy was on the retreat in Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Central Asia, the Middle East and elsewhere. The Arab Spring will, I hope, change this. The second is the all-enveloping economic crisis has also had an effect, destroying confidence in many of our financial institutions.

Q:  Besides a return to, let’s say, the subsidiarity principle within the EU –is that what you mean? –, would you like to see a smaller role for organizations such as the IMF or the World Bank, too? If so, why?

A: I’m afraid it rather revolves around the current dispute between Mr. Cameron and Mrs. Merkel. Mrs. Merkel’s solution is more Europe, Mr. Cameron’s solution is less. The UK at least signed on to the European Economic Community after a referendum in which it was promised that the EEC would be a trade union first and foremost, you could argue that things have developed from there, but there was never really any mandate given for this change. My hope is that whichever way things go, some reference is made to the people of Europe and what they actually want, preferably through a referendum.

The IMF and the World Bank have something of a mixed record, but a lender capable of imposing conditions is certainly something that is necessary at the moment.

Q:  Have you ever stopped reading blogs because you felt they were becoming boring, or because they angered you?

A: Never because they angered me – I even still read Hidden Harmonies. Some blogs that used to be good have gone downhill however – Danwei being an example.

Q:  What’s the worst online article or post you have ever read about China (that you remember)? And what’s the worst online article about Britain that you remember?

A: China – well, there’s so many. It’s really a toss-up between Shaun Rein’s “Real poverty is pretty much gone” piece, his piece proposing that the Nobel prize be given to Deng Xiaoping, and Paul V. Kane’s piece suggesting that the US sell-out Taiwan in the NYT last week.

Britain? Well, there was a lot of stupid rubbish written in the US about “imperial decline” after the 2007 Iranian hostage crisis, but that’s the only thing that comes to mind. I guess you can also include the nonsense Mark Stein used to peddle about Europe (and Britain in particular) turning into “Eurabia” because of Muslim immigration – something with no statistical basis.

Q:  That’s to say, you don’t believe in that life-cycle – rise, decline and fall of empires?

A: Well, very few countries admit to being empires any more, do they? But any theory of history based on things being cyclical overcomplicates the point – things change, except when they don’t, and that’s it.

Q:  An interview about your blog wouldn’t be complete without a question about your online brawl with Chris Devonshire-Ellis. In November 2008, you wrote a post stating that Chris Devonshire-Ellis wasn’t a lawyer, and that it annoyed you that he was treated as an expert by people who ought to know better. Were you the first blogger to make that statement? Wang Jianshuo, a Chinese blogger, wrote in December 2009 that he had previously run into Mr. Devonshire-Ellis, too (also online, and not in real life). Did you expect what followed – i. e. this kind of correspondence? This followed almost two and a half years after your actual post, and it probably caused you some trouble. Would you have written the post anyway, knowing the aftermath? Why, or why not?

A: Actually someone left a comment on a thread on Wang Jianshuo’s blog outing him as early as 2006, and people knew about it before even that. It’s just that he had managed to silence them through intimidating tactics such as those Wang Jianshuo (and also Ryan McLaughlin) describe on their blogs. People were also discussing his disreputable tactics – particularly giving out that he was a legal professional when he had not even finished his A-levels – on various defunct expat blogs back in 2006, which is where I first heard of him. I checked out his story myself after I got back to the UK, and after hearing from some more people who had been hassled by him, I decided to write a post on him to encourage those who were being hassled to stand up to him by showing that there was actually nothing, legally speaking, that he could do to stop them telling the truth about him.

Do I regret outing him? Absolutely not! Yes, the old boy certainly knows how to hold a grudge, but as far as I’m concerned, he can go and whistle for all I care. I’m in the right, and he’s in the wrong. It’s that simple.

Even having my real identity outed by him, to me, was not such a problem. For years I had been planning to out myself  but the correct moment never seemed to present itself. He solved the problem for me. The negative consequences of being outed have so far been precisely zero.

I would, however, like to give a shout-out to everyone who wrote comments on my blog supporting me.

Q:  Your most beautiful post, you said when it was your turn in a blog-nomination-snowball initiative in August this year, was one about Taiwan. At the same time, it seems, you like to tease Taiwanese nationalists, once in a while. Why is that? Does your sympathy for Taiwanese (or expat-Taiwanese feelings) depend on the way they are expressed?

A: When I lived in Taiwan I had a lot of sympathy for the pan-greens. I still do. It’s just that sympathy does not extend to uncritically swallowing scare-stories about a KMT-CCP conspiracy to annex Taiwan to China over the heads of the Taiwanese electorate without evidence. It’s also striking how Taiwanese independence is the lens through which some of these bloggers see everything. They’ve become far more committed to Taiwanese independence than the average Taiwanese person, and far more committed to the pan-greens than the average Taiwanese voter, a commitment not unlike certain US officials and the former South Vietnam – which is why my first post on this was entitled “Taiwan Expats and the Saigon Syndrome“.

Also having followed the last ten years, it’s become obvious that for some people war is always just around the corner, and they always write accordingly. The Chinese invasion is always in the next election year, the KMT is always trying to fix a deal (for which there’s no evidence) , the CCP is always carrying forward its plans etc. etc. etc. Sure, “the boy who cried wolf” and all that, but there’s a difference between warning people to maintain vigilance, and essentially trying to sell scare stories on the basis of rumours.

The goal of demonising the KMT is to de-legitimise them as a political party. Any vote they win is put down to dirty tricks. Their manifesto is portrayed as a tissue of lies. The idea that, by de-legitimising one half of Taiwan’s democratic balance, they are also delegitimising Taiwan’s political system, does not seem to occur to the purveyors  of such propaganda. It does not matter that propaganda from the other side has the same effect.

I’ve kind of mellowed on the Taiwan blogs, though, firstly because the DPP has changed it’s policies over the past few years – particularly since Tsai Ing-wen become leader – and a lot of the blogs have followed their lead. I’m certain that the CCP will try to paint her as an extremist – it’s what they do to everyone – but this is neither here nor there. I just hope that, if she loses, she, or someone like her, gets another chance.

Q:  Is there an unasked question you’d like to reply to?

A: I’ve been asked a lot how I ever could have worked for Foxconn. The answer is that I joined them before the major scandals came out. Actually, for me, it was quite a positive experience. I know I’ve been critical of people who have worked for outlets like Global Times and it may look like I’m applying a double-standard, but to me it does not seem that way.

Q: Foarp, thanks a lot for this interview.

The interview was conducted by an exchange of e-mails.

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Related

All BoZhu Interviews

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shortwave Log, Northern Germany, November 2011

The choice of frequencies reflects the season: all moving downward (in terms of kHz), and to the upper meter bands. That said, Radio New Zealand‘s frequency in the 19-meter-band – 15720 kHz, around 11:00 UTC – comes in with a slightly weaker signal than 9765 kHz (as recorded in the table underneath), but also with less interference from other stations, and with less atmospheric noise. Both transmissions are powered with 100 kilowatts, according to Shortwave Info, with the Pacific Islands as their target area.

Radio Damascus QSL 1980s

Radio Damascus shortwave QSL, 1980s

International Telecommunication Union letter codes used in the table underneath:
AFS – South Africa; ALB – Albania; KRE – North Korea; NZL – New Zealand; RUS – Russia; SYR – Syria; TUR – Turkey.

Languages (“L.”):
C – Chinese; E – English; G – German.

kHz

Station

Ctry

L.

Day

Time GMT

S I O
9765 Radio New Zealand NZL E. Nov 11 17:10 5 4 4
6285 Voice of Korea KRE G. Nov 11 19:00 5 5 4
4880 SABC AFS E. Nov 15 18:30 3 3 3
9330 Radio Damascus SYR G. Nov 15 18:00 3 3 3
7205 TRT Ankara TUR G. Nov 15 18:30 4 4 4
6020 China R. Internat. ALB C. Nov 18 02:00 5 5 5
7250 V. o. Russia RUS E. Nov 18 03:00 4 4 4

A big advantage of the internet is that you can look up precisely the articles and topics which interest you most. But at times, I’ll keep listening to a radio broadcast for half an hour, or even an hour, and it may take me to topics which I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

I’d still rather do without the internet than without shortwave – another good thing about the latter is that it doesn’t consume nearly as much time. You can do all kinds of things along the way, until something catches your ear.

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Related

» Previous Logs, August 28, 2011

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

BBC Chinese: Interviews with Tsai Ing-wen and James Soong on November 24, 25

The BBC‘s Chinese service is collecting online readers’ questions to Taiwan’s opposition leader and presidential nominee Tsai Ing-wen (Democratic Progressive Party, DPP). The Chinese Service’s director Li Wen will ask those questions – or some of them – in an interview with Tsai, on November 24.

One day later, on November 25, Li will interview the People-First Party’s (PFP) founder and presidential nominee Soong Chu-yu (James Soong). Soong and his running-mate Lin Ruey-shiung (林瑞雄) officially joined the presidential race earlier this week.  Taiwan’s Central Election Commission confirmed the PFP presidential ticket on November 15, as Soong and Lin had gathered more than a sufficient number of endorsement signatures to run in the presidential elections on January 14. There, too, the BBC is collecting online readers’ questions.

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Related

» “Ma’s Lead has Evaporated”, Bloomberg/DPP Taiwan, Nov. 16/18, 2011
» No Persian Cat, August 23, 2011
» 2012 Presidential and Legislative Elections, Wikipedia

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Links: China’s Financial Stability, America’s Asian-Pacific Priorities, and Paul V. Kane’s “Swiftian Satire”

This and the coming week are somewhat busier than originally expected, and I’m also spending some of my time on listening to the news on shortwave, rather than reading online.

But here are some articles and documents I’ve browsed this week…

1. Financial Stability in China: IMF Recommendations

An IMF Financial System Stability Assessment of China, published this month. It’s not as dramatic as some news stories of the past few weeks would suggest, but it describes several near-term risks for China’s financial sector, and recommends a properly composed and timely implemented set of reforms.

2. Will Business in the Asia-Pacific earn America the Means for a Sustainable Military Presence?

Then there’s U.S. president Barack Obama‘s visit to Australia, and the agreement over American access to Australian military bases, and a major enhancement of military cooperation. An article by Raoul Heinrichs, published by The Diplomat , lists three reasons as to why this makes sense for Washington. And an editorial, also in The Diplomat, suggests that an elimination of U.S. military alliances with countries around the region is not likely to happen.

Headlines from the opposite side of this planet are somewhat unusual in the German media, but news magazine Der Spiegel put the military agreement to the top of its online edition last night.

In Canberra, Obama expressed a hope – that the Asia Pacific would play a critical role in creating jobs and opportunity for the American people -, and made a promise (or threat – mark the expression that describes his statement best to you with a cross, King Tubby), or anyone:

As we end today’s wars, I have directed my national security team to make our presence and mission in the Asia Pacific a top priority.  As a result, reductions in U.S. defense spending will not — I repeat, will not — come at the expense of the Asia Pacific.

In short, while American military power is there to stay in the Asia-Pacific region, and much of America’s economic strength as the foundation of [American]leadership in the world, including [..] in the Asia Pacific, is to be earned right in that region.

3. Paul V. Kane’s Op-Ed on Taiwan was Just “Swiftian Satire”

Paul V. Kane‘s op-ed for the New York Times on November 11 was to mix serious issues and facts with irony and Swiftian satire to engage readers and make his points.

Obviously, not every op-ed will make sense, not even when published by the New York Times. Thomas Friedman can be very Swiftian, too, with stuff like, essentially, let’s send China the blue-prints and let them pay for those, and we’ll buy cheap high-tech products from them.

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Related

» Clinton: Taiwan “an Important Partner”, RTI, November 12, 2011
» Creative Destruction or Development, March 15, 2010

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Monday, November 14, 2011

In Praise of the Times and the People: the Good and Respectable Market Stall Operator

Wang Chaohua (Shangqiu Ribao, click picture for source)

Wang Chaohua (Shangqiu Ribao, click picture for source)

A scroll is hanging at the food market, and it reads “Good and respectable Wang Chaohua (王超华), all marketers should learn from you”.

Henan Cultural Industry Network (Henan CI, 河南文化产业网) describes Wang as a poor market stall operator who, on his way to his stall, hours before the crack of dawn, found a briefcase with 6,000 Yuan RMB in it along the road, and then waited in the cold wind for hours so as to hand the lost property back to its owner. Netizens s nationwide are discussing his great virtue (引发全国网友的道德大讨论), writes Henan CI.

It wasn’t money I earned myself, and had I spent it, I would have felt uncomfortable (不是俺挣的钱,花着心里肯定不舒服),

Wang is quoted, and a description of his family’s (his wife and their six-year-old son)  uncomfortable living conditions is added.

“If you were a poor market vendor with a monthly family income of 2,000 Yuan, and found a briefcase with 6,250 Yuan, and important documents in it, which choice would you make?”, Henan CI asks, rhetorically.

The answer is obvious:

Wang Chaohua, the greengrocer from Shijiazhuang, chose to wait in the cold. He stomped to warm his feet, and raised his collar. After six hours, the owner still hadn’t passed by, but after many setbacks, the briefcase was finally restored to its owner.

To cut a long story short, Wang took the briefcase to the market manager, who found 6,250 Yuan, an ID card, a passport, and more than twenty bank cards in it, and they went to Zhuodong Police Station with the briefcase and its finder.

Wang was lucky – the owner of the briefcase, a certain Mr. Du (杜), didn’t claim that the briefcase had originally contained, say, 10,000 Yuan. Maybe he, too, was an honest man. Or maybe he understood right away that the whole Lei-Feng circus was now in full swing, and that the trend had become irresistible.

Either way, Old Wang and his family, grief- and misery-stricken like Job, become a happy family again, as Wang becomes a model citizen of Shijiazhuang, and Wang’s stall fees for the coming six months – some 5,000 Yuan – are waived by the market management.

And given that Wang is now a model citizen, cadres from near and far announce their support for his family’s livelihood. The internet is in awe of his virtue (the Henan CI article contains a long review of online comments). Yanzhao Evening News (燕赵晚报), Hebei Television, Shijiazhuang Television and Henan CI report his story, which in turn attracts CCTV’s, and China Youth’s (中国青年报) attention. Even IFeng (Phoenix TV, Hong Kong) joins the media blitz.

They are all singing the praises of the era and the people, and draw on the material provided by societal life.

If Wang Chaohua’s story is true, he couldn’t have found the briefcase at a better time.

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Note

The Henan CI webpage is currently not available. The police station named in the report (卓东派出所) also features prominently in an Epoch Times article. Probably coincidentally (but who knows), there’s a Mr. Du (and his wife) playing a role in that article,  as Falun Gong practitioners.

The character seems to be the same – see 卓东派出所抓捕了老杜夫妇 here.

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Related

» 顶着月光出发 伴着星星回家 (photo story), Sohu, Nov 14, 2011

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Monday, November 14, 2011

17th Central Committee’s “Culture Document” – 7: Beautiful Melodies

This is the fourth paragraph [d), or (四)] of the “Culture Document’s” (explanation here) chapter four (Comprehensively implement the “Erwei” Direction and the “Shuangbai” Policy, to Provide the People with Even Better and Even More Spiritual Nourishment).

I thought I’d translate all the remaining three paragraphs of chapter four today, but had to look up two slogans or activities within the first paragraph already – see “Notes”.  I prefer to do this translation rather thoroughly than quickly, even if it should take months. My translation’s previous leg can be found here.

Links within the following blockquote were inserted during translation.

d) More fine works in the fields of literature and art must be provided. Literature, drama, films, television, music, dance, the fine arts, photography, calligraphy, folk musical theater, acrobatics, folklore, literature for the masses and other fields of work in literature and art must actively throw themselves into the creative activities of singing the praises of the era and the people, draw on the material provided by societal life, refine their themes, passionately and vividly create and produce works with beautiful melodies, in moving ways, which are at the same time ideological, artistic, and enjoyable. The fine-works strategy1) must be implemented, the five-one projects2) be well-organized, and major projects on revolution and history, major projects supporting literature and arts, excellent works for children and creations which encourage originality and practicality must constantly be provided as literature and art. Excellent artistic cultivation which represents our country’s standing, with national and regional characteristics, must be actively developed into new styles. Encourage all literary and artistic creations which cultivate noble thoughts and feelings, delight body and mind, and combine teaching and entertainment. Vulgarity must be resisted (or boycotted, 抵制).

(四)推出更多优秀文艺作品。文学、戏剧、电影、电视、音乐、舞蹈、美术、摄影、书法、曲艺、杂技以及民间文艺、群众文艺等各领域文艺工作者都要积极投身到讴歌时代和人民的文艺创造活动之中,在社会生活中汲取素材、提炼主题,以充沛的激情、生动的笔触、优美的旋律、感人的形象,创作生产出思想性艺术性观赏性相统一、人民喜闻乐见的优秀文艺作品。实施精品战略,组织好“五个一工程”、重大革命和历史题材创作工程、重点文学艺术作品扶持工程、优秀少儿作品创作工程,鼓励原创和现实题材创作,不断推出文艺精品。扶持代表国家水准、具有民族特色和地方特色的优秀艺术品种,积极发展新的艺术样式。鼓励一切有利于陶冶情操、愉悦身心、寓教于乐的文艺创作,抵制低俗之风。

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Notes

1) Fine-Works Strategy (精品战略)

The fine-works strategy dates back to the 1990s. Baike.Baidu refers to it as one of the boldest slogans issued by the Chinese news peoples’ trade at the time (中国新闻界提出的最具魄力的口号之一), developed in close connection with social development at the time, and with the background of the times (,都是与当时社会发展和时代背景所密切相关的):

Under the conditions of a market economy, news are a special commodity, and need to participate in market competition. As the news market matured, the sellers market turned into a buyers market, and the market demands news products of excellent quality. […] Therefore, as a matter of course, the fine-works strategy will be on the agenda. That is the irresistible trend, not a shift which would depend on volition. The target audience is what the media depend upon for their livelihood, and everything the media do is for the target audience. As the recipients have repeatedly encountered many faked, big, empty and non-specific news coverage, they yearn for accurate and excellent news products. It can therefore safely be said that the implementation of news quality strategy is what the times require, what news competition requires, what the broad audience is calling for, and the pressing need for the situation we face.
在市场经济条件下,新闻作为一个特殊商品,也必然参与市场竞争。随着新闻市场的成熟,可以说,新闻市场也已从卖方市场向买方市场转化,市场呼唤品质优良的新闻作品。[…] 因此,新闻精品战略的提出和实施,就自然而然地摆上议事日程,这是大势所趋,不以人的意志为转移。受众是媒体的衣食父母,媒体所做的一切,都是为了受众。而中国广大受众,过去曾几度接触的是较多的假、大、空、泛的新闻报道,他们企盼真实而优秀的新闻作品问世。所以,我们完全可以说,实施新闻精品战略,是时代的需要,是新闻竞争的需要,是广大受众的呼唤,是中国新闻业在新的时代、新的形势下面临的一个意义重大的紧迫

More specific history about the fine-works strategy is welcome. In all likelihood, a party decision preceded the strategy’s adoption by news people, or any other guilds.

2) Five-One Project (五个一工程)

Information about the five-one project is apparently easier to find online. According to Baike.Baidu, it is an annual “public-appraisal activity”, initiated by the CCP propaganda department (中共中央宣传部) in 1992. Every province, “autonomous region” and the municipalities directly under the central government, together with a CCP representative and the PLA political department, selects nominees for a nation-wide finale. The choice includes drama, television productions or films, books on sociology, theoretical articles on sociology, and songs. (I’m reading 限… 方面 as “limited to ..”, not as “.. excluded”). That said, I may as well be wrong, as one of the 2006 winners was a book on how to recognize stars (referring to celestial bodies, apparently).

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Related

» The CCP sighs with Emotion, July 17, 2011
» Truthfulness is Everything, April 8, 2011

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Continued here »

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The BoZhu Interviews: Chinese Perspectives and Calabrian Concepts –

an interview with Tai De

taide.wordpress.com

taide.wordpress.com

Tai De is a civil servant from Verden, Lower Saxony, in the vicinity of Bremen. He started blogging in 2008, and his posts are usually reactions to national, international or local news. He’s interested in everything along the Silk Road, in history, natural science, and horse breeding. His wife is partly Chinese, and courtship and the marriage ceremony, a long time ago, were complicated but instructive.

His blog can be found here.

The interview –

Q: You have been blogging for more than three years. How did it start?

I started with my home town, Verden, because I felt that besides the established political parties’ and the local press – well-connected with those parties -, there was little discussion of other local perspectives. So, based on personal experience, and on my interest in local affairs, it was broadly about Verden, and you’ll still find many Verden-related posts on my blog.

Q: Aren’t the Free Democrats filling that gap efficiently enough? Those things that may not be covered by the Social Democrats and the press?

What can I say…

Q: Your topics are about everything along the silk road. Isn’t that topical setting too broad to develop a genuine focus, and to get a constant readership?

I agree. This diversity hampers development of a continuous readership, but I blog about whatever interests me. If other people feel interested in certain articles nevertheless, I’m always pleased about that, of course.

Anyway, you can probably guess from the number of posts that blogging isn’t the most important part of my spare time.

Q: Let’s suppose that Tai De gets tons of comments and controversial threads, all of a sudden… would that bother you, as it takes time to reply to comments or to moderate?

Not if the commenters are patient.

Q: China doesn’t play a major role on your blog, but Chinese topics do emerge once in a while. Which kinds of “Chinese” topics are most likely to make you react strongly enough to write a blog post about it?

It’s not so much because the topics would be Chinese, but it’s because of the way Germany and the western world deal with this latest challenge from a power which isn’t too calculable in my view. Right when that poor blighter, Francis Fukuyama, had announced the end of history, after the end of the Soviet threat, another challenge emerged.

Q: Chinese officials, citizens, and Germans who feel close to China would probably disagree with you. China doesn’t challenge us – it feels challenged by us.

OK. That’s a normal and understandable perception, and I believe that as a German, I know this perception well. After all, Germany kept bothering its neighbors with a similarly wrong-headed world outlook, during the 20th century.

Q: Have you seen big changes in your own blog, and in the foreign blogosphere respectively, since you started blogging yourself? Have you seen changes in the mainstream media?

I have to admit that I’m still more into printed newspapers than into the blogosphere. I can therefore only base my answer on what I’ve read in the printed press. As far as that’s concerned, the China-jaggedness of the 1990s and the first decade of this century have been replaced by – in my view – partly racist coverage, and by fear.

Q: Before someone else asks this question – isn’t MyLaowai racist, for example? You’ve commented there occasionally.

No, I don’t think he’s racist. Some of his commenters are, though, and that’s why I don’t comment there more frequently. Even online, I mind the company I’m hanging out with, especially when faked “Chinese” commenters emerge there and speak bad English. But I like reading MyLaowai. Compared with appeasement blogs – like Doppelpod, for example -, MyLaowai has something to say, and he doesn’t need to make a mark at his own country’s costs.

Q: What’s wrong with Doppelpod’s approach – a position between rather contrarian political or (maybe) civilizational positions – in your view? Wouldn’t yours be a rather “Chinese” view of the world? Sort of Shames and honors?

If you have time for a little story… I was at a pretty sterling dinner years ago, on invitation of just as sterling hanseatic pepper sacks. Someone remarked that a professor who had attended previously hadn’t shown up again. One of those merchants told him that the professor in question had made negative remarks about his university in public, that is to say, at such a dinner. He wasn’t welcome any more.

I keep to this kind of policy myself. That’s why you won’t find much – or anything – about my actual field of work on my blog. Work with students is a protected range, and when it comes to educational policies, I mustn’t be too specific there, either. Tangible examples or occasions are out of the question.

Interestingly, most of those merchants probably shared the professor’s criticism, but rejected him as a person. They found him disloyal. I agree with that sentiment, even though I find the merchants outlandish in many other ways.

Q: That’s pretty old school, isn’t it?

It may be old school, it may be a rather Syrian or Turkish perspective, a German pre-war perpective, a Chinese perspective, or a Calabrian concept – that’s up to you. Doppelpod won’t need to worry about that – most decision-makers these days will think of this as “old school” indeed. Therefore, what I feel is disloyalty, isn’t disloyalty to others. It’s no practical issue any more. But adhering to that “old school” isn’t only a matter of decency in my view, but practical for everyone involved. It seems to me that most of us complain about a lack of “binding values”, or a lack of reliability within society. This seems to be a major complaint in China, too. If you feel that something of that kind is missing in your society, you’d better practice such values yourself, as honestly as you can.

Q: Are your teaching colleagues or your students aware that you are blogging? Posts like “Newthink – da future is digital and dumb” wouldn’t suggest that you are using the internet at all.

There may be a few exceptions. Most colleagues definitely don’t know my blog. But there are some students and teachers who think that they’ve recognised me.

Q: Why not blogging under your real name, then?

I’m not blogging for the sake of a career, and I appreciate freedom of speech (which is only available on American servers, by the way). Therefore, I’ll stick to “Tai De”.

Q: Your posts usually discuss Chinese, German, Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Thai, and Turkish issues. Are there other countries that interest you, or that play a role in your life, too?

Britan for sure, and Italy – for family reasons, too, and because they have something to do with my life.

Q: If Lower Saxony was a sovereign state, I’d have mentioned it in my previous question, too. You discuss Lower-Saxonian issues, once in a while. Why should the rest of the world care?

Even if we leave the fact aside that Hanoverians are the most classy Brits, and the island monkeys are only the remains of the day, I will usually write about what I can see every day, and about structures I’m familiar with.

Q: Some of your posts suggest that you like to wash Germany’s dirty laundry in public – even worse, you aren’t even washing it, you just keep displaying it. You aren’t a patriot, are you?

Am I patriotic? Am I not? With the events of the past century – its first half, anyway – on your mind, it isn’t easy for a German to have patriotic feelings. There’s that concept of a Verfassungspatriot, a constitutional patriot – that’s what I am for sure. Contrary to France, Spain, and Great Britain – and even when you compare Germany with its old provinces around Amsterdam and Rotterdam -, Germany is a belated nation, just as Italy. The concept of the Reich has become contaminated, too much so to be connoted in a positive way. My country, my people, and its civilization, that’s where I belong.

Q: Tai De, thanks a lot for this interview.

The interview was conducted in an authentic Chinese restaurant in Bremen.

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Related

All BoZhu Interviews

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

“Correcting the Country’s Course”: Paul V. Kane, not Quite the Economist

Paul V. Kane, a former international security fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, advises the Obama administration to “ditch Taiwan”. In an op-ed for the New York Times, he wrote on Friday:

With a single bold act, President Obama could correct the country’s course, help assure his re-election, and preserve our children’s future.

Kane quotes Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying that “the most significant threat to our national security is our debt”. Besides, Kane argues,

America has little strategic interest in Taiwan, which is gradually integrating with China economically by investing in and forming joint ventures with mainland Chinese firms.

I’m not trying to judge America’s big or small strategic interest in Taiwan. Besides, I have the vague impression that advanced arms technology delivered to Taiwan may not be too well-protected from Chinese espionage.

But only a clear American decision for isolationism could be a cause for considering  “ditching Taiwan”.

Kane may have felt encouraged by statements like those made by U.S. president Barack Obama,  that the nation he is most interested in building is America itself. But that statement was made in context with Afghanistan (and possibly Iraq, the dumb war). And I haven’t read Mullen saying anything that would suggest that he would want to “ditch Taiwan”. Rather, according to Mullen, America’s military power needed a sound economy as its base – a point Obama, too, made in a speech in 2009.

But neither Mullen’s or Obama’s statements, nor much else in this world, would suggest that there were good reasons to believe that abandoning Taiwan would make the world – including America – any safer.

Probably some time in 2009 or 2010,  Beijing began to refer to the South China Sea as a core interest (核心利益) – a term which had been used to describe Beijing’s claim on Taiwan, but not for the South China Sea until then. In 2009, either a year prior to the South-China-Sea referral or about at the same time, Chinese state councillor Dai Bingguo (戴秉国) defined a – at least apparently – more “conservative” set of three “core interests”:

  • the survival of China’s “fundamental system” and national security,
  • the safeguarding of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity (which in itself is, of course, pretty flexible after all, and may allow for a real lot of “core interests”), and
  • continued stable economic growth and social development.

Kane seems to believe that Beijing’s definitions of its own interests are stable. That doesn’t look like reasonable political judgment.

But above all, Kane’s argument makes no sense economically. Ten per cent of American foreign is certainly a huge amount – but it’s existence or non-existence would be no game-changer. Even if Kane started a global auction and found ways to please other creditors than Beijing into forgiving their shares of America’s debts, too (in exchange for similarly immoral offers), this wouldn’t change anything about America’s structural economic problems. Yes, it took America many decades to pile up its current debts – but it wouldn’t take America terribly long to incur debts of a similar dimensions again – not in the state it is in right now.If there is something America needs to worry about is that their leaders don’t seem to act their act together. The debt incurred so far won’t actually kill America.

What would make sense for America is to remind its allies – both formal and informal ones – that American commitment can be no one-way street. This isn’t targeted at Taiwan specifically, because it would seem to me that Washington actually applauded Taipei’s cross-strait policies of recent years. Rather, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and other countries who believe that America should strike a balance in China’s neighborhood need to be reminded that they, too, must do their share to keep the region – including Taiwan – safe. The current division of labor in the region – America projecting military power, and everyone else chumming up to Beijing in America’s shadow – is indeed unsustainable.

But if America wants its allies to doubt its commitment to regional security, there could be no better prescription for that, than Kane’s “recommendation”. It’s a safe way to lose credibility.

Apparently, Kane’s op-ed was no put-on, as The Atlantic‘s James Fallows initially  suspected. And anyway, I don’t know who Mr. Kane is, and I’m sure that he isn’t the only person who might come up with such bizarre ideas. What really makes me wonder is that the New York Times actually chose to print this kind of stuff.

Maybe they and Mr. Kane just want another tax break.

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Related

» “A Threat that Doesn’t Exist”, Business Insider, Nov. 11. 2011
» The Costs of Running a Trade Surplus, August 7, 2011
» Creative Destruction or Development, March 15, 2010

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