Archive for January, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

Freedom of the Press: “He Who pays the Piper, calls the Tune”

Nowadays, it is the media themselves which pose the greatest risk to the freedom of the press. The quality of journalism is deteriorating because media companies want to make more money out of the media than in the past.

Heribert Prantl, Süddeutsche Zeitung / Goethe-Institut »

» DW, Negotiations with Politics, Dec 26, 2011
» Why are Mass Media losing Relevance, Febr 26, 2009


Sunday, January 29, 2012

German Soft Power: beneath your Butt

Yang Peichang (杨佩昌) is either just another overseas Chinese correspondent or blogger in Germany, or he is rather well-known and doesn’t need to introduce himself to the Chinese internet public. “I grew up in a poor region”, he writes about himself, on his blog:

[Main Link: – links within blockquotes added during translation]

I know how tough it is for the one-hundred names [common people], and I’m therefore not in favor of wasting huge amounts of tax revenues for big, face-giving projects or celebrations. Rather, I oppose uncontrolled foreign aid of alarming amounts, especially the kind which comes “with no strings attached”, which “does not interfere with other countries’ internal affairs”, or generous support for rogue states.

Yang has lived in Germany for a long time, he writes, and had thus become more aware than before of his compatriots’ many grievances.

So, I hope that the gap between the rich and the poor will be narrowed, that people will speak out freely, enjoy freedom of movement, and exercise their religious beliefs and their right to vote freely.

生长于最贫困地区,知道老百姓有多苦,所以不赞成任何大手笔浪费纳税人钱财的百亿工程、千亿工程、面子工程、献礼工程和庆祝活动; 反对毫无节制、数目惊人的对外援助,特别是“不附带任何条件”、“不干涉他国内政”、对无赖国家的慷慨援助; 曾在德国长期生活,对比后才知道自己的同胞有多委屈,所以希望减少贫富差距、让人民有自由说话、自由迁徙、自由信仰和自由选举的权利。

Phoenix (Hong Kong – usually freely accessible from mainland China) also hosts an edition of Yang’s blog.

On Sunday, Yang published a post on how he accompanied a Chinese entrepreneur on his tour through Germany. His account of their travels is sort of a satirical didactic play, relating how the entrepreneur (and Yang himself) skip an appointment with friends and rather dawdle an entire night away on the internet (with no firewall), how they watch Kurdish demonstrators at the Brandenburg Gate protesting against the killing of Kurds by the Turkish army, plus a young German parading his vintage East-German army uniform and the East German flag in about the same place, how they realize that the German parliament’s sign and Germany’s national emblem next to it are placed lower than peoples’ butts, etc..

All very shocking for the entrepreneur. “Aren’t the authorities concerned that the capitalist system could be subverted?”, he asks, concerning the internet, as he savors unencumbered access to basically anything. Yang perfidiously struggles with himself:

I was unable to answer that question. All I could tell him was that capitalist countries’ leaders arguably took a somewhat superficial approach and hadn’t taken thought about such serious consequences. (这个问题让我无法回答,我也只能告诉他,可能资本主义国家的领导人目光比较短浅,没有想到这么严重的后果吧。)

At every new encounter with the German way of life, the entrepreneur is scared first, and fascinated later. Once he sees that the Kurdish demonstrators aren’t dangerous after all, and that the absence of chengguan doesn’t need to worry him, he has himself photographed with the Kurds, he then has a friendly conversation with the wannabe member of the former East German army who informs him that while Marxism was a failure in general, there was still some truth in it, etc..

It is an idealized description of Germany’s soft power – Yang’s actual topic here. Obviously, the German internet isn’t as free as America’s, and demonstrations need to be approved by the authorities in advance (in principle, anyway, and depending on size – the Kurds may well have taken to the Brandenburg Gate without asking for approval anyway), etc..

But Germany shines brightly in Yang’s blog post – and is approved of even on the community thread at Huanqiu – at least by the one person who pasted it there, that is:

Great countries don’t brag, but draw on their real strength (大国不是自己吹的,是要靠实力的!, 2012-01-29; 10:06),

he writes, and, expressing his endorsement further, by quoting Yang’s summary in full, he adds:

Self-confidence, tolerance, and proximity to the people – only that makes a truly great country (自信、宽容、亲民、高效和共同富裕。这才是一个真正而不折不扣的大国。 2012-01-29; 13:42).

Germany’s soft power is hard to quantify. But it may serve as an efficient backdrop, once in a while.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blogging between the Seasons

This has been a mild winter so far – it felt like fall in November and December, and spring has been in the air for much of this month. It still is, despite the first snow of this winter that fell last week. Most of it melted away, before it started freezing again, yesterday afternoon. After two unusually cold and snowy winters in 2009/10 and 2010/11, I’ve heard nobody complain about too little snow yet, not even around Christmas. In normal years, complaints of that kind would be essential bits of smalltalk.

Between the seasons

Between the seasons

I’m spending no less time at blogging than before, but I’m taking more input than usual – reading, exchanging e-mails, and writing offline to prepare posts. The good thing is that I’ve translated about two thirds of the CCP central committee’s “cultural document” so far, so there’s land ahoy in that field.

Anyway, my posting frequency will remain somewhat lower than usual, during the coming weeks.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

“Advocacy Journalism is not the Problem” –

an Interview with former Deutsche Welle Editor Fengbo Wang on the Zhang Danhong Controversy, Dissidents in Germany, and the Persian Factor

Wang Fengbo came to Germany in 1991, studied politics in Mainz, and was editor of what is now the European Chinese Post, an overseas Chinese paper. In the interview following this introduction, Wang describes the publication as a dissident paper, a description which appears to be correct. In 1989, he had seen dead bodies piled up in a Beijing hospital, Wang told an EPD (Evangelischer Pressedienst) reporter last year. “Having seen that, there is no other way for you than to be a supporter of democracy”, he added.

From 2002 until December 2010, Wang Fengbo worked for Deutsche Welle‘s (the Voice of Germany’s) Chinese department. He and three more of his colleagues lost their jobs, or freelance contracts respectively, as their contracts weren’t renewed. In April last year, the Neue Rheinische Zeitung published an open letter by the four, to Germany’s Federal Parliament’s lower house (Bundestag), and to the Deutsche Welle broadcasting commission. According to their open letter, Deutsche Welle initially gave budget cuts as a reason for ending the contracts, but later – successively, in the process – added more reasons. Besides, the open letter states, the dismissed employees or contributors were replaced by “younger, unexperienced journalists”. The budget cuts, originally cited as reasons for the Deutsche Welle’s measures, had proven untrue, and the Open Letter sees the four as deferred victims of a “campaign” against Zhang Danhong, formerly the Chinese department’s deputy manager, who came under fire in 2008.

This interview may help to shed some light on the events since the “Zhang Danhong” affair, or it may help to start such a process. To date, information is sparse; however, a member of the employees committee confirmed last year that an open letter published by the four former Deutsche Welle employees had described the situation correctly, even if some of its phrasing had been “overboard”.


Q: How long did you work for Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department? Were you a freelancer, or a permanent employee?

A: I began to work for DW as a freelancer in 2001. Beginning from 2002, and until May 2007 I worked there as a so-called permanent freelancer-editor (Fest-Freier Redakteur) with a Freelancer-Contract (Honorarrahmenvertrag) by the Chinese Online Editor-Team of DW. In my function and responsibility there was no difference between me and colleagues with a permanent contract. By the definition made by the director of the whole Online Section at that time, I was the “core-manpower” of the team. From May 2007 to December 31, 2010,  I was an editor with a “permanent contract”. Unfortunatelly, this “permanent contract” was initially limited to December 31, 2010. My current lawsuit with DW centers around the dispute wether or not this time limitation is legal.

Q: What did an ordinary working day look like? What would it involve?

A: My career at DW was clearly divided into two phases, and it may sound somewhat like black humor, if I say the dividing line was the Olympic Games in Peking, in 2008. For most employees of the Chinese Deutsche-Welle department, this event was the beginning of a nightmare which is still ongoing today.

In the time before December 2008, I was an editor in the Chinese Online Edition-Team, and my daily work was just the same as the most editors in a free western press organisation. Within the daily routine practice, I usually took two main roles: the duty editor (Chef-vom-Dienst) and a normal editor or reporter. As a duty editor, my responsibility was to work out the daily working schedule (agenda setting), such as the topics of the day, about assigning different tasks, etc.. A duty-editor’s day usually ended with the planned topics being covered and coming up on our homepage. Overall, there were four or five colleagues who belonged to the “core-manpower” of the Chinese Online team and they took turns weekly, to act as a duty editors. During the weeks when I didn’t work as an editor on duty, I did inqiries on assigned topics or issues, did interviews, and wrote my stories based on former research and interviews. The final work was to publish the finished story on our homepage through the content-management-system. This Chinese Online team was small but comprehensive, with the topics-coverage ranging from current world affairs to specific political, economic, cultural and sports issues. Our journalistic output was  usually in Chinese language, and in case that our expertise in issues relating to China was needed by our colleagues of other language-teams, we also wrote in German or English.

From December 2008, with the so-called “Zhang Danhong-Affair” ending with the removal of the head of the Chinese Radio Programm of DW, Matthias von Hein, the Online-Team and the Radio programme began to work as a whole Chinese Programm. This merger of the daily routines came much earlier than originally scheduled, although the merger itself was already going on. Since 2007, Deutsche Welle had been trying to undergo a structrual reform aiming at turning the traditional radio-based broadcaster into an internet-based new media platform. The reform  started with German and English language-programms as pilots and the other programmes – around 30 different languages – were to follow with different time-schedules respectively. The fact that reform put online and radio programs in a competitive situation did matter a lot, as could be seen in the Chinese Programm of Deutsche Welle.

From late December 2008 to December 2009, the head of Asian radio programme, Ms. Golte, acted as the temporary head of the merged Chinese programme. From the first day after the merger, I was silently excluded from the routine responsibilities of a normal editor and was allowed only to layout the hompage for several months. Although later I was allowed to adapt mainly radio manuscripts from the Central Programm in the German language, I, together with all other colleagues from former online-team, continued to be marginalised. We were not allowed to do tasks such as topic-planning and final editing. Effectively, I and other former online-colleagues lost the identities of autonomous journalists, for we had no say in setting topics, and our articles, if any, were subject to the judgement of the final-editor, who, under the offical excuse of quality assurance, often killed a whole text, or passages or sentences that might be “politically not correct”. Of course the DW functionaries would never acknowledge that this practice existed.

In December 2009, Mrs. Woltersdorf took over the Chinese Program and she indeed brought about some changes. Around April or May 2009, we, the former online editors, were allowed to plan topics and to be final editors in rotational turn. Since then, a normal working day typically began with a meeting and each colleague was to present a brief  “media scanning”, telling what they had read from competitors like VOA, BBC, Radio France or Radio Free Asia. The weekly topic-planner has the final say regarding which topic should be covered and which topic will then be assigned to whom. For the Chinese programme still has a one-hour broadcast, for each topic-assignment they usually first work out a radio manuscript suitable a for a maximum duration of 5 minutes as a radio-piece, typically including the so-called original soundtracks usually cut from a short telephone-interview. Theorectically they should then rewrite the radio manuscript into an online text, but practically, the texts published in the webpages of the Chinese programme hardly differ from a radio manuscript. Until today, a large part of non-China related topics seen or heard from the Chinese program are still translated texts delivered by the central editorial department.

Q: You said that the radio and online services had been put into a competitive situation by their merger. That is to say, there was competition between the editors, as after the merger, fewer employees would be needed?

A: The reform idea was to shift DW from Radio to an Internet-based multimedia-platform. The fact that the majority of DW journalists are radio journalists caused speculations as to who will dominate the merged teams, radio over online or just the other way round? To ease the fears and rumours, the DW management gave an official assurance that the merger shall not mean job cuts. In case of the Chinese department around 2007, some colleagues from the radio department went to the general program director, with two thick document folders which had been secretely prepared for about half a year, accusing the online team of having offended copy rights. There might be some minor faults regarding the copy right, but the charge was exaggerated, for many of the articles allegedly  violating copy rights were written just by radio. If any mistake of such kind existed, they should have communicated with the online team immediately, but they kept recording such “mistakes” secretely for about half a year.

Q: Hristina Krasteva, in a paper about Deutsche Welle in 2007, described several “types” of concepts journalists at Deutsche Welle held. Page 96 and 98 describe her try to develop a typology. Does it include your own approach as a DW journalist, or how would you describe your own concept of your work there?

A: I believe the types of self-understanding described in this paper is more an ideal typology than a real-world description. I would say my approach was rather a mixture of these types. I think certain journalistic professional standards shall be valid for all these types. I would say, you can define your roll als being a democracy promoter, or as a mediator between cultures, or as the alternative voice, or only an information communicator, all that is fine. But you have to do it in a professional way, i.e. with journalistic prudence, objectivity, well balanced. You should be aware that as a journalist, you have a different role to play, for example, from a member of a human rights organisation. And generally, I should say, even if you are a staunch fan of advocacy journalism, you should know that you won’t achieve your goal if you try to treat your readers or listeners as if you were their moral sermonizer and political savior.

Deutsche Welle has always been having difficulties in defining its unique attributes since the end of the cold war. To this day, there is still great controversy among the journalists of Deutsche Welle, which target listeners or internet users they are working for. The types of journalistic self-identity in the Krasteva paper, e.g. democracy promoter, mediator between cultures, provider of alternative voices are more wishful theoretical concepts than a description of the reality. The German department of Deutsche Welle is still not able to give a satisfactory answer to the question, i.e. in the age of internet and globalisation, why a German expat should be interested in its  radio broadcasts or internet content, as ARD, ZDF or Spiegel are only a mouse-click away, all over the world. Things become far more complicated, if you try to promote democracy in Iran, Russia or China.

On the other hand, the said typology in the Krasteva-paper describes the very need of Deutsche Welle and its journalists to present themselves to the general public in a way that would justify  the around 300 million-euros budget financed by the state.

In a debate about the future of Deutsche Welle, the former federal culture minister Mr. Bernd Neumann, in 2006, would have seen Deutsche Welle as “the voice of Germany as a country with a great cultural history, and one of the greatest exporting nations”. There is a certain similarity as the Chinese authorities are talking about ” soft power”.  But Deutsche Welle, with all its political legacy it has as part of extended public diplomacy can hardly afford to be just a seller of “soft power”. It has to be political. That is why, at least in my opinion, the DW itself prefers to call itself “the voice of human rights”, for this would better legitimise its huge budget needs.

To tell the world that you are the voice of human rights is a simple thing to say, but how you voice human rights in an effective way is an another, subtle thing. Taking all these aspects into account, I myself prefer a pluralistic and balanced approach as for the question what a DW-journalist is supposed to be.

Q: My personal impression of the Chinese programs from early in the 2000s until 2008 – I was only an occasional listener, and my impressions wouldn’t replace some statistics, obviously – was that Deutsche Welle sold Germany as a brand: how many beautiful fountains Aachen had, Germany as a place for foreigners to study, Germany’s leading industries, etc. Is that a traceable perception in your view, or do you view it differently?

A: There has been a cultural approach as regards how DW should present Germany to the world. Nevertheless, politics, international or domestic, has always been dominant in its coverage. However, as far as the Chinese program is concerned, there has been dramatic change indeed, since the latter half of 2008. The dividing line was the so called “Campaign against Zhang Danhong”. The Open Letter by me and three other former colleagues has explained how and why this could happen.

To the end of 2008, as the Chinese program was becoming more and more narrowed and biased in its view about China, many listeners and online users wrote letters to the public email box of Chinese program, complaining about the “China-bashing” approach of Deutsche Welle. Unfortunately, these listeners or users were branded “50-cent-partisans” (Wu Mao Dang) and that email box for reader’s comments was simply shut down. The internal statistics show that the online-user visits of the Chinese program dropped drastically after the beginning of 2009, to the extent that the Chinese program would be almost not relevant to the international press coverage about and its influence in China. The Deutsche Welle’s management would argue that this was because of the Chinese program’s website being blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall. But that is only the tiny part of the truth. In those several years before 2008, the Chinese website of Deutsche Welle had always been blocked in China, but there had still been visits ranging from about 30,000 to 70,000, and at its peak around 10,0000 visits daily. Since 2009, the regular daily visits have been always around two or three thousand. For I left Deutsche Welle at the end of 2010, i don’t know the statistics since early 2011.

In about August 2010, I was asked by Mrs. Woltersdorf to give a short presentation to a group of Chinese visitors to DW. These visitors were young academic professionals taking part in a one-year research program in Germany financed by the “Kanzlerstipendium”, which is given only to a few selected outstanding young scholars. After the official presentation, they expressed openly that the Chinese program is becoming more and more biased and radical toward China and they do not believe that Deutsche Welle coverage about China is objective any more. They said, as young scholars, most of whom have studied in USA or Europe, they do believe in the universal validity of human rights and the need to improve the human-rights-situation in China. What they are dissatisfied with is the way Deutsche Welle does its work. They feel that Deutsche Welle were a platform only for the voices of political dissidents. Indeed, since September 2010, a very active and known Chinese dissident has become an offical editor of the Chinese program. If Deutsche Welle is losing credibility in this share of Chinese young professionals who are supposed to contribute best to the mutal understanding beween Germany and China, how could Deutsche Welle justify its hundreds of millions of public finance?

For me personally, advocacy journalism is not the problem. It is a great problem if you are practicing advocacy journalism but you tell your audience you are neutral and pluralistic. Beiing honest is the first virtue of journalism. In the case of the Chinese department, the very debate about standards of journalism has been impossible after the “Zhang Danhong affair”.

Q: It’s certainly speculation to guess how online statistics would develop if the Welle took the approach you recommend – but let me speculate anyway, for a moment. Let’s suppose the Welle takes this approach: advocating human rights, becoming very explicit about human rights violations in China at times, and maybe this, too, would offend many Chinese listeners. This would – if my guesswork is correct – still spell rather reduced traffic on the Welle’s Chinese website. But you can’t make traffic the only criterion, can you? Isn’t there a risk of losing your own way as a broadcaster, if you keep toning down your message until the audience is satisfied?

A: I really love this question! For this is the question we, the former online colleagues, have discussed a thousand times! We are usually already one step closer to an answer if we have raised the question. The problem of the Chinese department since the later months of 2008 has been that you risk your “political correctness” if you dare to ask which appoach serves the goal of DW better.

Furthermore I think we shall distinguish advocacy journalism from advocacy of human rights. To say that I am not a fan of advocacy journalism is not to say I am against advocating human rights. That is a big difference. This is rather a question of the path to goal, not the goal itself.

I don’t doubt that DW has a mission to advocate human rights, comparable to the so-called value-oriented foreign policy of the federal government of Germany. But does it necessarily mean that you must do this by not caring about your website traffic anymore?  If you have zero traffic, how could you then promote your great values?
I think that kind of argument is actually based on an unbewared, dangerous presumption, i.e., the general Chinese audience were against human rights and if you try to criticize China for violation of human rights then they shall run away or they shall feel offended.

I myself do maintain a healthy degree of skepticism about any statistical number, especially as the internet is censored in China. What I find ridiculous is the way to work purposefully to target zero traffic. This is something I call the “Persian-paradox”, in some joking way. I was told by a colleague about how the Persian language department of DW has responded to such kinds of questions. The DW management itself is actually much more into increases of website traffic than we the normal editors. Anyway at least no department has been criticized when web traffic increased. The Persian online department was the late-comer in comparison to other five online pilot-language departments, i.e. German, English, Chinese, Russian and Arabic. The Persian online team should have to face the question about the need for their existence if they should keep their site visit numbers at a very low level. During the protest wave around 2009 in Iran, they firstly achieved a relatively high record of visits, but this should have made them feel uneasy. And days later the Persian website of DW was blocked in Iran and they should have felt a great release by telling around in House of DW the good news:  “we are also blocked!”

I cannot tell if the story is true. But i do believe, be it just a fiction, it can best illustrate the dilemma or paradox of DW. I guess the logic behind this should be: If you are not blocked yet, you are not sufficiently politically correct. The compulsory logical conclusion out of this state of mind is a clear one: The DW [outlets] can [only be proved]*) morally good enough by zero traffic from their target-countries. The DW can be only morally good enough by zero traffic from their target-countries. Isn’t this a new form of cold-war mindset? Shall DW be satisfied with the role als a monologue-talker?

I am not saying I have a ready better solution to this conflict of goals. What I want is a corporate climate that encourages such discussions, but instead the opposite has been the case at DW. It is a too-easy , lazy and self-cheating way to be contended with talking the flowery phrases of human rights and then sit back saying: Look, we are blocked by the Chinese goverment and we are therefore very successful!

You don’t have to be blocked to promote human rights. And if you are blocked just because of your promoting human rights, you still have many many ways to reach your target audience, who themselves are not anti-human-rights at all.

Q: Press coverage of China became much more critical around 2008, including some pretty low points – I remember this title story illustration by German news magazine Der Spiegel, in August 2007. Did you feel some kind of cold wind blowing before that? If so, what did it involve? And did the Chinese department or the Deutsche Welle management receive protest letters from Chinese dissidents, or others? Did the signatories to the open letter to the German Bundestag – their open letter was dated September 9, 2008, some indications of the content in English here – contact Deutsche Welle, before writing to Parliament – or were you aware of such contacts with your department, or the management?

A: As a journalist I follow the German press coverage of China regularly, and I was not surprised to find that it became more critical. The mainstream German press has always been seeing China either as a brutal violator of human rights or a newly, fast rising economic giant. In my opinion, more than just a few German field correspondents in China have not been able to really understand what has been going on in China. There could be many reasons for that. But one thing is true: You cannot understand China as a whole if you do not look at the things carefully between the two extreme poles.

Given that the Deutsche Welle management is usually – at least as far as the Chinese programme is concerned -, not open and transparent in dealing with critics of any kind, I don’t know if they had received protest letters before and during the heated campaign against Mrs. Zhang Danhong. I guess they did. But I do know something about the open letter to the German Bundestag by the  several Chinese dissidents in Germany. As far as I know, they have not tried to contact the Deutsche Welle management. If I’m not mistaken, they have written two open letters, with the latter one directly to the German Bundestag. As the first open letter or something like that became public, I called one of the signatories immediately. For I had been the editor-in-chief of the Chinese dissident-newspaper in Germany (now named as European Chinese Post) for about 8 years, I know the majority of these signatories very well, personally. In this phone-call lasting several hours I tried in a very detailed way to explain how the Chinese program has been working and why the general charge against the staff of Chinese program for their alleged affinity to the CP-China is absolutely nonsense. Unfortunately, the next day, I heard they still sent the open letter to the Bundestag. To me, it was above all a great personal dissapointment.

This small group of dissidents is apparently enjoying labeling other people communist. As they themselves disagreed as to who should represent the group to attend a hearing about the Chinese program in the Bundestag, one signatory, on the internet, branded another signatory as the 6th column of CP-China, and the other slapped the other one’s face as they met each other during the Bookfair in Frankfurt in early 2010!

Q: An examination acquitted the Chinese department, dismissed the 2008 open letter’s allegations, and criticized Deutsche Welle’s director Erik Bettermann for acting prematurely by suspending Zhang Danhong.
You stated in your open letter that basically, Mrs. Zhang had only rated China’s human rights performance in a way Georg Blume of Die Zeit (a major German weekly) – this may refer to this article by Mr. Blume.
However, in an interview with Deutschlandfunk in August 2008, she also seemed to compare censorship of Free-Tibet or Falun Gong websites in China with censorship of extreme-right and child pornography in Germany. That was gross, wasn’t it? Did it influence the decision to suspend Mrs. Zhang from working at the microphone, or was that an allegation which came in later – i. e. faultseeking to justify the decision ex post?

A: Censorship in China is certainly quite a different dimension and nature from that of extreme-right or child pornography. I don’t think Mrs. Zhang Danhong wanted to legitimize Internet censorship in China. Through all the years as I worked together with her and by going through all those interviews which caused her trouble, I have never heard or read that she has given credit to censorship in China.

It is not fair to single out one sentence from the whole context in which Mrs. Zhang Danhong made those statements. Under that special circumstances, around Beijing Olympics 2008,  whereas mainstream western press coverage of China showered undifferentiated, generalized and simplistically condemning criticism over China, a journalist like Mrs. Zhang Danhong, with all her China background knowledge and expertise, would instinctively try to give her own much differentiated judgement and in a certain way she was “forced” into playing the role of defending China, although she had no such intention at all. Around 2008, the western press often seemed to forget the simple fact: “the small people” wanted to host the Olympics and they are not the Chinese government.

After all, the fact is that Mrs. Zhang Danhong was punished because of her speech and this happened in a democracy and in a free media institution who is telling the world everyday that freedom of speech is an integral part of human rights.

Q: To clarify, by saying that Mrs. Zhang was “forced” to play the role of a defendant of China or its government, you mean that the other guest or guests in the talk show were playing exactly the opposite role – a role of criticizing China?

A: Later on Mrs. Zhang Danhong has told some of our colleagues how she felt at those talk-shows and expressed that sort of feeling. I could remember her first TV-talk show by the Maybrit Illner, where she was confonted with a German actor who was very polemic in criticizing China. I have never been at such talk shows but I could imagine how difficult it might be to express oneself unmistakenly and perfectly in foreign language before millions of audience.

Q: The examination report, by Ulrich Wickert, hasn’t been published by Deutsche Welle. What’s known about it was published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, in March 2009, and what is publicly known about is content (some info in English here) only became known because a journalist with the Süddeutsche went after it. Do you know details of the report which haven’t been published by the Süddeutsche Zeitung?

A: If you consider how profoundly the so called “Zhang Danhong Affair’s” impact on the Chinese public’s perception of Deutsche Welle – and to some extent Germany’s China-policy – has been, it is a dubious thing that the Wickert-report was treated as a highly confidential document by the management of Deutsche Welle. Despite the fact that every journalist of Deutsche Welle is very concerned about what Mr. Wickert said about Mrs. Zhang Danhong and her Chinese colleagues, nobody has ever had the opportunity to see the paper. Fortunately, I got this paper directly from Mr. Wickert’s office. Mr. Wickert has indeed “rehabilitated” the reputation of the Chinese department, damaged by several so-called Chinese dissidents by coming to the very clear conclusion, that it is sheer nonsense to criticize the Chinese journalists of Deutsche Welle by alleging that they had been too friendly to the Chinese government. Mr. Wickert testified that the several thousands of articles he has examined correspond to high professional standards. He also made a very clear statement, i.e., the DW management has treated Mrs. Zhang Danhong wrongfully. I suppose that is why this paper has been kept secret.

Q: According to your open letter of April this year, Bettermann, the managing director, rejected demands that the Chinese department’s work should be monitored by specialists chosen by recognized human rights organizations, but complied with the demands in practice. You refer to a sinologist, Jörg M. Rudolph, who monitored your work for half a year – secretly first, and openly later, but without a defined set of standards, or standards that would have been made known to the department, all of the time until at least April this year. The standard he goes by, as far as discernible, would be the extent as to how an article or contribution would be “CCP-friendly”, or not. According to your open letter, the Chinese department’s temporary manager at the time didn’t speak Chinese, and the permanent manager who replaced her in December 2009, Adrienne Woltersdorf,  is not capable of “communicating adequately”, spoken or in writing, with the department – was (or is) Mr. Rudolph monitoring the Chinese department on their behalf? Do you know if he is still working there? Can you give an account of how you became aware of the monitor‘s existence, and of how he and you interacted with each other?

A: Nobody knows if Mr. Rudolph is still monitoring the Chinese department today. Mr. Rudolph took this job at the end of 2009 and monitored the Chinese department continuously until at least April 2011. The management has never told us in a direct, open, honest and transparent manner, to which extent, for what purpose and for whom Mr. Rudolph is doing his monitoring work. It is not honest to tell that Mr. Rudolph is there just to help the department’s temporary manager to understand the Chinese language. As Mrs. Adrienne Woltersdorf, who took over the manager postion in December 2009, promised more transparency and professionality, she could not find any excuse to keep the monitor-reports secret. For a short period of about two months, the daily report from the monitor was emailed to every member of the Chinese department. These available reports revealed what the real role of this monitor was. He has very often classified certain articles or contributions as “CCP-friendly” and criticized the authors as too socialized by the communist system. For example: In one comment to my report about how the Chinese were becoming targets of “Neo-Nazi” attacks in the Mongolian Republic, Mr. Rudolph said people like me, who were socialized in China, should  generally not treat topics related to ethnic conflicts. At first I wrote this report in Chinese language, and as other departments showed great interest in this article, Mrs. Woltersdorf asked me to write one piece in German. Before the German one was finished, the above said judgement by Mr. Rudolph was in the hand of Mrs. Woltersdorf. She then kept my report to herself and didn’t pass  it on to the Central Program Department, who supplies topics of general interests to all language departments in German or English languages. Several days later, I sent my article directly to the editor of Central Program and that editor published this text immediately and called me personally in order to compliment me for a well-done report.

I first became aware of the existence of this monitor in early January 2009 as a picture edited by me was taken offline. That picture shows German chancellor Merkel und Chinese Primier Wen Jiabao walking at different paces at a state-visit welcome ceremony.  My caption was: When could Germany and China walk at a same pace? The picture disappeared without asking for my consent before, and it was an unusual practice. I traced that change back to the decision of Mrs. Golte, the temporary manager of the Chinese department. I thought it might be some colleague who reported to her, for at that time and thereafter it was quite a common practice that colleagues denunciated each other to the boss. (Chinese would say: Da Xiao Bao Gao  /打小报告) Mrs. Golte told me that a third person from outside has told her that this picture was politically not correct (!). I kept asking who was this “third-person” and got no further answer. About several months later, as Mrs. Golte said at a department meeting that she values transparency very much, I asked her if she could tell us who is this third person. She had no other choice than revealing the existence of this monitor.

There has not been any direct interactive exchange of ideas between the monitor and the monitored. One single personal meeting happened around later 2009 as Mr.Rudolph showed up in the Chinese department for about 15 Minutes.

Mrs. Woltersdorf is supposed to have a comprehensive knowledge of Chinese language and there should have been no official reason for the need of this monitor, but Mr. Ruldoph has apparently outlived Mrs. Wolterdorf. Mrs. Woltersdorf was forced (officially speaking a free decision, which can hardly be true) to leave the Chinese department in July 2011, but Mr. Ruldolph might be still working there.

Q: She has left Deutsche Welle? Definitely?

A: Mrs. Woltersdorf has definitely left DW. The new chief is the old one – Mr. Matthias von Hein, who took up his office since 1rst January, 2012. How and why this has happened was literally a thriller in real life. I could only say, it was a combination of comedy and tragedy.

Q: When you received your notice, which reasons did Deutsche Welle give for them? And how did the initial and the subsequent reasons differ from each other?

A: Mrs. Woltersdorf, head of Chinese Program since December 2009, told me in a conversation in July 2010 that she had two news to tell me, i.e. a good one and a bad one. I asked her to begin with the bad one. She told me my working contract as a permanent employee would not exceed the official limit to the end of 2010. The good news should be that I would still be a full member of the Chinese program as I would be given a freelance contract. “You should not feel sad, because you may earn even more money that way, continuing to work for Chinese program everyday and as a freelancer.” Mrs. Woltersdorf told me. She said she just had talked personally with Mr. Gramsch, the program-director of Deutsche Welle, and he had decided that, because of the budget-cuts, the Chinese program should cut one permanent postition. “It is a pity that you happen to be the first one whose contract is going to  end in this difficult time. ” Of course, I was not happy with this solution and began to seek to defend my rights by talking with the employee committee, and with the higher-level management of Deutsche Welle. I tried to talk personally with Mr. Gramsch, but this conversation,  which was supposed to be personal and confidential, ended up like a court trial against me, as my very adversary, Mrs. Golte, the head of Asian program, was also present at the talk. The Deutsche Welle management obviously has no intention to hear directly what was actually going on in the Chinese program.

From that time on, DW management has began a series of faultseeking to justify the decision ex post. Mrs. Woltersdorf even refused to sign a memory note of our conversation. In December 2010, as I still believed I could at least continue to work as a freelancer, Mrs. Woltersdorf told me that I was fired, taking effect at the end of 2010. The reason? Mrs. Wolterdorf said to me: “If you do not come to me again with a memory note to be signed, I will tell you the truth: you have made the whole noise in this house!” (“Sie haben den ganzen Krach im Haus gemacht!”)

Until the day I left Deutsche Welle, the management has given me no other official reason than budget-cuts. It might be true that Deutsche Welle as a whole should receive a smaller budget, but the budget for the Chinese program has remained steady so far, if not even increased. Later on in the process of the lawsuit, DW has been trying to invent some fake reasons which are in themselves contradictory. For example, at the local labour court, Deutsche Welle said that I was unable to speak at the microphone. As I presented the court a CD recorded with my broadcasting works, Deutsche Welle said this time in its written defending reply to the regional labor court (Landesarbeitsgericht) that I was unable to live moderate. I suppose the next thing DW would say is that I can’t  sing at the microphone. If i could prove that I could sing, they would again suggest that I still could not sing like Placido Domingo after all.

Q: Did the labor court follow Deutsche Welle‘s reasons, or did they cite different reasons for confirming the station’s decision?

A: For me it was an amazing experience to see how the judge at the local labor court simply neglected any argument based on facts. The judge said that even if the budget was not cut and if I were the best candidate for this job, Deutsche Welle still has the freedom to fire his employee at will. This freedom is the so called “freedom of radio” (Rundfunkfreiheit). But as a learned political scientist, I have my doubts if the freedom of radio station constitutionally overrides the individual basic rights. That is why I am now taking my case to a higher court, which is scheduled to sit on January 23, 2012**).

Q: Have you found work as a journalist again, since – full time or part-time? And if it is OK to ask, what are your feelings about the past three years?

A: Until today I am still trying to find a new job. People of  my age (47) don’t have too many opportunities in the labor market. I have sent hundreds of application letters but I haven’t got a  single invitation for an interview. It was quite a frustrating experience to deal with the employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit). You cannot expect respect and dignity from such social services. I don’t want to go into details because it was very hurting.

Those two years from 2009 to 2010 were an ordeal for me and for several former colleagues who didn’t want to abandon professional standards. Believe it or not, in the Chinese department, the past three years, has been in something like a state of fear. The working conference every morning has become a sort of ritual occasion where some colleagues show how they are anti-China and how they are politically correct. It was offending to experience how people lie and talk big just for fear of losing their jobs!

It sounds like a bad joke but it is real. In the two years after 2008 when I was still in the Chinese department, people turned their heads around several times to make sure that no other one might listen before he or she dared to tell their genuine opinion. The everyday lunch has become a kind of political affair as to the question who walks to the dining hall with whom. One colleague once went to lunch together with me and after lunch she told me that we should not go back together to our office, otherwise people would believe she was allied with a person like me who was in the boss’ bad books. Even when I had already been sacked by Deutsche Welle last year, one former colleague called me and at the end of conversation asked me not to tell other people that she had called me.

What has happened to the Chinese department of DW is first of all a human tragedy.

Q: How has the work of the Chinese department changed since 2008? And – if you have kept listening to the programs once in a while, or reading online – have you seen changes in the programs since you had to leave?

A: Just like what I have described above, since later 2008 the Chinese department has actually been  working not only against the Chinese authorities (doing so is legitimate, of course), but unfortunately also against the majority of its should-be recipients. Unless you equate the Chinese people to the Chinese government or CP-China, as a journalist sticking to a high professional code, you would see this trend as a tragedy of Deutsche Welle. Today, the most normal Chinese people who I personally know associate Deutsche Welle with China-bashing from the West. This is a reputation that Deutsche Welle should not have deserved.

Q: Mr. Wang, thank you very much for this interview.



  *) Correction/update, Jan. 28
**) The hearing has been postponed.


This interview was conducted in English, by an exchange of e-mails.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zhidao.Baidu: Why do all German Stars sing in English?

Q: Why do all German stars sing in English?

Q: 为什么德国都唱英文歌 难道它们歧视母语么..
2011-7-10 22:38

A: It’s because Germany’s cultural attractiveness doesn’t work, and they therefore have to do it this way. The key is that at the top, they don’t attach much importance to cultural development, and a long-term deficit exists there. One can’t blame individual stars; this deficit began long before they were born, and they can’t reverse that individually. However, for Germans to sing in English isn’t as much a loss of face as for Chinese; and Germans can actually argue to be of common origins with the English language. That’s not the case between China and English at all, but in the charts, many themes are in English, or the lyrics contain a lot of English language.

A (热心网友):
2011-7-12 05:54

Da, da, da…

Trio, 1982

Monday, January 23, 2012

“A Trivial Matter for the Country”: Huanqiu Shibao wishes Yu Jie “Good Luck”

[…] It may not be the government’s desire to provide these freedoms, but the overall facts are taking shape: it is inevitable that the Internet will bring about open speech for China.

But there is another group, and there’s not many of them, and one could even say there’s very few of them. The books filled with their keenly felt opinions cannot be published in China, and what they say on the Internet is constantly being deleted. There’s also a certain number of others who feel restricted after having experienced the freedom of the outside world. They adopt a hostile attitude towards today’s China, and because of this they have to pay a certain personal price. They don’t deny that they are “antagonistic,” and they demand to the right to remain antagonistic without restriction, and for Chinese law to create a “special zone” for them. But the answer they receive is “no.” […]

[…..] 但还有一个小群体,他们人数不多,甚至可以说很少。他们痛感想写的书在中国出版不了,想在互联网上说的话总被删掉。甚至有数得过来的个别人,与外界接触的 自由也受到限制。他们对中国现行体制采取了完全敌对的态度,并因此付出了个人人生的一定代价。他们对“敌对”不予否认,而且他们要求有保持敌对而不受任何 限制的权利,中国法律专为他们设一个“特区”。但他们得到的回答是“不”。 […..]

Translation up to here by China Digital Times

Following paragraphs (my translation – may contain errors):

These [average internet users on the one hand, and the dissidents on the other] are two completely different groups. The former are the main part of modern China, with differing opinions, some doing fine, some full of complaints, but all of them following the development of this country, and moving forward together. For the latter, opposing political power has become their own “occupation”. They believe that this “occupation” will, in the course of China’s social transformation and the Western world’s support, become more and more promising, and they are mentally unprepared for setbacks.


Once things become a bit difficult, their moods become suppressed, and not too serious restrictions depress them. For example, they can’t see that their environment has become much more relaxed, compared to what they would have had to face some years earlier. Although there have been ups and downs in the situations of “dissidents” in China, their environment has generally become much more tolerant of them. They lose optimism too easily, become dissatisfied too easily, use extreme language to vent their solitariness, and to attract attention.


They rid themselves of their roots, see their individual extreme moods and mistaken illusions as a general Chinese mood, try to force political ideals, copied from Western books, onto Chinese society, and think of themselves as those who represent Chinese society’s standpoint. But actually, they are completely outdated.


Just look at how many legal channels there are in China now, to express discontent! While they became restricted, many new opinion leaders have emerged. Sharp ideas have emerged within public opinion, many of which those “old opinion leaders” neither understand, nor would they know how to discuss them. They are completely out.


One important reason for Yu Jie and others to leave is that they have been marginalized in China’s public opinion. They may believe that government restrictions caused this marginalization. That may be one of the reasons. But if they provided Chinese social opinion with vitality, they wouldn’t fade away as rapidly and thoroughly  as they are.


China is in the greatest development for at least two centuries. This basic fact and trend is above judgment, and it is obvious that some people have been completely blinded by extreme thought and depression. That is a pity for Chinese society, and even more so for themselves. We hope sincerely that the new environment he “left” for will invigorate him. It’s a trivial matter for the country, but not for him as an individual. We wish him luck.


Reactions in the commenter thread appear to be mixed: some commenters add another “American slave” to their counts, or agree with the author that “America can’t be copied”, while others suggest that what Yu Jie actually said should be published, to be judged by the public. More general grievances are aired, too, about money earned by the people’s blood and sweat being squandered by officials who are “more evil than the Japanese devils”.


Related Posts: Yu Jie

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night: Soft Power Starts at Home

The following are an unofficial paper (本站内容未经许可) by a Soft-Power study group at Beijing University (北京大学软实力课题组), published by Renmin Wang (People’s Daily website) on September 16, 2009).

Links within blockquotes added during translation. Main Link:

Translated off the reel, and posted right away – if you see inconsistencies or mistakes in the following post, let me know, and we can take another look at the original.

Low Cultural Development, Lacking Propagation Abroad (文化发展水平低,对外传播不足)

Owing to the low starting point of China’s cultural development, even though it is currently pushed ahead at a faster pace, its attractiveness is still extremely limited.


When it comes to languages, China shows a deficit in its exchange with the West. In 2003, Gordon Brown, Britain’s chancellor of the exchequer at the time, said that while Britain imported electric household appliances, textiles, and other goods from China, this could be balanced with the English language. The value of English teaching as an export item has risen from 6.5 billion British Pounds to 103  10.3 billion [update: within five years], or about one per cent of Britain’s GDP. As for Britain, it is evident that Chinese language education is hardly worth mentioning. Not only can’t it be compared with its exports of goods, but there is no need to talk about it competing with the Export of British English.


As for higher education, the quality of Chinese universities is far behind America’s. There is no Chinese university which makes it into the top ranks of global higher education. Even students from Tsinghua University as an institution of higher learning go to American universities as overseas students, and when American universities make their annual rounds through China to present themselves, they are swarmed with visitors.


As for academic research, no Chinese national within China has won a Nobel Prize today. As the ministry of education’s social-sciences director Yuan Zhengguo (袁振国) pointed out, every year, nearly 20,000 books on philosophy and social sciences and 200,000 papers are published, but only few of them can be introduced to a foreign readership. For many years, our trade in copyrights has run deficits; and exports in this regard only amount to ten per cent of imports. Besides, the major share of these exports is about copyrights concerning gardening and forestry, architecture (or construction), food, textiles, vintage, etc. Our values, culture, philosophical and social-science ideas, thoughts and concepts are hardly exported at all. Books are mainly exported to some other Asian countries and to the Chinese regions of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, European and American exports outperform China’s by more than 100 to 1. China, the country of origin of a more than 5,000-years-old civilization, only exports television sets, but no thoughts and concepts, and it’s no wonder that people say that China is a “hardware factory”.


When it comes to the performing arts, the situation isn’t too different. From 1999 to 2002, 285 Russian artistic groups came to China to perform here, but only 30 Chinese groups went to Russia to perform – i. e. about one tenth of the Russian number. Moreover, Chinese performances abroad have long been in the low-price segment. As many performances abroad are controlled by foreign managements, and for the lack of presentable brands [on our part], all China has provided over many years is cheap labor. In sharp contrast, the “Three Tenors”, during their performances in China, made sales of hundreds of thousands of US-dollars; European and American four big musicals1) and the world’s ten big orchestras etc. sell top-price tickets at 5,000 Yuan RMB, and earn huge scales of money. By comparison, China, when it depends on its cultural attractiveness to create economic value, is seriously weakened.


The soft-culture working group deplores that in the field of movies, in shaping musical idols, etc., China even lags behind South Korea and Japan, and that hardly anyone could name a famous or prominent Chinese writer.

In March 2009, chief state councillor Wen Jiabao emphasized the need to have an animated-cartoon industry (动漫产业) of our own: “Sometimes, I find that my grandson likes cartoons, but if animated or not, it’s always someting by Altman (奥特曼)2).



In September 2006, the British Foreign Policy Center released a study with numbers collected from a Chinese national “brands” survey. They came to two conclusions: Firstly, despite the attention China got from other countries, its brands were weak, this country wasn’t understood abroad, and secondly, the views Chinese people held of themselves, and of other nations elsewhere in the world respectively, widely differed from each other.


On April 5, 2006, Singapore’s United Morning News (联合早报) wrote in an article titled “China is looking for a new development concept”:
While China grows rapidly in terms of material power, its development of cultural attractiveness or soft power3) hasn’t kept up. (…) A cultural renaissance is an essential condition for turning the dream of a strong country into reality. Without strong cultural power, there will be no great comprehensive national strength. (…) Cultural invigoration is a fundamental [element] in building China’s strategic concept.


In 2007, 中评社4) published an article on the international position of China’s culture, and came to a rather comprehensive assessment:
There is no way to suggest that China’s cultural global influence were great. Compared with America’s culture, China’s, in a global context, is insufficient in many ways. Firstly, it hasn’t become a popular culture within the global society. Secondly, it hasn’t turned into a culture of corresponding influence. And thirdly, it hasn’t turned into a culture that would drive global economic development.


Lack of Core Values (核心价值观缺失)

During thirty years of reform and opening up, China has been in an era of fastest-developing social transformation, in which society’s traditional value foundations disappeared quickly. At the same time, all kinds of cultures and concepts, good or jumbled, emerged and gradually entered peoples’ lives and minds. By them, people were knowingly or unknowingly influenced. In such a clash between social foundations and new cultures, the absence of core values became evident.


Beijing University professor Pan Wei believes that lacking core social values are one of the main problems in China’s reality, and that if China wants to rise, this can’t happen without the rebuilding of core values. Humanities and social science associate professor Kuang Xinnian of Tsinghua University also points out that since the 1990s, Chinese social values were lost, that their significance disappeared, and, to use Dong Li’s words, went into a state of nervous breakdown. Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ sociologist, playwright, and the “International Social Science Journal’s” Chinese edition’s deputy chief-editor Huang Jisu believes that Chinese society’s polarization had led to social upheaval and the collapse of national virtues.


During the annual meetings of the National People’s Congress and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in 2007, the NPC delegates and CPPCC members paid close attention to the issue as to how the Chinese people had gone astray in terms of core values, and voices calling for “intensifying the establishment of a system of core value system” were once again raised. Delegates and members contributed ideas and exerted efforts, aspiring for building value orientation which would have Chinese characteristics and with which the Chinese people would universally identify, thus make social forces coherent, promote social harmony, and the building of the nation. At the 17th party congress, secretary-general Hu Jintao put forward that the need to build a “socialist core value system” was actually a tactful acknowledgment of China’s social core value issues.


The Cultural Management System’s and Ability’s Backwardness (文化管理体制与能力落后)

In China’s transition from a planned to a market economy, reform of the cultural management system is an important aspect. Given that change takes time, the goals can’t be reached in one step, and therefore, even as the government is working hard on deepening the cultural management system’s reform and even as it is making great achievements, the traditional planning systems do still exist to some extent, and cultural managers can’t fully adapt to the new type of cultural management yet. Therefore, China’s cultural productivity can’t be fully released at once, the needs in the people’s cultural life can’t be fully satisfied, and China’s international cultural competitiveness remains rather weak. Especially when it comes to cultural exports, government guidance constitutes two kinds of harm to China’s cultural attractiveness abroad: on the one hand, it limits China’s cultural productivity, and on the other hand, too much government involvement causes misgivings, concerns and antipathy within the international community. They believe that China’s cultural exports, because of the government being a factor, has political aims, and should therefore be handled with caution. Foreign Affairs University president Wu Jianmin  therefore says:


The enhancement of China’s soft power, and the promotion of Chinese culture heading to the world, must not be a campaign.5) If the significance of propaganda becomes too strong, it can easily evoke the other side’s suspicions and resentment. This would exactly go against the fundamental characteristics of soft power. The promotion of Chinese culture going into the world should resemble the way Du Fu described in his “Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night”:

It drifts in on the wind, steals in by night,
Its fine drops drench, yet make no sound at all.

This is the best and most effective way.


Therefore, to increase our country’s cultural productivity, to broaden our country’s culture’s international influence, reform of our cultural system must be carried forward in a firm, rapid, and dependable manner.


The Political and Economic System is not Perfect (政治与经济制度不够完善)

Usually, when it comes to developing countries, its system is frequently its weak spot, which is a key reason in its lagging behind. China is no exception. Despite its stable and rapid development, and the system’s contribution can’t be ignored, we also have to acknowledge that no matter if we talk about the political or the economic side, the establishment of a perfect system is still a long way off, and there is still much room for modelling and innovation.


On the political level, China’s large-scale corruption and frequent mass incidents illustrate many problems: excessive concentration of power, with democratic centralism often being a mere formality, sometimes to an extent where once the boss has spoken, the decision has been made; power goes without effective checks and balances, administrative power accroaches legislative power, acting as the country’s or region’s highest organ of power, not letting the people’s congresses play their due role; the judiciary’s impartiality is harmed by executive power; power lacks effective supervision, and the building of responsible “sunshine government” still remains a long way to go, etc..


When describing the economic level, the paper re-iterated the transition from a planned to a market economy, and especially the corresponding system’s bureaucratic remnants on the local level. The study group noted that the financial system didn’t meet the needs of China’s economy either, especially when it came to the needs of small and medium-sized enterprises (SME). An appeal to authority was included, too: “It is exactly for this reason that in September 2007, secretary general Hu Jintao explicitly pointed out the need to attach importance to the financial system’s development and perfection.” In their description of the economic aspects, the authors also cited legal uncertainties concerning property, anti-monopoly measures, and, even more than that, administrative monopolies (行政垄断). Neither cultural differences between China and other countries, nor a lack of united ideological understanding were left out as explanation for a less-than-satisfying legal situation, and inadequate leaning on foreign legal experience was also mentioned as an explanation. But the next line seems to chime in with statements made by state chief councillor Wen Jiabao’s statements two years ago:

Therefore, as a conservative informal system can only look forward to the official system’s innovative lead into the direction of development, the absence of such an official system in turn becomes a particularly serious problem.


The “Chinese model” had led to nearly thirty years of rapid economic growth, the study group wrote, but had at the same time created problems:

  • the income gaps (between industries, i. e. particularly farming and industries, but also regionally), and polarization. Of course, the measures taken by the fifth generation of leadership had achieved some success (第五代领导人上台以来,坚定不移的采取缩小收入差距的政策措施,目前已取得一定的成效)
  • environmental pollution and a crisis in terms of resources
  • Inadequate social security [or insurance], with undesirable constraints on the building of a harmonious society
  • protection of the public’s, or the masses’, rights.
  • corruption (with a reference to Tianjin party secretary Zhang Gaoli (张高丽), who had described corruption prevention as a matter of life of death for the party.

It is only here that the paper comes back to international issues, and, concerning economic issues, showing a more defiant attitude than in its previous reference, about soft power and propaganda (including the Du Fu quote):

No matter how the international community understands the Chinese model, and no matter what their attitude towards this model is, China’s development pattern needs to be adjusted. In the face of the international economic crisis, these adjustment become only more urgent. What earned the Chinese model general acknowledgment, and the characteristics which earned it the admiration6): strong government leadership, should be moderately extenuated. This is something clear-headed political leaders must recognize. In fact, China’s leaders have understood that the “Chinese model” is still developing.


In October 2003, the sixteenth central committee’s third plenary session put forward the concept of scientific development. If conscientiously carried out, it will become a cornerstone in the CCP’s lawful political power. Therefore, it will be a new source of the party’s and even China’s soft power.


The Limits of Diplomacy (外交上的局限)

Over the years, Chinese diplomacy has matured and made huge achievements. This is something no clear-sighted person will deny. But to improve the level of our country’s diplomacy further and to safeguard our national interests still better, there will be a continued need to examine our diplomacy comprehensively, carefully, and thoroughly, identify the shortcomings within, and put it to a still higher level.


Our country is guided by Marxist ideology. Historical materialism, and dialectical materialism are not only reflected in our internal development, but also in our diplomatic practice. But given that practice is much more complicated than theory, deviations between practice and theory are hardly avoidable at certain times and in certain situations. When taking a comprehensive look at our diplomatic practice, one will find strong industries but weak culture, the country’s strong international position but also its feeble image, its inherent cultivation but weak external publicity [or propaganda], strong hard power but feeble soft power tendencies which coexist to some extent. For example, international relations depend heavily on economic power. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Africa Research Office’s director He Wenping once said that “when I tell African friends that China remains a developing country, they just begin to laugh”. Their laughter illustrates that in their view, a developing country couldn’t afford undertake the investment and aid China provides in Africa.” In “Charm Offensive – How China’s Soft Power  is Transforming the World”, Joshua Kurlantzick once wrote: “China’s influence comes from its ability to dispense no-questions-asked largesse, and it would decline sharply if China experienced an economic downturn.” Although this opinion is very one-sided, the dependence of our diplomacy on our economic strength does require sufficient attention.


Following the rapid economic development, China’s international position and influence has actually increased rapidly, too. At the same time, the international environment has undergone great changes. Therefore, diplomacy’s domestic and foreign conditions have changed a lot already. In this kind of situation, our country must rethink its diplomatic methods and make adjustments in accordance with the changes in its domestic and foreign environment. Also, to see a continued rise in our country’s international status during the coming years, updates in our leaders’ thoughts about good diplomatic practice in the future are necessary. For example, we may have to re-examine the principles ad positions of our diplomacy, and to fundamentally change our diplomatic strategies.


Citizen Quality and Poor Image (国民素质和形象较差)

Our country’s citizen quality has been a soft spot, impeding its image. Notices in the streets of Paris in Chinese, like “please don’t bawl7), or notices in Chinese in New York, saying “please don’t jump the queue” are a great embarrassment for Chinese people, and uncivilized behavior of tourists make into the headlines in New York time and again. There are experts who say that “the biggest difference between China and America is in average citizen quality”, and there are other experts who say that “the difference in citizen quality between China and Japan translates into 30 years”. In 2007, the famous travelling website Expedia interviewed 15,000 persons from the European hotel and restaurant industry, and did a rating survey of tourists from different countries. Chinese ranked as the third-worst, after the  French and the Indians. Former Beijing mayor Wang Qishan (王岐山) admitted frankly his greatest fear – that during the 2008 Olympic Games, with five billion people worldwide looking on, Beijing’s citizen’s cultural quality would not pass the test.


A country’s culture is the capital the country can apply abroad (外化), plus, perhaps, the traditional nature of cultural products, just as when people talk about Chinese culture, they frequently refer to traditional culture, which is possibly a greater distance to reality. In contrast, citizen quality is a country’s domestic capital, which is close to reality. Here, having a grasp [or clear idea] of that country’s government’s and people’s behavior, there are more significant [material] you can take into consideration, and which warrants closer attention. In this sense, and in the context of building our country’s soft power, improving citizen quality is no less important than the significance of cultural dissemination. Our country’s tendencies in citizen quality influence the level of our country’s soft power, and an important part of building its soft power.


Lack of Influential NGOs and Individuals (缺少有影响力的民间组织和个人)

From the perspective of building soft power, non-governmental organizations, or social [societal] organizations, NGOs, as well as individuals with strong influence within society (all to be referred to as NGOs hereafter) play a dual role.


On the one hand, NGOs are important as they assist governments in solving social problems. In the wake of social development, issues of humankind’s sustainable development can’t be  solved by merely depending on government and the market, and NGOs are what it takes to make up for government and market insufficiencies. NGOs are also seen as “pressure reduction valves” for a government, and a “balancer” for public opinion, plus a spiritual function which shouldn’t be ignored either. Therefore, NGOs can help governments to solve social problems, thus eliminating society’s dissatisfaction with government. In this sense, NGOs obviously increase governments’ legitimacy and cohesion within society, and are therefore positive factors in increasing domestic soft power.


On the other hand, NGOs have some kind of particular advantage, compared with government: objective neutrality. In general, a government is a representative of a country’s interests, but at times, it is also a representative of self-interest. Words and deeds of a government are therefore always suspected of acting out of interest requirements, which marks an inherent disadvantage. So in a real sense, NGOs have a stronger objective neutrality, and in a certain sense, this is the basis of certain NGOs’ coming into life. Therefore, no matter if you face domestic or international society, NGOs are more likely to earn trust, and information they provide is more persuasive.


Although NGOs have these important social and political roles to play, it is also known to all that our country lacks such organizations, and there is no need to list statistics. The main source for this situation is that the government is inclined to take some kind of politicized view on the development of NGOs, and maintains some kind of vigilant attitude towards them.


To build a truly harmonious society, and to increase our country’s international influence, our country’s government must change its attitude towards NGOs, eliminate inappropriate sensitivities towards NGOs, and create room for their development by adopting tolerant8)  policies on them.




1) I’m not familiar with the big global musicals, but according to Baike.Baidu, Andrew Lloyd Webber‘s “Cats” and “the Phantom of the Opera” would be among the four.
2) Just as with musicals, I don’t know a great deal about cartoons. But Wen’s alleged quote about Altman or 奥特曼 seems to refer to Robert Altman, although I’m not sure if he made animated movies, or rather turned an animated movie into a musical. (Maybe this was part of Wen’s joke.)
3) the Chinese term used here is 软力量 (ruǎn lìliàng), which can be translated as “soft power”. However, it isn’t the term normally used when Chinese academics refer to Joseph Nye‘s soft power concept these days – that would be 软实力 (ruǎn shílì).
4) 中评社 seems to refer to ChinaReviewNews.
5) There may be other translations for 不能搞运动, too, and these paragraphs should be looked at closely to decide if my translation is adequate. It should also be remembered that this, even though published on the People’s Daily’s (Net) theory pages, this is both an “inofficial” document, and, I believe, one that has since been superseded by the CCP central committee’s “cultural document”.
6) or envy – 羡慕, but I seem to understand that this is not necessarily a negative expression in Chinese.
7) “请勿喧哗” – another translation could be “noisy”.
8) another translation for 宽容 would be tolerant.



» The Center Forever, March 13, 2011
» Confucianism and Modernity, May 30, 2009


Friday, January 20, 2012

premature publication

key-combination problem: once again, a premature publication. Get used to it; I haven’t been able to identify that unfortunate combination yet.

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