Archive for January 29th, 2012

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: http://yangpeichang.blshe.com/post/9029/755424 - 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.

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