Archive for February, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012

Zhao Qizheng (2009): Enhancing Zhou Enlai’s Convivial Diplomacy

Actual title: “From People-to-People Diplomacy to Public Diplomacy” (从民间外交到公共外交)1)

Author: Zhao Qizheng (赵启正), member of the 10th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, director of the CPPCCs foreign affairs committee, and director at the Peoples Univerity (aka Renmin University) School of Journalism and Communication (中国人民大学新闻学院).

Main Link:

Published by Xinhua (Beijing), October 9, 2009.

Since new China was born sixty years ago, with increasingly growing prosperity and strength, she has moved from the margins to the center of the global stage. In the great course of going global, the splendid results and high standard of our country’s diplomats have also made our country’s people very proud.


An important characteristic of China’s diplomacy is that government diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy complement each other. Once new China had been established, government diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy came into operation almost simultaneously. In 1957, chief state councillor Zhou Enlai defined China’s defined the entirety of China’s diplomacy: “China’s diplomacy consists of official (官方的), semi-official (半官方的), and people-to-people (民间的) diplomacy”. Our country’s people-to-people diplomacy has played an irreplacable role in every historical period, and continues to make exceptional contributions.


[Description of international forums – such as the World Economic Forum or Bo’ao Forum – as occasions where officials and non-official delegates meet.]


Public diplomacy (公共外交), also translated as 公众外交, mainly comprises government, social elites’2), and the general public, among which the government guides, the elites’ are the core, and the general public is the basis. […] Participation in public diplomacy from all kinds of perspectives expresses ones country’s situation and find out about the other side’s points of view. Through public diplomacy, there can be broader, more direct encounters with foreign publics, and ones own country’s cultural attractiveness and political influence can be strengthened, the international environment of public opinion be improved, the country’s interests be protected, and the real image of the country be expressed.

公共外交(public diplomacy,又译作公众外交)的行为主体包括政府、社会精英和普通公众三个方面,其中政府是主导,社会精英是中坚,普通公众是基础。(…) 参与公共外交的各方从各种角度表达本国国情和了解对方的有关观点。通过公共外交,可以更直接、更广泛地面对外国公众,从而能更有效地增强本国的文化吸引力和政治影响力,改善国际舆论环境,维护国家的利益,表达本国的真实形象。

Today, the Chinese people and the people of all countries are interrelated in innumerable ways. Twelve million people annually leave the country (and 46 million cross borders), and 24 million foreigners a year come to China3). Chinese people are becoming citizens of the world, added more possibilities for the development of our public diplomacy, strengthened citizens’ sense of responsibility for the protection of the country’s legitimate interests, and for making contributions to global harmony. China must strengthen the right to have her say internationally, through public diplomacy.


The world must understand China correctly; it must not count on the hope that Western media could some day correctly and objectively report about China, let alone count on their own initiative to fill the ideological gaps left behind by history. To introduce China’s real situation, including its cultural spirit, its socialism with Chinese characteristics, its domestic and foreign policies etc. to the outside world, we must first depend on the role of our own citizens’ communication skills. China’s public diplomacy is exactly an important method of strengthening these kinds of skills.

要让世界正确认识中国,不能指望于西方媒体某一天能基本公正客观地报道中国,更不能指望于他们主动填补历史遗留的意识形态鸿沟。把 中国的真实情况,包括中国文化精神,中国特色的社会主义,中国的内外政策等等介绍出去,首先在于发挥中国人自己的国际沟通能力。中国的公共外交正是增强这种能力的重要方式。

In its exchanges with other countries, China promotes harmony, kindness, and conviviality. “Peace” is China’s cultural characteristic. It’s the effect of drifting on the wind, stealing in by the night; its fine drops drench, yet make no sound at all.4)


Chinese citizens must strengthen their awareness and consciousness of public diplomacy, which is a sense of responsibility, and an expression of patriotic feelings. We need the essential skills of “knowing the state of our country, and knowing the outside world” to arrive at a high level of public diplomacy. Through exchange with the outside world, we aren’t only in a position to speak, but to listen. Also, in such exchanges, by promoting our interlocutors’ correct understanding of our country’ situation and policies, we can also rather directly gain information and thoughts as resources which we can provide for reference.

中国国民要进一步提升公共外交的自觉意识,它既是一种责任感,也是爱国情怀的表现。我们要有“内知国情,外知世界”的基本功,才能 达到高水平的公共外交。对外交往中,我们不但要会说,还要会听,还要会交流,在促进对方对我国国情、政策正确理解的同时,还能够较直接地获得对方的信息和 思想,为我们提供可供参考的资源。



1) Given that I’m still in the process of rectifying the names, I’m making no conscious difference between people-to-people and public diplomacy yet, although it seems that people-to-people, in a literal sense, would involve less, if any, officialdom.
The title seems to suggest that public diplomacy would be a refined or expanded concept of Zhou Enlai’s people-to-people diplomacy.

2) This may look like a rather tolerant approach (and was in more likelihood meant that way in 2009, when the article was written, than it is now). When people-to-people diplomacy is discussed, one should bear in mind that the CCP doesn’t only ideologically cultivate the field of its membership, but elites outside the party, too.

3) “Leaving the country” doesn’t necessarily mean to leave for good – it may refer to business trips and tourism, too. I’m not sure about the difference between leaving the country (出国) and crossing the border – the latter may also be translated as “leaving the country”. Crossing the border may also refer to one person exiting the borders several times, or to business and tourist travels to Hong Kong and Macau (plus, probably, Taiwan, which China doesn’t recognize as a sovereign country). There were estimates last year that during the “Golden Week” in October 2011, there would be some 700,000 entries from mainland China into Hong Kong.

4) The same poem was used in another public-diplomacy document, published by Peoples Daily Net less than one month earlier.


» Press Review (an Indian cook), Aug 20, 2011
» Be More Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009
» Tibetan Delegates visit U.S., March 20, 2009


Monday, February 20, 2012

The People’s Candidate

It’s an experiment: the political parties chose the candidate the people actually wantedJoachim Gauck.



» Christian Wulff
» Horst Köhler

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Public Diplomacy: Trying to Pigeonhole Deutsche Welle’s Chinese Department

[John Brown] [correction: Robin Brown], from Leeds, tried to identify four distinct ways of thinking about external communication, and – for the time being, as I understand it – came up with four paradigms (click this link to see all four of them).

This brings several initial thoughts about Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) to my mind, basically in this context. (To be clear, Brown’s post itself is not about Deutsche Welle – it’s about public diplomacy as a concept.)

In an interview in January, former Deutsche Welle editor Wang Fengbo said that

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.

I can’t tell if the Welle works against the majority of potential Chinese listeners, or if the latter simply feel this way about the broadcaster (which I believe many of them do). I’m rather trying to use Mr. Brown’s warfare categories to pigeonhole Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department. Two of his categories or paradigms seem to be particularly relevant here*).

Paradigm #4:

Political Warfare (ideological conflict?).  PD is a matter of defeating an ideological opponent or spreading a set of political values.  One aspect of this paradigm is that PD should be separated from the work of the foreign ministry because the MFA is too wedded to the niceties of diplomacy.

Political warfare, as apparently quoted or indirectly reflected by Wikipedia from On Political War,

[..] is the use of political means to compel an opponent to do one’s will, based on hostile intent. The term political describes the calculated interaction between one’s government and a target audience to include another country’s government, military, and/or general population. Governments use a variety of techniques to coerce certain actions, thereby gaining relative advantage over an opponent. The techniques include propaganda and psychological operations (PSYOP), which service national and military objectives respectively. Propaganda has many aspects, to include words and images, with a hostile and coercive political purpose. Psychological operations are for strategic and tactical military objectives and may be intended for hostile military and civilian populations.

Obviously, there is quite a range between PSYOP and advocating values. But in my view, the question begins to matter if Deutsche Welle’s 2008 critics viewed members of the broadcaster’s Chinese department as enemies – some of them most  probably did. It may also begin to matter if Deutsche Welle itself sees members or former members of the Chinese department as people within the ranks of the enemy.

PSYOP is hardly a fitting label. The Welle’s contacts within the federal government are the Federal Commissioner of Culture and Media when federal funding is the issue, and the foreign office in particular when public diplomacy is the issue – by non-binding, formal and informal intercommunication (“unverbindliche, formelle und informelle Austauschprozesse”) between Deutsche Welle and the “political arena”, particularly the foreign office. Defense or intelligence don’t seem to matter.

Christian Michalek, an author who described these exchanges and contacts between Deutsche Welle on the one hand, and the federal government and federal parliament on the other, also pointed out that Deutsche Welle representatives he interviewed maintained that a journalist’s primary task should be to transmit news, and that a task of generating interest in, appreciation of, or understanding of Germany – as well as presenting the Federal Republic as a role model (Vorbild) – should only come second.

This concept would seem to fit into Brown’s paradigm #3:

Cultural Relations. In this version our external communications are part of an effort that will lead to  a transformation of overall relations with other countries though the development of cultural relations.  The concern is with medium and long term processes. The emphasis on the cultural is also reflected in an argument for the autonomy of this activity from the day to day influence of foreign policy. Within the cultural relations paradigm we can see a continuum between exporting our culture and a genuine mutuality.

From what I know so far, Deutsche Welle would fit into category #4, as far as spreading a set of political values is concerned. Category #3 hardly applies here. There is no genuine mutuality involved, as #3 would prescribe. Genuine mutuality would amount “Being yourself”, as a journalist, in this case, to do what you are best at: covering current affairs, breaking news, and – ideally – investigating news stories further. It would be about being a professional journalist. Covering news, according to surveys quoted by Michalek, is what journalists all over Germany, beyond Deutsche Welle, see as their main task, anyway.

There are many people in China who could relate to that approach, and I agree with Mr. Wang here. Chinese people are interested in reliable coverage, even if its news that puts China’s political system into a very unfavorable light. This doesn’t need to  exclude strongly-worded editorials, but they would need to be kept separate from news coverage. Rather than a “Let-us-introduce-ourselves-we-are-the-good-guys-who-are-telling-you-what’s-wrong-with-you-if-you-disagree-with-us” agency, Deutsche Welle might be seen as people who do their job professionally.

And still, Deutsche Welle would need to be aware of a crucial thing, even in a more ideal situation: there are journalists in China who truly stick their neck out as they are breaking news, and investigating stories. As journalists, rather than activists, they  show much more courage than the average German reporter – and (I suppose) gain much more trust from their readers. When you have courageous papers and reporters in your own country (China), you won’t need to look abroad (Germany) for role models.

But Deutsche Welle could provide information that is strictly censored in China – even the most freedom-minded paper in China can’t circumvent the propaganda departments’ directives and bans if the department insists on them. That’s a gap Deutsche Welle could try to fill.

What the Welle would need for that approach, however, would be a federal parliament whose members backs the broadcaster with their long-term commitment. Genuine quality and corresponding trust can’t be whipped into being under ideological, rather than journalistic guidelines (the Welle appears to be trying the latter approach on its Chinese department). Continuous improvement, rather than political warfare in a wider sense, would require a long-term approach, and long-term funding.



*) Categories 1 and 2 may matter, too – #1 for the Welle’s exchanges with the German political arena, and #2 for the desired and undesired effects the Chinese department’s work may have in the target area. But #3 and #4 seem to constitute alternatives which should be – mostly – mutually exclusive.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

When your Employer Suspects that you are a Communist…

Wang Fengbosee interview – and his colleague Zhu Hong lost their cases at the Higher Labor Court Cologne (Landesarbeitsgericht Köln, LAG) on Monday (February 13). They had sued their [former] employer, Deutsche Welle (Voice of Germany) for  discrimination, a case which the court rejected. There is no written opinion from the court yet, but according to an EPD (Evangelischer Pressedienst) report, the judge viewed the way Deutsche Welle accepted findings of an investigation by Ulrich Wickert in 2009 as evidence in Deutsche Welle’s favor.

Wickert had investigated allegations from Chinese dissidents and German authors, in 2008, that Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department had been “CCP-friendly”, and came to the conclusion that the allegations were completely unfounded. Back then, Deutsche Welle director Erik Bettermann told a Süddeutsche Zeitung reporter who inquired about the report that Wickert’s work had been “great”, but added that he didn’t want to publish Wickert’s report, as he didn’t want “to revive the China debate again”.

The court saw Deutsche Welle support for Wickert’s findings as evidence that there was no discrimination for ideological reasons. According to the plaintiffs, Deutsche Welle rejected the 2008 allegations against the DW Chinese department in public, but put the dissidents’ and other critics’ demands into practice, all the same.

Although there had actually been no allegation from Deutsche Welle that the plaintiffs were “communists”, the judge addressed this issue, saying that once Deutsche Welle, as a public broadcaster (Anstalt des öffentlichen Rechts) suspected an employee of being a communist or a supporter of national socialism, this was a sufficient reason to terminate the employment, EPD quotes the judge. The judgment is appealable.

Anstalt des öffentlichen Rechts is probably best translated as an independent public institution, and as I understand it, the issue may therefore affect employees in many other institutions with public or municipal tasks, too.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Valentine’s Day in Washington, D.C.

Yaxue Cao describes a day in the American capital, with Xi Jinping, Geng He, and – in a way – Chen Guangcheng.



» Human Rights and the Isolation Factor, July 5, 2008


Friday, February 17, 2012

Deutschlandradio Interview with J.-M. Rudolph: can Universities keep Confucius Institutes and Science Apart?

The following is a translation of a Deutschlandradio Kultur interview with Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph – or a translation of most of the interview. The questions were asked by Dieter Kassel, and the interview was published on the Deutschlandradio website on February 6.

Kassel: The Germans have their Goethe Institute, the English have the British Council, and the Spaniards have the Instituto Cervantes. And the Chinese? They have the Confucius Institute. It hasn’t been around for too long; the first one was founded in South Korea, in 2004. But there have been Confucius Institutes in Germany since 2006, and by now, there are thirteen of them. Eleven reside at German universities, and another one at a university of applied science. This practice, [the Confucius Institute’s] cooperation with domestic universities, has led to criticism, everywhere in the world. In Germany, too, some experts are asking what the whole purpose of these Confucius Institutes is. Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph is a sinologist, he is a college lecturer at the University of Ludwigshafen’s East Asia Institute, and joins us on the line from Frankfurt/Main. Hello, Mr. Rudolph!

Rudolph: Hello, Mr. Kassel!

Kassel: This comparison, that the Confucius Institute in China is exactly the same thing, as the Goethe Institute is within Germany’s foreign- and cultural policy – is that an appropriate comparison?

Rudolph: It is not. When you are referring to the Chinese and to the Germans, one needs to ask who is standing behind it. After all, it isn’t the 1.3 billion Chinese people or 80 million Germans who operate them. The Goethe Institutes are state-run institutes, paid for by the foreign office, with tax money. The German Bundestag’s budget committee decides about the funding, and everyone here in this country can scrutinize that, and find out what’s going on there, and the employees abroad are appointed after an invitation to apply.

That’s completely different when it comes to the Confucius Institutes. In the People’s Republic of China, there’s a state, too, but there is also someone who rules that state, the Communist Party of China, who  confirm that on their website: we are the only governing party here. And behind the Confucius Institutes, there are top party departments, up to number five in the hierarchy, who welcomes the institutes’ delegates when they have a conference. The man is also in charge of ideology and propaganda, for suppression of diversity of opinion, and similar issues. Further down, there’s a huge apparat, made up by many departments of the Chinese central government, including those in charge of censorship, and similar ones. You can’t compare that. Nobody can look inside, it’s not transparent. That’s the issue – this is a political party, an interest group, which launches all these institutes here, which can’t be scrutinized by anyone in the People’s Republic of China. That’s a big, crucial difference.

Kassel: Alright, that’s the crucial difference between the two states, of course. The Federal Republic of Germany is a parliamentary democracy, and the People’s Republic of China surely isn’t.

Rudolph: No, in China, you don’t even have elections as you have them in Belorussia, or in Iran. […] If you want to stick to this comparison, one could at best say that both of these institutes are meant to promote the states they come from, for those who finance them. They are meant to create a good atmosphere, put positive things across, etc. That’s what the Chinese say, too. We have the China Cultural Year here in Germany right now, with the Confucius Institutes being involved. The Chinese party leadership talks about exerting soft power abroad, and the Confucius Institutes are to help  with that. This soft power has been defined for this cultural year, too. A new image of the People’s Republic of China is to be conveyed, as open, progressive, tolerant, and bustling.

The issue isn’t that the Confucius Institutes do that – that’s alright, and I have no problem with that. But that German universities, or universities at all, which are meant to be free and independent, are taking part in it, and get paid for it, that’s the issue. The Chinese want to do their propaganda, the Germans, too, for all I care, and let’s see who’s doing better, but that universities and professors provide their reputation to this end, that, in my view, is not acceptable.

Kassel: The university in question say, almost in unison, that they are able to keep these things separate. The Confucius Institutes are located within the universities – you mentioned that, some of them are renowned universities, Freie Universität Berlin, Düsseldorf University, Nürnberg-Erlangen and many others -, but they all say that they keep this separate: we have the Confucius Institute on the campus, there are language courses there, and cultural events, but our sinology institute is still free and independent.

Rudolph: That’s not quite right. The [censoring] scissors are at work in the heads of these people. They know exactly that, if they are sinologists, for example, having cooperations or research, field research in China, they can’t do it the way Chinese, for example, can do it here. They have to cooperate with Chinese bodies. In many cases, these, too, are sub-departments of the central committee. And everyone knows what happens if you attend a talk by the Dalai Lama, for example. There are university boards who don’t go there, and they will tell you why: because they fear that their cooperations will suffer. That, in my view, is not in order. This is where you have to safeguard your independence. After all, that’s how universities came into being in Europe, during the 12th century – as independent institutions.

Kassel: I’d like to quote Michael Lackner, sinologist in Nürnberg-Erlangen, at the sinology department there, and also deputy chairman of the Confucius Institute there. He doesn’t contest what you say. You mentioned the Dalai Lama, and Michael Lackner once said, analogously, that for him, too, the Confucius Institute isn’t the right place to “discuss Tibet, Taiwan, and the Tian An Men massacre”, but added within the same reply that he’s not doing it there, but he’ll walk over to the sinology institute, and  can discuss these things freely there. Don’t you think that this works?

Rudolph: If this is what he does, let’s see what’s going to happen at the Confucius Institute this year, once the material, announced by the Chinese state agency, about Tibet will be published, and which the Confucius will explicitly be provided with, too. That, and other cultural procurement we’ve touched upon. It will all be on display there, it all comes from the People’s Republic of China. Let’s see what they will say about Tibet, or Xinjiang, or other issues. It seems to me that it would be the right time then to discuss one or another of these issues after all. If that should be possible at the institutes, that would certainly spell progress.


Kassel: Has the presence of the Confucius Institutes, and cooperation with them, really led to tangible consequences, in your view? There is this criticism, in the media, that German sinologists don’t get frequently involved in discussions in Germany, about the way the People’s Republic deals with dissidents.

Rudolph: Yes, they contain themselves in this field, that’s true. I’ve seen this myself, when the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Liu Xiaobo, when Liu…

Kassel: … when it went to Liu Xiaobo, yes, …

Rudolph: … and at the time, I was contacted by some of your colleagues, and often, when I said yes, and glad to discuss this with you, there was this interjection: at last someone who’s willing to discuss this! – Yes, you could say that there is some reservation. It is, of course, an issue what German sinology is doing here, as to how they provide information, and it isn’t a real lot, I believe. What annoys me, for example – but I’m not quite innocent there, either -, is that the big China bestsellers in this country have all been written by people who can’t even read a Chinese newspaper. And yes, I’d blame a certain failure of sinology.

Kassel: Then I won’t keep you from getting down to work and write the next bestseller!

Rudolph: Okay!


Deutschlandradio added a disclaimer, saying that interviewees’ statements reflect their own views, and that the station doesn’t adopt such statements as its own.



» He Who Pays the Piper, Jan. 30, 2012
» Come on, Let’s Twist Again, May 26, 2011

Friday, February 17, 2012

Christian Wulff: another President throws in the Towel

If you had asked six- or eight-year-old JR what a chancellor is, he’d probably have said that a chancellor is something like a parson. A parson speaks from a pulpit;  the German word for pulpit is Kanzel, and a chancellor is a Kanzler(in).

I didn’t know then what a chancellor is, and I didn’t really know what a parson is, either – I only knew that our local parson (I had no idea that there were many other parsons, in other places) commanded respect.
If you’d asked me what a president is, I’d have had no idea, anyway.

But if my little parson analogy back then made any sense at all, it would have been in that presidential context. German federal presidents don’t have great powers, but they are, more commonly than “active” politicians, expected to be impeccable. It’s noteworthy that there was probably never a majority of Germans who wanted Christian Wulff to resign, even if he had – as he himself put it time and again – “made mistakes”. A majority didn’t seem to believe that Wulff was telling them the entire  truth about his conduct as Lower Saxony’s former minister-president – but then, many of them didn’t trust the press either. There were reasons to distrust the press – but there is no reason to comdemn the press. Some reporters did their research, and helped to make sure that every public servant remains accountable.

And either way, it’s good that Wulff has resigned. He kept leaving questions open, and a president who is under investigation would be a distracted president at the very least. Wulff’s resignation statement is touching, but not entirely convincing. He had “made mistakes”, he said today, but he had “always been sincere”. That’s hard to agree with, and an apology for his own share in the mess – after all, mistakes spell no admission of guilt – might have been much more impressive.

On the other hand, his troubles with his Lower Saxonian past pose questions about how to find a successor, too. It would be wrong to suggest that every politician were  uncomfortably close to business or buddies – it’s hard to think of Angela Merkel getting into similar straits as Wulff, for example. But Wulff’s successor will, in all likelihood, be another party politician, with knowns and unknowns in his or her records. The good thing about this story is that no candidate can expect to be shielded from his or her own past by the office’s prestige.

The safest bet now might be an emeritus constitutional judge. A certain parson might be a great choice, too – but it’s not easy to tell if he would communicate effectively and successfully with the public, and as we have seen two resignations from the presidential office in less than two years now, this may not be a good time for daring experiments.

Or is it? Is there still much to lose?



» Wulff steps down, Der Spiegel, Febr 17, 2012
» Wulff and his small-minded Fans, December 23, 2012
» Germany’s Special Relationship, Oct 20, 2010
» A Hate-Filled Press Campaign, June 2, 2010
» Politician Wanted, May 31, 2010
» Mass Media, losing Relevance, Febr 26, 2009

Friday, February 17, 2012

“Lonely Figure”: What Does the Syrian Opposition’s Visit to China mean?

China’s veto at the UN security council must have come as a disappointment for Syria’s opposition, wrote Shan Ren (壮图山人的人民博客 – Hermit, or lonely figure, or fortune-teller, living on a mountain), a People’s Daily “blogger”1), in a post on February 9.

But despite the veto, the reception of a Syrian opposition2) delegation by deputy foreign minister Zhai Jun (in charge of Mideastern and African affairs) had still shown China’s flexibility, and had done away with a long-standing misunderstanding (or a misleading neutralism, 中立主义误区):

One could say that China has become smarter by the Libyan experience, and has learned – on the wheel – to steer more flexibly. China’s diplomacy wasn’t forceful enough, and owing to a rigid neutralist position, it didn’t communicate well and in time with Libya’s opposition, even if it didn’t provide any help to Gaddafi, either. This didn’t only put Western countries into a position to make use of early opportunities, and didn’t only leave a positive impression on Libya’s opposition parties, but when interests were distributed in Libya after the war, they firmly kept the initiative in rebuilding the country, and China scored rather poorly, politically. Apart from not gaining the new political power’s protection of the benefits gained during the Gaddafi era, it didn’t also correspondingly lost the right to speak in the reconstruction of Libya, and gained only few benefits.

In the new situation, China paid a high tuition fee for this painful lesson. On the Syrian issue, China adjusted its traditionally predominant method, and showed more initiative and involvement, actively guiding the international community to produce correct plans which are conducive for a solution of the Syrian problem. In its contacts with the Syrian opposition, not only Chinese high-ranking officials communicated with the opposition, but when the Syrian opposition visited China, China broke with convention and sent the deputy foreign minister, to give them a high-level reception. This move made the Syrian opposition feel the importance attached to them by the Chinese side, and helped China to score substantially, in political terms.

Having demonstrated China’s principled stance to the Syrian opposition (of averting harm to the civilian population, among others) had made the opposition hear the real meaning of China’s stance, which was that China neither supported the Syrian authorities’ violent methods, and that China had no doubts about the Syrian opposition’s sincerity. A basis for mutual trust and and communication had thus been built. This created conditions that would allow China to be listened to by future Syrian political power, according to the “blogpost”.


China believes that the Syrian people’s reasonable demands for change and protection of interests should be respected. The Syrian government should conscientiously make its promised reforms happen, and should as soon as possible start a tolerant political process with broad participation, to solve differences and contradictions through dialog and through consultations. Clearly, this is a Chinese attitude which, concerning the Syrian problem, does its best to satisfy the opposition. At least to some extent, China has acknowledged the Syrian opposition’s reasonable and legitimate existence, and also laid out a roadmap for the Syrian authorities, for the realization of a peaceful political solution. If the Syrian authorities can still not fulfill the opposition’s demands, China will have done everything possible, and of course, the opposition has a free hand to work energetically.

Above all, China had made it clear that it was nobody’s protector in Syria, that it wasn’t sedulously opposing anyone there either, but that it was a  friend of the entire Syrian people, writes Shan Ren. Without selfish interests, China protected the Syrian people’s fundamental interests, peace and stability in the Middle East, and the norms of international relations as the starting point and foothold. One can say that China’s voice has clarified its relationship with Syria’s officialdom [another, probably more literal, translation could be “claimed its innocence”, 撇清], and returned to what the international community should see as the core issue, i. e. the protection of the Syrian masses’ interests. However, Syria’s authorities can’t help but acknowledge China’s attitude either, given that it styles itself to represent the entire Syrian people’s interests. In such a way, China has safeguarded a maximum say on the Syrian issue, and effectively protected its existing interests [or benefits] in Syria.


In Shan Ren’s opinion,  it can’t be ruled out that the Libyan’s [sic – should probably be Syrian] opposition group’s visit to China has been a mere formality, or that it was meant to persuade China in taking part in the promotion of regime change. If the visitors haven’t come to some sort of understanding with China, China’s influence on them may still remain without effect. Therefore, one can foresee that China and the opposition came to terms on certain issues, but it would be premature to read a Chinese position on regime change into this. China can’t make such an empty promise.

In future, China will continue to strengthen communications with all Syrian parties involved, to peacefully and appropriately make unremitting efforts to solve the Syrian crisis. There are many variables when it comes to the future direction Syria might take. China respects the Syrian people’s right to make its own decisions, in ways that suit their national conditions best, China opposes interference into Syria’s internal affairs by foreign forces, and this position will not change. This rules out the attempts by Western countries to use military force to the end of regime change, and gives the Syrian parties no reason to disrespect China’s role [or effect] in Syria.

Reportedly, the Syrian opposition delegation, on its China visit, explained its “organization’s”3) position concerning the current Syrian situation, praised the just position China had long upheld in Middle East matters, expressed their desire to strengthen communication with the Chinese side, and their hope that China would play a greater role to promote a path out of the crisis for Syria as soon as possible. This can be seen as an initial result of China’s attitude towards all parties in Syria. As for China’s veto against the security council’s resolution to interfere in Syria, it was the product of the game among great powers, and can’t possibly be regarded by the Syrian opposition as a blow against them.



1) On Ifeng’s  (Phoneix, Hong Kong) website, where the “blog” is also hosted, “Shan Ren”, or Shan Ren’s People’s Blog (壮图山人的人民博客) states her actual name as Zhang Shuigao (张水高 ). Same as some other authors hosted there, she states that she is a patriot with no party affiliations (无党无派,爱国爱家). I’m putting blogger into quotation marks to indicate that all the same, these posts may amount to an official approach to explain Chinese policies to People’s Daily readers. “Shan Ren” covers a wide range of topics, from current affairs back to Chiang Kai-shek. In all likelihood, there will be no official public explanations of the Chinese government’s motivations, beyond stating the usual principles. Frequently, Chinese academics fill such gaps, at home and abroad, and thus play an official or semi-official role. “Bloggers” may do so, too.

2) 反对派 may be translated as opposition or as opposition faction.

3) see this post’s footnote for a more specific description of the visiting delegation.



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