No Communists at Deutsche Welle, Please, but they may Train your Future Teachers

A guest post by Tai De

The Great Instructor

The Great Instructor

In February, Mr. Rudolph, who plays or played a role at Deutsche Welle as a “montitor” for the Chinese department,  tackled a thorny issue of German educational politics, which´- out of budget considerations, possibly  –  draws on the services of of an institution  which is operated by the People’s Republic of China,  a totalitarian state. Tackling this issue is commendable. That Deutschlandradio, in an interview with him, dared to pick this hot potato (hot by German standards, anyway) up at all is commendable, too. But the feeling seems to creep over the listener or reader – even a willing one like Tai De -, that Mr. Rudolph views the matter of universities’ cooperation with China’s Hanban from a position of taste, rather than from a matter-of-fact one. The latter would be a matter of constitutionality. When it comes to Hanban activity at the University of Göttingen, for example, neither Mr. Rudolph nor the moderator  address the issue that prospective Chinese-language teachers for Lower-Saxonian schools are trained by this university, in cooperation with Hanban.

A distinctive German feature needs to be highlighted here. Most of these teachers from Göttingen will not become a municipality’s or private school’s employee, but the federal state’s civil servants, in advanced positions. They will vow to be faithful to the federal state, and to the Federal Republic of Germany. From the Lower Saxonian oath’s wording:

I swear to dedicate my efforts to the people and the federal state, in accordance with the republican, democratic and social constitutional state, that I will preserve and defend the Federal Republic of Germany’s basic law and the Lower Saxonian constitution […].

Ich schwöre, dass ich, getreu den Grundsätzen des republikanischen, demokratischen und sozialen Rechtsstaates, meine Kraft dem Volke und dem Lande widmen, das Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland und die Niedersächsische Verfassung wahren und verteidigen […] werde.

Trained in cooperation with the Communist Party of China.

The four former contributors to or employees of Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department were no civil servants, and in decisions by a labor court,  at least two of them were reportedly put under suspicion of „Communism“.  Some of these former employees weren’t even working full-time. Noone of them had taken an oath.

And there one has to ask Mr. Rudolph why he would work as a monitor at Deutsche Welle – without the law really exacting that kind of toil on him –, and why he would only tastefully sniff when it’s about colleagues from his own league.

Are these constitutional, or are these power issues, Mr. Rudolph?


Previously by Tai De:

» Helmut Schmidt and the Korean War, March 1, 2012


21 Responses to “No Communists at Deutsche Welle, Please, but they may Train your Future Teachers”

  1. Yes, it does not really make sense that someone could be stripped of their job for ‘communism’ if they work in broadcasting, but that universities should openly invite employees of an organisation ultimately run by a communist state, and possibly CCP members, to work with them. Better to junk the whole idea of having this kind of ban – and why didn’t that happen years ago?


  2. In an ideal world, I’d agree with you, FOARP. However, as a lifetime civil servant, I don’t think that a majority of the future teachers will have too many questions about the teaching material the Hanban will provide – because nobody will make it an issue. Sinologists tend to ask very few questions (JR is the only exception I know personally), and Confucius Institutes as compelentary institutions at university will lead to even fewer questions. As a civil servant, I welcome high constitutional standards applied on us. The law should positively state the importance of a positive attitude to our constitution – and a correspondingly negative attitude to totalitarianism.

    If I was just an employee (I know that this looks arrogant, but so what), instead of being a lifetime civil servant, I wouldn’t need to live up to the same standards. Every school student is taught about the constitution, and the values it is based on – but any student may disagree, despite our representations. He or she just should not become a civil servant, in that case.

    The constitution (or basic law) was written by people in the late 1940s, who understood that democracy and liberalism don’t go without saying in this country. As a Briton, you may see this very differently, and I understand that. But I believe that in my country, certain values are still too easily forgotten.


  3. I agree that this cooperation between hangban and the universities should be watched. But there is one fact that is not seen in this discussion. The “Goethe Institut” is copying the Chinese model and opens dozends of “Sprachlernzentren” “language learning centers” in the universities of various Chinese cities. It is a lot cheaper to cooperate with the universities than open an actual culture institute. My point: If the Chinese are open enough to “let us into their system” shouldnt we be less afraid of them. What is the actual fear? That the German students get brainwashed instantly?

    I remember the time when I did my civil service in Germany. We had to attend political courses. And the one I attended was about “anarchy”. The teacher really was convinced that anarchy is the best political system. The most of us thought “Wow. When a democratic society allows anarchists to give political courses, than democracy is a good system.”

    And I tell you something else: Foreign teachers in China who think they can change the mind of Chinese students trying to convince them that our democracy better than socialism and do not come up with very good arguments are as convincing as “5 mao posts”.


  4. How should this cooperation be “watched”, Sockenpuppe? Observation by the constitutional police? They may as well “watch” the ministry of science. And the public won’t watch, either. They will quite probably give a damn, just as they give a damn on what happens at Deutsche Welle. That’s the point of my earlier comment. And that’s why assessing this policy (rather than just counting the money) needs to be the job of the top, if not the courts.

    I wrote before that the basic law in the late 1940s was written by people who understood that democracy and liberalism don’t go without saying in Germany. It is certainly a natural attitude to respect and to like success. Be sure of this: nobody who wants to pick up the “political center” in Germany will defend Cuba’s political system, because Cuba isn’t economically attractive. I don’t know if you remember the revolutionary greetings the Left Party sent to Havana last year – it caused a big volley of criticism from all other political sectors. That was adequate – but that strange transatlantic friendship is much less false-faced than one that mainly loves China for the money it has to offer, for professorships in Germany, for example. Helmut Schmidt once referred to the USSR as “Upper-Volta with nuclear missiles.” Much depends on what you have to offer, not on what you are.

    Kurt Tucholsky praised “Der Untertan” by Heinrich Mann, writing that the novel was “das Herbarium des deutschen Mannes, in seiner Sucht, zu befehlen und zu gehorchen, in seiner Rohheit und in seiner Religiosität, in seiner Erfolgsanbeterei und in seiner namenlosen Zivilfeigheit” (the German man’s herbarium, in his addiction on commanding and obeying, his crudeness and religiousness, his worship of success, and his nameless moral cowardice). Whenever someone is called a “pragmatist” here, I recommend to get back to Tucholsky’s quote and check that pragmatism in this light, before endorsing or rejecting it.

    No, I don’t think students will be immediately brainwashed by the Hanban. Many of them will, however, gradually forget the heritage from the founders of our republic, if there is no active memory of them – something that seems to have become kind of “outdated”. It isn’t only Chinese people who like economic success and enter problematic compromises in its pursuit (their love for it is probably one reason why determined opponents of the CCP within China can be easily locked away, and shouldn’t expect solidarity from their fellow citizens). It is easy to develop an unconditional appetite for success in Germany, too. Nobody should think that Germans are “more ethical” than Chinese people.

    In that regard, I think Mr. Rudolph’s interview with the Deutschlandradio deserves attention.


  5. Germany’s Basic Law is actually a constitutional model for many other countries – unlike our American friends, the Germans have a constitution which is much about how rather than engaging in lofty-sounding rhetoric about why. Personally, though, coming from a legal background I do not think that mere words on paper can prevent people doing as they wish if others do not prevent them.

    The British constitution is as it is because for hundreds of years during which we’ve had more than a few periods of unrest, people basically opposed radical changes and generally favoured gentle reform. The thing the average Brit can be most grateful for is that, in the main, laws introduced due to temporary circumstances have either had specific sell-by dates or have been eventually repealed. Whilst I understand the motivation behind the limitations and requirements for an oath, I cannot think they are suited to the modern era when there is no great threat of subversion.


  6. “How should this cooperation be “watched”, Sockenpuppe?”
    We just should keep an eye on that. Journalists, Blogs, Sinologists. Rudolph made a point stating “He who pays the piper calls the tune.”

    I want to know who says what to whom and who paid for it.

    It is dangerous in many ways to conceal the origins of information. Science, teaching and culture are never free of ideology. A PhD thesis funded by Hans Seidel Stiftung has very often another perspective than one that was funded by Boell Stiftung. A Confucius Institute will not invite the same artists as the Goethe Institute or a German university.

    It should always be clear who pays the piper to make it possible to decode the message. I guess it would be better to separate language courses and culture. Language courses are less dependent on ideology and cooperation would be less complicated.

    But I do not want the Chinese government (as far as I know hanban is a governmental organisation) to have ways to influence the invitation of artist to German university institutions.

    Language Yes. Culture No. And this is pretty much how the Goethe Institute works in China.

    And for the record my view on another issue: China is everything but a totalitarian state. What would be the ideology? Communism? Capitalism? Socialism? The problem of modern China is the lack of any ideology. The only ideology that attracts Chinese these days is Consumerism but I guess you did not mean this by your usage of the word totalitarian state.


  7. The basic law is a result of lessons learnt – back then, that is. One of the reason that careerists have the best opportunities in German politics now (including organisations which would hardly be headed by politicians in America or Britain) is public disenchantment with politics – that leaves room for the few who care. There is no civil society here, as it is in Britain or in Skandinavea – I can compare, with some British relatives in southern England. (They piss me off sometimes, but then, I happily remember my and my classmates little conflicts with the occupying force in our town – we were always gone when the MP came, the Brits weren’t -, and feel fine about Britain, and can accept that it is a much more reliable civil society). The feelings I describe are a reason why a functioning bureaucracy matters.

    I lived one street away from the British officers’ families, and one from a street where several elder people kept complaining on a regular basis about everything “they” had done to “us”, until back in history. The Thirty-Year war included. I hear similar narratives from students sometimes, and I know where it comes from – I don’t blame them.

    An oath mirrors the rules of the game, for a lifetime civil servant. The oath isn’t only a reminder, and it isn’t only backed up by legal duties. It also has some potential to deter people from entry if they do not identify with liberal democracy, and whose narratives revolve around “winning” and “losing”, “perpetrators” and “victims”.

    To quote a very probable German from this thread:

    “My impression is that even if Chinese people work three times harder than Americans, are better educated, earn a lot less and even act ethically, hardly anyone in the western countries will acknowledge their efforts. They will fight the idea and the fact that China is more successful than their country. The impression of their superiority is deeply rooted in the minds of westerners.” –

    The oath may look anachronistic to you, and I can understand that. But even if it may look restrictive, I believe that the public has a right to know that civil servants have to respect all citizens’ individual rights – without excuses.

    Back to work, will be there this evening again.


  8. Two links (among many others, obviously) which I believe should be taken into consideration when discussing totalitarianism –
    an Encyclopedia Britannica entry here, and this book review.

    One can’t get a realistic view of China without having a view of the CCP – modern or not. As far as that’s concerned, I firmly subscribe to the position of the CCP’s international department.


  9. I agree with your observation, Tai De – we may in fact be firing each other up.

    One important point though: making the point that the conduct of one individual or government may depend on the conduct of other individuals or governments is neither unconstitutional, nor does it necessarily amount to negation of individual responsibility when it comes to the crunch.

    All the same, I can’t see that Western or international “envy” of Chinese achievements would be nearly as universal as you stated in the comment quoted by Taide, Sockenpuppe. The recent history of international interaction with China – during the past thirty or fourty years – doesn’t suggest that.

    What would everything else in this line mean: Direct military conflicts are very unlikely but everything else is more than possible? In my view, any subversion with the potential to create a setback or collapse of China’s economy will come with the potential to turn China into a failed state – I don’t think that any Western, Japanese or other government would want to live with the fallout of such an event.

    It’s legitimate to support a CCP argument when it makes sense – but does it here? Is “Western envy” responsible for the travesty that is made of justice in Liu Xiaobo’s, Chen Guangcheng’s and many less prominent cases?

    If the Chinese are open enough to “let us into their system” shouldnt we be less afraid of them.

    My own point in short: I don’t think that the Goethe Institut and the Hanban or Confucius Institute are comparable – for the points Mr. Rudolph made in his interview with Deutschlandradio in particular, and for the Confucius Institutes being outlets of a totalitarian state in general. To keep preaching that totalitarian approaches “will fail anyway” leaves opportunism and anticipatory obedience – not only in China, but in Germany, too – out of the account. I’m not counting on the public at large “watching” this kind of cooperation.

    I subscribe to Taide‘s earlier point here: They will quite probably give a damn, just as they give a damn on what happens at Deutsche Welle.


  10. Back to the topic, please. The topic isn’t CCP propaganda or strengths of British or German law, but the topic is that German states, possibly for saving their own budgets, may be allowing influence from organizations run by Peking, on the training of future civil servants and decisionmakers.

    The “monitor” at the Deutsche Welle makes some mild criticism of these cooperations on the campuses, but seems to have no problem when Chinese employees of Deutsche Welle lose their jobs – without any evidence that there could have been something unconstitutional in their work.

    That’s an unpleasant topic, but that’s no reason to track it.


  11. but that’s no reason NOT to track it.


  12. @justrecently

    “I’m not counting on the public at large “watching” this kind of cooperation.”

    I do. I expect a decent “shitstorm” on this matter in Germany.

    Status quo: “Propaganda-Vehikel der Volksrepublik”, “Im Lotterbett mit China”, “China ante portas!”,_aber_etwas_konfus.html?cid=32167628

    And there is most likely more to come. Come one, does anyone doubt that the “machine gun of democracy” (Spiegel magazine) will miss the opportunity to fire a fussilade. Sooner or later journalists are going to jump on that train and a moderate discussion on that topic becomes impossible.


  13. You call that a shitstorm, or a shitstorm in the making, Sockenpuppe? The three titles you (or mentioned are dated December 19, November 6, and June 30, 2011 – and a first glance across the three suggests that the authors have a point, or several. If you expect Der Spiegel to pick the story up, the guys from Brandstwiete must have become pretty slow. They shouldn’t “miss the opportunity”, though, in my view.

    I’ve merged the referred commenter thread into this one, Tai De. If Mr. Rudolph should begin to correct things published about the story so far, or tell his side of the story here or elsewhere, I’ll devote an extra post to that. But I ‘m not holding my breath for a day when those who attacked the Deutsche Welle Chinese department in 2008, for “not being accountable”, might feel a need to practise some accountability or transparency themselves.


  14. No, this is not a shitstorm, this is still journalism. But if BILD, Spiegel or German televison will cover the story, and sooner or later they will, I am pretty sure that the public debate will mostly be determined by irrational fear.

    “the guys from Brandstwiete must have become pretty slow”

    I am not expecting “der Spiegel” to write anything relevant or new on China. If Jonny Erling would work for them it would be a different story. But I have the strange impression that the most important sources for “Der Spiegel” are western media reports, blogs and the stuff they wrote last year. Yes, they are slow.


  15. One last thought on “appeasement”. Germany’s Economy is profiting a lot from the situation in China. Martin Winterkorn would be crying himself to sleep every night if it were not for the people of a communist country to buy his cars. But with the help of Chinese state owned companies VW is celebrating the best year in history.

    The truth is: Germany is already economically in bed with the communists. And it is not a one night stand. So if we are having sex with them we should probably start talking a lot more about the whole relationship. It is fairly impossible and even less ethical to cooperate economically but refuse a real cultural and political dialog. And if we expect them to listen to us, we should listen to them, too. Politicians and businessman who avoid the dialog completely are doing appeasement. Not the ones who want to talk.

    One example: The forum of SpiegelOnline censored the posts expressing the view that the Olympic Games 2008 should not be boycotted. Some open minded Chinese students who wrote these posts and were censored later wrote letters of complaint to the editors of Der Spiegel, letters that were never answered. They do not believe that anyone in Germany is listening to their opinion. They believe that the situation in Germany is even worse than in China.


  16. Martin Winterkorn would be crying himself to sleep every night if it were not for the people of a communist country to buy his cars.

    I’ll tell you a little story, Sockenpuppe, but I’ll keep it vague. A friend and his wife got busy in Han-Chinese activism in 2008. They love their country, just as I love mine – but they didn’t believe that the activism they took part in would make things better, or that it would make China a better, safer, or more respected country. They participated because they felt they had to, because they believed that their family’s livelihood could be at risk if they didn’t – and because they didn’t feel that the difference it would make if they stayed away would justify the risk. “We don’t like doing it”, he said, “but we can’t see how we can keep our distance to those people. I hope you can understand us”.

    I didn’t feel different about them after our discussion, or if so, I respected them even more, because they understood the game they played along with, but didn’t try to blame people like me, for their convenience, for the sake of escaping their own predicament.

    But friendship is personal. There is no “friendship between nations”, not even between allied nations.

    To suggest that anyone should appreciate totalitarianism because it comes with great business opportunities, or because it would make Chinese people, Martin Winterkorn, or you feel better, isn’t only unethcial. It is also unpractical.

    Feel free to continue commenting, if you like. I’m always curious, and open for arguments. But it is for me to decide if I find your ideas convincing or not – just as it is up to you to judge mine.



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