Archive for June, 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Zhao Qizheng Resigns, part two

About four and a half hours after Ta Kung Pao had reported Zhao Qizheng‘s intention to resign as a member of the CCPPC’s standing committee, and the apparent deletion of similar coverage on many Chinese websites, the news was published on at 18:45 (local time), and seems to remain online there.

Zhao Qizheng had been expected to leave his CCPPC posts next year, with the end of the 11th CPPCC’s term.

The apparent hiccup in China’s online media today – presumably, but not necessarily, in their interaction with the propaganda department, which would be exactly Zhao’s turf from the late 1990s until 2005 -, seems to stem from a reported intention to leave before the 11th CCPPC’s current term expires.

Both Ta Kung Pao and allfinance emphasize remarks Zhao reportedly made in his interview with a Southern Metropolis reporter, that preparing a press conference was coming with more stresses than preparing for a gaokao (university entry examination), and that as an old man, he now wanted to focus on teaching.

To me, the noteworthy thing about the news isn’t that Zhao wants to retire less than a year early, but the way the information apparently came, went, and came back online.



» Zhao Qizheng Resigns, Maybe, June 30, 2012



» Three Chinese paintings,, July 2, 2012


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Zhao Qizheng Resigns (apparently, maybe)

Main Link: Zhao Qizheng resigns from Consultative Conference’s Standing Committee, Ta Kung Pao, June 30

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), has reportedly handed in his resignation from his function as the CPPCC Standing Committee’s member. According to a Southern Metropolis (apparently, quoted as 南都讯 there, but should be the one also known as  南方都市报) report quoted by Hong Kong’s Ta Kung Pao, he told a reporter that “having made up his mind, he said that ‘if they don’t accept my letter of resignation, I will write another one”. [去意已决的赵启正还对记者说:“如果不批准我就再写(辞职信)。”]

Zhao reportedly told the Southern Metropolis reporter in an exclusive interview that his resignation was a necessity, given that he was over age and had to retire (自己“已经超龄,必须退休了”).

Zhao served as the CCP’s propaganda department’s director, and as the State Council’s Information Office’s director, from 1998 to 2005, writes Ta Kung Pao. Also according to Ta Kung Pao, he began his task as the Consultative Conference’s foreign commission director (or chairman), and as the CPPCC’s news spokesman, in March 2008.

Zhao was born in Beijing, in January 1940. Provincial cadres were required to retire aged 65, he reportedly pointed out in the interview with Southern Metropolis.

An entry concerning Zhao’s letter of resignation on a Southern Metropolis Daily blog has apparently been removed, and relating news stories on Sohu‘s and Tenxun‘s websites have apparently been removed, too. The latest information about Zhao on the CPPCC website was published on March 11, during the 4th plenary meeting of 5th Session of 11th CPPCC.

On June 11 June 10, on a forum organized by the Netherlands Institute for International Relations in Beijing, Zhao suggested that some countries didn’t define their China policies correctly, because of not understanding China sufficiently.



» Enhancing Zhou Enlai’s Convivial Diplomacy, Febr 20, 2012 (re 2009)


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Big Fucking Deal: It’s going to be the Economy

“Lexington” (The Economist) had expected a different ruling, two weeks ago, and in what looked like an effort to keep this year’s presidential race moderately suspenseful even if the Supreme Court struck down Obamacare, the author pointed to a potential silver lining for the president:

A poll on June 7th found that 76% of people think that Supreme Court justices are sometimes swayed by their political or personal views, and that only 44% approve of the court’s performance. It used to be by far the most popular branch of government.

People might hesitate to hand the Republicans the White House, the House of Representatives, the Senate, plus the Supreme Court, in the November elections, “Lexington” mused, if the Supreme Court should turn out to be that politicized.

But obviously, the decison today is much better news for the Obama administration  than a silver lining. The decision about Obamacare, about the individual duty to buy healthcare, just as the political direction of the country, has been handed back to the voters. Barack Obama had been voted in, four years ago, with a platform which had included Obamacare (even if very different from what it eventually became two years ago).

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential candidate, announced today that he was going to seek majorities in November that would repeal the law. That, of course, would require a Republican triple-victory – regaining the White House, and taking control of both houses of Congress.

If “Lexington” was surprised this morning, so were most observers. Chief Justice John Roberts

gave so little evidence that he would practice what he had preached, and so much that he would instead undertake an activist agenda with a partisan bent,

The Atlantic‘s James Fallows wrote today, after the ruling.

Chances are that Obamacare is neither as overwhelmingly popular with the American majority as it is with its original and ardent supporters (many of whom may feel that what it finally became is only a watered-down version, and may not be that enthusiastic anymore, anyway), nor as screamingly unpopular as it is with the “tea partisans”.

If not other “big fucking deals” happen, the economy is likely to decide the race for the White House, and possibly decide the fate of Obamacare, too – just by the way, as far as many voters are concerned. If the economic situation or job market should be too gloomy to tolerate in November, the voters won’t ask if their expectations had been realistic – in that case, they will choose Romney – as tugged to the right as he may be.

But the Supreme Court’s ruling this morning was a great deal, all the same. Above all, it shows that “Wasington DC” and “gridlock” aren’t yet synonymical. Things can still get done.


» If Krauthammer had been the Chief Justice, Charles Krauthammer / National Post, June 28, 2012
» First Steps into a Multi-Polar World, Dec 23, 2010
» Unhealthy Individual Health Insurance Market, CFAP, Dec 23, 2008
» Fear and Hope, Nov 5, 2008

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Zhao Lingmin: Confucius Institutes, and the Three Layers of a Country’s Image

Kungfu, Bremen-Hemelingen (archive)

A Kungfu Institute, for starters (Bremen-Hemelingen – archive)

Nanfang People Weekly (南方人物周刊) is one of the papers published by the Nanfang News Media Group, or Southern Media Group. Other well-known papers would be Nanfang Weekend (Southern Weekend (南方周末), or – daily rather than weekly – Nanfang Ribao. The Nanfang / Southern Daily is an organ of the CCP, on Guangdong’s provincial level, according to Baidu Baike. It was founded on October 23, 1949, and was given the role as the provincial party organ in 1955. Also according to Baike, it has been, for seventeen years in a row, the paper with the highest cirulation among all provincial party papers, with 850,000 copies.

When compared with other papers of its kind – and arguably many commercial papers nationwide, too -, the Nanfang papers reflect the “Guangdong way” – a political approach which the Economist, in November last year, referred to as beguilingly open.

But obviously, even this relative editorial independence doesn’t go without saying. Caixin Media, as quoted by David Bandurski of China Media Project, broke news in early May this year that Yang Jian (杨健), an established propaganda cadre, had been appointed party secretary at the Nanfang Media Group. Papers as attractive as Nanfang Daily and its sisters apparently need to be harnessed for the higher good of cultural production, to defend [the public] against the West’s assault on the country’s culture and ideology. If the lively Nanfang family should die in the process (i. e. become more correct in its public opinion guidance), they will have become martyrs.

In China, soft power is not only about nation branding, but nation building as well. Through using soft power narratives, China is encouraging a domestic cultural revitalization attempting to win the hearts and minds of Chinese diaspora communities and promote national cohesion between dominant and minority groups in the country,

Imran Arshad suggested earlier this year. And as the Nanfang Group, from the CCP perspective, may need to do some long-neglected homework in this field anyway, its specially-appointed contributor Zhao Lingmin (赵灵敏) – specially appointed probably because he reportedly lost his official function at Nanfang Chuang, another Nanfang paper, in 2011 -, studied soft-power’s relationship with the Confucius Institutes, in an article published by Nanfang People Weekly on June 1.

Links within the following blockquotes were added during translation – JR
Main Link: Nanfang Renwu Zhoukan, June 1, 2012

Confucius Institutes and Soft Power

June 1, 2012

Soft Power’s “Softness” and Bounteousness, with Hard Sell Blossoming Everywhere, is Inopportune

The article first notes that while a U.S. State-Department notice concerning Confucius-Institute teaching staff’s visa had since been corrected, the controversy centering around the Confucius Institutes was far from over.

On November 21, 2004, China’s first overseas “Confucius Institute” put its store sign up in South Korea. By the end of August, 2011, 353 Confucius Institutes and 473 Confucius Classrooms had been established in various countries – a total of 826. In America alone, there are 81 of them. To carry the work of the Confucius Institutes out even better, the Confucius Institutes headquarters were established in Beijing, in 2006. The “Confucius Institutes” are seen as embodiments of China’s government to promote soft power globally.
2004年11月21日,中国第一所海外“孔子学院”在韩国挂牌。截至2011年8月底,各国已建立353所孔子学院和473个孔子课堂,共计826所。 仅美国就有81所孔子学院。为了更好地运作孔子学院,2006年,孔子学院总部在北京成立。“孔子学院”被视为中国政府向世界推广“软实力”的体现。

Currently, every sixth day will see the birth of a Confucius Institute somewhere on the globe. A German organization which is similar to the Confucius Institute, the Goethe Institute, founded in 1951, currently has 144 institutes, and adds only three more annually, on average. Spain’s Cervantes Institute was founded in 1991, and has only thirty institutes so far, adding only two annually, on average. According to official reports, the foundation of each Confucius Institute costs 500,000 US dollars, and each Confucius Classroom comes at 60,000 US dollars. Mr Xue Yong (薛涌) estimates that a Confucius Institute established in America costs at least several million US dollars. After the Confucius Institutes’ and Classrooms’ establishment, these also need to be operated. The [expected ? – 光] budget for Confucius Institutes reached 1.6 billion in 2008; a number which is likely to have risen since, year by year. According to domestic logic, it would seem as if the tasks of building this or that number of schools had been completed already, and that China’s values had already been transported. But that isn’t necessarily so.

According to the Hanban’s terminology, all Confucius Institutes were founded on foreign universities’ own requests. The procedure is that applications are written to Hanban, that China’s hanban would provide assistance and operation. Therefore, “Confucius Institute” deans are, without exception, foreigners. Most of them are foreign university Sinology faculty directors, or people of similar backgrounds. Isn’t it easy to see why, given their titles as “Confucius Institute deans”, they’d take up the mission of promoting the Chinese language, and spreading Chinese culture? What the director of Düsseldorf’s Confucius Institute, [Hahebao – this should be a German name – JR], says may be indicative: “At the current stage, China amounts to spreading money to the entire globe, and that’s why local universities cooperate with the Confucius Institutes – mainly to get these fundings. After taking the money, they themselves will operate language classes and lectures, etc. Most of them have no long-term educational plan, and nobody seems to be sure what the hanban’s actual goals are.”

A fundamental error lies in just the [Confucius-Institute] and other foreign propaganda activities which spare no expense, believing that China’s current image isn’t satisfactory because the degree of propaganda weren’t sufficient – that therefore, propaganda needed to be intensified, so that when power and influence are great, when the reports are many, and translated into several foreign languages, the image will be good. This is a typically Chinese way of thinking, [but] in Western societies, where information is amply revealed, this won’t work. A country’s image includes three layers: what you say, how you say it, and the gap between what you say and what you do. An insufficient degree of propaganda is the second layer, and would be comparatively easy to correct. The bigger problem is the gap between words and deeds.

According to Joseph Nye, soft power is about inspiration and attractiveness, which means that you “subdue the enemy without fighting”. The “softness” and unsparing expenses of soft power, with Hard Sell Blossoming Everywhere, is Inopportune. America is the strongest country worldwide, in terms of soft power, its global cultural influence reaches everywhere. Many people want to go to America, no matter the cost, no matter the risks. But America has no propaganda department, no Culture Ministry, and certainly no organizations like the Confucius Institutes, to promote its culture and values, but relies on the attractiveness that comes from within American culture, which are automatically chosen by people.

Therefore, things aren’t as simple as to “increase propaganda” in order to increase soft power. What matters more is what is actually propagandized. Without original thought, and mere recitals of some doctrines, the effects will rather probably be counter-productive. Years ago, Margaret Thatcher frankly stated that “China won’t become a superpower, because it doesn’t have that doctrine that could promote China’s power, and weaken the spread of our Western doctrines. China only exports television sets, and no ideas“. This is probably China’s biggest obstacle in raising its soft power and its image.

To a certain degree, China’s citizens will shape its image. Governmental PR and remarks can’t replace citizens’ individual behavior, and won’t be able to shape the image of the individual. A person’s understanding of the outside world is inevitably overgeneralized, and general judgment will come from specific people and issues. Therefore, every individual’s interaction with the outside world participates in shaping our national image. When you come to a country and find fresh air, an intact environment, and amicable people, these perceptions will create a good impression of that country [in your mind]. It may take nine travel groups who leave a good impression, to correct the bad impression left by one travel group. In that sense, the fundamentals for improving an image abroad are within the country.



» Soft Power starts at Home, Jan 21, 2012


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Foreigners, and the Social Insurance System in China

There has been some talk about foreigners having to contribute to China’s social insurance system in recent months, but the proof of the pudding is the eating. It seems that by now, at least some local governments are beginning to implement mandatory contributions.

Matthew Stinson, in a post for Rectified Name, refers to Shanghai and Suzhou as places where contributions, at least by and for foreigners working at training centers, are now being paid. Tianjin, where Stinson lives, seems to become another such place. Stinson discusses both some of the arrangement’s background and details, and comes up with some thoughts about how it may, or may not, work.

Income distribution and social insurance have become prominent issues in China, not least as the country is facing challenging demographic trends. Part of deepening reform and opening further, as described by the CCP central committee’s cultural decision, is the promotion of cultural units’ human resources and income allocation, and social insurance systems’ reform. And allocation and social insurance issues go far beyond “culture” (if one wants to reject the idea that to the CCP, everything is “cultural”. Social insurance is a regular item on the State Council’s agenda (at least according to its published records), and social management (社会管理), supported not least by an improved identity card system (身份证制度), may help governments and Yang Rui to sort out the illegally uninsured “foreign trash”.

For sure, from a mere fiscal point of view, mandatory social insurance fees paid by foreigners, despite the drawbacks mentioned on Rectified Name, would provide some badly needed means to turn rural social insurance funding into something substantial.

That said, if social insurance fees were paid by migrant workers – and their bosses, obviously -, it would spell improvement on a very different scale. In such a (unrealistic) case, Li Keqiang, China’s likely chief state councillor, could issue problem-solving instructions Wen Jiabao, even at his best, could only dream of.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Industrial Relations: RFE/RL Job Contracts under Criticism

Prague Daily Monitor, via Kim Andrew Elliot – ČTK, 5 June 2012

Prague, June 4 (CTK) – The Czech Helsinki Committee (CHV) criticised Monday the procedure by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that, it says, gives job seekers employment contracts with a disadvantageous clause, and Czech courts do not effectively protect the affected employees.

The CHV told CTK Monday that two former employees – Snjezana Pelivan of Croatia and Anna Karapetyan of Armenia have turned to it.


More there, with updates from June 13 and June 15 on Kim Elliot’s website.

Deutsche Welle‘s Chinese department had some industrial-relations issues of its own in recent years.

The cases in Prague (not from RFE/RL‘s Chinese, but their Croatian and Armenian departments, apparenty) are reportedly being dealt with by the Czech Supreme Court.

According to a report by the Croatian Times, Snjezana Pelivan , formerly employed by RFE/RL’s Croatian service, is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

I’ll try to get updates about both the RFE/RL, and the cases of Wang Fengbo and Zhu Hong (formerly Deutsche Welle) this or next week.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The “Great Leap Forward”, Frank Dikötter, and a Blogging Break

It’s time for a few days’ break from blogging, unless Jiang Zemin passes away, Yang Rui gets uncovered as a spy for the CIA, or if similarly sensational news should break. I will be back to blogging by this coming Friday.

Less than an hour before midnight (daylight saving time), June 23, 2012

Less than an hour before midnight (daylight saving time), June 23, 2012

This season involves a lot of work, and what remains of the day should be devoted to family, friends, and contemplation of the midnight sun. It’s not quite that in this region, but the northern fringes of the skies never turn completely dark. You may not see the road at certain times of the night, but you’ll see the light between the treetops.

* * * * * * * *

I have some reservations when it comes to the work of sinologists like Frank Dikötter or Thomas Weyrauch. Weyrauch is German, but when I read one of his books (and I’ve read only one by Weyrauch), it seemed to be a sample of how – old-school – Chinese Republicans abroad are ticking these days.

A lot has been made of the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation‘s co-sponsorship of Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine project. It wasn’t serious academics who took issue, as far as I can see, but many fenqings and CCP apologists did. After all, only the victorious must author China’s history. That’s tradition. At court, the good historian praises the powers that be, and denounces defeated previous dynasties. (It may be unthinkable for CCP fans that a funding organization may not necessarily determine the outcome of a project.)

Richard (The Peking Duck) embedded a documentary movie about the Great Leap Forward in one of his most recent posts. It seems to base its message basically on the takes of two academics, Yang Jisheng (杨继绳) and Frank Dikötter (and exclusively on Dikötter when it comes to statistics):

It was the Great Leap Forward. But the crazy dream became a nightmare, and dragged 650 million Chinese people into hell. The country sank into economic chaos, which caused an unprecedented famine. The terrible death toll was around 45 million.

People like Dikötter – and Weyrauch – play an important role, as they question a narrative or historiography which is to an unreasonable extent influenced by the CCP, even among foreign sinologists. But they, in turn, need to be questioned, too. A good article or review to that end, it seems to me, is a piece written by Cormac Ó Gráda, in 2011, on Dikötter’s Mao’s Great Famine.

A commenter thread on the Peking Duck‘s post starts here. For the dynamics of such threads as I see them, I would recommend to use such threads as some kind of quarry. Different commenters will gain from different chains of discussion within; and the Peking Duck’s threads are famous for starting with lively debates, and descending into dogged exchanges of more or less argumentative broadsides after the first one, two, or three dozens of comments.

In their own way, they are samples of what an anonymous or semi-anonymous discourse (as the late Mark Anthony Jones might have termed it) between CCP critics, apologists and the critics’ angry critics will usually look like.



» Mao’s Great Famine, documentary movie synopsis, 2011


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Beijing’s Foreign Affairs: Don’t Mislead your Public Opinion – Cement it

The following is a random choice, mostly from the Chinese foreign ministry’s (FMPRC) website. Emphasis within blockquotes by JR.

1) (Then) FMPRC spokesman Liu Jianchao‘s comments on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Annual Report (2007):

Turning a blind eye to China’s political, economic and social progress and achievements in other fields, the Commission clings to its biased position, grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs and vilifies China. Their attempt to mislead public opinion and set obstacles for China-US extensive cooperation will lead nowhere.

2) Foreign minister Yang Jiechi on public diplomacy with Chinese characteristics, February 17, 2011:

Through public diplomacy, the government tries to influence public opinion and public opinion in turn affects government policy-making. The third is its incremental process. Due to constant changes in the domestic and international situation, public diplomacy is a long-term, complex effort.

3) FMPRC reporting State Councillor Liu Yandong‘s  remarks on public opinion in China-Russian relations, October 11, 2011:

On a new historical starting point, China expects to join hands with Russia to further tap the potential of the Committee and its subcommittees, improve cooperation mechanisms, develop cooperation programs, expand cooperation areas and raise cooperation level, promote the bilateral cooperation in the fields of education, culture, health, sports, tourism, media, movie and file and between the young people and consolidate the social and public opinion foundation of China-Russia friendship.

4) FMPRC quoting from Chairman Hu Jintao‘s Three-Point Proposal to Vietnam, November 12/13, 2011:

Third, expand cultural exchanges and cement the basis of public opinion for the China-Vietnam friendship.

5) FMPRC reporting Wu Bangguo‘s  remarks on public opinion in China-Vietnam relations, January 2012:

He called on the two sides to continue to consolidate the foundation of public opinion for the development of China-Vietnam relations, and to inject new vitality into parliamentary exchanges.

6) FMPRC reporting Wu Bangguo’s  remarks on public opinion in China-UAE  relations, March 29, 2012:

Both sides should expand exchanges on education, culture and tourism, cement the public opinion basis of long-term friendship and push China-UAE relations to a new level.

7) FMPRC reporting State Councillor Liu Yandong’s  remarks on public opinion in China-British relations, April 16, 2012:

The two countries should transcend the differences in social systems, historical and cultural traditions, and stages of development, eliminate misunderstanding and enhance mutual trust through people-to-people exchanges so that the friendship between China and the UK has a more solid social and public opinion foundation.

8) Regular Foreign Ministry press conference, April 19, 2012 (spokesman Liu Weimin):

Over the past days, some Philippine senior officials misled public opinion by making repeated remarks that the Philippines has sovereignty over the Huangyan Island, which is in disregard of historical facts and legal evidence.

9) Regular Foreign Ministry press conference, May 3, 2012 (spokesman Liu Weimin, reacting to Hillary Clinton‘s statement on Chen Guangcheng):

What the US side should do now is not to continue confusing public opinion or evading or covering up by all means its responsibility for the incident, nor should it continue its interference in China’s internal affairs.

10) Regular Foreign Ministry press conference, May 14, 2012 (spokesman Hong Lei):

Q: Philippine Foreign Secretary del Rosario reportedly said that the Philippines would never agree on China’s demands on the Huangyan Island and diplomatic dialogues between the two sides would at most reach a “temporary agreement” which could not help solve the issue fundamentally. The Philippines asks for a comprehensive resolution of the Huangyan Island issue from political, legal and diplomatic aspects. What is your comment?

A: China’s principled stance on the Huangyan Island issue has been made clear. China demands the Philippines to earnestly respect China’s territorial sovereignty and do not take measures that will escalate and complicate the situation. In particular, diplomatic negotiations should be adhered to in resolving the current situation, rather than continuing to incite public opinion and send contradictory messages.

11) FMPRC reporting Wu Bangguo’s  remarks on public opinion in Chinese-Dutch relations, May 17, 2012:

Third, both sides should further deepen humanities exchanges, implement a new round of MoUs on cultural, education, scientific and technological cooperation, enhance tourism cooperation and build up understanding and friendship between both peoples through colorful and diverse forms of exchange activities so as to cement the public opinion basis of state relations.

12) China Daily: Regular Foreign-Ministry press conference, June 21, 2012:

BEIJING – A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman on Thursday urged the Philippine side to stop making remarks that will instigate the public opinion.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks at a regular press briefing when asked to comment on Philippine President Benigno Aquino’s recent remarks on Huangyan Island.

Aquino said Wednesday that the Philippine Air Force will soon fly over Huangyan Island to check the situation in the area.



» Vietnamese Maritime Law Illegal and Invalid, CNTV, June 22, 2012
» Let’s Talk about War, June 21, 2012