Archive for July 19th, 2012

Thursday, July 19, 2012

“Political Confucianism” and the New York Times: Domestic Audience, Foreign Audience, who Cares (as long as Zhongnanhai listens)

Remarks made by U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton at Government House in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia, on July 9, met with no friendly echo from Beijing. Clinton attended an International Women’s Leadership Forum in the Mongolian capital. Liu Yandong, apparently, didn’t attend.

Gate of New China (Xinhua Gate), Zhongnanhai

Gate of New China, Zhongnanhai: for political concept deliveries, please use the back door. (Wikimedia Commons, click photo for source.)

But Zhong Sheng, an editorialist with People’s Daily, sensed a loss of face, anyway. Three days after Clinton’s speech, he had  sufficiently calmed down to ask questions: “Who gave Americans the right to arrogantly assessing the democracy status of Asian countries?” The editorial warned the U.S. that “preaching human rights and democracy” would marginalize America in Asia.

It’s true: Clinton spoke about democracy. But there seemed to be noone in the place who might have taken offense. Neither Kang Kyung-wha (from South Korea), UN deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, nor Kim Campbell (Canada), nor Maria Leissner (Sweden), who were all present there. And Mongolia’s president, Elbegdorj Tsakhia, told the audience that

Mongolia honors and is firmly committed to human rights, equal application of law for all and an open and inclusive society, which are the fundamental principles of democracy.

People’s Daily might have criticized the Mongolian president just as well. Warnings that Mongolia might marginalize itself (in its geographic position between Russia and China) might actually have sounded somewhat more logical than levelling the admonition at Washington.

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), Sejogo, Wikimedia Commons

Geo-Politics: Shanghai Cooperation Organization (including China and Russia) – Wikimedia Commons (click picture for source)

But then, this would have amounted to bringing it home to the People’s Daily readership that maybe, democracy and human rights weren’t that exotic in Asia after all – and Zhong Sheng’s editorial was targeted at a domestic audience in the first place.

Targeted at a foreign audience, however, and also prompted by Clinton’s remarks, was an op-ed published by the New York Times, on July 10, i. e. one day later. The op-ed’s authors, Jiang Qing (蒋庆) and Daniel A. Bell, referring to Clinton’s speech in Ulaan Baatar, suggested that framing the debate in terms of democracy versus authoritarianism overlooks better possibilities.

It is easy to discard “political” Confucians like Jiang as nutters. After all, even in just one short op-ed, he and Bell manage to raise fundamental questions concerning their own concept without answering them. While eloquent in putting it to the NYT readership that democracy is [..] flawed in practice, they failed to tell their readers how people who represent sacred, historical and cultural legitimacy should actually be chosen.

Chinese readers may know what they meant  – after all, the CCP even defines Olympic torches as sacred -, but the average NYT reader probably isn’t quite that familiarized with sacred things, even as they pop up in the news.

But the NYT’s readers were hardly Jiang’s and Bell’s main target, just as America wasn’t really the main target for People’s Daily’s editorial on democracy and marginalization (see this post’s second paragraph). It simply looks good in Beijing when the New York Times publishes your op-ed, especially when it is in favor of “humane authority”. And if it isn’t logical, it doesn’t really matter, either.

The Lemon Tree of Harmony

Yellow Cat, Black Cat, White Cat – who cares, if only it’s harmonious

A concept of contending schools – striving for the approval of powers that be: local warlords, the gentry, the emperor, or the CCP – has existed long before Confucianism became a state doctrine. And it still stands. Jiang Qing doesn’t need to convince readers in North America, and he doesn’t even need to convince the Chinese “citizens”, or Chinese scholars. If the CCP buys his concept, that will be good enough.

And while Clinton’s Ulaan Baatar remarks may have been a reason for the New York Times to accept the op-ed, Jiang and Bell may find the situation in China itself comparatively promising for their efforts. As the Chinese economy slows – even if this should turn out to be a short dip, rather than a long-term trend -, China’s leaders may be more receptive of “Confucian” concepts than usual. Economic growth can’t last forever. And Confucianism – or what Jiang wants to sell as Confucianism – is still there.

Unfortunately however, this rubbish does no justice to Confucianism. Many of Jiang’s critics will whole-heartedly agree that Confucianism subscribes to authoritarianism – what Jiang likes it for is exactly what his critics will dislike it for, and this provides all the structure a debate seems to require these days. But the spectrum of Confucianism today – even among Chinese acdemics – is much broader than international publicity for Jiang and Bell seems to suggest. An international audience with an interest in what is going on among Chinese Confucians should pay attention to other Confucian schools, too.



» The Confucius Peace Prize, Dec 9, 2010
» A Continuing Debasement, Useless Tree, Dec 8, 2010
» Jiang Qing on Women and Confucianism, Inside-Out China, June 25, 2008


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Communication Barriers: “Not just Someone from Chinatown”

Yang Fan (杨帆), a former representative of Chinese company Nuctech, asked Namibian High Court judge president Petrus Damaseb in June to provide him with a competent interpreter, not just someone from China Town, as he had been struggling to follow court proceedings.  The judge said he would do his best to find him a good interpreter.

Yang, along with two Namibian officials, was arrested in summer 2009, but released on bail in August that same year. He apparently hasn’t been allowed to leave the country since.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hu Jintao’s Africa Forum Speech: Talent Exchange, People-to-People Diplomacy, and no Bullying

Chinese party and state chairman Hu Jintao announced on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation’s 5th ministerial-level meeting’s opening ceremony in Beijing on Thursday that China would provide 20 billion US dollars in loans to African countries during the next three years. This is twice as much as China’s commitment of three years ago, writes the BBC‘s Mandarin website. China had offered loans both on the Cooperation Forum’s 2006 and 2009 ministerial-level meetings. These two-days events are held every three years.

In 2006, Hu had announced 500 million US dollars in loans, and in 2009, chief state councillor Wen Jiabao announced ten billion (probably – the BBC apparently forgot a number of zeros) US dollars. Before the meeting this year, Chinese trade minister Chen Deming (陈德铭) wrote in an article that Sino-African bilateral trade had reached a historic record high of 166 billion US dollars.

Foreign ministers, officials in charge of foreign trade, and UN Secretary General Ban Kyi-Moon, as well as the African Union’s outgoing chairman Jean Ping took part in the opening ceremony on Thursday.

From the script of Hu’s speech in full, as published by Phoenix Media (Hong Kong):

China and Africa have cooperatively set up 29 Confucius Institutes or Confucius Classrooms. In a “20+20 cooperation plan”, twenty renowned universities from China and twenty renowned universities from Africa have built relationships between each other. China and Africa help each other in international affairs, united collaboration has become closer, the two sides cooperate closely on issues such as United Nations reform, reacting to climate change, sustainable development, the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round and other major issues, to protect developing countries’ common interests, to promote the democratization of international relations, to promote a direction in the international order which will be fairer and more reasonable.


Compared with six years ago, the international situation has changed greatly. Peace, development and cooperation remain the trends of our times, but there are clearly unstable and undetermined factors in the international trends. They remain affected by the global financial crisis, rising and falling international and regional hotspots, and an unfair and unreasonable international political and economic order which still affects and restricts global peace and development. Many developing countries’ development momentum is growing, but also facing difficulties and challenges.
同6年前相比,国际形势又发生了很大变化,和平、发展、合作仍然是时代潮流,但国际形势中不稳定不确定因素明显增多,国际金融危机影响犹存,国际和地区热点此起彼伏,不公正不合理的国际政治经济秩序依然影响和制约着世界和平与发展。广大发展中国家发展势头不断增乾但仍面临很多困难和挑战 。

After remarks of China being the world’s biggest developing country, and Africa consisting of the world’s greatest number of developing countries, as well as words of gratitude for African support in China’s development during the past six decades, Hu stated a number of promises, many of which are mentioned in a report on the BBC Mandarin website.

China also pledged to help in African human-resource training and provides 18,000 government scholarships, as well as dispatching medical staff to Africa, writes the BBC Mandarin website. China would [continue to] help to increase African agricultural technology and to improve individual countries’ customs systems and trade facilitation, Hu is quoted. China would also support African-Union peace-keeping missions, provide financial support for military development [to that end], and provide training for African-Union peace and security staff.

Hu called for a new situation in a Sino-African strategic partnership:

China and Africa should closely coordinate their cooperation in international affairs. We want to jointly protect the UN Charter’s purposes and principles, advocate the democratization of international relations, promote harmonious and balanced global development, oppose bullying of the weak by the strong, the strong bullying the weak, leaning on ones wealth to suppress the poor, we will strengthen discussion and coordination, take care of each others mutual concerns, join hands in reacting to global climate change, food security, sustainable development and other global challenges.

People-to-people diplomacy plays a role, too. As the fourth item of five, non-governmental or

people-to-people friendship shall establish a solid public-opinion basis. China proposes to carry out “Sino-African people-to-people friendship actions”, to support and encourage bilateral non-governmental organizations, cooperation in the exchange between women and the young, to create a “Sino-African News Exchange Center” in China, to encourage exchanges and activities between Sino-African bilateral news media people, support the exchange of news people between news organizations of both sides, to continue the implementation of “Sino-African joint research and exchange plan”, and sponsorship of 100 projects of exchange and cooperation between academics and researchers.

Not everything is as smooth as Hu’s speech on Thursday might suggest. Zimbabwe, one of China’s closest allies (and whose president, Robert Mugabe, is definitely more interested in democratization of international relations), is investigating persistent reports of rampant abuse of workers by Chinese employers. But then, the statement came from Zimbabwe’s minister of labor and social welfare, who is a member of the Movement of Democratic Change (MDL) – and the MDL is definitely the weaker half of Zimbabwe’s uneasy “coalition” government between president Mugabe’s cronies and the once oppositional MDL.


» Enhancing Zhou Enlai’s Convivial Diplomacy, February 20, 2012
» Universal Values, Competing Interests, July 16, 2011
» Namibia’s Vision 2030, March 26, 2010
» Old Comrades never Cheat, Aug 27, 2009
» Is AGOA Good Enough, Aug 5, 2009


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