Song Luzheng: “Those Southern newspaper commentators” and Deutsche Welle

Song Luzheng (宋鲁郑) occasionally revisits the case of Deutsche Welle‘s (Voice of Germany’s) Chinese department. He did so in November 2011, and again this month. Maybe he addressed the issue sometimes in between, too. For sure, he regularly addresses the issue of Western media and freedom of information.

I don’t know if Song is a journalist in the first place. He lives in Paris, is the Paris Culture Salon’s secretary general and the Shandong Provincial Overseas Exchange Council’s executive director.

I didn’t find Song’s article in November 2011 trustworthy, and the one he wrote this month seems to reveal an unpleasant character. That “certain Southern newspaper” he refers to (see blockquote underneath)  is most probably meant to be Southern Weekly, aka “Southern Weekend” (南方周末), and the paper’s staff’s conflict with Guangdong’s propaganda chief Tuo Zhen. His recent article was published by the Shanghai-based Guancha website. In this article, Song praises the four former Deutsche-Welle employees, and curses “those Southern newspaper commentators”.


It has to be said that Wang Fengbo [and his colleagues] are much more courageous than those so-called commentators at a certain southern newspaper, and stand on a higher moral ground. Because they were removed, in this kid of public-opinion environment, they had no chance to get the understanding or sympathy of German mainstream society. They are without a living, even their subsistence has become a problem. On different occasions, Wang Fengbo has discussed the issues at Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department with many German journalist colleagues and scholars, but most of them believe that what they [Wang and his former Deutsche-Welle colleagues] say is just a story from Arabian Nights, which can’t possibly happen in Germany.
[Song seems to quote one of the former Deutsche-Welle editors, but he doesn’t do so explicitly.]
Rather, between the lines, many people believe that we actually had a pro-CCP tendency, or that at least, we didn’t abide the [Deutsche Welle, apparently] leaders, that we were like prickly kids who earned what they deserved, as this lead to getting expelled.
Those gentlemen from some Southern newspaper on the other hand can capitalize on getting praise from Western media and financial aid, they become global celebrities, and their undertakings and lives rise to new heights!


不得不说的是,王凤波他们应该比南方某报的那些所谓评论员要勇敢得多,更站有道德高地。因为他们一旦被开除,在这样的舆论环境下,根本无法得到德国 主流社会的理解和同情,生活无着,甚至生存都成了问题。王凤波等当事者在不同的场合和不少德国记者同行及学者谈过德国之声中文部的问题,但是他们当中的大 部分人觉得他们说的简直是天方夜谭,在德国不可能发生。相反,很多人话里话外还认为是我们的确有“亲共”的倾向,或者至少不服从领导,爱挑刺闹事儿,是自 作自受,导致被开除。而南方某报诸君,则可以凭此资本得到西方的赏识和大力资助,成为全球知名人士,事业和人生反而更上层楼!

Initially a big story in China, neither the “Zhang-Danhong affair” nor the case of the four members of Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department who lost their jobs since 2010 get into the headlines in China anymore. But they aren’t completely out of the news, either.

Song carefully weaves his message into the general line of CCP propaganda: Western media act in their countries’ national interest, he writes.

This term is used by Chinese editorialists and academics in the context of national interests which include nothing about human rights, in a context of soft power, which helps a country to achieve its strategic goals in its international relationships, and enhances its national interest, but may also be used by Chinese dissidents. He Qinglian, for example, suggests that the CCP propaganda narrative about America using human right criticism as a tool to pursue its national interests was deeply rooted in China now, but that the contrary was the case – America was rather selling benefits in terms of national interest, than earning them.

But what would the German national interest be? In the CCP’s view, and in Song Luzheng’s, too, I guess, Deutsche Welle shouldn’t have dared to expel members of the Chinese department – not out of respect for individual rights, but out of respect “for China”. From a CCP point of view, human rights don’t matter in this context. That’s why their mouthpieces can easily come to the conclusion that human rights don’t matter in other countries’ national interests either.

It all depends what national interest is actually about, and it’s hard to see how the expulsion of Wang Fengbo, Zhu Hong, Qi Li and Wang Xueding should have been in the national interest. No German I know who has looked at the material which is publicly available felt that it was in the interest of a German individual – as a journalist, employee, or what have you – to be treated this way. If a country’s common peoples’ interests are equivalent to its national interest, Deutsche Welle made a number of very bad decisions.

But it may be understandable that Song Luzheng can’t see that.



» When your Employer suspects…, Febr 18, 2012
» For the World to Hear, Aug 3, 2010


5 Responses to “Song Luzheng: “Those Southern newspaper commentators” and Deutsche Welle”

  1. What is the point of comparing these two cases? As I pointed out earlier it is not fair that JR is the only who tries to find out what was going on at the DW Chinese department. But who really believes that the journalists at Southern Weekly have any benefits from stating the obvious – that they cannot write what the think about their own country. Is it really worth becoming a weibo hero, if you are threatend by the dark side in exchange? I can not imagine them doing it out of their own interest.

    And I am so sick of Chinese intellectuals not understanding that national interest is something complicated in the west and a lot more negative connotated than their holy “liyi-cow”.


  2. liyi-cow? I’m probably almost the only blogger who has questions about the DW-Four, outside the Chinese media, anyway. Wrote a Leserartikel for “Die Zeit”, but they turned it down, because they’d have to check the facts otherwise, and that required too much time, given the many reader-articles.

    It didn’t matter that I had offered them from the beginning to provide them with the two EPD articles – and anyway, I should think that the articles were and are readily available in the press-agency databases anyway.

    But basically, there is no interest. The press isn’t interested (and I can think of a number of possible reasons as to why they aren’t), and without that kind of coverage, the public isn’t interested either. Mr Brüderle’s alleged offensive behavior a year ago wouldn’t matter either, if the media didn’t care.

    In that light, blogs are still a very small thing. A blog on a pretty open German platform is no big thing, either. Some posts of mine have been pushed on the online frontpage there at Der Freitag, but this one wasn’t. Anyway – they tolerated it. That’s a comparatively open attitude.

    Chinese intellectuals seem to be a tricky bunch, mostly. As Wolfgang Kubin once said, “there is hardly any Chinese intellectual, artist, writer who would say something positive about a Chinese colleague.” And there’s that hierarchy. An intellectual who addresses the public, rather than peddling his ideas to the powerful, is doomed. Then there’s that beautification or demonization, depending on what’s deemed desirable or undesirable. I think it was Lois Fisher, once married to Gerd Ruge, who described a Chinese television documentary in the late 1970s. They recorded the life of an American chief executive and sold it to the Chinese public as an ordinary automotive factory worker’s life – just to make the point that China needed to develop.

    There’s that habit of being either at the foreigners’ feet or at the foreigner’s throat. Bo Yang made that point, too, I believe. You (or your values, or what you stand for, or whatever) are either God or a bugger, and these roles can switch very quickly. I think that’s one reason why the atmosphere changed so quickly, too, in 2008. In the world of many Chinese intellectuals, there is little room for shades of grey. That makes them third-class “intellectuals”, To be a true intellectual would come at a price.



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