Archive for December, 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The U.S. Democrats’ Red Herring: Blaming the Russians

Mattathias Schwartz of The Intercept suggests a statement different from the one US President Obama actually made at his last press conference. That statement, as scripted by Schwartz, would have deviated from the actual statement indeed. But it wouldn’t have provided America with moral and political leadership, as the teaser suggested.

The Intercept's presidential statement

The Intercept’s presidential statement

There’s no question to my mind that Donald Trump and his supporters (professionals and “ordinary people”) have made substantial contributions to brutalize the campaign, and political culture. But there is no question either that the Democratic Party’s establishment has shown its contempt for democratic principle, by pushing Hillary Clinton‘s nomination campaign, at the expense of Bernie Sanders‘. Clinton and her supporters showed quite the “sense of entitlement” once ascribed to China’s leader Xi Jinping.

That – not the Russian exposure of it – is the problem.

Were there American media that exposed the Democratic National Committee’s conduct? I haven’t heard of any. There was no Bob Woodward of our times who would have dug up that pit. The American media didn’t perform. They didn’t pick up their essential role. Moscow simply filled the vacuum.

Maybe that’s what Obama should have said (if he could have). He could have tried to talk some sense into those democrat functionaries (and press people) who are now trying to make the public forget their own role in their candiate’s undoing.

Obviously, there’s no reason to thank the Russian leadership for what they did. But there is no reason to flame them, either. America wasn’t treated like a banana republic this year, it acted like one.

If you want more of the same, shoot the messenger. But if you want democracy that works, do your homework.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Chinese Reaction to US Congress vote on Military Exchanges with Taiwan

Main Link: People’s Daily

Answer by Chinese defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun (杨宇军) to a question from the press on Friday.

Q: The American Senate and House of Representatives have passed the “2017 fiscal year’s defense authorization act”, containing, for the first time, the promotion of high-level exchanges etc. between the US and Taiwan. How does the Chinese defense ministry comment on this?

记者问:美国参众两院日前通过“2017财年国防授权法”,首次写入推动美台高层军事交流等内容。中国国防部对此作何评论?

A: American Congress has voted to pass the “2017 fiscal year’s defense authorization act” with no regard for the overall situation of Sino-US relations, containing the clause of American-Taiwanese high-level exchanges etc., affecting China negatively. The Chinese defense minstry expresses firm opposition to this.

国防部新闻发言人杨宇军答:美国国会不顾中美关系大局,表决通过含有美台军事交流等涉华消极条款的“2017财年国防授权法”。中国国防部对此表示坚决反对。

The Taiwan issue concerns China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and involves China’s core interests. China firmly opposes official contacts and military links in any form, it opposes American arms sales to Taiwan. This position has been consistent and clear. American Congress [..] putting the wheel of history into reverse, [..] promoting US-Taiwanese military exchanges, this approach interferes with China’s internal affairs, damages stability in the Taiwan Strait, harms China’s sovereignty and security interests, and will ultimately harm America’s own interests, too.

Note: [..] replaces my (absent) translation of 强 – I’m not sure if it stands for qiang, which can man as many things as “violently” or “strongly”, or for jiang, which would stand for “stubbornly”, or for something else.

Update: see Chang’s comment

台湾问题事关中国主权和领土完整,涉及中国核心利益。中方坚决反对美台进行任何形式的官方往来和军事联系,反对美国对台军售,这一立场是一贯的、明确的。美国国会强开历史倒车,强推美台军事交流,这种做法干涉中国内政,破坏台海稳定,损害中国的主权和安全利益,最终也必将损害美国自身的利益。

As early as in 1999, American Congress passed the “2000 fiscal year’s defense authorization act”, limiting development of exchanges between Chinese and American military in twelve fields, artificially creating legal obstacles for relations between the Chinese and the American military.  Today, the American Congress passes another bill which agitates for developing high-level US-Taiwanese exchanges between high military and civilian officials. This kind of approach reflects the stubborn cold-war line of thought and zero-sum concepts. We urge America to see the situation clearly, to take immediate effective measures to correct the mistake, so as to avoid progressive damaging of relations between the two countries’ military.

早在1999年,美国国会就通过了“2000财年国防授权法”,限制中美两军在12个领域开展交流,人为制造中美两军关系的法律障碍。今天,又是美国国会通过鼓吹美台开展高级军官和文职官员交流的法案。这种做法体现了美国国会一些人顽固的冷战思维和零和观念。我们敦促美方认清形势,立即采取有效措施改正错误,以免进一步损害中美两国两军关系。

What needs to be emphasized is that the plans and schemes of “Taiwan independence” elements that draw support from foreign forces to destroy national sovereignty and territorial integrity are not going to have their way. They will only induce our military to contain “Taiwan independence”, and will only strengthen the resolute determination, confidence and ability to advance the course of national unity.

需要强调的是,“台独”分子借助外国势力破坏国家主权和领土完整的图谋不会得逞,只能促使我军遏制 “台独”、推进国家统一进程的意志更坚、信心更足、能力更强。

We reserve ourselves the right to take progressive measures.

我们保留采取进一步措施的权利。

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Related

Assistant Secretary or above, CNA, Dec 9, 2016

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Friday, December 9, 2016

An Afternoon on a Tower Crane in Hebei Province

The following is a report by Shijiazhuang Daily’s online edition (石家庄日报), published online on Thursday, concerning an incident on Tuesday local time.

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Main Link: http://www.sjzdaily.com.cn/newscenter/2016-12/08/content_2514271.htm

County deputy principal and fire brigade officer-in-charge climb crane to talk him out of it

副县长、消防大队长爬上塔吊相劝

This paper’s report (reporter: Ding Baojun) — On December 6 at about 13 hours, on a building construction site in Wei County, Xingtai City, a man climbed a more than forty-meters tall tower crane, intending to jump from there to commit suicide. Towards six in the evening, by the local government’s and the fire brigades joint rescue, the man voluntarily climbed down the crane.

本报讯(记者 丁宝军)12月6日13时许,在邢台威县一建筑工地内,一名男子爬上近40多米高的施工塔吊欲跳塔轻生,傍晚6时许,经当地政府、消防联合营救,该男子主动爬下塔吊。

At about 13:32, after receiving the alarm, Wei County fire sub-brigade sent a fire truck, an emergency and support vehicle, an aerial ladder truck, with fifteen staff to the site. The scene of the case was a construction site, where a man was moving back and forth on a tower crane with a suspension height of more than forty meters and a width of about one meter. The man was in an extremely excited state of mind. In addition to this, there was a wind force of four which made the entire crane sway back and forth. Just a bit of attention lacking, there was a danger of falling down, which caused an extraordinarily tense atmosphere.

13时32分许,接到报警后,威县消防中队出动一部水罐车、一部抢险救援车、一部登高平台车、官兵15人赶赴现场。事发现场为一在建工地,一名男子在施工塔上来回走动,塔吊高约40余米,宽度约1米左右,该男子情绪非常激动,加上当时现场伴有4级左右的风,整个塔吊被吹得来回晃动,稍有不慎就有掉落的危险,现场气氛非常紧张。

The fire brigade immediately put air cushions and coordinated efforts into a life-saving network with the construction unit. At the same time, the construction unit organized a group of people in charge who went onto the crane to talk with the man in question, but no matter what they said to persuade him, the man remained unwilling to climb down the crane. At about 15:20, Wei County deputy principal Zhang Lichao also came to the scene and climbed the crane together with fire brigade officer-in-charge Chen Lei and talked with the man face to face to persuade him, to stabilize his state of mind. At the same time, Public Security civil police actively contacted the man’s family people and friends, hoping to disperse his suicidal intention with their help.

消防官兵立即在塔吊下方铺设救生气垫,并协调施工单位合力设置救生网。同时,施工单位组织负责人登上塔吊与该男子进行交谈,然而任凭如何劝说该名男子一直不肯下来。15时20分许,威县政府副县长张力超也来到救援现场,同威县消防大队大队长陈雷一起爬上施工塔顶,接近该男子进行面对面劝说,稳定其情绪,同时,公安民警积极联系男子的家人和亲戚朋友,希望他通过与家人、朋友的沟通消除轻生念头。

At about 18:30, after Zhang Lichao’s and Chen Lei’s patient persuasion, the man’s state of mind stabilized and he agreed to climb down. He then climbed down the cranes ladder step by step, under the protection of the firebrigade staff, and finally reached the ground safely.

18时30分许,经过张力超、陈雷的耐心劝说,该男子情绪稳定并同意下塔。随后,在消防官兵的保护下,男子从塔吊爬梯上一步步地往下爬,最终安全抵达地面。

The man reportedly developed his suicidal intention because of family quarrels, and chose the construction site for suicide because he had worked construction in this area two years ago. Fortunately, after persuasion from several sides, he gave up suicide.

据了解,该男子因家庭纠纷产生轻生念头,由于两年前曾在这个小区建筑工地打工,所以选择爬上施工塔吊意欲轻生,所幸,在多方劝说下放弃轻生。

Friday, December 2, 2016

Is the Truth losing in Today’s World? (And if Yes: How so?)

That’s what Richard Stengel, currently undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, believes, according to a Washington Post article:

“We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today,” Stengel warned in an interview. “Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

And, adds the author of the WaPo article, David Ignatius:

How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

Fascinating stuff – fascinating, because it feels like a déjà vu to me (and I’m wondering for how many others who have a memory of some decades).

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages.

When I studied and worked in a fairly rural place in China, I had a number of encounters with – probably mainstream – Chinese worldviews. That was around the turn of the century, and these were probably the most antagonistic, and exciting, debates I ever had, as the only foreigner among some Chinese friends. Discussions sometimes ended with the two, three or four of us angrily staring at each other, switching to a less controversial topic, and bidding each other a frosty good-bye.

But there was a mutual interest in other peoples’ weird ideas. That’s why our discussions continued for a number of weekends. At at least one point, I felt that I had argued with overwhelming logic, but my Chinese interlocutor was unimpressed. I blamed Chinese propaganda for his insusceptibility, but apparently, propaganda was exactly his point: “If propaganda helps to keep my country safe, I have nothing against propaganda,” he replied.

I found that gross. The idea that propaganda should just be another tool, something you might volunteer to use and to believe in, so as to keep your country and society stable, was more alien to me than any Chinese custom I had gotten to know.

The idea that truth is, or that facts are, the essential resource of a (working, successful) democracy looks correct to me. Democracy can’t work without an informed public. But when it comes to German mainstream media, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t trustworthy.

I agree with the WaPo article / Richard Stengel that the US government can’t be a verifier of last resort. No government can play this kind of role. The Chinese party and state have usurped that role, but China is known to be a low-trust society – that doesn’t suggest that they have played a successful role as official verifiers. While many Chinese people do apparently think of their government as the ultimate guardian of national sovereignty and individual safety from imperialist encroachment, they don’t seem to trust these domestic public security powers as their immediate neighbors.

And the ability of any Western government to be a verifier ends as soon as an issue involves state interests, government interests, or governing parties’ interests.

The US government as a verifier of last resort concerning the Syria war? That idea isn’t even funny.

The German government as a verifier of last resort when it comes to foreign-trade issues (within the European Union, or beyond)? Bullshit.

But what about the American media? I don’t have a very clear picture of how they work, but it would seem to me that US television stations usually address the issues that earn them most of the public’s attention. If that is so, it should be no wonder that Donald Trump profited more from media attention, than Hillary Clinton.

But if tweets, rather than platforms, become the really big issues, the media must have abandoned the role that has traditionally been ascribed to them.

German (frequently public-law) media are strongly influenced by political parties, and apparently by business-driven foundations, too.

I don’t know if something similar can be said about American media, but even if only for their attention-seeking coverage, they can’t count as well-performing media either.

What about “social” media? According to Stengel, as quoted by the Washington Post, they give everyone the opportunity to construct their own narrative of reality.

Stengel mentions Islamic State (in 2014) and Russian propaganda campaigns as examples. In the latter’s case, he points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations during the elections in particular.

I believe that Stengel / Ignatius may have half a point. Russia – provided that they were indeed behind the leaks – only targeted Clinton’s campaign, not Donald Trump’s.

But then, wouldn’t it have been the task of the US media to unearth either campaign’s dirty secrets? Russian propaganda performed, even if only selectively, where US media had failed. It exposed practice in the Democratic Party leadership that was hostile to democracy, but acting under the guise of defending it.

How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth, Ignatius finally asks, and quotes Stengel once again, and addressing the role of “social media”:

The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos.

Now, I’m no advocate of free broadcasts for ISIS videos. But if the best hope is the removal of accounts and videos by the commercial providers, it would seem that there isn’t much hope in human power of judgment, after all – and in that case, there wouldn’t be much hope for democracy as a model of government.

Ignatius:

The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”

Wtf? Human-machine processes? Has the “Global Times” hacked the WaPo?

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Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

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