Archive for December, 2017

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Headlines 2017 (2) – Li Xuewen

Li Xuewen (黎学文), a writer from Guangzhou, was arrested on December 19China Change, a website focused on news and commentary related to civil society, rule of law, and rights activities in China, reported earlier this month. China Change also published a personal statement by Li Xuewen (same page, following the article).

According to the website, Li was arrested for having attended

a seaside memorial in Xinhui, Guangdong, on July 19, 2017, four days after the eventual death of China’s most known dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. At least a dozen or so people took part in it, ten have been detained and then released “on bail.”
[…]
Li Xuewen believes that he was recognized by China’s sophisticated surveillance and facial recognition system.

Liu Xiaobo had died of liver cancer on July 13 this year, still serving an 11-years sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”.

China Digital Times wrote in May that Li Xuewen moved to Guangzhou from Beijing, in 2016, after losing a publishing job in the Chinese capital in 2014 due to alleged official pressure.

Liu Xiaobo’s widow Liu Xia who is under house arrest in Beijing, apparently without any official charges against her, was reportedly granted an excursion into the city on Christmas Eve with her younger brother, who visited from Hong Kong.

Apparently earlier on the day of his arrest, Li Xuewen took part in an exchange of messages on Twitter, about the importance of giving equal emphasis to morality, and to utility. His message refers to the memory of late dissidents like Liu Xiaobo, and Yang Tongyan. My Chinese isn’t good enough to translate Li’s tweet into English, but this is the wording:

我想说的是:刘晓波杨天水等人被那么残酷的虐死,民间几十年代价可谓昂贵惨烈,一味的道义标举固然无可非议,但难道不应该提出功利问题了么?功利事关目标,合理的手段,也是合格的反对者应有的责任伦理,谈功利并不意味着放弃道义,只是要强调两者不可偏废。

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Updates/Related

Linked to Gathering, IC Pen, July 16, 2014

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Headlines 2017 (1) – Five Economic Policies

Having addressed one of next year’s headlines, these are some rough notes on China’s economic policies, i. e. this years headlines.

china.org.cn, a website operating “under the auspices of the State Council Information Office” and the China International Publishing Group, tells the world (in English) that

[t]he Chinese economy will focus on quality, a shift from the rapid growth the country has been known for over the past decades since the reform and opening up policy was introduced.

Referring to the Central Economic Work Conference’s summary, the article is mostly about parading the new normal personality cult (“Xi’s economic thought takes shape”), suggesting that

China will develop into a manufacturing powerhouse, with a shift from “Made in China” to “Created in China,” the statement said, as the country is striving to evolve from a world factory that churns out low-end products.

A Chinese-language article, published by Xinhua newsagency in Chinese one day earlier (on Wednesday, when the conference closed), is much more detailed, putting the meeting of officials and economists into the context of the CCP’s 19th national congress, and the current 13th Five-Year plan, with recurrent references to the five policies (五大政策).

In the Journal of Nanjing University’s (南京大学学报) third quarterly in summer this year, economics professor Hu Angang (and a doctoral assistant) suggested that the five policies (literally: five big policies) had afforded China the global number-one position as a high-tech industrial country, having overtaken America in 2015. The state’s visible hand had made this possible, Hu argued, adding that given that the market’s “invisible hand” wasn’t as well developed in China as it was in the US, only a sensible combination of both those hands had put China in its new position. Issues such as ways to define the scopes and goals of competition, as well as performance assessments, were also addressed both by Hu’s paper, and by the central economic work conference.

Hu suggests that there were frequent imbalances in classical economic policies, not least America’s (emphasizing innovation sometimes, or emphasizing job creation at others), while China had struck a balance between an industrial policy (产业政策 政策, the policy China started with 30 years ago), a competition policy (竞争政策), an innovation policy (创新政策), a policy of opening up (开放政策), and a “green” environment-protection policy (绿色政策).

One can’t say that the divide between advocates of a set of “balanced” policies are running right through the Pacific (i. e. between Beijing and Washington). America, too, has its share of advocates for balanced industrial policies. An example for an extremely unbalanced concept: the idea that “America should innovate” while China would manufacture was suggested in 2011, by  New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who said that he owed this division-of-labor concept to former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. (Besides innovation, Tung also had the “green policy” on his mind. What Friedman had in mind, God knows.)

Either way, Ralph E. Gomory, an applied mathematician, pointed out that Friedman’s and Tung’s math didn’t add up:

[w]e need successful industries and we need to innovate within them to keep them thriving. However, when your trading partner is thinking about GDP rather than profit, and has adopted mercantilist tactics, subsidizing industries, and mispricing its currency, while loaning you the money to buy the underpriced goods, this may simply not be possible.

That was six and a half years ago. And obviously, China’s leadership never intended to leave innovation to America for good.

However, Hu Angang’s paper concedes that so far, while being the world’s “number one high tech manufacturing country” (为世界最大高技术产业国), China’s ability to innovate independently from foreign know-how still remains “relatively low”.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Shortwave Logs, December 2017: Germany’s annual Public-Radio High-Frequency Broadcast

“Gruß an Bord” is one of the oldest programs1) carried on German public radio, and the only one among these that is still broadcast on shortwave. Once a year, that is. The program starts at 19:00 UTC and runs through 23:00 UTC, i. e. Midnight central European time (see table there).

Christmas Eve on Sunday was that one night a year when a public German-language radio broadcaster returns to shortwave: “Gruss an Bord” is a program where sailors’ relatives and friends send greetings to their loved ones on board, wherever on the seven seas they may be2).

From Norddeich Radio to Deutsche Welle

“Gruß an Bord” first went on air in 1953. Back then, according to Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR, northern German radio), coastal radio station Norddeich Radio beamed the wistful messages across the seas.

It hasn’t been aired every year since, according to an NDR press release of 2009, which provides no notes about at which times there had been interruptions.

Some time after its inception, Germany’s public foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle must have taken the task of broadcasting “Gruss an Bord” internationally, while NDR has always been in charge of the content.

Haus der Schiffahrt (House of Shipping Companies), Leer (archive)

Norddeich Radio has been defunct since the 1990s, and Deutsche Welle terminated their German-language broadcasts on shortwave in 2011. “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (Germany does itself in), an angry seafarer reportedly wrote in a protest letter.

From Deutsche Welle to Media Broadcast

It appears that the program was limited to VHF/FM and medium wave in December 2011, but in 2012, NDR bought airtime from Media Broadcast, a company that operates the Nauen transmitter station ( a site formerly used by Deutsche Welle). They also coordinate with other broadcasting sites in Europe.

NDR is a public broadcaster operating in the federal states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, and Lower Saxony. (As Bremen was part of the American occupation zone in post-war Germany, the city state runs a broadcasting station of its own, Radio Bremen.)

The first hour – and some of the second – of this year’s broadcast were recordings made earlier in December, at Hamburg’s Duckdalben international seamen’s club (or Seemannsmission), a place operated by Germany’s evangelical church. Some time during the second hour of this year’s program, recordings from Leer, a town in Eastern Friesland, Germany’s far northwest, were broadcast. Leer is only a small town, with some 30 to 35 thousand population, but it is a place with a lot of history, and a navigation school. Probably not least thanks to the latter, Leer is considered the place with the second-largest number of shipping companies in Germany, after Hamburg.

In Leer’s “Kulturspeicher”, the NDR’s Lower Saxony broadcasting house also made some recordings, on December 10, to televise a few minutes of them within the state on December 23, in a 3’19” report. (The video should remain online for a few weeks.)

The show felt a bit as if it was from a different era, trade magazine website Radioszene noted four years ago. That’s hard to deny, when you look at the cozy arrangements captured by the NDR cameras.

But then, even in 1979, Werner Bader, head of Deutsche Welle’s German programs at the time, observed that

A minority keeps criticizing, sometimes wittingly, that the two programs [“Gruß an Bord” and “Grüße aus dem Heimathafen”, another sailors’ program] were unctuous. But a majority advocates to carry them forward.
(Eine Minderheit kritisiert immer wieder, in beiden Sendungen gebe es Rührseligkeiten, und sie tut es manchmal auch geistreich witzig. Aber die Mehrheit plädiert für das Wunschkonzert und die “Grüße aus dem Heimathafen”.)

The Audience: families, the wider public …

“Gruß an Bord” is aired by a public broadcaster, and at the same time, it is about family – two rather different target audiences. An NDR editor interviewed in the December 23 report from Leer, tries to match the two:

If this is about feelings, the broadcast is still needed. If someone says that most of the German ships have been equipped with internet for a year now, and that families can skype or text each other, or use Whatsapp – but then, people may sit alone in their bunk, on Christmas Eve, before and after their meals, that’s not the same as if you join everyone else in the mess deck, listening to this broadcast together.
Wenn es um Gefühle geht, dann braucht man die Sendung noch. Wenn jetzt jemand sagt, die deutschen Schiffe sind seit einem Jahr weitgehend mit Internet ausgerüstet, und dann können die Familien miteinander skypen und sich eine SMS schicken oder per Whatsapp kommunizieren, aber da sitzen vielleicht die Leute allein in ihrer Koje am Heiligen Abend, vorm Essen, nach dem Essen, bekommen ihre Whatsapps, das ist ja nicht so, als wenn  man gemeinsam in der Messe sitzt und dann vielleicht gemeinsam diese Sendung hört.

Or as put by an (apparent) senior sailor in a television report from the Hamburg event, the program is

special, because you get the impression that – even if you can be reached by email, smartphone etc. -, the public is aware of you.
Das Besondere an der Sendung ist, dass man eben tatsächlich den Eindruck hat, dass man – auch wenn man über Email, Handy erreichbar ist, trotzdem auch im Bewusstsein der Öffentlichkeit ist.

… and the friends of the high frequencies

I recorded all of the program, and listened to some of it. It remains a reverend institution, and worth listening to. But I think I liked the final twenty-five minutes best. There, letters and emails were read out from an ordinary broadcasting studio – well-structured and carefully thought out messages, rather than improvised talk into microphones.

I have no idea how many people listen to the programs, and where. But when listening to the mails and letters being read out, you realize that a substantial share (if not the majority) of those who listen to the shortwave transmissions must be shortwave aficionados, rather than seafarers:

Bernd Ottenau from Ottenau sends greetings to all members, honorary members and friends of the Radio Taiwan International listeners’ club Ottenau, as well as the international shortwave programs’ German-language editorial offices.
(Bernd Ottenau aus Ottenau grüßt herzlich alle Mitglieder, Ehrenmitglieder und Freunde des Radio Taiwan International Hörerclubs Ottenau, sowie die deutschsprachigen Redaktionen der internationalen Kurzwellenprogramme, und wünscht gesegnete Weihnachten sowie ein gutes neues Jahr 2018.)

A thing Germany has in common with countries like China, India, or Japan are its pasttime associations, and its shortwave listeners’ associations not least. They, too, may be an explanation as to why a radio institution like “Gruß an Bord”, allegedly from a different era, remains on air – at least once a year.

The 6155 kHz relay transmission from Armenia – offering the best signal among all the sites rebroadcasting “Gruß an Bord” – goes off air a few seconds after 23:00 UTC. CPBS Beijing emerges on the same frequency, informing me that it’s the eighth day of the lunar calendar’s  eleventh month today.

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Notes

1) The “Hafenkonzert” is even older – see Related underneath – “Soundscrapes of the Urban Past”
2) Then again, maybe not exactly on all the seven seas. The Pacific Ocean isn’t among the target areas stated by NDR.

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Related

Soundscrapes of the Urban Past, 2013

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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Headlines 2018

Panic in Riyadh: has Yemen become a nuclear power?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Obituary: Yu Guanzhong, 1928 – 2017

Taiwanese poet and university teacher Yu Guangzhong (余光中) has died in Kaohsiung  on Thursday. According to Radio Taiwan International (RTI), quoting  a statement by aohsiung Medical University hospital,  Yu had been hospitalized late in November, after a stroke. His condition deteriorated due to heart failure and lung condition pneumonia, according to the statement.

Wikipedia has entries about Yu, in Chinese and in English.  He was born in Nanjing, in 1928.

One of his poems, as published by Singtao Ribao‘s Canadian edition, on Thursday (Wednesday Vancouver local time):

小时候,乡愁是一枚小小的邮票,我在这头,母亲在那头。
During childhood, homesickness was a small postage stamp, with me here and my mother there.

长大后,乡愁是一张窄窄的船票,我在这头,新娘在那头。
After growing up, homesickness was a worn sea passage ticket, with me here and my bride there.

后来啊,乡愁是一方矮矮的坟墓,我在外头,母亲在里头。
Later on, homesickness was a small grave, with me outside and my mother inside.

而现在,乡愁是一湾浅浅的海峡,我在这头,大陆在那头。
But now, homesickness is a strait of shallow waters, with me here and the mainland there.

A book published in 2008 offers  an interpretation.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dalai Lama and Barack Obama meeting in New Delhi

Heads of state and government (apparently) can’t always afford to be polite – not if this CS Monitor report of nearly eight years ago is something to go by. In February 2010, the Dalai Lama, as he left the White House after a meeting with then president Barack Obama, was reportedly “awaited” by “a mound of trash”. A White House spokesman contested the interpretation – see same CS Monitor page.

But there were other downgradings, too, at the time. Obama met Tibet’s spiritual leader in the “map room” of the White House, not in the Oval Office. An ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) reporter interpreted this – most probably accurately – as a concession to China, which had demanded that the meeting not even go ahead.

Aller, Nov 2017

But a wise man who works to better the lot of the People won’t fear the height of a mountain or the width of a river on his way to gain worldly credit.

It will be left to reason here if Donald Trump is too high a mountain, or if meeting him, just like having met all US presidents from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama while they were in office, wouldn’t benefit Tibet anyway.

There has been another meeting between the Dalai Lama and Barack Obama last Friday, and when you are travelling on behalf of your foundation that carries your name, meetings with the man Beijing loves to hate appear to make sense. The setting in New Delhi appears to have been nicer, too, than in the White House, in 2010.

The meeting apparently hasn’t generated a splash in the Chinese media. Overseas Chinese Website Duowei News, a news website operated from New York (and blocked in China, according to Wikipedia) points out that just before, Obama had completed a China visit, including a Meeting with Xi Jinping at Diaoyutai Guest House. Xinhua newsagency reported on Thursday that Xi and Obama held talks on November 29.

Duowei also adds some statistics, saying that this was the sixth meeting between the Dalai Lama and Obama, and that the most recent one had taken place at the White House, in July 2016, when Obama was still in office. (According to VoA, that was in June 2016.)

During an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) during a visit to Ottawa, the president of Tibet’s exile government in Dharamsala, Lobsang Sangay, advocated the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” policy.

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