Archive for July 27th, 2018

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sports, Meeting the Bad Guys

Once she was the richest woman in Xinjiang, having amassed a fortune trading commodities with neighboring Central Asian countries and owning Urumqi’s largest department store.

Officials would bring foreign visitors to meet her, as living refutation of Uighurs’ complaints that Chinese policies relegated them to second-class citizenship.

That’s how the Christian Science Monitor described the earlier life of Rebiya Kadeer, in summer 2009. Then, the article moved on to her later years in East Turkestan and China – her fall from grace, her arrest, and her term in jail during the early 2000s.

Her story came to my mind when Mesut Özil, a player for Arsenal and a German citizen, resigned from Germany’s “national team” on Sunday, i. e. from the German Football Association’s (DFB) top team that vies for the FIFA World Cups or at the UEFA European Championships every four years respectively.

Özil, approaching his 30th birthday this year, has been a star in Germany for most of the past decade. There have also been derogatory remarks about him in the past, and a right-wing politician called Özil a “plastic German” live on television, referring to the synthetic material covering German identity cards. But Özil’s career developed unobstructedly. So did his public image.

Özil was born as a Turkish citizen, in the German town of Gelsenkirchen. He took German citizenship in 2007, and if the few statements he publicly made are something to go by, he probably considers himself a citizen of the world.

Kadeer was reportedly on her way to meet a politician in Urumqi when she was arrested, in 1999. The politician was a bad guy – an American.

Özil met a politician at Arsenal in London earlier this year. The politician was a bad guy, too – the Turkish president.

Obviously, there are differences between the American bad guy and the Turkish bad guy. The American politician was a bad guy because he cared about human rights. The Turkish president is a bad guy because he gives a damn on human rights, and on the rule of law.

But this is where Özil’s fall from grace began. It’s in the nature of the sport that he was known way beyond the world of soccer, Germany’s number one sport. He was sold – by the DFB and by German politics – as a shining example of “integration”, the incorporation of migrants into German society.

That was weird, given that he had lived in Germany from day one of his life anyway, but propaganda doesn’t have to be accurate. It is meant to tie the nation together, rather than to inform it. And for about a decade, the message seemed to work for the cause of social cohesion.

Soccer doesn’t breed the most civil interaction, certainly not among the fan base. And it isn’t the best ground for decent standards on the level of business operations either. To demand that people who make millions from playing soccer should be “role models” is an excessive demand – no matter if they are made on foreigners or compatriots, migrants or Mayflower descendants (or whatever their German equivalents may be). If things go well, you won’t get into public-relations trouble. But it can easily happen. It is currently happening to the DFB president, Reinhard Grindel, too, because much of Özil’s criticism in his letter of resignation was targeted at him, and while the press is critical of the accusations in Özil’s letter of resignation, the DFB is criticized mercilessly – for “racism” by some, for chaotic management by many.

Özil’s preparedness to meet Turkish president Erdogan for a photo op was read as an endorsement for the campaigning politician by many in Germany, and probably by some Turkish voters, too. His explanation that it wasn’t meant to be an endorsement, but just a show of respect for the presidential office, didn’t convince the German public.

But why did he have to seek excuses at all? The world of sports isn’t about human rights – not even when it comes to safety standards. And did Jacques Rogge have to apologize for meeting Hu Jintao? Not really.

Did Lothar Matthäus have to explain why he had been sitting next to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán when the country’s political leader opened a soccer stadium? Neither.

Socializing with unpleasant political leaders, and making yourself useful (or making them useful to yourself, or both) is an important element of “professional sports” – if you  can’t put up with it, change it, or stop being a fan. But don’t beam your anger on a few guys in particular.

Is there a moral to this story? Maybe it is a lesson about the dangers of propaganda. For most of the past decade, Özil fitted well into collective German ego-boosting. Now, sudden new fans use his image to agitate their audiences.

Don’t hold your breath for role models in sports. Once in a while, there may be some – maybe Muhammad Ali became one, in the course of many decades. But usually, some of a person’s action (or inaction) may be admirable, some other may be detestable.

Hundreds of sports officials, and thousands of cadres, have proven by their behavior that commercial sports isn’t doing embroidery.

That said, it isn’t writing essays, either.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Trade War: “American Farmers whine about Hardships”

When Russia stopped the import of agricultural products from the EU in late summer of 2014, reacting to the West’s sanctions against the Russian economy in the wake of the annexation of Crimea, the EU pledged 125 million Euros to support the affected farmers. European agricultural exports to Russia had been worth about 11.8 billion euros last year, or roughly $15.7 billion, the New York Times quoted Eurostat at the time, or ten percent of European agricultural trade.

On Tuesday this week, Donald Trump announced a plan that would provide US farmers with $12 billion, to lighten the effects of tarriffs imposed by China and the European Union, in retaliation to earlier US tarriff hikes. Politico quoted US agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue as saying that the $12 bn would be a match for “roughly $11 billion in negative effects that USDA has calculated agricultural producers have suffered as a result of “illegal” retaliatory tariffs imposed by China, Canada, Mexico, the European Union and other major economies.” Apart from direct payments to farmers, a purchasing program and support for farmers looking out for new markets are reportedly part of the plan.

Politico also quotes Republican lawmakers – and farmers – as criticising the program, and demanding an end to the trade war. However, an NBC correspondent points out that the Trump administration’s support programs makes sense for Republican Congress people who would otherwise face “the treacherous choice of letting farmers suffer or criticizing a president who is immensely popular among their constituents.”

Guanchazhe , a paper from Shanghai, posted a report on its website today, recalling that

In spite of opposing voices at home, the Trump administration added 25 percent to import tarriffs on Chinese goods at a value of $34 billion*), from the beginning of July. In reaction, China imposed 25 percent of import tarriffs on the same scale of American products, including American agricultural products.

不顾国内反对声音,特朗普政府于本月初对价值340亿美元的中国商品加征25%的进口关税。作为反击,中国于同日对同等规模的美国产品加征25%的进口关税,美国农产品被列入征税清单。

Guanchazhe suggests that

Trump appears to have recognized that it is exactly the trade clash provoked by him that has shocked the farmers. According to earlier Guanchazhe Network reports, on July 24 local time, the American agriculture secretary announced the biggest emergency assistance plan for farmers since 1998, with a total of $12 billion, to help the farmers to avoid losses.

特朗普似乎意识到了正是自己挑起的贸易冲突,使得农民受到冲击。据观察者网此前报道,当地时间24日,美国农业部公布了一项1998年以来规模最大的农业紧急援助计划,金额为120亿美元,以帮助农民免受损失。

Guanchazhe then quotes Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang as saying that China was a major buyer of American agricultural goods: “For many years, Sino-American agricultural cooperation has continuously broadened, it has deepened by the day, with honest mutual benefits. One should say that it is mutually beneficial and mutually profitable” (多年来,中美农业合作不断扩大,日益深化,给双方带来了实实在在的利益,应该说是互利共赢的). Currently however, it was America that was “adopting unilateralism and trade protectionism, going back on its words (言而无信) and contradicting itself (出尔反尔), insistently provoking a trade war against China.” Geng is also quoted as saying that the American farmers were “paying the bill for the American government’s bullying.”

Trump provokes a trade clash with one hand, the article says, and

as other countries are forced to strike back, he now wants to placate the farmers with an emergency assistance plan, plus peddling words on social media about how he likes and values the farmers and about attacking China – will American farmers buy this?

现在想通过紧急援助来安抚美国农民,另一边又在社交媒体上兜售对农民“爱与尊重”的说辞,攻击中国,美国农民会买账吗?

The article quotes two farmers by name, both of them with rather balances statements that emphasize the need for long-term solutions and maintaining their market positions, but without criticizing Trump.

All the same, the two measured statements are lumped together with Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse‘s criticism that the assistance program was about “gold crutches”. The article then moves on to July 25:

According to Reuters, on July 25 local time, Trump met Congress members from agricultural states to discuss trade issues. House agricultural committee chairman Mike Conaway thanked the government for the assistant measures, and lauded the agreement Trump had reached with visiting EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker earlier that day to eliminate trade barriers.

据路透社报道,当地时间25日,特朗普会见了农业州国会议员,共商贸易课题。众议院农业委员会主席科纳韦(Mike Conaway)感谢政府为农民推出的援助措施,并赞许特朗普当天较早前接见到访的欧盟委员会主席容克时,与对方达成协议,争取消除贸易壁垒。

Conaway issued a statement saying that “I’m thanking the President and Secretary Perdue for supporting our farmers and ranchers.”

科纳韦发布声明说:“我感谢总统和珀杜(农业)部长给予我们的农民和牧场主的支持。”

However, Lisa Murkowski, Republican senator for Alaska, tweeted that Trump needed “to recognize that trade assistance can’t replace actual trade.”

不过,阿拉斯加州共和党参议员穆尔科斯基(Lisa Murkowski)在推特发文呼吁特朗普,“认清贸易援助是无法取代贸易本身”。

While the article avoids strong language, the editorial department apparently chose to create more appealing impressions: American farmers whine about hardships, Trump falsely accuses China of ‘malignance’ (贸易战美国农民叫苦 特朗普反诬中国“恶毒”).

According to English-language reports, Trump referred to China’s tarriffs on US agricultural goods as “vicious”, and according to a report by Reuters on Wednesday, Murkowski urged Trump on Twitter to “recognize that trade assistance is no substitute for trade itself.”

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Notes

*) In other reports at the time, trade volumes of $50 billion were mentioned

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Related

FMPRC Regular Press Conference, July 26, 2018
外交部例行记者会, FMPRC, July 26, 2018
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