Search Results for “Rudolph”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Deutschlandradio Interview with J.-M. Rudolph: can Universities keep Confucius Institutes and Science Apart?

The following is a translation of a Deutschlandradio Kultur interview with Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph – or a translation of most of the interview. The questions were asked by Dieter Kassel, and the interview was published on the Deutschlandradio website on February 6.

Kassel: The Germans have their Goethe Institute, the English have the British Council, and the Spaniards have the Instituto Cervantes. And the Chinese? They have the Confucius Institute. It hasn’t been around for too long; the first one was founded in South Korea, in 2004. But there have been Confucius Institutes in Germany since 2006, and by now, there are thirteen of them. Eleven reside at German universities, and another one at a university of applied science. This practice, [the Confucius Institute’s] cooperation with domestic universities, has led to criticism, everywhere in the world. In Germany, too, some experts are asking what the whole purpose of these Confucius Institutes is. Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph is a sinologist, he is a college lecturer at the University of Ludwigshafen’s East Asia Institute, and joins us on the line from Frankfurt/Main. Hello, Mr. Rudolph!

Rudolph: Hello, Mr. Kassel!

Kassel: This comparison, that the Confucius Institute in China is exactly the same thing, as the Goethe Institute is within Germany’s foreign- and cultural policy – is that an appropriate comparison?

Rudolph: It is not. When you are referring to the Chinese and to the Germans, one needs to ask who is standing behind it. After all, it isn’t the 1.3 billion Chinese people or 80 million Germans who operate them. The Goethe Institutes are state-run institutes, paid for by the foreign office, with tax money. The German Bundestag’s budget committee decides about the funding, and everyone here in this country can scrutinize that, and find out what’s going on there, and the employees abroad are appointed after an invitation to apply.

That’s completely different when it comes to the Confucius Institutes. In the People’s Republic of China, there’s a state, too, but there is also someone who rules that state, the Communist Party of China, who  confirm that on their website: we are the only governing party here. And behind the Confucius Institutes, there are top party departments, up to number five in the hierarchy, who welcomes the institutes’ delegates when they have a conference. The man is also in charge of ideology and propaganda, for suppression of diversity of opinion, and similar issues. Further down, there’s a huge apparat, made up by many departments of the Chinese central government, including those in charge of censorship, and similar ones. You can’t compare that. Nobody can look inside, it’s not transparent. That’s the issue – this is a political party, an interest group, which launches all these institutes here, which can’t be scrutinized by anyone in the People’s Republic of China. That’s a big, crucial difference.

Kassel: Alright, that’s the crucial difference between the two states, of course. The Federal Republic of Germany is a parliamentary democracy, and the People’s Republic of China surely isn’t.

Rudolph: No, in China, you don’t even have elections as you have them in Belorussia, or in Iran. […] If you want to stick to this comparison, one could at best say that both of these institutes are meant to promote the states they come from, for those who finance them. They are meant to create a good atmosphere, put positive things across, etc. That’s what the Chinese say, too. We have the China Cultural Year here in Germany right now, with the Confucius Institutes being involved. The Chinese party leadership talks about exerting soft power abroad, and the Confucius Institutes are to help  with that. This soft power has been defined for this cultural year, too. A new image of the People’s Republic of China is to be conveyed, as open, progressive, tolerant, and bustling.

The issue isn’t that the Confucius Institutes do that – that’s alright, and I have no problem with that. But that German universities, or universities at all, which are meant to be free and independent, are taking part in it, and get paid for it, that’s the issue. The Chinese want to do their propaganda, the Germans, too, for all I care, and let’s see who’s doing better, but that universities and professors provide their reputation to this end, that, in my view, is not acceptable.

Kassel: The university in question say, almost in unison, that they are able to keep these things separate. The Confucius Institutes are located within the universities – you mentioned that, some of them are renowned universities, Freie Universität Berlin, Düsseldorf University, Nürnberg-Erlangen and many others -, but they all say that they keep this separate: we have the Confucius Institute on the campus, there are language courses there, and cultural events, but our sinology institute is still free and independent.

Rudolph: That’s not quite right. The [censoring] scissors are at work in the heads of these people. They know exactly that, if they are sinologists, for example, having cooperations or research, field research in China, they can’t do it the way Chinese, for example, can do it here. They have to cooperate with Chinese bodies. In many cases, these, too, are sub-departments of the central committee. And everyone knows what happens if you attend a talk by the Dalai Lama, for example. There are university boards who don’t go there, and they will tell you why: because they fear that their cooperations will suffer. That, in my view, is not in order. This is where you have to safeguard your independence. After all, that’s how universities came into being in Europe, during the 12th century – as independent institutions.

Kassel: I’d like to quote Michael Lackner, sinologist in Nürnberg-Erlangen, at the sinology department there, and also deputy chairman of the Confucius Institute there. He doesn’t contest what you say. You mentioned the Dalai Lama, and Michael Lackner once said, analogously, that for him, too, the Confucius Institute isn’t the right place to “discuss Tibet, Taiwan, and the Tian An Men massacre”, but added within the same reply that he’s not doing it there, but he’ll walk over to the sinology institute, and  can discuss these things freely there. Don’t you think that this works?

Rudolph: If this is what he does, let’s see what’s going to happen at the Confucius Institute this year, once the material, announced by the Chinese state agency, about Tibet will be published, and which the Confucius will explicitly be provided with, too. That, and other cultural procurement we’ve touched upon. It will all be on display there, it all comes from the People’s Republic of China. Let’s see what they will say about Tibet, or Xinjiang, or other issues. It seems to me that it would be the right time then to discuss one or another of these issues after all. If that should be possible at the institutes, that would certainly spell progress.

[…]

Kassel: Has the presence of the Confucius Institutes, and cooperation with them, really led to tangible consequences, in your view? There is this criticism, in the media, that German sinologists don’t get frequently involved in discussions in Germany, about the way the People’s Republic deals with dissidents.

Rudolph: Yes, they contain themselves in this field, that’s true. I’ve seen this myself, when the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Liu Xiaobo, when Liu…

Kassel: … when it went to Liu Xiaobo, yes, …

Rudolph: … and at the time, I was contacted by some of your colleagues, and often, when I said yes, and glad to discuss this with you, there was this interjection: at last someone who’s willing to discuss this! – Yes, you could say that there is some reservation. It is, of course, an issue what German sinology is doing here, as to how they provide information, and it isn’t a real lot, I believe. What annoys me, for example – but I’m not quite innocent there, either -, is that the big China bestsellers in this country have all been written by people who can’t even read a Chinese newspaper. And yes, I’d blame a certain failure of sinology.

Kassel: Then I won’t keep you from getting down to work and write the next bestseller!

Rudolph: Okay!

[…]

Deutschlandradio added a disclaimer, saying that interviewees’ statements reflect their own views, and that the station doesn’t adopt such statements as its own.

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Related

» He Who Pays the Piper, Jan. 30, 2012
» Come on, Let’s Twist Again, May 26, 2011

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas

Weser River, Verden District (West)

Weser River, Verden District (West)

Merry Christmas, run, run, Rudolph, and let it snow.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Shortwave Logs: Radio Romania International (RRI)

If you are looking for a European broadcaster on shortwave, the BBC World Service may come to your mind – or Radio Romania International (RRI). The latter’s range of program languages is quite diverse: English, Chinese, French, Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and German. One a week, on Sundays, there’s a broadcast in Hebrew, too, with a review of the week1).

— Some history

According to the station’s website, first experimental radio programmes for target areas beyond Romania’s borders were aired in 1927. Broadcasting became official on November 1, 1928, on 747 kHz (401.6 meters) – apparently targeted at a domestic audience, in Romanian only. French and English programs followed in 1932, “to inform the diplomatic corps in the Romanian capital city”, and weekly programs in French and German were targeted at central and western Europe. Before the second world war, all foreign broadcasts depended on medium wave transmitters. When the first shortwave transmissions began, the focus appears to have been on the Balkans, and the Middle East. According to RRI, [i] t seems that the first letter received from abroad came from Egypt.

It’s a detailed account of RRI’s history (and that of its preceding organizations, all headquartered in Bucharest’s General Berthelot Street), and will most likely contain some information that is new to the reader.

Olt County's coat of arms, 1985 and post-1989

Olt County’s coat of arms, as depicted on a QSL card of December 1985, and as of these days (click picture for Wiki entry)

— Languages, Programs, Contraditions

RRI provides news, background reports and some cultural coverage. Much of the content is the same in English, German, and Chinese, but focus may differ somewhat. While there is news, some background information and cultural programming in all these languages, listeners’ preferred topics seem to count, too. German listeners frequently enquire about European and social issues – something that appears to be of less interest to Chinese listeners. The scope of Chinese programs may also be somewhat limited by air time: thirty minutes per broadcast in Chinese, rather than sixty, as is the case with some of the broadcasts in English, French, and German.

When it comes to international exchange or openness, RRI certainly can’t be accused of discrimination. The Institut Francais is shown among their partners on the French service’s web pages, and a link to the “Confucius Institute” in Bucharest adorns the Chinese-language main page, side by side with one to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (with no specified status).

According to RRI’s English service’s website, RRI’s Chinese service, which first went on air on October 1, 1999, benefited from […] Chinese language experts […] as well as our colleagues from Radio China International, the Romanian language department […].2)

Given the kind of “news” being broadcast by China Radio International (CRI), this kind of cooperation doesn’t look appropriate.

Some caveats: undue Beijing’s influence isn’t limited to RRI in particular, or to southeastern Europe in general3) (as suspected by some German quarters). A number of German universities have opted for cooperation with the agency from Beijing, for example, and areas of cooperation are hardly less sensitive.

Also, RRI’s news broadcasts in Chinese don’t appear to differ from those of the English or German departments. When Chinese listeners hear about Romanian citizens who take to the street, opposing changes to the country’s legal system, or Japan’s prime minister emphasizing liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as Japan’s and Romania’s shared values and principles, it may be met with more open minds, than if broadcast by a source that is deemed hostile by its audience.

All the same, turning October 1, 1949 into common ground between the audience and the station’s first broadcast in Chinese (October 1, 1994) spells a major contradiction, when suggesting at the same time, on a different history page, that RRI services turned towards the future, towards once again building a bridge between Romania and the democratic world and re-establishing the link between Romanians living abroad and those back home, a link that had been weakened on purpose by the totalitarian regime.

— Audience

RRI doesn’t offer detailed statistics – few international broadcasters do. It seems likely, however, that a presence on shortwave makes a difference for the better. I wouldn’t hear or read much about the country, if its signals didn’t come in handy. I’m suspecting that within Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, you can listen to RRI with a pressing iron (any appliance with spiral coils should do).

What has kept this blogger from giving feedback to the station is their online policy. It seems that everything that is mentioned in their listener’s-feedback programs goes right online, as a transcript. Facebookers probably won’t mind, but more traditional listeners may be a different story.

Either way, RRI certainly has its fans, and its multipliers.

— Shortwave

Shortwave plays an important role, at least when it comes to middle-aged and old listeners. For one, there’s the technical aspect. Nobody is encouraged to disassemble and reassemble his smartphone, or to boost its transmission power or its sensitivity. Use of shortwave, however, involves technical aspects, and people interested in some DIY. And while an app user may brush any source of information away after a few seconds, shortwave listeners’ attention span is likely to be sturdier.

It would seem to me that among a number of other aspects (sound not least – I find digital sound ugly), shortwave broadcasting signals respect for the listeners. It is more costly than web-based communication, it doesn’t provide broadcasters with as much information about how “efficient”, in terms of listener numbers, their productions actually are (which means that even the invisible listener matters), and it doesn’t ask if a listener lives under circumstances that allow for internet access – be it for economic or censorship reasons.

Shortwave is therefore a unique RRI feature. Bulgaria abandoned its shortwave transmissions years ago, so did Radio Poland, Radio Ukraine International, and Radio Prague (except for some airtime on German or American shortwave stations respectively). Radio Budapest, once one of the most popular Eastern European external broadcasters, is history.

— Recent RRI logs

Broadcasts in Chinese, German, and Hebrew
Time UTC Lang. Date Freq. S I N P O
07:00 German Jan21 7345 5 5 5 4 4
13:30 Chinese Jan21 9610 4 5 5 3 4
17:05 Hebrew Jan21 9790 4 5 5 3 4

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Footnotes

1) RRI’s website states 19:05 hours as the beginning of the transmission, which is standard time in Romania, and in Israel (17:05 GMT/UTC).
2) The Romanian department at CRI still exists, with an online presence, and medium/shortwave transmissions.
3) The “Spiegel” interview in German.

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

CCP Influence on Education in Free Societies is a Problem – but it’s not the Main Challenge

Shoe Me Quick

Kiss Me Quick (while we still have this feeling)

Yaxue Cao of ChinaChange.org links to questions asked by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith:

Is American education for sale? And, if so, are U.S. colleges and universities undermining the principle of academic freedom and, in the process, their own credibility in exchange for China’s education dollars?

These are important questions, asked in New York University’s (NYU) cooperation with the East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai. And Chris Smith, writes Cao, did not know the answer when he delivered his statement on Thursday.

There are people who think they do know the answer. Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph, a sinologist from south-western Germany, for example. In an interview with German national radio Deutschlandradio he said in the context of German universities cooperating with Confucius Institutes that

The [censoring] scissors are at work in the heads of these people. They know exactly that, if they are sinologists, for example, having cooperations or research, field research in China, they can’t do it the way Chinese, for example, can do it here. They have to cooperate with Chinese bodies. In many cases, these, too, are sub-departments of the central committee. And everyone knows what happens if you attend a talk by the Dalai Lama, for example. There are university boards who don’t go there, and they will tell you why: because they fear that their cooperations will suffer. That, in my view, is not in order. This is where you have to safeguard your independence. After all, that’s how universities came into being in Europe, during the 12th century – as independent institutions.

Every country seems to have its share of sinologists who believe – or believed in the past, anyway -, that free trade
with China would be the catalyst for political liberalism. They don’t seem to say that anymore, or maybe nobody quotes them anymore. But that doesn’t change the attitude of those who seem to believe, for whatever reason, that engagement is always better than maintaining a distance.

Cao also tends to believe that she knows the answer. She draws some conclusions that sound logical to me, and besides, she quotes Chinese stakeholders, whose statements suggest that the CCP carried the day at every stage at the ECNU negotiations with the NYU.

In fact, nobody should ever accuse the CCP of making a secret of their intentions. They discuss these intentions and drafts very openly, in the Chinese press. The problem, and here again it is time to quote Rudolph,

[…] is that the big China bestsellers in this country have all been written by people who can’t even read a Chinese newspaper.

The problem with maintaining standards – and I’m all for defining and defending some – is that political corrections come and go in waves. Campaigns, not reflection, shape the debates when it comes to how much cooperation with totalitarianism a free society can stand. When it is about the CCP infringing on freedoms, complaints usually get some media attention, because this fits into the general propaganda. When Chinese or ethnic Chinese people in Germany get censored, they get hardly any attention – it is as if the process were taking place in an anechoic chamber.

Rudolph, the sinologist quoted above, isn’t only a writer, but also a doer. He was the first president of the German Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, in 1997. And he was a “program observer” at the Chinese department of German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle, probably from the end of 2009 until 2014, appointed and paid by Deutsche Welle. That practice was never a matter of public debate in Germany, and no transparency either – only one news service cared to write a telling report, which only appeared in a media trade journal. At least four Chinese or Chinese-German journalists lost their contracts, apparently in conflicts over what was deemed “too CCP-friendly”. Rudolph doesn’t look like a champion of free speech to me.

The CCP is indeed unscrupulous. Its power abolishes freedom in China, and its influence endangers freedom where societies are supposed to be “autonomous”. A few weeks after Beijing and its puppet administration in Hong Kong had finished off legitimate democratic demands for universal suffrage from the Hong Kong public, Huanqiu Shibao (“Global Times”), one of the flagships of Chinese state media, warns that opposition against a mainland student running for university office at the University of Hong Kong reflected a dangerous “McCarthyite trend” in the former British colony. On a sidenote. if this conflict occured in Germany, Huanqiu might have tried allegations of Nazism instead.*)

But the CCP isn’t the core problem when it comes to its influence on academic institutions and people. When private enterprise becomes an important source of income for universities, that, too, endangers academic independence. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

If there were clear standards, procedures and constant verification of their practice in general, and beyond this particular “communist problem”, nobody would have to fear the CCP anyway.

In that way, Beijing actually helps to demonstrate what is wrong with us. If we don’t get this fixed as free societies, don’t blame China. Don’t even blame the CCP.

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Note

*) Recent years have seen a resurgence of Nazi Skinheads in some places in Germany. Attacks on foreigners occur from time to time. The unhealthy trend of racism is also the background to a series of anti-China moves of some German mediaXinhua, in 2008, reacting to the suspension of then DW-Chinese deputy department manager Zhang Danhong.

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Related

» 不该让“麦卡锡”进校门, Huanqiu, Feb 6, 2015
» Hearing transcript, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Febr 4, 2015
» Princelings & Sideshows, March 4, 2011

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Deutsche Welle projects: “cooperating” with CCTV, “countering” Russia Today


Main link: Druck auf die Deutsche Welle, October 1, 2014

1. News article: “Pressure on Deutsche Welle”

Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg advocates a role for the foreign broadcaster as an English-language counterweight to Russian propaganda outlet Russia Today, according to an article published by Kölnische Rundschau, a paper from Cologne, on October 1. “It’s not about responding to massive Russian propaganda with ‘counter-propaganda’, but about conveying our free democratic concept by means of good journalism, in accordance with Western standards, the paper quotes Limbourg.

The two parties that have formed Germany’s federal government in a “grand coaliton” since December 2013 differ about the idea. While Roderich Kieswetter, a member of parliament from chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU), likes the idea that someone “counters with medial elucidation”, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) parliamentary budget commission member Johannes Kahrs is skeptical: “I don’t think much of propaganda”. He added that “to state our values should be as much a matter of course as paying the DW employees in accordance with tariffs”.

Neither CDU nor SPD have committed themselves to increasing DW funds so as to enable the station to counter Russia Today.

Either way, Kölnische Rundschau writes, Limbourg is “under heavy pressure”, “on several fronts”. German news magazine Der Spiegel had reviewed DW’s China coverage critically – ever since freelance journalist Su Yutong had been fired, a constant stream of accusations that Limbourg had “kowtowed” to Beijing kept flowing, and Limbourg’s cooperation plans with Chinese state television CCTV had been “another step on a course that was being criticized as precarious”. Christian Mihr, head of the German section of Reporters without Borders (RSF), had told conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that his organization “sharply condemned” the cooperation, and the Green-leaning paper taz pointed out that CCTV had broadcast several “public confessions” of journalists and bloggers. Markus Löning, the federal government’s human-rights commissioner, criticized Limbourg’s plans as “dangerously naive”.

Kölnische Rundschau also points out that some 200 employees have lost some or all of their work at DW. Freelancers are said to be particularly affected by saving measures.

2. Assessment

Are Limbourg’s plans doomed already? Not necessarily. While recent decisions are controversial, Limbourg might still see them through – or back down in certain, but not all fields, depending on how support and opposition develop. When it comes to “cooperation” with party mouthpieces from China, there’s probably a lot of silent support in Germany that isn’t always reflected in the media. At least some circles in German business, the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA), criticized German media this summer for being “inaccurate” in their China coverage, according to a report by Deutsche Presseagentur (dpa),:

It was “the common task of governments and companies on both sides to promote a good reputation of Chinese companies in Germany”, the recommendations, on hand at dpa newsagency in Beijing on Tuesday [July 8], say. This was about a “fair and accurate” presentation. Background [of these recommendations?] is Chinese criticism of German media which “irresponsibly and inaccurately report about Chinese human rights and political issues”, a position paper still in progress says.

APA chairman Hubert Lienhard, talking to journalists, resolutely denied the existence of this paragraph in the raft. However, only a week ago, a draft of the paper containing this criticism circulated in the German embassy in Beijing. Accusations like these were, however, not adopted in the recommendations to the two heads of government, recommendations the APA commission does not want to publish. […]

It is this kind of climate where business interests gain weight, and where principles go down. That said, at least publicly, the German federal government wasn’t sympathetic towards the APA recomendations.

While former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, chairman of the board at Nord Stream AG, a consortium for construction and operation of the Nord Stream submarine pipeline between Vyborg in Russia and Greifswald in Germany, tirelessly advocates cooperation with Russia, Moscow doesn’t appear to have nearly as much sway over German published opinion or business as Beijing.

This doesn’t seem to suggest that countering Russian propaganda should be a priority. But it’s an easier target than Chinese propaganda.

And many Western “opinion formers” have apparently felt haunted by Russian propaganda, or by what they consider to be the effects of it, right at home.

Confucius Institutes are apparently much less offensive.

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Related Tag

» Deutsche Welle

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Related

» Chinesische Rochade, FAZ, Sept 26, 2014
» Weichgespült, DJV, Sept 15, 2014

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Deutsche Welle director: Su Yutong “a single case”

German television broadcast a six-minute report on recent events at German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) on Wednesday last week.

Su Yutong, a blogger and freelancer who was removed from DW’s Chinese department on August 19, was in the German news on Wednesday – in a broadcast on one of Germany’s main two television channels, a media background magazine that starts about fourty minutes before midnight German local time. Asked by Channel 1 (ARD / Das Erste) reporters why Su had been fired, Deutsche Welle director Peter Limbourg said that

This was a single case when we had to had to disassociate with a freelancer who, unfortunately, became active against Deutsche Welle several times and who, to put it carefully, depicted staff and colleagues and managers at Deutsche Welle publicly in a, let’s put it cautiously, dishonarable*) way. That, I think, we can’t afford, just as no company worldwide can afford, and therefore, we drew the consequence in a single case.

Das war ein Einzelfall, wo wir uns von einer freien Mitarbeiterin trennen mussten, die leider mehrfach gegen die Deutsche Welle aktiv wurde und Mitarbeiter und Kollegen und Führungskräfte der Deutschen Welle öffentlich, sagen wir es mal vorsichtig, ehrverletzend dargestellt hat. Das können wir uns, glaube ich, wie kein anderes Unternehmen auf der Welt, eben auch nicht leisten, und insofern haben wir da im Einzelfall die Konsequenz gezogen.

Interestingly, Limbourg did not say that Su had revealed internal information – or ARD didn’t quote him with that during the six-minutes report.

Peter von Hein, former head of the Chinese department (after a return to this position in 2012, he has now once again been removed) had been critical of Deutsche Welle’s new China policy, too. Different from Su Yutong, however, he had voiced his reservations within the organisation, says the report.

Limbourg was asked critical questions about DW’s planned cooperation with China’s state television broadcaster CCTV, and it was also reported that Meinhard-Jörg Rudolph, referred to as a former “program observer” at DW, had to leave one month after Limbourg had taken office. Also asked his opinion, he warned that DW was becoming dependent on China.

There was no mention of the four editors sacked in 2010 and 2011, and no mention of the legal technicalities used to sack either them or Su Yutong.

That, apparently, would cut too closely to the arteries of industrial relations within German media.

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Note

*) There seem to be many translations on offer for the German word ehrverletzend, and neither may fit exactly judicially, in a foreign language. Literally, dishonerable seems to come closest.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Deutsche Welle controversies: “a Tendency to influence Content from the Top”

It seems that Germany’s foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) is kissing Beijing’s butt like never before – far beyond where it was in 2008, before DW suddenly started aiming at Beijing’s throat. DW director Peter Limbourg is currently travelling in China, according to a New York Times Sinosphere article, published online on Tuesday:

Mr. Limbourg was in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, Deutsche Welle said by telephone on Monday from its headquarters in Bonn. He was to take part in a China-German Media Forum starting on Tuesday in Beijing co-sponsored by Global Times, a nationalist newspaper that is part of the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily group, the broadcaster confirmed.

The New York Times’ Tuesday article also republishes an open letter by Su Yutong to director Limbourg. Su had been fired by DW on August 19. DW spokesman Johannes Hoffmann had told the New York Times last month that Su Yutong had tweeted about internal (DW) issues in a way that no company in the world would tolerate. We warned her, and she continued to do it.

Su’s open letter suggests a visit by Limbourg to Gao Yu (高瑜), a former contributor to DW who is now under detention in China.

German green-liberal daily tageszeitung (taz) reports about Su Yutong‘s case, the purportedly regular transferral of Chinese department director Matthias von Hein, and about at least two commentaries critical of Israel which had not been published – “they were in the editorial department’s computer system, ready for publication. But at the very last moment, someone put on the emergency brake and stopped publication.

All events combined – censorship of the Israel-related commentaries and the mess in the Chinese department – are causing misgivings, writes taz:

The German Journalists Association [Deutscher Journalisten Verband, DJV] has been asked for advice by several employees. The DJV is seriously worried, and its speaker, Hendrik Zörner, makes no secret of it: “What worries us greatly is that there’s a tendency at Deutsche Welle to influence content from the top.”

[…]

The broadcaster’s statement concerning censorship is curt: a message from chief editor Alexander Kudascheff says that the articles hadn’t met DW’s journalistic standards, and that there had been talks with the authors. The articles are on hand at taz, and while you may disagree with the authors, there is certainly no offense against journalistic standards.

Indeed, “standards” appear to have become a mantra of Deutsche Welle leaders when in fact, they seem to be targeting unwanted content. When a “monitor”, German sinologist Jörg M. Rudolph, was appointed to supervise the Chinese department in 2009, the stated goal had also been to “improve standards”.

In March 2013, the Journalists Association had expressed its hope that Peter Limbourg, who had just been chosen as Deutsche Welle’s new director, would put journalism first (dem journalistischen Auftrag des Senders sei Vorrang einzuräumen). The Journalists Association has also followed the issue of quasi-employees at DW.

 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another “Media Scandal”: Anti-CNN crops Li Qi’s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”

The following is an article published by April Media (四月网) in October this year, a review of Li Qi‘s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” (China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle). Anti-CNN was turned into April Media in 2009.

Links within blockquote added during translation; I added my remarks about the review underneath.

April Media’s Book Review

2008 was a memorable year. It was a year of a global uproar because of China, and it was a year where, for the first time, Chinese people became collectively excited. The uproar began with the Tibet incident in March that year, with the excitement going against Western media reporting and the way it had created an uproar for no reason. In the West, people took to the streets to protest against China’s “repression” of Tibetans, obstructing the torch ralleye to the Olympic Games which were for the first time held in Beijing. All over the world, Chinese people without an interest in politics also loudly expressed their anger at the West’s one-sided, distorted coverage.

2008是一个令人难忘的年头。那是一个世界因为中国而沸腾的年头,那是一个全世界华人首次全体激动起来的年头。那个沸腾始于是年三月的西藏事件;那个激动始于对西方报导及其引发的西方“无端”沸腾的不满。在西方,人们走上街头抗议中国“镇压”藏族人,阻挠首次在中国举办的奥运会的火炬之行。在世界上,从不关心政治的华人也站起来大声地表达对西方的片面、扭曲的报导的愤怒。

“The Voice of Germany’s China Nightmare” was written by a Chinese with many years of work experience in Western media, and describes what happened at the “Voice of Germany” and other German media from the Tibet incident to the end of 2011. It is a mere description, fully reflecting the predicament of Western media coverage on China with detailed material.

《德国之声的中国梦魇》这本书是一名在西方媒体工作多年的华人记者写的,记述了西藏事件至2011年底发生在“德国之声”和其它德国媒体中的事情。它仅仅是记述,是详尽的资料,但充分反映了西方媒体在中国报导中所处的窘境。这种窘境在20世纪末就已经发生,它至今仍然持续着。

The predicament, to say it clearly, is a kind of phobia against China’s rise. After hundreds of years of habitually reporting objectively, reflected in the law, they turned away from their own law and principles to a great degree. They can’t, for example, dare to mention the good aspects of China, even when the economy is the topic. They still have to involve politics, and within positive coverage, there still needs to be some criticism. Even in international disputes, there is a natural belief that China isn’t good. When it comes to the most recent Diaoyu Islands dispute, for example, Western media mostly use the Japanese name, clearly standing on Japan’s side, leading Western readers to a tendency which is just as clear.

这种窘境,说穿了就是一种对中国崛起的恐惧症。几百年来养成了客观报导的习惯、并将之大写在各种法律里的西方媒体,在很大程度上背离了自己的法律和原则:不能、不敢说中国好的方面,即使是谈经济,也要牵扯政治,在好的报导中也要有所批评。甚至在国际争端中,也自然而然地认定中国不好。比如在最近的钓鱼岛争端中,西方媒体大多用日本的岛名,明显地站在日本一边,导致西方读者也有了明显的倾向。

Within this “China isn’t good” discourse, within this envelope of China “phobia”, also on German television, radio, internet and in- and outside an international broadcaster’s television station – “Voice of Germany” -, a series of scandals occurred. In August 2008, ahead of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, this station’s Chinese-department’s Zhang Danhong said on German television that China’s overcoming of poverty was a great achievement. It triggered attacks from overseas dissidents and German media. This grew into attacks on the comparatively objective and comprehensive coverage of the Voice of Germany’s Chinese department. Some overseas dissidents, quickly and at will, fabricated a deceptive representation of [Deutsche Welle] Chinese broadcasting and online departments that were “China-friendly” and “CCP-friendly”. Some German journalists and politicians blindly believed those fabrications without checking the accusations. The so-called “German Author Circle of the German Federal Republic” even suggested that the Voice of Germany’s Chinese department should be purged and be comprehensively supervised in its China coverage. A surge of open letters to Germany’s federal parliament emerged, and in a wave of at least ten open letters and several tens of German media reports, the German parliament also became involved. Chinese media surged, too.

在这种中国“不好论”、中国“恐惧症”笼罩下,于是在德国集电视、广播、互联网于一体的国际广播电视台“德国之声”内外,发生了一系列的丑闻。在2008年8月,北京奥运开幕之际,该台中国部张丹红在德国电视台说中国除贫是重大贡献,引起了海外异议人士和德国媒体的围攻。继而扩散到对在西藏事件等方面相对客观地、比较全面地展开报导的德国之声中文部的攻击。一些海外异议人士凭空捏造、随意组合,创建了一个“亲华亲共”的德国之声中文广播和网络部报导的假象。一些德国记者、政治家盲目地相信这些捏造,而根本不去核对那些指责。所谓的“联邦德国作家圈”甚至提出要清洗德国之声中文编辑部、全面监督对华报导。一轮向德国联邦议院发公开信的热潮涌现了,在先后至少十封公开信和几十个德国媒体的报导热潮中,德国联邦议院也插手了。中国媒体在这个热潮冲击下同样汹涌澎湃。

The final examination report shows that the allegations against the Voice of Germany’s Chinese editorial department were completely slanderous. Originally, this matter should have been over by then. But the Voice of Germany’s leaders got trapped in fear, and went into disarray. From early in 2009, this international media unit implemented” the original demands which had been comprehensively repudiated [by the investigation]: it invited people “immune against the CCP” to examine the reporting – in violation of Germany’s constitution, and editors who adhered to the legal principles of objective coverage were put under pressure, up to the expulsion of four editors and reporters.

最后的审核结论表明,对德国之声中文编辑部的指责纯属子虚乌有。本来,这件事情应该过去了。可是,德国之声领导完全陷入了恐慌之中,在胜利中自乱阵脚。从2009年开始,这个国际媒体全面“执行”了本来被它全面推翻了的对方的要求:请“免疫”于共产主义的台外人员对中文节目展开违反德国宪法的新闻检查;对坚持德国法律规定的客观报导原则的编辑、记者实施打压,直到把四名编辑、记者开除出去。

In October 2012, “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” was published by August von Goehte Lieteraturverlag [sic]. It describes, with detailed material, revealing many creepy scandals. Some examples as follows.

2012年10月出版的德语版《德国之声的中国梦魇》(China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle,出版社:August von Goehte Lieteraturverlag)一书以详实的资料,记述了整个过程,揭露了许多令人毛骨悚然的丑闻。在此举例如下。

I’m not going to translate April Media’s list line by line, but only mention them very roughly here –

  • the way dissidents were believed and the inclination to believe them because of their suitable China-isn’t-good narrative;
  • how the Deutsche Welle management abandoned “the fruits of victory” (胜利果实);
  • how – in the eyes of many listeners and readers, April Media adds -, the station became a voice of dissidents and Falun Gong, etc., thus abandoning Deutsche Welle director’s assertion that they were neither CCP’s, nor of the dissidents’ mouthpiece;
  • the “monitor” (Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph), with an emphasis on how he allegedly objected to the term “mainland”, and demanding the use of “China” and “Taiwan” instead;
  • inviting a “Tibetan separatist” to comment on the Yushu earthquake, with politicized remarks not related to the earthquake, or referring to Xinjiang as East Turkestan;
  • violating the principles of objective journalism, and the German constitution;
  • “Lying in court”;
  • Falun-Gong guidance on German media and Deutsche Welle, beginning with the Zhang-Danhong affair.

After describing several episodes from “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”, April Media returns to the issue of “sinophobia”. While the book can’t solve problems, it can describe otherwise rather hidden issues, the reviewer suggests. And it “can also help Chinese people to understand the West and Germany more comprehensively”.

Remarks

First of all, April Media’s review should not be held against Li Qi, in my view – just as the way Chinese media presented Zhang Danhong – a German citizen, btw, according to Li – as a Chinese-motherland-superhero four years ago, should not be held against Zhang.  Li Qi wrote the book, not April Media’s review of it.

The review leaves an important episode out – one that Li himself addresses in his book: Zhang Danhong’s “interview with herself”, i. e. an intern or – rather, according to Li – a newbie in the department asking the questions. Li would go along with the review in that the Deutsche Welle management “abandoned the fruits of victory” without need – but he does see Zhang’s “interview” as the turning point. The following is based on my understanding of Li Qi’s chapter on the issue. I’ll base the following paragraphs on my understanding of that chapter.

Zhang had a dispute with He Qinglian, a dissident living in America. He Qinglian had alleged that Zhang had asked her, in 2005, to write no comments commentaries for the department anymore, but rather to report about China. He Qinglian considered that a request to terminate her assignment with Deutsche Welle, because reporting about China was difficult when living in the U.S.. In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, He alleged that the Chinese propaganda department had been involved in the decision.

Li Qi felt that he could relate to the anger of the department managers. After all, they had been targeted by He Qinglian.

But I felt that such remarks weren’t worth a debate. What mattered was that the absurd accusations that we had been red infiltrators had been staved off.

The online department manager suggested to care about more important things when Zhang approached her, asking if an online colleague could do the interview with her. Zhang did it anyway. The release online then apparently followed a misunderstanding about “intranet” and “internet”.

Here is the crux – in my view: the Deutsche Welle management certainly felt that they had done their best to defend the integrity of the Chinese department. They had faced criticism, public uproars, inquiries from politics, and had seen it all through. And there came some small-minded editors with a “the-winner-takes-it-all” mentality who wouldn’t want to spare a single point, when it came to the “enemy”.  To be clear – I’m speculating about the mindsets here.

“Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” leaves the impression that Li doesn’t want to criticize the incident – but that he doesn’t want to condone it either.

Probably, nobody would have had to hit the roof (but Deutsche Welle’s top managers did, according to Li’s book). And the “interview incident” did pose questions about the department’s state of the art – , if nothing else had done that previously.

But the irony is that all this apparently turned into a political purge after all, rather than into continuous improvement (there’s no place where improvement would be unwarranted, is there?). And Li Qi and his colleagues were hardly to blame for the “interview incident”. According to Li, neither of the four online editors sacked in 2010/2011 was really responsible for the “self-interview”.

But April Media’s information – much of it apparently accurate, some of it half-true, and some of it – apparently – a wilful omission – is relevant all the same. It is relevant because it is among the media that cover the issue at all.

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