Archive for ‘America’

Sunday, May 22, 2016

America, Japan: a more equal Relationship?

US President Barack Obama gave NHK an exclusive interview ahead of his arrival in Japan, reports NHK, emphasizing that Obama would be the first sitting US President to visit the atomic-bombed city.

A full account of the interview doesn’t seem to be available online yet. NHK provides a video with excerpts from the interview.

News like this doesn’t make much sense without context. US-Japan relations, frequently dubbed one of the closest alliances worldwide, were contentious in 2009, according to the New York Times. At the time, Japan had just seen its first transition of power from one political party to another, and the Hatoyama government – in short – called for a more equal relationship with the United States, with a number of possible ramifications.

The departure from the usual Liberal-Democrats rule in Japan was only an interlude. And a nation’s foreign policies are usually bi-partisan, or meta-partisan – in Japan, too.

From the Middle East to Ukraine, questions are being asked about the U.S. ability and willingness to maintain peace. If it cannot or will not, who will fill the void?,

the Nikkei Asian Review asked in May 2015.

Japan sees its future more within Asia, the NYT quoted Eswar S. Prasad back then. That, however, doesn’t necessarily benefit Sino-Japanese relations, as suggested by the NYT six years earlier. Rather, Japan appears to be warming to Russia.

Japan and Russia have especially found ample opportunity to conduct a coordinated response to the most recent security crisis in North Korea. Japan and Russia have also sought to increase their economic and financial ties, which are particularly important for the development of the Russian Far East,

Anthony Rinna of the Sino-NK research group noted in March this year. The Russian pivot to the East – possibly with a lot of help from Tokyo – was hampered by two obstacles however, Rinna cautioned: the long-standing dispute over the Kuril Islands, and Japan’s alignment with the West over the Ukraine crisis.

And while

the containment of China remains the primary purpose of the Japan-U.S. defense apparatus, U.S. strategic containment of Russia also continues to be an important factor in the Japan-U.S. alliance, which comprises one key flank of the American strategic posture in Asia,

Rinna added.

But being part of an alliance doesn’t mean that Japan would forgo foreign policies of its own. When Obama (reportedly) tried to talk Japanese prime minister Abe out of a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, his appeal was unsuccessful.

It’s not only Japan who needs to take existing alliances into consideration. The same is true for Russia – but less so than Japan. Russian obligations toward China can’t be compared to Japan’s obligations toward America. That may not be a general opinion in China, but observers who watch the developments probably wouldn’t be caught by surprise if Russia and Japan were to sign a peace treaty in the not too distant future.

In December 2013, Cui Heng (崔珩) of the East China Normal University’s Russia Research Center in Shanghai, published an opinion on the China Internet Information Center (中国网) website. Titled “Russia won’t keep away from Japan because of Russia-Chinese relations”, Cui’s article pointed out that Russia’s preparedness to be considerate of China was limited, even though Sino-Russian relations were “at their best in history”.

Abe’s generation in particular had, because of their country’s economic successes, developed a sense of national greatness, and were seeking normalization for Japanese statehood. The economic revival after Abe’s taking office [there was a revival indeed, three years ago] had added to this conscience among Japanese politicians, Cui wrote. Ending the official state of war with Russia would be part of normalization. Even if hardly relevant in military terms, the status quo weighed heavily in terms of in terms of symbolism.

By coming to formally peaceful terms with Russia, Japan could also shed its status as a defeated country, Cui argued, and then addressed a factor that made Russia’s perception of Japan different from both China’s, and America’s:

Russia isn’t only prepared to develop beneficial relations with Japan for geopolitical reasons. In Russian historical memory, there isn’t much hate against Japan. During the age of the great empires, Japanese-Russian relations in the Far East were of a competitive nature. Many Russians still talk about the 1905 defeat, but the Far East wasn’t considered a place that would hit Russian nerve as hard as the crushing defeat in the Crimean war. Back then, Japan wasn’t perceived as a threat for Russia, and from another perspective, if there had been anti-Japanese feelings, there wouldn’t have been a revolution. According to perception back then, the [1905] defeat was a result of the Russian government’s incompetence, not [brought about by] a strong adversary. The outstanding achievements of the Soviet Red Army in 1945 led to a great [positive] Russian attitude, but still without considering Japan a great enemy.

By visiting Hiroshima, Obama appears to make a concession to Tokyo’s desire for “normalization”. Of course, few decisions are made for only one reason – they are part of a network, or hierarchy, of objectives. One objective was stated by Obama himself – that we should continue to strive for a world without nuclear weapons.

There is no great likelihood that Japan would shift away from the alliance with Washington. Japan’s distrust of China probably outweighs even America’s. That’s a stabilizing factor in US-Japanese relations.

But Tokyo is certainly trying to put its relations with America on a more equal footing – not just formally, but by creating diplomatic and economic facts that will help to further this aim.

Russia’s Far East is nothing to disregard, in terms of its economic potential. Japan can do business with Ukraine, and with Russia, and is likely to cooperate with both.

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Related

Shared Concern, Nov 11, 2015
Greater Contributions, April 25, 2014

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Shortwave Logs, April/May 2016: Okeechobee and the World

The Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival was going to “put Okeechobee on the map, worldwide”, organizers of the event were quoted in September last year.

But listen, toffee-nosed little startup: Okeechobee, Florida, has been on the world map for decades. WYFR, a religious shortwave broadcaster, operated transmitters there from the late 1970s to 2013, and relayed Radio Taiwan International (initially “Voice of Free China”) broadcasts to the Western hemisphere.

QSL Card, RTI Taipei, Taiwan

The easier way to get a QSL card confirming Okeechobee:
write to Radio Taiwan International (Spanish service)

Even the end of the world (and of all world maps, for that matter) was announced from Okeechobee. Granted, the studios were based in California, but anyway.

The WYFR transmission site was bought by WRMI, another broadcaster in Florida, in 2013, less than half a year after WYFR had ceased operation. WRMI’s broadcasting schedule looks like a who-is-who of European broadcasters who abandoned shortwave in recent years, and who now re-appear on WRMI. The schedule looks pretty complicated to me, but if you switch on your radio somewhere in northern-central Europe during the second half of the night, you are likely to hear some of them on 11580 kHz: Radio Ukraine International from 23:30 to 23:59 UTC, and then Radio Slovakia, for example.

Later in the night (or early morning), it will be  Ralph Gordon Stair, a usually ill-tempered preacher. So to quite a degree, the transmission site has remained religious, because Stair buys tons of airtime, via satellite and shortwave – from WRMI not least.

Stair considers himself a prophet and shows some interest in the future of Donald Trump,  New York City, and US-North Korean relations.*)

Whichever way you look at it, Okeechobee is likely to remain on the world map. Until doomsday, anyway.

===============

The A-16 broadcasting season started on March 27 (and will end late in October). The following is a list of some of my listening logs during the past few weeks, in northern Germany.
International Telecommunication Union letter codes used in the table underneath:

ALB – Albania; ARG – Argentina; AUS – Australia; D – Germany; KRE – North Korea; KOR – South Korea; NZL – New Zealand; PHL – Philippines; SVNSlovakia Slovenia; USA – United States of America.

Languages (“L.”):

C – Chinese; E – English; F – French; G – German; K – Korean. The table underneath might appear messy unless you click the headline of this particular post – or it may remain invisible unless you click “continue reading”.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

DPP: a Need to Control and to Trust Tsai

Very few things can be taken for granted. Tsai Ing-wen‘s presidency will have to address issues from pension reform and social issues, to relations with China and efforts for economic-cooperation agreements with countries in the region, beyond Singapore and New Zealand.

From tomorrow, many things will be different from preceding presidencies. But one thing will not change at all: Beijing’s latent aggression against the island democracy will stay around.

Tsai will probably try to avoid anything that would, in the eyes of many Taiwanese people and especially in the eyes of Washington or Tokyo, unnecessarily anger Beijing. That in turn may anger some or many of her supporters.

But in tricky times, Tsai needs loyal supporters, who are prepared to believe that she has the best in mind for her country, and that she has the judgment and strength to make the right choices.

There will be disagreement, and there will be debate, which is essential. But underlying these, there needs to be loyalty within the Democratic Progressive Party.

Probably, there will be no loyal opposition – there are no indications, anyway, that the KMT in its current sectarian shape will constitute that kind of democratic balance.

The DPP itself, and maybe the New Power Party, too, will have to take much of that loyal-opposition role – at least until July next year.

Distinguishing between blind faith and loyalty will be a challenge for people who support the president elect. But if Tsai’s supporters expect her to perform well, they themselves will have to play their part, too, in terms of judgment, strength, and faith.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Panama Papers: Invested, but not Koppied

You needn’t be there yourself, but should your money? Those places are beginning to look like those parties you simply have to get an invitation to, if you want to matter: the “havens” where (many of) the rich and beautiful put their money. The Virgin Islands, for example. Or Panama. Or Luxemburg? Not sure. Ask a bank.

Reportedly, some members of Vladimir Putin‘s tight-knit inner circle do it. Reportedly, Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan (成龍) does it. So do Thais. Lots of Indians, too. And maybe many Americans, but elsewhere.

Others, also reportedly, did so in the past. One of them even says that he lost money in the game.

But not so fast. Media tend to scandalize everything, don’t they?

According to ICIJ, the documents make public the offshore accounts of 140 politicians and public officials. The documents don’t necessarily detail anything illegal, but they do shine a light on the shadowy world of offshore finances,

National Public Radio (NPR) informs its listeners.

So, let’s not jump to conclusions. The problem, either way, is that the investors’ countries’ governments can’t get a picture of what is there. And once an investor is found on a list like the “Panama Papers”, with investments or activities formerly unknown to his country’s fiscal authorities (and/or the public), he’s got something to explain.

Like Argentine president Mauricio Macri, for example.

So, it’s beautiful to have some money there.

Unless the public begins to continuously ask questions about it.

Timely Exits from Paradise

If British prime minister David Cameron is right, the money he and his wife earned from an offshore trust were taxed. His problem, then, would be the general suspicon of the business.

The Cameron couple reportedly sold their shares in question in 2010, the year he became prime minister.

“Best Effect” and “Wealth Ming” reportedly ceased operations in 2012 and/or 2013. That was when CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping took his top positions. The two companies had been run in the Virgin Islands, and Deng Jiagui (邓家贵), husband to Xi’s older sister, had been the owner, Singaporean paper Zaobao reported on Tuesday.

And then, there’s Tsai Ying-yang (蔡瀛陽), one of the 16,785 Taiwanese Mossack Fonseca customers, the law firm the “Panama Papers” were leaked from. According to his lawyer, Lien Yuen-lung (連元龍), Tsay Ying-yang terminated his Koppie Limited company as soon as in 2009, the year following its establishment, so as to cut the losses – 30 percent of the investment, according to a phone interview Lien gave Reuters, as quoted by the Straits Times.

Tsai Ing-wen hasn’t commented herself, and maybe, she won’t any time soon. It doesn’t seem that too much pressure has mounted so far. But questions are asked all the same. On Wednesday, KMT legislators William Tseng (曾銘宗), Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), and Lee Yan-hsiu (李彥秀) told a press conference that in the “many cases” where the Tsai family had encountered controversy, Tsai Ying-yangs name had emerged, and this “gave cause for doubts” (會起人疑竇).

An Emerging KMT Opposition Pattern

William Tseng may become a regular questioner, concerning the financial affairs of Tsai’s family people. One of the “controversies” he had quoted had been the issue of a press conference on March 24. There, with different KMT colleagues,  but the same kind of artwork on the wall behind the panel, showing the suspect of the day, Tseng dealt with the issue of Academica Sinica president Wong Chi-huey‘s daughter’s role as a shareholder of OBI Pharma Inc..

KMT legislators press conference artwork

KMT representations:
Mind the guys in the background

One of his fellow legislators, Alicia Wang (王育敏), raised the issue of the company’s shareholder structure (and neatly placed Tsai’s brother there, too, maybe just to make his name available for quote by Tseng on other occasions:

“President-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) brother and sister-in-law are also shareholders, and so is Wong’s daughter, Wong Yu-shioh (翁郁秀). Are others involved?”

Diplomatic Relations, but no Tax Treaty

The “Panama Papers”, as far as they concern Taiwanese customers, contain not only individuals, but companies, too: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (founding chairman Morris Chang, who served Taiwan as APEC representative in 2006), TransAsia Airways (more recently in the news for the tragic Flight 235 crash), Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation, Wei Chuan Food Corporation (in the news since 2013), and the Executive Yuan’s National Development Fund.

The Development Fund was not a taxable organization, Taiwan’s foreign broadcaster Radio Taiwan International (RTI) quotes finance minister Chang Sheng-ford. He used the example to make the point that to suggest that some 16,000 keyword search results for Taiwan in the “Panama Papers” did not signify 16,000 cases of tax evasion. That’s just not the way to look at it.

Chang reportedly also said that while, “if necessary”, Taiwan would establish a Panama Papers working group and start investigating the most high risk people and agencies for tax evasion, the country had no tax treaty with Panama. Also, a Taiwanese anti-tax evasion law had not yet been passed.

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Related

The Panama Papers
Achselzucken schadet, Der Freitag, Apr 7, 2016
The Panama Papers, FoarP, Apr 6, 2016

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Germany: Is “The Ivan” Back?

The Russians are coming was a standard line when I was a child. Sometimes, everyone into the blockhouses would be added. it was meant to be fun, but there was an underlying fear in it.

Another term for Russians in general would be The Ivan*) (probably an echo from “Ivan the Terrible”). At least in West Germany, fear of Russia was part of collective post-war identity – much more so than in Britain or France.

There may be many possible explanations for this, and I tend to believe that it was a combination of several factors (Germany being subject to allied, including Soviet, control being one that lasted particularly long) was one of them. West Germany’s existence and raison d’être as a frontline state was another. And then, there was a widespread inclination among many Germans to see their country as a victim in the first place, rather than as an initiator of Nazism and boundless war.

By 1983, it had become evident, at least in certain quarters, that the USSR had lost most of its expansionary power. In terms of soft power, Moscows message had become about as attractive as athlete’s foot, and in military terms, the “Evil Empire” was grossly overestimated.

But there was a narrative, and as usual (when the narrative is well crafted), it prevailed over facts. On March 31, 1983, US president Ronald Reagan told a Los Angeles World Affairs Council Luncheon that

In the last 15 years or more, the Soviet Union has engaged in a relentless military buildup, overtaking and surpassing the United States in major categories of military power, acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military capability. All the moral values which this country cherishes-freedom, democracy, the right of peoples and nations to determine their own destiny, to speak and write, to live and worship as they choose—all these basic rights are fundamentally challenged by a powerful adversary which does not wish these values to survive.

Der Spiegel, back then a center-left and liberal German newsmagazine, took issue with Reagan. While the USSR was certainly no paper tiger, and while it was true that Soviet military had seen a huge push during two decades under Leonid Brezhnev (with American military budgets being  reduced by some 2.5 percent per year during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies), the USSR’s military power wasn’t as strong as first reported.

Shortly before a paper was published by US secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger (also in March 1983, and supportive of Reagan’s March-31 remarks), the CIA had retracted all its US statements concerning Moscow’s military budget:

military expenditures had been overestimated by fifty percent. Rather than by three, four, or more percent, there had been growth by a maximum of two percent since 1976.

Such subtleties, however, didn’t put Ronald Reagan off-message. His story remained the same; the Soviet Union was about to put an end to [a]ll the moral values which this country cherishes.

Fourty-year-old statistics like those debted in the early 1980s are hard to verify (or falsify). But in at least one respect, the Spiegel authors, in 1983, were wrong: contrary to what they believed (quoting “experts”), America proved able to finish the USSR off in a gargantuan arms race, and the factors that lead to the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991 were pretty much the weaknesses that the Spiegel authors themselves had pointed out less than a decade earlier.

The rest, as they say, is history. The world, from Alaska to Siberia (the long way round, of course), and from Pole to Pole, happily awaited huge peace dividends. After all, we had reached the end of history.

But Russia felt squeezed by NATO – understandably, the Baltic nations and Poland had felt rather urgently that they needed a strong reassurance against potential future Russian expansionism. (Not everyone appeared to trust the story about the end of history, and besides, a democratic society doesn’t necessarily live in a peaceful, unaggressive state.

Germans have viewed Russia – and the Soviet Union – differently since the mid-1980s. By 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had overtaken Ronald Reagan, in terms of popularity here. That didn’t change after the USSR’s demise: while Gorbachev was seen as a failure, or even a “sellout” of sourts, among many Russians, Germans considered him “the” man who had made German unification possible. And Boris Yeltsin‘s Russia, even if not looking terribly respectable at the time, certainly didn’t look like something to fear either.

In an article in Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, a Moscow correspondent stated in May 1994 that once again, a majority of Russians considered the end of the USSR a greater calamity than its beginnings, and that Russian reformers had not been successful in “learning from the West”, as stipulated by Yeltsin two and a half years earlier.

Yeltsin had to accept that the safeguarding of authority, which had for centuries been based on expansion rather than on enlightenment, could not be redesigned with a new constitution alone.

Jelzin hat einsehen müssen, daß Herrschaftssicherung, die seit Jahrhunderten durch Ausdehnung statt durch Aufklärung erfolgte, mit einer neuen Verfassung alleine nicht umgestaltet werden kann.

Only pacts and compromises with conservative forces could save the “autumn” of Yeltsin’s presidency, the correspondent wrote.

In economic terms, a Stratfor paper dating from November 1999 suggested that veterans of perestroika, such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, could strip the oligarchs of their wealth and influence, and enact more centrist policies.

To quite an extent, this seems to be what Vladimir Putin‘s presidency has done. In its early years, it continued the ideological consolidation started by Yeltsin himself, and his administration began to implement a policy that the “Zeit” Moscow correspondent described as west-oriented as a matter of principle, but moving away from America in particular. […] In America, however, the “Zeit” article quoted Yeltsin, forces were concentrating that would like to keep Russia in a state of controllable paralysis. That said, Putin  – in the eyes of investors – may have arrived at a point similar to Yeltsin’s, by now. Too little appears to move, economically.

When reading the press these days – certainly the German press -, you might be forgiven if you think that Russian policies had fundamentally changed since the 1990s. But they haven’t. There has been a remarkable Russian continuity – and a tendency in the West to disregard realities in Russia, and in its remaining sphere of influence.

When late German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told Moscow in December 2013 that it was “not appropriate” for the EU “to ask third parties for permission before inviting the Ukraine to develop into Europe’s direction”, this represented widespread western- and central European illusions.

Russia, too, is a European country – most Russians live on the European continent, and Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Volgograd not least, are European cities. The discriminatory – and self-centred – approach of equating Europe with the EU has done much to its recent crises, be it on its eastern, be it on its northwestern boundaries.

There is an important difference to make: it would have been unethical if NATO had refused Polish or a Baltic country’s accessions, and it would have been particularly unethical if Germany a main author of Polish partition and loss of the Baltic states’ sovereignty,- had demanded such a refusal.

But in Ukraine, there had been no consensus to join an alliance with the West. In a row, administrations closer to Moscow or closer to the West had been elected, but there had been no continuity. There was Russian intervention, but there had been unwarranted Western interference prior to that. I have no doubt that any Russian leader, be it Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev, would have reacted just the way Putin did. That was no matter of conviction; it was a matter of geopolitics.

Now, Germany’s federal government intends to counter Russian espionage, propaganda, and disinformation in Germany, writes German daily Die Welt. What they mean is, that Russian and pro-Putin publications have blown several issues in the news – issues that have recently troubled many Germans – out of proportions, or given them a slant that favored narratives from the fringes, rather than the much-conjured “center” of German society.

If the German public can be persuaded by domestic propaganda to swing back from a rather “russophile” (since the 1980s) to a rather anti-Russian attitude again (as from the 1940s to the 1970s) remains to be seen. But if the political class have their way, it is going to work that way.

That said, there are surprises, once in a while. In May 2015, Joachim Gauck, not particularly famous for being a friend of the Russian people, gave a speech in the Westphalian town of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war campsite during World War 1 and, more notoriously, World War 2. What Gauck said, was this:

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

Saying that was laudable, especially as most Germans I know aren’t even aware of this chapter in their history. But there is a catch: to say something only once hardly changes anything. Only regular repetition – as anyone with just a faint idea of how propaganda works can tell you – will make sink inconvenient truths like these sink in. Most Germans I know aren’t actually aware of the scale of German warcrimes against Soviet war prisoners. And to make the warprisoner story sink in isn’t deemed desirable: neither by most of Germany’s media, nor by the German population in general, many of whom would like to see a Schlußstrich, a “final stroke” underneath the complete chapter of Nazism.

Some time in the early 1980s – prior to Gorbachev’s tenure as Soviet party secretary -, the West German foreign office published a booklet for use in school classes. Our school was a rather conservative environment, but the booklet made it into our classroom anyway. Titled “Aufrüsten-Abrüsten” (Armament-Disarmament), it was a try to educate us in foreign politics, and I don’t remember much of it. But there was a remarkable line in it which basically said that, no matter to which conclusions we, as school students, might come concerning the Soviet Union’s role in Europe, we should develop some sympathy – even if not necessarily acquiescence – in the light of the past.

I guess that this booklet had much to do with the man at the helm of the foreign office at the time – Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, who died on Thursday. As phobic as West German feelings against the “East” might have been back then, there seemed to be an understanding, at least in some substantial quarters of the political class, that you can’t have peace without trying to understand those who may (or may not) become your foes, and that your own decisions may matter in the process.

This understanding may no longer be here, and I’m wondering how much misery it may take before we will regain some common sense.

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Notes

*) Max Frisch, in his novel “Homo Faber”, raised a modest monument for German anti-Russian sentiment, in the shape of an, as it turns out later, otherwise/actually/mostly quite likeable German philistine:

No German desired re-armament, but the Russian forced America into it, tragically, which I, as a Swissman […], couldn’t judge, because I hadn’t been to the Caucasus, he [the German] had been in the Caucasus, he knew the Ivan, who could only be taught a lesson with weapons. He knew the Ivan! He said that several times. Only possible lesson through weapons!, he said, because nothing else would impress him, the Ivan —

I peeled my apple.

Distinction between Herrenmenschen and Untermenschen, as advocated by the good Hitler, was, of course, nonsense; but Asians remained Asians —

I ate my apple.

Kein  Deutscher  wünsche  Wiederbewaffnung,  aber  der  Russe zwinge  Amerika  dazu,  Tragik,  ich  als  Schweizer   (Schwyzzer, wie  er mit Vorliebe sagte)  könne  alldies  nicht   beurteilen,  weil  nie im Kaukasus gewesen,  er sei  im  Kaukasus gewesen,  er  kenne den Iwan, der nur durch Waffen zu belehren sei. Er kenne den Iwan!
Das  sagte  er mehrmals. Nur durch Waffen zu  belehren!  sagte  er, denn alles andere  mache  ihm keinen Eindruck,  dem  Iwan   –

Ich  schälte meinen Apfel.

Unterscheidung   nach  Herrenmenschen   und   Untermenschen, wie’s  der  gute  Hitler  meinte, sei  natürlich  Unsinn;  aber  Asiaten bleiben Asiaten –
Ich  aß meinen Apfel.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Media Coverage on Ministry of Education’s (MoE) “Blue Book” on Returning Overseas Students and the Labor Market

The Chinese ministry of education (MoE) published a “blue book”, or a government report, on March 25, concerning overseas Chinese students returning to China, and looking for a job there. If Chinese press and government agency coverage on the report is something to go by, this is what the average academic returnee to the motherland looks like:

he is actually mostly a she (59.16 percent of the returnees are female), aged 23 to 33 (absolute average 27.04 yrs old), a masters student (80.7 percent), a postgraduate (9,49 percent), or an undergraduate / a student with a specialized subject (9.81 percent combined). If a postgraduate, his main fields should mainly be chemistry, material science, economics, electronics and electrical engineering, while the masters fields of study are somewhat more into the direction of finance, accounting, business management, management studies, or international business studies.

Statistics seem to suggest that there have been more returnees recently, than the 1978 to 2015 average numbers. Either way, the MoE’s Overseas Students’ Support Center deputy director Xu Peixiang (徐培祥) is quoted as saying that some 70 to 80 percent of students, in recent years, have returned after their studies abroad.1)

97 percent of those who currently study abroad are doing so at their own expense, which appears plausible when looking at the total numbers. In 2015 alone, 523,700 students reportedly left for studies abroad, and 409,100 job-seeking overseas students returned to China that year. By comparison, 248 students left China for studies abroad in 1978, according to Xinhua newsagency.

Very rough calculations with many unknowns: given that 459,800 Chinese left China to study abroad in 2014, according to this government-agency news report, the average of students leaving in 2014 and 2015 combined would be (459,800 + 523,700)/2 = 491,750, and based on an average duration of 22 months (more precisely 21.47 months) of studies abroad among the 2015 returnees,  this would mean that about 901,542 Chinese students would currently be abroad.

Three percent of these would then not study at their own expense (or that of their parents, relatives, etc.). Some 27,000 of the 901,542 abroad would, based on my shoddy calculation, study with a government grant, a scholarship, etc.. And probably, very few, if any, among the 248 who went abroad in 1978, were self-paying students.

23.85 percent of the 2015 returnees have been looking for a job in state-owned companies, 19.4 percent prefer minban operations2), and foreign-invested enterprises, state institutions and financial institutions rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the returnees search settings. Only 3.32 percent want to establish businesses of their own (one percentage point up, compared to the 2014 returnees).

When it comes to location and company types, the returnees haven’t necessarily followed their ideas of perfect companies and locations, but looked at some hard facts (and regulations), and have therefore looked for jobs that appeared to be closer within their reach. Either way, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are still very popular destinations, with 49.34 percent indicating these goals, but this is said to be eight percentage points less than in 2013. This share is now basically focused on other provincial-capital-level cities.

Being in a position to pay for ones studies abroad doesn’t necessarily translate into perfect (or labour-market-oriented) choices, according to the news coverage. Qi Mo (齐默), head of the returnee office at the MoE, is quoted as stating “a certain blindness” in terms of how students (and their parents) are choosing fields of studies (or majors) and places (cities and universities) abroad. Hence, the MoE was trying to provide candidates for self-paid overseas studies, as well as their families, with information to support their choices, according to Qi.

It isn’t strongly highlighted in the news, but it becomes fairly evident that while Xu Peixiang points out how returning overseas students have become a group that receives great attention at our country’s market of talents, there may be particular challenges for returning overseas students, too. When a Xinhua article mentions measures like bases (or opportunities) for practical work as supportive measures for returnees to integrate into the labor market (this might also be translated as internship opportunities), you might suspect some frustration and trouble there. After all, such “opportunities” are hardly the financial return self-paying students (and their families and networks) would expect on their investment (or borrowings).

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Footnotes

1) According to statistics quoted in the Chinese press coverage on the MoE “blue book”, 4.04 million Chinese students have studied abroad from 1978 to 2015. 2.22 million of them have returned so far.

2) minban is a poorly defined term. There are, of course, many ways to find definitions anyway. Dorothy J Solinger, in “China’s Transition from Socialism”, first published in 1993, suggested that

there are three main types: those […] which are supposedly owned and managed by “people” (minyou-minban); those owned by the state but managed by “people” (guanyou-minban); and those jointly operated and owned by the state and the “people” (guanmingongyou).

And in 1999/2000, Guoqiang Tian, now a professor at Texas A & M University and in China, discussed in a paper on Property Rights and the Nature of Chinese Collective Enterprises why collective enterprises, especially township and village enterprises (TVEs) had – those sixteen years ago, anyway – developed more rapidly than privately owned enterprises, in China.

General note: I have no information about survey’s return rate among the former overseas students.

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Korean Peninsula: Deploy THAAD if you have to, but provide China with an Explanation

The prospect of a North Korean nuclear arsenal can’t be promising in Beijing’s view – but appears to be preferrable to a scenario where the regime in Pyongyang would collapse and give way to South Korea’s political system, with US military close on its heels.

Given that, it is no great surprise that China doesn’t agree to sanctions that could endanger the very survival of the North Korean regime. And given that, the sanctions Beijing agreed to anyway, in negotiations with Washington’s mission to the UN that were concluded on Thursday, look as if they were unusually biting after all, even if stopping short of causing Pyongyang fatal or near-fatal calamities. After all, the sanctions’ effect depends not only on what the Security Council agrees to, but also on how far North Korea’s trading partners, including China, are prepared to go in implementing them.

What made Beijing agree to the resolution draft that should be voted on shortly? Not least fear of a regional arms race.

A Foreign Ministry official confirmed that China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin requested a meeting with South Korea’s Ambassador to Beijing Kim Jang-soo,

KBS World Radio, South Korea’s foreign broadcasting service, reported on Febuary 9.

The official told Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency that China conveyed its stance on the launch of the THAAD negotiations during that meeting. Asked about what stance China had expressed, the official said it is not appropriate to reveal content from consultations held via diplomatic channels,

the KBS report continued.

The confirmation came as China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that Liu urgently summoned the South Korean ambassador and protested the launch of South Korea-U.S. negotiations on deploying the U.S. THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula.

In her speech to parliament, South Korean president Park Geun-hye also conjured THAAD:

The Government is making sure our military readiness posture is solid and is also making thorough preparations for nonmilitary provocations including cyber- attacks and acts of terrorism in public places.

To maintain robust deterrence against the North, the Government is enhancing the Korea-U.S. combined defense capability and engaging in consultations with the United States to improve our alliance’s missile defense posture. The start of formal consultations to deploy the THAAD system to US Forces Korea, as announced on February 7, is also part of these efforts.

Eleven days earlier, Park had been on the phone, talking to Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping. The conversation didn’t appear to bear fruit, and certainly not the way Park had hoped for. China was “still unprepared” to “think about this in larger strategic terms”, Yonhap newsagency quoted Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Pollack was also quoted as pointing out

how much effort Park has put in to strengthen relations with China and build personal ties with Xi, including her attendance at a massive Chinese military parade in September that was shunned by Western leaders.

“President Park’s expectation, I think legitimate expectation, was that she wanted a different answer from China. She’s made a lot of commitment to China,” the expert said, noting that Park risked domestic and international criticism to attend the September parade.

“She expected something in return, and so far, she has not received that,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Seoul’s plans for tough sanctions against Pyongyang had been frustrated. But there was a pressure point on Beijing. While Seoul had reportedly long been reluctant – or ambiguous – about the idea of deploying THAAD as part of American military defense, the South Korean leadership quickly warmed up to it during the past six or seven weeks.

And Beijing – not terribly successfully, it seems – tried to find an effective line in its communications with South Korea. In a meeting with Kim Jong-in, leader of South Korea’s largest opposition party, Chinese ambassador Qiu Guohong (邱国洪) – quoted by Chosun Ilbo as in turn quoted by Huanqiu Shibao

[…] emphasized that Sino-South Korean relations could thus be negatively affected, as mentioned at the beginning of this [Huanqiu, that is] article. The [Chosun Ilbo] report says that Qiu Guohong had expressed the Chinese position in three points. Firstly, the South Korean government says it would limit the radar reach and lower the performance of ‘THAAD’, but the Chinese government cannot possibly believe that. As a friend, China can believe South Korea’s promises, but the problem is that America has all powers in the deployment, the upgrades, and adjustments made to ‘THAAD’. In the end, China and Russia would become target objects, too.” Secondly, this [THAAD] issue would destroy the regional strategic balance, cause an arms race, and fire up nervousness and disquiet.” Ambassador Qiu reminded the South Korean side of the question of how South Korea’s seucrity should, under such circumstances, be guaranteed? His last point was that “the South-Korean-American consultations concerning ‘THAAD’ had, to some extent, dispersed the international community’s unanimous reaction concerning sanctions against North Korea. Without this issue, maybe there would be a new, passed, UN resolution already.”

[…..] 强调,中韩关系可能因此受到负面影响,这就出现了本文开头的一席话。报道称,邱国洪就中方立场大致说明了3点:首先,“韩国政府虽然声称会缩短预警雷达的探测距离,降低‘萨德’性能,但中国政府无法相信。作为好朋友,中国可以相信韩国的承诺,但问题是美国拥有部署、升级、调整‘萨德’的所有权利,最终中国和俄罗斯也会成为瞄准对象”;其次,该问题会“打破地区的战略均衡,引发地区军备竞赛,助长紧张和不安”。邱大使提醒韩方,如果出现这样的局面,韩国的安全是否能得到保障?最后一点是,“韩美协商‘萨德’问题相当于分散了国际社会对朝鲜制裁的一致应对。如果没有该问题,新的联合国决议案可能已经获得通过”。

The South Korean government wasn’t amused and summoned Qiu to the foreign ministry on Wednesday to discuss his comments during his talks with the country’s opposition leader. This was no dramatic response to a questionable Chinese move, but an unusually strong reaction by South Korean standards, in its relations with Beijing. And there is no indication that Seoul will drop the idea of THAAD deployment again, after what appears to have been a successful game of hardball with Beijing, forced upon the clestial kingdom by three unruly barbarians: America, South Korea, and – not least – the North Korean “ally”.

On Thursday, the day when Beijing’s and Washington’s missions to the UN agreed to the resolution draft on sanctions against North Korea, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi apparently struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that the decision was ultimately up to South Korea, and China understood the desire of the United States and South Korea to ensure the defense of their own countries. However, China’s legitimate security concerns also needed to be taken into account, Reuters quoted Wang as saying – an explanation must be provided to China.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Pope and China: “Inexhaustible Wisdom”

In Order of Publication (from January 2015 to February 2016)

Ma Ying-jeou, speaking at a Dinner banquet in Italy, March 18, 2013

Pope Francis is the first pontiff from Latin America, as well as the first from the Society of Jesus. He is humble and amicable, shows special concern for the poor, and leads a frugal life, traveling by public transport to and from work. He also attaches great importance to international poverty reduction. Meanwhile, the Republic of China has provided humanitarian relief, through the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, to those affected by the Italian earthquake. We have aided refugees in the border areas of Syria and South Sudan. Assistance has also been extended to Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad for national greening projects aimed at combating desertification, as well as to Colombia for a community reconstruction plan. These all clearly reflect the role that the ROC plays as a provider of humanitarian aid.

Huanqiu Shibao online, January 20, 2015

Huanqiu online report, Ge Peng reporting — According to an Agence-France Presse report on January 20, Pope Francis, on his return flight from the Philippines, told reporters that the reason for not having met the Dalai Lama in December hadn’t been because he “feared China”, but just because no arrangements for a meeting had been made.

【环球网报道 记者 葛鹏】据法新社1月20日报道,教皇方济各20日从菲律宾飞回梵蒂冈后对记者表示,他在去年12月时未会见达赖喇嘛并不是因为“害怕中国”,只是并未安排会见。

The Dalai Lama had been in Rome last month [i. e. in December] to attend a Nobel Peace Prize winners’ summit. Francis said: “Some papers wrote that the reason I hadn’t met him was out of fear of China. This proposition is wrong. He has previously suggested a meeting, but the time hasn’t come yet, and we are still in touch.”

达赖喇嘛上个月曾到罗马参加诺贝尔和平奖获奖者峰会。方济各说:“有的报纸说我没和他见面是因为害怕中国,这种说法是错误的,他此前曾提出和我会谈,但还没到时候,我们还在接触。”

When asked about Sino-Vatican relations, he said: “Chinese people are polite, we are also very courteous, and we are slowly approaching each other.

当被问及中国和梵蒂冈的关系时,他说:“中国人很有礼貌,我们也很客气,我们在慢慢接近。”

On his flight back from Manila and across China, just as he did with other countries [whose airspace] he passed, he sent a telegram to Chinese state chairman Xi Jinping, expressing his good wishes to the Chinese people.

在方济各从马尼拉飞回经过中国时,他同飞经其他国家一样,向国家主席习近平发了一封电报,向中国人民表示祝福。

Dalai Lama candels October U.S. Visit, September 25, 2015

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is in the United States for a medical check-up. The doctors have advised His Holiness to rest for the next several weeks. As a result, His Holiness’ planned October U.S. visit has been cancelled. We deeply regret the inconvenience caused by this decision and apologize to all the people who have worked so hard in organizing the visit as well as to the public. We thank you for your support and understanding.

The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

[Note: there apparently were no meeting plans – the Dalai Lama would have visited Philadelphia after Pope Francis]

Ma Ying-jeou responds to Pope’s 2016 World Peace Day Message, January 27, 2016

The president said as peace also requires consensus and collaboration, he proposed the East China Sea and South China Sea Peace Initiatives to address tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

Based on clearly defined concepts, those initiatives “call on all parties concerned to exercise restraint, shelve disputes and use peaceful means such as consultation and dialogue to resolve conflict,” he added. The president said over the last seven years, he has done his utmost to encourage peaceful interaction between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait and overcome numerous obstacles.

In particular, his November 2015 meeting with mainland Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Singapore serves as a positive example of settling disputes through peaceful means for other regions facing similar difficulties.

Taiwan Today / RoC Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Guanchazhe online, February 3, 2016

This translation doesn’t necessarily mirror the pope’s actual wording. The Asia Times interview can be found there. The Asia Times reporter Guanchazhe referred to is Francesco Sisci.

According to foreign media reports, Roman Catholic Pope Francis, on the eve of China’s traditional New Year – Spring Festival – expressed long-standing admiration for China’s “great culture” and “inexhaustible wisdom”, and his “best greetings and wishes to Chairman Xi Jinping and all Chinese people”. This was another step that raised speculation about the Vatican and China rapidly improving relations.

据外媒报道,在中国传统新年——春节来临之际,罗马天主教皇方济各(Pope Francis)在接受媒体采访时,向中国的“伟大文化”和“无穷尽的智慧”表达了长久以来的“钦佩之情”,表达了“对习近平主席和所有中国人民最美好的问候与祝福”。此举进一步增加了梵蒂冈和中国可能会迅速改善关系的猜测。

The Hong Kong [paper] “Asia Time”, on February 2, published online the content of an interview conducted with Pope Francis on January 28.

教皇方济各在1月28日接受了香港《亚洲时报》(Asia Time)的采访,这家媒体星期二(2月2日)通过互联网公布了采访的内容。

Francis said in the interview that to him, China had always been place to think of when greatness was mentioned, that [he saw] China as a great country.

方济各在采访中说,中国对于他来说一直是一个说到伟大就会想到的地方,是一个伟大的国家。

Vatican Holy See spokesman Lombardi said that the Pope’s interview was significant. However, the situation of Catholicism in China and the issue of bishops in China appointed by the Holy See weren’t mentioned in the interview.

梵蒂冈教廷新闻官龙巴蒂(P. Federico Lombardi)表示,这次教皇的采访意味深长。不过,有关中国天主教状况及教廷任命中国主教的话题没有在这次采访中提及。

That the Pope shows friendliness to Beijing isn’t news: [events] from his greetings from a flight through Chinese airspace in August 2014 when he sent a greetings telegram to Xi Jinping, to a Vatican delegation’s visit to Beijing in October 2015 showed the Vatican’s gradual rapprochement to Beijing.

教皇方济各向北京示好并非新闻:从2014年8月飞越中国领空、向习近平发问候电报,到梵蒂冈代表团2015年10月访问北京,这一切都显示着梵蒂冈与北京的渐行渐近。

[…]

In his speeches, Francis repeatedly called for world peace, tolerance and respect in his speeches. This includes tolerance and harmony between different ideological camps like East and West. During his visit to South America in September 2015, he met with Cuban leader Raoul Castro and revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. Also, according to American sources, the Vatican played a key role in the diplomatic “thaw” between Washington and Havana.

方济各还在讲话中反复呼吁世界的和平、宽容与尊重。这其中也包括东、西方不同意识形态阵营的宽容与融合。在他2015年9月访问南美期间,他与古巴领导人劳尔·卡斯特罗以及革命领袖菲德尔·卡斯特罗会面。另外据美国方面称,方济各和梵蒂冈在华盛顿与哈瓦那的外交“融冰”中发挥了关键作用。

The “Asia Time” reporter addressed the Chinese family planning issue, as the Pope resolutely opposes abortion. Francis first discussed issues of aging [populations] in different regions, and of [people not wanting] children, and then talked about China. “Not having many children is of course very painful, because this way of an upside-down pyramid, the parental and great-parental generations all lean on one child. This is fatiguing, harsh, and confusing, it’s not natural.” But the Pope also said that nowadays, there was some change in China in this regard.

亚洲时报》记者在采访中提及中国的计划生育问题,因为天主教的教义坚决反对堕胎。方济各先是谈到世界各地的人口老龄化和不愿意要小孩儿问题,然后才讲到中国。“不能多要小孩这个问题,当然非常令人痛苦,因为这样金字塔倒了过来,父辈、祖父辈的负担都在一个孩子身上。这是累人的、苛刻的、令人迷惘的,不是自然的。”但是教皇也表示,中国在这方面如今有所改变。

Francis said, “so long as there is improvement and onward movement, I’m not worried, because this testifies that they are making [or creating] history. I believe that China moving forward is their great position. … to be in charge of choosing ones own road is healthy and useful. We have taken this road, it hasn’t led through perfectly, so others may be opened.”

方济各说,“只要是在进步、在向前走,我就不担心,因为这证明了他们正在创造历史。我认为,中国人在向前走,这也是他们伟大的地方。……对自己选择的路负责是健康、有益的。我们走了这条路,没有完全走通,所以现在其他可能被开辟出来”。

At the end of the interview, the Pope “send his best greetings and wishes to Xi Jinping and all Chinese people.” He said that “I hope they will never lose their historical awareness that they are a great nation, that they will not forget their nation’s history of sublime wisdom, that they will make their own considerable contributions to the world. The world relies on your extraodinary wisdom. On the eve of this new year, I hope you will keep this awareness, that you will continue to move forward, and together with everyone make a common cause of taking care of our common home and common people.

在采访的结尾,教皇向“习近平主席和所有中国人民致以最美好的问候与祝福”。他表示,“我祝愿他们永不丢失自己是个伟大民族的历史意识,不忘记自己民族智慧的崇高历史,体认到自己必能对世界贡献良多。世界仰赖你们超凡绝伦的智慧。在这新年之际,愿你们怀着这份意识,持续向前迈进,与众人同心协力照料我们的共同家园和黎民百姓。”

The BBC quoted sources saying that before publication of Francis’ [interview], a Chinese delegation had visited the Vatican in January. According to other unconfirmed news, the Vatican has already reached an agreement with Beijing, allowing the Pope to appoint bishops in China.

英国广播公司引述的消息说,在教皇方济各的上述谈话发表之前,曾经有一个中国代表团在今年1月访问过梵蒂冈。证实的消息说,梵蒂冈已经同北京达成协议,允许教皇在中国任命主教。

Some comments say the Vatican’s settlement with Beijing was welcomed by many Chinese Catholics, but was also met with many [religious practitioner’s] opposition worrying that the Vatican was sacrificing their interests.

有评论指出,梵蒂冈同北京的和解受到许多中国天主教徒的欢迎,但是也受到许多教徒的反对,他们担心梵蒂冈牺牲他们的利益。

Concerning relations with China, there are also two opposing points of view within the Vatican. One group believes that treating China requires flexibility, thus earning Catholic followers greater freedoms. Another group believes that China’s regime has shown absolutely no change.

梵蒂冈内部有关中国问题也存在着两种对立的观点。一派认为,对待中国应该表现出灵活性,以便能让中国的天主教徒获得更大的自由。但是另一派认为,中国的政权根本没有发生变化。

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Related

Garden of Growing Imams, Sept 17, 2014
Retired Pope’s unachieved Dream, Mar 13, 2013
Certifying Living Buddhas (in Chinese), Garze Daily, Dec 2010

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