Archive for ‘Britain’

Friday, July 7, 2017

Taiwanese Media Reports: Association of International Broadcasters maintains Radio Taiwan International’s Membership, despite Chinese Motion to replace it

Making Taiwan appear “inofficial” has become easy business for Beijing, when it comes to politicians. The row about the country’s inoffical embassy in Nigeria may be one of the recent cases in point.

But influencing journalists doesn’t appear to be quite that easy. A spokeswoman for the foreign ministry in Taipei is quoted as saying that

At this year’s first meeting of AIB’s executive board, the possibility of ejecting RTI to make room for China Central Television [CCTV] was discussed, but RTI vice president Travis Sun’s (孫文魁) proactive handling of the matter has dealt with the situation.

AIB stands for the Association of International Broadcasting, an organization headquartered in Britain, and RTI stands for Radio Taiwan International, Taiwan’s foreign broadcasting service. According to the Taipei Times –  quoting weekly Taiwanese magazine The Journalist – the Chinese motion was rejected after RTI’s protests won the support of British, German, French and Russian committee members.

According to the AIB website, RTI vice president Travis Sun is among the six members of the organization’s executive committee.

According to “The Journalist”,   Travis Sun had been voted into the committee with the highest number of votes. Also according to “The Journalist”, CCTV and other Chinese media had previously been invited to join the AIB, but had declined, because of RTI’s membership. Following China’s motion this month, the AIB secretariat drafted three resolutions for discussion by the executive committtee. One suggested that the Chinese media could enter with an inofficial membership. The second suggested inoffical membership or termination of membership for RTI, and the third suggested to abandon the idea of Chinese media obtaining membership.

It appears that Sun appealed to AIB’S journalistic values to defend RTI’s membership, and successfully so, and all that, apparently, on the phone. According to the Taipei Times, RTI didn’t send personnel to participate in the AIB’s annual meeting in London due to “internal reasons,” instead being represented by personnel from the Taipei Representative Office in the UK. Also according to the Taipei Times, during a June 20 teleconference, Sun had been confronted with the secretariat motions.

Reportedly, Britain, France, Germany (that would be Deutsche Welle‘s committee member), and Russia (i. e. the delegate for RT) decided in RTI’s favor.

The Russian committee member, Alexey Nikolov, is currently serving as the executive committee’s chairman, according to “The Journalist”. The article mentions the “Voice of Russia” as the media organization he represents. That would now be Sputnik News Agency and Radio. According to AIB and RT, Nikolov is RT‘s managing editor, or managing director.

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Related

AIB members

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Updates/Related

Taiwan not abandoned, Sentinel, June 30, 2017

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Populism in China (1): The Downfall of Bo Xilai

There is no Weltinnenpolitik yet, but there are cross-civilizational trends.

The City of Red Songs

There would be no second chance. Gerhard Schröder, former chancellor of Germany, was in a hurry in June 2011, on the sidelines of a forum in southwestern China’s metropolis of Chongqing. He was therefore lacking the time to attend one of the red-song nights that were customary there. But he still pleased his interlocutors with a German proverb: Where people sing, you can settle down – wicked people sing no songs.

In full, the red-songs custom advocated by Chongqing’s party chief Bo Xilai was Singing revolutionary songs, Reading classic books, telling stories and spreading mottos. There would be nine more months of that before Bo Xilai was toppled by his CCP comrades.

A Hudong article explained the activity at the time. It was a mass concept, started in Chongqing in 2008, which was greeted with enthusiasm there, and elsewhere in China. The concept wasn’t outdated, because

if a country and a nation have no correct thought and advanced culture, it will lose its backbone. The current deep changes of the economic system, the structure of society, and the profound adjustment of interest patterns must be reflected in the ideological field. There is diversity in peoples’ minds, and although the mainstream is positive and healthy, while some peoples’ material life conditions have improved, spiritual life is somewhat empty. To change that condition, and to ensure a safe passing of the torch in the cause of the party and the country, the red flag must be righteously upheld, the ideology of Marxism must be consolidated in its guiding position within the ideological field, and the attractiveness and the cohesive power of socialist ideology must be strengthened.

一个国家和民族没有正确的思想、先进的文化,就会失掉主心骨。当前,经济体制深刻变革、社会结构深刻变动、利益格局深刻调整,必然反映到意识形态领域。人们的思想日趋多元多变多样,虽然主流积极健康向上,但一些人物质生活改善了,精神生活却有些空虚。为了彻底改变这种状况,保证党和国家的事业薪火相传,必须理直气壮地举红旗,不断巩固马克思主义在意识形态领域的指导地位,增强社会主义意识形态的吸引力和凝聚力。[Links within these lines omitted.]

According to the HuDong article, CCP politbureau member and Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙来) had deplored the phenomenon of young people who sang decadent songs (唱 .. 靡靡之音, chàng mímí zhī yīn), who were reading “fast-food” kinds of literature (读 .. 快餐文化, dú kuàicān wénhuà), told “low and vulgar stories” (讲 .. 低俗故事, jiǎng dīsú gùshì), and “spread pornographic or dull scripts/pieces” (传 .. 黄段子、灰段子, chuán huáng duànzi, huī duànzi).

So, apparently, there were dirty songs, too. Maybe things weren’t as simple as Schröder had believed. At least one  reader and forum commenter of China’s Huanqiu Shibao didn’t trust Schröder’s expertise and wrote:

OK, listen [to the red songs], you won’t comprehend them anyway. It will be as if you were listening to folk songs.

听吧,反正听不懂,就当听民歌了

The “Chongqing Model” was controversial, at least in the perceivable medial public of China. The party elite wasn’t entirely in love with Bo’s pretentious neo-Maoism. A vice president of Law School at China University of Political Science and Law was quoted by the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times”:

There have been 104,000 “Red Song Concerts” in Chongqing, with 80 million participants. It cost 1,500 yuan ($231) per person for onsite renting and costume expenses, 210 million yuan in total. Adding in the offwork compensation and transportation the final cost is 270 billion [sic – probably means million – JR] yuan. Why don’t they use the money for health insurance?

Bo Xilai’s “Populism”, 2007 – 2012

At the grassroots, however, Bo’s leadership style appears to have worked (maybe it still does). The Chongqing Model wasn’t just about folklore, red or otherwise.

Chongqing (Sichuan province) residents set off firecrackers today, celebrating the execution of the provincial-level city’s former chief justice Wen Qiang (文强), cqnews.net reported in July 2010. The Wall Street Journal explained:

Wen Qiang was put to death following the rejection in May by China’s Supreme Court of an appeal of his conviction on charges including bribery, shielding criminal gangs, rape and inability to account for millions of dollars in cash and assets, according to Xinhua news agency. Xinhua didn’t say how Mr. Wen was executed.

Punching black crime and uprooting vice (拳打黑除恶) was the name of the campaign that cost Wen his life – according to the historical records as Bo would have it, he and his police chief Wang Lijun not only battled against gangs, but infiltrated cadres, too.

The now defunct website Chinageeks published an English translation of Zhang Wen, a former chief editor of the Xinhua magazine Globe:

Bo Xilai and the “northeast tiger” Wang Lijun entered Chongqing and started a war and began a “battling corruption and evil” movement that has gradually begun to spread nationwide and worldwide. This action is in line with the people’s wishes, and at the same time, also in line with what central authorities wish.

At first, the public opinion was very one-sided; no one could find any fault with Bo. The controversy and difference of opinions came with the case of Li Zhuang. Proponents of the democratic rule of law questioned and criticized the legality of Chongqing [court] proceedings, but Bo Xilai’s supporters hold that punishing lawyers who defend “bad people” is appropriate.

Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kailai is a high-level lawyer who has been working for many years. The two have been together for many years and Bo himself was once the head of the Ministry of Commerce, and thus often negotiated international legal issues with foreign opponents. Because of this, Bo Xilai should have a solid conception and knowledge of the law.

But in the end, in the Li Zhuang case, the organs of justice in Chongqing left a bad impression that they might violate legal procedures. Precisely because of this, some people’s opinions on Bo Xilai changed dramatically. I myself once wrote an essay expressing pity that Bo Xilai hadn’t turned out to be the sort of high-quality modern politician [we had hoped].

Chongqing was a small pond for a big fish – Bo Xilai appeared to have hoped for a permanent seat in the CCP’s central politburo, but landed the job as party secretary of Chongqing instead. Chongqing wasn’t an insignificant city, but it was far from where central Chinese power was. Only an alernate politburo membership linked him to Beijing. From 2008, his Maoist song events raised nationwide attention, and even beyond China – Henry Kissinger apparently leapt at the chance Schröder had missed.

In 2011, Bo Xilai started his second campaign for a permanent seat at the CCP’s top table. While the Economist found Bo’s style refreshing, it noted nervously that

The region’s party chief, Bo Xilai, is campaigning for a place on the Politburo Standing Committee in next year’s leadership shuffle. He looks likely to succeed. Like every other Chinese politician since 1949, he avoids stating his ambitions openly, but his courting of the media and his attempts to woo the public leave no one in any doubt. Mr Bo’s upfront style is a radical departure from the backroom politicking that has long been the hallmark of Communist rule and would seem like a refreshing change, were it not that some  of his supporters see him as the Vladimir Putin of China. Mr Bo is a populist with an iron fist. He has waged the biggest crackdown on mafia-style gangs in his country in recent years. He has also been trying to foster a mini-cult of Mao, perhaps in an effort to appeal to those who are disillusioned with China’s cut-throat capitalism.

Bo didn’t appear to aim for the top job as secretary general, the Economist noted, as that position appeared to have been reserved for Xi Jinping. Indeed, Xi succeeded Hu Jintao as party secretary general in autumn 2012, and as state chairman in March 2013.

Bo Xilai’s plans didn’t work that smoothly. In November 2011, a British citizen, Neil Heywood, died in a hotel in Chongqing. Given that Chinese courts don’t work independently from the party, the circumstances of his death can’t be considered resolved. A Chinese court found Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai’s wife, guilty of killing Heywood, and after only one day in court, she got a suspended death sentence.

The BBC‘s China editor Carrie Gracie tried to shed light on the circumstances of Bo Xilai’s rise and fall, and the role Heywood’s death played in the latter, but didn’t find too many interlocutors. Instead, she presented a Rocky Horror Picture Show of elite power struggles with Chinese characteristics. Bo Xilai as the avenger of the common man, a crashing, media-savvy scourge of organized crime, who addressed the public directly, without party media filtering. That hadn’t happened since Mao’s days – “think Donald Trump”.

With support from local police chief Wang Lijun, who fancied leading roles in martial-arts television, too, Bo had exercised a regime that labeled opponents as mafiosi and not only jailed them, but expropriated them too, in favor of Chongqing’s budgets.

It isn’t contested that Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun prosecuted the real or supposed gangsters’ advocates, too, with questionable means. Gracie quotes one of these advocates, Li Zhuang (see above, Zhang Wen’s criticism of Bo Xilai), as Li describes how he was arrested by Wang Lijun personally:

The scene was so over-the-top, loads of police cars surrounding the plane, riot police in helmets and camouflage, armed with submachine guns. I asked, “Why the big show? Is it Obama’s state visit or are you capturing Osama Bin Laden?”

We were surrounded by a huge scrum of reporters. He wanted to show his authority on camera. He was in a trench coat, hands in his pockets. He said: “Li Zhuang, we meet again.”

There were admirers of Bo and Wang, there were critics and enemies, and there were people who detested the two. But at the grassroots, the fans appeared to be numerous. According to Gracie, there are still many.

Making inconvenient lawyers disappear was no unique feature of Bo Xilai, however. The party leadership with Xi Jinping at the core has been proving for years that to them, the rule of law is a theroretical nicety they may or may not care about.

Gracie reduces the causes of conflict between the noisy polit-soloist Bo Xilai and the basically “collectivist” leadership in Beijing on a personal rivalry between princeling Bo and princeling Xi.

Certainly, top politicians’ egos can hardly be overestimated, and when they are Chinese, ostentatious modesty shouldn’t fool anyone.

But Xi alone wouldn’t have gotten Bo under control. Neither with the sudden Neil-Heywood scandal – that became known as the Wang-Lijun incident in China after the police chief fled into the next US consulate and being passed on to the central authorities from there (but only after having spilled the beans). Nor otherwise.

The question suggests itself if Bo Xilai’s career wasn’t finished in summer 2011 anyway, given wide-spread disapproval among the party elite, of his egotistic leadership style in Chongqing.

“Unity is strength” was one of the “red songs” Bo Xilai had them sing in Chongqing (above: October 8, 2009). But it wasn’t only the Xi faction that saw a lack of just that on Bo’s part. Bo was putting himself forward, and that had been a taboo during all the post-Mao years.

He didn’t denigrate his leading comrades – appearances like that of Donald Trump as a campaigner, cursing fellow members of his political class, would have been inconceivable. But putting himself into the limelight (and casting it away from others) amounted to the same thing, by Chinese standards. Besides, given his anti-corruption renown, sanctimonious as it may have been, could have threatened his “comrades”. A tribun within their ranks – that couldn’t work.

Xi Jinping and his predecessor Hu Jintao are said to be rivals. But within the Hu camp, Bo’s populism didn’t seem to resonate either. On the contrary: Wen Jiabao, chief state councillor (aka “prime minister”) during the Hu Jintao era, had been a tireless, even if unsuccessful, advocate of political reform, way beyond economics or technology.

At a press conference in March 2012, after the closing ceremony of the annual “parliament” plenary sessions, Wen warned that China wasn’t immune against another cultural revolution. That John Garnaut, an Australian correspondent in Beijing, got the opportunity to talk with Hu Dehua, one of Hu Yaobang’s sons, may also count as an indication that the comparatively liberal factions in the party leadership were at least as sick of Bo Xilai’s revolutionary operas, as were the Xi supporters.

Garnaut, two weeks after Wen’s press conference, in an indirect account of his conversation with Hu Dehua*):

Hu Dehua told his father how pessimistic he felt about his country’s future. Hu Yaobang agreed that the methods and ideologies of the 1987 anti-liberalization movement came straight from the Cultural Revolution. But he told his son to gain some historical perspective, and reminded him that Chinese people were not joining in the elite power games as they had 20 years before. He called the anti-liberalization campaign a “medium-sized cultural revolution” and warned that a small cultural revolution would no doubt follow, Hu Dehua told me. As society developed, Hu Yaobang told his son, the middle and little cultural revolutions would gradually fade from history’s stage.

From there, everything went fast. Still in March, Bo was dismissed as Chongqing’s party chief. He also lost his alternate membership in the politburo. In summer 2012, his wife Gu Kailai got her commuted death sentence, and in September 2013, Bo was sentenced to life in prison – based on the usual charges for unrigged politicians: corruption.

Is there a Chongqing Heritage?

At first glance, Bo Xilai’s “populism” or “Maoism” is finished. But Bo counted as a champion of many Chinese from the political left. A comment in German weekly Die Zeit, in September 2013, saw the verdict against Bo as a signal from the top that resistance against economic reform was futile.

To assess Bo Xilai’s political heritage objectively. The CCP may be beyond the era when beaten opponents were airbrushed from all photos and records. But the question about how publicly or privately-owned China’s economy should be might impose itself with any questions about Bo Xilai, and the now seven-member standing committee of the politburo can’t use such questions.

A political scientist of Beijing University, He Weifang (贺卫方), hinted at problems in assessing the Chongqing Model’s performance, from 2007 to 2012:

It is generally believed that the so-called “Chongqing Model” is mainly shaped by three aspects: “red culture” on the political level, “targeted actions against dark and evil forces in Chongqing“, and the reduction of the income gaps between the poor and the rich. The most criticized aspects are the former two, although there is support for the two of them in Chongqing and elsewhere. The third aspect isn’t that controversial. However, all data published concerning the efficiency of the measures taken to narrow the income gap are actually issued by the Chongqing authorities, and therefore lacking neutral assessment. Also, we can see that the whole process is strongly government-led, whose focus isn’t on creating a market logic of equal opportunities. If this approach will or will not lead to mistakes in financial policies, including the rural land policies‘ impartiality, is also questionable. And then there are concerns about life today being lead on future earnings, short-term inputs being made to curry favor with the public, which may come at high future costs.

答:一般认为,所谓的重庆模式主要由三方面内容构成:政治层面上的红色文化,执法层面上的“打黑除恶”以及民生方面的缩小贫富差距。最受诟病的是前两者,虽然在重庆和其他地方,似乎也有一些人人对于“唱红”和“打黑”表达支持。第三方面内容相对较少争议。不过,那些举措究竟对于缩小贫富差距产生了怎样的效果,目前得到的信息都是由重庆当局发布的,缺少中立的评估。另外,我们可以看到整个过程是在政府强势主导下进行的,其重点并非创造机会均等的市场逻辑。这种做法是否会带来财政决策中的失误,包括重庆所推行的农村土地政策的公正性,都是大可怀疑的。还有寅吃卯粮的隐忧,短期内的高投入讨好了民众,但是却需要未来付出巨大的代价。

If Bo Xilai was a populist, one of Donald Trump’s kind, or Putin’s, or Neil Farage’s, or whoever, one has to ask oneself how much influence he has maintained over Chinese politics to this day. After all, populists like Geert Wilders aren’t ineffective, merely because they can’t lay their hands on the imperial regalia.

When looking at European populism – that’s only a snapshot, of course -, one can get the impression that populists may not be elected, but they do leave marks on politics, from Merkel’s Willkommenskultur back to the traditional Christian Democrats’ policies, and Britain’s Brexit, implemented not by its original proponents, but by Theresa May, who had used to be a lukewarm supporter of Britain’s EU membership.

Populism is hardly ever the common peoples’ business, but that of the elites. The battles are fought within the political class, as observed by Hu Yaobang in the late 1980s. That is about as true in Europe. However, these battles within the superstructure may create or intensify certain trends in the public mood – and once policies have moved sufficiently into the “populist” direction, the support for these parties wanes, and the electorate turns back to the long-established parties. After all, Joe Blow doesn’t want to look like an extremist.

When Xi Jinping announced China’s new role as a guardian of free trade at the Davos forum in January, German Handelsblatt China correspondent Stephan Scheuer hailed the party and state leader’s “dressing-down for populists”. In Davos, Xi had become “a pioneer of fair-minded globalization”.

What could be beginning to show in China is a comparatively strong Maoist component in propaganda, as long as this doesn’t come at the cost of China’s privileged, and as long as this doesn’t require substantial reallocation of means or wealth to poor classes of population, or laggard regions. But whenever the name “Bo Xilai” should appear in any token event, the exorcists will be just around the corner.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bank of China: Brexit Risks and Opportunities

The following is an article initially published by Pengpai News (澎湃新闻), an internet news portal apparently operated by Oriental Morning Post (or Dongfang Morning Post),  a paper from Shanghai. According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), the paper’s then director Lu Yan (陆炎) and  deputy editor-in-chief Sun Jian (孙鉴) were removed from their posts in summer 2012. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), Shanghai CCP secretary at the time, had been “unhappy” with Oriental’s stories. Sun Jian apparently re-emerged later, as the name was mentioned as the concurrent director of  Oriental Morning Post’s and Pengpai News’ economy and finance news centers, in a “People’s Daily” article published in 2015, praising the innovative practice at integrating the paper and its internet platform.

Either way, the news portal’s article about the BoC’s meetings with overseas financial administration dignitaries apparently appealed to the Communist central bankers – it was republished on the BoC’s website, two days after its original publication. Here goes.

The last meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors before the G-20 summit in Hangzhou was held in Chengdu, with [Chinese] central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan opening intensive meetings with high monetary officials from a number of countries.

G20杭州峰会前最后一次G20财长和央行行长会议在成都召开,央行行长周小川又开启了密集会见各国财金高官模式。

According to the People’s Bank of China’s official website, Zhou Xiaochuan, on July 23, met with American treasury secretary Jack Lew, Britain’s newly-appointed chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond, Argentine finance minister Alfonso Prat-Gay and Argentine central bank governor Federico Sturzenegger.
That said, this kind of officially issued information is generally rather simple. For example, at the meeting with the British finance minister, the two sides exchanged views on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, the strengthening of Sino-British financial cooperation and other issues; at the meeting with the US finance minister, the two sides mainly exchanged views on the global financial markets’ situation, about the Chinese and American economies and finances, and policy coordination under the G-20 framework; and at the meeting with the two high Argentine officials, the two sides exchanged views on the international economic and financial situation, the macroeconomic Chinese and Argentine situations, the strengthening of Sino-Argentine financial cooperation and other issues.

据中国人民银行官网消息,7月23日,周小川已先后会见了美国财长雅各布•卢、英国新任财政大臣哈蒙德、阿根廷财政部长盖伊和阿根廷央行行长斯图森内格。
不过,这类会见官方发布信息均比较简单。比如,会见英国财长,双方就英国退欧、加强中英两国金融合作等议题交换了意见;会见美国财长,双方主要就近期全球金融市场形势、中国和美国经济金融形势,以及G20框架下的政策协调等问题交换了意见;会见阿根廷两高官,双方主要就国际经济金融形势、中阿宏观经济状况,以及加强中阿两国金融合作等议题交换了意见。

Currently, Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is undoubtedly a hot topic, but the central bank didn’t disclose any details. Still, the British finance minister’s time’s itinerary suggests that while withdrawing from the EU, they didn’t forget to to sell themselves.

眼下,英国退欧无疑是热门话题,不过央行并未透露任何细节。但从英国财政部此次行程来看,他们在退欧的同时,仍不忘推销自己。

According to the Bank of China, the “Sino-British Financial Services Round Table Meeting”, organized by the British embassy and co-hosted by the Bank of China, was held in the BoC’s head office’s mansion in Beijing, on July 22. British chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond, British deputy chancellor of the exchequer [Mark Bowen?], British Ambassador to China Dame Barbara Woodward and other British government representatives, as well as People’s Bank, the CBRC, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, and big financial organisations and more than 40 high-ranking officials were guests at this meeting.

据中国银行消息,7月22日,由英国大使馆主办、中国银行协办的“中英金融服务圆桌会”在北京中国银行总行大厦举行。英国财政大臣菲利浦•哈蒙德、英国财政部副部长马克•博文、英国驻华大使吴百纳女爵士等英方政府代表,以及人民银行、银监会、外管局和中英两国大型金融机构的高管共约40多人作为受邀嘉宾出席了本次会议。

Hammond said at the meeting that the British economic fundamentals after the “Brexit” referendum remained fine, that Britain would continue to play an important role in the international arena, that British commerce, financial services and investment would, just as in the past, be open and competitive, and the British government would attach yet more attention to cooperation with China in the financial field.

哈蒙德在会上表示,英国公投“脱欧”后经济基本面依然良好,英国将继续在国际舞台上扮演重要角色,英国的商务、金融服务和投资领域也将一如既往地呈现开放、竞争的态势,英国政府将会更加重视在金融服务领域与中国的合作。

Chairman of the BoC board Tian Guoli said that Britain’s position in the fields of international politics, economics, and finance was highly influential. As far as Chinese and British investors were concerned, there were interdependent “risks” and “opportunities” in the “Brexit”, with both challenges and opportunities. To safeguard Chinese and British investors’ interests, there should be a continuation of promoting the two countries’ economic and trade development, global financial stability, the suggested common promotion of the building of “one belt, one road”, active participation in China’s supply-side structural reforms, the strengthening of financial cooperation, and the acceleraton of building London as an offshore center for the RMB.

中行董事长田国立则表示,英国在国际政治、经济、金融领域的地位举足轻重。对中英两国投资人而言,英国“脱欧”“危”“机”相倚,挑战与机遇并存。为守护中英投资人利益、持续推动两国经贸发展、促进全球金融稳定,建议中英双方共同推动“一带一路”建设,积极参与中国供给侧结构性改革,强化金融合作,加快伦敦人民币离岸中心建设。

At the meeting, participants discussed the two topics of “Seen from the perspective of the financial industry, Britain after the ‘Brexit’ remains a good destination for overseas investment” and “The important role of Britain as a good partner in the development and opening of the Chinese financial industry”.

会谈中,与会代表就“从金融业角度看英国‘脱欧’后仍是海外投资的良好目的地”和“在中国金融业发展开放过程中,英国如何发挥好合作伙伴的重要作用”两个议题展开讨论。

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Related

» Whose Gateway, Nov 24, 2015
» 媒体融合中, “People’s Daily” online, Sept 17, 2015
» Locomotion, Finance, Energy, July 27, 2014
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Updates/Related

» Propaganda 2.0, The Economist, Dec 13, 2014
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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Is the Left right after all?

Thanks for → asking, Mr. Moore. It’s only a first step, and a late one at that, but if the left is as dumb and if conservatives are as smart as you claim, I’m sure you’ll arrive at some good conclusions. Will you continue to ask these questions after Brexit, too?

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Related

Bigoted elite, Charles Moore/Telegraph, March 4, 2016

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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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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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Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Review (3): “People’s Daily” lauds Xi Jinping, the People Person

Those with common aspirations can’t be separated by mountains or seas (志合者,不以山海为远), People’s Daily wrote in an editorial on Thursday, adding that State Chairman Xi Jinping went on travels abroad eight times in 2015, visiting fourteen countries on four continents and attending nine international conferences, meeting 62 state leaders and telling the gospel, or writing articles about, new-type international relations (新型国际关系), the building of one-belt-one-road, maintenance of world peace and development, and other important issues. All that by telling the “China story” (讲述“中国故事”), explaining the “China opportunity” (阐明“中国机遇”), stating the “China Program” (提出“中国方案”), and expressing “China’s attitude” (表达“中国态度”), thus leaving a deep impression on the international community. People’s Daily mentions the Bao’ao Asia Forum in March, the APEC summit in November, the G20 summit, and, also in November, Xi’s visit to Singapore in November.

Obviously, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) also features prominently in the People’s Daily’s review.

This the-Chairman-and-the World series also included a review – one day earlier, on Wednesday – of how Xi Jinping told China’s story and how he let the world understand China, how he “told China’s story well, and well disseminated China’s voice” (讲好中国故事,传播好中国声音). This review included quotes from how Xi recognized the role of two-hundred Soviet pilots who had died on the Chinese battlefield, how he published an article in Vietnamese media about how the story of Tu Yoyo’s detection of artesemin and Sino-Vietnamese relations were connected, how the U.S. and China had fought together in World War 2, how, during his visit to Britain, Xi interlinked the lives of Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu, and how, generally speaking, Xi Jinping was good at giving friendly, trust-enhancing talks or speeches or writing articles of the same successful kind.

The editorial’s summary:

Interaction between countries depends on peoples‘ attachment to each other, and the peoples‘ attachment to each other depends on communication from heart to heart. Xi Jinping makes use of vivid stories, catches foreign audiences‘ interest, and sparks strong sympathetic responses. At the same time, he unobtrusively and imperceptibly changes listeners‘ stereotypes about China, dispels some existing misunderstandings, showing brilliant diplomatic wisdom.

国之交在于民相亲,民相亲在于心相通。习近平用生动的故事,抓住了国外听众的兴趣点,引发强烈的共鸣。同时,他使国外听众在潜移默化中,改变了对中国的刻板印象,消除了一些曾经的误解,展现出卓越的外交智慧。

An unobtrusive and imperceptible (潜移默化, see quote above) moral influence had been an issue close to Xi Jinping’s heart since January 2012 – if not much earlier.

There can be no other summary concerning Xi Jinping’s communicative skills, than the stuff composed by People’s Daily this week – it’s a long-term script. It would seem that the outgoing and incoming politburos, during summer and fall 2012, agreed that the CCP’s grip on power in China needed some of the personality cult that had accompanied Mao Zedong, but – for different reasons – Deng Xiaoping, too.

The good story of Xi Jinping’s people-person virtues probably started around winter 2012/13, with stories the party’s secretary-general (but not yet state chairman) Xi Jinping sat cross-legged on the farming family’s kang, how he blessed rural China in the 1970s, whereever he went as a young cadre, and how villagers were in tears when he left from there.

And once Xi was “elected” state chairman in March 2013,

Wearing a dark-blue suit and a red tie, the membership [badge] hanging on his chest, Xi Jinping, tall of stature, stood smiling, calmly and self-confident. His voice clear, bright and vigorous, looking frank and honest, resolute and steadfast, he revealed the power of stirring people to action.

身着深色西装,佩带红色领带,胸挂出席证,身材高大的习近平微笑站立,从容自信。清朗而浑厚的声音,坦诚而刚毅的目光,透出激奋人心的力量。


“The Xi Factor”, BBC short documentary

Stay tuned for more great deeds in 2016. The CCP script is demanding it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Is Britain a “Gateway” to Europe? And whose Gateway?

As noted there in the footnotes, on November 1, Xi Jinping is no less an advocate of British EU membership than what Barack Obama is:

Xi Jinping emphasized that the European Union was China’s partner in a comprehensive strategic partnership. China hoped for a prospering Europe, a united Europe, and for an important EU member country, Great Britain, playing an active and constructive role in promoting and deepening Chinese-European relations.

习近平强调,欧盟是中国的全面战略伙伴和最大贸易伙伴。中国希望看到一个繁荣的欧洲、团结的欧盟,希望英方作为欧盟重要成员国为推动中欧关系深入发展发挥更加积极和建设性的作用。

That was from Xinhua, on October 23.

Now, Yu Jie, a Dahrendorf senior research associate at the London School of Economcis, explains how a Brexit could halt the historic Sino-British strategic partnership in the making.

Maybe the Cameron government should take their time before calling the referendum – after all, if the strategic partnership crashes in the making, or if it becomes historic indeed, remains to be seen. Then again, maybe David Cameron wants to use the honeymoon with the dictators in Beijing – while it lasts – as a point against leaving the EU.

The “Gateway to Europe” term used by Yu in her article is apparently ascribed to Dean Acheson. But it’s a concept that goes far beyond British-Chinese relations. Two weeks ago, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi was only the latest global leader to talk up the merits of Britain’s membership of the European Union before a referendum (Reuters). He’s currently calling on India’s springboard to the world and gateway to the East.

All that said, how you play your role matters, too. The way Cameron and Osborne chummed up to Beijing has done British prestige some damage. And while people in Europe tend to forget very quickly*) – one of Europe’s best-known “China experts” doesn’t even know a great deal about history -, Chinese peoples’ memory is much better.

(We’ll probably find out if this holds true for memorandums of understanding, too.)

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*) Talking about history, and the fuzz that has been made about Xi sitting in a golden carriage with the Queen, things could have been worse. They have been, as shown in the video underneath, dating back to 1978:


The Embarrassment-tested Monarch
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Updates


Taken from Bucharest Life

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