Archive for ‘Germany’

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mayor Carmena, the Scuttling Dalai Lama, and the Inseparably close Sino-Spanish Links

The following is an online article published by Voice of Tibet, a broadcaster from Norway.

Main Link (1):
→ Madrid considers inviting Dalai Lama to take part in Peace Conference – Communist China Overseas United Front Organization: this Hurts the Feelings of the Chinese People

Voice of Tibet, Febr 17, 2017 – The mayor of Madrid has met the American film star and Tibet supporter Richard Gere and mandated him to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama to attend a peace forum in April. Communist Chinese organization “→ China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification”, immediately expressed protest towards the Madrid city government, saying that the Dalai Lama was a “defector”, and demanding that Madrid should not “hurt the dignity of  Chinese people, nor hurt Chinese feelings”.

【西藏之声2017年2月17日报道】西班牙马德里市市长会见美国援藏影星理查•基尔,拜托他邀达赖喇嘛尊者出席4月的一场和平论坛。中共海外统战机构“中国和平统一促进会”立即向马德里市政府表达抗议,称达赖喇嘛是“叛逃者”,并要求马德里市不要“伤害中国人的尊严,伤害中国人的感情”。

A number of Spanish media have concurrently reported that American film star Richard Gere visited Madrid. The website “Think Spain” reported on February 15 that on February 14, Madrid mayor Manuela Carmena had met with Richard Gere.

西班牙多家媒体近日均报道了美国影星理查•基尔到访马德里市的新闻。ThinkSPAIN网站 15日报道说,14日当天,马德里市女市长卡梅娜(Manuela Carmena)与理查•基尔见面。

Carmena mandated Gere to deliver an invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, hoping that His Holiness would take part in the “Forum on Violence and Education for Peace”, to be held in Madrid from April 17 to April 19. It is reported that mayors from various big cities worldwide, political leaders, and social science experts are going to attend.

卡梅娜拜托基尔向达赖喇嘛转达邀请,希望尊者能够参加定于4月17日至19日在马德里举行的“暴力与和平教育论坛”(Forum on Violence and Education for Peace),据悉将有世界各大城市的市长、政治领袖,以及社会科学专家出席。

In an article published on their official website, the CCP-United-Front-led “China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification” pointed out that members of the Spanish [secton of the] “China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification” had, “for the first time, taken action, and convened leadership meetings for that very night”, and with their efforts during that night, they had drafted “a protest letter, seriously protesting the Tibetan independence ‘separatist Dalai Lama’s participation’ in the ‘Madrid Peace Forum’.”

由中共统战部指挥安排的“中国和平统一促进会”17日于官网刊文,指西班牙中国和平统一促进会成员“第一时间行动起来,连夜召开骨干会议”并且在“连夜努力下”起草了一封“严重抗议‘藏独’分裂者达赖喇嘛出席‘马德里和平论坛’”的抗议信。”

Members of said organisation handed the protest letter to Madrid city government staff, demanding that it should be handed to the mayor. According to their statements, Communist Chinese embassy officials also made representations to the city government.

该组织几名成员将抗议信交给马德里市政府工作人员,要求转交市长。而据他们的新闻声明,中共驻西班牙大使馆的官员也向该市政府就此进行了交涉。

In their protest letter, the Chinese Communist United Front organization “China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification” [abreviated by VoT author]  vilified the Dalai Lama as someone who had defected abroad, carrying out activities [intended to] split the motherland … attacking the Tibet policies of the Chinese central government and Tibet’s development and progress … inciting believers to create violent incidents and to damage stability in the Tibetan region …”

在抗议信中,中共海外统战机构“统促会”诋毁达赖喇嘛“叛逃国外,进行分裂祖国的活动……攻击中国中央政府的西藏政策和西藏的发展进步……并煽动信众制造暴力事件,破坏藏区稳定……”

The “China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification” [abreviated by VoT author], just as other Chinese Communist organizations “representing” the common Chinese people, said they hoped that the Madrid city government “won’t hurt the dignity of Chinese people, or hurt their feelings.”

统促会并如其他中共机构一般“代表”了中国百姓,称希望马德里政府“不要伤害中国人的尊严,伤害中国人的感情。”

Recently, University of California San Diego branch university’s invitation to the Dalai Lama to attend the graduation ceremony raised protest from its overseas Chinese student groups. The management didn’t change their decision, and the overseas Chinese student groups modified their protests to demanding that it should be ensured that the Dalai Lama’s speech should not touch upon politics.

近日,美国加州大学圣地亚哥分校因计划邀请达赖喇嘛出席毕业典礼,而引起该校中国留学生团体的抗议。校方未改变决定,留学生团体便转为要求确保达赖喇嘛的讲话不牵涉政治。

Columbia University Contemporary Tibetan Studies Institute director Professor Robert Barnett pointed out in an interview with INSIDE HIGHERED that everyone should be aware of this kind of foreign governments’ bullying against academic institutions. He praised the university for not withdrawing from an important position, but also suggested that it should immediately open opportunities for dialogue between the Chinese students and the Dalai Lama, such as arranging a private meeting between them and the Dalai Lama.

哥伦比亚大学现代西藏研究所所长罗伯特•巴内特(Robert Barnett)接受媒体INSIDE Highered采访时指出,各方应该关注此类学术机构被外国政府霸凌的现象。他赞扬校方没有后退是一个重要的立场,但也提议校方立刻打开与中国学生对话的机遇,比如安排他们与达赖喇嘛之间的私下会面。

The VoT article adds a photo apparently first posted by the “reunification council”, taken by the latter as they “ran into” Chinese embassy staff at the Madrid city government premises as they taking their protest letter there.

VoT’s online article apparently refers to → this online posting by the “reunification council”. Here goes:

Main Link (2):
→ Madrid City Mayor invites Dalai Lama participation in “Madrid Peace Forum” – Spanish [section of] the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification hands Letter of Protest to Madrid City Government

On February 15, Madrid city mayor Manuela Carmena met with famous visiting American film star Richard Gere, and expressed her hope that she could invite the Dalai Lama through Gere, to attend the Madrid “Concerning Municipal Violence and Peace-handling Forum of the Educational World”. Richard Gere is a believer in Tibetan Buddhism, and a faithful follower of the Dalai Lama.

2月15日,马德里市长Manuela Carmena会见了到访的美国著名影星Richard Gere,表达了希望能够通过他邀请达赖喇嘛参加马德里城市“关于城市暴力与和平相处教育世界论坛”。Richard Gere是藏传佛教的信徒,也是达赖喇嘛的忠实追随者。

As the news had burst out, it immediately caught the attention of Chinese people travelling Spain. Ever since the Dalai Lama’s defection in 1959, the establishment of a “exile government” and the drafting a bogus constitution, he has carried out actions to split the motherland.

新闻爆出之后,立即引起了旅西华人的关注。达赖喇嘛自从1959年叛国以来,建立“流亡政府”,制定伪宪法,进行分裂祖国的活动。

Once the news was reported, and everyone became aware of the situation, the Spanish [section of] the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification under the leadership of chairman → Xu Songhua, took action for the first time, immediately in the same night, convening a leadership meeting. At the meeting, all unified their ideology, pooled knowledge for everyone’s benefit, and reported to related parties. In the end, a protest letter, bilingual in Chinese and Tibetan, ‘”seriously protesting ‘Tibetan independence’ divider Dalai Lama’s attendence at the ‘Madrid Peace Forum’ was drafted.

新闻一经报道,大家在得知这样的情况后,西班牙中国和平统一促进会在徐松华主席的带领下,第一时间行动起来,立即连夜召开的骨干会议。在会议上大家统一思想、集思广益,并且向有关方面做了汇报。最终起草了一封“严重抗议‘藏独’分裂者达赖喇嘛出席‘马德里和平论坛’”的中西文双语抗议信。

The letter was completed with the efforts of everyone during that night, and early next morning, under the leadership of Chairman Xu Songhua – together with → Fundación Orient chairman of the board and Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification senior consultant Julia Zhang, deputy chairman Liu Guangxin and Xu Zhenhai – was handed to Madrid city government.

信件在大家连夜的努力之下起草完毕,并且在第二天一早在徐松华主席的带领下,一同诚信基金会董事长、西班牙中国和平统一促进会高级顾问Julia张女士,副主席刘光新和徐振海交于马德里市政府。

When the four arrived at Madrid city government, time was nearing closing time, and in the end, the four handed the letter to city government staff, to have them pass it on to mayor Carmena, and expressed their severe protest. As they were leaving, they ran into Chinese embassy’s [title] Huang Yazhong and spokesman Ji Dengyun. The two had just made serious representations to the Madrid city government on behalf of the embassy in Spain, concerning the matter. Having bumped into each other, the two sides exchanged their views and opinions, expressing anger and strong protest against mayor Carmena’s mistaken practice of hurting the friendship between the peoples of China and Spain.

一行四人抵达马德里市政府已经接近下班时间,最终四人将信件交给市政府的工作人员,让其转交给马德里市长Carmena女士。并表达了严厉的抗议。四人一出市政府门口,迎面碰上驻西大使馆公参黄亚中和新闻发言人吉登云。他俩代表驻西使馆就此事件刚刚也向马德里市政府严重交涉过。在此一碰,双方交换了意见看法,对卡梅拉市长伤害中西人民友谊的错误做法表示愤怒和强烈抗议。

The protest letter’s complete wording:

抗议信件全文如下:

Seriously protesting “Tibetan Independence” Separatist Dalai Lama’s Attendence at “Madrid Peace Forum”

Respected Madrid City Mayor Ms Carmena:

尊敬的马德里市政府市长卡梅拉女士:

[no translation found]

春祺不一。

We thank Madrid mayor and Madrid city government for their participation in the Chinese Spring Festival activities, their support and help. We appreciate it.

感谢市长和马德里市政府在庆祝中国春节活动中的参与,支持与帮助。我们予以积极评价。

Yesterday, at the shocking news that you wanted to invite the Dalai Lama through American film star Richard Gere, from April 19 to 21, at the Madrid “Concerning Municipal Violence and Peace-handling Forum of the Educational World”, we felt shock and disbelief. Therefore, we send you a letter to cancel this mistaken decision.

昨日,惊悉您通过美国影星李察?基尔,欲邀请达赖参加四月十九曰至二十一日,在马德里召开的”关于城市暴力和平相处教育世界论坛”,我们感到震惊,不可思议。所以,致函您取消这一错误決定。

What kind of man is the Dalai Lama? He is one of the → Gelug school‘s Living Buddhas. Ever since he defected abroad in 1959, he established of a “exile government”, drafted a bogus constitution, and has carried out actions to split the motherland. Under a banner of “peace”, “non-violence”, and “human rights”, he scuttles to every place, spreading rumors, building up international public opinion, gaining uninformed peoples’ sympathy, attacking the Tibet policies of the Chinese central government and Tibet’s development and progress. He deceives, bewitches, bribes, utilizes and incites some believers  to create all kinds of disturbances and uses every opportunity to damage stability in the Tibetan region to achieve his delusional ideas of splitting up China.

达赖喇嘛是何许人?他是藏传佛教格鲁派活佛之一。自1959年叛逃国外以来,他建立“流亡政府”,制定伪宪法,进行分裂祖国的活动。打着“和平”,“非暴力”,“人权”旗号四处窜访,散布谣言,制造国际舆论,获取不明真相人们的同情,攻击中国中央政府的西藏政策和西藏的发展进步。欺骗,蛊惑,收买,利用和煽动一些信众制造各种事端和暴力事件,利用一切机会破坏藏区稳定,以实现他分裂中国的痴心妄想。

In recent years, after the real face of the the Dalai had been exposed, meetings between foreign leaders and the Dalai Lama has become less and less frequent, and the international news world’s interest in the Dalai Lama has become ever lower. The Chinese government has invested an enourmous energy in the building and development of Tibet, and Tibet has maintained stable development these years, with ever closer ethnic unity and religious relations. Tibetan development, the support from the entire nation for Tibet, and the implemenation of various projects and policies have continuously improved Tibet’s situation, with the Dalai Lama’s international status going down, and ever fewer places to go to. Ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Spain several decades ago, the two sides have continuously strengthened their exchanges in the fields of politics, economics, culture, etc., with ever deepening friendly cooperation. Especially in recent years, the momentum in Sino-Spanish economic and technical cooperation has been good, and Spain has become an important trade partner of China, within the European Union, with Sino-Spanish technological trade continuously improving, bilateral investment continuously expanding, and a big increase in Chinese tourists travelling to Spain. Currently, economic and trade exchange between China and Spain, with China’s “one belt one road” development strategy, have become inseparably close, and have added strong power to the two countries’ economic prosperity. Friendship between the two countries has continuously deepened and developed.

近年来,达赖真面目暴露之后,外国的国家领导人和达赖喇嘛见面的越来越少,国际新闻界对达赖喇嘛的关注度越来越低。中国政府对西藏建设和发展投入了巨大的精力,西藏这些年来持续不断地保持稳定发展,民族团结越来越好,宗教关系越来越好。西藏的发展、全国人民对西藏的支持以及各项政策措施的实施,使西藏的局面越来越好,而“藏独”分裂者达赖喇嘛在国际上的身价越来越低、越来越走不动。中西两国建交几十年來,双方在政治、经济、文化等方面的交流不断加强,友好合作关系不断深化。特别是近年来,中西经济技术合作势头很好,西班牙已成为中国在欧盟的重要贸易伙伴,中西技术贸易不断发展,双边投资合作不断扩大,到西旅游中国旅客大幅增长。当前,中西两国的经贸交流,在中国提出的“一带一路”发展战略上紧密对接,为中西两国的经济繁荣注入了强劲动力,两国之间的友谊在不断深化和发展。

We hope that the Madrid [city] government will uphold the friendly relations between China and Spain, and that it will not harm the dignity and the feelings of the Chinese people.

我们希望马德里政府,维护中西两国的友好关系,不要伤害中国人的尊严,伤害中国人的感情。

As Chinese immigrants living far from their native land, we respect Spanish dignity and traditional culture, abide by Spanish law and regulations, and hold Spanish liberties, democracy, and peace in high esteem. With sincere hopes for long-lasting Sino-Spanish friendship!

作为侨居西班牙的中国移民,我们尊重西班牙的民族尊严和传统文化,遵守西班牙的法律法规,崇尚西班牙的自由、民主与和平。衷心希望中西友谊长存!

[Spanish section of] the China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification, Febr 16, 2017

西班牙中国和平统一促进会
2017年2月16日

On February 9, Richard Gere had met with German chancellor Angela Merkel, in his capacity as chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet. Radio Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB) → noted that the meeting, scheduled to take 30 minutes, had lasted for three quarters of an hour. No information about the content of their discussions was given.

____________

Related

→ Imagen de la Reunión, Febr 14, 2017
→ Rising China, Rotten Diplomacy, Jan 11, 2013

____________

Saturday, January 28, 2017

China’s rising Aggression against Taiwan – is there anything we can do to counter it?

Nigeria told Taiwan earlier this month to move its de-facto embassy from the capital Abuja to Lagos, the country’s biggest city and its capital until 1976, and seat of the federal government until 1991. According to the Chinese foreign ministry,

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told journalists after reaffirming the One-China Policy at a joint press conference with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, that Taiwan will now have to function in Lagos with a skeletal staff.

One could condemn the decision of the Nigerian government, who have reportedly been promised $40 bn Chinese investment in the country’s infrastructure, and the Taiwanese foreign ministry did just that.

But there will always be governments who are too weak to be principled – and most governments worldwide, and especially those of “developed” and powerful countries, have long played along with Beijing’s “one-China policy”. Big or small countries’ decisions are based on “national interest” (whichever way national interest may be defined).

Still, what Nigeria is doing to Taiwan shows a new quality in harming the island nation. A Reuters report on January 12 didn’t try to “prove” Beijing’s driving force behind the Nigerian decision, but quotes a Taiwanese perception that would suggest this, writing that Taiwan sees the “request” to move its representative office from the capital as more pressure by China to isolate it.

Reuters also wrote that

[w]hile economic ties between the mainland and Taiwan have grown considerably in recent years, their relations have worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, who heads a pro-independence party, was elected president of the island last year.
Beijing has been stepping up pressure on her to concede to its “one China” principle.

In fact, this isn’t just a move to make Taiwan “lose face”, or to re-emphasize the – in Beijing’s view – inofficial nature of Taiwanese statehood and sovereignty. This is an attempt on Taiwan’s lifelines, even if only a small one – for now. If Taiwan has to reduce staff at one of its embassies, simply because Beijing wants the host country to bully Taiwan, this affects Taiwanese trade. And this means that Beijing is making fun of a World Trade Organization member’s legitimate interests.

Looking at it under less formal aspects, this move via Nigeria is also an aggression against Taiwan’s democracy.

The Tsai administration’s position during the past eight months hadn’t even been “provocative”. All they can be blamed for is that they didn’t bow before Beijing’s hatpole, an alleged “1992 consensus” between the Chinese Communist Party and the Taiwanese National Party (KMT). In her inaugural speech in May, President Tsai Ing-wen still acknowledged the fact that there had been KMT-CCP talks that year, and the role the talks had had in building better cross-strait relations. But  she pointed out that among the foundations of interactions and negotiations across the Strait, there was the democratic principle and prevalent will of the people of Taiwan.

It seems that this position – legitimate and reasonable – was too much for Beijing. This should be food for thought for everyone in the world who wants the will of the people to prevail.

J. Michael Cole, a blogger from Taiwan, wrote in September last year that China’s leadership

behaves very much like a 12-year-old: pouting and bullying when it doesn’t get what it wants. To be perfectly honest, it’s rather embarrassing and hardly warrants the space and scare quotes it gets in the world’s media. […]

Why the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has kept at it for so long is because we, the international community, have allowed it to do so. From the hallowed halls of academia to the media, government agencies to the public sphere, we have allowed fear to regulate how we interact with China, with ourselves, and with the rest of the world.

His conclusion: we – and I assume that by “we”, he refers to all freedom-loving people who cherish democracy – need collectively stiffer spines, ; the times when we let the authoritarian-child determine what’s in our best interest should come to an end, not just in the political sphere but in other areas, including the embattled field of free expression, where the 12-year-old has been making a mockery of our proud traditions in journalism and academia.

I wasn’t sure if I agreed when I read this, months ago. Yes, it is true that China’s dollars are corrupting. But aren’t all dollars corrupting, if you are corrupt? Who forces us to take them? I’m wondering if South Africa in the 1980s would have faced sanctions if their white government and elites had had to offer then what Beijing has to offer now. And in that regard, I believe we should see clearly that Western countries frequently put their positions on sale easily, when they are offered the right price.

That was  a main factor in America’s motivation, in the 1970s, to acknowledge Beijing’s “one-China policy”. That’s why the EU is nearly spineless when it comes to interaction with Beijing. And that’s why Taiwan’s own elites are frequently eager to do business with China, even if this limits the island republic’s political scope further.

All the same, China’s measures against democracy are uniquely aggressive in some ways. Above all, they are completely shameless. If they serve their country, Chinese people may advocate them without the least disguise – because it serves China. When an American politician – Donald Trump – does a similar thing by ostensibly “putting America first”, he faces a bewildered global public who can’t believe their own ears. And yes, censorship and records where only the victor writes the history books and declares the defeated parties villains is part of hallowed Chinese tradition. There were Chinese people who were openly critical of that tradition during the 1980s or the 1990s. As far as I can see, there aren’t too many of them any more. (I’m not sure there are any left.)

Chinese “public opinion” may debate measures to optimize business, or CCP rule. But there are no competing visions in China. There is no public opinion. There is only guidance toward totalitarianism.

Can governments play a role in controlling China’s aggression against democracy? Not in the short or medium term, anyway. Any such movement has to start from the grassroots. And it won’t be a terribly big one, let alone a “collective” one, as Cole appears to hope.

But every right move is a new beginning, and a contribution to a better world. We can’t boycott China, and if we could, it might amount to a tragedy.

But we can make new, small, decisions every day: is this really the right time to arrange a students exchange with China? Why not with Taiwan? Is an impending deal with China really in one’s best interest? Could an alternative partner make better sense in the long run, even if the opportunity cost looks somewhat higher right now?

The CCP’s propaganda, during the past ten or twenty years, has been that you have no choice but to do business with China under its rule, no matter if you like the dictatorship and its increasing global reach, or not. The purpose of this propaganda has been to demobilize any sense of resistance, of decency, or of hope.

We need to take a fresh look at China.

As things stand, this doesn’t only mean a fresh look at the CCP, but at China as a country, too. During the past ten years, the CCP has managed to rally many Chinese people behind itself, and to discourage dissenters, apparently a minority anyway, from voicing dissent.

A new personal and – if it comes to that – collective fresh look at China requires a sense of proportion, not big statements or claims. It doesn’t require feelings of hatred or antagonism against China, either. We should remain interested in China, and continue to appreciate what is right with it.

What is called for is not a answer that would always be true, but a question, that we should ask ourselves at any moment when a choice appears to be coming up.

As an ordinary individual, don’t ask how you can “profit” from China’s “rise” (which has, in fact, been a long and steady collapse into possibly stable, but certainly immoral hopelessness).

Ask yourself what you can do for Taiwan.

Happy new year!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Xi Jinping in Davos: the Warming Sunshine of Economic Globalization

“Davos: China’s president Xi Jinping argues for a liberal economic order”, German business paper “Handelsblatt” titled on its front page on Wednesday. (Not quite the headline, though – that was a news article on Theresa May‘s Brexit speech.) The paper also quotes incoming US president Donald Trump‘s advisor, Anthony Scaramucci, as saying that the US didn’t want a trade war, “but we want fair trade”, and that Trump’s attacks on NATO and EU had been misinterpreted.

The editorial in the same edition is enthusiastic: Xi Jinping‘s Davos speech had been “a dressing-down for populists”, argues Handelsblatt editorialist Stephan Scheuer, and provided “a keynote for discussions of the coming years”. Xi’s unambiguous message was that China would “not close its doors, but open them further for the world.”

Scheuer’s Wednesday editorial seems to confirm the impression of a Chinese government researcher, Zhao Jinping (赵晋平), who was quoted by “People’s Daily” as saying that reactions to Xi’s speech had been sympathetic (共鸣).

Gulliver in Smurfland (Xinhua artwork)

Gulliver in Smurfland (Xinhua artwork)

While Zhao pointed out that globalization remained the international mainstream consensus, Xi Jinping himself found more flowery words to express the same belief (as quoted in another “People’s Daily” article):

“The global economy’s vast sea, if you like it or not, is there, and you can’t avoid it.” Xi Jinping pointed out that a desire to artificially cut every national economy’s capital flows, technology flows, flows of products, industries, and people, and to shrink the vast sea of the global economy to an isolated small lake, or a small river, was impossible, and would not be in correspondence with the historic trend. When facing economic globalization’s opportunities and risks, the right choice is to make full use of the opportunities, to cooperate to respond to challenges, and to guide the direction of economic globalization well.

“世界经济的大海,你要还是不要,都在那儿,是回避不了的。”习近平指出,想人为切断各国经济的资金流、技术流、产品流、产业流、人员流,让世界经济的大海退回到一个一个孤立的小湖泊、小河流,是不可能的,也是不符合历史潮流的。面对经济全球化带来的机遇和挑战,正确的选择是,充分利用一切机遇,合作应对一切挑战,引导好经济全球化走向。

And:

Protectionism is like locking oneself into a dark room, as if one wants to avoid the hardship, but also the warming sunshine. The result of trade wars would only bring harm to both sides.

搞保护主义如同把自己关进黑屋子,看似躲过了风吹雨打,但也隔绝了阳光和空气。打贸易战的结果只能是两败俱伤

But not everyone appears to have become fully convinced this week that the hero now lives in Beijing, and that the villain is going to reside in the White House. Frank Sieren, a columnist who had been accused by his former Deutsche Welle colleague Su Yutong of being too nice to Beijing more than two years ago, reminds his readers that Xi, no less than Trump, would stand against those who are currently lauding him – whenever that makes sense for him. And both Xi and Trump would have to pursue goals of their own: China would have to get more integrated with the world to be successful, and America would need to produce more goods at home, without making the products more expensive for Americans.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Is the Truth losing in Today’s World? (And if Yes: How so?)

That’s what Richard Stengel, currently undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, believes, according to a Washington Post article:

“We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today,” Stengel warned in an interview. “Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

And, adds the author of the WaPo article, David Ignatius:

How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

Fascinating stuff – fascinating, because it feels like a déjà vu to me (and I’m wondering for how many others who have a memory of some decades).

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages.

When I studied and worked in a fairly rural place in China, I had a number of encounters with – probably mainstream – Chinese worldviews. That was around the turn of the century, and these were probably the most antagonistic, and exciting, debates I ever had, as the only foreigner among some Chinese friends. Discussions sometimes ended with the two, three or four of us angrily staring at each other, switching to a less controversial topic, and bidding each other a frosty good-bye.

But there was a mutual interest in other peoples’ weird ideas. That’s why our discussions continued for a number of weekends. At at least one point, I felt that I had argued with overwhelming logic, but my Chinese interlocutor was unimpressed. I blamed Chinese propaganda for his insusceptibility, but apparently, propaganda was exactly his point: “If propaganda helps to keep my country safe, I have nothing against propaganda,” he replied.

I found that gross. The idea that propaganda should just be another tool, something you might volunteer to use and to believe in, so as to keep your country and society stable, was more alien to me than any Chinese custom I had gotten to know.

The idea that truth is, or that facts are, the essential resource of a (working, successful) democracy looks correct to me. Democracy can’t work without an informed public. But when it comes to German mainstream media, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t trustworthy.

I agree with the WaPo article / Richard Stengel that the US government can’t be a verifier of last resort. No government can play this kind of role. The Chinese party and state have usurped that role, but China is known to be a low-trust society – that doesn’t suggest that they have played a successful role as official verifiers. While many Chinese people do apparently think of their government as the ultimate guardian of national sovereignty and individual safety from imperialist encroachment, they don’t seem to trust these domestic public security powers as their immediate neighbors.

And the ability of any Western government to be a verifier ends as soon as an issue involves state interests, government interests, or governing parties’ interests.

The US government as a verifier of last resort concerning the Syria war? That idea isn’t even funny.

The German government as a verifier of last resort when it comes to foreign-trade issues (within the European Union, or beyond)? Bullshit.

But what about the American media? I don’t have a very clear picture of how they work, but it would seem to me that US television stations usually address the issues that earn them most of the public’s attention. If that is so, it should be no wonder that Donald Trump profited more from media attention, than Hillary Clinton.

But if tweets, rather than platforms, become the really big issues, the media must have abandoned the role that has traditionally been ascribed to them.

German (frequently public-law) media are strongly influenced by political parties, and apparently by business-driven foundations, too.

I don’t know if something similar can be said about American media, but even if only for their attention-seeking coverage, they can’t count as well-performing media either.

What about “social” media? According to Stengel, as quoted by the Washington Post, they give everyone the opportunity to construct their own narrative of reality.

Stengel mentions Islamic State (in 2014) and Russian propaganda campaigns as examples. In the latter’s case, he points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations during the elections in particular.

I believe that Stengel / Ignatius may have half a point. Russia – provided that they were indeed behind the leaks – only targeted Clinton’s campaign, not Donald Trump’s.

But then, wouldn’t it have been the task of the US media to unearth either campaign’s dirty secrets? Russian propaganda performed, even if only selectively, where US media had failed. It exposed practice in the Democratic Party leadership that was hostile to democracy, but acting under the guise of defending it.

How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth, Ignatius finally asks, and quotes Stengel once again, and addressing the role of “social media”:

The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos.

Now, I’m no advocate of free broadcasts for ISIS videos. But if the best hope is the removal of accounts and videos by the commercial providers, it would seem that there isn’t much hope in human power of judgment, after all – and in that case, there wouldn’t be much hope for democracy as a model of government.

Ignatius:

The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”

Wtf? Human-machine processes? Has the “Global Times” hacked the WaPo?

____________

Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

____________

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Obituary: Ryu Mi-yong, 1921 – 2016

Ryu Mi-yong, chairwoman of the North Korean “Chondoist Chongu Party”, died of lung cancer on Wednesday, November 23, aged 95, according to North Korean newsagency KCNA (no permalink).

Thanks to the profound trust and love of the great leaders she could make a dramatic U turn in her life and enjoyed a worthwhile life after permanently settling in the DPRK together with her husband Choe Tok Sin,

writes KCNA, referring to the couple’s defection from South to North Korea in 1986. Reportedly, they had moved to the United States, or fled there, ten years prior to their defection. Her husband, late Choe Duck-shin (or Choe Deok-sin, or Choi Duk Shin), had been the Park regime’s foreign minister from 1961 to 1963. From 1963 to 1967, he served as South Korea’s Ambassador to West Germany.

And if KCNA portrays her correctly, like many converts, Ryu Mi-yong was tougher than the rest:

She revered Marshal Kim Jong Un as God of the nation and the sun of salvation of the world and the people and worked heart and soul to bring earlier a new day of unity of all Koreans and country’s reunification till the last moments of her life.

直到生命的最后一刻,敬仰金正恩元帅为民族的上天、救世济民的太阳,为早日迎来全民族的团结和统一的未来献出了一切。

The “party” she chaired apparently draws on a Korean religious movement called Cheondoism.

According to Yonhap Newsagency, South Korea’s reunification ministry, on November 19 granted Ryu’s second son a travel permit to the North, for humanitarian reasons, given that his mother had been terminally ill.

____________

Updates/Related

“Chondoism, translated into reality”, Pyongyang Times, Sept 29, 2016

____________

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Election Observation by the Way

6080 kHz would be a great frequency to listen to the Voice of America‘s (VoA’s) election coverage – if the Voice of Turkey wouldn’t start to interfere with their English program, at 04:00 a.m. UTC. That drowns VoA completely.

4960 kHz, also from the VoA’s Sao Tome and Principe relay, offers an acceptable alternative, provided that you live in the countryside and have some outdoor wire in the air.

Monday, October 31, 2016

German FM Vietnam Visit: Counter-Balancing China?

“Vietnam is Germany’s important strategic partner”, Nhan Dan‘s Chinese edition quoted German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, in one of its headlines on October 29. Nhan Dan is the organ of Vietnam’s Communist Party central committee.

German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier left Berlin on October 29 to begin a trip intended to strengthen the two countries’ strategic partnership.

德国外交部长弗兰克-瓦尔特·施泰因迈尔10月29离开柏林,开始启程对越南进行访问,旨在加强两国战略伙伴关系。

German foreign minister Steinmeier is leading a delegation with members in charge of economic and cultural affairs.

德国外长施泰因迈尔率领负责经济和文化事务代表团对越南进行为期三天的访问。

The German foreign minister sees Vietnam as Germany’s important economic, political, cultural and strategic partner. The head of Germany’s federal parliament, Norbert Lammert, visited Vietnam in March 2015, and Vietnam [then] state chairman Trưong Tan Sang’s visit to Germany in November 2015 strengthened the two countries’ relations further.

德国外交部将越南是为德国重要的经济、政治、文化战略伙伴。德国联邦议院议长诺贝特·拉默特2015年3月对越南进行访问和越南国家主席张晋创2015年11月对德国进行访问为两国关系增添了新动力。

In the framework of the two countries’ strategic-partnership action plan, Germany’s and Vietnam’s cooperation activities are developing further, in a variety of fields, with new projects being added every year. One of these important projects is the “German House”, under construction in Ho Chi Minh City, which is going to be a headquarter for German organizations and companies in Ho Chi Minh City.

在两国战略伙伴行动计划框架内,德国与越南合作活动在各领域上继续向前发展,每年都有新的合作项目。两国重要合作项目之一是在胡志明市兴建 “德国屋”,这里将成为在胡志明市德国组织和企业的总部。

Bilateral trade between Vietnam and Germany amounted to 10.3 billion USD in 2015, with German imports from Vietnam at eight bn, and exports to Vietnam at 2.3 bn USD. Major export products from Vietnam are footwear, textiles, farming and seafood products, electronic components, wooden furniture, etc.. Major import products from Germany are machinery, transport, vehicles, chemical products, and measurement instruments, etc..

越德两国2015年双边贸易金额达103亿美元,德国自越南进口80亿美元、对越南出口23亿美元。越南对德国主要出口产品是鞋类、纺织品、农海产品、电子零件和木家具等;越南自德国进口主要产品是机械、运输车辆、化学物品和化学仪器等。

On Sunday, Nhan Dan reported a visit by Steinmeier to a German company’s investment site in Haiphong. According to the newsarticle, the gypsum production site, built by German gypsum producer Knauf, is one of the biggest investment projects in Haiphong.

Vietnam’s foreign broadcaster Voice of Vietnam‘s (VoV) German service adds a short description of the Phu Lac wind farm.

Betram Lang, a MERICS researcher, wrote earlier this month that

[i]n times of rising diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea, the European Union (EU) tries to bolster the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a counterweight to China in the region. To this end, the EU has offered generous financial support to foster the regional integration process and sponsor the still politically toothless ASEAN secretariat. It almost tripled previous financial commitments to 196 million EUR between 2014 and 2020.

That however was proving difficult: While Cambodia has been positioning itself as China’s closest ally in South East Asia since at least 2001, other ASEAN countries have recently sought their own kind of ‘privileged relationship’ with the PRC as well.

China’s online media apparently don’t report Steinmeier’s Vietnam visit – most of the Chinese-language coverage appears to be from Vietnamese sources.

Before heading for Vietnam, Steinmeier reportedly called on Vietnam’s leadership for political reforms in Vietnam, an issue that Vietnam’s state-controlled media didn’t cover (not in Chinese, anyway).

In a speech at the opening ceremony for a German and European Law program of study at Hanoi Law University, Steinmeier came back to the topic of political reforms. Successful modernization required the rule of law, and a strong civil society, he said.

Steinmeier also addressed the South China Sea conflict – in a diplomatic way -, plus ASEAN:

For us, but for Vietnam with its important and further growing role in ASEAN and the United Nations, one thing is clear: Peace can only be secured when international law and politics work together. International law aims at guide power within tracks, and the powerful in politics must accept these tracks. The latest decision, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, was an important legal step. What matters now is that the groundbreaking elements of the decision will gradually be turned into practice of international law.

Für uns, aber auch für Vietnam mit seiner wichtigen und weiter wachsenden Rolle in ASEAN und in den Vereinten Nationen ist jedenfalls eines klar: Frieden wird nur gesichert, wenn Völkerrecht und Politik zusammenspielen. Das Völkerrecht zielt darauf ab, Macht in Bahnen zu lenken, und die Mächtigen in der Politik müssen diese Bahnen akzeptieren. Der jüngste Schiedsspruch, basierend auf der Seerechtskonvention der Vereinten Nationen, war ein wichtiger rechtlicher Schritt. Jetzt kommt es darauf an, dass die wegweisenden Elemente des Schiedsspruches Schritt für Schritt auch völkerrechtliche Praxis werden.

Vietnam’s opposition to China’s naval strategy in the South China Sea has been stronger than that of other ASEAN nations. But geostrategic considerations are only one aspect of Germany’s Vietnam policy. Vietnam’s economy keeps growing fast, and East Germany and Vietnam in particular share a history of economic cooperation.

Deutsche Welle, once Germany’s foreign radio station, in a March 2015 report, commemorating fourty years of German-Vietnamese ties:

When that country [East Germany] collapsed, almost all its Vietnamese workers suddenly lost their jobs. They did not want to return to Vietnam because the employment prospects in their home country were very poor. The Vietnamese economic boom was yet to come.

Even so, the majority of these Vietnamese were still repatriated because they did not have a residence permit.

The conflict over contract workers and the regulation of old debts strained the German-Vietnamese ties for several years, according to Gerhard Will. “Only during the course of negotiations, it became clear to both countries what they could offer a lot to each other,” writes Will, who has been a Vietnam expert and worked at the German Institute of International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

[…]

In 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed the “Hanoi Declaration” to establish a “strategic partnership” between the two countries. The two leaders expressed the desire to continue economic partnership and cooperate in the areas of development policy, environment, education and science. The German-Vietnamese University in the city of Ho Chi Minh, founded in 2008, is considered a model project in terms of bilateral cooperation.

There is also a West German-Vietnamese history. 33,000 immigrants may not sound like a big number these days, but it did in the 1970s and 1980s.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Huanqiu Shibao: Will Turkey turn East?

Chinese media provide relatively very little opinion on the coup attempt in Turkey and its aftermath, and prefer to quote foreign media. However, the choice of information sources may indicate where Chinese media pay special attention, and the article translated here ends with a bit of expertise from Chinese academia.

The following is a translation of a press review of sorts, originally from Huanqiu Shibao, and republished by china.com, a news portal in a number of languages (including Mandarin), that is apparently operated by Global Broadcasting Media Group, which in turn is operated by China Radio International (CRI). Global Broadcasting Media Group, as CRI’s investment vehicle, is also known as “Guoguang”. The following article – or my translation of it, for that matter – may or may not reflect the quoted sources accurately.

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

The BBC reported on July 20 that the purge of so many people had led to concern among international observers, and that the United Nations were working on making sure that Turkey maintained the essence of the rule of law, and protected human rights. Germany, on July 20, condemned the growing purges by the Turkish government even more directly. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said, “we see actions almost daily that damage the rule of law, with measures whose force exceeds the seriousness of the problems.” Some of the measures were deeply disturbing, and unconstitutional.

英国广播公司20日报道称,如此众多的人员被清洗已经引起国际观察家的关注,联合国在努力确保土耳其坚持法治精神和维护人权。德国20日则更为直接地对土耳其政府升级整肃行动表示谴责。德国政府发言人斯特芬·塞伯特说,“我们几乎每天都看到破坏法治的新举动,措施力度超出了问题的严重性”,有些措施是令人深感不安、违背宪法的做法。

Associated Press quoted EU Parliament speaker Martin Schulz as saying that Turkey was now carrying out “retaliation” against opponents and critics, and the debate about the reintroduction of the death penalty was “absolutely worrying”. The EU has warned that such a move would spell the end of EU accession negotiations with Turkey.

美联社援引欧洲议会议长舒尔茨的话说,土耳其正在对反对者和批评者实施“报复”,围绕恢复死刑展开的争论“非常令人担忧”。欧盟已经警告,这样做将意味着土耳其加入欧盟谈判的终结。

A White House statement on Tuesday said that President Barack Obama, during a telephone conversation with Erdogan, “had urged respect for the law while investigating those involved in the coup, in a way that would strengthen public trust in the democratic system.” However, the problem US-Turkish relations were facing go far beyond the protection of rule of law and of democracy.

美国白宫在周二的声明中说,总统奥巴马在与埃尔多安的电话中“敦促对参与政变者的调查应该遵守法律,并以增强公众对民主体系信心的方式进行”。但对美国来说,美土关系需要面对的问题远不止维护法治和民主。

According to a “New York Times” report, Turkish officials, including the foreign minister, demanded on July 19 that America extradite Fethullah Gülen. On that day, the White House confirmed it had received electronic documents from Turkey that was meant to serve as evidence. However, it was not clear if a formal request for extradition had already been made. “The ministry of justice will examine this material in accordance with the extradition treaty between our two countries,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. CNN said that according to the extradition treaty between America and Turkey, treason [as a reason for extradition] did not apply, but Turkey had given exactly that reason for its request. When asked if the Turkish government had any evidence for this, Turkish deputy prime minister Kurtulmus said that Turkey knew clearly that Gülen was the manipulator behind the scene, just as America knew that bin Laden had been the conspirator of “9-11”.

据美国《纽约时报》报道,包括外长在内的土耳其官员19日要求美国交出居伦。当天,白宫证实已经收到土耳其提供的作为证据的电子文档。但不清楚土方 是否已经正式提出引渡要求。“司法部和国务院将根据两国之间的引渡条约审视这些材料。”白宫发言人厄内斯特说。美国有线电视新闻网(CNN)说,根据美土 达成的引渡协议,叛国罪并不适用,但土耳其正是以此提出引渡居伦。在被问及土政府对此有何证据时,土副总理库尔图尔穆说,土耳其明确知道居伦在幕后操纵, 就像当年美国知道拉登是“9·11”主谋一样。

David Ignatius, a “Washington Post” columnist, writes that within the clamor of the coup aftermath, the US-Turkish relations, which had already been tense, could get into new difficulties, with the demand of extraditing Gülen as the most immediate test. Given the US and EU concern about the Erdogan government’s human rights record, this issue would be complicated. There were serious differences between the two sides about strategies of strikes against IS in Syria. During the past few years, the American-Turkish relations had come across as those between friends who were breaking up.

美国《华盛顿邮报》专栏作家大卫·伊格拉蒂尔斯撰文说,在政变之后的喧嚣中,华盛顿和安卡拉之间业已紧张的关系将陷入新困境,要求遣返居伦是最直接 的考验。考虑到美欧此前对埃尔多安政府人权记录的批评,此事将相当复杂。在叙利亚打击IS的战略上,双方已经分歧严重。近几年的美土关系向外界展示了一对 朋友如何一拍两散。

Could Turkey become an ally of Russia? Russia’s [online paper] Vzglyad writes in an editorial that Turkish prime minister [Yildirim] had already said, Ankara could review Turkish-US relations if America refused to extradite Gülen. Russia’s Izvestia quoted the Russian Academy of Sciences Oriental Institute’s Gadzhiev as believing that while it was premature to say that Turkey would completely turn to Russia, there could be some change. German Global News Network*) commented that a coup was now changing Turkey, and possibly the Middle East. Turkey didn’t trust America any longer, and the Middle East’s future could become more complicated.

土耳其可能因此成为俄罗斯的战略盟友吗?俄罗斯《观点报》以此为题评论说,土耳其总理已经表示,安卡拉或因美拒绝交出居伦而重新审视与美国的关系。 俄罗斯《消息报》20日援引俄东方学研究所专家加日耶夫认为,虽然说土耳其的对外政策将全面转向俄罗斯为时尚早,但会有所变化。德国全球新闻网评论说,一 场政变正在改变土耳其,也将改变中东。土耳其不再信任美国,中东的未来将更加复杂。

But Li Weijian [apparently a researcher from Shanghai International Issues Research Institute – not previously mentioned in the article] thinks that Erdogan’s intention is to broaden his presidential powers and pave the way for the implementation of domestic policies and of diplomacy, and this wouldn’t necessarily constitute fundamental regional or global change. In an interview with “Huanqiu Shibao” he said, Erdogan had always maintained [an approach of] benefitting from West and East alike, and would keep to this strategy.

但李伟建认为,埃尔多安的意图在于扩大其总统权力,为内政外交政策的实施铺平道路,这未必会对地区关系和世界格局构成彻底改变。他在接受《环球时报》记者采访时说,埃尔多安一直以来秉持在西方与中东间左右逢源,这一战略会继续。

(Huanqiu Shibao special correspondents from Turkey, Germany, Egypt – Ji Shuangcheng, Qing Mu, Wang Yunsong and Huanqiu Shibao reporter Bai Yunyi, Ren Zhong, Zhen Xiang, Liu Yupeng]

____________

*) Not known to me, or not under this name – JR

____________

%d bloggers like this: