Archive for ‘international’

Sunday, May 22, 2016

America, Japan: a more equal Relationship?

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

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

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

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

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

the Nikkei Asian Review asked in May 2015.

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

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

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

And while

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

Rinna added.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related

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

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Tsai Ing-wen’s Inagurational Address: an Economy with New Bones

The inaugural address in → Chinese and in → English, published by CNA. Prior to President Tsai’s inaugural speech, there were two songs: an indigenous one, and the national anthem of the RoC.

Language observation: I used to think that 脱胎换骨 was merely an mainland Chinese figure of speech (to be reborn with new bones, see footnote →there. This is not so. President Tsai used it too, this morning:

我們要讓台灣經濟脫胎換骨,就必須從現在起就下定決心,勇敢地走出另外一條路。這一條路,就是打造台灣經濟發展的新模式。

The CNA translation puts it less pictographic:

In order to completely transform Taiwan’s economy, from this moment on, we must bravely chart a different course – and that is to build a “New Model for Economic Development” for Taiwan.

So, chances are that Wang Meng and his generation learned that →phrase long before joining the Communist Party. It’s either “KMT”, or still older.

Friday, May 20, 2016

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

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

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

QSL Card, RTI Taipei, Taiwan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Languages (“L.”):

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

Thursday, May 19, 2016

DPP: a Need to Control and to Trust Tsai

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

NHK: “Suddenly off the Air”

An NHK broadcast suddenly went off the air across mainland China on Tuesday morning during a report on the Panama Papers,

reports Radio Japan.

The World Premium channel by Japan’s public broadcaster lost both its video and sound shortly after a newscaster began reporting on offshore firms set up by relatives of current or former leaders of the Chinese Communist Party.

The program was interrupted again when it touched on the efforts of Chinese authorities to rigidly control information about the leaked financial documents.

The authorities appear to be censoring reports on the story by both domestic and foreign media.

The NHK states a CTV-Satellite TV Program Co., Ltd. as an operator in China, with a Beijing area code in its phone number. While Radio Japan, NHK’s foreign broadcasting service, offers programs in Chinese (including shortwave broadcasts), NHK Premium is bilingual (Japanese and English), according to Wikipedia.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Be very Afraid …

… counter-revolutionary students in public squares!

The PLA is here to kill, kill, kill you with responsibility!

Remember June 4, 1989.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Beijing: Foreign Experts wanted to avert more PR(C) Disasters

Life’s hasn’t been nice to China Radio International (CRI). The propaganda juggernaut hasn’t been mentioned in the nation’s chairman’s new year addresses in recent years (as had been a time-honored custom during previous decades), it had been described as a bottomless pit of waste by Keith Perron (a former CRI presenter himself), and the international broadcaster’s borrowed-boats strategy probably caused some chuckles in the industry, too. Other “international” media outlets from the Middle Kingdom aren’t really effective either. Whenever they catch attention, it’s for anchors losing it, or similar not so-work-related reasons – at least in Western countries.

CRI’s German service is a brilliant example of how propaganda on a foreign audience simply can’t work. On the past two Sundays, they broadcast the same edition of their “listeners forum”, with just one listener quoted there (maybe he was the only one who wrote in), and later on, a “report” on electrical power supply in Tibet (also the second time on two consecutive Sundays). That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any listeners – some actually appear to be listening religiously, and Beijing’s propaganda is in no position to abandon these early Christians. But it appears to be a small flock. And given the truthful (and therefore highly unpleasant) representation of Beijing’s attitude towards Tibet, for example, it can’t be a big audience.

If you, as a government or collective dictatorship, can’t bring yourself to destroy some quarters of the state-owned industrial sector (as prescribed by the neo-liberal foreign press), you certainly cannot break an unsinkable aircraft carrier with thousands of jobs up, either. But you can still do two things. Measure number one is to keep the ineffective bathing tub*) in your coastal waters, while venturing into international waters with some international expertise. That, at least, appears to be on Xi Jinping‘s mind – Xi is the guy who hasn’t mentioned CRI in his new-year addresses.

And while the foreign expertise is going to work for you, you can kick all those foreign correspondents out who treat China unfairly. That would be measure number two. In fact, measure number two has been practiced for ages.

(On a private note, I’m not sure if putting lipstick on the pig will really make the pig look nicer, or more convincing. But then, the pig has little to lose – and I’m going to watch the experiment with some curiosity.)

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Note

*) Given the wide range of languages and target areas, there may be CRI brances which are a success story, in terms of feedback from the audience, etc.. But I haven’t heard of them yet.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Pinneberg Meteorological Broadcasting Station

The Pinneberg shortwave broadcasting service, operated by Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD, German Meteorological Service) has caught the attention of one of neighboring Hamburg’s newspapers, the Hamburger Abendblatt. In their Pinneberg category, they describe the 42-K-inhabitants town as meteorological radio’s navel of the world (that’s the opposite of the butt of the world), and provide a bit of technical information: 16 transmitters for short-, medium- and shortwave are reportedly in use at the Pinneberg site, and the shortwave signals among them “can easily circle the world”, but that the service reportedly focuses mainly on the North Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean Sea.

DWD is part of the German ministry of transportation. According to Hamburger Abendblatt, the now DWD-operated Pinneberg service was established in the 1930s, then as a Ministry of Aviation overseas transmission site.

Four technicians make sure that the site runs smoothly – they do not do the weather reports, however, according to a technician quoted in the report – the spoken ones (see GERMANY. 5905.00, *1204-1221* there) are computer voices. There is a local color to them, however, as they come with a distinctly northern German accent. In my place, less than 100 km south-west of Hamburg, reception of the daytime transmissons on 5905 kHz requires neither USB mode nor anything beyond the built-in telescopic antenna of an ordinary shortwave receiver. (I haven’t tried the evening transmission yet.)

Not surprisingly, reception appears to be good in the Russian town of Semiluki, too:

But even on the opposite side of the world (if Pinneberg is the navel of the world, guess what the opposite is), a portable receiver can do a good job – a Sangean ATS-909X receiver in this case, used in Hira, New Zealand, according to a Youtube user:

Recently posted schedules suggest that broadcasts can be heard

from 06:00 to 06:30 UTC,
from 12:00 to 12:00 UTC, and
from 20:00 to 20:30 UTC,

[Update May 21: there’s no evening broadcast]

all of them on 5905 kHz, seven days a week.

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Update:

The signal is usually there in time, and signs off after exactly 30 minutes,, but the actual shipping reports may begin with a delay of four or five minutes, and also end a few minutes early. If you hear nothing on the full hour, a bit of patience may be useful.
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