Archive for ‘international’

Friday, August 21, 2015

Some of this Week’s Links: Heroes and Ultra-Vulgar Butchers

1. “All of them are Heroes” – a Soundbyte and its Story

A Hong Kong television station had a small scoop of sorts, or so it seems to feel to both the station, and to Xinhua. They [update: the HK tv station, that is] conducted an apparent surprise interview with Chinese chief state councillor Li Keqiang. This is how Xinhua reported the encounter, apparently on the same day.

According to the Weibo channel of Xinhua newsagency’s Xinhua Viewpoint program, chief state councillor Li Keqiang, on a visit to the injured at Tianjin Taida Hospital, was abruptly approached by a Hong Kong journalist who, using his cell-phone camera, asked minute questions about “unlisted firefighters”. The chief state councillor interrupted his walk and said that the active-service and non-active-service rescuers had all received training, were all fully aware that the fireground was dangerous, but had all left the danger to themselves. Their sacrifices are saddening us. All of them are heroes, and there are no “unlisted” heroes!

据新华社“新华视点”微博报道,李克强总理16日在天津泰达医院看望伤者时,一名香港记者突然冲过来用手机拍摄并追问“编外消防员”问题。总理停下脚步说,参加施救的现役和非现役消防人员都受过培训,他们明知火场有危险,但把危险留给自己。他们的牺牲让我们痛心。他们都是英雄,英雄没有“编外”!

Unlisted apparently refers to contract firefighters.

The Nanfang also gave a description of the interview, and linked to the tv station’s video (edited or not, can’t judge that) of it. There seems to be nothing extraordinary about the interview by international standards, and the crucial soundbyte – that all of them are heroes, and there are no unlisted heroscomes at 1′ 14”. Li Keqiang also thanked the reporter “for asking this question and showing your concern for the injured”.

2. “Drawing Profits from selling Ranks and Titles (in Zhongmou)

Some estimates say that the number of rights lawyers has grown from just a handful to […] over a thousand, Yaxue Cao and Yaqiu Wang write in a China Change post published on Wednesday. Going through a July-19 article by China News Service (CNS, 中国新闻社), linked to from the China Change article, you might get the impressoin that corruption charges may not only be politically motivated when brought against party flies or tigers, but they are also weapons in efforts to smear dissidents’ reputation. That may look pretty obvious anyway, but I’ve only become aware of it when reading

For the foreign, language-learning reader, the profitable thing about official lampoons like the one from CNS is that they usually come with some proverbs or classical references. It makes an – otherwise possibly unpleasant – treatise catchy, and helps to create the impression that the propaganda were handed out by trustworthy people.

A short taster from the CNS article:

According to police information, Zhou Shifeng, Wang Yu and other persons formed criminal gangs with Fengrui Law Office as a platform. Since July 2012, they have plotted in more than forty cases and incidents, waving sensational flags about “rights”, “the public good”, etc., seizing the opportunity of becoming famous and of drawing profits from Zhongmou.

根据警方的通报,以北京市锋锐律师事务所为平台,周世锋、王宇等人组成的犯罪团伙,自2012年7月以来,先后组织策划40余起案事件,打着“维权”“公益”等旗号炒作,借机出名,从中牟取利益。

Liu Sixin, administrative assistant at said law office, explains that Zhou Sifeng usually likes to recruit three kinds of people: those who dare to speak out, those who dare to act, and those who dare to hype issues, like “ultra-vulgar butcher” Wu Gan and Zhou himself. The second kind is people who hail from the petitional system and from the media, such as Huang Liqun, Xie Yuandong, etc.. And then there are so-called “die-hard” lawyers like Wang Yu, Wang Quanzhang who like to be defenders in sensitive incidents.

该所行政助理刘四新介绍,周世锋一般喜欢招揽3种人,第一种是敢说、敢干、敢炒作的,像“超级低俗屠夫”吴淦和他;第二种是原来在司法、信访系统以及媒体干过的人,像黄力群、谢远东等;还有就是像王宇、王全璋这种所谓的“死磕”律师,喜欢代理一些敏感事件。

The China Change post lists forteen rights lawyers and their stories.

3. Farting Snakes

And to end on a super-vulgar note today: did you know that a snake has an ass?

Now you know. Happy weekend.
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Updates/Related

» Crackdown intensifies, CS Monitor, July 13, 2015

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tibetan Society Abroad

Guess where that picture was taken. The landscape might look Tibetan (to untrained eyes like mine, anyway), so does the building, and, obviously, the traditionally-dressed man in front of the building, anyway. But it is a scene from the U.S. state of Minnesota, and the photo is part of a Hampshire College student’s final year project – Tibetan migrants in the USA, and how they maintain their traditional way of life, or aspects of it.

More information about the project there.

Tibetan society and culture is extremely underreported, online and in the printed press. To make things worse, when you want to read Tibetan online sources, Google Translate doesn’t offer translations. Every bit of information in English helps.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Economist: CCP is “Plundering History to justify its Present-Day Ambitions”

Granted, this may become the first time after World War 2 that China commemorates the occasion with a big military parade, rather than with a solemn remembrance ceremony. But did it really take this upcoming September event to make The Economist aware that the Communist Party is plundering history to justify its present-day ambitions? That the Xi leadership is showing a blatant disregard for the fact that it was not the Chinese communists who bore the brunt of the fighting against Japan, but their sworn enemies, the nationalists (or Kuomintang) under Chiang Kai-shek? This is by far the most serious criticism of Beijing that I have seen in the Economist ever since I started reading about a decade ago. And it has been overdue.

To be clear: the Economist has been critical in the past, too. When China (apparently) slowed exports of rare-earth minerals to Japan after the arrest of a Chinese crawler crew by the Japanese coastguard, the paper referred to that as an especially nefarious turn. But that was at a time of open crisis. The real problem isn’t that there are occasional outbursts of Chinese wrath against once criminal or now obstinate neighbors. The problem is the daily mass indoctrination in Chinese schools and media.

The German press also appears to have become more critical. Random choice: “Doubtful of China”, a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung headline a week ago, on August 12. The short leader on page one suggested that

for years, the Chinese government has marketed itself that successfully that one almost believed it could walk on water. Whatever unpleasant things it would do in terms of human rights, the economy worked out, and that was/is the real bottom line for many abroad. For a few weeks now, the high-gloss storefront is getting scratches. Another rather big one has been added by the Chinese central bank now. It has devalued the national currency as much as never in two decades, which is being analyzed on page 15.

In short, the paper quotes “observers” who doubt that the devaluation is a step towards liberalizing the exchange-rate regime, and hence a concession to IMF demands.

The quarrels about Beijing distorting economic competition isn’t new. But how the CCP is distorting history have hardly been a regular issue in the mainstream press. All the same, such views, publicized in no uncertain terms, should be welcomed and encouraged by all people who believe that truthfulness about history is important.

Truthfulness also requires self-criticism. Yes, Beijing is pretty good at selling itself and its record, as noted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But most of the successful propaganda work abroad hasn’t been done by Chinese propagandists or “public diplomats”. It has been done by the international press. And if China’s economy should become the big economic attraction again, be it for an unlikely return to double-digit growth rates or for any other reasons, expect the foreign adulation of the incredible strategists to resume.

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Related

» Do markets determine …, M. Pettis, Aug 18, 2015
» CCP should face history honestly, July 7, 2015
» China Cultural Year 2012, March 1, 2012
» Message to a Barbarian, June 26, 2011
» Fragility of Truth, Economist, Oct 8, 2009
» Covert business lobby, Project Censored, 1996/2010

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Guessing Games: “Don’t wait for Beidaihe”

— Note: the following is old news: it’s about articles that appeared during the past two weeks and a half. —

Big sensation? Or was the Xinhua article, published on August 5, making fun of the international press in general, or the South China Morning Post (SCMP) in particular? The headline read Liao Wang Think Tank: Don’t wait for it, Beidaihe won’t happen, and it seemed to refer to an article in Hong Kong’s English-language paper, published on July 30.  The headline, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean that the near-tradtitional gathering of China’s top leaders has been cancelled. But it does suggest that Beidaihe is no longer the place where the big decisions are made: after all, Chinese politics had gradually become more transparent and “regular”, especially after the 18th National Congress of the CCP (i. e. the election of the current leadership) and the Eight Provisions (or Eight Rules). Hadn’t the politburo met on July 20 and 30? One could well expect that issues like the 13th 5-year plan, economic policies, striking the tigers (打老虎, put into quotation marks in the article, and referring to the ostensible fight against corruption among leading cadres) had been discussed there time and again – so what would be the use to go to Beidaihe? “Is it necessary? Is it likely [to happen]?”

Obviously, Beidaihe doesn’t need to be the place where big decisions are made. But it may still be the place. While the CCP is indeed fairly transparent when it comes to the publication of its final decisions, the decision-making process remains as murky as ever.

Maybe that’s why the Xinhua/Liaowang author found speculation about the time and agenda of the Beidaihe meetings so funny. The Economist also got a mention for suggesting that [n]ormally the meetings start in the second week of August and run for seven days or so. This year they started a week early […]. However, the Xinhua article didn’t mention that the Economist referred to reports in overseas Chinese media.

And, as usual, the sources weren’t specifically mentioned, either, let alone linked to, its sources, even though both the SCMP and the Economist article were available online. Maybe they were running counter to the Liaowang author’s message to his readers that Chinese politics had become “more transparent”.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ma Ying-jeou: “A Considerable Threat Continues to Exist in the Taiwan Strait”

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou spoke about cross-strait relations in an interview with the BBC‘s Carrie Gracie this month. There is a three-minutes’ video on youtube, and Radio Taiwan International‘s (RTI) Chinese service has a transcript of the interview.

I have based my following translation – not necessarily accurate – on the RTI transcript. Links with in the following Q & A were inserted during translation.

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[Asked what his feelings are about China being both an important trading partner and a cause of security threats]

A: We are only some 100 nautical miles away from mainland China, and to us, China is a big risk risk, and also a big opportunity. Any leader of the Republic of China should learn to reduce risks and to expand opportunities, and what I have done during the past seven years is exactly that.

總統:我們與大陸只有大概100多海浬左右的距離,中國大陸對我們來說是很大的風險,也是很大的機會。任何中華民國的領導人都應該學習把風險減少、把機會擴大,而我過去7年來做的就是這件事。

Our economic relations with mainland China, (language and culture), coincide in fairly many ways, while the developmental stages of both sides aren’t identical. Over the past decades, our trade volume with mainland China has continuously risen, and our trade surplus has been huge. The goods we sell to mainland China can be processed further there, be sold to Europe and North America, and this stage has been of mutual benefit in the past.

我們與大陸間的經濟關係,(語言文化上)有相當多一致的地方,而雙方的經濟發展階段並不一樣。過去幾十年當中,我們與大陸的貿易量一直增加,我方享有的順差也非常龐大。我們銷往大陸的貨品會再經過他們加工,賣到歐洲及北美,這樣的關係在過去的階段是互利的。

Of course, mainland Chinese threats stem from the military and the political field, and some people believe that deepening trade and investment relations with mainland China leads to excessive dependence on mainland China. To consider and weigh political and military threats, the mode our government adopted has been to find some consensus that is acceptable to both sides, and to shelve differences. In terms of the economy and trade, obviously, Taiwan can’t avoid some dependence on mainland China, but since I took office, dependence on mainland China has actually decreased, because the government has started the work of market diversification, leading to Taiwan’s trade dependence on mainland China not increasing further, but rather slightly decreasing.

大陸對我們的威脅當然還是來自軍事與政治方面,有些人認為,與大陸的貿易和投資加深,會造成對大陸過度依賴。考量政治與軍事的風險,我們政府採取的方式,就是找出雙方都可以接受的一些共識、擱置歧見。在經濟及貿易方面,台灣當然不可避免部分依賴大陸,但從我上任後,對大陸的依賴程度反而減少了,因為政府開始做好分散市場的工作,使得台灣對大陸的貿易依賴沒有再增加,反而有少許的減少。

[Asked if he believes that China is moving towards democratization, in a long-term trend]

問:習近平上任後,全世界都在期待中國大陸是否會往民主的方向發展,您認為未來中國大陸走向民主化是一個長久趨勢嗎?

A: During the past few years, I have constantly reminded the mainland Chinese authorities that if you want to narrow the psychological gap between the Taiwanese and the mainland Chinese people, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, these core values of Taiwan, are important factors.  If mainland China were more active concerning these issues, the distance could be narrowed, but also, if there wouldn’t be more positive activity, the distance could also widen. In the past few years, the trends and changes in the psychological gap have also clearly reflected the actual attitude of mainland Chinese authorities in recent years.

總統:在過去幾年中,我不斷提醒大陸當局,想要拉近台灣與大陸人民心理上的差距,很重要的因素就是自由、民主、人權及法治,這些台灣所擁有的核心價值。如果在這些議題,大陸做得更積極,距離就可以拉近,同樣的,如果他沒有更積極的作為,距離就會拉遠。在過去幾年,心理差距的變化趨勢也清楚反映出大陸當局近幾年實際的態度。

On these issues, mainland China has seen good and bad times, sometimes somewhat better, sometimes worsening somewhat, thus remaining in a state of uncertainty.
中國大陸在這些議題上,他們一直是時好時壞,有時候好一點,有時候惡化一點,因此還處於不確定的狀態。

When I was running for re-election four years ago, mainland Chinese people were able to watch our elections on the internet, which was unprecedented. But recently, we have also seen many arrests of human rights activists, making everyone feel worried about mainland China’s human rights situation. Therefore, the feelings their situation causes us are sometimes good, sometimes bad.

在我4年前競選連任時,大陸人民可以透過網路看我們的選舉情況,這是過去都沒有的。但另外我們也看到,最近有很多維權人士被逮捕,使得大家對大陸人權情況惡化感到憂心,所以他們的情況給我的感覺是時好時壞。

[Asked if he feels angry about not having had an opportunity to met Xi Jinping after his efforts to improve relations]

A: Since I assumed office, one can say that cross-strait relations have improved, no matter if we look at economic aspects, cultural aspects, etc.. Therefore, a meeting between the leaders of the two sides would be a natural thing.  During the last two years, we have thought about the APEC summits as an opportunity to meet, but always without success, and of course, that’s a pity. Our current position is to neither rule a meeting out, nor to insist.

從我上任後,兩岸不論在經濟、文化等各方面的關係,都可以說有很大的進展,因此雙方領導人碰面應該是很自然的事情。過去兩年中,我們本來想利用亞太經合會(APEC)的機會碰面,但始終沒有成功,這當然是非常可惜的事情。我們目前的態度還是不排除、但也不會強求。

[Asked if he thinks that not to meet is Xi Jinping’s personal decision, taken from a too arbitrary  (過於獨斷) position]

A: We don’t know their decision-making process, of course, but certainly, the final decision lies with Mr. Xi. Maybe some of our views just differ, because we feel that in the process of developing cross-strait relations, some encounters on international occasions are unavoidable, but mainland Chinese leaders may try their best not to appear with us on international occasions, as they worry this could be against the so-called “One-China policy”. But what I would like to emphasize is that we have said clearly on many occasions that when we reached the “1992 consensus”, it just meant that the two parties both maintain the “One-China principle”, but the meaning we give to it is not identical. Only with this flexibility, the two parties can establish better relations. However, once it comes to international occasions, mainland China remains very unflexible in this regard.

我們當然不知道他們的決策過程如何,但是最後一定是由習先生拍板確定。我們可能跟他採取一些不同的看法,因為我們覺得在兩岸關係的發展過程中,不可避免地會在國際場合碰到,但是中國大陸儘可能避免在國際場合與我們同時出現,因為擔心這樣會違反所謂的「一個中國」原則。不過,我要強調的是,我們在許多場合都曾清楚說明,當初達成「九二共識」就是指雙方都堅持「一個中國」的原則,但是所賦予的涵義並不相同;有此彈性,雙方才能建立更友好的關係。然而一旦到了國際場合,中國大陸在這方面非常僵硬。

[Asked if Xi Jinping’s statement that the cross-strait issue couldn’t be dragged from generation to generation constitutes a threat to Taiwan]

A: I believe that this way of putting it, makes things look as if they had been delayed for a long time. In fact, the two sides having relatively close and friendly relations has only been going on for these seven years. I often say that seven years can’t count as a generation. Patient handling is required. The two sides have been apart for more than sixty years. The atmosphere can’t be changed over night. We believe that cross-strait relations should be promoted patiently and diligently, to let the fruits gradually emerge.

總統:我覺得他這個說法好像我們已經延誤很久了,實際上兩岸之間有比較密切友好的關係也才不過這7年而已,我常說7年不能算是一代,需要耐心來處理,畢竟雙方隔海分治已經60多年了,不可能一個晚上就改變氣氛。我們覺得應該以耐心且很用心地來推動兩岸關係,讓成果逐漸展現。

In fact, the fruits brought about by the cross-strait relations’ development during the past seven years have already surpassed those of the previous fifty years which is very fast, but in the view of the Taiwanese people, they do not wish to move too quickly but to gradually achieve the goal of improved relations.

事實上,在過去7年間,兩岸關係發展所帶來的成果已超過前面的50幾年,這已經算非常快了,但是對台灣民眾而言,他們也不希望走得太快,而是希望逐步達成關係改善的目標。

[Asked if recent mainland Chinese military exercises and their use of the Republic of China’s presidential palace as an imaginary target made him feel uneasy]

A: According to intelligence we’ve collected in the past, they have used mock objects for simulated attacks for a long time. When we conduct military exercises, we also put out defense against such designs. [Mainland Chinese] action of this kind just reminds us that in the Taiwan Strait, in the military field, a considerable threat continues to exist, against which we must prepare.

根據我們過去所蒐集到的情資,他們以台灣做為模擬攻擊的對象已有很長的時間。我方進行軍事演習時,也會針對他們這種設計做出防衛。這個動作只是提醒我們,兩岸之間在軍事領域仍有相當大的威脅存在,我們必須做好防備。

[Asked if the threat against Taiwan doesn’t rise with mainland Chinese military and economic strength]

A: In fact, the balance across the Taiwan Strait, in military terms, has tilted in favor of mainland China, beginning in 2005. Because very year, at a pace of double-digit numbers, and even at a pace of twenty per cent, they increase their national defense budget. It would be difficult for us to engage in an arms race with the mainland in this regard. Therefore, our principle in defense combat is to create a bilateral situation in which any party that wants to use one-sided, non-peaceful means to change the status quo must pay a price it doesn’t want to pay. That’s the only feasible major principle to prevent a cross-strait military conflict. Peace and prosperity have always been the goals of our efforts.

實際上從2005年開始,台灣海峽在軍事方面的均衡是朝大陸傾斜的,因為他們每一年皆以將近兩位數、甚至於將近百分之20的速度在增加國防預算,我們很難在這方面與大陸從事軍備競爭。因此,我方現在所採取的防衛作戰原則就是要造成一種雙邊情勢,使得任何一方要用片面、非和平方式改變現狀時,會付出其不想付的代價,這是唯一能夠阻止兩岸發生軍事衝突的重要原則。和平與繁榮一向都是我們努力的目標。

What I mean is that cross-strait relations exist into all kinds of directions. As for military threats, we must think about ways to reduce them, but in non-military fields, we also want to think about ways to increase them. Therefore, in our dealings with mainland China, we will always see these different directions.

我剛剛的意思是,兩岸之間各種面向的關係都存在,軍事的威脅我們要想辦法減少,而非軍事方面的合作,我們要想辦法增加,所以我們與大陸打交道,永遠有這些不同的面向。

What we prepare for our annual Han Kuang military exercises is just that kind of defense operations, and we have exactly these points in the Han Kuang military exercises. I’m sorry that we can’t disclose these to you. I can’t disclose related details, but we do prepare for conflict scenarios.

而我們每一年漢光演習準備的就是這些防禦作戰,至於我們漢光演習做了哪些科目,很抱歉我們沒有辦法向您透露。我不能透露這些相關細節,但是兩岸之間可能發生衝突的情況,我們要預先做準備。

[Asked if he feels unsatisfied with this.]

A: Of course.

當然。

[Asked if given mainland Chinese military budget increases, and American strategic ambiguity concerning Taiwan, America shouldn’t be more clear about its attitude towards Taiwan, or guarantee support for Taiwan under certain circumstances – and if Obama would be in a position to do this]

A: As for America, the “Taiwan Relations Act” regulations are plain. Of course, we cannot rely on American law and regulations, but on our own preparedness. And our preparations aren’t just about adopting defense measures, but we should, by means of politics and cross-strait relations, eliminate chances for this situation [of military conflict] to occur. Therefore, as for the Taiwanese defense lines against mainland China that I’ve just mentioned, the first line is not about aircraft and artillery, but about reconciliation [or amicable settlement], and thus reducing the risk of conflict erupting, and only this is one of the highest strategies. This is also exactly what Sunzi’s “Art of War” means when saying that  the highest form of generalship is to balk [or counter-attack] the enemy’s plans”.

對美國來講,「台灣關係法」已明文規定。當然我們不能靠美國法律的規定,我們要靠自己的準備,而我們的準備不只是從軍事上做好防禦的措施,更應該從政治上、兩岸關係上,消除這種情況出現的機會,所以我剛提及台灣對大陸的防線,第一道防線不是飛機、大砲,而是兩岸的和解,透過兩岸的和解,使得兩岸發生衝突的機會減少,這才是一個最高的謀略,也就是「孫子兵法」所說的「上兵伐謀」。

[Pressed on whether he would hope for a clear American presidential defense statement in favor of Taiwan if attacked by mainland China]

A: In fact, this problem has always existed during the past sixty years. But during the past seven years, America didn’t need to issue these statements, but could also make the Taiwan Strait maintain peace. The most important key is that this risk is reduced after improving relations with mainland China. The official in charge of cross-strait relations in the U.S. State Department has repeatedly reiterated that stable development of cross-strait relations is an important factor of maintaining constructive relations with Taiwan. In other words, simply relying on America to come to our help to fight this battle. Rather, by lowering this risk to the lowest possible level, by reducing the risk of conflict to a minimum, that’s the highest strategy, and also exactly about “balking the enemy’s plans”.

事實上,在過去60年當中,這個問題一直存在,可是在過去的7年當中,美國已經不需要做這些聲明,但是一樣可以讓台海維持和平,最重要的關鍵是我們與大陸改善關係之後,使得這種風險變少了。美國國務院主管兩岸事務的官員一再重申,兩岸關係的穩定發展,是他們與台灣維持建設性關係的重要因素,換言之,我們不能光靠美國來幫我們打這個仗,而是我們把這種可能的風險降到最低、可能的衝突減少到最少,這才是最高的戰略,也就是「上兵伐謀」。

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

JR’s Press Review (Europe): Resignation, Self-Pity, Defiant Pride, Public Diplomacy

A wave of hatred against Germans is rolling through Europe, writes Germany’s Die Welt, a (comparatively) conservative paper. In an article published on Sunday, its European correspondent calls on Germans to learn from Britain how to handle hatred from others. It doesn’t work, the correspondent suggests, “to pay still more” (Wir können uns also zerknirscht an die Brust schlagen, weil wir nicht noch viel mehr bezahlen).

Hang on – how much have we paid yet? How much have we earned from Euroland? And who is we?

Obviously, no propaganda will work without some aspects of truth, but it has to be far-fetched if you want to argue like Die Welt: for example, it is true that the storm in “social media” about Angela Merkel comforting a teenage refugee, but keeping to her party line all the same, was silly. (But why mention this when Greece is the topic?)

It is also correct to point out that other countries welcome a German scapegoat so as to deflect criticism on failed policies at home.

But to be kind of convincing, Die Welt shouldn’t talk the same talk as those it tries to criticize. Yes, painting Germany as “nazi”, as is done by some of Germany’s critics, is propaganda. But what hurts German elites is hardly the crude message itself. You don’t become a top politican or press man if you take this kind of stuff to heart. The effectiveness of the message is their real problem. Die Welt is now painting Germans who keep to the – once near-unanimous – idea that a European Union must be a union of equals as wussies who can’t handle their world-war-two guilt complex. That move is as stupid as painting Wolfgang Schäuble with that moustache.

The Tagesspiegel reminds its readers of a message by German federal president Joachim Gauck from the Munich Security Conference in 2014, when Gauck allegedly said that Germans needed to “grow up” (Erwachsenwerden). That too was in a different context – more military engagement. Gauck didn’t even talk about growing up. But the word was used in many press interpretations of the speech, and the Tagesspiegel appears to have become used to it.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung tries a kind of constructive approach: “How Germany can improve its image”. More public diplomacy is needed, the paper quotes experts. More and more countries would otherwise distance themselves from the concept of a united Europe.

Maybe some public diplomacy at home wouldn’t hurt, for a start. If you have one foreign, and one domestic message, it won’t work either way. The problem is that clichés, rather than facts and causes, rule the debate. To some extent, this kind of press may actually satisfy the readership, or at least meet an existing demand. But above all, it saves the press from the need to discuss real issues.

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Notes

Swiss paper 20 Minuten (online) linked to all the above three German press articles yesterday, plus the Guardian, and La Stampa. “Social media” get a mention. 20 Minuten tries to keep neutral, calling the Hashtags #BoycottGermany and #ThisIsACoup “more poisionous” than the British and Italian press samples, but also referring to some German reaction patterns as resignation, self-pity, and defiant pride.

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Updates

» Growth all but impossible, M Pettis, Febr 25, 2015

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Fatal Selfie Accidents

Yes, taking selfies is a distracting activity. Or rather, it makes you focus on the wrong thing (yourself) at the wrong time (when danger is upon you). That’s true in Russia, in America, and everywhere. So be careful.

How funny for you

How funny for you

But above all: no selfies with the Queen! Never ever!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

International Radio Serbia gets axed in “Privatization Program”

A Radio Jugoslavija QSL card from the 1980s

A Radio Jugoslavija QSL card from the 1980s

The Serbian government intends to close International Radio Serbia (aka Radio Yugoslavia) on July 31. The broadcaster’s statement:

Dear listeners, by the decision of Serbian government, International Radio Serbia – Radio Yugoslavia – ceases to exist on 31 July 2015. Thus our fruitful cooperation with you and our tradition of continously informing the diaspora and the public worldwide of the current events, business and cultural capacities, beautiful landmarks, culture and tradition of Serbia and former Yugoslavia in 12 languages, via short waves, the Internet and the satellite will be terminated. Thank you for having listened to us and for having trusted us for more than 79 years.

It’s strange to think that a country with official – and public – views that frequently differ from the European mainstream would shut its own voice down, but that’s what Belgrade appears to be doing.

One might argue that Tanjug newsagency (also a news organization with quite some history, founded in 1943), would provide an alternative once Radio Serbia is off the air (and offline), but there are at least two drawbacks. One is that Tanjug is only available in Serbian and in English, while Radio Serbia speaks to the world in twelve languages. And the other is that Tanjug isn’t a broadcaster – you don’t get them on the radio.

It’s nice to know that Serbia-China relations are very good, isn’t it? And yes, Tanjug, quoting Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic, will let us know – they’ll even let us know more than Radio Serbia – but only in English. And sure, CCTV will let the Chinese people know – in the evening news, because, after all, the guy from Belgrade met with Zhang Gaoli. But look what you’ll get with this searchword combination: 托米斯拉夫·尼科利奇 “张高丽”. Or with another one: “尼科利奇” “张高丽”.

Sorry to lay this on you, government of Serbia, but there’s no Tanjug among these results. If you think most Chinese people – old and young, high-ranking officials or even students (chances might be somewhat better there) feel easy with English, you may still want to go ahead, though. Good luck with that – God knows what your management consultants may beputting into your heads.

Another point in Radio Serbia’s favor is the coverage of culture and daily life. Most people will be at least as interested in that, as in the world of politics and diplomacy. Or, as Johann Gottfried Herder put it more than two centuries ago, when explaining his goals with the “Letters for the Advancement of Humanity”: in this gallery of different ways of thinking, aspirations and desires,

we certainly get to know periods and nations more deeply than on the deceptive, dreary route of their political and war history. In the latter, we seldom see more of  a people than how it let itself be governed and killed; in the former we learn how it thought, what it hoped and wished for, how it enjoyed itself, and how it was led by its teachers or its inclinations.

This isn’t to say that International Radio Serbia would be a beacon of lofty enlightenment concerning the country – but you do get to listen to Serbian music and cultural descriptions, for example.

A statement by Radio Serbia’s German service, published on June 30, mentions media privatization in Serbia. According to a news article published by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), 47 state-owned media outlets were put on sale on July 1, and should be completed by October. And, not surprisingly if you know the European Union (or the role it frequently plays as a scapegoat, blamed for unpopular policies by national politicians, when they are out of more reasonable points), the Serbian government, according to BIRN, says media privatization is an important part of the pre-accession process with the European Union that will enable Belgrade to open Chapters 23 and 24 of the negotiations on the judiciary.

According to Radio Serbia on June 18, the original deadline for privatization, i. e. June 30, wasn’t met, and Minister of Culture and Information Ivan Tasovac has stated that […] if the process of privatization of the state-owned media is not completed by June 30, it will certainly be commenced by that deadline, and then completed over the next four months at the latest.

The German service’s June 30 post mentioned a debate in parliament where members demanded the inclusion of Radio Serbia into the new timeframe, with a deadline of October 31. However, a total of 35 amendments was rejected by the government majority (three of them referring to Radio Serbia). The most eloquent advocacy reportedly came from the leader of the Socialist Party group Dijana Vukomanović, who emphasized both the multi-lingual program range and the costs – several times lower than those of Tanjug (“dessen Ausgaben mehrfach niedriger sind als die Agentur Tanjug”).

The article, tinged with bitterness, comes to the conclusion that

in this way, the incumbent Serbian government, just like its predecessors since the year 2000, has demonstrated that it is only interested in domestic politics, while the country’s promotion abroad is of no priority.

It appears to be true that the government was in no mood to have a genuine public debate. But the question remains why. If privatization and EU standards were the reason, Radio Serbia could still continue as a media corporation under public law. Many EU countries run broadcasting houses under this formula – to my knowledge, no EU objections have ever been reported.

But then, different standards may be applied after all – and a Reuters report of June 30 mentions not only Brussels, but another big player, too. According to Reuters, Belgrade plans to trim the public sector under a 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) three-year precautionary loan-deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Would that be domestic or foreign politics?

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Remarks

Radio Serbia runs a Chinese service. However, chances to listen to the station on shortwave appear to be small in China, as the target area for the only broadcast in Chinese appears to be Europe, at 16:30 UTC on 9635 kHz.

Programs for Europe, in Italian, Russian, English, Spanish, Serbian, German, and French, start at 17:30 UTC on 6100 kHz, and end at 23:30 or 24:00 UTC. Unfortunately, China Radio International (CRI) broadcasts on the same frequency from 20:00 to 23:00 UTC, but usually stays in the background, with a fairly readable signal from Radio Serbia.

There’s an online petition calling for the continuation of Radio Serbia, and a tradition of nearly eighty years.

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