Archive for ‘language’

Monday, December 10, 2018

Pete Myers, 1939 – 1998

December 15, this coming weekend, marks the 20th death anniversary of Pete Myers, probably the past century’s greatest radio personality without a Wikipedia entry of his own.

Here is an excerpt from one of his programs, broadcast on October 11, 1992, an official day of mourning in the Netherlands, one week after the Bijlmer disaster.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Plans for English as an Official Taiwanese Language

Duties and a receptive mode (online and offline) are keeping me from blogging at the moment.

by-products

If I had blogged this month, one topic might have been about Taiwan’s (sensible, I believe) plans to make English their second official language. To survive under Chinese pressure, international perceptibility – i. e. communication – is a key issue for Taiwan.

There had been plans to make English official for some time, but they appear to have been taking shape this summer. Pan-blue leaning United Daily News (UDN) published an online article in March this year, quoting both people in favor and against the idea, including criticism by a Chengchi University professor:

Chengchi University professor Her One-Soon says that this, in ideological terms, is about surrender to Western power. “Currently, most of the countries of the world that have made English an official language have been colonized by Britain and America”, but has Taiwan? If [English] is really to become an official language, it only represents Taiwan’s inferiority complex towards its own language and culture.

政大語言所教授何萬順則說,這樣在意識形態上是向西方強權屈膝,「目前世界大多國家以英文做為官方語言,都是被英美殖民過」,但台灣有嗎?若是真的定為官方語言,只是代表台灣對自身語言文化的自卑。

If statistics of six years ago are something to go by, there may be more practical issues that would need to be solved. In November 2012, the English-language Taipei Times quoted a foreign education company’s study which said that proficiency in English was low.

Currently, Taiwan is ranked as a country with rather low proficiency by “Education First” (which emphasizes the importance of perceptibility by listing Taiwan as “Taiwan, China”).

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Donald Trump’s Quiztalks

When Donald Trump speaks without a script, it sounds like BBC Radio 4 entertainment – the I’m-sorry-I-haven’t-a-clue style, where people are supposed to talk without repeating a single word, or without mentioning a specific world. Something like …

Host: Mr. President, you are supposed to speak about clocks for sixty seconds, and you must use the word “clock” only once.
Trump: I don’t mind clocks. I like those things. I actually love them. We have a great relationship. The only problem with clocks is …
Detector: BUZZ!!!


Anyway. Why is the president supposed to participate in a game where winning is not important? That’s preposterous.

Friday, March 30, 2018

CCTV, CRI, CPBS: by any other (English) Name

Bloomberg appears to have been the first media company outside China to publish the news, and the Financial Times followed with an article about the creation of “a new broadcasting behemoth”, designed to “broaden [China’s] global news footprint and bolster its soft power abroad,” still on March 21.

While the CCP may have the means to feed more than one propaganda monster, the new organization will apparently be the result of a “merger” of China Central Television (CCTV), China Radio International (CRI) and China National Radio (CNR, or, in Chinese, Central People’s Broadcasting Station/CPBS).

But this may not have as far-reaching implications for the three organizations as it first seems.
[Update – See bottom of this post for updates – the implications appear to be quite far-reaching, actually.]

Call it a deer: Radio Beijing QSL (1990) – the broadcaster’s current name is China Radio International

“Voice of China”, the planned “merged” organization’s future name, isn’t necessarily an imitation of the “Voice of America”, as supposed by the FT author. Central People’s Broadcasting Station’s first channel (there are nine channels altogether) has long been referred to as “Voice of China” (zhongguo zhisheng), but always in Chinese, while the station’s occasional English-language identification announcements have simply referred to the network, as “China National Radio”. In its “about us”, CPBS/CNR, on their website, refer to their first channel as “zhongguo zhisheng” in Chinese, and as “News Radio” in English.

On shortwave, China’s “voice” frequently co-channels undesired broadcasts from abroad – it kills two birds by with one stone, “telling the good China story” and hooting down less desirable stories.

The document announcing the merger of the three media organizations – Deepening Reform of Party and State Institutions – was released by the CCP’s Central Committee, unabridgedly published by Xinhua newsagency on March 21, and republished, among others, by the Chinese State Council’s website.

The naming of China’s media has been somewhat messy for decades – “China National Radio” for a foreign audience and “Central People’s Broadcasting Station” for the Chinese-speaking audience, a lot of tampering with CCTV (China Central Television) or, in its foreign guise, as CCTV News, or as CCTV 9, or as CCTV English), and (perhaps the messiest bit) China Radio International’s (CRI) strategy of “borrowing boats” abroad.

The Central People’s Broadcasting Station/CPBS) was given the English handle of “China National Radio” in 1998, while in Chinese, it has always remained CPBS (zhongyang renmin guangbo diantai).

According to the Deepening Reform of Party and State Institutions document, the Chinese-English double-naming remains the approach of choice. While all three organizations – CCTV, CRI and CPBS (CNR) are going to retain their traditional names at home, they will be referred to as “Voice of China” in English.

If that means that CRI listeners will listen to the “Voice of China”, die “Stimme Chinas”, la “Voix de la Chine” and to “zhongguo zhisheng” (CRI has a Chinese service, too) remains to be seen.

The China Media Project (CMP) at the University of Hong Kong picked up the merger story on March 22, one day after it had first been reported. They provide a full translation of the portions of the Program dealing with media and public opinion. In the leading in to their translation, the CMP points out that

… China Central Television was previously overseen by the General Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television (previously just SARFT), a department under the State Council. The super-network will now be situated as a state-sponsored institution, or shiye danwei (事业单位), directly under the State Council, and directly under the supervision of the Central Propaganda Department.

The sections of the document (as translated by CMP) also arrange for a transfer of the General Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film and Television’s (SARFT) responsibilities to the Central Propaganda Department.

But for CCTV, CRI and CPBS, the biggest (real) changes don’t appear to be about organization. Shen Haixiong, Wang Gengnian and Yan Xiaoming may well keep their jobs and status, provided that they always make the right ideological adjustments.

Update 1 [April 2, 2018]

CRI online, March 21, 2018, editor: Yang Lei

2018-03-21 | 来源:国际在线 | 编辑:杨磊

CRI online news: In the morning of March 21, Central People’s Broadcasting Station, China Central Television, and China Radio International held a mid-level cadre meeting and announced a decision by the Central Committee to establish to form the Central Radio and Television Station  [in People’s Daily’s English translation: Central Radio and Television Network] and its leadership. Comrade Shen Haixiong is to serve as the Central Radio and Television Station’s director and party secretary.

国际在线消息:3月21日上午,中央人民广播电台、中央电视台、中国国际广播电台召开中层干部大会,宣布中央关于组建中央广播电视总台和领导班子任职的决定。慎海雄同志任中央广播电视总台台长、党组书记。

The organization’s deputy director Zhou Zuyi read out the Central Committee’s decision and delivered a speech. Central propaganda department standing vice minister Wang Xiaohui presided over the meeting and delivered a speech.

中组部副部长周祖翼宣读中央决定并讲话,中宣部常务副部长王晓晖主持会议并讲话。

According to a Beijing Daily article published online on March 28, Yan Xiaoming, who used to head CPBS, will serve as the new organization’s deputy director, while Wang Gengnian, formerly CRI’s director, has retired.

Wang will reportedly be 62 in May this year. Online encyclopedia Baike says that he joined the CCP in May 1986. He was CRI’s director from 2004 until last month. He was also CRI’s party secretary.

Update 2 [April 5, 2018]

This article by the South China Morning Post (SCMP) puts the merger of domestic and foreign radio and television into perspective: upgrading the CCP’s “leading groups” (领导小组) to commissions, [t]he offices in charge of religious and overseas Chinese affairs now .. under the United Front Work Department, responsible for overseas liaison work, merging the Chinese Academy of Governance with the Central Party School, or the creation of a “central education body” over the education ministry for “improving political education in schools and universities”.

In general, the party takes more direct control in several fields, sidestepping the government (as seems to be the case with the “central education body”). In another article of the same day, March 21/22, the SCMP noted that

China is to broaden the scope of a controversial Communist Party department responsible for its overseas liaison work to include ethnic and religious affairs.

The consolidation of the United Front Work Department is part of a restructure of party agencies announced on Wednesday. It will take over the duties of state agencies overseeing ethnic and religious affairs, as well as the overseas Chinese portfolio.

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Notes

If China Copyright and Media (a great resource if you look for the CCP’s/PRC’s bureaucratic output) isn’t faster, I might summarize the document sometime during Easter.

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Updates / Related

十九届三中全会要点, CD, March 1, 2018
Foreign Experts wanted, May 2, 2016

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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.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Deutsche Welle Updates: “Mindless Competition”

Combative Director, Annoyed Politicians, December, 2014

German politicians reacted with resentment last month, to an announcement by Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg to cease programs in German and other important languages if there was no significant increase in the broadcaster’s funding. “I’m thinking of the cutting of the German language as an unnecessary threat posture to get more funding. A Deutsche Welle that does without the German language and doesn’t broadcast in rare languages misses the mark and damages its reputation”, the main representative of the Christian Democrats in German parliament’s foreign affairs commisson, Roderich Kiesewetter, told a German paper, the Handelsblatt, around December 15.

Tabea Rössner, media spokesperson for the Greens in German federal parliament and quoted in the same article, also criticized Limbourg’s policy. The decision to adjust the broadcaster to the English language was “fatal for Deutsche Welle’s future”, Handelsblatt quoted Rössner. The multi-language character of DW was its core competence and its unique selling point. “Thus, a source of information, with broad great esteem for its reliability, is lost for the broad population.”

Kiesewetter had been positive about Limbourg’s idea to “counter” Russia Today (RT) television, some two months earlier.

Some 600 DW employees took to the streets in Berlin’s government quarter on December 15, according to Frank Überall, treasurer of German journalist association DJV. They reportedly protested against Limbourg’s plans. DW would only remain a success story if further developed in close cooperation with the employees and politics, and Limbourg should know that, Überall told his organisation’s website, djv-berlin.de, in December.

Members of the two biggest groups in German federal parliament’s lower house, the Bundestag, had stated in November that they had recognized the problem of structural underfunding at DW. On December 18, three days after the demonstrations in Berlin and in a debate of DW’s Aufgabenplanung (task planning), federal state minister for culture Monika Grütters and spokes persons of all parliamentary groups said that DW should get more funding on a regular basis. Above all, rising labor costs needed to be taken into account. All parties seem to have agreed that far.

The Christian Democrats, their Bavarian sister Party and the Social Democrats (SPD) – i. e. all bigger parties and all of them forming the current federal government – agree with Limbourg that DW English-language television needed to be strengthened. Martin Dörmann (SPD) pointed out that while the German television program reached only 250,000 viewers, the English program had an audience of 30 million. Members of parliament from the governing parties also suggested that DW “countered” frequently propagandistic coverage from other foreign broadcasters, from countries like Russia and China. That’s where the opposition disagreed.

The Left Party and the Greens, currently the only oppositional parties in federal parliament with only a fifth of all mandates there, oppose the idea, if it leads to closing down departments in other languages. Rather than entering a mindless competition with the English-speaking television stations of other countries, DW needed to strengthen their core competences.

In a motion for a Bundestag resolution, the Greens also addressed a paragraph from Germany’s co-determination law for federal institutions, the Federal Staff Representation Act (Bundespersonalvertretungsgesetz), § 90. The paragraph in question states that only permanent employees (with indefinite as well as temporary contracts) are eligible to elect members of the employee committees or to be elected. Non-permanent employees should be represented by the employee councils, too, according to the motion, which was turned down by the CDU/CSU/SPD majority.

The motion, if accepted, wouldn’t have greatly strengthened the position of non-permanent DW employees when defending themselves in the labor court against sackings, but it would have allowed – and obliged – the employee councils to pay closer attention to such issues.

Member of parliament Marco Wanderwitz (CDU) rejected criticism from Green member Tabea Rössner that Limbourg had taken DW employees hostage in order to get more money. However, Monika Grütters (also CDU) acknowledged that Limbourg’s move to threaten the closure of the German service had been wrong.

As many other departments, too, the German radio service was closed down during the past decade.However, there are still German-language television programs and a German-language internet website run by DW.

Foreign-language Service “from a German perspective”, January 2015

From the the [German] foreign office’s press release:

the foreign office and Deutsche Welle have agreed to establish a new multi-medial foreign-language service to promote international coverage of Germany abroad. The news agency dpa will contribute content, and the foreign office will support the project financially.

The new multi-medial foreign-language service shall spread current news and background from a German perspective to media partners and end-users all over the world. News from Germany and topics that shape discussions in the German public are at the center. The foreign-language service will be produced in German, English, Spanish, and Arabic, and fitted with regionally relevant topics respectively.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (Social Democrat) is quoted in the press release as saying that the new service offers the opportunity to spread news from and about Germany in a contemporary way and at high standards, thus shaping Germany’s image abroad in a positive way.

Limbourg, also according to the press release, said that the offer contributes to put Germany’s global political and economic weight into a medial context. Lasting partnerships can only evolve with cultural understanding. We want to promote this understanding with an honest, independent view onto Germany.

A press release by Deutsche Welle (in English) also mentions a budget from the foreign office, but does not become more specific than the foreign office either.

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Related

» Phoenix/DW, press release, Dec 19, 2015

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Annual Blog Summary: Thousands of Miles to Cover (if you want to)

WordPress offers an annual report for 2013 to each individual blogger, with individual statistics. As the previous summary for 2012, too, the 2013 summary for JR’s China blog is upbeat. And it handsomely ignores an interesting fact: this blog has seen the second traffic decline in two consecutive years. That’s what my actual WP dashboard tells me, and it’s useful information indeed. It helps me to think about what makes me write, and what makes others read.

Reflecting on the statistics, I understand that my entries haven’t necessarily become less interesting. I’ve posted less frequently, of course. But that’s probably not the only reason fort he decline. The decline in stats began in 2012, and it didn’t come with a decline in blogging activity. A rough estimate, based on my drafts on my computer,  suggests that there were 252 new posts in 2011 and 275 new posts in 2012.

There’s a number of factors that, maybe, drove this blog before 2012, and that abated somewhere in the second half of 2011, or the first half of 2012.

One is the general trend. Microblogging has, in many bloggers‘ lives, replaced actual blogging. Facebook may be another alternative to blogging (even if one I’d never consider myself).

My own writing may be a factor, too. To rate the quality of someone’s writing, or the appeal of it to readers, is difficult when it’s actually your own writing. I’m not trying to be my own critic now. But there’s one thing I can easily discern. Before 2012, I wrote about China and human rights, and made fun of the CCP. It was simple argumentative technology, and it was easy reading. From 2012, I turned to a more “researching” or “deliberative” kind of blogging. There’s probably a post to mark the turn: JR turns to science.

It’s never become real science, I guess, but it did become more about translation and analysis. This started in December 2011, the timing of that post basically corresponds with my memory.

The topic that made me change my blogging approach – not completely, but gradually first, and then to quite a degree – was the Zhang Danhong incident in 2008, and the case of four Deutsche Welle employees who were sacked in 2010/2011. My own situation had changed, too. After having lived in China for a number of years, I had returned to Germany – probably for good. I can’t imagine living in China for another number of years. The people and things that matter most to me are now here.

That doesn’t make China less fascinating to me. But my perspective has shifted. It’s where China has an impact on life in Germany, and the other way round, what interests me most.

Many different worlds

Are you covering this?

In a way, that seems to have the potential of a pretty global topic – there are “thousands of miles” where one country, or one civilization, overlaps with another. But these are, seemingly anyway, rather unspectacular seams around the globe. They usually go as unnoticed by the public as does Chinese economic involvement in Africa or Latin America. Jeremy Goldkorn bemoaned the state of the South African media in 2010: even if a foreign country becomes your new number one trading partner, you may not notice it  at all.

The challenge for the press would be to start digging on those sites, along those global borders and seams around the globe – in a way that people want to read. The challenge for a blogger may be pretty much the same.

But to react to this (supposed) demand would require much more of my time, and a willingness to become more „public“ on the internet, as a person. And it would be an experiment which still wouldn’t necessarily lead to a bigger impact.

After all, these reflections are only about what I think people would be interested in. Many bloggers – and many news people and entertainers – believe they know what people actually want to see most. And in most cases, their beliefs are probably wrong.

But if I were a press pro (with a generous boss), I’d probably give it a try. And yes, a bit of curiosity remains: how would it work out?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

What the Heck are “National Conditions”?

From Qianjiang Evening Post (钱江晚报), Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, founded in 1987.  Although named “evening paper”, it is sent to subscribers in the morning. The following signed editorial was apparently published online on Friday.

Links added during translation.

If “national condition” is some kind of dough, National Food Safety Assessment Center deputy Wang Zhutian has put it into a mold.

“国情”是个面团,国家食品安全风险评估中心主任助理王竹天把它捏成了方的。

This official, assigned to watch over the food security of 1.3 billion Chinese people, said in reply to questions concerning the definition of our country’s food security issues that we are a developing country, and that we need to define our standards in accordance to our “national condition”. If we took European air-quality standards, we wouldn’t be up to the standards.

这位身居13亿中国人食品安全站岗放哨要职的官员,在回答我国食品安全标准制定的问题时说,我们是发展中国家,还要按照“国情”来制定我们自己的标准。如果我们都拿欧洲空气做标准,那么我们都不合格。

This national-condition stuff – China Civil Aviation Cadres Institute associate professor Zou Jianjun has shaped it.

“国情”这团面,中国民航干部学院副教授邹建军把它捏成了圆的。

He voiced disdain for a flight data statistic  – he believes that to put Beijing Capital Airport and Shanghai Pudong Airport into a punctuality statistic with an overall of 35 airports worldwide, where they rank last and second-last, won’t perfectly reflect actual punctuality, and emphasizes that currently, our economic development doesn’t match Europe’s or America’s, and to put them all together [in the same statistic] was unreasonable.

这位专家对美国航空数据网站发布的一组数字表示不屑。他认为,北京首都机场、上海浦东机场双双包揽上个月全球35个国际机场准点率排名倒数第一第二名,这个数据不能完全准确反映实际准点率,并强调,目前我国经济发展水平并未与欧美相同,放在一起比较并不合理。

According to Wang Zhutian’s theory, the “national condition” of food safety standards – i. e. an acknowledged “national condition” – China, in its primary stage of socialism, should forget about wild hopes for eating with the same peace of mind as people in developed countries.

按照王竹天主任的理论,食品安全标准的“国情”,就是一个认命的“国情”,社会主义初级阶段的中国,别奢望吃上与发达国家一样放心的食品。

I don’t know how much of a natural connection there is between melamine in milkpowder and the incessant stream of poisonous rice and ginger, and the degree of  a country’s economic development. If there is a relation, is it that not enough tax money is spent on supervision? Or is it that the money spent by consumers on food doesn’t qualify for eating with their minds at ease?

我不知道奶粉中的三聚氰胺、层出不尽的毒大米毒生姜,与一个国家经济发达程度有多少必然的关系。如果有关系,是指纳税人提供给监管的钱不够花?还是消费者现有的食品购买支出,没资格吃上放心的食品?

From the common peoples’ dining tables to the state council’s meetings, the entire country is filled with fear about food safety issues, and this supervision official puts his “national-condition” dough into the mold. If “national conditions” become the food-safety supervision officials excuse for inaction, it will be a crudely-made protective umbrella for the inaction, and “national condition” will be a warning to compatriots to resign themselves to the destiny of accepting cheap standards.

吃的安全问题,从黎民百姓的餐桌上,摆到了国务院常务会议上,全中国都在为食品安全问题提心吊胆,偏偏这监管的官员,把它摆到了“国情”这个任他们拿捏的面团里。如果“国情”可以成为食品监管不作为的借口,可以成为放任食品粗制滥造的保护伞,那么,“国情”就是个告诫国人自认命贱的标准。

To grasp the theory of “national condition”, some of our experts and officials aren’t ahead of the rest of us with their standards, but the skin of their face is thicker than ours. The airports we built [in this country], in the words of our achievers, experts and officials, are of “international standards”.  Our high-speed trains, are testimony that there is “no match for them elsewhere in the world”. But when comparisons are about operation capabilities or quality of service, “national conditions” serve as shields. Our experts and officials don’t feel the least of shame that in many fields, China trails behind internationally.

在把握“国情”的理论上,我们现在的一些专家和官员,已经不是在与别人比水平有多高,而是在与别人比脸皮有多厚。建机场,夸成就,专家和官员嘴里,那是一个“国际一流”。修高铁,说功劳,那是一个“世上无双”。但是,比运营能力、比服务水平,“国情”就被扯出来做挡箭牌了。中国很多事情在国际上“垫底”,我们在这些专家和官员身上,感受不到丁点儿羞耻。

You don’t get on your plane or train? It’s “national condition”. Delays in arrival? “National conditions”. Rising prices? They have nothing to say. When spending money, they have nothing to say. Showing off their (small) achievements? Nothing to say. When earning high salaries and state remuneration from taxpayers’ money, when counting their money, have they ever mentioned “national conditions”?

坐不上飞机火车的时候,他们说“国情”。晚点的时候,他们说“国情”。涨价的时候,他们不说了。花钱的时候,他们不说了。表功的时候,他们不说了。拿着纳税人供奉的高薪与厚禄,在点钱的时候,他们说过一句“国情”了吗?

What kind of condition is a “national condition”? First of all, it should be the people’s conditon, the responsibility entrusted to officials and experts, the willingness to be worthy. Apart from the people’s feelings, it is this inaptness, this demand on compatriots to acknowledge their own worthlessness which is China’s most unfortunate “national condition”.

“国情”是个什么情?它首先应该是民情,是官员与专家寄托在百姓身上负责任、愿担当的感情。抛开民情,站在那个与自己的能力、品行不相匹配的位置上,以“国情”的名义让国人自认命贱,这才是中国最不幸的“国情”。

What’s the “national condition”? Above all, it should be the people’s sentiments, the responsibility for the common people, entrusted to officials and experts, the desire to be worthy.

“国情”是个什么情?它首先应该是民情,是官员与专家寄托在百姓身上负责任、愿担当的感情。

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Related

» One on One, Wang Zhutian, CCTV, May 12, 2013

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