Archive for ‘language’

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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Saturday, July 6, 2013

“China is Alright”: a Summer Camp for Overseas Chinese students from Laos

China Radio International‘s Mandarin service renders a newslet by China News Service (中国新闻社), China’s second-largest state-owned newsagency after Xinhua, on the field of public diplomacy.

Original title: Ethnic Chinese Laotians go to Yunnan to experience Chinese culture

CRI Online news: according to China News Service, the “2013 China is alright – the perfect Yunnan summer camp” has started in Kunming, with fourty campers and group leaders from Chinese schools in Laos. It is scheduled to go on for ten days. Apart from developing [an awareness or knowledge of, apparently] Yunnan ethnic culture, knowledge of China, and exchange, the overseas Chinese students will also experience Yunnan province’s local conditions and customs.

国际在线消息:据中新社电,“2013中国文化行—完美云南营”4日在昆明开营,来自老挝华文学校的40名营员和领队将开启为期10天的“中国文化之旅”。除了开展云南民族文化、中华知识学习和交流外,海外华裔学生还将体验云南的风土人情。

With Chinese-Laotian cooperation growing closer and the surging “Chinese language fever” in Laos, more and more ethnic Chinese and Laotians want to understand the Chinese way of life and traditional culture. Luo Bailan, a teacher and group leader with the camp, says that the Chinese schools in Laos are continuously adjusting their educational methods, to allow the students to learn by experience.

随着中老两国合作日益密切,老挝掀起了“汉语热”,越来越多的华裔和老挝人希望了解中国的生活方式与传统文化。老挝领队老师罗白兰表示,老挝的华文学校在不断调整教学方式,让学生们进行体验式教学。

Chinese Language and Culture Education Foundation of China deputy secretary general Li Xianguo says that “China is alright” is an important part of the foundation’s “Young Ethnic Chinese Chinese Culture Heritage Project”.

中国华文教育基金会副秘书长李献国表示,“中国文化行”是中国华文教育基金会“华裔青少年中华文化传承工程”的重要组成部分。

Chinese fever, Kunming

Chinese fever – click pictdure for China News Service coverage

The State Council Information Office (SCIO) is more elaborate, adding that most of the students haven’t been to Yunnan before. Even though it has been rainy for days, and temperatures in the spring city [i. e. Kunming] are a bit low, this hasn’t affected the campers’ high spirits in the least. They are reading the course schedules of the camp reader, excitedly discuss the coming lessons and the tourist attractions. A student tells the SCIO reporter that he is most interested in poetry recital and calligraphy, and in touring the Stone Forest, the birthplace of Ashima:

“We also want to experience the culture of national minorities in the Yunnan Nationalities Village I don’t know a lot about national minorities and hope to experience a lot of interesting things”, Lin Yingcai says in fluent Chinese.

“我最期待看石林的奇山怪石,听说那里是阿诗玛的故乡,我们还要去体验云南民族村的少数民族文化,我对少数民族了解不多,希望能体验很有意思的东西。”林英才用流利的中文说。

Many Laotians and Burmese and Cambodians and North Koreans see China as a promised land, Joshua Kurlantzick wrote in his 2007 book Charm Offensive (p. 137). And America, he warned, had earned itself a bad image in the past, and was still doing so:

For decades, the United States still did not grant Laos normal trading relations, though Laos’s human rights record was no worse than the record of China, with whom America traded vigorously. American sanctions on Laos infuriated Lao officials, who didn’t understand why such a big country like the United Stateswould punish a minnow – especially since during the Vietnam War, America had dropped more bombs on Laos than it dropped on Germany and Japan together during World War II, leaving Laos riddled with unexploded ordnance.

(Kurlantzick, p. 59)

Jiang Zemin visited Laos in November 2000, reportedly the first visit by a Chinese head of state. In November 2006, Jiang’s successor Hu Jintao followed up, and moved China Radio International (CRI) one step ahead of the BBC and the VoA, by pushing a button for a rebroadcasting FM station – the inauguration ceremony was reportedly broadcast live, as the rebroadcaster’s first program ever:

So, Vientiane listeners, for the first time, clearly and vividly heard the the warm voice of state chairman Hu Jintao, a visitor from a friendly neighbor.

万象听众第一次如此清晰真切地听到了来自友好邻邦——中国国家主席亲切的声音:

[…]

A CRI official said that the friendly relations between China and Laos created good conditions for CRI’s operations in Laos. According to the official, the Laotian government’s approval of CRI’s Vientiane frequency was one of only few. Before, the BBC and the VoA had applied for frequencies to the Laotian government, but had received no approval.

中国国际广播电台一位负责人说,中老两国的友好关系为国际电台节目在老挝落地创造了良好的条件。据这位负责人透露,国际电台在老挝调频落地是老挝政府已批准的为数不多的落地项目之一。之前,英国广播公司、美国之音等广播电台,均向老方提出过调频落地申请,但老挝政府未予批准。

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Related

Branding China, May 18, 2008
Meeting the Volunteers, CRI, Nov 21, 2006

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Tibetan Music Videos: “Hold on to the Ancestral Land”

High Peaks Pure Earth runs a series of music videos from Tibet, about one per week. This is the most recent one. Every post comes with some background information.

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Related

» Federation of Literary and Art, April 15, 2012

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

BBC: Taking Back their Gift to the World

For many millions of people around the world the World Service is the voice of Britain overseas. The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan described the World Service as quite possibly “Britain’s greatest gift to the World in the 20th Century”, and I see as Foreign Secretary the immense contribution it makes to how Britain is perceived internationally.  For 166 million listeners and viewers each week across the globe the World Service is a source of reliable and impartial information that transcends borders, regions and cultures.
[…]
one of our country’s most important sources of soft power, with an unparalleled ability to reach out across the globe.

William Hague, British Foreign Secretary, celebrating the BBC World Service‘s 80th birthday early this year.

BBC External Services

Goodbye, External Services, …

By making these changes, we are achieving the savings required whilst crucially, ensuring our audiences continue to receive the best programming.

Peter Horrocks, BBC Global News director, quoted by the BBC in October this year.

The English short wave service will continue to all regions, but will be reduced from between seven and 19 hours per day, depending on region, to six hours per day across all regions.
[Arab and Middle-East English service cuts]
We estimate that the changes being announced today may result in a loss of up to 2.5 million listeners, an overall loss of 1% of the total Global News audience across all platforms. Any loss of audience is of course regrettable but we are not in a financial position to continue to distribute our services on all frequencies.

Peter Horrocks, in an e-mail to staff on October 25 this year.

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Related

» Stuff of the Past, April 2, 2011
» BBC drops Languages, Jan 28, 2011
» We all now speak English well enough, BBC, March 27, 1999
» Bruno Adler, Wikipedia, acc. 20121104

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Communication Barriers: “Not just Someone from Chinatown”

Yang Fan (杨帆), a former representative of Chinese company Nuctech, asked Namibian High Court judge president Petrus Damaseb in June to provide him with a competent interpreter, not just someone from China Town, as he had been struggling to follow court proceedings.  The judge said he would do his best to find him a good interpreter.

Yang, along with two Namibian officials, was arrested in summer 2009, but released on bail in August that same year. He apparently hasn’t been allowed to leave the country since.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

French Architect “with Bo Xilai Ties” Arrested in Cambodia

French architect Patrick Henri Devillers has been arrested by Cambodian police, reportedly with the co-operation of Beijing, which is seeking his extradition. Also reportedly, Phnom Penh is in a process of deciding whether to send Devillers to France, or to follow a demand to extradite him to China. According to the BBC’s Chinese website, Devillers is a friend of Bo Xilai‘s family, and a business friend of Bo’s wife Gu Kailai. According to a Le Monde report, Devillers had first met the Bo family in Dalian, just as another foreign Bo/Gu contact, Neil Heywood had.

But their businesses were different, and not interlinked, Deviller was quoted in the Le Monde report, in May this year (i. e. weeks before his arrest).

“What we had in common is that we were married to Chinese women. We knew each other (…). What I can say about him is that he wasn’t in the bluff. He had a great mental nobility, in the English traditions of honor.”

“On avait en commun d’être mariés à des Chinoises. On se connaissait (…). Je peux dire de lui en tout cas qu’il n’était pas du tout dans l’esbroufe. Il avait une grande noblesse d’âme, dans les traditions anglaises de l’honneur.”

Devillers had first arrived in China in 1987, aged about 27, to learn Chinese, according to Le Monde. It was there that he met his wife who studied the classical zither [probably the guzheng – JR], and started a movie project about the Tian An Men movement in 1989, which ended with the massacre.

During the 1990s, much of his work involved working with the Dalian city government’s architecture and urban planning department.

The way Devillers comes across in the Le Monde article suggests that he took a great interest in China’s intellectual history, and particularly in Taoism.

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Related

» Oh, Rule of Law, April 11, 2012

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Updates/Related

» No Extradition without Evidence, Telegraph, June 20, 2012

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