Archive for ‘markets’

Monday, May 11, 2015

China’s Press commemorates WW2: Criticizing the Impenitent by Lauding the Remorseful

This was the commemoration of VE day, but the military parade in Moscow on Saturday rather looked like VJ Day. Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping took the seat that had been US president George W.Bush’s ten years earlier, and proably would have been Barack Obama’s, hadn’t he stayed away, as most Western leaders did, as a reaction to Russia’s Ukraine policies.

Xi Jinping's Moscow Mercedes: Germany's leaders boycotted the parade, but the German-made car pool didn't

Xi Jinping’s Moscow Mercedes: Germany’s leaders boycotted the parade, but the German-made car pool didn’t (CCTV/Xinwen Lianbo coverage, click picture for Youtube video)

Also, for the first time ever, according to Chinese media, a Chinese guard of honor took part in the parade. Xinhua celebrated the great moment:

Greeting the air of spring in Moscow and marching to the “Katyusha” theme, the 102-strong People’s Liberation Army guard of honor, full of high spirits, passed Moscow’s Red Square, showing military prestige, and manifesting national power. On the reviewing stand, Chairman Xi Jinping stood and waved to them.

迎着莫斯科的春光,踏着《喀秋莎》的旋律,由102人组成的中国人民解放军仪仗方队意气风发走过莫斯科红场,走出了军威,彰显了国威。检阅台上,习近平主席起身向他们挥手致意。

But they didn’t only attract the world’s attention for their gallant formation and morale, and not only for their distinctive arrangement rhythmic marching pace, and also not only this was the first time that this was the first time China dispatched a guard of honor to take part in a Red-Square military review.

在莫斯科红场,中国军人吸引了世界的目光,这不仅仅是因为他们军容严整、士气高昂;不仅仅是因为他们独特的队形编排和富有韵律的步态步速;也不仅仅因为这是中国首次派出仪仗方队参加红场阅兵。

The Chinese troops on Moscow’s Red Square attracted millions of peoples‘ attention. This guard of honor, representing the Chinese troops‘ image, vigour and strength made people remember the sacrifices made by the Chinese and Russian armies in the world’s just war against and victory over fascism, manifested the strategic and coordinated relationship between the Chinese and the Russian armies, taking the common mission of their two countries to maintain the peaceful development of the world.

在莫斯科红场,接受检阅的中国军人令万众瞩目。这支代表中国军队形象、精神和实力的仪仗方队,令人追忆中俄两国两军为世界反法西斯正义战争胜利作出的牺牲和贡献,彰显着中俄两国两军全面战略协作关系,承载着两国共同维护世界和平发展的使命。

As China’s military passed across Moscows Red Square, the sound of their footsteps expressed the solemn promise of forever remembering history.

当中国军人走过莫斯科红场,铿锵的足音里,表达出铭记历史的庄严承诺。 […]

Forgetting history spells betrayal (忘记历史就意味着背叛), writes Xinhua. Probably, this does not refer to the way the article itself celebrates what was the CCP’s Red Army at the time of World War 2, and ignores the role of the KMT’s – then regular – Chinese troops.

To commemorate war means avoiding war. Seventy years ago, Chinese and Russian did immortal deeds in the world’s war against and victory over fascism. In this 21rst century, the two countries are permanent members of the United Nations‘ Security Council, and bear a great responsibility for the protection of the fruits of victory in World War 2 and international fairness and justice, for the promotion of the international order taking a more just and reasonable direction, for regional and global peace, security, and stability.

纪念战争是为了避免战争。70年前,中俄为世界反法西斯战争胜利建立了不朽的功勋。在21世纪的今天,两国作为联合国安理会常任理事国,对共同捍卫二战胜利成果和国际公平正义,对促进国际秩序朝着更加公正合理的方向发展,对地区及世界的和平、安全、稳定,都负有重大责任。

Kind of naturally, the mainstream Western press is taking a less cordial look at the parade and its supposed implications.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has used the anniversary to whip up patriotism and anti-Western sentiment; at a parade in Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko said Moscow was trying to hog the credit for the World War Two victory at Ukraine’s expense,

says an article published by the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, and concerning Russian-Chinese cooperation, the Guardian’s foreign affairs commentator Natalie Nougayrède wrote on March 26 that

China has a 2,500-year history of strategic thinking driven by a deep distrust of external players. Don’t expect a People’s Daily front page proclaiming a new era of Chinese openness towards the west. Nor should Vladimir Putin’s Russia think that it will find an amenable partner in Xi’s China if it continues to turn its back on Europe. China sees Russia as a declining power that can eventually be transformed into an economic colony – reduced to the role of oil and gas provider. China believes it can make strategic gains if Europe and Russia continue to clash.

While German chancellor Angela Merkel, just as the majority of Western leaders, boycotted the military parade on Saturday, she did meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, to hold talks after they had laid down a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier together. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) refers to Merkel as having acted as the West’s chief interlocutor with the Kremlin throughout the Ukraine crisis, which might serve as one explanation why Merkel didn’t avoid meeting Putin altogether. But in its English broadcast on Monday, Radio Japan added another interpretation:

Merkel and other Group-of-Seven leaders cited the Ukrainian crisis for their absence from Saturday’s parade in Moscow, marking seventy years since the victory over Nazi Germany. But Merkel attended a wreath-laying ceremony in an apparent attempt to show that Germany has faced up to the responsibility for the Nazi atrocities.

That, however, didn’t keep Merkel from unusually plain talk at a joint press conference with the Russian leader. While Putin referred to Germany as a partner and friend, and, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, even suggested that Germany had been the first victim of the Nazis, Merkel said that German-Russian cooperation has suffered a grave setback by Russia’s criminal annexation of Crimea, in violation of international law, and the military conflict in Ukraine (hat durch die verbrecherische und völkerrechtswidrige Annexion der Krim und die militärische Auseinandersetzung in der Ostukraine einen schweren Rückschlag erlitten).

On May 6, in a speech at Schloss Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war camp in western Germany’s state of Northrhine-Westphalia, German president Joachim Gauck, known as a fiery anti-communist, made a speech which took many political observers, at least in Germany itself, by surprise. He addressed a fact that is frequently unknown or hardly known among Germans, and particularly West Germans (thanks not least to what China’s media might have criticized as cooked history textbooks, if West Germany had been Japan):

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

These prisoners were forced on long marches, transported in open goods wagons and sent to so-called reception or assembly camps that provided almost nothing at the start – no shelter, not enough food, no sanitary facilities, no medical care. Nothing. They had to dig holes in the ground and build makeshift huts for shelter – they tried desperately to survive somehow. Huge numbers of these prisoners were then forced to do hard labour which, in their weakened and starving condition, they often did not manage to survive.

The Beijing Evening News (北京晚报) combined a rendition of Gauck’s speech with another laudably self-critical one by Germany’s permanent representative at the United Nations, and a much less laudable one (at least according to the paper itself) by Japan’s permanent representative:

In contrast [to the German permanent representative’s speech], Japan’s permanent representative at the UN, Motohide Yoshikawa, only said: “Our behavior created misery for the peoples of the Asian countries. We must not close our eyes to this.” After that, he made big words about Japan’s “contributions to international peace, and Japan’s support for the United Nations”.

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Related

» China invites Russian Troops, Kyiv Post / Reuters, May 11, 2015
» Even closer, The Atlantic, May 10, 2015
» Wo sind die Nachtwölfe, Telepolis, May 10, 2015
» India’s Grenadiers join Parade, Telegraph India, May 9, 2015

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

CCP Influence on Education in Free Societies is a Problem – but it’s not the Main Challenge

Shoe Me Quick

Kiss Me Quick (while we still have this feeling)

Yaxue Cao of ChinaChange.org links to questions asked by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith:

Is American education for sale? And, if so, are U.S. colleges and universities undermining the principle of academic freedom and, in the process, their own credibility in exchange for China’s education dollars?

These are important questions, asked in New York University’s (NYU) cooperation with the East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai. And Chris Smith, writes Cao, did not know the answer when he delivered his statement on Thursday.

There are people who think they do know the answer. Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph, a sinologist from south-western Germany, for example. In an interview with German national radio Deutschlandradio he said in the context of German universities cooperating with Confucius Institutes that

The [censoring] scissors are at work in the heads of these people. They know exactly that, if they are sinologists, for example, having cooperations or research, field research in China, they can’t do it the way Chinese, for example, can do it here. They have to cooperate with Chinese bodies. In many cases, these, too, are sub-departments of the central committee. And everyone knows what happens if you attend a talk by the Dalai Lama, for example. There are university boards who don’t go there, and they will tell you why: because they fear that their cooperations will suffer. That, in my view, is not in order. This is where you have to safeguard your independence. After all, that’s how universities came into being in Europe, during the 12th century – as independent institutions.

Every country seems to have its share of sinologists who believe – or believed in the past, anyway -, that free trade
with China would be the catalyst for political liberalism. They don’t seem to say that anymore, or maybe nobody quotes them anymore. But that doesn’t change the attitude of those who seem to believe, for whatever reason, that engagement is always better than maintaining a distance.

Cao also tends to believe that she knows the answer. She draws some conclusions that sound logical to me, and besides, she quotes Chinese stakeholders, whose statements suggest that the CCP carried the day at every stage at the ECNU negotiations with the NYU.

In fact, nobody should ever accuse the CCP of making a secret of their intentions. They discuss these intentions and drafts very openly, in the Chinese press. The problem, and here again it is time to quote Rudolph,

[…] is that the big China bestsellers in this country have all been written by people who can’t even read a Chinese newspaper.

The problem with maintaining standards – and I’m all for defining and defending some – is that political corrections come and go in waves. Campaigns, not reflection, shape the debates when it comes to how much cooperation with totalitarianism a free society can stand. When it is about the CCP infringing on freedoms, complaints usually get some media attention, because this fits into the general propaganda. When Chinese or ethnic Chinese people in Germany get censored, they get hardly any attention – it is as if the process were taking place in an anechoic chamber.

Rudolph, the sinologist quoted above, isn’t only a writer, but also a doer. He was the first president of the German Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, in 1997. And he was a “program observer” at the Chinese department of German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle, probably from the end of 2009 until 2014, appointed and paid by Deutsche Welle. That practice was never a matter of public debate in Germany, and no transparency either – only one news service cared to write a telling report, which only appeared in a media trade journal. At least four Chinese or Chinese-German journalists lost their contracts, apparently in conflicts over what was deemed “too CCP-friendly”. Rudolph doesn’t look like a champion of free speech to me.

The CCP is indeed unscrupulous. Its power abolishes freedom in China, and its influence endangers freedom where societies are supposed to be “autonomous”. A few weeks after Beijing and its puppet administration in Hong Kong had finished off legitimate democratic demands for universal suffrage from the Hong Kong public, Huanqiu Shibao (“Global Times”), one of the flagships of Chinese state media, warns that opposition against a mainland student running for university office at the University of Hong Kong reflected a dangerous “McCarthyite trend” in the former British colony. On a sidenote. if this conflict occured in Germany, Huanqiu might have tried allegations of Nazism instead.*)

But the CCP isn’t the core problem when it comes to its influence on academic institutions and people. When private enterprise becomes an important source of income for universities, that, too, endangers academic independence. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

If there were clear standards, procedures and constant verification of their practice in general, and beyond this particular “communist problem”, nobody would have to fear the CCP anyway.

In that way, Beijing actually helps to demonstrate what is wrong with us. If we don’t get this fixed as free societies, don’t blame China. Don’t even blame the CCP.

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Note

*) Recent years have seen a resurgence of Nazi Skinheads in some places in Germany. Attacks on foreigners occur from time to time. The unhealthy trend of racism is also the background to a series of anti-China moves of some German mediaXinhua, in 2008, reacting to the suspension of then DW-Chinese deputy department manager Zhang Danhong.

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Related

» 不该让“麦卡锡”进校门, Huanqiu, Feb 6, 2015
» Hearing transcript, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Febr 4, 2015
» Princelings & Sideshows, March 4, 2011

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deutsche Welle enters “Dialog” with Chinese Media, Yu Jie boycotts Broadcaster

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reports the dismissal of Deutsche Welle Chinese department editor Su Yutong in a Press Freedom in China Campaign Bulletin for the month of September (see item no. 7 there). Su denies that DW managers had issued a warning or claimed that she had violated any internal rules.

Also according to IFJ, DW’s Director General Peter Limbourg visited Wang Gengnian, Director of China Central Television International Channel, on August 28 [or August 27, local time]. Wang Gengnian is, in fact, director of China Radio International (CRI), rather than of CCTV.

A broad majority within Deutsche Welle broadcasting commission (Rundfunkrat) supports director Limbourg’s reform process, DW spokesman Johannes Hoffmann wrote in a press release in German, on Monday. Limbourg had reported to the commission on Friday, concerning initial measures to implement DW’s Aufgabenplanung (task plan). Aufgabenplanung is described by this commenter (January 2012) as the paper that requests DW’s budget from German federal parliament. The commission had, in particular, welcomed Limbourg’s talks with Chinese broadcasters about possible cooperation, acording to the press release. The primary objective of the meetings had been to get to know each other better. There was only little common ground (kleine Schnittmengen) with Chinese media, but what was there ought to be used to enter a dialog, the press release quotes Limbourg.

Even earlier, on Friday, Hoffmann had published a press release in English, with details about Limbourg’s Chinese interlocutors:

From August 27 to 29, 2014, Limbourg met in the Chinese capital with, among others, the vice president of the state-run China Central Television (CCTV) as well as the presidents of the state educational broadcaster, China Education Television (CETV) and CCTV’s nationwide digital platform (CDP). Talks with the director general of China Radio International were also on the agenda.

Limbourg said the goal was “to present the journalistic offerings of Germany’s international broadcaster and to examine possibilities for an extended cooperation.” He said the discussions took place in “a good atmosphere and were very constructive.”

According to the Friday release,

A contract was signed with the cultural broadcaster SHTV, for the sale of more than 100 hours of DW Transtel programs. The cooperation will be expanded through a Chinese edition of DW’s weekly cultural magazine Arts.21. CDP will continue to broadcast the Chinese adaptation of DW’s lifestyle magazine Euromaxx for another three years. The program is available in 140 million Chinese households, via the Chinese World Geographic Channel, and is also accessible as video-on-demand at http://www.tv.cn.

On Thursday, Limbourg had spoken at the 5th Sino-German Media Forum of the Robert Bosch Foundation. The Robert Bosch Stiftung is frequently among the sponsors of harmonious east-western meetings.

Limbourg’s salesman-like approach isn’t welcomed everywhere in the German press (as far as the press pays attention at all). Michael Hanfeld of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) wrote in an article published online on Saturday that Limbourg’s cooperations raise lots of questions. And as far as Frank Sieren‘s DW column of June 4 is concerned – the trigger for the Su Yutong incident [si je puis m’exprimer ainsi – JR] -, Hanfeld’s criticism comes across as somewhat resigned:

When reading Sieren’s articles more closely, an attitude becomes apparent that may suit a so-called business paper, but one that Germany’s foreign broadcaster cannot afford: the principle of let bygones be bygones, and keep focused on business.

Liest man Frank Sierens Beiträge genauer, offenbart sich eine Haltung, die vielleicht zu einer sogenannten Wirtschaftszeitung passt, die sich der deutsche Auslandsrundfunk aber nicht leisten darf: das Prinzip Schwamm drüber und immer schön an die Wirtschaftsbeziehungen denken.

While DW didn’t employ a permanent monitor to evaluate the Chinese department’s work anymore – Limbourg reportedly ended the practice several months ago -, occasional evaluations by an external expert were still an option, Hanfeld quotes DW. Hanfeld’s suggestion: try Chang Ping, who countered Sieren’s June-4 column with columns of his own, also published by DW. Or Su Yutong, who had asked Limbourg in an open letter to meet with Gao Yu too, while in China.

It probably won’t happen. In an apparently somewhat miffed DW statement requested by Hanfeld or FAZ, concerning Su’s open letter, no proposals from Su Yutong are needed to make sure that the DW director would advocate freedom of the press, freedom of information or freedom of opinion.

Yu Jie (余杰) on the other hand, who published China’s Best Actor in 2010,  a book about former Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao which had been broadcast by DW Chinese as an audio series, doesn’t think he needs DW anymore. In the September issue of Open Magazine (开放杂志, Hong Kong), Yu wrote that

As a dissident against CCP tyranny, I’m proud of my identity. I hereby declare that from now on, I will boycott Deutsche Welle. I won’t have interviews with them anymore, won’t listen to their programs anymore, won’t browse their website anymore – unless Deutsche Welle returns to the correct path [and no longer takes the ways of the Fifty-Cent-Party?], and restores Su Yutong to her job.

作为一名反抗中共暴政的异议人士,我为自己的这一身份而感到光荣。我也在此宣佈,从现在开始抵制德国之声,不再接受德国之声的访问,不再收听德国之声的广播节目,不再流览德国之声的网站——除非德国之声回归正道,不再是洋五毛当政,并恢复苏雨桐的职位。

In February – and therefore long before the Su Yutong incident -, Alina Fichter, an editor with German weekly Die Zeit , suggested in an article about Deutsche Welle TV that Limbourg’s ambitions to make DW “competitive”, and a provider of programs for “urban decisionmakers”, was not in line with the task of a publicly-owned broadcaster.

What makes these institutions [DW, but also the BBC] special is that they don’t need to earn money in the advertising markets, but rather need to convince us – those who pay for their funding – that they are legitimate [in what they are doing]. Legitimacy doesn’t stem from their viewing rate, but from the quality of their content.Das Besondere an diesen Anstalten ist, dass sie kein Geld auf den Werbemärkten verdienen müssen, aber dafür die Zahlenden – also uns – von ihrer Legitimität überzeugen sollten. Diese erwächst nicht aus der Höhe ihrer Quoten, sondern aus der Qualität ihrer Inhalte.

That a “broad majority” among the broadcasting commission supports the director seems to indicate that not every commission member does. But apparently, public debates about the course of the public broadcaster are deemed undesirable.

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Related

» Pendulum swings back, Aug 27, 2014
» Ask your Ancestors, SCMP, June 16, 2014
» Trivial matter, Jan 23, 2012
» Yu Jie’s sudden flight, Jan 13, 2012
» Negotiations with Politics, Dec 26, 2011
» Be more Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009
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Updates

» Media boast distinctive advantage, CNS, Sept 5, 2014

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Friday, August 29, 2014

RSF and Republican Congressman demand Sanctions against Chinese State Media

Reporters without Borders react to Xiang Nanfu’s release

Xiang Nanfu (向南夫), a Chinese journalist, has recently been released on parole after what Reporters without Borders (RSF) suspect was a forced concession. Xiang’s “confession” was broadcast by CCTV 13, a state-run Chinese television channel targeted at a Mandarin-speaking audience beyond the PRC. According to RSF,

on 13 May, ten days after his arrest, he was shown on CCTV13 confessing to having “smeared the Party and the government”.

Announced his release yesterday, the police said he was being freed on parole “because of his poor health and above all because of a relatively good attitude in pleading guilty.”

Xiang’s forced confession was broadcast just five days after a similar “confession” by the well-known journalist Gao Yu. Broadcasting forced confessions is often used to discredit dissident news and information providers.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire calls on

the European Council to adopt sanctions against CCTV13 and its executives – China Central Television CEO Hu Zhanfan, CCTV board member Jiao Li and CCTV vice-president Zhang Changming – for broadcasting these forced confession.

Xiang Nanfu had reportedly been charged with publishing “false stories” on Boxun, a dissident website, that “seriously harmed” China’s image. The BBC, in May this year, described Boxun as a website that ran sometimes thinly sourced stories.

China Human Rights 3 Protection Act of 2014 Bill

Note: documents linked to underneath may be removed or changed – accessed and quoted from on August 29 – JR

According to Voice of Tibet (VoT), a Tibetan exile radio station based in Norway and broadcasting on shortwave from Tajikistan, U.S. Congress is considering a bill (no. 5379) that would intend to protect internationally acknowledged freedom of speech, free flow of information and and foreign journalists and media workers in China. The bill may also limit visa for high-ranking officials in China’s state media wanting to visit the US, and could revoke visa for Chinese media workers with Chinese media in the US.

A bill text as introduced on July 31 in the House of Representatives by Chris Smith (Republican) is available online. Updates should become available from here as they are coming up.

The issue of foreign journalists and media workers is addressed on page 16 of the draft, section 4: To further protect the internationally recognized right of free expression, ensure the free flow of information, and protect foreign journalists and media personnel in China.

Section 4 also addresses competitiveness (page 19). Chinese media organizations that could become targets for sanctions are listed on page 17.

The story about the bill sponsored by Smith has so far mainly been popular on dissident websites, and the apparent lack of mainstream media interest seems to suggest that the initiative won’t develop much traction in Congress.

Opinions from readers more familiar with American politics are welcome.

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Related

» State Vandalism, July 3, 2014
» Voice of Tibet (PBS), Feb 1, 2014
» The Firedrake, Mar 17, 2012
» Be more Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Logical, Mr. Palmer!

When business is going fine, CCP cadres are partners. When it’s going less well, they are mongrels [who] shoot their own people.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Norway: “appeasing China seems to take precedence”

Norway’s prime minister and foreign minister are not going to meet the Dalai Lama when he visits next month, as part of an effort to ease tensions with the world’s second-largest economy, Bloomberg reported on April 23. Views and News from Norway wrote on April 9 that Parliamentary President and a long-time supporter of Tibet, Olemic Thommessen, said he would not be meeting with the exiled spiritual leader because it was more important to repair relations with China. Relations between Oslo and Beijing had been frigid ever since Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, reports the Norwegian English-language website. It was Norway’s – now ruling – Conservative Party, including now prime minister Erna Solberg, who spoke up for human rights issues and Tibet in 2008. The Dalai Lama himself is a Nobel  laureate and visits on the 25th anniversary of being awarded the peace prize.

According to the Views and News report,

Olav Gunnar Ballo, another former leader of the Tibet committee, said it’s a shame Norway’s leading politicians haven’t come out in support of the Dalai Lama, and it’s cowardly that appeasing China now seems to take precedence over human rights issues that were so actively brandished in the past.

According to the Voice of Tibet, a Norway-based broadcaster and website operator, demonstrators protested, on Wednesday, against high-ranking politicians’ decisions not to meet with the Dalai Lama. Among the demonstrators – about 400 according to News and Views -, were Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande, MP Rasmus Hansson of the Green Paerty, and rock musician Lars Lillo-Stenberg. Norway should not cave in to force and threats, one of the organizers reportedly told Norway’s public broadcaster NRK. According to Views and News, Liberal Party leader Grande said that

the Dalai Lama would not be received “in the basement” […] but would be brought to parliament to meet “as many politicians as we can manage to scrape together. We will show that people are concerned about the cowardice shown.”

These are strong words of criticism – and as they come from Norwegians, these words are laudable. But before Europeans elsewhere join the condemnations easily, they should pause and think what they or their countries were doing while Norwegian business was kept in the cold by Beijing. In fact, Oslo resisted the pressures for a remarkably long time.

But it is also true that the Nobel Peace Prize committee in Oslo – independent from government in formal terms, but not when it comes to membership and influence – has made a joke of itself in recent years. Awarding Liu Xiaobo was a brave choice, but the award that had preceded it a year earlier – to Barack Obama -, and the one that followed in 2012,  to the European Union, were silly (to put it mildly).

Are the current (small-scale, but still bigger than elsewhere) protests only the last echoes from Norway’s better days? Or are they an indication that civil society is picking up important issues where the elites are failing? The Dalai Lama himself has turned more to people-to-people diplomacy in recent years, at least formally.

That’s where the future is.

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Related

» press conference, FMPRC (English), April 28, 2014
» press conference, FMPR (Chinese), April 28, 2014
» Dalai Lama in Oslo, schedule May 7-9
» Out of the Flames, Woeser/High Peaks, April 15, 2014

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Thursday, April 17, 2014

“Optimizing Something”: Russia centralizes Propaganda, scraps Shortwave Broadcaster and other traditional Institutions

As the end of March drew nearer, central Europeans could still hear the station from afar, a muted signal behind some gentle, steady noise. The “Voice of Russia” targeted Australia and New Zealand with an English-language program of four hours daily, from the transmission site of Angarsk, near Irkutsk. Those appear to have been the last programs in English. Chances are that some programs in Japanese were also still aired at the time. A shortwave listener in Taipei kept listening to VoR’s Chinese programs on shortwave, right to the end on March 31 (his post contains some recordings).

Listeners who wrote inquiries to VoR got a reaction. But overall, very little, if anything, was mentioned in the programs on shortwave, about the nearing end of the service. For sure, no words of respect were lost about the medium’s use during some eighty-five years of Russian external broadcasting. Maybe they hadn’t been of much use after all, as the message never seemed to sink in in the target areas? In that case, you could hardly blame shortwave.

On April 1, all of VoR’s shortwave transmissions had become history.

APN-Verlag, via Radio Moscow

The old-fashioned way: propaganda booklet by mail, Ria Novosti via Radio Moscow, March 31, 1987.

The “Voice of Russia” (VoR), formerly known as Radio Moscow or Radio Moscow World Service, only exists as a brand now, within the media empire of Russia Today, which also swallowed Ria Novosti. “We will use the old brand for the time being, but leading international specialists are already working on the new brands and they will be ready soon, the “Voice of Russia” and/or Interfax quoted Russia Today’s editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan. A renewed English newswire would be launched on April 1, and it would be available round-the-clock on June 1.

No additional funding would be needed, the editor-in-chief was quoted as saying: “We are not asking additional money for all that, which means we will have to optimize something to get resources for the creation of something more modern. We will stop using obsolete radio broadcasting models, when the signal is transmitted without any control and when it is impossible to calculate who listens to it and where.”

Indeed, this had been the message of Vladimir Putin‘s presidential decree in December, on certain measures to raise the operational effectiveness of state-owned mass media.

Radio Moscow QSL, apparently featuring the Lenin Mausoleum, 1980s.

Radio Moscow QSL, Lenin Mausoleum, 1980s.

On the same day, December 9, Ria Novosti offered a comparatively candid interpretation of the decree: The move is the latest in a series of shifts in Russia’s news landscape that appear to point toward a tightening of state control in the already heavily regulated media sector,

Ria Novosti wrote, and added that

In a separate decree published Monday, the Kremlin appointed Dmitry Kiselyov, a prominent Russian television presenter and media manager recently embroiled in a scandal over anti-gay remarks, to head Rossiya Segodnya.

Russia Today is the English translation for the actual Russian name, Rossiya Segodnya. Rossiya Segodnya, however, is apparently not related to the English-language television channel whose name had also been “Russia Today”, Ria Novosti wrote.

Ria Novosti then added some more information, beyond its own dissolution:

RIA Novosti was set up in 1941, two days after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, as the Soviet Information Bureau, and now has reporters in over 45 countries providing news in 14 languages.

Last month Gazprom-Media, which is closely linked to state-run gas giant Gazprom, bought control of Russian media company Profmedia from Russian billionaire Vladimir Potanin. In October, Mikhail Lesin, a former Kremlin advisor, was appointed to head Gazprom-Media.

Reuters also reported the Gazprom-Media story, in November last year.

Radio Moscow, the “Voice of Russia’s” predecessor as the Russian (or Soviet) foreign broadcasting service, was a superpower on the air, during the 1980s. 2094 program hours per week are said to have been produced in that decade,  compared with 1901 hours per week by their American competitors at the Voice of America (VoA).

The discrepancy was even greater when it came to transmitters and kilowatts,according to German newsmagazine Der Spiegel at the time: while Radio Moscow had threehundred transmission sites at their disposal, it was only 110 on the American side – and VoA only had one-twentieth the budget of Radio Moscow.

That was to change, at least in relative terms: the Reagan administration had convinced Congress to provide considerable funding. But as the Cold War came to an end, government interest on all sides in foreign broadcasting faded.

As far as Russia’s external broadcasters, now named “The Voice of Russia”, was concerned, not only the financial or technical equipment weakened, but so, apparently, did their self-image. Religious and esoteric organizations populated many last quarters of the Voice’s – still numerous – broadcasting hours in German, and at least among German-language broadcasters, there seemed to be different concepts of what would be successful or professional coverage of Russian affairs, a feature by German broadcaster DLF suggested.

The broadcasting house certainly no longer came across as the elites’ jumping board, as a place where Egon Erwin Kisch or Bertolt Brecht once worked.

The Kremlin, apparently, saw neither glory and soft power, nor a sufficient degree of checkability in VoR and put an end to the station. It’s hardly conceivable that it could still be revived as a mere “brand”, without actual radio whose signals would reach beyond a few square miles.

But “daily Russian life” – something Russia Today is supposed to cover – may still look different from the ideas of the “new generation” of media planners. On ham radio bands with wide reaches, Russian operators are active above average. And even if Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Russia’s new propaganda mega-medium, may be unaware of ham radio or finds it uncool, her boss, Dmitry Kiselyov, should still like it: a ham radio contest commemorating Yuri Gagarin’s 80th birthday.

After all, the internet is a rather non-traditional form of propaganda.

Will Putin’s message sink in, where Stalin’s, Khrushchev’s, or Brezhnev’s mostly failed? If not, don’t blame shortwave – and don’t blame the internet, for that matter.

____________

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

China and the Crimean Crisis: official Statements (from New York and Beijing) and semi-official Interviews (on the Ground)

An early-morning try to catch up with some Chinese coverage of the Crimea crisis. Links within blockquotes added during translation.


Xinhua published this communiqué on Thursday morning:

1. Xinhua online, March 20, 2014

Xinhua, United Nations, March 19. China’s permanent envoy to the United Nations, Liu Jieyi, said on March 19 that in China’s view, a political solution needed to be sought for the Crimean issue, under a lawful and orderly framework. All sides needed to maintain restraint and to avoid action that would exacerbate the contradictions.

新华网联合国3月19日电  中国常驻联合国代表刘结一19日说,中方认为,克里米亚问题应在法律和秩序框架下寻求政治解决。各方应保持克制,避免采取激化矛盾的行动。

The Security Council held a public session that day, concerning the situation in Ukraine. Liu Jieyi said in a speech that China had always paid great attention to the developments in Ukraine. The Security Council had discussed the Ukraine issue several times previously, and China had clearly set forth its principled position concerning the relevant issues. Respecting all countries’ independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity had been China’s consistent position.

安理会当天就乌克兰局势举行公开会议。刘结一发言说,中方一直高度关注乌克兰局势发展。安理会已多次讨论乌克兰问题,中方已明确阐述在有关问题上的原则立场。尊重各国的独立、主权和领土完整是中方的一贯立场。

He said that China had always upheld a just [or impartial], objective attitude. We will continue efforts to promote peace talks and to play a constructive role in a political solution of the Ukraine crisis. China has made a proposal: to establish, as soon as possible, an international coordination mechanism, formed by all parties involved, to discuss ways for a political solution to the Ukraine crisis, with no side taking action during that phase that could aggravate the situation, with the International Monetary Fund starting discussions and assisting Ukraine in maintaining economic and financial stability.

他说,中国在乌克兰问题上始终秉持 公正、客观的态度。我们将继续劝和促谈,为政治解决乌克兰危机进一步发挥建设性作用。中方已就政治解决乌 克兰危机提出建议:尽快设立由有关各方组成的国际协调机制,探讨政治解决乌克兰危机的途径;各方在此期间均不采取进一步恶化局势的行动;国际金融机构着手 探讨,并协助乌克兰维护经济和金融稳定。

He also said that the international community should make constructive efforts to mitigate the tense situation. China supports Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s good offices [mediation] in Russia and Ukraine, and [China] hopes that the international community will continue to make constructive efforts to mitigate the tense situation.

他还说,国际社会应为缓和紧张局势作出建设性努力。中国支持潘基文秘书长今日赴有关国家进行斡旋,希望国际社会继续为缓和紧张局势作出建设性努力。

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon left for Russia and Ukraine on the afternoon of March 19, to make diplomatic efforts for a peaceful solution of the current crisis.

联合国秘书长潘基文19日下午已启程前往俄罗斯和乌克兰访问,为和平解决当前危机展开外交努力。

2. Earlier this month, on March 3 and 4, Qin Gang replied to several Ukraine-related questions:

Q: The Russian Parliament approved the use of force against Ukraine. Does China offer diplomatic support to Russia? Does China recognize the new Ukrainian government?

A: On your first question, please refer to the remarks I made yesterday. With respect to the Ukrainian issue, we uphold China’s long-standing diplomatic principles and basic norms governing international relations, and also take into account the history and complexity of the issue. It is fair to say that our position, which is objective, fair, just and peaceful, follows both principles and facts.

On the second question, judgement needs to be made based on laws of Ukraine.

[…]

Q: Some western leaders believe that what Russia did violates international law. What is China’s comment?

A: Yesterday, I elaborated on China’s view and position on the current situation in Ukraine and you may take a look at that.

I want to point out that we are aware of the historical facts and realistic complexity of the Ukrainian issue. There are reasons for why the situation in Ukraine is what it is today. We hope relevant parties can seek a political resolution of their differences through dialogue and consultation, prevent tensions from growing and jointly maintain regional peace and stability.

Qin Gang, FMPRC spokesman, March 3, 2014

Q: China says that not to interfere in others’ internal affairs is its long-standing position and it also takes into account the historical facts and the realistic complexity of the Ukrainian issue. What do you mean by historical facts? Does China view Russia’s operation in Crimea as interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs?

A:China has made clear of its position on the Ukrainian issue. As for the historical facts of this issue, please review or refer to the history of Ukraine and this region. I believe that you will understand what we mean after learning about relevant history.

On your second question, please have a complete and comprehensive understanding of China’s position. We uphold the principle of non-interference in others’ internal affairs and respect international law and widely recognized norms governing international relations. Meanwhile we take into account the historical facts and realistic complexity of the Ukrainian issue. You may also analyze why the situation in Ukraine is what it is today based on activities and behaviors of relevant parties in the past months.

[…]

Q: Chinese and Russian Foreign Ministers had a telephone conversation yesterday. The Russian side says that China backs Russia’s position on the Ukrainian issue. What is China’s comment? Please give us more details and China’s position on the Ukrainian issue.

A: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov had a telephone conversation yesterday. Foreign Minister Lavrov talked about Russia’s position and viewpoint on the current situation in Ukraine and the two sides had an in-depth exchange of views on that. Both believe that a proper settlement of the Ukrainian crisis is of vital importance to regional peace and stability.

We have already issued China’s principle and position on the Ukrainian issue.

Qin Gang, FMPRC spokesman, March 4, 2014

3. Life in Crimea, according to a Chinese press article

“(The turmoil) doesn’t have a great impact on daily life and on Chinese overseas students studying here in Crimea”, Yu Junwei, a second-grade graduate student at  Crimea Comprehensive University’s Faculty of Management tells the “Huanqiu Shibao” reporter[s]. “The most tense two days were those of the stand-off in front of the Crimean parliament building, between pro-Russian forces and anti-Russian factions, when classes were suspended. At all other times, we regularly had classes.” A student from Sichuan who is interviewed together with Yu says: “I’ve been here as a student for five years, and after graduation, I want to stay here to work for some time. After that, I will think about returning home.” She says that Crimea is a good human and natural environment, with a rather high ecducational level, a comfortable pace of work and rather little stress in life which made her “feel at home” [or, possibly meant this way: having such a good time that one forgets to go home]. Yu Junwei has similar feelings: “Apart from studying, I also guide some domestic business delegations and earn some money to reduce my family’s burden, and also gather some social experience.” Yu Junwei says: “After Crimea has joined Russia, it should be easier to come from China to travel here, and adding Chinese peoples’ historic feelings for Yalta in Crimea, its tourism industry should develop faster, which would also somewhat improve my work prospects.”

“从生活角度来说,(动乱)对正在克里米亚求学的中国留学生 影响不大。”正在克里米亚综合大学管理系上研究生二年级的余军伟告诉《环球时报》记者:“局势最紧张的两天,也就是亲俄力量与反俄派在国会大厦对峙的时候 学校停课,其他时候我们都正常上课。”和余军伟一起接受采访的一位四川籍女生表示:“我在这里学生生活5年时间了,毕业后也想继续留在这里工作一段时间, 然后再考虑回国。”她表示,克里米亚良好的自然与人文环境,相对较高的教育水平,闲适的工作节奏和相对较小的生活压力让她“乐不思蜀”。余军伟也有同样的 感受:“学习之余,我也带一些从国内来的商务考察团,赚一些钱来减轻家里的负担,同时也能积累更多的社会经验。”余军伟表示:“克里米亚加入俄罗斯之后, 从中国来这里旅游会更加方便,加上中国人对克里米亚的雅尔塔所抱有的历史感情,该地旅游业未来会有更快的发展,我的工作前景也会更好一些。”

Because of rather high educational levels and comparatively low costs of studying abroad, Crimea has been an important place for many Chinese overseas students. [A local, employee at] Crimea Comprehensive University’s foreign affairs office] tells the “Huanqiu Shibao” reporter[s]: “1995 to 1998 were the years when most Chinese overseas students studied here, more than three hundred every year, a peak time.” Yu Junwei says: “Originally, you paid seventy US dollars a year for a bed. Now the price has risen to 500 dollars. All expenses have risen. A Chinese overseas student spends 50,000 to 60,000 Yuan RMB a year, but to study in America or Europe comes at amounts as high as 300,000 to 400,000 Yuan RMB.” However, given much lowerd thresholds in America and Europe, the numbers of Chinese overseas students in Crimea are going down. In 2014, a total number of 28 Chinese overseas students studied at Crimea Comprehensive University, Crimea Medical University and other schools.

因为当地较高的教育水平和相对低廉的留学费用。克里米亚曾经是中国留学生的重要求学地。曾在克里米亚综合大学外事办工作 的当地人吴成克告诉《环球时报》记者:“1995年至1998年间,克里米亚的中国留学生最多,一年多达300人左右,是一个高峰期。”余军伟说:“这里 原来的学校住宿费是一张床一年70美元,现在涨到500美元。所有费用加起来,一个中国留学生一年的开销也就是5万至6万人民币,而在美欧留学一年开销高 达三四十万人民币。”不过,由于美国与欧洲留学门槛近年来降低了许多,现在在克里米亚求学的中国留学生逐年减少。2014年,克里米亚综合大学、克里米亚 医科大学和其他学校的中国留学生总计28人。

After a paragraph about the technicalities of continuing studies with old or new visas in Crimea, the article turns to Kiev, where a Chinese students is quoted as saying that the most tense areas had been confined to Independence Square [Maidan] and the streets around there. The student also has words of approval for the educaton department at the Chinese embassy in Kiev: “The diplomats are OK, just great.”

[The student] says that there are about ten thousand Chinese overseas students in Ukraine, many of them in Kiev. “Costs of studying are much lower here, than in America and Europe, as well, but the educational level is not low. Therefore, the political unrest doesn’t affect the lessons, and most overseas students will continue and complete their studies here.”

[…] 表示,在乌克兰留学的中国学生有一万人左右,其中不少在基辅:“同样,这里的留学费用相对于美国与欧洲要低很多,而教育水平并不低,所以眼下的政治动荡并不影响学生们的功课,多数的留学生也会继续在乌克兰完成学业。”

Huanqiu Shibao [“Global Times”], March 26, 2014

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