Archive for ‘MyCountry’

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Beyond the Protocol: No Bygones, no Mercy

Bettina Wulff, the wife of former German president Christian Wulff, wrote a book which was published this month, with a title frequently translated into “Beyond the Protocol”. More literally, the wording seems to be “On the other side of the protocol” (Jenseits des Protokolls).  This is no review of Bettina Wulff’s book. I haven’t read it.

Wikipedia has an article in English about her.

I never “liked” Christian Wulff or his wife, or the way they designed the president’s time in office. I probably didn’t like it, because they seemed to be so eager to be an “authentic” first family. Their style was way too personal. I had hoped for a president who would explain politics, rather than one who’d try to set a personal example for harmony.

But the way a German mob is following the spectacle that surrounds her book looks scary to me.

That mob is quite probably a minority. But only 15 percent  of people surveyed by Emnid, an opinion pollster, “feel sorry” for her, and 67 percent don’t believe her statement that she didn’t actually want to be the first lady.  How can anyone judge that statement without knowing her personally?

Mrs Wulff is the mother of two children. I’m wondering how many of those who tried and keep trying to blacken her name are themselves parents – and I’m wondering what kind of parents they may be. I hope that either way, their children may grow to become good people all the same.

Wulff’s case isn’t the worst example of how public interaction works – not even close. It’s much worse when “small people” are pronged by tabloids or television stations, and presented to a slobbering public. But having read a few online “reviews” about her book, and a few dozens of comments about her underneath a German online paper’s article, a quote from Fyodor Dostoevsky comes to my mind: The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.

When it comes to Germany, you may also look at how a former first lady is publicly abused. People who indulge in that kind of activity can’t have much self-respect. If they respected themselves, they could ignore the book, and the former first lady alike.

On the other side of the protocol, there has probably never been a more telling German presidency.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sino-Korean-German Press Review: Boundless Antipathy

The Empire of Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945. As every schoolkid knows, the defeat of Japan, and the liberation of much of Asia, was invented in China. And on days like these, the Chinese press has a few demands on Japan:

Japan mustn’t go too far in provoking China. Japanese officials should think twice before uttering provocative words. In modern history, all the conflicts between China and Japan were caused by Japanese invasion. Japan has no right to attack China bitterly as it does today. The Chinese public has boundless antipathy toward Japan.

Global Times (English ed.), Aug 27, 2012
H/t to Peking Duck

And for those dear readers who get no satisfaction from the milksops at the Global Times and their pussyfooting editorials, here is how the North Korean Worker’s Party celebrates its great victory (the Japanese surrender was also invented in North Korea, as every North Korean schoolkid knows):

All facts urgently require all the youth and students in the north and the south to pool their spirit of national independence, patriotism, wisdom and strength to force Japan to settle its past crimes and take the lead in the actions for checking its militarist moves for reinvasion.

Inheriting the indomitable spirit of independence and patriotic enthusiasm of the passionate anti-Japanese martyrs, we will take the lead in the actions to force Japan to make reparation for its past crimes at any cost and decisively frustrate its militarist moves for reinvasion.

KCNA (Japan), August 29, 2012

Voice of Korea website, September 2, 2012

Voice of Korea website, September 2, 2012

On International Affairs, the Voice of Korea (VoK)  informs its listeners / readers about Japanese imperialists, blood-thirsty murderers – see picture above. The link doesn’t open (most links on VoK’s website don’t, and may require software downloadable from there), but from Pyongyang’s perpective, it probably doesn’t matter if we live in 1945, or in 2012.

Meantime, Kim Jong-nam is – or was – in Tehran, representing North Korea as a member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Iran, who took the NAM chairmanship during the summit last week, had actually invited Kim Jong-un, who – “only” – sent North Korea’s parliament president, his namesake Kim Jong-nam., German (right-leaning) daily Die Welt wrote six days ago.

Die Welt knows everything about North Korea and Iran, of course, and had a retired  German defense bureaucrat explain how the two countries might be building a nuclear bomb together – see second half of that post. But they don’t seem to know who Kim Jong-nam is (Kim Jong-il’s eldest son and therefore Kim Jong-un’s elder brother, who hasn’t played a role in North Korea’s Worker’s Party since he tried to enter Japan’s Disneyland using a fake passport).

Anyway – who cares. They are all rogues, are they not?

I’m realizing that I’m growing older. The NAM wasn’t very powerful, and its prestige limited (überschaubar), wrote Die Welt in its article last week. They probably weren’t terribly fond of UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon‘s attendance at the NAM summit.

Which makes me wonder. Iran may not enjoy a great reputation even among the NAM states, but it is hardly outlawed (geächtet), as Die Welt suggests.

Boundless antipathy appears to justify all kinds of historical misrepresentations, be it in China, North Korea, or Germany. The world is becoming smaller, and its media are moving closer together – in their methodology, not in their ideological positions, of course.

Even when I was a child, the NAM was mentioned on the news in Germany every once in a while, and members such as India, Indonesia, and Egypt made – and make – it a movement with quite some prestige.

That hasn’t really changed. But maybe some of Germany’s press has become, umm,  bush-league during the 1990s.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Smart Public, part 2: True Colors

Dissatisfaction drives change – that’s conventional wisdom. And it’s not necessarily true. Dissatisfaction may dominate partytalk, just as well, after a few beers, or whatever you drink. If there’s change also depends on how many people are dissatisfied, and on how acutely dissatisfied they are.  Public issues won’t necessarily create anger that wuld lead to change. Rescue programs for the bailout of  system-relevant banks with public money may anger many tax payers, but as long as government incurs further public debt than levying an extra tax for the very purpose on the public, people, especially “small” tax payers, may put up with it. And they will, more and more frequently, draw the conclusions that politics is

  • totally rotten business and
  • therefore not their business.

When I explained why I believe that Wikileaks can’t work, I put it this way:

There is no effective shortcut. Only individual judgment and the preparedness to organize to accurately defined ends can be effective – but they require patience. It takes education, year after year. It takes preparedness to learn – not just of one organization, but by countless individuals. And – and that’s something the existence of Wikileaks should help us to understand – it will take media and journalists who take their tasks seriously, and who decide responsibly and who account to their readers.

It will take media and journalists who help the public to perform.

I haven’t changed my views on Wikileaks, i. e. on a government’s rights to keep part of its information confidential. But my views on patience are changing. Four years after the global financial crisis, very little has been done in Germany when it comes to legislation that would make system-relevant banks, rather than public funds, responsible for their own rescue. But Greece is required to impose austerity on those of its citizens who are hit hardest by such measures. That’s wrong – and that needs to change.

The need for change is strongly felt, even if recommendations about the required measures to make change happen differs widely. James Fishkin, a U.S. academic, recommends deliberative democracy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – but it can’t replace a freely-elected parliament. A freely-elected parliament, on the other hand, is usually susceptible to influences that are hardly “democratic” – business lobbies of all kinds, not least the financial industry. Deliberative democracy, especially when under the influence of lobbies which “provide relevant information”, is unlikely to change that.

During the 1990s, Johannes Heinrichs, a German philosopher, discussed ways to rebuild democracy. He advocated a four-fold parliament, whose branches would deal with the for fields of economics, politics, culture, and fundamental values. The latter branch would define the framework for the three other branches. Heinrichs apparently saw – or maybe still sees – his concept as a practical reaction to the ways economics have dominated parliamentary democracy, and to a global crisis of democracy.

The concept may look radical – but it hardly is. Ask any politician what should dominate political or individual decisions – economics or values. Two likely answers are “values”, or “both”. Values, that is, in theory. And “both” means nothing. That’s the good thing about practical, organizational recommendations. Only once you discuss which road map should be implemented, you’ll really need to show your colors.



» Smart Public, July 25, 2012


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Angry Citizens and Bad Religion

Islamist sticht.

Scheiße, ich muss im Golf nach Hause fahren.

I don’t know who’s angrier. Is it those who wave cartoons of the prophet (Mohamed) around to make some Salafists explode – and to hurt the feelings of Muslims who may feel angry, saddened, or who won’t care (yes, that happens, too)? Or  is it the Salafists who are angrier?

Police people may be angry, too, because they have to bear the brunt of keeping idiots on both sides apart from each other – and to expose themselves to danger. Police people have more reasons to be angry than anyone else, in my view.

But I seem to understand that a free society can either live with Salafists who are handing out Korans, and with people who are waving Mohamed cartoons around, or it isn’t much of a free society after all.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Deutsche Welle – JR’s Chronological Link Collection

This blog’s main topic is China – and if I had thought of sub-topics, it would probably have been the economy, or translations from the Chinese press. Deutsche Welle‘s (or the Voice of Germany‘s) Chinese department only appeared on my radar screen about a month after the first open letter to German federal parliament had started to make (small) waves in the German press.

But no story has kept me as curious since – and given that Deutsche Welle is no mainstream topic, it might be just the right topic for a small blog. My interest in China goes far beyond the Welle, but as long as there is no comprehensive debate about the station’s or website’s Chinese department – one that would include the Welle itself, as a participant -, this blog will try to provide a makeshift substitute for such a debate. It would be nice if I could run this topic in German and Chinese, as well, but that would go beyond what I can do. English may be a compromise.

I’ve found out that the best use for it is as a sort of log book of what I thought about something in particular at a particular time, Foarp said in a BoZhu interview in November. But that requires a somewhat systematic approach – one that goes beyond tagging and categorizing. So here it is: JR’s chronological link collection. They are all links to my own posts, but the key words are taking care of the listed posts’ external links, too. Making a link collection about external sources will be a task for another day.

Chinese dissidents’ complaints about Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department November 2008 »
Key words: Zhang Danhong, Zhou Derong, Epoch Times, Huanqiu Shibao, Lutz Rathenow, Frank Sieren
German China scientists, publicists and politicians defend Zhang Danhong) in an open letter; in another open letter,  authors, legislators (from Hong Kong) and researchers criticize the defenders. November 2008 »
Key words: Hans-Peter Bartels, Georg Blume, Chiao Wei, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Johnny Erling, Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer, Günter Grass, Thomas Heberer, Sebastian Heilmann, Hanjo Kesting;
Albert Ho, Emily Lau, Tsering Woeser, Harry Wu
Zeng Jinyan wins Deutsche Welle blog award November 2008 »
Key words: Zeng Jinyan
Chinese departments translations from German reports are re-translated, Zhang Danhong has an interview with herself, and department head Matthias von Hein is moved to the central editorial department January 2009 »
Key words: Erik Bettermann, Matthias von Hein, Ulrich Wickert, Zhang Danhong
German Media Prize for Dalai Lama, and a DW interview with Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama’s representative in Europe. February 2009 »
Key words: coverage, Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyaltsen, Tibet, Li Baodong
DW turns from German to foreign listeners; DW director general demands more funding. February 2009 »
Key words: Erik Bettermann, Global Media Forum
Zhang Danhong remains in the (Chinese) news March 2009 »
Key words: Chinese press, Günter Grass, Zhang Danhong
Probe still in progress? DW’s quality test March 2009 »
Key words: Matthias von Hein, Hu Xingdou, Zhang Danhong
DW Chinese department acquitted March 2009 »
Key words: Erik Bettermann, Georg Blume, Freimut Duve, Hans Leyendecker, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ulrich Wickert
Dissenting voices, lack of trust (signatures for Martin Jahnke?) April 2009 »
Key words: Wang Rongfen
Foreign broadcasters and their critics: “One shouldn’t simply imply that the broadcaster wants to sit the problem out.” May 2009 »
Key words: BBC, JR quotes, Barry Sautman, procedures
Kofi Owusu attends Voice of Germany‘s 2nd Global Media Forum in Bonn June 2009 »
Key words: Global Media Forum
New head for Chinese service July 2009 »
Key words: Adrienne Woltersdorf
Urumqi party secretary sacked September 2009 »
Key words: coverage
Perception and Reality – Frankfurt Book Fair September 2009 »
Key words: coverage
Global local sticks tv, and external expertise October 2009 »
Key words: Roland Berger
Too correct to be turned back February 2010 »
Key words: coverage, Feng Zhenghu
Dorks on Duty April 2010 »
Key words: Volker Bräutigam, Henryk M. Broder, Ma Canrong, Neue Rheinische Zeitung
Xu Pei and the Dirty Old Men May 2010 »
Key words: Wolf Biermann, Günter Grass, Xu Pei, Mo Yan, Zhang Danhong,
All highly quotable May 2010 »
Key words: Georg Blume
Kadeer: Taiwan is a free country July 2010 »
Key words: coverage, Rebiya Kadeer, Taiwan, Raela Tosh
Kosovo status July 2010 »
Key words: coverage
Arnulf Kolstad confirms Xinhua interview October 2010 »
Key words: coverage
Li Keqiang’s Germany visit January 2011 »
Key words: coverage
Just another German review of the Chinese press January 2011 »
Key words: coverage
DW reshuffles – freelancer at Chinese department loses contract April 2011 »
Key words: industrial relations
The too-friendly maikefeng April 2011 »
Key words: Ai Weiwei, Wolfgang Kubin, censorship, Neru Kaneah
DW cuts shortwave, targets “opinion leaders” May 2011 »
Key words: opinion leaders (mind the footnote)
JR’s searchword service May 2011 »
Key words: Chinese press
Huanqiu wades into the details May 2011 »
Key words: Chinese press
Come on, let’s twist again May 2011 »
Key words: Chinese press, Wei Jingsheng, Neru Kaneah, Jörg Rudolph, Taiwan
Dutch Values: another broadcaster bites the dust June 2011 »
Key words: Erik Bettermann, Jan Hoek
Foreign office “Africa Concept”: universal values, competing interests July 2011 »
Key words: business, diplomacy, soft power
Changes at DW Chinese department – JR turns to science December 2011 »
Key words: Chinese press, Song Luzheng, Wang Fengbo
But aren’t you an ally of the government? December 2011 »
Key words: Liu Xiaobo, Tilman Spengler
Deutsche Welle: negotiations with politics December 2011 »
Key words: Manfred Kops, Christian Michalek
“Soft power”: comparing China and Europe (a benign Chinese look on DW) January 2012 »
Key words: He Zengke, soft power
End of the radio era at DW January 2012 »
Key words: Valentin Schmidt
Yiwu court hearing: no way to treat a diplomat January 2012 »
Key words: coverage
Hu Jia questioned, Yu Jie leaves China January 2012 »
Key words: coverage
DW on Yu Jie: Sudden flight January 2012 »
Key words: coverage
Advocacy journalism is not the problem (interview) January 2012 »
Key words: Wang Fengbo, Matthias von Hein, soft power, Adrienne Woltersdorf, Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Jörg M. RudolphZhang Danhong
He who pays the piper January 2012 »
Key words: see comments


Updates / Related

» Werte und Interessen, Deutsche Welle, Febr 3, 2012
» Redesigned Website, Deutsche Welle, Febr 2, 2012


Sunday, November 13, 2011

The BoZhu Interviews: Chinese Perspectives and Calabrian Concepts –

an interview with Tai De

Tai De is a civil servant from Verden, Lower Saxony, in the vicinity of Bremen. He started blogging in 2008, and his posts are usually reactions to national, international or local news. He’s interested in everything along the Silk Road, in history, natural science, and horse breeding. His wife is partly Chinese, and courtship and the marriage ceremony, a long time ago, were complicated but instructive.

His blog can be found here.

The interview –

Q: You have been blogging for more than three years. How did it start?

I started with my home town, Verden, because I felt that besides the established political parties’ and the local press – well-connected with those parties -, there was little discussion of other local perspectives. So, based on personal experience, and on my interest in local affairs, it was broadly about Verden, and you’ll still find many Verden-related posts on my blog.

Q: Aren’t the Free Democrats filling that gap efficiently enough? Those things that may not be covered by the Social Democrats and the press?

What can I say…

Q: Your topics are about everything along the silk road. Isn’t that topical setting too broad to develop a genuine focus, and to get a constant readership?

I agree. This diversity hampers development of a continuous readership, but I blog about whatever interests me. If other people feel interested in certain articles nevertheless, I’m always pleased about that, of course.

Anyway, you can probably guess from the number of posts that blogging isn’t the most important part of my spare time.

Q: Let’s suppose that Tai De gets tons of comments and controversial threads, all of a sudden… would that bother you, as it takes time to reply to comments or to moderate?

Not if the commenters are patient.

Q: China doesn’t play a major role on your blog, but Chinese topics do emerge once in a while. Which kinds of “Chinese” topics are most likely to make you react strongly enough to write a blog post about it?

It’s not so much because the topics would be Chinese, but it’s because of the way Germany and the western world deal with this latest challenge from a power which isn’t too calculable in my view. Right when that poor blighter, Francis Fukuyama, had announced the end of history, after the end of the Soviet threat, another challenge emerged.

Q: Chinese officials, citizens, and Germans who feel close to China would probably disagree with you. China doesn’t challenge us – it feels challenged by us.

OK. That’s a normal and understandable perception, and I believe that as a German, I know this perception well. After all, Germany kept bothering its neighbors with a similarly wrong-headed world outlook, during the 20th century.

Q: Have you seen big changes in your own blog, and in the foreign blogosphere respectively, since you started blogging yourself? Have you seen changes in the mainstream media?

I have to admit that I’m still more into printed newspapers than into the blogosphere. I can therefore only base my answer on what I’ve read in the printed press. As far as that’s concerned, the China-jaggedness of the 1990s and the first decade of this century have been replaced by – in my view – partly racist coverage, and by fear.

Q: Before someone else asks this question – isn’t MyLaowai racist, for example? You’ve commented there occasionally.

No, I don’t think he’s racist. Some of his commenters are, though, and that’s why I don’t comment there more frequently. Even online, I mind the company I’m hanging out with, especially when faked “Chinese” commenters emerge there and speak bad English. But I like reading MyLaowai. Compared with appeasement blogs – like Doppelpod, for example -, MyLaowai has something to say, and he doesn’t need to make a mark at his own country’s costs.

Q: What’s wrong with Doppelpod’s approach – a position between rather contrarian political or (maybe) civilizational positions – in your view? Wouldn’t yours be a rather “Chinese” view of the world? Sort of Shames and honors?

If you have time for a little story… I was at a pretty sterling dinner years ago, on invitation of just as sterling hanseatic pepper sacks. Someone remarked that a professor who had attended previously hadn’t shown up again. One of those merchants told him that the professor in question had made negative remarks about his university in public, that is to say, at such a dinner. He wasn’t welcome any more.

I keep to this kind of policy myself. That’s why you won’t find much – or anything – about my actual field of work on my blog. Work with students is a protected range, and when it comes to educational policies, I mustn’t be too specific there, either. Tangible examples or occasions are out of the question.

Interestingly, most of those merchants probably shared the professor’s criticism, but rejected him as a person. They found him disloyal. I agree with that sentiment, even though I find the merchants outlandish in many other ways.

Q: That’s pretty old school, isn’t it?

It may be old school, it may be a rather Syrian or Turkish perspective, a German pre-war perpective, a Chinese perspective, or a Calabrian concept – that’s up to you. Doppelpod won’t need to worry about that – most decision-makers these days will think of this as “old school” indeed. Therefore, what I feel is disloyalty, isn’t disloyalty to others. It’s no practical issue any more. But adhering to that “old school” isn’t only a matter of decency in my view, but practical for everyone involved. It seems to me that most of us complain about a lack of “binding values”, or a lack of reliability within society. This seems to be a major complaint in China, too. If you feel that something of that kind is missing in your society, you’d better practice such values yourself, as honestly as you can.

Q: Are your teaching colleagues or your students aware that you are blogging? Posts like “Newthink – da future is digital and dumb” wouldn’t suggest that you are using the internet at all.

There may be a few exceptions. Most colleagues definitely don’t know my blog. But there are some students and teachers who think that they’ve recognised me.

Q: Why not blogging under your real name, then?

I’m not blogging for the sake of a career, and I appreciate freedom of speech (which is only available on American servers, by the way). Therefore, I’ll stick to “Tai De”.

Q: Your posts usually discuss Chinese, German, Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Thai, and Turkish issues. Are there other countries that interest you, or that play a role in your life, too?

Britan for sure, and Italy – for family reasons, too, and because they have something to do with my life.

Q: If Lower Saxony was a sovereign state, I’d have mentioned it in my previous question, too. You discuss Lower-Saxonian issues, once in a while. Why should the rest of the world care?

Even if we leave the fact aside that Hanoverians are the most classy Brits, and the island monkeys are only the remains of the day, I will usually write about what I can see every day, and about structures I’m familiar with.

Q: Some of your posts suggest that you like to wash Germany’s dirty laundry in public – even worse, you aren’t even washing it, you just keep displaying it. You aren’t a patriot, are you?

Am I patriotic? Am I not? With the events of the past century – its first half, anyway – on your mind, it isn’t easy for a German to have patriotic feelings. There’s that concept of a Verfassungspatriot, a constitutional patriot – that’s what I am for sure. Contrary to France, Spain, and Great Britain – and even when you compare Germany with its old provinces around Amsterdam and Rotterdam -, Germany is a belated nation, just as Italy. The concept of the Reich has become contaminated, too much so to be connoted in a positive way. My country, my people, and its civilization, that’s where I belong.

Q: Tai De, thanks a lot for this interview.

The interview was conducted in an authentic Chinese restaurant in Bremen.



All BoZhu Interviews


Monday, September 12, 2011

A European North-South Dialog

Flatworld, a blog run by conservative German daily Die Welt‘s international-news department manager, published an open letter on Sunday – in German, Greek, and Italian so far -; an open letter, that is, to European readers from or in the countries which are currently in financial and structural crisis. The open letter isn’t available in English, but there is an English-language thread, and the comments there may give you an idea of the issues discussed in the open letter itself.

Don't mention the budget

The insecure (European) sovereign: finding his voice?

The thread is meant to provide a platform for a “pan-European” public, but some input from outside Europe may also be welcome there. But even just reading there may give you an idea about how the European base – rather than its superstructure -, may be ticking.

German, Greek, and Irish readers seem to have commented so far.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Award Chaos: No “Quadriga” for Nobody

“Workshop Germany” (Werkstatt Deutschland), a non-profit organization based in Berlin-Charlottenburg, has an award in store for those who commit themselves successfully to innovation, renewal, and a pioneering spirit through political, economic, and cultural activities – the Quadriga. German and international artists, activists, and quite a number of  politicians, have been laureates since 2003. Of all former German chancellors who are still alive, only Helmut Schmidt has missed out on the prize so far, even though one might argue that both Schmidt and former French president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing would have deserved the prize for pioneering the European Currency Unit. (Maybe the workshop is waiting for a ready-for-use solution to the current Euro crisis from the two.) José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission’s president, on the other hand, got his Quadriga in 2009. God and the jury may know why.

And Vladimir Putin and the jury may know why Russia’s current prime minister (and former and possibly future president) was one of the chosen people this year. Actually, the jury was kind enough to give us their reasons: to honor Putin’s merits in German-Russian relations’ “reliability and stability”.

The Green party’s co-chairman Cem Özdemir left the jury, protesting against the choice. Several previous laureates either returned their prize, or threatened to do so, among them Former Czechoslovakian and Czech president Vaclav Havel. Most of the German press was negative, too.

Late last week, the workshop decided to cancel the 2011 award altogether. Neither Putin, nor the other laureates-to-be would receive a prize this year, even though the other choices, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa and Turkish-German author Betül Durmaz, were not contested.

Frankly, this year was the first time that I have even heard of the Quadriga prize at all. There are too many prizes to keep track of them, and the European award culture – as far as I’m aware of it, and with the possible exceptions of the Nobel Peace Prize and the EU Parliament’s Sakharov award – has started to look like the kind of “quality” prizes German agricultural associations or folk music trades habitually award within their own mishpokhe, to adorn their own commercials with them later on.

There’s no meaningful prize without a clear set of values behind it.  Business interests are no such values. They may be an honorable motivation for an award, too, but only if they are consistent with an organization’s policy.


» Article seeks Author, December 29, 2010
» Saxony’s Order of Gratitude Award to Putin, The Guardian, January 16, 2009


%d bloggers like this: