Archive for ‘Poland’

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Blog and Press Review: Frugal New Year

Warning: the following translation from a classic is just my guesswork – if you copy that for your homework, the mistakes will be your fault, not mine. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Frugal New Year: the Xi Style

The year of the dog is upon us, and it must be a dog’s life if you are a cadre in the Xi Jinping era. That’s what you might believe, anyway, if you read secretary general Xi Jinping’s spiritual nourishment for comrades. After all, in a totalitarian society, administration, legislation, crackdowns and Something Understood all need to come from the same source.

People’s Daily has published three instalments of Xi Jinping thought. The first: go and visit the poor, and ask about their suffering, find solutions to the problems and dump the worries. The second: have an affectionate reunion with your family, as a good family style promotes virtue.

For the third instalment, the sermon turns to the New Book of Tang:
奢靡之始,危亡之渐 (which means something like “what begins lavishly will move towards danger”, I suppose).

I can only find the Chinese original [no English edition] of the  New Book of Tang online, and there, in chapter 105, Chu Suiliang, an advisor with morals, tells his surprised sovereign the meaning of things that only appear to be innocent at first glance:

帝尝怪:“舜造漆器,禹雕其俎,谏者十馀不止,小物何必尔邪?”遂良曰:“雕琢害力农,纂绣伤女工,奢靡之始,危亡之渐也。漆器不止,必金为之,金又不止,必玉为之,故谏者救其源,不使得开。及夫横流,则无复事矣。”帝咨美之。

The emperor said: “Shun made the lacquer, Yu gave us the embroideries, but the remonstrances never seem to end. How can small things be evil?”
Suiliang said: “ornate artwork harms the peasantry, and embroidery hurts the working women. What begins lavishly, will indeed move towards danger. It doesn’t end at lacquerware, it takes gold, too. It doesn’t end there, but jade will be required, too. Those who remonstrate do not want to see things pass the point of no return.”

If my impression of the Chinese texts is basically correct, Xi seems to present himself as someone who speaks truth to power – which is corny at best, and quite probably populist. The latter, anyway, is a tool lavishly handed around among the Davos jetset more recently, and it probably works fine, especially at the grass-roots level, with people who routinely delude themselves.

Roar back, if you still dare, fly or tiger.

Xi Jinping probably found a lot to copy from Ronald Reagan. His May 4 speech in 2013 resembled Reagan’s endless-opportunities speech in 1984. While frequently considered risk averse when it comes to reform, optimism, a “determination … to educate his audience” and “unobtrusive and imperceptible moral influence” (OK – it depends on how much corniness you’ve grown up with) are features Xi’s propaganda style seems to share with the late US president’s.

Footnote: when it comes to education on the ground, education of the public appears to be anything but imperceptible, as The Capital in the North reported in January.

Central Europe (1): After the “Czech Reversal”

The China Digital Times has an article by a Czech academic, describing Chinese influence in Eastern Europe (although the Czech Republic is hardly “eastern” European), and more particularly about a “China Energy Fund Committee” (CEFC). Czech president Miloš Zeman, who is quoted there with some of his characteristically tasteless remarks (about Chinese eyes, before he changed his mind), has explicit opinions about journalism, too.

Central Europe (2): German Mittelstand’s Main Thing

If the German Mittelstand can’t be found in China, it’s probably because they are investing and selling in the Visegrád countries, and beyond. the Handelsblatt‘s English-language edition has a critical assessment of Mittelstand companies role in Central Europe, quoting an apolitical German trade functionary to prove its point:

Ultimately, politics is not that important for businesspeople. Order books are full: That’s the main thing.

Obviously, German politicians (and journalists, for that matter) aren’t nearly as sanguine, and following US President Trump’s attendence at a Three Seas Initiative summit in July 2017, the Economist even recorded Teutonic tremors:

Germany is already concerned about China’s “16+1” initiative with central and eastern European states, a series of investment projects that the Chinese expect will build influence in the region. The Germans are also putting pressure on the Polish government over its illiberal attacks on independent newspapers, judges and NGOs. And they are fending off Polish criticisms that their proposed “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline from Russia to Germany will make Europe more dependent on Russia.

But the Mittelstand shows no such unease. In fact, smaller and medium-sized companies often feel easier about countries that are closer to Germany, both regionally and culturally – it takes less time to travel, less time spent abroad, less worries about intercultural competence (or its absence), and less worries about market barriers or technology theft.

Hualien, Taiwan

Most people will have heard and read about the earthquake that caused deaths and injuries, especially in Hualien, on Tuesday.

But the place should be known for its beauty, too. There’s a travel blog about the Taroko Gorge, apparently written by a Singaporean, with some practical advice which  should be quite up to date (based on a visit in November 2016). That, plus some history.

The Spy Radio that anyone can hear

No, that’s not the BBC. They’ve only produced a video about numbers stations.

But what’s the fun in them if anyone can listen? I want some numbers of my own.

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Related

Budapest Guidelines, in Chinese and in English, Nov 2017

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Shortwave Logs: Radio Romania International (RRI)

If you are looking for a European broadcaster on shortwave, the BBC World Service may come to your mind – or Radio Romania International (RRI). The latter’s range of program languages is quite diverse: English, Chinese, French, Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and German. One a week, on Sundays, there’s a broadcast in Hebrew, too, with a review of the week1).

— Some history

According to the station’s website, first experimental radio programmes for target areas beyond Romania’s borders were aired in 1927. Broadcasting became official on November 1, 1928, on 747 kHz (401.6 meters) – apparently targeted at a domestic audience, in Romanian only. French and English programs followed in 1932, “to inform the diplomatic corps in the Romanian capital city”, and weekly programs in French and German were targeted at central and western Europe. Before the second world war, all foreign broadcasts depended on medium wave transmitters. When the first shortwave transmissions began, the focus appears to have been on the Balkans, and the Middle East. According to RRI, [i] t seems that the first letter received from abroad came from Egypt.

It’s a detailed account of RRI’s history (and that of its preceding organizations, all headquartered in Bucharest’s General Berthelot Street), and will most likely contain some information that is new to the reader.

Olt County's coat of arms, 1985 and post-1989

Olt County’s coat of arms, as depicted on a QSL card of December 1985, and as of these days (click picture for Wiki entry)

— Languages, Programs, Contraditions

RRI provides news, background reports and some cultural coverage. Much of the content is the same in English, German, and Chinese, but focus may differ somewhat. While there is news, some background information and cultural programming in all these languages, listeners’ preferred topics seem to count, too. German listeners frequently enquire about European and social issues – something that appears to be of less interest to Chinese listeners. The scope of Chinese programs may also be somewhat limited by air time: thirty minutes per broadcast in Chinese, rather than sixty, as is the case with some of the broadcasts in English, French, and German.

When it comes to international exchange or openness, RRI certainly can’t be accused of discrimination. The Institut Francais is shown among their partners on the French service’s web pages, and a link to the “Confucius Institute” in Bucharest adorns the Chinese-language main page, side by side with one to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (with no specified status).

According to RRI’s English service’s website, RRI’s Chinese service, which first went on air on October 1, 1999, benefited from […] Chinese language experts […] as well as our colleagues from Radio China International, the Romanian language department […].2)

Given the kind of “news” being broadcast by China Radio International (CRI), this kind of cooperation doesn’t look appropriate.

Some caveats: undue Beijing’s influence isn’t limited to RRI in particular, or to southeastern Europe in general3) (as suspected by some German quarters). A number of German universities have opted for cooperation with the agency from Beijing, for example, and areas of cooperation are hardly less sensitive.

Also, RRI’s news broadcasts in Chinese don’t appear to differ from those of the English or German departments. When Chinese listeners hear about Romanian citizens who take to the street, opposing changes to the country’s legal system, or Japan’s prime minister emphasizing liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as Japan’s and Romania’s shared values and principles, it may be met with more open minds, than if broadcast by a source that is deemed hostile by its audience.

All the same, turning October 1, 1949 into common ground between the audience and the station’s first broadcast in Chinese (October 1, 1994) spells a major contradiction, when suggesting at the same time, on a different history page, that RRI services turned towards the future, towards once again building a bridge between Romania and the democratic world and re-establishing the link between Romanians living abroad and those back home, a link that had been weakened on purpose by the totalitarian regime.

— Audience

RRI doesn’t offer detailed statistics – few international broadcasters do. It seems likely, however, that a presence on shortwave makes a difference for the better. I wouldn’t hear or read much about the country, if its signals didn’t come in handy. I’m suspecting that within Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, you can listen to RRI with a pressing iron (any appliance with spiral coils should do).

What has kept this blogger from giving feedback to the station is their online policy. It seems that everything that is mentioned in their listener’s-feedback programs goes right online, as a transcript. Facebookers probably won’t mind, but more traditional listeners may be a different story.

Either way, RRI certainly has its fans, and its multipliers.

— Shortwave

Shortwave plays an important role, at least when it comes to middle-aged and old listeners. For one, there’s the technical aspect. Nobody is encouraged to disassemble and reassemble his smartphone, or to boost its transmission power or its sensitivity. Use of shortwave, however, involves technical aspects, and people interested in some DIY. And while an app user may brush any source of information away after a few seconds, shortwave listeners’ attention span is likely to be sturdier.

It would seem to me that among a number of other aspects (sound not least – I find digital sound ugly), shortwave broadcasting signals respect for the listeners. It is more costly than web-based communication, it doesn’t provide broadcasters with as much information about how “efficient”, in terms of listener numbers, their productions actually are (which means that even the invisible listener matters), and it doesn’t ask if a listener lives under circumstances that allow for internet access – be it for economic or censorship reasons.

Shortwave is therefore a unique RRI feature. Bulgaria abandoned its shortwave transmissions years ago, so did Radio Poland, Radio Ukraine International, and Radio Prague (except for some airtime on German or American shortwave stations respectively). Radio Budapest, once one of the most popular Eastern European external broadcasters, is history.

— Recent RRI logs

Broadcasts in Chinese, German, and Hebrew
Time UTC Lang. Date Freq. S I N P O
07:00 German Jan21 7345 5 5 5 4 4
13:30 Chinese Jan21 9610 4 5 5 3 4
17:05 Hebrew Jan21 9790 4 5 5 3 4

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Footnotes

1) RRI’s website states 19:05 hours as the beginning of the transmission, which is standard time in Romania, and in Israel (17:05 GMT/UTC).
2) The Romanian department at CRI still exists, with an online presence, and medium/shortwave transmissions.
3) The “Spiegel” interview in German.

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Friday, April 15, 2016

Monument Policies (1): Poland

As Poland celebrates 1,050 years of Christianity in Poland, the country’s right-wing government is pushing the country’s European heritage as the EU steps up its criticism, writes Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international media platform. The news article seems to reflect the general angle of the German press on Polish current affairs quite well, although  milder than some German-language reports, even at DW itself, where a headline in February read Polen: Muslime unerwünscht (“Muslims unwelcome”, a choice of words that triggers memories of “Jews unwelcome”, a notice on many German doors, especially once the Nazis had come to power. Dirty German history at Poland’s expense, in only two words.

Coverage on Poland

DW: How ugly of you, Poland

Not all is well between Brussels and Warsaw, as an article by DW correspondent Barbara Wesel reflected in December, after the Polish government’s attack on the country’s supreme court, and its state media:

Polen is the biggest net recipient of EU funding in all of Europe. And Warsaw is wrong if only sees the European capital as the main cashier’s window. From there, obligations accrue, too. The number one obligation is to observe the rules of the club. If Jarosław Kaczyński believes he can impudently defy them, he needs to be disabused. Unfortunately, there are barely ways of imposing official financial sanctions, but maybe all sorts of mistakes can be found in future Polish project proposals… Rudeness like that of the Law-and-Justice party chief needs to be answered with rudeness.

Polen ist der größte Netto-Empfänger von EU-Fördermitteln in ganz Europa. Und Warschau irrt, wenn es in der europäischen Hauptstadt nur die Hauptkasse sieht. Daraus erwachsen auch Verpflichtungen. Erste Pflicht ist auf jeden Fall, die Regeln des Clubs einzuhalten. Wenn Jaroslaw Kaczynski glaubt, er könne sich frech darüber hinweg setzen, muss er eines Besseren belehrt werden. Leider gibt es in der EU kaum Möglichkeiten, offiziell finanzielle Sanktionen zu verhängen. Aber vielleicht finden sich ja allerhand Fehler in künftigen polnischen Projektanträgen… Auf einen so groben Klotz wie den polnischen PiS-Parteichef gehört ein grober Keil.

This kind of creative anger – probably indicative of the general mood among the political class in the City of Brussels – is a somewhat unpleasant sight, especially when Germans wield the financial club. Nothing is forgotten in Poland: no pressure, no words, which above all shouldn’t come from German mouths, will dissuade us, German news magazine Der Spiegel quoted Jarosław Kaczyński in January.

Kaczyński’s policies may be facing widespread opposition in Poland by now – but with comments like these, he may be able to reach some of his opponents, too.

Brussels and Berlin seem to understand that. While wide swathes of German press coverage is pulling Polish policies to pieces, German and EU diplomacy remain … well … diplomatic.

And the real dark clouds, from Warsaw’s point of view, are gathering in the West, from the direction of another complicated neighbor. That would be Russia. When it comes to the Katyn massacre, for years, “the blame for the killings was alternately attributed to the Germans and the Russians”, a Radio Poland continuity announcement informed the station’s listeners on Wednesday (7th minute), Poland’s official day of remembrance. The report that followed the announcement was more accurate, stating that the Soviet Union (the Soviet NKVD) had been responsible.

In the same broadcast, German journalist Boris Reitschuster is interviewed (20th minute) about his latest book (to be published on Friday, April 15) about Putin’s Secret Army. (Whatever may be said about the book (in terms of reliability or otherwise), conservative press people appear to be fans, while liberal and leftist publications don’t display nearly as much fascination.)

There was no official mention of the tragedy in Poland during the communist rule nor much was said in the West, which is also guilty of concealing evidence of the Stalinist crime,

Radio Poland said on Wednesday.

Maybe it’s this mood that defines the current mission of Polish remembrance policies: 500 monuments to the Soviet soldiers, who drove the German Wehrmacht out of Poland in 1944/1945, are scheduled to be demolished (CNBC) or removed (Newsweek).

It’s not the first action of this kind, but it is now reportedly the Polish state Institute for National Remembrance (INR) that calls on regional authorities to dismantle the monuments. It could become a comprehensive measure.

And at the same time, Polish media discuss the positive symbols that shall replace those from the communist era. A Radio Poland press review, still on April 13:

Back to Rzeczpospolita now which claims that President Lech Kaczyński, who was killed in the plane crash in Russia six years ago, deserves a dignified memorial in the Polish capital. Having in mind, however, deep divisions in Polish society surrounding the circumstances of the crash, it is not a good idea to erect such a memorial in front of the presidential palace, as is proposed by the Law and Justice Party. The Rzeczpospolita columnist thinks that hospitals, schools and libraries built from public funds and named after the late president would be a better way of remembering President Kaczyński, and of bridging the divides within Polish society.

The presidential palace in Warsaw may have to wait for its copy, but this what the presidential memorial might look like.

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Notes

纪念“卡廷惨案”受害者的橡树, CRI, April 14, 2016
Instructions Importantes, CRI, April 12, 2016
Lech Kaczyński, 1949 – 2010, April 10, 2010

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Sunday, April 3, 2016

Germany: Is “The Ivan” Back?

The Russians are coming was a standard line when I was a child. Sometimes, everyone into the blockhouses would be added. it was meant to be fun, but there was an underlying fear in it.

Another term for Russians in general would be The Ivan*) (probably an echo from “Ivan the Terrible”). At least in West Germany, fear of Russia was part of collective post-war identity – much more so than in Britain or France.

There may be many possible explanations for this, and I tend to believe that it was a combination of several factors (Germany being subject to allied, including Soviet, control being one that lasted particularly long) was one of them. West Germany’s existence and raison d’être as a frontline state was another. And then, there was a widespread inclination among many Germans to see their country as a victim in the first place, rather than as an initiator of Nazism and boundless war.

By 1983, it had become evident, at least in certain quarters, that the USSR had lost most of its expansionary power. In terms of soft power, Moscows message had become about as attractive as athlete’s foot, and in military terms, the “Evil Empire” was grossly overestimated.

But there was a narrative, and as usual (when the narrative is well crafted), it prevailed over facts. On March 31, 1983, US president Ronald Reagan told a Los Angeles World Affairs Council Luncheon that

In the last 15 years or more, the Soviet Union has engaged in a relentless military buildup, overtaking and surpassing the United States in major categories of military power, acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military capability. All the moral values which this country cherishes-freedom, democracy, the right of peoples and nations to determine their own destiny, to speak and write, to live and worship as they choose—all these basic rights are fundamentally challenged by a powerful adversary which does not wish these values to survive.

Der Spiegel, back then a center-left and liberal German newsmagazine, took issue with Reagan. While the USSR was certainly no paper tiger, and while it was true that Soviet military had seen a huge push during two decades under Leonid Brezhnev (with American military budgets being  reduced by some 2.5 percent per year during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies), the USSR’s military power wasn’t as strong as first reported.

Shortly before a paper was published by US secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger (also in March 1983, and supportive of Reagan’s March-31 remarks), the CIA had retracted all its US statements concerning Moscow’s military budget:

military expenditures had been overestimated by fifty percent. Rather than by three, four, or more percent, there had been growth by a maximum of two percent since 1976.

Such subtleties, however, didn’t put Ronald Reagan off-message. His story remained the same; the Soviet Union was about to put an end to [a]ll the moral values which this country cherishes.

Fourty-year-old statistics like those debted in the early 1980s are hard to verify (or falsify). But in at least one respect, the Spiegel authors, in 1983, were wrong: contrary to what they believed (quoting “experts”), America proved able to finish the USSR off in a gargantuan arms race, and the factors that lead to the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991 were pretty much the weaknesses that the Spiegel authors themselves had pointed out less than a decade earlier.

The rest, as they say, is history. The world, from Alaska to Siberia (the long way round, of course), and from Pole to Pole, happily awaited huge peace dividends. After all, we had reached the end of history.

But Russia felt squeezed by NATO – understandably, the Baltic nations and Poland had felt rather urgently that they needed a strong reassurance against potential future Russian expansionism. (Not everyone appeared to trust the story about the end of history, and besides, a democratic society doesn’t necessarily live in a peaceful, unaggressive state.

Germans have viewed Russia – and the Soviet Union – differently since the mid-1980s. By 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had overtaken Ronald Reagan, in terms of popularity here. That didn’t change after the USSR’s demise: while Gorbachev was seen as a failure, or even a “sellout” of sourts, among many Russians, Germans considered him “the” man who had made German unification possible. And Boris Yeltsin‘s Russia, even if not looking terribly respectable at the time, certainly didn’t look like something to fear either.

In an article in Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, a Moscow correspondent stated in May 1994 that once again, a majority of Russians considered the end of the USSR a greater calamity than its beginnings, and that Russian reformers had not been successful in “learning from the West”, as stipulated by Yeltsin two and a half years earlier.

Yeltsin had to accept that the safeguarding of authority, which had for centuries been based on expansion rather than on enlightenment, could not be redesigned with a new constitution alone.

Jelzin hat einsehen müssen, daß Herrschaftssicherung, die seit Jahrhunderten durch Ausdehnung statt durch Aufklärung erfolgte, mit einer neuen Verfassung alleine nicht umgestaltet werden kann.

Only pacts and compromises with conservative forces could save the “autumn” of Yeltsin’s presidency, the correspondent wrote.

In economic terms, a Stratfor paper dating from November 1999 suggested that veterans of perestroika, such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, could strip the oligarchs of their wealth and influence, and enact more centrist policies.

To quite an extent, this seems to be what Vladimir Putin‘s presidency has done. In its early years, it continued the ideological consolidation started by Yeltsin himself, and his administration began to implement a policy that the “Zeit” Moscow correspondent described as west-oriented as a matter of principle, but moving away from America in particular. […] In America, however, the “Zeit” article quoted Yeltsin, forces were concentrating that would like to keep Russia in a state of controllable paralysis. That said, Putin  – in the eyes of investors – may have arrived at a point similar to Yeltsin’s, by now. Too little appears to move, economically.

When reading the press these days – certainly the German press -, you might be forgiven if you think that Russian policies had fundamentally changed since the 1990s. But they haven’t. There has been a remarkable Russian continuity – and a tendency in the West to disregard realities in Russia, and in its remaining sphere of influence.

When late German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told Moscow in December 2013 that it was “not appropriate” for the EU “to ask third parties for permission before inviting the Ukraine to develop into Europe’s direction”, this represented widespread western- and central European illusions.

Russia, too, is a European country – most Russians live on the European continent, and Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Volgograd not least, are European cities. The discriminatory – and self-centred – approach of equating Europe with the EU has done much to its recent crises, be it on its eastern, be it on its northwestern boundaries.

There is an important difference to make: it would have been unethical if NATO had refused Polish or a Baltic country’s accessions, and it would have been particularly unethical if Germany a main author of Polish partition and loss of the Baltic states’ sovereignty,- had demanded such a refusal.

But in Ukraine, there had been no consensus to join an alliance with the West. In a row, administrations closer to Moscow or closer to the West had been elected, but there had been no continuity. There was Russian intervention, but there had been unwarranted Western interference prior to that. I have no doubt that any Russian leader, be it Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev, would have reacted just the way Putin did. That was no matter of conviction; it was a matter of geopolitics.

Now, Germany’s federal government intends to counter Russian espionage, propaganda, and disinformation in Germany, writes German daily Die Welt. What they mean is, that Russian and pro-Putin publications have blown several issues in the news – issues that have recently troubled many Germans – out of proportions, or given them a slant that favored narratives from the fringes, rather than the much-conjured “center” of German society.

If the German public can be persuaded by domestic propaganda to swing back from a rather “russophile” (since the 1980s) to a rather anti-Russian attitude again (as from the 1940s to the 1970s) remains to be seen. But if the political class have their way, it is going to work that way.

That said, there are surprises, once in a while. In May 2015, Joachim Gauck, not particularly famous for being a friend of the Russian people, gave a speech in the Westphalian town of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war campsite during World War 1 and, more notoriously, World War 2. What Gauck said, was this:

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.

Saying that was laudable, especially as most Germans I know aren’t even aware of this chapter in their history. But there is a catch: to say something only once hardly changes anything. Only regular repetition – as anyone with just a faint idea of how propaganda works can tell you – will make sink inconvenient truths like these sink in. Most Germans I know aren’t actually aware of the scale of German warcrimes against Soviet war prisoners. And to make the warprisoner story sink in isn’t deemed desirable: neither by most of Germany’s media, nor by the German population in general, many of whom would like to see a Schlußstrich, a “final stroke” underneath the complete chapter of Nazism.

Some time in the early 1980s – prior to Gorbachev’s tenure as Soviet party secretary -, the West German foreign office published a booklet for use in school classes. Our school was a rather conservative environment, but the booklet made it into our classroom anyway. Titled “Aufrüsten-Abrüsten” (Armament-Disarmament), it was a try to educate us in foreign politics, and I don’t remember much of it. But there was a remarkable line in it which basically said that, no matter to which conclusions we, as school students, might come concerning the Soviet Union’s role in Europe, we should develop some sympathy – even if not necessarily acquiescence – in the light of the past.

I guess that this booklet had much to do with the man at the helm of the foreign office at the time – Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, who died on Thursday. As phobic as West German feelings against the “East” might have been back then, there seemed to be an understanding, at least in some substantial quarters of the political class, that you can’t have peace without trying to understand those who may (or may not) become your foes, and that your own decisions may matter in the process.

This understanding may no longer be here, and I’m wondering how much misery it may take before we will regain some common sense.

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Notes

*) Max Frisch, in his novel “Homo Faber”, raised a modest monument for German anti-Russian sentiment, in the shape of an, as it turns out later, otherwise/actually/mostly quite likeable German philistine:

No German desired re-armament, but the Russian forced America into it, tragically, which I, as a Swissman […], couldn’t judge, because I hadn’t been to the Caucasus, he [the German] had been in the Caucasus, he knew the Ivan, who could only be taught a lesson with weapons. He knew the Ivan! He said that several times. Only possible lesson through weapons!, he said, because nothing else would impress him, the Ivan —

I peeled my apple.

Distinction between Herrenmenschen and Untermenschen, as advocated by the good Hitler, was, of course, nonsense; but Asians remained Asians —

I ate my apple.

Kein  Deutscher  wünsche  Wiederbewaffnung,  aber  der  Russe zwinge  Amerika  dazu,  Tragik,  ich  als  Schweizer   (Schwyzzer, wie  er mit Vorliebe sagte)  könne  alldies  nicht   beurteilen,  weil  nie im Kaukasus gewesen,  er sei  im  Kaukasus gewesen,  er  kenne den Iwan, der nur durch Waffen zu belehren sei. Er kenne den Iwan!
Das  sagte  er mehrmals. Nur durch Waffen zu  belehren!  sagte  er, denn alles andere  mache  ihm keinen Eindruck,  dem  Iwan   –

Ich  schälte meinen Apfel.

Unterscheidung   nach  Herrenmenschen   und   Untermenschen, wie’s  der  gute  Hitler  meinte, sei  natürlich  Unsinn;  aber  Asiaten bleiben Asiaten –
Ich  aß meinen Apfel.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

A Look at the Rumors about China Radio International

There has been some talk about plans among China’s leaders to close down a number of foreign-language services – the German-language department among them -, at China Radio International (CRI), China’s international broadcaster. Keith Perron, a radio producer in Taiwan, claimed inside knowledge and suggested that, according to this quote by Glenn Hauser‘s World of Radio, March 26:

At last month’s meeting of the committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, one of the subcommittees, headed by Zhang Dejiang, who is also chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, will form a twelve-member board to look into the effectiveness of shortwave as a [unreadable] platform for China Radio International. Members include leaders from various former ministries, including the [unreadable], culture, propaganda, SARFT, and the central committee.They may be looking at shortwave cuts made in Australia, Canada, Russia, UK, and the US. Last year the Chinese government spent over 600 mega Yuan on the shortwave, that’s about 100 mega dollars US. It includes not only CRI, but China National Radio [aka Chinese People’s Broadcasting Station, CPBS — JR]. They will be looking at staff reductions. CRI currently has a staff of 8,500. They are looking at reducing some 40 percent, closing several of their overseas bureaus, closing CRI Television, some CRI language services. Looked at for axing are: Tagalog, Polish, Greek, Italian, German, Esperanto, Kroatian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Finnish, Bulgarian, and Danish. But English would be expanded, as would Chinese.

What struck me on December 31 last year – but it wouldn’t lead me to dramatic conclusions, of course – was that party secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping had dropped CRI from his new-year’s address. The broadcaster was mentioned along with CPBS and CCTV by Xinhua’s introductory text, but not by Xi himself. Both Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin had made it a tradition to mention CRI, CPBS, and CCTV in their new year’s addresses – and CRI was always mentioned first.

To put the rumors about CRI into some perspective, though, Perron had been a critic of “waste” at CRI for some time, and understatment isn’t onw of his greatest hobbies. The Voice of America (VoA), for example, is a terminally ill patient, which might lead to the question who’s more dead – the American or the Chinese foreign broadcaster.

And Bernd Seiser, chairman of the Radio Taiwan International Ottenau Listeners’ Club, said in his April 10 club bulletin he had been told by CRI staff that

I can confirm that CRI will not terminate its German-language programs on shortwave.

However, listeners who wanted information on shortwave frequencies would need to enquire with the German department, rather than receive frequency notifications automatically by email, said Seiser.

So, how much truth is there in the rumors about closing the departments mentioned by Perron? That’s hard to tell.  For one, it appears unlikely to me that CPPCC committee activities would go completely unreported inside China (which appears to be the case – I’ve seen no such report in the Chinese media). However, it wouldn’t appear exactly unlikely that China’s top cadres want CRI to become more effective. Three years ago, CRI German still ran a program dedicated to listeners’ letters and emails, but the feedback, as a rule, appeared to be embarrassingly low. Regular broadcasts of telephone interviews with German listeners weren’t a terribly reviving factor either. By now, feedback from the audience is interspersed into CRI Panorama, a magazine with a variety of topics, rather than featured in a dedicated program. An editorial staff of 31, according to CRI German’s website anyway, might be expected to draw a bigger crowed on the other side of the radio, too. (That said, there’s no information concerning their working hours.)

What seems highly unlikely to me is a closure of the German department. For the time being, Germany is an important “partner” for the Chinese leadership, in technological and partly in political terms. For one, both China and Germany try to defend their inveterately high trade surpluses against a growing international chorus of criticism. Even a small congregation of “early Christians” is probably worth being nurtured, from the CCP’s point of view.

Will shortwave be reduced? Maybe, but not necessarily. If the early Christians want shortwave, maybe their prayers will be heard. And jamming of foreign broadcasters like VoA, BBC, or All India Radio, will remain in place anyway. To avoid making it unnecessarily obvious, domestic CPBS stations at least will continue to be used as informal jammers in future, too, along with the “Firedrake”.

Does CRI make a big difference in Germany? Hardly so. What does make a big difference is Chinese financial and economic engagement in Germany, and Chinese interest in German products: sponsoring professorships, taking a stake in a new (and not yet used-to-capacity) German seaport, buying Volkswagen cars, etc.. China’s money has great leverage in Germany, even in German politics.

China’s public diplomacy remains a seedling here – but that’s probably no reason to dump CRI German.

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Related/Updates

» 杨尚昆, 通过中国国际广播电台, Jan 1, 1993
»
CRI 历史, CRI, undated
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Saturday, August 9, 2014

But what if Russia invades (Eastern) Ukraine?

Every epic fail has its turning points. In many cases, historians, years after the events in question, identify turning points different from those presented by the media during the days of war itself.

In the view of many observers, a Russian intervention in Eastern Ukraine – yes, you might call that an invasion, but it seems to me that much of our media prefers the term intervention, unless if it is a Russian intervention – would be such a turning point. If it happens, and if it’s too big to be ignored, it would be one.

But maybe, even if such a Russian intervention, with or without a Western reaction, would happen, historians would identify another turning point: the day when Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko ended the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine on June 30 and vowed that Ukrainian government forces would “attack and liberate” the land. What else should a president of a sovereign country do? And, more interestingly, did he do that in accordance with wishes from EU capitals and Washington DC, or did he do so because he is, after all, Ukraine‘s president, and not the EU’s?

The West has helped you hitherto, Ukraine – but not necessarily by its surpassing favor. Obviously, Russia has its – yet to be determined – share in Ukraine’s agony, but so has the West, and not least Western media.

When a German veteran correspondent, Gabriele Krone-Schmalz, told German television on April 16 that she shared the unease of many German news watchers about an anti-Russian bias, it felt to me as if a general gag order on my country’s media had been lifted. Of course, I was wrong. First of all, there hadn’t been a gag order on reporting flaws or dishonest intentions in Western Ukraine policies. There had only been influences – from political parties who populate much of the boards of German broadcasters, for example. And my sense of relief wasn’t justified either because that interview wasn’t run at primetime, but on a Wednesday night, at 23:20 central European time.

Which is quite characteristic – that’s how media channels can claim that they are pluralistic. Broadcast this kind of stuff when most ordinary people have gone to  sleep. (I only got aware of the video on the internet.)

The media had described the situation as if the EU had only ideals rather than interests, Krone-Schmalz said. Even proposals from Moscow that would have been worth a debate had been labeled as “propaganda”. Rather than taking their positon as observers as neutrally as possible, many journalists had, for example, almost completely missed out on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement’s security aspects, particularly its article 7.

Indeed, I remember noone in the mainstream press taking issue at all.

It is understandable that Western governments want to have options now if Russia invades Ukraine – umm, starts an intervention, umm, sends a convoy with Russian humanitarian assistance to enable humanitarian aid in Donetsk or Luhansk. But to massage public opinion so as to ensure its support for whatever kind of option is wrong. It leads to further bad choices, just as past manipulations have led to the current standoff.

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Related

» Poland seeks Compensation, BBC, Aug 1, 2014
» Nobody dares to (German), Junge Welt, Aug 9, 2014
» Advocacy Journalism, Jan 26, 2012

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Friday, August 1, 2014

Shortwave Log, Northern Germany, July 2014: Radio Polonia terminates Broadcasts in German

1. Radio Polonia’s German Service

Possibly along with Radio Budapest, and contrary to Radio Prague and Radio Berlin International (East Germany), Radio Polonia , Poland’s external radio station, was a rather liberal voice from the Warsaw Treaty bloc  through the 1970s and 1980s.

A Radio Polonia QSL card, confirming a report on the station's broadcast on February 9, 1986 at 16:00 UTC on 6095 kHz.

A Radio Polonia QSL card, confirming a report on the station’s broadcast on February 9, 1986 at 16:00 UTC on 6095 kHz.

The German department, started in 1950, wasn’t afraid of controversy, at least not in the 1980s. Even angry letters from West Germans who had once lived in the former eastern territories occasionally made it on the air (probably, the German department didn’t get too many letters of this kind anyway). The station never became one of my absolute favorites on shortwave, but many West Germans listened regularly.

2014 won’t mark the death of Radio Polonia, but the station’s German department has become history on June 30. Also in June this year, the Polish-abroad programs were terminated, and the Hebrew programs, Kol Polin, only established in 2007, apparently ended earlier this year.

Radio Polonia continues to broadcast in English, Russian, and Ukrainian – on the internet, through partnerships, and via satellite. The German audience still had the opportunity to listen on shortwave – a small shortwave transmitter operated by Radio 700 in Kall, North Rhine Westphalia, relayed Radio Polonia’s German programs. Last time I listend was in February this year, unaware that it would be the last time ever.

===============

2. Recent Logs, July 2014

International Telecommunication Union letter codes used in the table underneath:
AFS – South Africa; AIA – Anguilla; ARG – Argentina; BLR – Belarus; CHN – China; CUB – Cuba; D – Germany; EGY – Egypt; G – Great Britain; GRC – Greece; IND – India; J – Japan; MDG – Madagascar; SVN – Slovenia; SWZ – Swaziland; TIB – Tibet; UKR – Ukraine; USA – USA.

Languages (“L.”):
A – Arabic; BR – Belorussian; C – Chinese; E – English; F – French; G – German; Gr – Greek; H – Hindi; Sl – Slovenian; Sp – Spanish.

The table underneath will appear messy unless you click the headline of this particular post. The table is broader than the two columns of the overall blog frontpage. However, it is more convenient to find with a search engine this way.

kHz

Station

Ctry

L.

Day

GMT

S I O
15235 Channel Africa  AFS E July 2 17:00 5 5 5
   918 Radio Slovenia  SVN E July 2 20:30 4 4 4
   918 Radio Slovenia  SVN G July 2 20:34 4 4 4
   918 Radio Slovenia  SVN Sl July 2 20:38 4 4 4
 9540 Radio Japan  J C July 3 15:30 3 2 2
 3775.6 DARC/DL0DL  D G July 3 17:30 4 4 4
 9420 Voice of Greece  GRC Gr July 4 18:55 4 3 3
 6185 RTI Taipei  G G July 4 19:27 5 5 5
15120 AIR Delhi  IND H July 5 04:07 4 2 2
15120 CRI Beijing  CHN E July 5 04:07 3 2 2
 3995 HCJB Weenermoor  D G July 5 06:42 5 5 5
 7365 HCJB Weenermoor  D G July 5 09:30 3 4 3
 3995 HCJB Weenermoor  D G July 5 15:03 4 3 3
   918 Radio Slovenia  SVN G July 5 20:33 5 5 5
15345 RAE Buenos Aires  ARG G July 7 21:02 2 5 2
15345 RAE Buenos Aires  ARG G July 7 21:05 5 5 4
11710.4 RAE Buenos Aires  ARG E July 16 02:28 4 3 3
 6000 RHC Havana Cuba  CUB E July 16 03:00 5 4 4
 3774 DARC/DL0DL  D G July 17 17:30 5 4 4
 3995 HCJB Weenermoor  D G July 19 04:30 4 3 4
21480 Bible Voice BCN  MDG E July 19 11:21 3 3 3
 9965 Radio Cairo 1)  EGY A July 20 00:46 4 5 4
 9315 Radio Cairo 2)  EGY Sp July 20 01:00 3 5 2
 5850 RMI / Homecoming
Radio
 USA E July 20 01:06 4 4 4
 6090 Carribean Beacon  AIA E July 20 01:54 4 4 4
 9315 Radio Cairo 3)  EGY E July 20 02:01 4 4 2
 7505 Radio WRNO  USA E July 20 02:36 4 5 4
 3200 TWR Swaziland  SWZ E July 20 03:00 2 3 2
 6000 RHC Havana Cuba  CUB E July 20 04:00 4 5 4
15120 Voice of Nigeria 4)  NIG E July 20 08:17 4 3 3
11980.1 Radio Dniprovska
Hvylya 5)
 UKR ? July 20 08:00 3 4 3
11730 Radio Belarus  BLR BR July 20 11:34 4 5 3
15344.3 RAE Buenos Aires  ARG E July 23 18:26 5 4 4
 7550 AIR Delhi 6)  IND F July 25 20:15 5 5 4
 7550 AIR Delhi  IND H July 25 20:34 5 5 4
 7550 AIR Delhi  IND E July 25 20:45 5 5 4
 3995 HCJB Weenermoor  D G July 26 04:30 5 5 4
 6130 PBS Tibet 7)  TIB E July 26 16:30 4 3 3
11710 RAE Buenos Aires  ARG E July 30 02:06 4 5 3

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Footnotes

1) A splendid signal and – by the standards of Egyptian foreign radio anyway – splendid modulation, too. But that was only the Arabic program.
2) As far as the Spanish program, a bit later and 650 kHz further down, was concerned, modulation sucked as it does with all foreign-language programs from Cairo.
3) Of course, the English program’s modulation was no exception. It sucked, too. What a waste of energy.
4) Strong interference from China Radio International (CRI), by now the most undesirable shortwave station worldwide, in my view. Chinese shortwave radio appears to be everywhere, especially on frequencies where they can block sensitive or offending broadcasts, such as from Radio Japan. However, a primitive rotatable dipole antenna with a reasonably good directional effect worked wonders to push CRI (northeastern beam) aside and to get a clearer signal from Africa. Hence, at times, O=3.
5) I probably can’t tell Russian from Ukrainian. Therefore, I left the language column open here, with a question mark.
6) It was a surprise to find an All India Radio program in French on 7550 kHz at the time – it ought to be a Hindi program. I did enjoy the French program very much, because their approach is somewhat different to the English overseas service. It was a music program, and the French speakers actually explained the music.
7) Frequencies less than 10,000 kHz usually work best at nighttime or during winter. When tuning in to PBS Tibet on 6130 kHz at 16:00 UTC here in Northern Germany this summer, the signal isn’t better than O=2. By 16:30 UTC, it will usually improve to O=3, which is reasonably easy to listen to. Not necessarily true for reception in other places, obviously.

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Related

» Polish-German relations, Free Republic/Radio Polonia, 2006/2007

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Friday, May 23, 2014

FYI

This – JR’s China Blog – is now a veteran blog. Thinking about it, I probably agree with FOARP, and I also agree that sometimes, blogs remain an adequate form to write about things at (some) length. Like this post about how it may feel when you come back to China after a break of several years.

Bremen-Hemelingen, May 2014

No matter where you are, there’s something Chinese in every picture: Bremen-Hemelingen, May 2014

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Related

» Once Upon a Time, Dec 25, 2009

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