Archive for ‘public diplomacy’

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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Friday, March 4, 2016

On the Eve of NPC Session: a Public Opinion Workforce that puts the Party’s Mind at Ease

The “two sessions” season is upon Beijing: both the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference” (CPPCC) and the “National People’s Congress” (NPC, China’s “parliament”) are holding plenary sessions this month. The CPPCC opened on Thursday, and the NPC is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

The Herald, a paper from Zimbabwe, published an online article today that reads as if it had come from the CCP central office by fax and had been published without any changes made to it.

China’s press and broadcasting services will be full of opium info smoothies for the people anyway: Xi Jinping made sure of that in February, inspecting the “People’s Daily”, Xinhua newsagency, and CCTV. And not only CCTV – who had actually been visited by Xi -, but China Radio International (CRI) staff, too, did what good journalists or reporters in the land of socialism with Chinese characteristics have to do: they held meetings, summarizing the spirit of the important talk given by Xi on a party conference concerning news and public opinion work, and drafting roadmaps for their own work.

Indeed, propaganda for audiences abroad appear to matter more than during the Hu Jintao era – or maybe it’s simply that propaganda in general matters more than during the pre-Xi decade. Xi, as quoted by a SARFT online article, republished by Xinhua on February 25:

Under the new historical circumstances, it is the duty and obligation of the party’s news and public opinion work to uphold the banner, to keep to a hopeful lookout, to revolve around the center, to serve the general situation,to unite the people, to encourage the morale and to strengthen moral attitude, to strengthen cohesion and integration, to clarify errors, to discern right and wrong, to link China and the world abroad, and to connect the world.

在新的时代条件下,党的新闻舆论工作的职责和使命是:高举旗帜、引领导向,围绕中心、服务大局,团结人民、鼓舞士气,成风化人、凝心聚力,澄清谬误、明辨是非,联接中外、沟通世界。

[…]

The key for competition among the media is the competition of talents, and at the core of media superiority is the superiority of talents. With greater acceleration [than so far], a workforce for news and public opinion work must be trained whose political determination, routine and methodology can put the party’s and the people’s mind at ease.

媒体竞争关键是人才竞争,媒体优势核心是人才优势。要加快培养造就一支政治坚定、业务精湛、作风优良、党和人民放心的新闻舆论工作队伍。

Beautiful tomorrow. What could possibly go wrong under such auspicious arrangements?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Korean Peninsula: Deploy THAAD if you have to, but provide China with an Explanation

The prospect of a North Korean nuclear arsenal can’t be promising in Beijing’s view – but appears to be preferrable to a scenario where the regime in Pyongyang would collapse and give way to South Korea’s political system, with US military close on its heels.

Given that, it is no great surprise that China doesn’t agree to sanctions that could endanger the very survival of the North Korean regime. And given that, the sanctions Beijing agreed to anyway, in negotiations with Washington’s mission to the UN that were concluded on Thursday, look as if they were unusually biting after all, even if stopping short of causing Pyongyang fatal or near-fatal calamities. After all, the sanctions’ effect depends not only on what the Security Council agrees to, but also on how far North Korea’s trading partners, including China, are prepared to go in implementing them.

What made Beijing agree to the resolution draft that should be voted on shortly? Not least fear of a regional arms race.

A Foreign Ministry official confirmed that China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin requested a meeting with South Korea’s Ambassador to Beijing Kim Jang-soo,

KBS World Radio, South Korea’s foreign broadcasting service, reported on Febuary 9.

The official told Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency that China conveyed its stance on the launch of the THAAD negotiations during that meeting. Asked about what stance China had expressed, the official said it is not appropriate to reveal content from consultations held via diplomatic channels,

the KBS report continued.

The confirmation came as China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday that Liu urgently summoned the South Korean ambassador and protested the launch of South Korea-U.S. negotiations on deploying the U.S. THAAD system on the Korean Peninsula.

In her speech to parliament, South Korean president Park Geun-hye also conjured THAAD:

The Government is making sure our military readiness posture is solid and is also making thorough preparations for nonmilitary provocations including cyber- attacks and acts of terrorism in public places.

To maintain robust deterrence against the North, the Government is enhancing the Korea-U.S. combined defense capability and engaging in consultations with the United States to improve our alliance’s missile defense posture. The start of formal consultations to deploy the THAAD system to US Forces Korea, as announced on February 7, is also part of these efforts.

Eleven days earlier, Park had been on the phone, talking to Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping. The conversation didn’t appear to bear fruit, and certainly not the way Park had hoped for. China was “still unprepared” to “think about this in larger strategic terms”, Yonhap newsagency quoted Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution. Pollack was also quoted as pointing out

how much effort Park has put in to strengthen relations with China and build personal ties with Xi, including her attendance at a massive Chinese military parade in September that was shunned by Western leaders.

“President Park’s expectation, I think legitimate expectation, was that she wanted a different answer from China. She’s made a lot of commitment to China,” the expert said, noting that Park risked domestic and international criticism to attend the September parade.

“She expected something in return, and so far, she has not received that,” he said.

Broadly speaking, Seoul’s plans for tough sanctions against Pyongyang had been frustrated. But there was a pressure point on Beijing. While Seoul had reportedly long been reluctant – or ambiguous – about the idea of deploying THAAD as part of American military defense, the South Korean leadership quickly warmed up to it during the past six or seven weeks.

And Beijing – not terribly successfully, it seems – tried to find an effective line in its communications with South Korea. In a meeting with Kim Jong-in, leader of South Korea’s largest opposition party, Chinese ambassador Qiu Guohong (邱国洪) – quoted by Chosun Ilbo as in turn quoted by Huanqiu Shibao

[…] emphasized that Sino-South Korean relations could thus be negatively affected, as mentioned at the beginning of this [Huanqiu, that is] article. The [Chosun Ilbo] report says that Qiu Guohong had expressed the Chinese position in three points. Firstly, the South Korean government says it would limit the radar reach and lower the performance of ‘THAAD’, but the Chinese government cannot possibly believe that. As a friend, China can believe South Korea’s promises, but the problem is that America has all powers in the deployment, the upgrades, and adjustments made to ‘THAAD’. In the end, China and Russia would become target objects, too.” Secondly, this [THAAD] issue would destroy the regional strategic balance, cause an arms race, and fire up nervousness and disquiet.” Ambassador Qiu reminded the South Korean side of the question of how South Korea’s seucrity should, under such circumstances, be guaranteed? His last point was that “the South-Korean-American consultations concerning ‘THAAD’ had, to some extent, dispersed the international community’s unanimous reaction concerning sanctions against North Korea. Without this issue, maybe there would be a new, passed, UN resolution already.”

[…..] 强调,中韩关系可能因此受到负面影响,这就出现了本文开头的一席话。报道称,邱国洪就中方立场大致说明了3点:首先,“韩国政府虽然声称会缩短预警雷达的探测距离,降低‘萨德’性能,但中国政府无法相信。作为好朋友,中国可以相信韩国的承诺,但问题是美国拥有部署、升级、调整‘萨德’的所有权利,最终中国和俄罗斯也会成为瞄准对象”;其次,该问题会“打破地区的战略均衡,引发地区军备竞赛,助长紧张和不安”。邱大使提醒韩方,如果出现这样的局面,韩国的安全是否能得到保障?最后一点是,“韩美协商‘萨德’问题相当于分散了国际社会对朝鲜制裁的一致应对。如果没有该问题,新的联合国决议案可能已经获得通过”。

The South Korean government wasn’t amused and summoned Qiu to the foreign ministry on Wednesday to discuss his comments during his talks with the country’s opposition leader. This was no dramatic response to a questionable Chinese move, but an unusually strong reaction by South Korean standards, in its relations with Beijing. And there is no indication that Seoul will drop the idea of THAAD deployment again, after what appears to have been a successful game of hardball with Beijing, forced upon the clestial kingdom by three unruly barbarians: America, South Korea, and – not least – the North Korean “ally”.

On Thursday, the day when Beijing’s and Washington’s missions to the UN agreed to the resolution draft on sanctions against North Korea, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi apparently struck a more conciliatory tone, saying that the decision was ultimately up to South Korea, and China understood the desire of the United States and South Korea to ensure the defense of their own countries. However, China’s legitimate security concerns also needed to be taken into account, Reuters quoted Wang as saying – an explanation must be provided to China.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Review (3): “People’s Daily” lauds Xi Jinping, the People Person

Those with common aspirations can’t be separated by mountains or seas (志合者,不以山海为远), People’s Daily wrote in an editorial on Thursday, adding that State Chairman Xi Jinping went on travels abroad eight times in 2015, visiting fourteen countries on four continents and attending nine international conferences, meeting 62 state leaders and telling the gospel, or writing articles about, new-type international relations (新型国际关系), the building of one-belt-one-road, maintenance of world peace and development, and other important issues. All that by telling the “China story” (讲述“中国故事”), explaining the “China opportunity” (阐明“中国机遇”), stating the “China Program” (提出“中国方案”), and expressing “China’s attitude” (表达“中国态度”), thus leaving a deep impression on the international community. People’s Daily mentions the Bao’ao Asia Forum in March, the APEC summit in November, the G20 summit, and, also in November, Xi’s visit to Singapore in November.

Obviously, the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) also features prominently in the People’s Daily’s review.

This the-Chairman-and-the World series also included a review – one day earlier, on Wednesday – of how Xi Jinping told China’s story and how he let the world understand China, how he “told China’s story well, and well disseminated China’s voice” (讲好中国故事,传播好中国声音). This review included quotes from how Xi recognized the role of two-hundred Soviet pilots who had died on the Chinese battlefield, how he published an article in Vietnamese media about how the story of Tu Yoyo’s detection of artesemin and Sino-Vietnamese relations were connected, how the U.S. and China had fought together in World War 2, how, during his visit to Britain, Xi interlinked the lives of Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu, and how, generally speaking, Xi Jinping was good at giving friendly, trust-enhancing talks or speeches or writing articles of the same successful kind.

The editorial’s summary:

Interaction between countries depends on peoples‘ attachment to each other, and the peoples‘ attachment to each other depends on communication from heart to heart. Xi Jinping makes use of vivid stories, catches foreign audiences‘ interest, and sparks strong sympathetic responses. At the same time, he unobtrusively and imperceptibly changes listeners‘ stereotypes about China, dispels some existing misunderstandings, showing brilliant diplomatic wisdom.

国之交在于民相亲,民相亲在于心相通。习近平用生动的故事,抓住了国外听众的兴趣点,引发强烈的共鸣。同时,他使国外听众在潜移默化中,改变了对中国的刻板印象,消除了一些曾经的误解,展现出卓越的外交智慧。

An unobtrusive and imperceptible (潜移默化, see quote above) moral influence had been an issue close to Xi Jinping’s heart since January 2012 – if not much earlier.

There can be no other summary concerning Xi Jinping’s communicative skills, than the stuff composed by People’s Daily this week – it’s a long-term script. It would seem that the outgoing and incoming politburos, during summer and fall 2012, agreed that the CCP’s grip on power in China needed some of the personality cult that had accompanied Mao Zedong, but – for different reasons – Deng Xiaoping, too.

The good story of Xi Jinping’s people-person virtues probably started around winter 2012/13, with stories the party’s secretary-general (but not yet state chairman) Xi Jinping sat cross-legged on the farming family’s kang, how he blessed rural China in the 1970s, whereever he went as a young cadre, and how villagers were in tears when he left from there.

And once Xi was “elected” state chairman in March 2013,

Wearing a dark-blue suit and a red tie, the membership [badge] hanging on his chest, Xi Jinping, tall of stature, stood smiling, calmly and self-confident. His voice clear, bright and vigorous, looking frank and honest, resolute and steadfast, he revealed the power of stirring people to action.

身着深色西装,佩带红色领带,胸挂出席证,身材高大的习近平微笑站立,从容自信。清朗而浑厚的声音,坦诚而刚毅的目光,透出激奋人心的力量。


“The Xi Factor”, BBC short documentary

Stay tuned for more great deeds in 2016. The CCP script is demanding it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

2015 Review (2): China Radio International sheds ten Subsidiaries after 2014 Inspection

According to reports published in China’s online press on May 6, 2015, the “4th inspection team”, one out of at least thirteen inspection teams coordinated by Wang Qishan‘s central leading group for inspection work ( 中央巡视工作领导小组), conducted an inspection at China Radio International (CRI) from November 27, to December 26, 2014, i. e. a year ago. Apparently, the inspection wasn’t designed to kill, but rather to rectify or cut back on some particularly thriving business within the CRI empire. Either way, no criminal offenses were mentioned in the May-6 reports. The 4th inspection team provided CRI’s party branch with feedback on February 5, 2015, making recommendations for stronger financial management and control, and enhanced budget supervision and reporting systems.

According to the same reports or bulletins, the Guoguang company, CRI’s investment vehicle, closed (撤销) four of CRI’s subsidiary companies and withdrew (退出) from another six companies, in what appears to be the consequences of the inspection. Guoguang also caught Reuters‘ attention in an unrelated report published in November this year.

China Radio International postal envelope

According to World of Radio in spring 2015, Keith Perron, a broadcasting entrepreneur from Taiwan, suggested that a Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference  committee was looking

into the effectiveness of shortwave as a [unreadable] platform for China Radio International.

This may or may not have been the case, but apparently, rumors during spring, ahead of the “4th inspection team’s” feedback session with the CRI party officials, were surfacing, and suggested that in one or another way, CRI’s nerves were being tested.

CRI director Wang Gengnian ‘s (王庚年) position apparently hasn’t been affected by the inspection or its results. On Thursday, he signed a cooperation agreement on behalf of CRI, with an organization  named MKP Media (or MKR Media?), represented by Ivan Polyakov of the Russian-Chinese business council (俄中双边企业家理事会), if this report describes CRI’s new Russian partners correctly. China’s chief state councillor Li Keqiang and Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev were present at the signing ceremony.

According to CRI’s German service, the CRI-MKP/MKR cooperation is meant to strengthen cooperation within the framework of the “Chinese-Russian Year of Media Exchange, 2016 – 2017”.

____________

Related

» Links concerning MKP Media, Jichang Lulu, Dec 21, 2015
» Media Exchange Year, Xinhua, Oct 9/10, 2015

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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Big Musical Statement: Pyongyang pulls the Plug on Beijing Performance

It had been no small affair: when the Moranbong Band’s train entered China on Wednesday, passing through China’s border city Dandong, the Korean Workers Party’s deputy propaganda director was on board, the “political knowledge office” (政知局), particularly designed by the Chinese authorities to disseminate truth, knowledge and common sense through the “social media”, reported on Friday. Some time earlier, a number of North Korean officials, Kim Ki-nam and China’s ambassador to North Korea, Li Jinjun (李进军), among them, had seen the military pop band off in Pyongyang. In August, the “political knowledge office”, republished here by the Shenyang Daily website, had successfully performed in Moscow.

It’s seen as the latest sign that the two countries’ longstanding alliance is on the mend again, after being strained by North Korea’s third nuclear test in 2013,

the BBC wrote on Wednesday.

On December 10, one day after entering China through Dandong, a city right on the Sino-Korean border, the troupe reached Beijing. The visit, originally scheduled to last from December 10 to 15, had been announced on very short notice, and surprisingly, according to the “political knowledge office” who reportedly said on their Weibo account that they had only got the information when the Moranbong Band, and their colleagues from North Korea’s State Merited Chorus, were already travelling.

After Liu Yunshan‘s visit to Pyongyang, the highest level of North Korean culture was now visiting Beijing, Shenyang Daily online wrote on Friday, still leaning on the correct information from the “political knowledge office”.

Maybe next time, China’s media should only get and publish the information once the two North Korean bands are on their way back to Pyongyang – and only after having performed on all agreed occasions.

The coming hours or days may tell what went “wrong”, be it on the “working level”, as stated by Xinhua, be it at the Chinese and North Korean top level – if the North Koreans had planned the propaganda implosion from the beginning.

When it comes to the spoilt bunch that claims to be North Korea’s rightful leaders, and their funny stuff, Beijing’s face skin is already very thick. But it can’t be stuff of dreams to be China’s ambassador to the mysterious northeastern neighbor.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

We vow to Thee, Big Neighbor (maybe next time)

Newsflash: The long-awaited performance of North Korea’s Moranbong Band in Beijing has been cancelled. Xinhua newsagency reportedly cites communication reasons on the working level (因工作层面间沟通衔接原因) as causing the abrupt cancellation.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CRI’s “Journalism” Talent Show: no Belief in Facts

The innovation experience described at the lianghui seminar in March 2014 wasn’t exactly new: one of the borrowed-boat reporters mentioned on the seminar by China Radio International‘s (CRI) Zhang Hui, “Andrea Yu”, apparently had an earlier appearance at a CCP-conducted press conference, in November 2012, on the last day of the 18th National Congress. A Guardian article published online on November 14, 2012, contains a link to a soundfile where an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) correspondent interviewed Yu.

Sina, apparently quoting or republishing a post from the Chinese Herald (澳洲日报) from March 2014, i. e. also from the 2014 two-sessions season, listed a question from “Louise”, also from CAMG, who asked a question to Zhou Xiaochuan (周小川), governor of China’s central bank.

A foreign correspondent apparently lost patience with the silly theater, and shouted: “Give foreign journalists a chance” (给外国媒体一个机会!)  As he was allowed to ask his question, he hastened to make it clear that he was a real foreign journalist. (Which is confirmed by the article.)

The Sina-published article also mentioned a sham reporter from a Hong Kong TV station, but of course, opportunities to speculate become endless under circumstances like these.

Maybe it’s just China Radio International’s talent show. Journalism it is not. But if you have little else to show for, cynicism may be the attitude of choice – and even a mould for “innovative” propaganda.

It’s not necessarily limited to China. According to the Kyiv Post in September this year, Ukraine-born journalist Peter Pomerantsev described the Kremlin’s propaganda as a truthless narrative:

“The Kremlin narrative,” he says, “now is that ‘there is no truth out there, and you’ll never find it; but go with us because our emotional content is more vital.” That promotes cynicism and “cynicism breaks down critical thinking” because at its root “is something quite medieval and emotional – a world of myths and storytelling.”

“When you don’t believe in facts,” Pomerantsev concludes, “you are just left with that.”

 

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