Posts tagged ‘accountability’

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, 1950 – 1965

The New York Times carried an article on Tuesday, describing the aftermath of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche‘s (Tibetan: བསྟན་འཛིན་བདེ་ལེགས་; Chinese: 丹增德勒仁波切) death in a prison in Chongqing. Tenzin Delek had been in prison since 2002/2003, and there’s a Wikipedia entry about his background and story. The authorities reportedly turned down a request by Tenzin Delek’s sister to preserve the body for 15 days as demanded by Tibetan Buddhist tradition. An autopsy, or any chance of one, isn’t mentioned in the reports.

Amnesty International published a report on Tenzin Deleg’s case in September 2003, less than a year after his arrest, citing doubts that detention and trial had been up to standard.

According to a Reuters report, on July 16, Sichuan Province’s propaganda department said it was unaware of the case, and an official who picked up the telephone at the provincial police department said she had not heard of the case.

Three days later, on July 19, the BBC‘s Mandarin service quoted Xinhua newsagency as saying that Tenzin Delek had died of a heart attack:

Because Tenzin Delek frequently refused medical treatment or medication, he died from heart disease.

丹增德勒是因为在狱中经常拒绝就医或者吃药,患心脏病而死亡。

The BBC also quoted Tenzin Delek’s sister (Chinese name: Zhuoga or 卓嘎) as saying that the authorities had not given her an explanation about the cause of her brother’s death, which had added to her doubts.

According to Xinhua, as quoted by the BBC, a prison warden had found Tenzin Delek on July 12, and that the prisoner had stopped breathing during an afternoon nap. According to the Xinhua report, he died in an intensive care unit, an hour after having been found.

Reacting to a call from Washington to investigate Tenzin Delek’s death, Huanqiu Shibao reportedly wrote that America should forget about dragging another “criminal” out of prison, and described Washington’s attention to human rights issues as a method to maintain self-confidence while facing China’s rise.

The actual wording of the Huanqiu article can be found here.

The New York Times article mentioned at the beginning of this post also reported that Tenzin Delek’s sister and niece were taken away from a restaurant in Chengdu by police officers on Friday, and hadn’t been seen since (i. e. not by July 21). It doesn’t become clear to me if this is the same sister in both cases. The name of the 52-year-old arrested sister (Dolkar Lhamo) sounds different from the one mentioned earlier in the article.

Tsering Woeser has collected a number of articles concerning Tenzin Delek this month.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

JR’s Press Review (Europe): Resignation, Self-Pity, Defiant Pride, Public Diplomacy

A wave of hatred against Germans is rolling through Europe, writes Germany’s Die Welt, a (comparatively) conservative paper. In an article published on Sunday, its European correspondent calls on Germans to learn from Britain how to handle hatred from others. It doesn’t work, the correspondent suggests, “to pay still more” (Wir können uns also zerknirscht an die Brust schlagen, weil wir nicht noch viel mehr bezahlen).

Hang on – how much have we paid yet? How much have we earned from Euroland? And who is we?

Obviously, no propaganda will work without some aspects of truth, but it has to be far-fetched if you want to argue like Die Welt: for example, it is true that the storm in “social media” about Angela Merkel comforting a teenage refugee, but keeping to her party line all the same, was silly. (But why mention this when Greece is the topic?)

It is also correct to point out that other countries welcome a German scapegoat so as to deflect criticism on failed policies at home.

But to be kind of convincing, Die Welt shouldn’t talk the same talk as those it tries to criticize. Yes, painting Germany as “nazi”, as is done by some of Germany’s critics, is propaganda. But what hurts German elites is hardly the crude message itself. You don’t become a top politican or press man if you take this kind of stuff to heart. The effectiveness of the message is their real problem. Die Welt is now painting Germans who keep to the – once near-unanimous – idea that a European Union must be a union of equals as wussies who can’t handle their world-war-two guilt complex. That move is as stupid as painting Wolfgang Schäuble with that moustache.

The Tagesspiegel reminds its readers of a message by German federal president Joachim Gauck from the Munich Security Conference in 2014, when Gauck allegedly said that Germans needed to “grow up” (Erwachsenwerden). That too was in a different context – more military engagement. Gauck didn’t even talk about growing up. But the word was used in many press interpretations of the speech, and the Tagesspiegel appears to have become used to it.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung tries a kind of constructive approach: “How Germany can improve its image”. More public diplomacy is needed, the paper quotes experts. More and more countries would otherwise distance themselves from the concept of a united Europe.

Maybe some public diplomacy at home wouldn’t hurt, for a start. If you have one foreign, and one domestic message, it won’t work either way. The problem is that clichés, rather than facts and causes, rule the debate. To some extent, this kind of press may actually satisfy the readership, or at least meet an existing demand. But above all, it saves the press from the need to discuss real issues.

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Notes

Swiss paper 20 Minuten (online) linked to all the above three German press articles yesterday, plus the Guardian, and La Stampa. “Social media” get a mention. 20 Minuten tries to keep neutral, calling the Hashtags #BoycottGermany and #ThisIsACoup “more poisionous” than the British and Italian press samples, but also referring to some German reaction patterns as resignation, self-pity, and defiant pride.

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Updates

» Growth all but impossible, M Pettis, Febr 25, 2015

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

International Radio Serbia gets axed in “Privatization Program”

A Radio Jugoslavija QSL card from the 1980s

A Radio Jugoslavija QSL card from the 1980s

The Serbian government intends to close International Radio Serbia (aka Radio Yugoslavia) on July 31. The broadcaster’s statement:

Dear listeners, by the decision of Serbian government, International Radio Serbia – Radio Yugoslavia – ceases to exist on 31 July 2015. Thus our fruitful cooperation with you and our tradition of continously informing the diaspora and the public worldwide of the current events, business and cultural capacities, beautiful landmarks, culture and tradition of Serbia and former Yugoslavia in 12 languages, via short waves, the Internet and the satellite will be terminated. Thank you for having listened to us and for having trusted us for more than 79 years.

It’s strange to think that a country with official – and public – views that frequently differ from the European mainstream would shut its own voice down, but that’s what Belgrade appears to be doing.

One might argue that Tanjug newsagency (also a news organization with quite some history, founded in 1943), would provide an alternative once Radio Serbia is off the air (and offline), but there are at least two drawbacks. One is that Tanjug is only available in Serbian and in English, while Radio Serbia speaks to the world in twelve languages. And the other is that Tanjug isn’t a broadcaster – you don’t get them on the radio.

It’s nice to know that Serbia-China relations are very good, isn’t it? And yes, Tanjug, quoting Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic, will let us know – they’ll even let us know more than Radio Serbia – but only in English. And sure, CCTV will let the Chinese people know – in the evening news, because, after all, the guy from Belgrade met with Zhang Gaoli. But look what you’ll get with this searchword combination: 托米斯拉夫·尼科利奇 “张高丽”. Or with another one: “尼科利奇” “张高丽”.

Sorry to lay this on you, government of Serbia, but there’s no Tanjug among these results. If you think most Chinese people – old and young, high-ranking officials or even students (chances might be somewhat better there) feel easy with English, you may still want to go ahead, though. Good luck with that – God knows what your management consultants may beputting into your heads.

Another point in Radio Serbia’s favor is the coverage of culture and daily life. Most people will be at least as interested in that, as in the world of politics and diplomacy. Or, as Johann Gottfried Herder put it more than two centuries ago, when explaining his goals with the “Letters for the Advancement of Humanity”: in this gallery of different ways of thinking, aspirations and desires,

we certainly get to know periods and nations more deeply than on the deceptive, dreary route of their political and war history. In the latter, we seldom see more of  a people than how it let itself be governed and killed; in the former we learn how it thought, what it hoped and wished for, how it enjoyed itself, and how it was led by its teachers or its inclinations.

This isn’t to say that International Radio Serbia would be a beacon of lofty enlightenment concerning the country – but you do get to listen to Serbian music and cultural descriptions, for example.

A statement by Radio Serbia’s German service, published on June 30, mentions media privatization in Serbia. According to a news article published by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), 47 state-owned media outlets were put on sale on July 1, and should be completed by October. And, not surprisingly if you know the European Union (or the role it frequently plays as a scapegoat, blamed for unpopular policies by national politicians, when they are out of more reasonable points), the Serbian government, according to BIRN, says media privatization is an important part of the pre-accession process with the European Union that will enable Belgrade to open Chapters 23 and 24 of the negotiations on the judiciary.

According to Radio Serbia on June 18, the original deadline for privatization, i. e. June 30, wasn’t met, and Minister of Culture and Information Ivan Tasovac has stated that […] if the process of privatization of the state-owned media is not completed by June 30, it will certainly be commenced by that deadline, and then completed over the next four months at the latest.

The German service’s June 30 post mentioned a debate in parliament where members demanded the inclusion of Radio Serbia into the new timeframe, with a deadline of October 31. However, a total of 35 amendments was rejected by the government majority (three of them referring to Radio Serbia). The most eloquent advocacy reportedly came from the leader of the Socialist Party group Dijana Vukomanović, who emphasized both the multi-lingual program range and the costs – several times lower than those of Tanjug (“dessen Ausgaben mehrfach niedriger sind als die Agentur Tanjug”).

The article, tinged with bitterness, comes to the conclusion that

in this way, the incumbent Serbian government, just like its predecessors since the year 2000, has demonstrated that it is only interested in domestic politics, while the country’s promotion abroad is of no priority.

It appears to be true that the government was in no mood to have a genuine public debate. But the question remains why. If privatization and EU standards were the reason, Radio Serbia could still continue as a media corporation under public law. Many EU countries run broadcasting houses under this formula – to my knowledge, no EU objections have ever been reported.

But then, different standards may be applied after all – and a Reuters report of June 30 mentions not only Brussels, but another big player, too. According to Reuters, Belgrade plans to trim the public sector under a 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) three-year precautionary loan-deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Would that be domestic or foreign politics?

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Remarks

Radio Serbia runs a Chinese service. However, chances to listen to the station on shortwave appear to be small in China, as the target area for the only broadcast in Chinese appears to be Europe, at 16:30 UTC on 9635 kHz.

Programs for Europe, in Italian, Russian, English, Spanish, Serbian, German, and French, start at 17:30 UTC on 6100 kHz, and end at 23:30 or 24:00 UTC. Unfortunately, China Radio International (CRI) broadcasts on the same frequency from 20:00 to 23:00 UTC, but usually stays in the background, with a fairly readable signal from Radio Serbia.

There’s an online petition calling for the continuation of Radio Serbia, and a tradition of nearly eighty years.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

“Trust is the Foundation of Security”: Chinese National Internet Information Office Director visits Berlin

Phoenix/Ifeng is a media company from Hong Kong. Its Chinese website (simplified characters) is read by a large constituency of mainland Chinese readers who appear to base some trust on the fact that Phoenix is a Hong Kong company.

The CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China), whose director Lu Wei visited Berlin on July 2, only published a photo showing Lu Wei and German interior minister Thomas de Maizière initially, but added a release based on the Phoenix article on July 7.

The following is a translation of the Phoenix/Ifeng article.

“State Internet Information Office” director Lu Wei and federal interior minister de Maizière, photo op, July 2, 2015. Click photo for source.

Main Link: Renew Internet Security policies, Safeguard the State and the People’s Life Security (鲁炜:更新互联网安全政策 确保国家和民众生活安全), Phoenix/Ifeng, July 3, 2015

Chinese National Internet Information Office director Lu Wei arrived in Berlin for a visit on July 2, and met with German federal ministers of the interior and for economic affairs and energy. He also visited the Network Security Center established in Berlin by European companies and said that China would like to strengthen cooperation with international companies and research institutions to jointly administer China’s internet security issues.

中国国家互联网信息办公室主任鲁炜2号到访柏林,先后同德国内政部以及经济能源部官员会面。他还走访欧洲企业在柏林设立的网络安全中心,表示中国愿意同国际企业、研究机构加强合作,共治中国的互联网安全问题。

At the ministry of the interior, interior minister Thomas de Maiziere held talks with Lu Wei. Lu Wei also met with the ministry of economic affairs and energy’s state secretary*) Matthias Machnig on the same day.

在德国内政部,内政部长德梅齐埃同鲁炜举行会谈。鲁炜当天还同德国经济能源部国务秘书马赫尼西会面。

During the talks, the German officials expressed their interest in China’s economic development, and the development of China’s internet industry in particular. and said that Germany actively revised and supervised regulations, making sure that all foreign companies in Germany were treated equally.

在交谈中,德国官员向鲁炜表达了他们对中国经济发展,尤其是中国互联网产业发展的关注,并说德国在积极修订监管法规,确保所有外国企业在德国都被一视同仁。

Lu Wei also went to Nokia’s network security center in Berlin on that day, experienced the latest network security control technology there personally, and listened to experts’ explanations about how prevent malware from intruding into all kinds of trades, as well as to how to create more trustworthy internet security systems, and other topics.

鲁炜当天还前往位于柏林的诺基亚网络安全中心,亲身体验了这里的最新网络安全控制技术,听这里的技术专家介绍如何防范恶意软件对社会各行业的侵扰,以及如何打造更值得信赖的互联网安全系统等话题。

Lu Wei said that the internet isn’t just a techological issue, but also related to social issues of the entire humanity. China had always believed that trust is the foundation of security.

鲁炜说,互联网安全不仅是技术话题,也是关系到全人类的社会话题,中方一直相信,信任是安全的基础。

He used Nokia’s 150 years of development as an example, saying that only socially responsible multinational companies could develop in the long run.

他又以诺基亚150年的发展过程为例,说有社会责任感的跨国企业,才能发展得更久远。

Lu Wei said that China would update its internet security policies, with the core goal to guarantee state security, and security for the life of the people. He also said that China had always paid great attention to policies concerning foreign internet companies’ development in China because this was related to China’s policy of opening up, and China’s attitude of openness had not changed.

鲁炜说,中国还将更新互联网安全政策,核心目标是确保国家的安全,以及民众的生活安全。他还提到,中国对外国互联网企业在华发展的政策一直很重视,因为这关系到中国的开放政策,而中国对外开放的态度是不变的。

Besides meeting important members of the German government, Lu Wei visited a number of companies and research institutes, and spoke at the Third Sino-German Internet Industry Roundtable conference, explaining the development and challenges faced by China’s internet industry.

除了同德国政要会面外,鲁炜在德国访问期间,还会参观多个企业和研究院所,并在3号出席中德互联网产业圆桌会议,致辞介绍中国互联网产业的发展以及所面临的挑战。

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Footnote

*) A state secretary in Germany is one of usually several secretaries next to the minister him- or herself, one rank further down in the bureaucracy.

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Related

» Industrie 4.0 auch mit China, FAZ, July 14, 2015
» Von Festnahmen überschattet, Die Welt, July 14, 2015
» 据凤凰卫视报道, CAC, July 7, 2015
» Deutsche Unternehmen in China, WiWo, June 30, 2015
» Europe targets U.S. Web Firms, WSJ, Nov 27, 2014
» Aneinander vorbei, China Monitor, Oct 18, 2014
» Noch stärker zusammenarbeiten, Bavaria, April 11, 2013

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Ma Ying-jeou on War Commemorations: CCP should face History Honestly

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou said on Tuesday that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) commemorations of the Japanese War were manipulating history in an unacceptable way. Ma spoke on a Special Exhibition on the Truth about the Japanese War (對日抗戰真相特展).

According to Radio Taiwan International ‘s (RTI) Chinese service, Ma Ying-jeou said that remarks by former Chinese leader Hu Jintao during the 60th Japanese War commemorations hadn’t been correct either. According to Ma, Hu had said that the KMT army had fought the frontal battles against the Japanese, while the CCP had fought the Japanese behind enemy lines. In fact, Ma said, KMT troops had fought both kinds of war. However, Hu Jintao’s remarks had been closer to the truth than the way mainland Chinese media were now painting a picture with the CCP as the leading force in the war of resistance.

President Ma said: Mainland reports emphasize again that the war of resistance had been CCP-led. We cannot accept this, in the light of the sacrifices of so many officers and soldiers. One can’t talk to a point where inaccurate situations emerge.

馬總統說:『(原音)大陸報導又再強調抗戰是中共所領導,這是我們所不能接受的,因為這麼多官兵犧牲,不能說到後來還是出現不真實的情況。』

At another venue on Tuesday, a symposium on the Second Sino-Japanese War, Ma said that events marking the victory over the Japanese in WWII were not affecting relations between Taiwan and Japan, RTI’s English section reports.

“I think we should focus on the issues at hand. [We should] have empathy and a clear concept of what is right and wrong. That’s the basis of making friends, and a basis for enabling the Chinese-speaking community and the Japanese people to build a long-standing friendship.”

In Taiwanese CNA newsagency’s quotation:

I have learned that when outsiders address my attitude towards Japan, they often believe that I belong to an anti-Japanese camp, because I frequently attend Japanese-war commemoration events, and because of my support for comfort women, and there are others who, because of my acknowledgement of Yoichi Hatta‘s contributions for Taiwan’s farming population, think of me as belonging to a “pro-Japan camp”. I don’t think that I’m belonging to either. I’m in the Friends-of-Japan camp, because I believe that taking matters on their merits, to feel for others, and clear distinction between kindness and resentment is the way real friends interact with each other, and it is on this principle that the Chinese nation and the Japanese nation can built lasting friendship.

我發現外界討論到我對日本的態度時,常常因為我常常參加抗日的紀念活動,並且支持慰安婦,而說我是反日派;也有人因為我肯定八田與一對台灣農民的貢獻,說我是「親日派」,我相信我都不是,我是「友日派」,因為我認為「就事論事、將心比心、恩怨分明」才是真正朋友相處之道,而這樣的原則,也才能真正讓我們中華民族與大和民族,建立可大、可久的友誼。

A Beijing-leaning Hong Kong news agency, CRNTT (中國評論通訊社), writes that the exhibition was organized by Taiwan’s ministry of defense. According to the report, Ma said that while the CCP did play a role in the war of resistance against Japan, the war had been led by the government of the Republic of China and Chiang Kai-shek, and this was an irrevocable fact which needed to be honestly faced. The CCP’s involvement had been limited, and this needed to be honestly acknowledged, CRNTT quotes the Taiwanese president.

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Related

» China’s press commemorates WW2, May 11, 2015

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Friday, July 3, 2015

Argentinian Radio on Strike

Radio Argentina al Exterior (RAE) QSL card, 1980s

Radio Argentina al Exterior (RAE) QSL card, 1980s. The station is still active on shortwave in a number of languages – Spanish, Portuguese, English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese.

Radio Nacional employees went on a 24-hours’ strike at 6 a.m. local time on Thursday (3 a.m. UTC), and there will be another strike on Monday, July 6, also starting at 6 a.m., writes APSF (Asociación de Prensa de Santa Fe), a labor union. According to the notice, the strikes are motivated by demands for a rise in payment for all employees at the country’s public radio, and demands to put an end to staff precarization (i. e. to enter permanent work contracts).

A blog post by Prensa Radio Nacional writes that patience has a limit, and that the listeners must know this., apparently defending the radio staff against accusations from the broadcasting authorities.

The workers who are today accused of letting their audience down are exactly those who prevented privatization and thanks to whom we still have this public radio you like to listen to.
This radio today is not the fruit of those in the spotlight, but of the silent efforts made by technicians and journalists in the durable station plant.

Los trabajadores a los que hoy acusan de dejar sin “aire” a los oyentes son los mismos que impidieron  en los 90 los intentos de privatización y gracias a ello, tenemos hoy esta radio pública que a ustedes les gusta escuchar.
La radio actual no es fruto de unos iluminados sino del silencioso  esfuerzo de los operadores técnicos y periodistas de la planta estable de la emisora.

Director Maria Seoane and vice director Vicente Muleiro hadn’t met with delegates from the committees for years, writes Prensa Radio Nacional, and kept focusing on small issues rather than the pressing ones, according to the blogpost.

They say that they belong to the national and popular camp [apparently a union motto], but they are not in a dialogue with the workers, whom they ignore and whom they try to make invisible.

Ellos dicen pertenecer al campo Nacional y Popular pero no dialogan con los trabajadores, los ningunean y tratan de invisibilizarlos.

This strike could have been avoided, and as journalists at the information service we like our work, despite zero recognition from the part of the authorities.

Este paro se podría haber evitado, a los periodistas del Servicio Informativo nos gusta nuestro trabajo, a pesar del nulo reconocimiento que existe por parte de las autoridades.

The criticism follows these quotes but is, unfortunately, beyond my very limited language skills.

The strike includes Argentine foreign radio, Radiodifusión Argentina al Exterior (RAE).

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Related

H/t to Medios y Opinión‘s link collection, July 2, 2015

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Zhou Yongkang gets Life

A pretty fair comment by the BBC’s Carrie Gracie there »,

and a pretty prescient look onto what might be Xi Jinping‘s present tense and future here:

 

The BBC assessment also contains some Weibo utterances – frightening examples for what alcohol, a lack of good sex, and tons of ham-handed propaganda can do to the human brain:

“Tiger Zhou didn’t escape lawful punishment. It should ring a warning bell for others”, “Support justice. Everyone should obey laws!”, “He knows law but breaks law. He deserves to be punished. We’re determined to battle corruption” …

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Related

» How safe will he be in 2023, Dec 13, 2014

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Twenty Years ago: Island Democracy seeks Recognition

1. A Democracy introduces itself

It had been a long and challenging journey, the president said. But there he was, at the lectern at Cornell University, his alma mater, delivering his Olin lecture.

He represented a country with a per-capita income of USD 12,000, its international trade totalling US$180 billion in 1994, and foreign exchange reserves of over US$99 billion, more than those of any other nation in the world except Japan.

His country had developed from a developing country to an industrialized country, and, in a peaceful transition, into a democracy.

Almost every president of the world may tell this kind of story. But this one, told on June 9, 1995, at Cornell University, was a true story. And the president who told it wasn’t welcomed by his colleague Bill Clinton, but shunned instead.

There were no official diplomatic relations between the visiting president’s country, Taiwan, and the United States. Washington recognized the Chinese government in Beijing, which claimed to represent both China and Taiwan.

That the Taiwanese president in 1995, Lee Teng-hui, had been allowed to visit the US didn’t go without saying. He wasn’t a state guest, but the university’s guest.

But his concern wasn’t that of agricultural economist or an academic – it was a politician’s concern:

I deem this invitation to attend the reunion at Cornell not only a personal honor, but, more significantly, an honor for the 21 million people of the Republic of China on Taiwan. In fact, this invitation constitutes recognition of their remarkable achievements in developing their nation over the past several decades. And it is the people of my nation that I most want to talk about on this occasion.

He only fulfilled this promise by half, if at all. Much of his talk was about himself: how he had listened in America and in Taiwan, and how he had learned. That he spoke on behalf of his people. That he heard the yearning of his people to contribute to the international community, with the Taiwan experience, development and democracy.

2. Lee Teng-hui

Even back then, twenty years ago, Lee was seen as the “father” of Taiwanese democracy, even if the ultimate goal or final success of democratization hadn’t yet been reached.

Like all Taiwanese of his generation (and the generation before), Lee grew up as a subject of the Japanese Emperor. From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan had been a Japanese colony. As a colony, Taiwan’s experience with Japan was less bad than China’s in the Japanese war from 1937 to 1945. And parts of Taiwanese population – especially the elites, and not only those of the upper classes – were co-opted by the Japanese elites. Lee Teng-hui’s family was probably co-opted, too. Lee’s brother, Lee Teng-chin, was killed in the Second World War, as a member of the Japanese military. His name is registered in the internationally controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which also contains the name of 14 A-class war criminals.

Reportedly, Lee also tried Communism, out of hatred against the KMT, Chiang Kai-shek‘s Nationalist Party, that had fled to Taiwan to “recover the Chinese mainland” from there.

After Communism, Lee tried the Christian religion, apparently with lasting success. And finally, he had himself co-opted by the (more or less) hated KMT: in 1971, he joined the one-party dictatorship, became minister of agriculture shortly afterwards, then Taipei mayor in 1978, and vice-president in 1984. Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek and his father’s successor as a Republic-of-China president on Taiwan, supported the careers of “indigenous” Taiwanese like Lee, at the cost of the faction of traditional KMT officials who had fled Taiwan along with the Chiangs.

Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988. The KMT’s central committee elected Lee Teng-hui as party chairman and made him president of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Lee had tried a lot of things, and he had achieved a lot. And he had no small plans for his country.

3. The Will of the People, the Chicken, and the Egg

What a people wants, and if it “can want” anything, is up for arguments.

When a man follows the leader, he actually follows the mass, the majority group that the leader so perfectly represents,

Jacques Ellul wrote in the 1960s, and added:

The leader loses all power when he is separated from his group; no propaganda can emanate from a solitary leader.

Basically, it seems that political leaders in democratic mass societies opportunites to shape their countries are limited. But Lee had become president in extraordinary times. Opposition groups, and “illegally” founded political parties among them, had demanded the lifting of the decades-old martial law for a long time. And when Lee began his second term as president in 1990, after the two remaining years of what had originally been Chiang Ching-kuo’s term, students occupied what is now Taipei’s Liberty Square. Once Lee had been sworn in again, he received a fifty-students delegation and promised Taiwan’s democratization, less than a year after the Tian An Men massacre in China.

Democratization was hardly only on the minds of the opposition, or on Lee’s mind. Chiang Ching-kuo might have had similar plans, even if less ambitious, and American influence probably continued to matter, too, even after Washington had switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing, in 1979. But with Chiang Kai-shek in office, a bloodbath in reaction to the 1990 events would have been much more likely than democratic reform.

4. Full Speed, 1995

Lee Teng-hui’s Cornell speech was part of the first presidential election campaign ever since the KMT had seized power in Taiwan. The mass media, still quite under KMT control, made sure that Lee’s visit to the US wouldn’t go unnoticed at home. On June 6, 1995, Taiwan’s domestic media had started coverage, and that culminated on June 10 (local time in Taiwan), with the Olin lecture.

Back then, when Lee approached a convincing election victory in March 1996, there were misgivings within the KMT about Lee’s loyalty to the KMT goal of “unification” of China and Taiwan. In summer 1999, toward the end of his first democratically legitimized presidential term (and his last term), Lee defined Taiwan’s relations with China as state-to-state relations, or at least special state-to-state relations. Not for the first time, Beijing reacted angrily to the “splittist” in Taipei’s presidential palace.

5. The “New Central Plains”

A lot seems to suggest that in 2000, when his presidency ended, Lee helped to bring about a victory of the oppositional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and their presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian. That spelled completion of the Taiwanese democratization project, but at the cost of Lee’s KMT.

After that, Lee continued his search for ways and visions for Taiwan. In “Taiwan’s Position”, a book published in 1999, Lee focused on his country’s Chinese heritage, but without making clear if he referred to China or Taiwan.

My active advocacy for  the “reform of heart and soul” in recent years is based on my hope to make society leave the old framework, applying new thought, face a new era, stir new vigor, from a transformation of peoples’ hearts. This goes deeper than political reform, and it is a more difficult transformation project, but we are confident that we will, based on the existing foundations of freedom and openness, achieve the building of a new Central Plain.

近年来,我积极倡导“心灵改革”,就是希望从人心的改造做起,让我们的社会走出旧有的框架,用新的思维,面对新的时代,并激发出新的活力。这是一个比政治 改革更加深入、也更为艰巨的改造工程,但是我们有信心,可以在社会自由开放的既有基础上,完成建立“文化新中原”的目标。

Lee had first used the term of “new central plains” in 1996. Scholars kept arguing about what he actually meant with the term. But these were hardly Chiang Kai-shek’s central plains, and, no less likely, Beijing’s.

But obviously, without the KMT, who had expulsed him for his “Taiwanization” business in 2001, and without public office, Lee wasn’t nearly as influential as before. Or, as propaganda expert Jacques Ellul put it in the 1960s, Moses (isolated from the masses) is dead on the propaganda level.

Incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, again a KMT president with rather “Chinese” manners, led a technocratically efficient government, but has been lacking success in terms of propaganda – and in terms of policies that would benefit all classes of society. Now, another “Taiwanese” politician is trying her luck. Tsai Ing-wen concludes her visit to the US today. In March 2016, Taiwan will elect another president. It could be her.

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