Posts tagged ‘America’

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Taiwan cuts Shortwave Broadcasts in French and Spanish – here is why it shouldn’t

Cutting Shortwave broadcasts in French and Spanish

The French and the Spanish programs of Radio Taiwan International (RTI) are no longer broadcast on shortwave. On March 5, Radio Berlin-Brandenburg‘s (RBB) Radio Eins media magazine reported that RTI would terminate its broadcasts in German on March 25, i. e. the day when the current international shortwave frequency plan (A-18) came into effect1).

A notice was added by the Radio Eins editors a few days later, saying that RTI’s German service kept denying this information. However, Radio Eins did not name the source or sources of their information, citing rather general “trade circles” (Branchenkreise).

On March 9, in a regular mailbag program, RTI’s German service reacted to listeners’ questions concerning the shortwave issue, and stated that while the Spanish and French departments were indeed to exit shortwave with effect from March 26, the German service’s shortwave broadcasts would continue.

Seventeen days later, the German service’s denial proved correct – its broadcasts have been continued, now on their traditional summer frequency of 6185 kHz, as predicted on March 9.

In its report, Radio Eins also pointed out that Radio France Internationale (RFI) had terminated its shortwave broadcasts for Asia years ago, and that this had also put an end to Radio Taiwan International’s once lower-cost access to transmissions from France (with transmitters located at Issoudun, central France). The two international broadcasters appear to have exchanged airtime in the past.

On its website, RTI hardly (if at all) communicates the decision to terminate the shortwave broadcasts in Spanish and French. However, a month before Radio Eins wrote about RTI’s shortwave closures, shortwave-watching website swling.com had quoted from an RTI email saying that the station’s French and Spanish services would “unfortunately stop broadcasting on shortwave”. There appears to have been no mention of the German programs at the time.

Following a Trend …

RTI is following a trend among foreign radio services from industrialized countries2). As noted by Radio Eins, Radio France Internationale ended its shortwave broadcasts to Asia years ago. German foreign Radio, Deutsche Welle (DW), terminated its shortwave broadcasts in Chinese with effect from January 1, 2012. Three months earlier, DW had ended its shortwave broadcasts in German.

Earlier in 2011, the BBC and the Voice of America (VoA) had announced their Chinese programs’ withdrawals from shortwave (the VoA later reversed the decision, but BBC Mandarin kept to their exit).

One of the more contested decisions to abandon shortwave was Radio Australia‘s. It took effect by the end of January, 2017. The station made a – not terribly successful, it seems – effort to communicate the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) decision.

Radio Australia’s (now abandoned) role in informing Pacific islanders about emergency situations via shortwave was deemed essential by some critics, and Radio New Zealand (RNZ), Radio Australia’s only existing competitor on shortwave in the Pacific region, leapt at the gap left by the Australians.

But funding public diplomacy is hardly popular in most free societies. Slashed budgets may irritate or infuriate the trade or the immediate users of an abandoned service, but they will hardly become known to a wider public. After all, the (noticeable) remonstrators are usually just some listeners abroad, and apart from that, they are no voters.
In RTI’s case, the question – from the audience perspective – seems to be how prepared the target areas are for the termination of shortwave broadcasts. As for France and Spain, the answer seems to be easy: industrialized, reasonably good internet connections, and with only a few people (probably) who would still listen on shortwave anyway.
But there are drawbacks. In general – this goes for countries with a highly developed internet infrastructure and Latin America or North Africa alike – it is much harder to gain new listeners, than to retain existing ones.
RTI’s management (or the lords of their budgets) may have drawn inspiration from reports like ECLAC’s 3), discussing sharply increasing internet use and access in Latin American countries, and the Caribbean.

But the ECLAC, while optimistic about the development and prospects of the internet in Latin America, also notes that no country in the region has at least 5% of its connections with speeds of more than 15Mbps, compared to 50% in advanced countries, and there is a difference of 41 percentage points in Internet penetration between urban and rural areas in the country that has the greatest gap in the region.And a report (apparently published online in December 2016) by Statista, a Hamburg-based market research company, saw the region’s average monthly internet usage at 18.6 hours in 2016. When you leave Brazil – the leading country in terms of monthly internet usage – out of the calculation, the rate will be even lower.

If the trends indicated by the two papers continue, there may be a time when switching off shortwave makes sense (at least when considering the costs, and the pressures from the broadcasters’ funders). But the data suggests that RTI’s decision to do so came too early.

… but neglecting the Facts

One of the reasons that international broadcasters stop using shortwave frequencies is that radio is a medium used by the poor, rather than by the affluent and influential. That’s not how they communicate their decision (if there is communication at all), but the trade’s high-flown jargon suggests just that.

In a press release of May 18, 2011, less than a year before abandoning shortwave broadcasts in Chinese, German (its native language) and Hindi, Deutsche Welle wrote that by focusing on the internet in many regions of the world, “info seekers” would be reached more effectively,

… especially those who are or will be influential in their countries’ public opinion, and people who actively campaign for democracy, civil liberties and progress in authoritarian states, thus strengthening civil society.

… insbesondere insbesondere jene, die Einfluss auf die öffentliche Meinung eines Landes haben oder zukünftig haben werden, sowie Menschen, die sich in autoritären Staaten aktiv für Demokratie, Freiheitsrechte und Fortschritt einsetzen und so die Zivilgesellschaft stärken.

But nobody knows who will call the shots in a target area, ten or twenty years from now. In Venezuela, it’s an ex bus driver now. Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2011, Lula da Silva, reportedly only learned to read at the age of ten, and worked as a peanut seller and shoe shine boy as a child. Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, was born to a subsistence farming family and started his political career as a rural labor unionist.

If they had been born ten or fifteen years ago, none of them would be a likely regular internet user.

Shortwave radio may not matter as a medium, when it comes to commercial viability, as the owner of a North American shortwave radio station admitted in 1991. In that light, Facebook could be a more or less “real” alternative to shortwave radio.

But on “social media”, a foreign radio station is just one “friend” among many. There may be no studies available, but if there were some, they would probably show that shortwave listeners are a much more dedicated audience than internet users.

In short: shortwave radio remains a crucial medium, especially for Taiwan. The country will almost inevitably lose all or most of its remaining “diplomatic allies” in Latin America, as it has lost official diplomatic ties with nearly every country worldwide already. If shortwave remains crucial in Taiwan’s communications with European countries may be debatable, but to maintain Taiwan’s visibility in Latin America, there can be no doubt that shortwave would be worth the (quite manageable) costs.
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Note

1) While KBS World’s German service via Woofferton, England, is announced under the broadcasting station’s name (Korean Broadcasting Station), Radio Taiwan International’s name is ommitted. Instead, the HFCC states the operator’s company name (Babcock Communications) there. The KBS frequency is also operated by Babcock, and also from Woofferton.
2) Japan may be the only exception.
3) The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The report linked to is dated September 12, 2016.

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Related

Inclusive Internet Index, Economist Group, 2018
Abandoning Shortwave & Opportunities, Oct 3, 2014
A bottomless pit of waste, PCJ, around 2014

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Friday, March 16, 2018

OPCW: the Place to Investigate a Nerve Agent sample

One can only wish Sergei Skripal and his daughter a good and complete recovery. Skripal once helped a good cause, and suffered for it in the past. He deserves gratitude, and all former agents living under similar circumstances as he does (or did, until March 4), deserve protection. One thing is for sure: Russia’s political culture encourages lawlessness in the name of “patriotism” – suspicions as aired by Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson*) aren’t made up out of thin air. But a plausible narrative is still just a narrative, and even thick air is still only air.

In situations like these, anger and “highly likely” accusations are useless at best, and highly likely, they are damaging for all parties involved.

If Jan von Aken‘s comments in a Deutschlandfunk interview on Thursday are something to go by, there would be no need for the escalation that is under way – at least not yet. The established procedure would be to turn to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to get their assistance in clarifying any situation which may be considered ambiguous or which gives rise to a concern about the possible non-compliance of another State Party with the chemical weapons convention. In the Skripal case, Russia would have to answer to the OPCW’s executive committee “as soon as possible, but in any case not later than 10 days after the receipt of the request” to clarify.

What Theresa May said on Wednesday is anything but evidence:

Mr Speaker, on Monday I set out that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a Novichok: a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia. Based on this capability, combined with their record of conducting state sponsored assassinations – including against former intelligence officers whom they regard as legitimate targets – the UK Government concluded it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act. And there were only two plausible explanations. Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or conceivably, the Russian government could have lost control of a military-grade nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

In a conflict, the two immediate parties are rarely the best candidates to sort things out – not, when there is a history of conflict, or when, as the Economist has put it, Britain’s relationship with Russia is poisoned already.

Britain’s ultimatum for an explanation from Moscow had been contemptuously ignored,

writes the Economist. That may be so. Many Russian citizens have their rights ignored, too. But on a day-to-day basis, few people in the West would care. And if I were a Russian, I would probably find the British ultimatum just as comtemptuous – no matter if pro-Putin, anti-Putin or either.

After a first round of escalations, London now seems to be doing the right thing: they have sent (or will send) a sample of the Novichok nerve agent to the OPCW. That looks like a promising first step. The OPCW should also take care of further procedures, if there should be a chance to come to real conclusions.

Van Aken believes that both the British prime minister and the Russian president may have an interest in the current escalation. But May’s chances to rise to the “challenge” don’t look great, and Putin is going to “win the elections” anyway.

Rather, both of them appear to have concluded that they must serve their constituencies with instant certainties.

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Note

*) “The message is clear: We will find you, we will catch you, we will kill you – and though we will deny it with lip-curling scorn, the world will know beyond doubt that Russia did it.”

Thursday, March 15, 2018

“Black-Hearted Intentions”: Tillerson’s Replacement may send Signal to Pyongyang

The press keeps raging: the White House is referred to as a “Tollhaus” by Sächsische Zeitung, which criticizes both the way the incumbent secretary of state was fired, and Trumps choice of a successor:

.. a man like Pompeo, who defends Guantanamo and the exercise of torture, doesn’t stand for a moderate style in foreign policy, not to mention diplomacy with reason and a sense of proportions.

“US diplomacy in turmoil”, judges the Independent.

And Süddeutsche Zeitung quotes Rex Tillerson himself: “US leadership starts with diplomacy.”

KBS Seoul‘s German service’s news bulletin of Wednesday mentioned that Tillerson had always called for unconditional talks with North Korea, thus positioning himself against Trump. Tillerson’s successor, Mike Pompeo, was considered a hardliner, the news bulletin said.

The offer from North Korea to have talks with a simultaneous freeze on North Korean nuclear and missile tests, and with no demand for a freeze on US-South Korean military exercises, will have boosted Donald Trump’s ego.

Radio Austria’s (Radio Österreich International / ORF) Washington correspondent, interviewed in the station’s morning magazine on Wednesday, thought it possible that there would be less contradictions between the White House and the State Department in future, and added that according to Trump himself, firing Tillerson and imposing punitive tariffs on steel and aluminium imports had surprised even his closest advisors:

After a bit over a year in office, Trump apparently feels more and more secure, and he seems to manage the White House quite the same way he used to manage his real estate companies in the past.

Nach etwas mehr als einem Jahr im Amt fühlt sich Trump offenbar immer sicherer, und er scheint das Weiße Haus so ähnlich zu führen wie früher seine Immobilienunternehmen.

Success is usually a good thing. It can be the medicine that encourages a public to support good policies. But it can also encourage leaders with a tendency to overestimating themselves.

While President Trump is giving the public the appearance of a man who looks forward to “making a deal” with the North Korean regime, the regime in question still seems to be wondering what the coming months will hold. Or maybe they are wondering which mistake they have made, given that Trump accepted their offer right away.

North Korean KCNA‘s websites – in Korean and English – haven’t updated the “Supreme Leader’s Activities” since March 6 (when Kim Jong-un hosted a dinner for the special South Korean delegation that subsequently relayed his offer to the US), and the “top news” contain no reference to an impending bilateral summit either.

Rather, the US is “Blasted for Ratcheting Up Sanctions and Pressure on DPRK”. When Washington is mentioned at all, it is business as usual in Pyongyang’s propaganda. KCNA quoting Minju Joson:

Pyongyang, March 14 (KCNA) — The U.S. recently announced that it would impose sanctions on 56 designations in total – 27 shipping and trading companies, 28 vessels and 1 individual – of the DPRK and other countries under the pretext of preventing its “attempt to evade the sanctions” and intercepting the illegal means to help the transactions in the open sea.

Commenting on the fact, Minju Joson Wednesday says that it shows how desperately the U.S. is working to ratchet up the sanctions and pressure on the DPRK and suffocate it.

The U.S. recent announcement is not merely a continuation of such anti-DPRK sanction and pressure racket, the paper notes, and goes on:

The U.S. seeks to realize a cynical ploy to bring back the situation to a phase of tension by escalating the sanctions and pressure on the DPRK.

It has so far justified the hegemonic policy towards the Asia-Pacific region under the pretext of mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula. So, it is seeking to stem the détente on the peninsula, getting the jitters about it.

The U.S. recent announcement of additional sanctions is nothing but a red herring aimed at tarnishing the international image of the DPRK and diverting the attention of the international community welcoming the détente on the peninsula.

It is the U.S. black-hearted intention to create a phase of confrontation on the peninsula by rattling the nerves of the DPRK and plugging more countries into the sanctions racket.

Such sanctions can never be justified as they are illegal and unethical. -0-

With acclaim and great expectations or not, the press appears to expect the Trump-Kim meeting to happen.

But the negotiations have been on and off for decades. Firing Tillerson and appointing Pompeo has sent a signal to Pyongyang, too. Maybe the North Korean leaders have already gotten the jitters.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Huanqiu Shibao: Chinese Interests won’t be sidelined on Korean Peninsula

Huanqiu Shibao carried an unsigned editorial on Friday, reacting to an apparent rapprochement between Washington and Pyongyang. It’s reasoning reflects what Duowei News portrayed as Huanqiu’s editor-in-chief’s notion of Sino-North Korean relations, in December last year.

The author of the article translated underneath doesn’t seem to doubt that Pyongyang genuinely pursues a policy of denuclearization.

Main Link: How China should act in the light of dramatic changes on [Korean] peninsula

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

The situation on the Korean peninsula has seen another dramatic change. Having been to North Korea and in Washington right after that to report, the head of the Blue House national security office, Chung Eui-Yong, announced in Washington that North Korea’s top leader Kim Jong-un had invited invited Donald Trump to a meeting, and the American side immediately said that President Trump had accepted the invitation.

朝鲜半岛局势又出现新的爆炸性突破。几天之内访问了朝鲜、接着又去华盛顿通报的青瓦台国家安保室室长郑义溶在华盛顿宣布,朝鲜最高领导人金正恩邀请特朗普总统会面,美方随即表示,特朗普总统已经接受邀请。

The American side said that time and location of the meeting were yet to be determined. However, South Korea said that the meeting should be conducted before the end of May this year. Trump especially emphasized that South Korea had told him that not only had Kim Jong-un mentioned a freeze on nuclear activities, but also denuclearization. A sitting US president has never met a North Korean leader before. No matter what, a breakthrough like this deserves to be welcomed, and China should be happy for it.

美方表示,会面的时间地点待定。不过韩方称,会晤将在今年5月底前举行。特朗普特意强调,韩方告诉他,金正恩说到的不仅仅是冻结核活动,而是无核化。美国现任总统从未与朝鲜领导人会晤过,这一突破无论如何都值得欢迎,中国应当为之高兴。

In the face of the continuous dramatic changes on the peninsula, both Chinese people and foreigners are watching China’s actions with interest.

面对半岛局势不断出现的戏剧性变化,中国该如何做,国人很关心,世界也很关注。

First of all, the Chinese should maintain a calm attitude and remain focused. There should be no sense of “being sidelined”, and it is not the right perspective from where to look at the issue.

首先,中国人应放平心态,保持定力,不应有“中国被边缘化”的想法,跳出那样看问题的角度。

We should keep in mind what China’s main goal on the peninsula is, i. e. denuclearization and peace and stability. These two major points matter more than China and the gains and losses in its bilateral relations between the North and the South respectively, or the effect of such gains and losses in the contest of big powers. This is because China’s Northeast is close to North Korea, and North Korea’s nuclear activities and the stirring acrtivities on the peninsula are posing a potential threat to China.

我们应当牢记中国在半岛最重要的目标是什么,它们是半岛的无核化及和平稳定,这两点的重要性要高于中国与半岛南北两方双边关系的得失以及这种得失对大国博弈的影响。原因就是中国东北紧挨着朝鲜,朝鲜的核活动以及半岛的动荡都对中国东北构成潜在威胁。

China can’t compare match America. Firstly, America is far from the Korean peninsula, with corresponding room to maneuver. Secondly, US-South Korean relations are those of alies, and its ability to control South Korea is a legacy of its role of an experienced superpower.

中国不能和美国比,第一美国远离朝鲜半岛,因此进退都更有空间。第二,美国与韩国是盟友关系,美对韩国的操纵能力是它作为老牌超级大国的遗产。

China’s influence on North Korea didn’t continue after resisting the US and helping North Korea. We haven’d stationed troops in North Korea. The Chinese People’s Volunteers delegates also left Panmunjom in the mid-1990s. Chinese-North Korean relations soon became normal bilateral relations,with only certain remaining ideological bonds. The relations between the two countries also mainly amount to mutually beneficial cooperation, and it is many peoples’ misunderstanding that there were great amounts of Chinese gratuitous help to North Korea.

中国对朝鲜的影响在抗美援朝之后中断了,我们在朝鲜既无驻军,志愿军谈判代表也在上世纪90年代离开了板门店。中朝早就是正常国家关系,只剩下一定的意识形态纽带。两国经济关系也主要是平等互利的合作,中国大量无偿援助朝鲜是很多人的误解。

The influence that China does exercise on the peninsula is based on our country’s increasing strength, and its geopolitical position. The appearance of being able to decide international sanctions is also a key element in its ability to influence the situation on the peninsula. But China is no leader in finding a solution to the situation on the peninsula, and nor do we have the leverage to change the attitude of any of the parties on our own.

中国今天对半岛的影响力是基于我们国家实力的增强和地缘位置,中国有决定国际制裁面貌的能力,也是影响半岛局势的关键一方。但中国不是如何解决半岛问题的领导者,我们也没有能够单独撬动某一方态度的杠杆。

All the same, China’s exercise of power has played a role. The direction the situation on the peninsula is taking now is precisely what China has promoted. Firstly, the “double-moratorium” proposed by China has at last appeared. The “two-track merger” is also beginning to take shape. During these two years, China both participated in the sanctions policy against the DPRK, led by the United Nations, and China also prevented extreme measures such as sea blockades, that could have led to military conflict, and has made preparation for the aftermath of a possible hot conflict.

然而中国的发力产生了作用,半岛局势今天的走向恰恰与中国推动的方向相一致。首先,中国提出的“双暂停”终于出现了,中国主张的“双轨并进”也开始形成态势。这两年中国一方面参与了联合国主导的对朝国际制裁,一方面阻止了对朝海上封锁等可能导致军事冲突的极端措施,为朝美激烈冲突之后局势峰回路转预留了可能性。

As a big country, China has no reason to worry that North Korea could turn to a so-called “reliance on American help”. There can’t be any country on China’s boundaries that could completely “rely on American help”. China has actively advocated direct US-North Korean dialog on the nuclear issue, and seeing the two sides breaking the deadlock and talking directly, we should support this improvement all the more. If Kim and Trump can help to denuclearize the peninsula and make it peaceful and stable, this achieves China’s two big goals, and why should we not be happy about that?

作为大国,中国完全不必担心朝鲜会所谓的“投靠美国”,中国周边不可能有任何一个国家是完 全“投靠美国”的。中国从朝核问题一开始就积极推动美朝直接对话,在事实证明美朝直接对话是打破僵局绕不开的途径时,我们就更应该支持局势的这一进展了。 如果金特会有助于通向半岛无核化及和平稳定这两大中国最期待的目标,我们有什么理由为此而不高兴呢?

Chinese-North Korean relations are currently at a low ebb, but the real reason for that is the nuclear issue, not some historical or cultural reasons, a s some people like to exaggerate, or because of the North Korean leader’s personality. Once the North Korean nuclear issue can be alleviated, Chinese-North Korean may rather easily be improved.

目前中朝关系处在低潮,根本原因是核问题,而非一些人夸张的历史文化原因或者朝鲜领导人个性的影响。只要朝核问题能够缓解,中朝改善关系就会变得比较容易。

xBecause of modern technological development and because of changes in the international situation, North Korea’s significance as China’s geopolitical protective screen may decrease. Future good Chinese-North Korean relations will be more important for North Korea, than for China. China should calmly support US-North Korean contacts, and look favorably at the Kim-Trump meeting. At the same time, we should also actively react to sudden changes in the situation, improve relations with North Korea, and support the stabilization of a good development.

由于现代科技的发展和国际形势的变化,朝鲜作为中国地缘政治屏障的意义已大为下降,未来良好的中朝关系对朝鲜的意义比对中国来说更为重要。中国应当坦然支持美朝接触,对金特会乐见其成。同时我们也应积极回应局势的急遽变化,改善与朝鲜的关系。

We should respect North Korea. We should both continue to protect the UN security council’s decision-making authority, and help protect North Korea’s legitimate rights and interests*), as talks on conditions for denuclearization between Pyongyang and Washington get underway. North Korea, once starting the process of denuclearization, China must be a advocate and defender of international guarantee systems which make sure that [North Korea] won’t be cheated by America, and that it won’t continue to be pressured by America.

我们应当尊重朝鲜,一方面我们要继续维护安理会决议的权威,一方面要在平壤与华盛顿就无核化条件开展谈判时,帮助维护朝鲜的正当权益,继续做局势的平衡者。朝鲜一旦开始无核化进程,中国有必要做确保其不被美方欺骗、不继续受美国挤压等国际保障体系的坚决推动和维护者。中国的平衡作用有利于半岛局势的最终软着陆。

As the situation on the peninsula is about to ease, many uncertainties are still lying ahead. China must maintain its focus and stick to principles. It must not allow dazzling situations  to disturb our train of thought. We can’t see short-term gains, and even less should we worry about gains and losses. We should welcome US-North Korean talks to solve the nuclear issue, and in the denuclearization process, we should be [North Korea’s] strong supporter in their defense of their interests. If this is how China consistently continues, our interests will certainly not be sidelined.

半岛局势缓和刚开了个头,前方还有大量可能的变数。中国需保持定力,坚持原则,不让眼花缭乱的事态变化扰乱我们的思路。我们不能急功近利,更不应患得患失。欢迎美朝谈判解决核问题,在朝鲜无核化的过程中做它保护自身利益强有力的支持者,中国就这样一以贯之地做下去,我们自身的利益也一定不会被挤向边缘。

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Notes

*) When first published online on Friday, the article used the term 合法权益 (which seems to amount to “legitimate”, too, though maybe somewhat less expressively).
x

Monday, February 19, 2018

Promising Profits: Syria’s Nation (Re)building Propaganda

Links within the blockquotes were added during translation.

Following America and Russia, China has announced its interest in playing a greater role in Syria, TRT Ankara‘s Chinese service reported on February 12. China’s ambassador in Damascus, Qi Qianjin (齐前进),

said that China wanted to play a greater role in solving the Syria crisis. The diplomat told Xinhua that “the time has come to focus on the development and reconstruction of Syria. I believe that in this course, China can provide more help to the Syrian people and government, and play a bigger role.”

向新华社表示:“现在已到聚焦于叙利亚的发展和重建的时机。我认为中国在这一进程中能够为叙利亚人民和政府提供更多帮助,发挥更多作用。”

Ambassador Qi Qianjin visited al-Mouwasat University Hospital in Damascus, and the hospital director thanked him.

齐前进大使参观了位于大马士革的姆瓦萨特大学医院,医院院长向中国大使表示感谢。

The Syrian communications minister had previously said that Syria’s transportation network, once restored, could become a railroad extending to China.

叙利亚交通部长之前曾表示,在叙利亚交通网得到恢复之后,可建立一个延伸至中国的铁路。

According to a report by China’s “Global Times”, at least 30 Chinese business people have been to Syria since April, to explore investment opportunities.

据中国《环球时报》报道,4月至今至少有30名中国商人前来叙利亚探索投资机遇。

China is acting together with Russia in the Syrian conflict, but has worked hard to avoid American resentment.

中国在叙利亚冲突中与俄罗斯一道行动,另一方面致力于避免美国的不满。

In the United Nations security council’s seven important resolutions concerning Syria, China abstained and chose not to get involved in the US-Russian quibble.

中国在联合国安理会关于叙利亚的7个重要表决中弃权,选择了不卷入俄罗斯-美国较量的道路。

Reportedly, from the three countries of Russia, China and America, China is the only country that hasn’t sent troops to Syria.

据悉,俄中美三国中唯一没有向叙利亚派兵的国家是中国。

Radio Damascus QSL 1980s

Radio Damascus shortwave QSL, 1980s *)

The war in Syria is by no means over, and Turkey itself plays no small role in keeping it alive. According to Syrian foreign radio ORTAS‘ German service on Friday, that day marked the 27th day of “the Turkish regime’s barbarian aggression against the Syrian town of Afrin”. According to the same news broadcast, the Syrian government and the Kurdish “people’s defence units (or protection units, YPG, Volksverteidigungseinheiten)” had agreed to have the Syrian army stationed in Afrin. Both ORTAS and Xinhua quoted Rezan Heddo, a media advisor of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as saying that “Afrin is a Syrian city”.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday night that “of all things”, “dictator Assad’s army is coming to the aid of Afrin region.”

At the same time, Syrian media accuse the US of trying to prolong the war. In its “News and Views” program of February 4, Syrian foreign radio’s English service noted that [27′ 40”]

It is pretty clear that the regional and international powers … do not have a desire to reach a political solution, but, in accordance with their interests in Syria, and for achieving them, those foreign sides try to prolong their war against Syria to give them a chance to extend their presence in the Syrian land under the pretext of combatting terrorism or preserving the alledged national security, as Turkey is claiming to justify its aggression on the Syrian territory.

That said, the Syrian media depict the situation as one where powers hostile to Damascus will prolong, but never win the war. This has been Damascus’ propaganda approach for some time. On October 4 last year, an ORTAS commentary in German claimed that the end of the war was approaching [6’52”]:

Nobody but some hateful or uneducated people can deny this truth. All conditions on the ground and their political consequences are emphasizing that the end of the struggle against terror and terrorist gangs is a matter of time. Aggravations here or there, the committing of crimes by the terrorist gangs is only this terror’s death struggle, carried to Syria from the outside.

It was time to rebuild the country, the same commentary said [08’58”]:

It is clear that the world has begun to think of the post-war situation in Syria, especially concerning a political settlement by dialog among the Syrians themselves. According to that, the Syrians think and talk about reconstruction of the facilities destroyed during the war. The talk in some concerned states, regarding reconstruction and a preparedness to contribute to this mission, is currently “hip”, even in some states that enormously contributed to the destruction of Syria.

Nation-building propaganda is nothing new in Syria. Before the war, too, posters portraying President Bashar al-Assad adorned not only public buildings, but many shops and retail stores, too, some combined with the depiction of a fingerprint in the colors of the Syrian flag, apparently suggesting that there was a genetic link between the people and the regime, in accordance with Syria’s nature. However, at least in Aleppo, you would usually find those posters at the doors of better-off neigborhoods.

But if an era of reconstruction should be upon Syria – depending on which areas are considered sustainably safe by domestic and foreign investors -, the narrative that is shaped by Damascus is beginning to show, as described there by a retired US Army officer:

Nation building can involve the use of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth.

Reconstruction and “dialog” aren’t only aiming at positive dynamics within Syria, but abroad, too. Syria’s officials and media have sent clear signals to friends and enemies abroad. Newsagency SANA reported on September 30 last year that

China’s Special Envoy for Syria Xie Xiaoyan affirmed that his country would support efforts for reconstruction and rebuilding infrastructure in Syria.

Xiaoyan’s remarks came in a seminar held in Beijing University titled “Rebuild Syria,” during which he called on the Chinese companies to participate in the reconstruction.

For his part, Ambassador of Syria in Beijing Imad Mustafa said that Syria seeks to form a joint strategic vision with China and will not wait for the end of the war to begin reconstruction, noting that the priority in that field will be given for companies from friendly countries.

Early in October, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told a delegation led by Russian deputy minister for energy Kirill Molodtsov that [00’41”]

it was obvious that those states that had stood with the Syrian people during its war against terror would be entrusted with the task of reconstruction.

Beijing must have been glad to hear that, too. But TRT Ankara’s report – see beginning of this post – is correct in that China is trying to avoid “American resentment”. For sure, Beijing isn’t asking for it.

Also in September last year, Chinese foreign-policy newspaper Huanqiu Shibao quoted Beijing’s Middle-East envoy Xie Xiaoyan (解晓岩) as saying that he had heard suggestions about reconstructions during his visits both to Russia and Syria:

The situation has improved, but first, the country needs to be stabilized, and comprehensive cease-fire agreements are necessary. It is hard to imagine that war should be conducted on the one hand, and roads should be repaired on the other. What is repaired on one day, may be destroyed one day later. But the fact that war still continues doesn’t mean that the parties couldn’t think about rebuilding and reconstruction. China has sufficient industrial capabilities and is preparing for active involvement in this process.

在访问叙利亚和俄罗斯时,听到有关开始叙利亚重建进程的提议。目前那里的局势已经得到改善。但首先仍需要实现国家稳定,需要全面执行停火协议。很难想象,一边在打仗,一边在修路。修好的基础设施在第二天就会被摧毁。其次,尽管现在战斗仍在进行,这并不意味着各方不去考虑基础设施的改建和重建。中国拥有足够的工业能力,准备积极参与这一进程。

However, Xie also said that

China is the world’s second-largest economy, but it can’t do the rebuilding alone. Reports say that reconstruction is going to cost two to three hundred billion Dollars. Therefore, not only China, but countries of the region and of the international community, too, should make joint efforts to achieve Syria’s reconstruction.

中国是世界第二大经济体,但中国独自无法完成重建工作。据有关报道,重建需要大约2000至3000亿美元资金。 因此,不仅是中国,本地区国家和整个国际社会都应共同努力,实现叙利亚的重建。

In a number of ways, China is well-positioned to draw the lion’s share from post-war profits – once the war is really over, or limited to a few marginal conflict zones. While Russia certainly spearheaded military support for Damascus, and while Beijing rather tried to hedge its bets, Russia may not have those industrial capabilities that Xie Xiaoyan ascribes to his own country.

Western economic powers may prove to be essential in one or another aspect of reconstruction, but Damascus is likely to maintain its position that countries that propped it up during the crisis, and during foreign aggression, should profit most.

That doesn’t mean that China would be extremely popular in Syria – although the war may have helped its soft power there. When former Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao referred to the Arab people as good friends, good partners and good brothers, regional elites, rather than entire populations, came to mind. Wen made his statement about Sino-Arab friendship while Hosni Mubarak was still Egypt’s president, and Wen himself may have cherished a memory of Chinese relations with a – then nationalist rather than islamist – Arabia of the 1950s.

Syria’s regime may be the last (and maybe the only lasting) representative of that cherished past.

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Notes

*) Until some time into the war, ORTAS – named “Radio Damascus” until recently – broadcasted on shortwave. Two frequencies were usually announced, but only one of them actually appeared to be in operation (9330 kHz). Reportedly, the facilities have been demolished – apparently in a regular way, and not because of the war.

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Related

Russia is very clever, Sept 11, 2013
A Just Mideast Position, Febr 16, 2012
Understanding and Support, Oct 25, 2011

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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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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Headlines 2017 (1) – Five Economic Policies

Having addressed one of next year’s headlines, these are some rough notes on China’s economic policies, i. e. this years headlines.

china.org.cn, a website operating “under the auspices of the State Council Information Office” and the China International Publishing Group, tells the world (in English) that

[t]he Chinese economy will focus on quality, a shift from the rapid growth the country has been known for over the past decades since the reform and opening up policy was introduced.

Referring to the Central Economic Work Conference’s summary, the article is mostly about parading the new normal personality cult (“Xi’s economic thought takes shape”), suggesting that

China will develop into a manufacturing powerhouse, with a shift from “Made in China” to “Created in China,” the statement said, as the country is striving to evolve from a world factory that churns out low-end products.

A Chinese-language article, published by Xinhua newsagency in Chinese one day earlier (on Wednesday, when the conference closed), is much more detailed, putting the meeting of officials and economists into the context of the CCP’s 19th national congress, and the current 13th Five-Year plan, with recurrent references to the five policies (五大政策).

In the Journal of Nanjing University’s (南京大学学报) third quarterly in summer this year, economics professor Hu Angang (and a doctoral assistant) suggested that the five policies (literally: five big policies) had afforded China the global number-one position as a high-tech industrial country, having overtaken America in 2015. The state’s visible hand had made this possible, Hu argued, adding that given that the market’s “invisible hand” wasn’t as well developed in China as it was in the US, only a sensible combination of both those hands had put China in its new position. Issues such as ways to define the scopes and goals of competition, as well as performance assessments, were also addressed both by Hu’s paper, and by the central economic work conference.

Hu suggests that there were frequent imbalances in classical economic policies, not least America’s (emphasizing innovation sometimes, or emphasizing job creation at others), while China had struck a balance between an industrial policy (产业政策 政策, the policy China started with 30 years ago), a competition policy (竞争政策), an innovation policy (创新政策), a policy of opening up (开放政策), and a “green” environment-protection policy (绿色政策).

One can’t say that the divide between advocates of a set of “balanced” policies are running right through the Pacific (i. e. between Beijing and Washington). America, too, has its share of advocates for balanced industrial policies. An example for an extremely unbalanced concept: the idea that “America should innovate” while China would manufacture was suggested in 2011, by  New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who said that he owed this division-of-labor concept to former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. (Besides innovation, Tung also had the “green policy” on his mind. What Friedman had in mind, God knows.)

Either way, Ralph E. Gomory, an applied mathematician, pointed out that Friedman’s and Tung’s math didn’t add up:

[w]e need successful industries and we need to innovate within them to keep them thriving. However, when your trading partner is thinking about GDP rather than profit, and has adopted mercantilist tactics, subsidizing industries, and mispricing its currency, while loaning you the money to buy the underpriced goods, this may simply not be possible.

That was six and a half years ago. And obviously, China’s leadership never intended to leave innovation to America for good.

However, Hu Angang’s paper concedes that so far, while being the world’s “number one high tech manufacturing country” (为世界最大高技术产业国), China’s ability to innovate independently from foreign know-how still remains “relatively low”.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dalai Lama and Barack Obama meeting in New Delhi

Heads of state and government (apparently) can’t always afford to be polite – not if this CS Monitor report of nearly eight years ago is something to go by. In February 2010, the Dalai Lama, as he left the White House after a meeting with then president Barack Obama, was reportedly “awaited” by “a mound of trash”. A White House spokesman contested the interpretation – see same CS Monitor page.

But there were other downgradings, too, at the time. Obama met Tibet’s spiritual leader in the “map room” of the White House, not in the Oval Office. An ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) reporter interpreted this – most probably accurately – as a concession to China, which had demanded that the meeting not even go ahead.

Aller, Nov 2017

But a wise man who works to better the lot of the People won’t fear the height of a mountain or the width of a river on his way to gain worldly credit.

It will be left to reason here if Donald Trump is too high a mountain, or if meeting him, just like having met all US presidents from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama while they were in office, wouldn’t benefit Tibet anyway.

There has been another meeting between the Dalai Lama and Barack Obama last Friday, and when you are travelling on behalf of your foundation that carries your name, meetings with the man Beijing loves to hate appear to make sense. The setting in New Delhi appears to have been nicer, too, than in the White House, in 2010.

The meeting apparently hasn’t generated a splash in the Chinese media. Overseas Chinese Website Duowei News, a news website operated from New York (and blocked in China, according to Wikipedia) points out that just before, Obama had completed a China visit, including a Meeting with Xi Jinping at Diaoyutai Guest House. Xinhua newsagency reported on Thursday that Xi and Obama held talks on November 29.

Duowei also adds some statistics, saying that this was the sixth meeting between the Dalai Lama and Obama, and that the most recent one had taken place at the White House, in July 2016, when Obama was still in office. (According to VoA, that was in June 2016.)

During an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) during a visit to Ottawa, the president of Tibet’s exile government in Dharamsala, Lobsang Sangay, advocated the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” policy.

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