Posts tagged ‘Brazil’

Saturday, November 20, 2021

China Radio International: And Now, No News

There are basically two kinds of program formats carried by China Radio International (CRI) now: those with, and those without news and current affairs coverage. Regionally, you can (roughly) draw aline between East and West, with only the former still getting CRI news in regional languages.

Chinese news item, 2019

They still do speak English

The mention of target areas does not imply that there may not be other target areas for certain languages, too. As for Esperanto, for example, I only listened to the broadcast to Europe, but Europe may  not be CRI Esperanto’s only target area.

This list is not at all exhaustive; there are many more CRI language services I haven’t recently listened to.

Language Target areas News
Vietnamese Vietnam Yes
Indonesian Indonesia yes
Malaysian Malaysia yes
Japanese Japan yes
Filipino Philippines yes
Khmer Cambodia yes
Bengali Bengal yes
Thai Thailand yes
Mongolian Mongolia yes
Urdu Pakistan, India, Nepal yes
Hausa Niger, Nigeria yes
Pashto Afghanistan, Pakistan yes
Esperanto Europe no
Romanian Romania no
Italian Italy no
Bulgarian Bulgaria no
Czech Czech Republic no
Polish Poland no
Serbian Serbia & regional no
Hungarian Hungary & regional no
German Austria & regional no

Programs without news / current affairs are usually filled up with music. Some language services without news add explanatory announcements to their music programs, but others run completely without spoken words.
Language services that may be considered global ones – Chinese, English, Russian, or Spanish, still have news in their programs, and maybe cultural programs, too, but CRI’s Portuguese service hasn’t.

Esperanto broadcasts a cultural program with lots of talk, but no news or current affairs either.

The mere-music programs may run without day-to-day updates. The genres vary, however. You get some revolutionary opera on frequencies that were used for Serb programs in the past, or rock and pop music on what was once the Czech service.
The replacement for the German service is particularly mean: typical “China restaurant” dining music.


Program reductions, Nov 25, 2019
CCTV, CRI, CPBS, March 30, 2018

Useful links

Shortwave Info
Kiwi SDR

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Shortwave Logs: Science from the South

1. Radio Havana in English: Science from the South

Charles McKelvey, according to the “American Herald Tribune”*), is an emeritus professor at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, USA, and member of the Advisory Council of the Honorary Section of Political Science from the South at the Faculty of Philosophy and History of the University of Havana, Havana, Cuba.

One might read his books, or one might happen on “Notes on the Revolution”, a Radio Havana Cuba (RHC) series with 40 columns to date, about “third World socialist revolutions in power”, which would, in his view, include China, Cuba, and Vietnam.

The program, to effects unknown to this blogger, is edited by RHC editor and presenter Ed Newman.

Picadura Valleys Cattle Breeding Project, Radio Habana Cuba QSL, 1988

Picadura Valleys Cattle Breeding Project, Radio Habana Cuba QSL, 1988. The project’s prominent role in the QSL series is no concidence: the project is or was run by Ramón Castro Ruz, » the older brother of the two political leaders. Asked by an American journalist in the late 1970s » what he thought about Cuban-U.S. relations, Castro parried the questions “with a shrug and grin: ‘That’s all politics – I leave that to Fidel. All I know about are cows.'”


*) not to be confused with the “New York Herald Tribune”

2. Radio Ukraine International: reviving 2017

Arne Lietz (SPD, German social democrats) may not have been aware, but he was on the radio on Saturday – on the German program of Radio Ukraine International (RUI, formerly Radio Kiev), that is. And as Russia had already annexed Crimea at the time, and because the Gerhard-Schröder / Martin-Schulz generation have adopted an unnerving pep-talk style*) decades ago which  dominates social dem speeches to this day, I only realized that something was wrong with the broadcast when Lietz referred to Martin Schulz as the the German Social Democrats’ candidate for chancellor.  That, after all, was more than two years ago.

There was no news broadcast, and, therefore, no way to find out about the mix-up earlier. Besides, Lietz was a member of the European Parliament from 2014 to 2019, but lost his seat in the 2019 EP elections.

Similar mix-ups used to happen with Radio Ukraine International’s English service transmissions by WRMI, an American broadcaster in Florida, some three years ago. At the time, WRMI supposed that mistakes in the audio file names sent by RUI had occasionally led to old news going on air. Radio Ukraine International’s German program is currently aired by a shortwave enthusiasts’ association in Northrhine-Westphalia who are operating a shortwave station in Kall-Krekel.


*) It’s beginning to dawn on me that while there may be other reasons not to vote for the German social democrats, the way they talk may be one of those reasons. They make you feel as if you were ten years old again, and back in sunday school. (God forbid.)

3. Fed Court: Da Silva and Rousseff no part of criminal org

reports Radio Havana. However, a series of legal proceedings concerning alleged bribery continues.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Program Reductions at China Radio International (CRI)

While China Radio International‘s (CRI) airtime remains undampened, program hours appear to be going down, reports Radio Berlin Brandenburg‘s (RBB) media magazine. RBB points to CRI Portuguese as a striking example: the broadcasts have only contained music and references to CRI’s online pages for some time, and the Portuguese-language online pages contain only single articles, but not the usual program packages. Programs in Polish, Serbian and Albanian still contained short news readings, but only music apart from that, according to random checks.

CRI German, April 1 schedule

CRI German, April 1 schedule

The German program seems to have seen some cuts, too. There used to be news broadcasts at the beginning of every transmission, but I haven’t heard any news or current affairs on Saturdays and Sundays recently, and today’s (Monday) two-hour program didn’t carry any news or current affairs either.

CRI’s most recent schedule was published online on April 1 this year, shortly after the beginning of the summer frequency plan. Apparently, it wasn’t updated when the HFCC’s current B19 transmission schedule went into effect a few weeks ago.

According to the April 1 plan, the two-hours German programs, from Monday through Friday, started with a news and current affairs program of 15 minutes, (“CRI Aktuell” / “CRI Aktuell mit Hintergrund”), 35 minutes of feature programs (“CRI Panorama”), followed by a language course of ten minutes, and an hour of cultural programs (“CRI Kulturcollage”).

On Saturdays and Sundays, a five-minutes news program (“CRI Aktuell”) was followed by 45 minutes of “CRI Panorama”, followed by a ten-minutes language course and 55 minutes of “Kulturcollage”.

Today, just as recently on Saturdays and Sundays, there were 50 minutes of “CRI Panorama” and the usual ten-minutes language course. The second hour was a repetition of exactly the same content.

CRI Chinese and CRI English still carry news and current affairs programs.

Back to Radio Berlin Brandenburg’s media magazine. They wonder why the shortwave frequencies which used to carry CRI Portuguese, Polish, Serbian, or Albanian, are still in use.

The answer may be that co-channelling (a slightly more sophisticated way of jamming undesired broadcasters abroad than applying the “Firedrake”) is easier when you have many shortwave frequencies in use. Abandoned frequencies could otherwise be collected by Taiwan, from where both national broadcaster Radio Taiwan International (RTI) and Chinese opposition broadcasters like “Sound of Hope” (希望之聲) are broadcasting to China on shortwave.



By any other Name, March 30, 2018
Innovative Guidance of Public Opinion, Nov 17, 2015
Rumors about CRI, April 13, 2015


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 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.


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.



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



Friday, November 15, 2013

Central Committee 3rd Plenary Session Communiqué: a State Security Bureaucracy

Main Link: The Fifth Big State Institution – 第五大国家机构, Enorth/CPBS, November 13, 2013

While the 18th central committee’s third plenum’s communiqué doesn’t appear to reveal a lot about future economic or social reforms in general (I haven’t read it myself), a fifth big state institution (第五大国家机构, or party institution for that matter), in addition to  the CCP central committee, the state council, the “National People’s Congress” and the “The Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference” may be taking shape – but to suggest that, Chinese media apparently need to quote foreign media or observers. An article by Enorth (Tianjin) is apparently based on China’s domestic radio (Central People’s Broadcasting Station, CPBS, or CNR) in its coverage – possibly because not everyone has the right to quote foreign sources anymore.

The fifth big state institution would be a state security committee. Analysts are quoted as saying that a double role of dealing with basic domestic and external challenges could be discerned.

Plans for a state security committee had been made or demanded since 1997, but were only now taking shape, says the article. And many other countries had similar institutions: America’s national security council (since 1947), France (since 2008), Brazil, Chile, South Africa, Turkey, Thailand, and Malaysia, for example. In Japan, the establishment of a national security council was underway, too.

A security committee needed to be a permanent institution, experts are quoted. And Ruan Zongze, once a secretary in China’s embassy in Britain and now vice director at the China Institute of International Studies, reportedly suggests that building a state security committee was an important and innovative measure, and indicating the growing dynamics of Chinese foreign policy.



» Terrorists will be nervous, CRI, Nov 14, 2013


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Huanqiu Shibao, the Gallup BRIC Satisfaction Survey, and the Chinese Passive Voice

The following is a Xinhua news article published by Huanqiu Shibao on Tuesday.

Xinhua/Washington, April 9, 2012. By Zhi Linfei. Opinion poll results published by American Gallup opinion poll organization Gallup show that during the past three years, among the five BRIC states’ population, the Brazilians and Chinese are most satisfied with their living standards, and only the Chinese felt during three successive years that the living standard had continuously improved.

新华网华盛顿4月9日电 (记者 支林飞)美国盖洛普民调机构9日公布的民调结果显示,过去三年,金砖5国中巴西和中国国民对生活水平的满意度最高,而且只有中国人连续三年感到生活水平持续得到改善。

According to this survey, 77 per cent of Brazilians felt satisfied with the living standard in 2011, same as in 2010, but a higher share than 74 per cent in 2009. 72 per cent of the Chinese felt satisfied with the standard of living in 2011, which was higher than 2010’s 66 per cent and 2009’s 60 per cent. By contrast, the share of Indians, South Africans, and Russians who felt satisfied with the living standard stood at 61, 45 and 39 per cent respectively.


Among the five countries, only Chinese citizens felt for three years in a row that the living standard had improved. in 2011, 79 per cent of Chinese citizens felt that the standard of living had continued to improve, more than 78 per cent in 2010, and 76 per cent in 2009; in South Africa, 47 per cent felt that the standard of living had continued to improve, which was more than 34 per cent in 2010 and in 2009. In contrast, the share of citizens in Brazil, India and Russia who felt in 2011 that the standard of living had continued to improve was at 65, 44, and 26 per cent respectively, compared to the previous year, this had either remained the same share, or a reduced share.


Gallup said in its survey’s result that the level of satisfaction with the living standards was being high in Brazil and China could be attributed to the two countries’ efforts to eliminate poverty. China carries out a plan to eradicate poverty in cooperation with the World Bank, and Brazil has funded projects for poor families to get rid of poverty.


Possibly partly thanks to the mention of the World Bank in the article’s last sentence, recent commenters or comments aren’t convinced:

A bunch of pigs who have eaten their fill (一群能吃饱的猪, 2012-04-10 14:51);

May I use foul language? (我可以说脏话吗?, 2012-04-10 14:51);

This is an absolute fart! How many different kinds of satisfaction do the common people have? (绝对是放屁!老百姓有几个满意的?, 2012-04-10 14:50);


I’ve been satisfied [in the sense of harmonized, bei hexie] by the Americans! (我被美国人满意了, 2012-04-10 14:47)

Another comment suspects either the critical comments or the article itself to be orchestrated:


Got no time to seek the original survey online – if available – right now, but maybe you – the readers of this post – will find the survey findings during the day, or information about the sample of the population taken in either country, or other bits of information.



» The Pew Global Attitudes Project, July 22, 2008



Samples are Nationally Representative unless noted otherwise
(nothing noted re China – JR).

Gallup release more in general here.


Saturday, March 31, 2012

BRIC – One Summit, many Interpretations, and Staying Alive in Tibet

The full text of Delhi Declaration, i. e. the BRIC leaders’ declaration of Thursday, can be found on the Indian Ministry of External Affairs’ website.

It describes a number of international trends, including the Eurozone crisis:

The build-up of sovereign debt and concerns over medium to long-term fiscal adjustment in advanced countries are creating an uncertain environment for global growth. Further, excessive liquidity from the aggressive policy actions taken by central banks to stabilize their domestic economies have been spilling over into emerging market economies, fostering excessive volatility in capital flows and commodity prices. The immediate priority at hand is to restore market confidence and get global growth back on track. We will work with the international community to ensure international policy coordination to maintain macroeconomic stability conducive to the healthy recovery of the global economy.

No matter if American quantitative easing in recent years, or the European sovereign debt crisis, low interest rates in these countries usually lead to flows of money into emerging markets, seeking better investment conditions, i. e. interest rates there. However, Anand Shankar, a researcher at the Department of Economic and Policy Research, argued late last year that FII (foreign institutional investment) inflows to India had actually fallen after the November 3, 2010 announcement of the American central bank of quantitative easing 2, but attributes this to factors that do not refute the general rule of capital flows from low-interest-rate regions into emerging markets’ equities.

In China’s case, according to an undated paper (including early 2011 data) by Zhang Liqing and Huang Zhigang of the Central University of Finance and Economics, empirical results show that the effect of hot money on both stock price and housing price is insignificant, and the key factor to fuel asset bubbles is the monetary aggregate*). “Hot money” had, however, been an important contribution to foreign reserve increase. That problem, however, at least according to Michael Pettis, is at least as much China’s responsibility as it is America’s.

The Delhi Declaration basically states that it is the low-interest-rate regions’ responsibility to address the problem, and leaves it there.

The mention of goals like peace, security and development in a multi-polar, inter-dependent and increasingly complex, globalizing world are essentials, but not news – nor are calls on advanced economies to adopt responsible macroeconomic and financial policies, avoid creating excessive global liquidity and undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs. The G20 is determined as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, global governance institutions like the IMF are urged to reform themselves more quickly, the possibility of setting up a development particularly for projects in BRICs and other developing countries was considered on the summit, the Doha Round and global trade get a mention, so does all international, political mega-news, particularly Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, and terrorism.

Fortunately, there’s an action plan, too. Or, rather, an appointment diary for the coming fifteen months or so.

Such touch-on-everything statements seem to be the rule at BRIC meetings – at least Stefan Wagstyl, the Financial Timesemerging markets editor, doesn’t appear to see anything unusual in it. They “made the right noises”, he wrote in a blog post on Thursday, but missed the opportunity to back a common candidate for the World Bank presidency from the developing world, even though there is a first-class contender in the race, Nigerian finance minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

The [wo]man would probably still lose, writes Wagstyl, but the point was that the divisions among the Brics are as significant as their common interests – details there.

Maybe this is the most interesting bit within the declaration:

We welcome the conclusion of the Master Agreement on Extending Credit Facility in Local Currency under BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism and the Multilateral Letter of Credit Confirmation Facility Agreement between our EXIM/Development Banks. We believe that these Agreements will serve as useful enabling instruments for enhancing intra-BRICS trade in coming years.

The master agreement, explains IANS news agency,

is aimed at reducing the demand for fully convertible currencies for transactions among BRICS nations, and thereby help reducing the transaction costs of intra-BRICS trade


Russia had made similar suggestions in 2008, in its business with Belarus and Vietnam, plus the increased use of both Ruble and Yuan for mutual Russian-Chinese trade.

South Africa, by now the event’s fifth member, but not represented in its four-letters household name, keeps a low profile in the global summit coverage. But president Jacob Zuma isn’t unhappy:

Africa feels, through the participation of South Africa in BRIC, we have reached, indeed, the mainstream of the global issues. The fact that our independent development banks have signed an agreement to support our projects of BRIC which include those in the continent of Africa brings hope to the African continent, to one billion people who have been, in the main, excluded from the mainstream positive developments abroad.

[Update, December 23, 2012: soundfile removed. Please contact me by email or comment if you are interested in the soundfile – JR]

Wagstyl, being a Financial Times editor (see this post, further up), likes the Delhi Declaration insofar as it makes the right noises – this most probably refers to its call on the advanced economies to undertake structural reforms to lift growth that create jobs. But he also points out BRIC’s weaknesses, using the World Bank presidency issue as a case in point: The truth is that the divisions among the Brics are as significant as their common interests.

In Huanqiu Shibao‘s words, quoting the China News Service:

Chinese state chairman Hu Jintao met with Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, on March 29. Singh said that India neither is neither intending nor in a position to participating in any strategies to contain China. India acknowledges that the Tibet Autonomous Region is part of China’s territory and doesn’t allow Tibetans to engage in anti-China activities in India. India hopes to work together with China to protect peace and tranquility on the two countries’ border regions, and to properly solve the border issues through friendly negotiations.
中新社新德里3月29日电(记者 张朔)中国国家主席胡锦涛29日在新德里会见印度总理辛格。

And in real-world terms, outside the diplomatic phrasebook:

There are border issues (with two Indian divisions wanting to die on or near what China thinks is her territory), India hosts Tibet’s government in exile (and will probably continue to do so), and it is, above all, noteworthy that there is a need to state that India won’t participate in containing China, even though there seem to be different interpretations about basically every sensitive issue the two sides keep discussing.

Anyway, many among the Huanqiu commenter public aren’t buying the diplomatic achievement. 说一套,做一套 (they say one thing and do another), one of them wrote today, and 其实银度也是老美的一颗棋子 (in fact, India is just America’s chess piece), another recalled.

That said, Sandip Roy, the First Post‘s editor in Calcutta, anticipates trouble for New Delhi, when it comes to its role as a host for Tibetan clergy, officialdom, and refugees:

Jamphel Yeshi burned himself alive to protest Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to New Delhi. Hu is in Delhi, impassive as ever. The Chinese brushed this off as just another nefarious plot by the Dalai Lama.

The country that really loses face is India. Tibetans were once the feel-good symbol of India’s democratic munificence. Now they have become India’s democratic headache, the inconvenient poor relation who refuses to stay discreetly out of sight. India wants the BRIC summit to go off without a hitch, the interactions with Hu Jintao to be photo-op perfect.

But instead an unemployed Tibetan refugee grabs the international media spotlight, dying with 98 percent burns and leaving behind a handwritten call to action.


These restless Tibetans, a part of India, yet apart, put New Delhi in a fix. “I think India is playing the Tibet card consciously. But it should not allow it to burst. This kite-flying is part of our diplomacy,” Indo-China expert CP Bhambhri told The Telegraph.

The same phenomenon as in Dharamsala and around can be observed among Tibetans in China, and worldwide: the older they are, the more they seem to be horrified by the ongoing series of self-immolations, and – one may suppose – worried about the repercussions they may have on how Tibetan concerns will be viewed by a global public, too.

Tsering Woeser, currently under house arrest in Beijing, wrote in a statement published online on March 8 that such self-destructive measures did nothing for the cause of Tibetan rights, and called on influential Tibetans, including monks and intellectuals, to help end the self-immolations. Gade Tsering and Arjia Lobsang Tupten also signed the statement.

Staying alive allows us to gather the strength as drops of water to form a great ocean,

they wrote.

Previously, on January 25, Woeser had extensively quoted her husband, Wang Lixiong, in an editorial for Radio Free Asia. Woeser and Wang show due respect for the self-immolators, but also note that

No matter how brave and devoted the self-immolaters are in sacrificing their lives, it will make people think that it is mainly an act of desperation. Any act of self-immolation while doubtlessly instigating emotional turmoil, is also always a sign of helplessness and loss.

Wang tries to formulate a sketch of a Tibetan civil society (without using the word):

Village autonomy can be implemented only through the participation of every single common villager; this will turn the people into initiators and they will no longer have to passively wait for long and inconclusive negotiations by leaders; if this is not done, they will demonstrate under gunpoint and even go up in flames as self-immolators to give pressure to the “game” played at a high-level.



*) Monetary aggregates comprise monetary liabilities of MFIs [monetary financial institutions] and central government (post office, treasury) vis-á-vis non-MFI euro area residents excluding central government, according to a ECB definition (see “background” there).



» All India Radio Press Review, Aug 21, 2011
» Teaming up for Copenhagen, Dec 6, 2009
» Thich Quang Duc,app. SMSU, ca. 2000


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Responsibility to Protect: Where’s the Iceberg?

Open civil war in Libya created the vacuum that drew the United Nations in. It was the grim outlook for Benghazi, its militias, and its inhabitants which stirred much of the Arab, European, and probably global public. Whenever you heard a discussion about Libya in everyday life, it was mostly about what was officially referred to as the responsibility to protect, or R2P.

MasasitMati: Beeshou's Nightmares

MasasitMati: Beeshou’s Nightmares – click picture for video

Every time when military intervention is considered, many supporters of the option suggest that the situation is exceptional, and that it requires exceptional responses. But the frequency of such military interventions – in Yugoslavia in the late 1990s, in Sierra Leone and in East Timor in 2000, in Iraq in 2003, in Lebanon in 2006, in Georgia in 2008, and in Libya in 2011, just to name a few -, hardly suggests that military intervention can still be seen as an exception.

Now, military intervention in Syria appears to become more likely – depending on the sources you read, it may already be in progress -, and one in Iran may be somewhat further down the queue.

Responsibility to protect is a norm, not a law. Even if it were a law, different states with different interests could still disagree if the law applies,or if it doesn’t. When it’s a norm, decisions will depend either on ethics, or on interests, or on a combination of both. What counts in the decision-making process is which laws or rules may serve to make international “norm enforcement” legal.

In Libya’s case humanitarian considerations were only the tip of the iceberg – in global politics, anyway, not necessarily in the press. The need to help the vulnerable – the need to “do something”, as Aidan Hehir referred to this humanitarian urge  in his The responsibility to protect and international law chapter*) -, seemed to dominate everyday discussions.

What was the actual iceberg about? I don’t know, obviously, but the first step to understand it better should be to look at the document that made military intervention in Libya legal. UN Resolution 1973

[…] Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory […]

An occupation force isn’t the same thing as ground forces, as far as I can see. The mandate was maxed by the intervening forces, but they weren’t necessarily in breach of it.

Which reasons did the resolution give for what was, after all, an intervention in a sovereign country? Civilian casualties, gross and systematic violation of human rights, the need for unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance, the Arab League’s support for a no-fly zone to be established, concern for the safety of foreign nationals in Libya, and the plight of refugees.

The Council welcomed the response of neighbouring States, in particular Tunisia and Egypt – tens of thousands of Libyans had fled their country, either to the east or to the west. It wouldn’t have taken too many months until Europe had faced an influx of refugees, too – in fact, Muammar Gaddafi had previously been Europe’s cooperation partner in keeping refugees from all over Africa south of the Mediterranean, and his sons had been welcome guests in Europe.

The first thing to do when judging the need to “do something” is to cool down – or to try, anyway. The beautiful language UN resolutions are wrapped into might as well be put into much more common words. Resolution 1973 became possible because Gaddafi – to various degrees – had become a disturbing factor in the business of all the stakeholders – Arab countries’, China’s, European countries’, and Russia’s.

The need to cool down also applies when it comes to the suspicions against political motivations. Many of these suspicions are certainly called for, but similar to the way many proponents of intervention monger their “morally superior” positions, many of the objections, too, are applied like cluster bombs.

It is probably wrong to think that there was that one overriding motivation (“Libyan oil” would probably be cited the most, when searching angry blog posts). It should  be more accurate to think of goal hierarchies, rather than of single goals that would define the military mission. Among a bundle of goals, the desire to avoid growing flows of refugees was probably among the bigger ones, at least in Arabia and Europe.

But while the UNSC managed to integrate all the stakeholders’ positions in 2011, concerning Libya, interests seem to differ too widely this time, concerning Syria. Besides, even benign powers like Brazil and India distrust interventionism. Brazil seems to put its reservations forward constructively [update, Dec 17, 2020 – link removed for safety reasons]:

In November, Brazil pushed the debate further by circulating a concept paper to all UN members on a new concept: “responsibility while protecting.” While the Council had cited the “responsibility to protect” civilians from mass atrocities over Libya, the Brazilians argued that the Council should develop stronger guidelines for the use of force and procedures “to monitor and assess the manner in which resolution are interpreted and implemented.” Although the Brazilian paper never mentions Libya, the purpose of its recommendations is clear: to set out constraints that would prevent a repeat of NATO’s escalation of the campaign against Gaddafi, which so quickly slipped beyond the Council’s control.

Not that only America, the Arab League, Britain or France were to blame. Practically everything deemed necessary by the authorized member states had been made “legal” by the 1973 resolution – at least in the widest sense. That couldn’t have happened without the UN security council’s agreement.

But while more  or less humanitarian initiatives might fool stakeholders with legitimate interests once, you can’t fool them every time you want.



*) Critical Perspectives on the Responsibility to Protect, Interrogating theory and practice, ed. Philip Cunliffe, Oxon, New York, 2011, p. 85



» Sheikh Hassoun interview, Der Spiegel, Aug 11, 2011


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