Posts tagged ‘Britain’

Friday, July 19, 2019

You want to defend Democracy, Mr. Rasmussen? Introduce a dedicated Property Tax

In an op-ed for The Guardian, former NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen calls on Europe to

stand up for Taiwan’s self-determination and treat it as a fully-fledged member of the alliance of democracies. In a globally interdependent world, failure to defend our values in east Asia and beyond will eventually lead to the erosion of those same values at home.

The headline – (Now Europe must defend Taiwan) – is more spectacular than Rasmussen’s actual text, where the man who led the West’s military alliance from summer 2009 to fall 2014 doesn’t exactly call for a formal military alliance with Taiwan. As far as military cooperation is concerned, his op-ed remains vague.

It does, however, make tangible demands, by citing American measures in support of Taiwan as examples for Europe, or by accusing European governments of allowing China to bully them into accept its version of Taiwan’s status. Rasmussen also encourages the European Union’s incoming leadership to start practical measures to strengthen Taiwan’s position economically.

Op-eds like these are icebreakers – this one doesn‘t touch on “taboo” issues, at least not yet. And it remains to be seen if Rasmussen is up to a stronger European voice and economic policy in Taiwan‘s favor, or to full military cooperation. If the latter is the case, the EU would have a long way to go – it is anything but a “Pacific player”.

In 2014, Rasmussen wrote an op-ed for the Telegraph which was built in a similar way. Back then, he drew on Russia‘s annexation of Crimea and demanded to “invest in defence of democracy.” Now, he is drawing on the obvious crash of China‘s “one-country-two-systems” policy in Hong Kong.

Is Rasmussen‘s op-ed good news? Basically, yes. Taiwan needs support indeed, and supporters don‘t need to be likeable, as long as their support is sustainable. But Rasmussen’s suggestion that perhaps it had been “naive to believe that this erosion of Hong Kong’s democracy was not inevitable” is cute. I don‘t think that Michael Heseltine, the UK’s trade minister back then, gave democracy in Hong Kong much thought when he had his arguments with  Chris Patten.

What seems to become apparent is a rift within Europe. China, obviously, would love to see an ever-more integrated European Union, provided that such a union would collectively sing the correct tune on Beijing‘s policies, and on Taiwan. In western Europe, bigger countries seem to be less concerned about China‘s – or Russia‘s, for that matter – role in Europe than smaller ones, especially the Netherlands, and Denmark. In eastern Europe, things may evolve differently.

Even if sympathetic with, or loyal to Taiwan, Europe‘s ordinary citizens need to be careful when it comes to utterances like Rasmussen‘s. For decades, China has counted as a huge business opportunity, and western companies were only too happy to throw their technology at it. That was in the interest of investors, but not necessarily in the interest of the European workforce. Now, who exactly is expected to invest in the defense of democracy? There isn’t only a rift between countries – there’s one between income groups, too.

As Rasmussen said, in a globally interdependent world, failure to defend our values in east Asia and beyond will eventually lead to the erosion of those same values at home. But the defense of democracy still starts at home.

If the EU – or single countries of it – want to strengthen Europe’s global military role, I have some words of advice for their  leaders, too. Introduce a meaningful property tax to just that end – one that is going to tax you. Show that you are serious about defending democracy.

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Related

Rising aggression against Taiwan, Jan 28, 2017

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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Yellow Blogging

Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas

Weser River, Verden District (West)

Weser River, Verden District (West)

Merry Christmas, run, run, Rudolph, and let it snow.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Pete Myers, 1939 – 1998

December 15, this coming weekend, marks the 20th death anniversary of Pete Myers, probably the past century’s greatest radio personality without a Wikipedia entry of his own.

Here is an excerpt from one of his programs, broadcast on October 11, 1992, an official day of mourning in the Netherlands, one week after the Bijlmer disaster.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Abe’s Visit to Darwin: Kneeling PM, Crouching PM

ABC coverage, Nov 16, 2018

Guanchazhe online (Observer), a news website from Shanghai, publishes a report, referring to Reuters newsagency coverage, writing that Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe and Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison held a ceremony at Darwin Cenotaph on Friday, commemorating the dead from Japan’s air raids on Darwin during WW2, 76 years ago. The article also mentions discussions concerning strengthened trade and defense cooperation between the two leaders.

The article refers to a liquid natural gas (lng) investment project in Darwin, with a planned Japanese investment of 54 billion Australian dollars (about 274.7 billion RMB), with INPEX Holdings Inc. as the main shareholder and operator, as one of the cooperation projects.

Without comment, Guanchazhe also quotes Morrison as saying*) that

Australia and Japan remain consistent about the importance of sholving the South China Sea dispute. Both Japan and Australia strongly oppose any behavior that could intensify the tense situation in the region.

莫里森还表示,他期待与日本加强合作,维护地区的海上安全。两国领导人在会晤后表示,他们希望明年年初就加强两国防务合作达成协议,包括举行更多的联合军事演习。

Both Guanchazhe and Haiwainet (the latter is the online portal of People’s Daily‘s overseas edition) feature a photo showing the two prime ministers laying wreaths at the cenotaph, but Haiwainet points out the obvious in writing: “The Australian prime minister kneels, Abe crouches.”

ABC (video at the beginning) discusses Japan’s and Australia’s motivation to strengthen military cooperation.

According to reports earlier this year, an Australian dockyard, ASC Pty Ltd, is reportedly set to build nine Hunter class frigates from 2020 (designed in Britain), with the first of them to be operational by 2027. In a report this summer, ABC referred to the project as Australia’s largest peacetime warship building program.

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Note

*) as quoted by AP newsagency: “Australia and Japan also stand united on the importance of resolving disputes in the South China Sea, peacefully and in accordance with international law, and we are strongly opposed to any actions that could increase tensions within the region.”

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Sunday, July 1, 2018

Donald Trump’s Quiztalks

When Donald Trump speaks without a script, it sounds like BBC Radio 4 entertainment – the I’m-sorry-I-haven’t-a-clue style, where people are supposed to talk without repeating a single word, or without mentioning a specific world. Something like …

Host: Mr. President, you are supposed to speak about clocks for sixty seconds, and you must use the word “clock” only once.
Trump: I don’t mind clocks. I like those things. I actually love them. We have a great relationship. The only problem with clocks is …
Detector: BUZZ!!!


Anyway. Why is the president supposed to participate in a game where winning is not important? That’s preposterous.

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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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Xi Jinping’s “Press Briefing”: BBC, Guardian, New York Times giving way to Borrowed Boats?

China Global Television Network (CGTN or CCTV) published a video on Youtube on Wednesday, with the full remarks by CPC Central Committee General Secretary Xi Jinping at a press briefing at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday following the 19th CPC National Congress. The first groupies have already issued ringing endorsements:

Endorsements from all over the world - click screenshot above for Xi's speech

Applause from all over the world – click screenshot above for Xi’s speech

 

The video provides English subtitles to Xi’s speech. A written Xinhua account (in Chinese) can be found there.

Access to the show was reportedly denied to the BBC, the Financial Times, the New York Times and the Guardian, “in some cases for the first time in more than two decades”. The Guardian’s Beijing correspondent wrote on Wednesday that

[a] series of heavily scripted “press conferences” have been organised, which were attended by a large number of foreign reporters on the payroll of party-run media outlets. Many of the questions appeared to have been pre-screened.

This could refer to China’s innovative guidance of public opinion (abroad). When the Great Hall of the People’s East Hall is full of borrowed boats, access needs to be denied to some of the traditional troublemakers foreign vessels.

No wonder then that the reappointed secretary general was full of praise for the reporters in front of him:

Many of you have come afar. All of you have provided numerous and ample coverage of the congress, and aroused the global public’s attention. You have worked hard, and I give you my heartfelt thanks.

这次来了很多记者朋友,许多是远道而来。大家对会议作了大量、充分的报道,引起了全世界广泛关注。你们辛苦了,我向你们表示衷心的感谢。

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