Posts tagged ‘capitalism’

Friday, July 14, 2017

Liu Xiaobo, 1955 – 2017

It won’t be long before Liu Xiaobo‘s first post-mortem biography will be published. But it won’t have the last word. There will be further biographies, and each of them will be contested. That’s because of the man himself, and because of his country. He was a man with a conscience, and his country has been a totalitarian dictatorship for nearly seven decades – if you count the KMT’s martial law in, it’s been a dictatorship for much longer than that.

Liu Xiaobo’s political lifespan lasted for three or four decades. That doesn’t count as long in China. The Communist Party’s propaganda works tirelessly to create and sustain the “People’s Republic’s” population’s imagination of a civilizational history of five or more millenia. And at the same time, the party needs to sustain the notion that the most recent seven decades had been the best in China’s history. Not only the past fourty, after the leadership’s decision to “reform and to open up”, but the past seven decades, including Maoism. CCP propaganda’s aim is to build an image of its rule where the pre- and post-1978 decades are one political unit, without substantial contradictions within.

In all likelihood, Liu Xiaobo had foreseen that trend. Many Chinese dissidents, no matter if opponents of China’s cultural restauration, or opponents of the KMT’s military dictatorship on Taiwan, saw a Chinese complacency at work, considering itself the center of the universe.

Cultural criticism is rarely a rewarding trade, but in China, it can be lethal, as shown in Liu Xiaobo’s case.

Liu’s last camp and prison term, which began in 2009 and ended with his relase on medical parole, with cancer in its final stage, had been based on the accusation that he had “incited subversion of state power”. But the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court’s verdict – passed on Christmas day of 2009, probably to keep the level of international attention as low as possible –  only reflected the CCP’s fear of Liu, not the likely divide between the dissident and his people. A likely divide only, because in a totalitarian dictatorship, these things are more uncertain than in an open society. Hu Jia, himself a dissident who spent more than three years in prison from 2007 to 2011, noted during Liu’s dying days that only about one out of a hundred Beijingers knew who Liu Xiaobo was. Michael Bristow, the BBC’s China correspondent  in 2011, made a similar observation back then.

The 1980s mostly came across as a period of economic optimism, but accompanied by phenomena that were viewed negatively – particularly corruption, which was one of the factors that propelled the June-4 movement at its beginning.

Liu’s answer to what was frequently seen as China’s ailments was “westernization”. Stays in Western countries seem to have intensified his idea, just as Deng Xiaoping is said to have had his own cultural shock when visiting Singapore, in 1978.

But there lies a difference between the great statesman, and the great dissident. Singapore, a highly developed city state led by a family clan, is a model not only for authoritarian Chinese nationals – Taiwanese law-and-order-minded people tend to prefer Singapore as a holiday destination, rather than “messy” Hong Kong.

Liu Xiaobo’s model of development was Hong Kong of the 1980s. It was also the crown colony that provided the intellectual in his early thirties with some public resonance. In one of the interviews, given by Liu to a magazine named Kaifang at the time, Liu made statements that astonished the interviewer:

Q. Under what circumstances can China carry out a genuine historical transformation?
A. Three hundred years of colonialism.  Hong Kong became like this after one hundred years of colonialism.  China is so much larger, so obviously it will take three hundred years of colonialism.  I am still doubtful whether three hundred years of colonialism will be enough to turn China into Hong Kong today.

Q. This is 100% “treason.”
A. I will cite one sentence from Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party: “Workers do not have motherlands.  You cannot take away what they don’t have.”  I care about neither patriotism nor treason.  If you say that I betray my country, I will go along!  I admit that I am an impious son who dug up his ancestors’ graves and I am proud of it.

Both the “insults” and Liu’s expressly stated pessimism probably made for a divide between him and many Chinese (as far as they got to know his story). Or, as Roland Soong, a blogger from Hong Kong, noted next to his translation of the 1988 interview, as of 2010, “I suggest that unless Charter 08 (or any other message) can connect with many people in other social strata, it will remain a mental exercise among ‘public intellectuals.'”

And nothing works in the modern middle kingdom, unless it comes with a festive up-with-people sound. (In that sense, China is globalizing indeed.)

When Soong translated the interview quoted from above, and added his assessment of the Charter 08, the global financial crisis had been wreaking havoc on Western economies for about two years, and at least one of the Charter’s demands had fallen from the tree since: #14 called for

Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

There wasn’t necessarily a conflict on this matter, between the party leadership and the authors of the Charter – time will show how the CCP is going to handle the remaining state sector of the economy. But among everyday Chinese people, this demand would hardly strike a chord. Besides, who can imagine a transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership “in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner”?

In the Charter’s preface, the authors wrote:

The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

It was a cautious description of the status quo: Liu and his co-authors understood that only a critical minority would side with them. And indeed, there was more to endure in the pipeline. The educational dictatorship China is now entering encourages anticipatory obedience rather than awareness, and it is likely to succeed. When you keep beating people up long enough – and provide them with a hopeful perspective for the future -, there is little that can help people of conscience to counter the propaganda.

This may be the main difference between Liu and his enemies (and many of his admirers, too): in the eyes of many, only hard power – no matter if you refer to it as “the people’s power” or as the “authorities” -, creates reality. If the realities are good, you don’t need to get involved. If they are evil, you can’t get involved. And when realities come in many shades of grey, you either needn’t or can’t get involved. The power of the powerless is no reality in these peoples’ world – unless they begin to tilt, so that re-orientation appears advisable.

That’s a stabilizing factor, so long as realities remain what they appear to be.  But appearances can be deceiving, often until the very last hour. Who of the Egyptians who ditched their longtime president in 2011, in colossal demonstrations, had known weeks before that he wanted to get rid of him? A mood had capsized. It wasn’t about awareness.

A manipulated and intimidated public tends to be unpredictable, and that can turn factors around that were originally meant to add to “stability”.

China’s leaders feared Liu Xiaobo. They feared him to the extent that they wouldn’t let him leave the country, as long as he could still speak a word. But in all likelihood, they fear China’s widespread, politically tinged, religious sects even more, which have a tradition at least as long as Chinese scholarship. Falun Gong is only one of its latest manifestations.

By suppressing public intellectuals not only before 1978, but after that, too, they provided space for nervous moodiness. The Communists themselves want to “guide” (i. e. control) public awareness, without leaving anything to chance.

But chance is inevitable. Totalitarian routine may be able to cope for some time, but is likely to fail in the long run, with disastrous consequences.

In that light, the CCP missed opportunities to reform and modernize the country. But then, the party’s totalitarian skeleton made sure that they could only see the risks, and no opportunities, in an opening society.

What remains from Charter 08 – for now – is the courage shown by its authors nine years ago, and by the citizens who affirmed it with their signatures.

Each of them paid a price, to varying degrees, and often, their families and loved ones did so, too: like Liu Xia, who had hoped that her husband would not get involved in drafting the Charter, but who would never dissociate herself from him.

Nobody is obligated to show the same degree of courage, unless solidarity or conscience prescribe it. In most cases, making such demands on oneself would be excessive. But those who hate the Lius for their courage – and for lacking this courage themselves – should understand that their hatred is wrong. One may keep still as a citizen – but there is an inevitable human duty to understand the difference between right and wrong. By denying our tolerance toward despotism and by repressing awareness of our own acquiescence, we deny ourselves even the small steps into the right direction, that could be taken without much trouble, or economic hardship.

May Liu Xiaobo never be forgotten – and may Liu Xia find comfort and recovery.

____________

Updates/Related

再生:致刘晓波, Woeser, July 13, 2017
Rebirth, Woeser/Boyden, July 16, 2017
Wiedergeburt, Woeser/Forster, July 27, 2017
The abuse hasn’t stopped, Wu Gan, July 25, 2017

____________

 

Advertisements
Saturday, June 3, 2017

Political Time Check (Febr 2017): “Synchronized Efforts”

The following is a translation of an article published by the “People’s Daily”, online and in its printed edition, on February 14 this year, by an author named Zhao Zhenyu (赵振宇). Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Main link: “Time Culture – Galloping into the Realms of Dreams”

“A leading cadre’s time of reign is limited, and even more limited is the time he works in the same place. As leading cadres, we must, in the spirit of strife from dawn to dusk, cherish time just the more, make use of this limited time, to do practical and good things for the masses.” During the past few days, when I reviewed secretary general Xi Jinping’s discussion of time, I felt the style of pragmatic and careful work again, and experienced again the time civilization, which is indispensible to the era of pursuing the Chinese dream.

“一个领导干部,在位的时间是有限的,在一个地方工作的时间更有限。我们每一个领导干部都要以‘只争朝夕’的精神,倍加珍惜在位的时间,充分利用这有限的时间,多为群众办实事、办好事。”近日重温习近平总书记关于时间的谈话,再次感受到务实、精细的工作作风,体会到逐梦时代不可或缺的时间文明。

The seasons come and go, untouched by the words that try to describe them. In the beginning, time was an abstract concept, and something hard to grasp. When the forefathers of humankind began to record things by tying knots, measuring time was still something people strived to understand and to master, and became a criterion of civilisational expansion and progress. Of course, in history, people from ancient times formed an awareness of time under the impression of “work from sunrise and to rest after the sunset”, and they developed an attitude that appreciated time, by “attributing little value to a jade ring, but great importance to a single ray of light”. They were careful “not to miss the farming season, so as to reap the harvest in due course”. Time culture, with its connotations of understanding and cherishing time and respecting punctuality, reminds us to scientifically master time, and to effectively use time.

天不言而四时行,时间最初是一个抽象而难以把握的概念。从人类先祖结绳记事开始,定量化的时间才被逐渐认识和掌握,成为文明拓进的一个向度。当然在历史上,古人很早就形成了“日出而作,日入而息”的时间意识,形成了“贱尺璧而重寸阴”的惜时态度,形成了“不违农时,谷不可胜食也”的守时观念。以识时、惜时、守时为内涵的时间文明,提醒我们科学把握时间、有效利用时间。

No blossoming dream can occur without irrigation, and no civilizational advancement can do without the helping hand of time. Time pushes ahead without turning back, and any waste of time amounts to affecting a society’s civilization negatively. Time is the material that forms life, and wasting other peoples’ time means nothing less than scheming murder. In particular, it is the context of “infinite time” and “finiteness of life” that magnifies the value of time and the significance of struggle. That’s why Marx said that all savings ultimately amounted to saving time. As we enter the modern era of milliseconds and microseconds, the architectures-dream value of time becomes yet more apparent. Only by conserving time culture and renovating the notion of time, can we surge forward to enrich human life, and gallop into the realms of dreams.

一切梦想的花开,都离不开时间的浇灌,一切文明的进阶,都离不开时间的助力。时间总是不可逆转地向前推进,对时间的浪费,不啻对社会文明的怠慢甚至贻误。时间是组成生命的材料,浪费别人的时间无异于谋财害命。尤其在“无限的时间”与“有限的生命”的语境下,更凸显出时间的宝贵、奋斗的意义。所以马克思说,一切节约归根到底都是时间的节约。当时代的车轮驶入以毫秒、微秒计时的现代社会,时间的筑梦价值更加显现。涵养时间文明,刷新时间观念,我们才能激荡出彩人生、驰骋梦想国度。

“dit dit dit … Beijing time is x hours.” On December 15, 1970, the National Time Service Center began to broadcast Beijing standard time to the nation on shortwave. From that time on, this familiar timecheck became a reference for peoples’ coming and going. Achieving the goals of the struggles for the Chinese dream and of the “two two-hundreds”, on this brave march forward and the center’s*) strategic dispositons and reform guidelines equally depend on synchronization by Beijing time. All regions, all departments, and all units, in the process of reform and development, are united in action, in unanimous efforts. Connection with the center*) by synchronization and example guarantee that our ideology and our actions serve as rules, and only this enables the entire nation’s chessboard implementation of cooperation, to rise to the cohesive effect of “pearls falling into a jade plate”.

“嘀嘀嘀……北京时间×点整。”1970年12月15日,国家授时中心开始向全国进行短波广播标准的北京时间。从那时起,这个耳熟能详的报时声成为人们出入起居的时间参照。实现中国梦、实现“两个一百年”的奋斗目标,在这条奋进之路上,中央的战略部署和改革方针,同样是我们需要不断对表的北京时间。各地区、各部门、各单位,在改革发展中同中央步调一致、力度一致,一以贯之地与中央对表、看齐,确保我们的思想与行动都以此为准,才能产生“全国上下一盘棋”的落实合力,起到“大珠小珠落玉盘”的聚合效果。

From the venturing cry of “ten thousand years are too long, seize the day, seize the hour” to the firm exploration of “Development is the unyielding argument”, and to the magnificent journey of “reform does not stall, opening up does not stop”, time culture on the national level has amply broken new ground of meaning. We must continue to cultivate this kind of time consciousness. In reality, there is no action of reform and development without a time frame. When it comes to structural reform of production capacities and supply, it is true that resisting forces remain strong, and policies to enable access to pure resources, clean energy etc. comes at high costs, but if we can’t resolutely and decisively implement reform, we may lose the exceptionally favourable opportunity of economic transformation. As for realizing the key issue of moderate prosperity, to seize the opportunity that time provides us with, from an insightful position, is exactly the best attitude to welcome the future.

从“一万年太久,只争朝夕”的创业呐喊,到“发展才是硬道理”的坚定探索,再到“改革不停顿、开放不止步”的壮丽征程,国家层面时间文明充满开拓进取意味。今天,我们仍然需要培育这样的时间意识。现实中,各项改革发展举措,莫不有时间窗口。去产能、去库存等供给侧结构性改革任务固然阻力重重,置备污染净化设备、普及清洁能源等治霾之策固然成本高企,但我们现在如果不能毅然决然地落实改革,就可能丧失经济转型的绝佳时机。对冲刺在实现全面小康关键一程上的中国而言,把握时间给予的机遇,正是眺望前路、迎向未来的最好姿态。

As the times are changing, the dream advances. [Reference to the lunar calendar.] In the new growth ring of the years, our energetic mood shows promise, the struggle forges ahead, and they will certainly carve beautiful memories that won’t drag the mission and the era.

时序更替,梦想前行。农历丁酉年是鸡年,雄鸡司晨昭示时光宝贵,闻鸡起舞激扬勤奋精神。在新的时间年轮里,我们奋发有为、拼搏进取,一定能刻写下不负使命不负时代的美好回忆。

____________

Note

*) the central committee and/or the central government – probably the central committee in this context

____________

Related

Strategic inflection point, A. S. Grove, 1996, 1999
Grundrisse (in English), Karl Marx, 1857 – 61

____________

Friday, December 2, 2016

Is the Truth losing in Today’s World? (And if Yes: How so?)

That’s what Richard Stengel, currently undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, believes, according to a Washington Post article:

“We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today,” Stengel warned in an interview. “Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

And, adds the author of the WaPo article, David Ignatius:

How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

Fascinating stuff – fascinating, because it feels like a déjà vu to me (and I’m wondering for how many others who have a memory of some decades).

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages.

When I studied and worked in a fairly rural place in China, I had a number of encounters with – probably mainstream – Chinese worldviews. That was around the turn of the century, and these were probably the most antagonistic, and exciting, debates I ever had, as the only foreigner among some Chinese friends. Discussions sometimes ended with the two, three or four of us angrily staring at each other, switching to a less controversial topic, and bidding each other a frosty good-bye.

But there was a mutual interest in other peoples’ weird ideas. That’s why our discussions continued for a number of weekends. At at least one point, I felt that I had argued with overwhelming logic, but my Chinese interlocutor was unimpressed. I blamed Chinese propaganda for his insusceptibility, but apparently, propaganda was exactly his point: “If propaganda helps to keep my country safe, I have nothing against propaganda,” he replied.

I found that gross. The idea that propaganda should just be another tool, something you might volunteer to use and to believe in, so as to keep your country and society stable, was more alien to me than any Chinese custom I had gotten to know.

The idea that truth is, or that facts are, the essential resource of a (working, successful) democracy looks correct to me. Democracy can’t work without an informed public. But when it comes to German mainstream media, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t trustworthy.

I agree with the WaPo article / Richard Stengel that the US government can’t be a verifier of last resort. No government can play this kind of role. The Chinese party and state have usurped that role, but China is known to be a low-trust society – that doesn’t suggest that they have played a successful role as official verifiers. While many Chinese people do apparently think of their government as the ultimate guardian of national sovereignty and individual safety from imperialist encroachment, they don’t seem to trust these domestic public security powers as their immediate neighbors.

And the ability of any Western government to be a verifier ends as soon as an issue involves state interests, government interests, or governing parties’ interests.

The US government as a verifier of last resort concerning the Syria war? That idea isn’t even funny.

The German government as a verifier of last resort when it comes to foreign-trade issues (within the European Union, or beyond)? Bullshit.

But what about the American media? I don’t have a very clear picture of how they work, but it would seem to me that US television stations usually address the issues that earn them most of the public’s attention. If that is so, it should be no wonder that Donald Trump profited more from media attention, than Hillary Clinton.

But if tweets, rather than platforms, become the really big issues, the media must have abandoned the role that has traditionally been ascribed to them.

German (frequently public-law) media are strongly influenced by political parties, and apparently by business-driven foundations, too.

I don’t know if something similar can be said about American media, but even if only for their attention-seeking coverage, they can’t count as well-performing media either.

What about “social” media? According to Stengel, as quoted by the Washington Post, they give everyone the opportunity to construct their own narrative of reality.

Stengel mentions Islamic State (in 2014) and Russian propaganda campaigns as examples. In the latter’s case, he points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations during the elections in particular.

I believe that Stengel / Ignatius may have half a point. Russia – provided that they were indeed behind the leaks – only targeted Clinton’s campaign, not Donald Trump’s.

But then, wouldn’t it have been the task of the US media to unearth either campaign’s dirty secrets? Russian propaganda performed, even if only selectively, where US media had failed. It exposed practice in the Democratic Party leadership that was hostile to democracy, but acting under the guise of defending it.

How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth, Ignatius finally asks, and quotes Stengel once again, and addressing the role of “social media”:

The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos.

Now, I’m no advocate of free broadcasts for ISIS videos. But if the best hope is the removal of accounts and videos by the commercial providers, it would seem that there isn’t much hope in human power of judgment, after all – and in that case, there wouldn’t be much hope for democracy as a model of government.

Ignatius:

The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”

Wtf? Human-machine processes? Has the “Global Times” hacked the WaPo?

____________

Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

____________

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bank of China: Brexit Risks and Opportunities

The following is an article initially published by Pengpai News (澎湃新闻), an internet news portal apparently operated by Oriental Morning Post (or Dongfang Morning Post),  a paper from Shanghai. According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), the paper’s then director Lu Yan (陆炎) and  deputy editor-in-chief Sun Jian (孙鉴) were removed from their posts in summer 2012. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Yu Zhengsheng (俞正声), Shanghai CCP secretary at the time, had been “unhappy” with Oriental’s stories. Sun Jian apparently re-emerged later, as the name was mentioned as the concurrent director of  Oriental Morning Post’s and Pengpai News’ economy and finance news centers, in a “People’s Daily” article published in 2015, praising the innovative practice at integrating the paper and its internet platform.

Either way, the news portal’s article about the BoC’s meetings with overseas financial administration dignitaries apparently appealed to the Communist central bankers – it was republished on the BoC’s website, two days after its original publication. Here goes.

The last meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors before the G-20 summit in Hangzhou was held in Chengdu, with [Chinese] central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan opening intensive meetings with high monetary officials from a number of countries.

G20杭州峰会前最后一次G20财长和央行行长会议在成都召开,央行行长周小川又开启了密集会见各国财金高官模式。

According to the People’s Bank of China’s official website, Zhou Xiaochuan, on July 23, met with American treasury secretary Jack Lew, Britain’s newly-appointed chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond, Argentine finance minister Alfonso Prat-Gay and Argentine central bank governor Federico Sturzenegger.
That said, this kind of officially issued information is generally rather simple. For example, at the meeting with the British finance minister, the two sides exchanged views on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, the strengthening of Sino-British financial cooperation and other issues; at the meeting with the US finance minister, the two sides mainly exchanged views on the global financial markets’ situation, about the Chinese and American economies and finances, and policy coordination under the G-20 framework; and at the meeting with the two high Argentine officials, the two sides exchanged views on the international economic and financial situation, the macroeconomic Chinese and Argentine situations, the strengthening of Sino-Argentine financial cooperation and other issues.

据中国人民银行官网消息,7月23日,周小川已先后会见了美国财长雅各布•卢、英国新任财政大臣哈蒙德、阿根廷财政部长盖伊和阿根廷央行行长斯图森内格。
不过,这类会见官方发布信息均比较简单。比如,会见英国财长,双方就英国退欧、加强中英两国金融合作等议题交换了意见;会见美国财长,双方主要就近期全球金融市场形势、中国和美国经济金融形势,以及G20框架下的政策协调等问题交换了意见;会见阿根廷两高官,双方主要就国际经济金融形势、中阿宏观经济状况,以及加强中阿两国金融合作等议题交换了意见。

Currently, Britain’s withdrawal from the EU is undoubtedly a hot topic, but the central bank didn’t disclose any details. Still, the British finance minister’s time’s itinerary suggests that while withdrawing from the EU, they didn’t forget to to sell themselves.

眼下,英国退欧无疑是热门话题,不过央行并未透露任何细节。但从英国财政部此次行程来看,他们在退欧的同时,仍不忘推销自己。

According to the Bank of China, the “Sino-British Financial Services Round Table Meeting”, organized by the British embassy and co-hosted by the Bank of China, was held in the BoC’s head office’s mansion in Beijing, on July 22. British chancellor of the exchequer Philip Hammond, British deputy chancellor of the exchequer [Mark Bowen?], British Ambassador to China Dame Barbara Woodward and other British government representatives, as well as People’s Bank, the CBRC, the State Administration of Foreign Exchange, and big financial organisations and more than 40 high-ranking officials were guests at this meeting.

据中国银行消息,7月22日,由英国大使馆主办、中国银行协办的“中英金融服务圆桌会”在北京中国银行总行大厦举行。英国财政大臣菲利浦•哈蒙德、英国财政部副部长马克•博文、英国驻华大使吴百纳女爵士等英方政府代表,以及人民银行、银监会、外管局和中英两国大型金融机构的高管共约40多人作为受邀嘉宾出席了本次会议。

Hammond said at the meeting that the British economic fundamentals after the “Brexit” referendum remained fine, that Britain would continue to play an important role in the international arena, that British commerce, financial services and investment would, just as in the past, be open and competitive, and the British government would attach yet more attention to cooperation with China in the financial field.

哈蒙德在会上表示,英国公投“脱欧”后经济基本面依然良好,英国将继续在国际舞台上扮演重要角色,英国的商务、金融服务和投资领域也将一如既往地呈现开放、竞争的态势,英国政府将会更加重视在金融服务领域与中国的合作。

Chairman of the BoC board Tian Guoli said that Britain’s position in the fields of international politics, economics, and finance was highly influential. As far as Chinese and British investors were concerned, there were interdependent “risks” and “opportunities” in the “Brexit”, with both challenges and opportunities. To safeguard Chinese and British investors’ interests, there should be a continuation of promoting the two countries’ economic and trade development, global financial stability, the suggested common promotion of the building of “one belt, one road”, active participation in China’s supply-side structural reforms, the strengthening of financial cooperation, and the acceleraton of building London as an offshore center for the RMB.

中行董事长田国立则表示,英国在国际政治、经济、金融领域的地位举足轻重。对中英两国投资人而言,英国“脱欧”“危”“机”相倚,挑战与机遇并存。为守护中英投资人利益、持续推动两国经贸发展、促进全球金融稳定,建议中英双方共同推动“一带一路”建设,积极参与中国供给侧结构性改革,强化金融合作,加快伦敦人民币离岸中心建设。

At the meeting, participants discussed the two topics of “Seen from the perspective of the financial industry, Britain after the ‘Brexit’ remains a good destination for overseas investment” and “The important role of Britain as a good partner in the development and opening of the Chinese financial industry”.

会谈中,与会代表就“从金融业角度看英国‘脱欧’后仍是海外投资的良好目的地”和“在中国金融业发展开放过程中,英国如何发挥好合作伙伴的重要作用”两个议题展开讨论。

____________

Related

» Whose Gateway, Nov 24, 2015
» 媒体融合中, “People’s Daily” online, Sept 17, 2015
» Locomotion, Finance, Energy, July 27, 2014
____________

Updates/Related

» Propaganda 2.0, The Economist, Dec 13, 2014
____________

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Is the Left right after all?

Thanks for → asking, Mr. Moore. It’s only a first step, and a late one at that, but if the left is as dumb and if conservatives are as smart as you claim, I’m sure you’ll arrive at some good conclusions. Will you continue to ask these questions after Brexit, too?

____________

Related

Bigoted elite, Charles Moore/Telegraph, March 4, 2016

____________

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Panama Papers: Invested, but not Koppied

You needn’t be there yourself, but should your money? Those places are beginning to look like those parties you simply have to get an invitation to, if you want to matter: the “havens” where (many of) the rich and beautiful put their money. The Virgin Islands, for example. Or Panama. Or Luxemburg? Not sure. Ask a bank.

Reportedly, some members of Vladimir Putin‘s tight-knit inner circle do it. Reportedly, Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan (成龍) does it. So do Thais. Lots of Indians, too. And maybe many Americans, but elsewhere.

Others, also reportedly, did so in the past. One of them even says that he lost money in the game.

But not so fast. Media tend to scandalize everything, don’t they?

According to ICIJ, the documents make public the offshore accounts of 140 politicians and public officials. The documents don’t necessarily detail anything illegal, but they do shine a light on the shadowy world of offshore finances,

National Public Radio (NPR) informs its listeners.

So, let’s not jump to conclusions. The problem, either way, is that the investors’ countries’ governments can’t get a picture of what is there. And once an investor is found on a list like the “Panama Papers”, with investments or activities formerly unknown to his country’s fiscal authorities (and/or the public), he’s got something to explain.

Like Argentine president Mauricio Macri, for example.

So, it’s beautiful to have some money there.

Unless the public begins to continuously ask questions about it.

Timely Exits from Paradise

If British prime minister David Cameron is right, the money he and his wife earned from an offshore trust were taxed. His problem, then, would be the general suspicon of the business.

The Cameron couple reportedly sold their shares in question in 2010, the year he became prime minister.

“Best Effect” and “Wealth Ming” reportedly ceased operations in 2012 and/or 2013. That was when CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping took his top positions. The two companies had been run in the Virgin Islands, and Deng Jiagui (邓家贵), husband to Xi’s older sister, had been the owner, Singaporean paper Zaobao reported on Tuesday.

And then, there’s Tsai Ying-yang (蔡瀛陽), one of the 16,785 Taiwanese Mossack Fonseca customers, the law firm the “Panama Papers” were leaked from. According to his lawyer, Lien Yuen-lung (連元龍), Tsay Ying-yang terminated his Koppie Limited company as soon as in 2009, the year following its establishment, so as to cut the losses – 30 percent of the investment, according to a phone interview Lien gave Reuters, as quoted by the Straits Times.

Tsai Ing-wen hasn’t commented herself, and maybe, she won’t any time soon. It doesn’t seem that too much pressure has mounted so far. But questions are asked all the same. On Wednesday, KMT legislators William Tseng (曾銘宗), Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), and Lee Yan-hsiu (李彥秀) told a press conference that in the “many cases” where the Tsai family had encountered controversy, Tsai Ying-yangs name had emerged, and this “gave cause for doubts” (會起人疑竇).

An Emerging KMT Opposition Pattern

William Tseng may become a regular questioner, concerning the financial affairs of Tsai’s family people. One of the “controversies” he had quoted had been the issue of a press conference on March 24. There, with different KMT colleagues,  but the same kind of artwork on the wall behind the panel, showing the suspect of the day, Tseng dealt with the issue of Academica Sinica president Wong Chi-huey‘s daughter’s role as a shareholder of OBI Pharma Inc..

KMT legislators press conference artwork

KMT representations:
Mind the guys in the background

One of his fellow legislators, Alicia Wang (王育敏), raised the issue of the company’s shareholder structure (and neatly placed Tsai’s brother there, too, maybe just to make his name available for quote by Tseng on other occasions:

“President-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) brother and sister-in-law are also shareholders, and so is Wong’s daughter, Wong Yu-shioh (翁郁秀). Are others involved?”

Diplomatic Relations, but no Tax Treaty

The “Panama Papers”, as far as they concern Taiwanese customers, contain not only individuals, but companies, too: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (founding chairman Morris Chang, who served Taiwan as APEC representative in 2006), TransAsia Airways (more recently in the news for the tragic Flight 235 crash), Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation, Wei Chuan Food Corporation (in the news since 2013), and the Executive Yuan’s National Development Fund.

The Development Fund was not a taxable organization, Taiwan’s foreign broadcaster Radio Taiwan International (RTI) quotes finance minister Chang Sheng-ford. He used the example to make the point that to suggest that some 16,000 keyword search results for Taiwan in the “Panama Papers” did not signify 16,000 cases of tax evasion. That’s just not the way to look at it.

Chang reportedly also said that while, “if necessary”, Taiwan would establish a Panama Papers working group and start investigating the most high risk people and agencies for tax evasion, the country had no tax treaty with Panama. Also, a Taiwanese anti-tax evasion law had not yet been passed.

____________

Related

The Panama Papers
Achselzucken schadet, Der Freitag, Apr 7, 2016
The Panama Papers, FoarP, Apr 6, 2016

____________

Friday, April 1, 2016

Media Coverage on Ministry of Education’s (MoE) “Blue Book” on Returning Overseas Students and the Labor Market

The Chinese ministry of education (MoE) published a “blue book”, or a government report, on March 25, concerning overseas Chinese students returning to China, and looking for a job there. If Chinese press and government agency coverage on the report is something to go by, this is what the average academic returnee to the motherland looks like:

he is actually mostly a she (59.16 percent of the returnees are female), aged 23 to 33 (absolute average 27.04 yrs old), a masters student (80.7 percent), a postgraduate (9,49 percent), or an undergraduate / a student with a specialized subject (9.81 percent combined). If a postgraduate, his main fields should mainly be chemistry, material science, economics, electronics and electrical engineering, while the masters fields of study are somewhat more into the direction of finance, accounting, business management, management studies, or international business studies.

Statistics seem to suggest that there have been more returnees recently, than the 1978 to 2015 average numbers. Either way, the MoE’s Overseas Students’ Support Center deputy director Xu Peixiang (徐培祥) is quoted as saying that some 70 to 80 percent of students, in recent years, have returned after their studies abroad.1)

97 percent of those who currently study abroad are doing so at their own expense, which appears plausible when looking at the total numbers. In 2015 alone, 523,700 students reportedly left for studies abroad, and 409,100 job-seeking overseas students returned to China that year. By comparison, 248 students left China for studies abroad in 1978, according to Xinhua newsagency.

Very rough calculations with many unknowns: given that 459,800 Chinese left China to study abroad in 2014, according to this government-agency news report, the average of students leaving in 2014 and 2015 combined would be (459,800 + 523,700)/2 = 491,750, and based on an average duration of 22 months (more precisely 21.47 months) of studies abroad among the 2015 returnees,  this would mean that about 901,542 Chinese students would currently be abroad.

Three percent of these would then not study at their own expense (or that of their parents, relatives, etc.). Some 27,000 of the 901,542 abroad would, based on my shoddy calculation, study with a government grant, a scholarship, etc.. And probably, very few, if any, among the 248 who went abroad in 1978, were self-paying students.

23.85 percent of the 2015 returnees have been looking for a job in state-owned companies, 19.4 percent prefer minban operations2), and foreign-invested enterprises, state institutions and financial institutions rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the returnees search settings. Only 3.32 percent want to establish businesses of their own (one percentage point up, compared to the 2014 returnees).

When it comes to location and company types, the returnees haven’t necessarily followed their ideas of perfect companies and locations, but looked at some hard facts (and regulations), and have therefore looked for jobs that appeared to be closer within their reach. Either way, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are still very popular destinations, with 49.34 percent indicating these goals, but this is said to be eight percentage points less than in 2013. This share is now basically focused on other provincial-capital-level cities.

Being in a position to pay for ones studies abroad doesn’t necessarily translate into perfect (or labour-market-oriented) choices, according to the news coverage. Qi Mo (齐默), head of the returnee office at the MoE, is quoted as stating “a certain blindness” in terms of how students (and their parents) are choosing fields of studies (or majors) and places (cities and universities) abroad. Hence, the MoE was trying to provide candidates for self-paid overseas studies, as well as their families, with information to support their choices, according to Qi.

It isn’t strongly highlighted in the news, but it becomes fairly evident that while Xu Peixiang points out how returning overseas students have become a group that receives great attention at our country’s market of talents, there may be particular challenges for returning overseas students, too. When a Xinhua article mentions measures like bases (or opportunities) for practical work as supportive measures for returnees to integrate into the labor market (this might also be translated as internship opportunities), you might suspect some frustration and trouble there. After all, such “opportunities” are hardly the financial return self-paying students (and their families and networks) would expect on their investment (or borrowings).

____________

Footnotes

1) According to statistics quoted in the Chinese press coverage on the MoE “blue book”, 4.04 million Chinese students have studied abroad from 1978 to 2015. 2.22 million of them have returned so far.

2) minban is a poorly defined term. There are, of course, many ways to find definitions anyway. Dorothy J Solinger, in “China’s Transition from Socialism”, first published in 1993, suggested that

there are three main types: those […] which are supposedly owned and managed by “people” (minyou-minban); those owned by the state but managed by “people” (guanyou-minban); and those jointly operated and owned by the state and the “people” (guanmingongyou).

And in 1999/2000, Guoqiang Tian, now a professor at Texas A & M University and in China, discussed in a paper on Property Rights and the Nature of Chinese Collective Enterprises why collective enterprises, especially township and village enterprises (TVEs) had – those sixteen years ago, anyway – developed more rapidly than privately owned enterprises, in China.

General note: I have no information about survey’s return rate among the former overseas students.

____________

Friday, January 8, 2016

Human Rights and Economic Records: Botched Measures and Terrible Occurrences

Before the old (lunar) year leaves and a new comes in, things need to be tidied up in China. However, efforts to calm the stock markets by new management measures appear to have been unsuccessful. And in Hong Kong, where RMB trading, is unrestricted, people pay less for China’s currency, according to the New York Times.

There’s still other bad news, and the indicator in this case, too, is Hong Kong.

“Something terrible has happened. We are all afraid. We are leaving now,” an employee told me a few hours before locking the doors for the foreseeable future.

That’s how the BBC‘s correspondent in the former British colony, Juliana Liu, concluded an entry in the broadcaster’s China blog on Monday, and the topic, of course, is the case of five Hong Kong citizens, all associated with the Causeway Bay Bookstore, who have gone missing since October last year. The latest case is Paul Lee, and he went missing late in December.

Hong Kong’s SCMP, one of East Asia’s leading English-language papers, but one with an uncertain future, reported on Monday the first precept speech by a Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The guy who’s imitating the late great dictator is, of course, current party secretary general, state chairman, and the central military commissions’ (CMC) chairman Xi Jinping. The speech is seen as part of Xi’s efforts to reform China’s military, but obviously, the – probably intended – signal goes beyond the armed forces project.

Given that no other former CMC chairman, from Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao, had given a military precept, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law concludes that Xi’s power and authority is even higher than them.

This may or may not be true. If  Wang Qishan, rather than Li Keqiang, ranks second in terms of power or influence within the party, the assessement may be correct. But then, maybe Deng Xiaoping, who faced open ideological competition at times by more conservative party veterans like Chen Yun, simply didn’t need to show off his autority by admonishing the military.

Back then, too, the party was corrupted. But that was at a time when – or that’s how it felt, anyway – everyone had a chance to become rich. Now, there’s a two-fold challenge of corruption and slowing growth.

This could mean that Xi has powers because potential rivals do not want to challenge him, so as not to rock the not-so-stable boat.

If China’s regime manages the switch from an export-led economy to a more services-oriented economy successfully, the doubts in Beijing’s macro-economic control of the economy won’t persist – some disappeared people, in China or elsewhere, have never been a great concern to business.

All the Xidadamania aside however, confidence in mainland China, in Hong Kong, and abroad, appears to be slipping, at least currently.

In an interview with German national radio on Thursday, Markus Taube, a professor at a university in Germany’s Ruhr region, stated “a massive loss of confidence” in China:

What we see in China at the moment, definitely, is a massive loss of confidence. All market actors can see that the CCP has clearly lost its former control capacity. Until now, the Chinese market was always a very [unreadable] […]. Now, this ability to lead isn’t in place and that the state has failed several times, on its own promises.

Das, was wir in China momentan definitiv sehen ist ein massiver Vertrauensverlust. Alle Marktakteure sehen, dass die Kommunistische Partei offensichtlich ihre frühere Steuerungskapazität verloren hat. Bislang war der chinesische Markt immer ein sehr [unreadable] … Fundamentaldaten haben da kaum eine Rolle gespielt, und es war das Vertrauen einfach da, dass die Partei, der Staat, im Endeffekt die Richtung vorgibt [unreadable]. Jetzt ist es so, dass diese Führungsfunktion fehlt und dass der Staat mehrfach versagt hat, auf seine eigenen Versprechen hin.

Not least, Taube said, the “anti-corruption campaign” has discouraged Chinese decisionmakers in charge of approving (or delaying) investment projects.

Given that Chinese control mechanisms – concerning the financial markets – are out of order, Taube, with an audible sigh, introduces an old friend from the 2009 tool cabinet:

It sounds unorthodox, but probably, in the current situation, it would be more appropriate to issue another stimulus package, in that the state, again, to a great extent, pumps money into the economy. A classical Keynesian stimulus package to create state-induced demand so as to restore the economic dynamics on a basic level.

Es klingt sehr unorthodox, aber wahrscheinlich ist es in der momentanen Situation tatsächlich eher angesagt, ein klassisches Konjunkturpaket wieder aufzusetzen, einen Stimulus, in dem der Staat einfach in großem Maße wieder Geld in die Volkswirtschaft hineinpumpt. Also ein klassisches keynesianisches Konjunkturprogramm, in dem einfach staatlich induziert Nachfrage geschaffen wird, und damit einfach die volkswirtschaftliche Dynamik auf einem grundlegenden Level wieder stabilisiert wird.

That said, Taube doesn’t judge the situation by standards of five-year plans, or by taking the long view, as recommended by the Lord of the Confucius Institutes. Taube advocates a stimulus because the methods tried more recently haven’t worked and wouldn’t turn the tide for the coming six months.

____________

Updates/Related

» Executives Disappearing, HP, Jan 8, 2016

____________

%d bloggers like this: