Posts tagged ‘capitalism’

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.

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Updates/Related

» Executives Disappearing, HP, Jan 8, 2016

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Angela Merkel’s 8th Visit: another two Days in China

Angela Merkel was to meet Xi Jinping on Thursday, her office’s website wrote earlier this week, referring to the state chairman and party secretary general as “president”. That’s routine in German federal and regional authorities’ contacts with China; party affiliations and roles are mostly ignored.

It was Merkel’s eighth visit to China, Xinhua newsagency informed statistics-obsessed readers. She first visited in August 1997, then as minister for environment protection and nuclear reactor safety. Visits as chancellor followed in May 2006, August 2007, October 2008, July 2010, February 2012, August 2012, and in July 2014.

An End to the “Golden Decade” of German-Chinese Cooperation?

Germany’s press is diverse at first glance, but much of what ends up in regional papers is written by relatively few correspondents or editorialists in Berlin, pooled in news agencies and correspondent’s offices that offer their services to any paper in the market. “Die Krisen reisen mit” (Crises travel along), written by two Deutsche Presseagentur (DPA) correspondents, was published by a number of small or medium-sized regional papers. Sebastian Heilmann, a sinologist, is quoted as saying that London had assumed the leading role in relations with China (this probably refers to the leading role in the European Union).

But the DPA article doesn’t want to leave Heilmann’s remarks uncontested:

That Cameron, all of a sudden, only leers at business doesn’t necessarily suggest convictions and reliability, as can be read from internet users’ sardonic remarks. The chancellor enjoys much greater esteem. But Xi was probably happy to see the human-rights topic basically dropped under the table in London, and the Europeans being split. The [German] federal government takes no stock in this kind of policy changes and remains firm in its critical China policy. Chinese people appreciate reliability. Even the strength of Germany’s industries alone would ensure Germany’s position as China’s “definitely strongest trading partner”, the chancellery believes.

Dass Cameron plötzlich nur noch auf das Geschäft schielt, spricht auch aus chinesischer Sicht nicht unbedingt für Überzeugungen und Verlässlichkeit, wie aus hämischen Kommentaren von Internetnutzern erkennbar wird. Da genießt die Kanzlerin viel größere Wertschätzung. Aber Xi dürfte sich gefreut haben, dass das Thema Menschenrechte in London praktisch unter den Tisch gefallen ist und hier ein Keil zwischen die Europäer getrieben werden konnte. Die Bundesregierung hält von solchen Kurswechseln aber nichts und bleibt in ihrer kritischen China-Politik standhaft. Die Chinesen wissen Zuverlässigkeit zu schätzen. Schon wegen der Stärke der deutschen Industrie werde Deutschland auch “mit Sicherheit der stärkste Handelspartner” der Chinesen  bleiben, glaubt man im Kanzleramt.

Deutsche Welle’s Mandarin service is more elaborate, drawing on a press release from the Mercator Institute for China in Berlin, r rather on the institute’s trade magazine “China Flash”. In an interview with the magazine, Heilmann, the institute’s director, said that Chinese demand for industrial commodities was going down, and at the same time,

there’s a certain disillusionment on the Chinese side, because jointly agreed projects are stagnating: from the Chinese perspective, German industry is too passive in technological cooperation, and the federal government has given too little profile to the issue.

auf chinesischer Seite eine gewisse diplomatische Ernüchterung, weil gemeinsam vereinbarte Projekte stocken: Aus Sicht der Chinesen ist die deutsche Industrie in der Technologiekooperation zu passiv, und die Bundesregierung hat das Thema Innovationspartnerschaft zu niedrig aufgehängt.

As for an action framework for innovation partnership, adopted in Berlin in October 2014, with Chinese chief state councillor Li Keqiang and Merkel in attendance, Merkel would “need to cheer up disappointed interlocutors in Beijing”:

Peking had hoped that German companies would procure Chinese companies with innovative know-how on networked production. However, German companies are understandably skeptical: Industry 4.0 is about fundamental, sensitive future technology. The question if this kind of know-how can be protected in the Chinese context must be answered in the negative, at present.

Peking hatte gehofft, dass deutsche Unternehmen chinesischen Firmen innovatives Wissen zur vernetzten Industrieproduktion beibringen. Doch deutsche Unternehmen sind verständlicher Weise skeptisch: Bei Industrie 4.0 geht es um elementare, sensible Zukunftstechnologien. Und die Frage, ob solches Know-how im chinesischen Kontext geschützt werden kann, muss man derzeit klar verneinen.

In Heilmann’s view, Germany losing its status as an “anchor state” for Chinese engagement in Europe shouldn’t simply be attributed to London’s “fulminant diplomatic campaign”, but to intensifying Chinese interest in international financial markets and tertiary-industry-related know-how.

Meantime, the federal government, in its announcement of Merkel’s visit to China, stated that Berlin’s goal was a balance between economic/technological, and social issues, and to include issues of global order, as well.

Human Rights: “Huanqiu Shibao” pities Merkel

Heilmann doesn’t seem to agree that China’s leaders would appreciate the federal government’s “critical China policy” (see first blockquote). It would be quite possible, Heilmann told “China Flash”, that Chinese government representatives wouldn’t listen to German expostulations “as patiently as they did last year”.

One had to pity Merkel, Huanqiu Shibao wrote in a slightly satirical article, republished here by Guanchazhe (Shanghai) on Thursday:

Today and tomorrow; German chancellor Angela Merkel visits China. So-called human-rights organizations like Amnesty International responded right away, on receipt of the news. This organization, which frequently causes China trouble, as well as the disreputable organizations “World Uyghur Congress” and “International Campaign for Tibet” recently published a joint open letter to Merkel and demanded that she should voice “concern regarding the situation in Chinese judiciary” and to voice her “support for suppressed Uyghur human rights lawyers”.

德国总理默克尔今明两天正式访问中国,大赦国际等所谓人权组织闻风而动。这家经常向中国发难的组织与臭名昭著的“世界维吾尔大会”及“世界声援西藏组织”日前联名给默克尔发公开信,要求后者在访华期间提出“对中国司法现状的担忧”,表达“对被打压维权律师的支持”。

“Tibetan-independence” and “Xinjiang-independence” organization in Western exile have apparently learned something new, adding new concepts like “situation in Chinese judiciary” and “Uyghur human rights lawyers”. That’s very amusing.

流亡西方的“藏独”和“疆独”组织看来最近加强了学习,用上了“司法现状”和“维权律师”等新词,还与大赦国际搞到一起“抱团取暖”,联合挑事,蛮是有趣。

From the perspective of the large public in mainland China, Western leaders who sing the praise of human rights every time when visiting China, come across as somewhat strange. Above all, what they mean by human rights is often different from what Chinese the common people mean. For example, Chinese people are above all concerned by social justice, with educational justice and fair access to medical treatment, home ownership, care for the elderly, etc..

对中国大陆数量庞大的公众来说,西方领导人每次到中国访问时总要像念经背书一样谈谈人权问题,有些怪怪的。尤其是他们说的人权与中国老百姓最关心的权利常常不是一回事,比如中国人最关心社会公平,包括受教育公平、医疗资源公平等,还希望居者有其屋,人人老有所养等等。

Chinese people also want rule by law, they hope for unrestricted freedom of speech, and more democratic government. As far as these [issues] are concerned, the country has a diversity in practice, keeps summing up experiences, and indeed, there are problems on government level that need to be solved. Concepts like democracy and rule by law have found their way into socialist core values. In fact, Chinese society, more than any external force, is more concerned with doing this well, and engages in exploring these issues.

中国人还要求法治,希望言论开放,国家治理更加民主。关于这些,国家有种种实践,不断总结经验,也的确有些治理层面的问题需要破解。民主、法治这些词汇都进入了社会主义核心价值观,究竟怎么做好,中国社会比任何外部力量都更加关心,也在实际探索并努力。

When foreigners talk to China about human rights, this frequently refers to the tiny minority of people who are in jail for challenging China’s political system, defined by the constitution and rules, in a way that  is relevant under criminal law. Our strong impression is that they [foreign visitors] aren’t concerned about Chinese human rights which are constantly improving, that they aren’t concerned for the growing prosperity of a majority of Chinese people, but that they [my translation for the rest of this line may be rather vague or inaccurate – JR]  want to help those who seek confrontation with the Chinese system. By this, they want to cause China trouble and force China to adopt government methods that don’t fit this country.

外国人向中国一谈人权,指的往往是为挑战中国宪法规定 的政治制度而触犯刑法,并因此坐了监狱的极少数人。给我们的强烈印象是,他们不是关心中国人权基本面 的不断改善,不是关心绝大多数中国人的福祉,而是要帮助能数得过来的与中国体制搞对抗的人,他们是要以这种方式找中国麻烦,逼中国采取不适合自己的国家治 理方式。

 Many people from the West say that they are sincerely concerned about human rights and that they can’t ignore the arrests of “dissidents”. But apparently, they don’t understand what those “dissidents” did, that they weren’t seized for “differing opinions”, but for doing things, because of their “different opinion”, that are banned by Chinese law.1)

One had to understand that China frequently gave cause to misunderstandings, Huanqiu Shibao wrote. After all, this was a big world, and far-away China was therefore not easy to understand. However, Western people with strong views about intervention in China should know how to behave in delicate situations. This wasn’t the era of the eight-nation alliance, and China wasn’t in the [weak] position anymore to beg for capital or technology.

Self-confident as Chinese society is today, people know that there are individual Western leaders who visit China with the tic of discussing “human rights”. Therefore, [Chinese people] feel a bit sorry and pity visitors who need to grit their teeth and shoulder the task of discussing “human rights”, so as to report to their superiors at home afterwards. Apparently, Chinese society is more generous than societies that exert pressure on their leaders, and are at times understanding.

中国社会如今自信了,知道西方有个别领导人访华谈“人权”的怪癖,因此对来访领导人要硬着头皮说句“人权”回去交差,有那么点同情和怜悯。怎么办呢,中国社会看来比在后面逼那些领导人的社会大度些,有时也就谅解了他们。

If the Western societies didn’t know how rotten the game in question was, remained unknown, wrote, Huanqiu Shibao. But if the window speeches absolutely had to continue, China would be of help.

“People’s Daily”: Japan should learn from Germany, and from Britain, too

If the Sino-British era is to become about as successful as the preceding Sino-German tandem, remains to be seen. Either way, much seems to suggest that human rights issues are now considered useless obstacles for relations with China.

Hua Yiwen (华益文), an author for the party’s central newspaper People’s Daily, thinks that both sides, Beijing and London, have given a sincere representation of Sino-British relations, with a strategic positioning and a harmonic diversity that made the Chinese public’s positive view of Britain rocket upwards.2)

That said, Hua isn’t as dissatisfied about Germany either. The really bad guys are the Japanese. If one saw how actively both Britain and Germany developed their ties with China, one couldn’t help but think of Japan. Different from Germany, Japan hadn’t dealt with its history, and that was affecting Sino-Japanese relations. And while London’s policies were marked by strategic far-sightedness and political courage, the Abe government had decided “to join the US and to bang the gong of a ‘Chinese threat’, thus paving the way for a Japanese military security policy of its own, and thus adding a complication factor to Sino-japanese relations.

Human Rights: Merkel meets Activists

Angela Merkel reportedly held a private meeting with nine activists at the German embassy in Beijing on Thursday evening, risking host’s ire.

The risk of the CCP leadership’s ire is exaggerated: after all, this isn’t the first meeting of this kind, and if China’s leaders had seriously objected, and considered it worth the price, they could have barred all nine activists from the meeting, as Mo Shaoping, who was invited to such a meeting in February 2012, can tell from his own experience.

Next in the visitors’ line is French president Francois Hollande, scheduled to arrive in Beijing on November 2. State council foreign-language website china.org quotes Zhou Yongsheng (周永胜) of the Chinese University for Foreign Affairs. interprets the visits, closely following each other, as “illustrating the growing influence and the position of power held by China, as acknowledged and appreciated by numerous great countries”.

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Notes

1) Probably, the Chinese dissident who is most prominent abroad should be Liu Xiaobo. (He’s hardly known or remembered within China.) He has been under arrest continuously since December 2008, and was sentenced in December 2009, for “inciting subversion of state power”. As far as I can tell, there were no clear-cut reasons given for the judgment. A conjecturable motive for seizing Liu Xiaobo could be the Charter 08, co-authored by Liu and about to be published at the time.

2) How sustainable “the Chinese public’s benevolence” and the foundations of the “British-Chinese Golden Decade” can be will also depend on a factor that could sound familiar to a message London received from Washington nearly three years ago. Back then, US president Barack Obama had informed David Cameron that he valued a strong UK in a strong European Union. Same message from Xi Jinping, according to Xinhua last week:

Xi Jinping emphasized that the European Union was China’s partner in a comprehensive strategic partnership. China hoped for a prospering Europe, a united Europe, and for an important EU member country, Great Britain, playing an active and constructive role in promoting and deepening Chinese-European relations.

习近平强调,欧盟是中国的全面战略伙伴和最大贸易伙伴。中国希望看到一个繁荣的欧洲、团结的欧盟,希望英方作为欧盟重要成员国为推动中欧关系深入发展发挥更加积极和建设性的作用。

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Related

» Internet Revolution, Chinese concept, April 17, 2015
» Hometown Diplomacy, China Daily, Oct 30, 2015

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Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Tories and the CCP

Update, Oct 22: a try with a ballpen

Update, Oct 22: a try with a ballpen

Let’s stick together to make Britain China’s best partner in the West.

Gee. I’m not young anymore, and I think I’ve seen a bit of the world, but probably nothing as big as this slime trace. Seems to remind me of the old fairytale: if you can’t throw a frog against the wall anymore, start kissing his ass.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Links: O2O Business in China

Warning: JR is trying to explain the economy to himself. His word pool and previous knowledge about this topic are shaky, and the following may or may not make sense – you’ll have only have yourselves to blame if you base your homework (or investment decisions) on this post.

Going “Brick-and-Mortar”

Let’s get industrial. O2O is about [people] buying things online, but collecting them from a shop on their side of the computer or smartphone – or having the stuff delivered to their doorstep. But China’s woefully inefficient logistics network .. acts as a brake on e-commerce growth, the Economist wrote in August, and that leads to online retailers seeking “brick-and-mortar” outlets to increase the points of delivery and to make their goods more accessible for their online customers.

Dalian Wanda Group’s (万达集团) and Suning Commerce Group (苏宁云商) are a recent example in the news. Wanda’s property development section (the company’s other major trades would be culture and tourism)  provides department stores or plazas all over the country, and Suning Commerce Group is a retailer with reportedly more than 1600 stores across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan. The two have signed a cooperation agreement: Suning will open stores at Wanda Plazas throughout the country, Reuters wrote on September 6.

National Soft Power, too

China News Service (CNS) explained, on September 7:

Suning coming into play is a direct result of an upgrade at Wanda. Wang Jianlin has long indicated that the answer would be revealed on this day.

其实,细心的人早就能发现这次合作的蛛丝马迹。它与万达正在进行的业态升级紧密关联。甚至可以说,苏宁的入局,正是万达进行业态升级的直接成果。王健林一直引而不发,直到这一天揭晓答案。

The adjustments had been watched by many skeptical observers for about half a year, without Wang Jianlin providing much of a response during all the time, according to CNS. But as for Wanda’s department stores, or plazas, CNS has reassuring news:

Are Wanda’s stores really as bad as comments from outside suggest? Not at all. One one occasion, in an internal meeting, Wang Jianlin revealed that nearly half of the Wanda stores were incurring losses, but that the other half of them were profitable. He was in a position to cut the outlets that were incurring heavy losses, optimize the portfolio, and then have a attractive story to tell to the Hong Kong capital markets, with a beautiful financial report.

万达百货真的有外界评说的那么糟糕吗?并不是。王健林曾经在一次内部会上透露,万达百货有近一半是亏损的,但还有另一半是盈利的。他完全可以砍掉亏损严重的门店,优化资产组合,用亮丽的财报去给香港资本市场讲一个动听的故事。

The CNS article also points out that Wanda became involved in the culture industry in 2012.

Compared with real estate business, the contribution the culture segment could make to [the Wanda group’s] revenues and profits was very low, but it perfectly fitted into the strategic requirements of the national advancement of soft power, and its synergy effects with real estate, tourism, and other trades was obvious. As big onlooking companies  from the real estate began to recognize [Wanda’s approach], they scrambled to emulate it.

2012年,万达发力文化产业。跟地产比起来,文化产业能够贡献的收入和利润份额在当时非常之低,但是却紧密契合了国家提升软实力的战略需求,与地产、旅游等行业的协同效应非常明显。以至于在后来,许多大型地产企业都看明白了,开始争相效仿。

CNS also refers to the acquisistion of AMC Theatres (AMC Cinemas), and Infront Sports and Media, and offers an explanation as to why such acquisitions would make sense, and concludes:

There are many more such examples. Every draw in this game of chess was made not from a spur of the moment, but as a move taken after careful consideration, serving the transformation plan for the entire Wanda group. This is also true for the adjustments of the stores, and the introduction of Suning.

这样的例子还有很多。万达的每一步棋子都不是临时起意,都是深思熟虑之后的谨慎之举,并为整个集团公司的转型大计服务。调整百货,引入苏宁,也是如此。

The message provided by CCTV’s website for the foreign audience is equally heartwarming:

The Wanda Group, headed by Asia’s richest man Wang Jianlin, seems unstoppable.

Complementary illustration ...

Complementary illustration …

The Financial Times, in an online article published on August 6, isn’t quite that enthusiastic – although, it should be said, their misgivings aren’t about the Wanda-Suning romance which was only made public in September, but about the O2O industry in general. Rising labor costs could hamper the business model, and it is not entirely clear what lasting new business models will emerge.

That said, if O2O is really a lifestyle, as suggested by Chinaskinny, the question might come up, sooner or later, if and how costs play a role in that customer “hobby”, and if the promises it makes to the supplier side are sustainable, For sure, the example of the nail specialists who can make so much more per hour, if based on O2O, is all over the internet, as observed by the FT.

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Related

» Baidu Q3 forecast, TechCrunch, July 27, 2015
» Traditional Industries, new Bones, April 17, 2015
» Central Committee Cultural Decision, Oct 28, 2011

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: and now for Something Better?

Once Upon a time, in the UK

Arguably, no interview with Margaret Thatcher has been quoted as much in the past three decades as the one, published by Woman’s Own in 1987:

But [the welfare state] went too far. If children have a problem, it is society that is at fault. There is no such thing as society.

This is also the interview people quote from most frequently, and preferably without much context, because “there isn’t society” wasn’t the end of Thatcher’s point. In fact, “tapestry” was just her word for society

But words are one thing; deeds are another.

Much of what Thatcher did during the earlier years as prime minister looks pretty much what we like to refer to as the will of the people. That is a somewhat abstract concept for a number of reasons, but she had a point at the time. Things – Labour policies – had gone too far, for too many people.

But Thatcher herself, and her successors, including “New Labour”, went too far as well. Deregulation of the financial services was one example. An economy with banks “too big to fail” is a corporate-welfare economy. Unfathomable amounts of of public funding has been used by now to save the financial system, but it appears that the causes of the 2008 calamities haven’t been addressed with the thoroughness they should.

At the same time, there is real poverty in Britain and in Europe, among common people. Those people are apparently too small to count. A society that reacts to their problems with a shrug has a problem itself, and will get yet more problems. A political class too ignorant to understand how modern manufacturing works adds to the problems. Callousness and ignorance are a nasty mixture.

Fast Forward to 2015

In that light, even if Jeremy Corbyn were a full-blown idiot (or villain), that would look like a manageable problem. At worst, a five-year premiership, if attained, would be another waste of time, but at least, it would be one more closely scrutinized by the mainstream media that previous wastes of time.

Then there’s the character issue. I’m far from saying that character doesn’t matter. But I do say with confidence that there is no way to know the true character of a politician before he assumes real powers. It isn’t even easy to predict a man’s behavior after assuming power when you know him personally. And it to predict his decisions is impossible if you “know” a man merely from the media.

One of the last last hurrahs from Corbyn’s opponents appears to have been this, from the Telegraph:

Jeremy Corbyn led a campaign for the release of two convicted terrorists who were jailed for their part in the car bombing of the Israeli embassy in London and a Jewish charity building.

Jawad Botmeh and Samar Alami were convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions in the UK in 1996, which injured 20 people. They were jailed for 20 years.

That sounds pretty ugly, as reported from the Telegraph’s angle. But it sounds reasonable as reported by the Guardian.

A common citizen is in a difficult situation when having to make choices between different politicians and platforms or manifestos. The media aren’t making his choices easier. One step to develop a clearer political eyesight might be to admit that we actually know very little, and to admit that propaganda isn’t necessarily something very Chinese, or much about agitation, let alone about confronting us with representations that run counter to our  long-established concepts, but rather something to soothe or to tranquilize us.

But for too many people, the established policies of their countries have gone too far. They have gone wrong. That’s true for my country, too. That’s a moment when things begin to shift, and I believe it’s a good thing if they shift in a rather benign way. That’s democracy at its best.

A Universal Ideal

When asked what he thought his greatest weakness as a potential leader, Corbyn said that “I tend to see the best in people all the time. Is that a weakness? I don’t know.”

His answer would most likely be that it isn’t a weakness at all – that’s the message of those three sentences. At the same time, it reads a bit like a disclaimer. And he’ll need one. For all the experience he has, from decades of serving his constituency, his main job has been to ask critical questions. Now, he will have to provide serious answers just as well, and answers of that kind are never uncompromising. Maybe Corbyn should have an appointment with Barack Obama and Alexis Tsipras. They know both sides of the finishing line which in Corbyn’s case, for the time being, is the door mat of No. 10 Downing Street.

But what came to my mind when reading what he saw as his greatest weakness (or strength), and in the context of the accusations that he was too close to terrorism (or whatever the accusations were meant to amount to), was an old Chinese philosopher, Wang Yangming.

Obviously, what you get to see and hear from a professional politician is the artwork, or the package – see above, re “knowing” your country’s leaders. But even the choice of the artwork says something about the leanings of a campaign. Wang Yangming believed in the unity of knowledge and action, in terms of content and time. Man has an innate knowing of what is right, say Wang’s teachings, and there doesn’t need to be a barrier between knowledge and action, neither in terms of content, nor in terms of time. In fact, according to Wang, there can be no such barrier or difference between knowledge and action, if it is the kind of knowledge he referred to.

Politics of that kind are a fairly universal desire – but you might need to be a neo-Confucian to fully believe in the chance.

Either way, it’s too early to know if Corbyn is that kind of man. And we’ll only find out about that if the movement that has made him Labour leader will be successful, at least to some extent, so that time and circumstances can put Corbyn to the test.

But the ideal is one of the things that made Corbyn’s campaign work. I’m curious about how things develop from there, and a bit more hopeful about politics in general. I’m also hopeful that in the not too distant future, my country, too, will experience what Britain is apparently going to have now: genuine, democratic choices.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Zhou Yongkang gets Life

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

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

 

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

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

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Related

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

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

After Zhou Yongkang’s Arrest: Xi Jinping rules – but how safe will he be in [2013] 2023?

A regular stream of news from the anti-corruption front keeps flowing to keep the Chinese public happy.

Hammer and Chisel

Hammer and Chisel

Zhang Xinhua (张新华), an industrial manager, sentenced to death on Wednesday, for embezzlement of some 340 Million Yuan RMB, a China News Service (中新网) article republished here by Enorth (Tianjin) reported on that same day.

Li Zhijiang (李志江), a former member of Taiyuan’s CPC city committee‘s standing committee and former head of the party’s organizational department there, has been removed from his posts for violating the spirit of the CCP’s Eight Provisions (中央八项规定精神), neglecting his job (or dereliction of duty, 失职), and other mistakes. This seems to have happened some time ago, a People’s Daily online article, rendered here by Youth Net, wrote this week.

And former development and reform commission deputy director Liu Tienan (刘铁男) goes to jail for life, CCTV reported, also rendered by Youth Net, on Wednesday. Liu had come under scrutiny late in 2012, thanks to the research of an investigative journalist.

Zhou Yongkang (周永康) is no longer a party member, and his arrest was announced on December 5. In its Banyan column, The Economist is critical of how China’s former “security” tsar is being treated by his – also former – comrades:

He has always looked a rather nasty piece of work, and China’s press now tells us just how nasty. Zhou Yongkang is a thief, a bully, a philanderer and a traitor who disclosed state secrets. The spider at the centre of a web of corrupt patronage, he enriched himself, his family, his many mistresses and his cronies at vast cost to the government.

But some delighted Chinese readers might also wonder how Zhou could possibly make it to the top if he was such a thoroughly bad egg.

Basically all the foreign press considers Zhou’s big fall – the biggest fall of the biggest stakeholder ever since the Gang of Four – as proof that CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping is now in full control at the helm. But The Economist also warns that

[..] Mr Zhou’s case carries a danger for Mr Xi. By advertising the party as motivated by its zeal to combat corruption and as led by those promoted solely on merit, he may raise expectations of transparency and honesty that he will find hard to meet.

There are other big question marks, too. By recent standards – i. e. for the past two decades or so -, there has been an arrangement among China’s top leaders of how they come to power, and how they leave power. Any member of the collective leaderships with Jiang Zemin (until 2002) and Hu Jintao (until 2012) at the core would be a member of the politburo’s standing committee for a maximum of ten years. And no leader after Jiang Zemin would stay in power for more than ten years either.

Jiang and Hu never seem to have tried breaking that rule.

This theory of how succession works in Beijing suggests that Deng Xiaoping, after having had to sack two party secretary-generals,

made an unprecedented move – he simultaneously appointed two generations of successors, Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. One generation had to pass on the leadership to the next after two terms, after 10 years. This arrangement had one advantage, in this way there existed a mutually constraining relationship between two generations of successors; when Jiang’s time was over, he had to pass leadership on to Hu and thus, he would not generate the courage to betray the inflated ego of Deng Xiaoping; after handing the power over, Jiang would automatically come under Hu’s authority and so in order to protect himself, he would avoid a life-and-death struggle between two factions. Hu, on the other hand, had to rely on the legitimacy granted by Deng Xiaoping so as to guarantee that he would actually take over power according to plan and also so as to avoid that he would, like many successors in the past, leave the stage in poverty and misery; hence, he was very much concerned about treating Deng Xiaoping’s ideas as his guiding principles, protecting them with everything he had.

One may wonder if Xi Jinping is going to accept the same arrangement for himself, in 2022/23. It can be hard to be a pensioner in Zhongnanhai.

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Updates/Related

» An Insider’s View, NPR Berlin, Dec 24, 2014

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Occupy Central: one Movement, two Pictures

Much of recent weeks’ coverage on Occupy Central has been rather gloomy, as this article by Zachary Keck in The Diplomat on October 15. Keck also mentioned a meeting between Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in Hong Kong director Zhang Xiaoming (张晓明) and pro-establishment Hong Kong lawmakers on October 14. And a Reuters report stated the obvious, quoting sources: Beijing’s “bottom line” wouldn’t change, and making use of the army to suppress the movement would be a “last resort” – that would be if there was widespread chaos – killing, arson and looting. During the first week in October, the new National Security Commission chaired by President Xi Jinping had reached a position which left Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying with little leeway in dealing with the students.

A China News Service (CNS) article, written by an author named Guo Ping, quoted Zhang Xiaoming in indirect speech, but apparently extensively – it’s at times hard to see where Guo Ping quotes Zhang, and where he uses words of his own.

Since Hong Kong’s return [in 1997], the article says (or quotes), the core of the political dispute had been if or if not the principle of “one country, two systems” were respected, if or if not the governance rights (管治权) of the central authorities in Beijing over Hong Kong were respected, if or if not the constitutional status of Hong Kong’s basic law was respected, all of which concerned the direction of how the principle of “one country, two systems” was put into practice (香港回归以来围绕政制发展问题的争议,核心是要不要尊重“一国”的原则,要不要尊重中央对香港的管治权,要不要尊重基本法的宪制地位,这些是关系到“一 国两制”实践发展方向的大是大非问题。三个“要不要”直接抓住了当前问题的焦点所在).

As is well known, “one country, two systems” is the fundamental policy by which our country achieves peaceful reunification. “One country” points to [the fact that] this happens inside the country, that Hong Kong is an unseparable part of the country, directly belonging to the central government’s local administrative areas. “Two systems” means within “inside one country”, with the principal part carrying out a socialist system, and with Hong Kong and a few other regions carrying out a capitalist system. It can be said that “one country, two systems” isn’t only the great pioneering undertaking of the Chinese people to resolve the issue of national unity, but also a model and a sample for other countries to reference when having to solve similar problems.

In general, either Zhang’s or Guo Ping’s (the author’s) utterances appear to be a (for now) verbal “day of reckoning”, shovelling all “opponents” into one bag and threshing it: Hong Kongers who had opposed the introduction of “national education” (国民教育) and calling it “brainwashing education” (恐吓), Hong Kongers who “threatened and intimidated mainland tourists”, and “clamoring for Hong Kong independence”. All these plus (or including) Occupy Central.

Zhang’s speech to the Hong Kong legislators could be regarded as a speech to all Hong Kongers, Guo Ping concludes

Legislator Kenneth Leung probably wasn’t among Zhang’s audience in October. In a “Letter to Hong Kong” on RTHK on Sunday, he drew a very different picture of the movement’s effects on Central:

Central has become a cleaner, more pleasant and connectable business district for city dwellers. The sharp decrease in local traffic results in the reduction in road side pollution, making the air more breathable and the temperature more bearable. Walking becomes such a pleasant experience that people enjoy strolling during lunch time and evening, stopping occasionally to have a chat or a cigarette. Studies conducted in the States revealed that “walkability” of a community has a direct correlation with the local population’s life quality and health. Also, a recent study conducted by George Washington University on 30 metropolis in the States indicates that a city’s domestic productivity is higher when office and retail space is located in “walkable” communities

With the hindsight of these studies and the recent experience, it is high time for the Government to rethink about re-routing local traffic flow and re-designate most part of Central to become a pedestrian zone.

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Related

» A Chorus of Condemnation, Oct 7, 2014

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