Posts tagged ‘capitalism’

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Tendencies: Germany’s next China Policy

China didn’t feature prominently in Germany’s 2021 federal election campaign – at least not at the surface.
Somewhat underneath, and not really overreported in the German media, are donations and sponsorships that benefitted the political parties – or one or two of them – in the run-up to the Bundestag elections on September 26.
The picture, according to statista.de (quoting Germany’s federal parliament administration and only recording donations of more than 50,000 Euros):

CDU/CSU (center-right): 3,340,860 Euros
FDP (neoliberal): 2,055,454 Euros
Greens (ecological): 1,790,548 Euros
AFD (right-wing, neoliberal): 100,000 Euros
SPD (social democrats): 50,000 Euros

This is not the full picture, of course. Donations from 10,000 to 50,000 Euros will probably only appear in the political parties’ annual accounts, likely to be published around a year and a half after they happen.
Also, [Update, Oct 8: committed event] “sponsoring” [of party congresses, for example] amounts don’t need to be published in detail – there is no way of knowing who donated, and which amounts.
Still, the above-50,000 statistics give us an idea: the social democrats were considered dead in the water. That, at least, was a general belief into August this year, and that’s as far as the statistics go. Some corporations and lobby organizations may have tried to make up for their negligence when the SPD began to soar in the opinion polls.
Before we get to the China issues, let’s take a look at the 50,000-plus donations in relation to the actual votes for the parties.

Blue: donations >50,000
Red: actual votes
(relations, no numbers)

This doesn’t mean that the SPD wouldn’t like to get donations, and grassroot donations can make a difference too, but it is obvious that the industry didn’t bet on the social democrats and the left party.

China issues in the campaign

Hong Kong’s political activist Ray Wong, now living in German exile, German sinologist David Missal and other activists and human rights groups put a “China elections check” online for those who were interested in the party’s positions concerning China.
They asked each political party represented in Germany’s incumbent federal parliament, the Bundestag, eight questions, and according to the organizers, only the AFD didn’t respond.
That said, the CDU/CSU were “neutral” on seven out of the eight statements.
All eight statements can be considered a demand Missal, Wong and the organizations supporting the project would subscribe to.

The parties’ positions in detail

Statement 1


Statement 2


Statement 3


Statement 4


Statement 5


Statement 6


Statement 7


Statement 8


Political parties by rates of agreement, neutrality or disagreement with / towards the statements, in descending order (respectively)

Party / party group agrees with the statements (pro)

The Greens 6
SPD 4
FDP 3
The Left 3
CDU/CSU 0

Party neither agrees nor disagrees with the statements (neutral)

CDU/CSU 7
FDP 5
SPD 1
The Left 0
The Greens 0

Party / group doesn’t agree with the statements (opposed)

The Left 5
SPD 3
FDP 0*)
The Greens 2
CDU/CSU 1
________
*) corrected (Oct 8), down from 3

Outlook

At least for now, the CDU/CSU’s chances of heading (or even just joining) a government coalition have deminished, as both the FDP and the Greens are currently moving closer to the SPD, with some unfriendly noise especially from the CSU, the CDU’s Bavarian sister party.
This would mean that exactly the three parties that find most common ground with the Wong/Missal statements would be in government.
The picture would become much friendlier for pro-China lobbyists if the tide turned again,in favor of the CDU/CSU.
The proof of the pudding is the eating, and the industry will almost certainly become more generous with its donations to the Social Democrats, but for those who want to see a government with clear-cut positions on Chinese crimes against human rights, the trend isn’t looking bad.
The CDU/CSU didn’t really care, and documented that publicly.
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Related

Germany after the federal elections, Sept 27, 2021
Guanchazhe flatters Austrian Supernova, April 7, 2018
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Monday, September 27, 2021

Germany after the Federal Elections – Arithmetics of Power

Even though the German “Liberals” (the FDP) supported a coalition with the Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, they would join an SPD-led “traffic-lights” coalition if the SPD should win the September 26 federal elections, Dr. Zhu Yufang, a researcher at Tongji University’s German Studies Institute wrote on Sunday morning Beijing time, in an assessment for the Shanghai online newsportal “Guanchazhe” (Observer).

Now the Social Democrats appear to have won the elections, and Dr. Zhu’s expectations can perform miracles – if they can. And that’s a big “if”.

gains_and_losses

Gains and losses, according to ARD Television / infratest-dimap projection at 21:36 UTC

Germany’s investors immediately went into the process of telling the Greens where to go. In the words of “Wirtschaftswoche”, a German weekly published in the neighborhood of Armin Laschet, the Christian Democrats’ and Bavarian Christian Socials’ (CDU/CSU) candidate for chancellor, the Greens’ path towards Laschet’s party is shorter than the FDP’s path towards the Social Democrats (SPD) and their candidate, Olaf Scholz.

If you go by German ARD television’s / infratest dimap projection published at 21:36 UTC, the CDU/CSU got 24.1 percent of the vote, narrowly beaten by the SPD with 25.8 percent. The far-right AFD would get 10.5 percent, the “Liberals” or FDP are at 11.5 percent, and the Left Party appears to remain under the 5-percent threshold that would bar it from re-entering the Bundestag, but three directly-won mandates (or more) will secure their re-entry with whatever percentage, even with less than 5 percent of the overall vote, they may get.

Basically, any coalition among the parties that obtains a majority of the seats in the Bundestag is conceivable, with the likely exception of the far-right AFD (“Alternative für Deutschland”).

20210926_2136_utc_mandatsverteilung

Infratest dimap / ARD Radio and Television, Sept 26, 21:36 UTC projection

This means that the SPD, the Greens and the Left combined would fall short of a majority by five seats, and this would have been the only safe SPD-led government coalition. The SPD and the Greens alone are – all according to the 21:36 UTC projection – 45 seats short of an overall majority.

The likelihood that the FDP will fill this gap – as expected by Dr. Zhu – is rather small, and the likelihood that the Greens will extract concessions from the CDU/CSU that may enable them to sell a coalition to their grassroots is fairly high. The CDU/CSU will want to remain in government at nearly all costs.

On the other hand, the FDP may try to extract concessions from the SPD which the Social Democrats are unlikely to accept.

Dr. Zhu’s expectation that Laschet will only be a transitional successor of incumbent chancellor Angela Merkel may not hold water either. When Merkel became chancellor in 2005, she looked like the actual loser of the federal elections that still brought her to power. Helmut Kohl, who became chancellor in 1982, was a joke – that didn’t keep him from becoming the longest-serving federal chancellor to date.

If Laschet should indeed be an “transitional” chancellor, it won’t be because of him in the first place, but because of the CDU/CSU. The Christian Democrats’ and their Bavarian sister party didn’t only offer the public the weakest candidate. Their platform is nothing to write home about either. After sixteen consecutive years at the helm of the federal government – all led by Merkel – they are out of ideas and of personnel.

But that has never kept them from running the country in the past.

(OK. Obviously, I hope that I’m wrong, but had to get this out of my system before going to work.)

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Long Yongtu’s WTO Accession Commemorative Lecture (1)

Long Yongtu (龙永图), born in Hunan Province in 1943, is a former Vice Minister of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation and was China’s Chief Negotiator for his country’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Long was also an enthusiastic participant in public debate on domestic issues during the first decade of the new century.

The following is part one of my translation of a lecture “recently” given by Long at a seminar in Beijing.

Main link: Since you are all market economies, can you remove “socialism”? – Absolutely not (既然都是市场经济了,能不能去掉社会主义?“绝对不可能”)

As we discuss the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the WTO this year, we should put it into the context of this years biggest thing this year, the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s establishment. The activities of commemorating the 20th anniversary of WTO accession should be a part of learning the party’s 100 years of history. Only in this fashion will our commemorative activities have clear-cut representative meaning and add to its value and importance.

今年我们谈中国入世20周年,应该把它放在今年最大的一件事情——中国共产党建党100周年——背景之下,把纪念入世20周年的活动,作为我们学习党的100年历史的一个组成部分。只有这样才能使我们的纪念活动具有鲜明的时代意义和时代特色,也赋予它更大的价值和重要性。

This isn’t far-fetched, but rather,the histories of our country’s establishment, of reform and opening up are all part of the party’s history. By putting the commemoration of WTO accession 20 years ago into this big context makes it more significant, and it is very relevant in this context.

这样说不是要牵强附会,而是因为我们的建国史、改革开放史,都是百年党史很重要的部分,我们把纪念入世20周年放在这样一个大的背景下更有意义,也是非常相关的。

I think this history can be divided into two areas. One is the fifteen years of accession negotiations from 1986 to 2001. Why didn’t we enter WTO when we recovered our legitimate United Nations’ seat? That was because at the time, our thinking wasn’t sufficiently intellectually liberated. At the time, it was believed that that was a rich countries’ club, without any advantages for us. In fact, according to GATT regulations, we simply could have written an application and we could have joined, without any need for negotiations, because China had been a founding member. Because of restoring its legitimate UN membership, our re-entry into GATT would have been a matter of course. But at the time, we just felt that GATT was a rich countries’ club, and joining wouldn’t have been of any use. It was all dominated by Western countries, so we decided not to join.

关于这段历史,我觉得可以分为两部分:一部分是1986年到2001年中国复关和入世的15年谈判。为什么当年恢复联合国合法席位后,我们没有进入WTO?因为当时思想不够解放,认为那是一个富国俱乐部,对我们也没什么好处。实际上当时根据《关贸总协定》的规定,我们完全可以写一张申请就进去的,那个时候根本不需要谈判,因为我们中国是创始成员,既然恢复了联合国的合法席位,我们复关也是理所当然的。但是当时就觉得关贸是富国俱乐部,我们进去也没有什么用,都是西方国家主导的,就决定不去了。

Later, it took us until 1986 to apply. Why was that? Because after the beginning of reform and opening in 1978, we saw our country’s foreign trade continuously expand, with the need to be granted quotas, especially because at the time, GATT sill had the “Agreement on Textile and Clothing“, and the “Multi Fibre Arrangement“. Because of the need to apply for quotas for textile exports under the “multi-fibre arrangement” framework, it was decided to apply for re-entry into the GATT. So I think that the history from 1986 to 2001 is also something everyone can study.

后来一直到1986年才提出申请,为什么?因为1978年开始改革开放以后,慢慢觉得我们中国的对外贸易在不断扩大,特别是当时《关贸总协定》还有《纺织品协定》《多种纤维协定》要发放配额。当时为了我们中国的纺织品贸易特别是纺织品出口能够借助多边的《多种纤维协定》框架取得配额,决定开始复关了。所以从1986年开始到2001年,我觉得这一段历史,也是大家可以研究的一段历史。

The second area is the twenty years from entering the WTO in 2001, to 2021. How have we fulfilled our promise to the WTO? How has entering the WTO accelerated China’s reform and opening, how has it enhanced its hard power and soft power? This historical period also needs to be well researched.

第二部分是2001年到2021年中国入世这20年。这20年我们是怎么履行对世贸组织的承诺?是怎么样通过入世这件事加快中国的改革开放,提升了中国的硬实力和软实力?这一段历史也是需要好好研究的。

Therefore, the first point of view under such a special historical background this year, is that by regarding the WTO entry of twenty years ago as part of our studies and research of the party’s 100-years history, we stand on a high ground – not just discussing trade or doing research on an academic level. We look at this matter from a perspective of the entire party and the entire country. As part of China’s reform and opening, thereby moving forward promoting China’s reform and opening, this is significant.

所以我的第一个观点,在今年这样一个特定的历史背景之下,我们把纪念中国入世20周年,看成是我们学习和研究党的100年历史的组成部分,这样站位就高了,我们的讨论就不仅仅是在经贸领域,更不是在学术领域这样一个层面上进行研究,而是从全党、全国的角度来看这件事情。它作为中国改革开放史的一部分,从而进一步推动中国的改革开放,这样就有意义了。

The second [point of view] in my view, when learning the history of China’s WTO membership is to comply with Secretary Xi Jinping’s “Sixteen Characters Policy”. This “Sixteen Characters Policy” is connected with studying the entire party’s history, because we make our studies of 20 years of WTO membership a part of studying the party’s history. Of course, the “Sixteen Characters Policy” also suitably guides our 20-years-WTO activity.

第二,对中国入世20年的历史学习,我觉得要遵循习近平总书记提出来的“16字方针”。这“16字方针”是针对整个党史学习,既然我们把入世20周年作为党史学习的一部分,当然这“16字方针”也适合指导我们入世20周年的纪念活动。

The General Secretary’s “Sixteen Characters Policy’s” first article is to study historical fact.1) Studying history can help to understand some principles. From China’s 15 years of WTO accession negotiations and its 20-year membership, which principles are there, which experiences can we summarize and use as reference?

总书记提出的“16字方针”,第一条是学史明理,学习历史能明白一些道理,中国入世谈判15周年、入世20周年,我们有哪些道理、哪些经验可以总结、可以借鉴?

The second article is to enhance faith by studying history – studying history can strengthen our confidence, our continuous promotion of reform and opening, the deepening of reform, and it can expand confidence in opening up.

第二条是学史增信,学习历史可以增强我们的信心,增强我们进一步推动改革开放,深化改革、扩大开放的信心。

The third article is the virtue of studying history. Within the process of the entire history, which spirits are there that can be used? At the time, many comrades actually showed a great sense of responsibility when they completed those [WTO] negotiations.

第三条是学史崇德,我们在整个历史进程当中,有哪些精神是可以发扬的?当时很多同志确实表现了很多的担当精神,来完成这一场谈判。

The third article is to let the studies of history be followed by action which means that the reader must act. To research the WTO’s prospects and China’s role int it actually means to draw from China’s 20 years of membership to promote the solution of the issues that currently need to be solved. We still resolutely support the multilateral trade system represented by WTO and acknowledge the WTO as the core of the entire multilateral trade system. Therefore, the prospect of WTO reform is extremely important, as an important part of China’s participation in global governance.

第四条是学史力行,就是要见诸行动了,今天研究世贸组织前景与中国角色,实际上就是借助中国入世20周年这样一个契机来采取一些行动,推动当前必须解决的问题。我们还是坚决支持以WTO为代表的多边贸易体系,承认WTO是整个多边贸易体系的核心。所以WTO的改革前景就非常重要了,是中国参与全球治理的重要组成部分。这其中,中国发挥什么样的作用,在这里都可以好好地研究。

The third [point of view] is that when we study China’s 20 years of WTO membership, we must know clearly what major problems has WTO entry solved for China? In my view, China’s entry into the WTO has brought China’s reform and opening two major breakthroughs:

第三,我们学习中国加入世贸20年历史的成果,要搞清楚中国入世解决了什么重大问题?我觉得中国入世对于中国改革开放来讲,有两个重大的突破:

The first major breakthrough was that by joining the WTO, we made a promise to the world to practice market economy, which is a major historic turning point in China’s reform and opening, because before 1992, market economy was a restricted area, something you couldn’t discuss because market economy simply was capitalism. But by joining the WTO, we promised to practice market economy.

第一个重大突破是我们通过加入世界贸易组织向全世界承诺我们搞市场经济,这是中国改革开放当中一个重大的历史转折,因为1992年以前市场经济是一个禁区,那是不能谈的,市场经济就是资本主义。但是我们通过入世承诺了搞市场经济。

The second major breakthrough was that, by joining the World Trade Organization, we promised, as a developing country opening its market to the world, relatively big market openings, thus accelerating China’s opening towards the outside world. So, these two breakthroughs are actually two major achievements of China joining WTO, and also crucial points with a certain status.

第二个重大突破是我们通过加入世贸组织,承诺了以发展中国家身份向全球开放市场,在很多领域里做了比较大的市场开放,从而大大促进了中国的对外开放。所以这两个突破实际上是中国入世谈判的重大成果,也是入世在中国改革开放史上具有一定地位的两个关键。

For example, at the beginning, we did not promise a market economy, but came under constant pressure to do so. At the time, this was hard for the participants, taking the measure of saying that while we didn’t recognize market economy, we could still agree to refer to a commodity economy, or a planned market economy, and we could still implement that market-economy rules system of theirs.

比如说市场经济,开始我们是不承认的,后来在谈判当中一直逼着我们要承诺搞市场经济,当时参加谈判的人很痛苦,变着法地想讲我们虽然不承认市场经济,叫商品经济也好,叫有计划的市场经济也好,但是我们能够执行你们那一套以市场经济规则体系为基础的市场经济。

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Notes

1) Not sure how Long arrives at this interpretation – the 16 characters’ first line goes 科学立法 巩固法治根基 – scientifically legislate and solidify the foundations of rule by law.
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Related

Rare public criticism, SCMP, Nov 18, 2018
Milton Friedman’s Misadventures, The American Scholar, Dec 5, 2016
Long and the Smiling Curve, May 17, 2012

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Monday, December 16, 2019

One Territory, two Statements

Apolitical, too? Erdogan in talks hosted by Xi Jinping, July 2019 (CCTV coverage)

Erdogan said that connected by the ancient Silk Road, Turkish-Chinese friendship had a long history and was now strengthened further. Close Turkish-Chinese relations were significant for regional peace and prosperity. Turkey made efforts for the development of relations with China, and for deepening cooperation. Turkey staunchly persued the one-China policy, the happiness of all Xinjiang nationalities in China’s development was also a fact, and Turkey would never allow anyone to incite disharmony in Turkish-Chinese relations. Turkey resolutely opposed extremism, wanted to enhance mutual trust and strengthen security cooperation. Potential for Turkish-Chinese cooperation was huge, Turkey resolutely upheld the construction of “one belt, one road”, and hoped that the two sides would strengthen cooperation on trade, investment, financial, energy, car building, infrastructure, 5G mobile communication, smart cities, etc., and enhance exchanges in the fields of education, culture, research, etc..

埃尔多安表示,通过千年古丝绸之路连接起来的土中友好源远流长,今天得到进一步加强。密切的土中关系对地区和平繁荣有重要意义。土耳其致力于发展对华关系,深化对华合作。土方坚定奉行一个中国政策,中国新疆地区各民族居民在中国发展繁荣中幸福地生活是个事实,土方不允许任何人挑拨土中关系。土耳其坚定反对极端主义,愿同中方增进政治互信,加强安全合作。土中合作潜力巨大,土方坚定支持“一带一路”建设,希望双方在“一带一路”框架内加强贸易、投资、金融、能源、汽车制造、基础设施、第五代移动通信、智慧城市等领域合作,增进在教育、文化、科研等领域交流。

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s statement in July this year, according to the Chinese government’s website

Mesut Özil‘s statement this month, according to “The Guardian”:

His Instagram message read: “East Turkistan, the bleeding wound of the Ummah, resisting against the persecutors trying to separate them from their religion. They burn their Qurans. They shut down their mosques. They ban their schools. They kill their holy men. The men are forced into camps and their families are forced to live with Chinese men. The women are forced to marry Chinese men.

“But Muslims are silent. They won’t make a noise. They have abandoned them. Don’t they know that giving consent for persecution is persecution itself?”

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Related

Beijing invites fact finding mission, July 9, 2019

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Shortwave Logs: Science from the South

1. Radio Havana in English: Science from the South

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Radio Ukraine International: reviving 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Trier: the Statue stands and divides, but Marx isn’t the Problem

This is a sad day in Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The city where Karl Marx was born in 1818 has accepted a Marx statue as a gift from the Chinese state. As news magazine Der Spiegel wrote in March 2017, 42 members of the city parliament supported the idea of taking the statue, seven opposed it, and four abstained. The statue is scheduled to be unveiled this morning.

The BBC quotes Trier’s mayor Wolfram Leibe as saying that “[w]e have accepted it as a gesture of friendship and this statue should encourage people to deal with Karl Marx,” and that “[m]aybe some judgements and prejudices will be revised.”

Katrin Werner, representing the Left Party, argued in 2017 that “Trier should rise to the occasion and “stand by one of its best-known children.”

But this is missing the point. A “present from the PRC” is a present from the regime. A Green deputy put it best, a year ago: “by accepting a gift, you honor the one who makes the present,” he reportedly said. By refusing to take it, Trier could make a case for human rights.

In an interview unrelated to the Trier statue, but about Marx, Gregor Gysi, former head of Germany’s Left Party from 1989 to 1993, and currently president of the Party of the European Left, when asked why Marx’ ideas deserve attention, given that regimes around the world had justified dictatorship and human rights violation with his ideology, suggested that state socialism had abused Marx. What should be striven for was a freedom-based socialism “that picks up the things capitalism does well, that leaves out what capitalism can’t do well, but only with the support of a popular majority”, plus separation of powers.

But while acknowledging that state socialism was a failure, he also pointed out that all (three) attempts to date to establish genuine democratic socialism – the Paris Commune, the Prague Spring, and in Chile – had been struck down by the military.

When it comes to the Greek Chinese gift, even mainstream German media can see some good in Marx: according to Friedrich Engels, he once said that “all I know is that I’m not a Marxist”. After Marx’ death, Engels ascribed this to Marx, in a critical letter to Paul Lafarge, an opponent to reformism.

Leftists may tend to idealizing democratic socialism – as far as I can see, Salvador Allende, one of the democratic socialists cited by Gysi, did not really have a mandate of a majority for “radical” policies.

But many who take gifts from China – even professorships and statues – aren’t terribly interested in Marx anyway – they are interested in Marxists (provided that those are wealthy and generous). In Lower Saxony, the same cabinet that oversaw the delayed award of citizenship to a British-Italian applicant in 2009 (it became a protracted affair, because she was a member of the left party), sounded happy tunes about China’s financing of one-and-a-half professorships at Göttingen University, in 2010.

Marx? God forbid. But money doesn’t stink. And avoiding offense to the CCP spells business for Trier. The feelings of Chinese tourists must not be hurt.

Marx isn’t the problem. But there are still a few problems in his country – his native land, which once forced him into exile.

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.

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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

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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。

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Note

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

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Related

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

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