Posts tagged ‘censorship’

Friday, November 20, 2015

CCP commemorates 100th Anniversary of Hu Yaobang’s Birthday

The complete standing committee of the CCP’s politburo attended a symposium in commemoration of former CCP secretary general Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦). The BBC‘s Mandarin service wrote today (around 11:00 UTC) that Chinese news agency Xinhua published a curt report and a photo of the symposium in the Great Hall of the People. According to the BBC, the symposium was a smaller event than what the outside world had expected. A publication of selected works by Hu Yaobang is reportedly under preparation, including 77 written pieces by Hu Yaobang from 1952 to October 1986: articles, speeches, reports, instructions, letters und Vorwörter prefaces – some of them published for the first time. Hu Yaobang was forced to “resign” as the party’s secretary general early in 1987. However, different from his successor Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) who was deposed in the wake of the 1989 students Tian An Men Square protests, Hu retained his politburo standing committee membership until his death in April 1989 – a death that actually sparked the 1989 students movement.

Hu Yaobang is frequently described as a just political leaderwith ideals, and as careful political reformer, or as a liberal of sorts, at least by the standards of a dictatorship.

According to a (more detailed) Xinhua article published at 11:49 UTC today, party secretary general Xi Jinping (习近平) praised Hu Yaobang in the glowing terms that are usual on occasions like today’s. He described practical-mindedness and pragmatism in seeking the people’s benefit as an outstanding characteristic of the former leader, and tried to harness the remembrance for his recently launched “four comprehensives” (四个全面) project.

While liberalism was certainly no issue, Xi praised Hu’s honest, self-disciplined, sublime demeanour (廉洁自律的崇高风范), or in other words, Xi made Hu an icon for “style”, rather than for content. Hu Yaobang’s image seems to be something the current leadership does not want to do without.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

This Week (1): If you are Chinese today, can you win a Nobel Peace Prize?

… and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.

Alfred Nobel, 1895, defining the scope of the Nobel Peace Prize


A book  – What Nobel really wanted – was

the elephant in the room that official Norway – politicians, most media, academics – are adamant not to see,

Fredrik S. Heffermehl, a humanist and lawyer, wrote in 2010. His campaign probably gained traction in 2010, given that the 2010 winner of the Prize was Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, who reportedly, to this day, this day remains in custody, either in prison, or in a labor camp, and given that China’s authorities have taken a great interest in anything that helps to question the legitimacy of the prize. The book became available in Chinese in 2011, published by the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing.

Publicity helps – even if it comes from a totalitarian regime. When European institutions become unable to perform their acutal duties, any help should be welcome, CCP support included. But it’s a fine line, and a reasonable citizen should try to weigh and understand the factors in power games as carefully and comprehensively as he can.

Kristian Harpviken, director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) (and not directly associated with the committee itself) made a pretty candid statement in an al-Jazeera discussion published on youtube last Wednesday, highlighting Beijing’s influence in Norwegian politics and on the Nobel Committee’s decisions.

Moderator: Do you think if you are Chinese today, you have a chance of winning a Nobel Peace Prize?

Harpviken: Yes, but I think there is one thing that [not readable] against any non-Chinese candidacy at the moment, and that is that the 2010 prize to Liu Xiaobo was so deeply contested by the Chinese government that for the Nobel committee, it is virtually unthinkable to give a prize that would be consistent with the government’s plans and politics, but it is equally inconceivable to give a prize to another dissident in this particular situation …

[Remaining answer unreadable, as it was cut short by moderator]

That, and what follows in a European context, makes it clear that the image of an independent committee, carrying out Alfred Nobel‘s will, is a pretty shaky and highly theoretical concept.

But a list of alternative Nobel Peace laureates, as published by the Nobel Peace Prize Watch, looks no less shaky. For one, it mainly lauds activists who target Western militarism or Western secrecy. The real world isn’t quite that uni-polar.

And there’s another problem. The list explained by its authors, at the bottom of the page, and along with several entries:

Above is the list – based on extensive research – of those who are nominated AND qualified, 
either 1) by direct work for the global disarmament plan Nobel had in mind, or (under a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel)
 2) by peace work with high utility and relevance to realizing the “fraternity of (disarmed) nations,” or
 3) by new ideas and research, developing new methods for civilized, non-violent interrelation between peoples that enables a demilitarization of international relations.

Heffermehl’s point – as I understand it – has so far been that the committee deviates from Alfred Nobel’s will. But then, someone who wants to provide an alternative to the current committee’s practice, should interpret Nobel closely, not with a wide understanding of the purpose of Nobel. Edward Snowden would be a particular case in point. The desire to support and encourage him is a good thing. But Snowden is hardly a pacifist, or a peace activist, if you go by this Guardian account of February 2014. Even if we take into account that Snowden, under huge US prosecution (or persecution, for that matter), can’t speak his mind openly enough to convey a full picture of his views and intentions, he should rather be in the alternative list’s waiting list for now.

You can’t have your cake and eat it. It’s either a choice in accordance with Nobel’s will, or it’s an interpretation. If it’s an interpretation, the acting Nobel committee can’t be as wrong as first reported.

Once again: trying to turn public attention to an elephant – even if already in the room – is a difficult undertaking, when deemed undesirable by the establishment. It is also a fine line in terms of ethical standards, and I’m beginning to believe that it is an impossible mission, if undertaken without compromising.

Besides, there’s a predicament any institution – and opposing movement – will face: a too narrow choice of candidates, (nearly) unknown to the public, may not achieve much publicity. But without publicity, even the most sincere political plans and objectives are doomed.

Even if biased, a public list of Nobel Peace Prize candidates as published by Heffermehl and Magnusson, that provides a platform for public debate about possible Nobel Peace Prize candidates, is a good step. One can only hope that – better sooner than later – the acting committee in Oslo will understand this, and follow the example.



» National Dialogue Quartet, BBC, Oct 9, 2015
» Appeasing China, May 1, 2014
» A Panda is no Polar Bear, June 6, 2012
» Liu Xiaobo, Dec 28, 2010


Friday, August 28, 2015

Investigations at “People’s Daily” Online: two Executives, Leading Editors “taken away”

China’s supreme procurate’s website reported on Friday that Henan procurate has opened investigations (立案侦查) concerning People’s Daily Online director and former chief editor  Liao Hong (廖玒), and board member and deputy director Chen Zhixia (陈智霞), reports the BBC Mandarin service online.

The online service should not be confused with the paper edition of People’s Daily.

According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), quoting a public profile, Liao was a founding member of the People’s Daily website. He had worked for the paper and its digital department for 19 years after graduating from the Beijing University of Technology. Both he and Chen had been taken away for investigation, the SCMP wrote on Thursday. The Hong Konger paper also writes that Liao had been under a lot of pressure after lending support to the publication of  “Under the Dome”, a documentary about air pollution in China, on the website.

According to the BBC, official confirmation of the investigations came after Caixin Online (财新网) and Southern Weekend (南方周末) had already quoted numerous sources saying that Kiao and Chen had been taken away for investigations.

The BBC also quotes news people who saw links between these two investigations and the case of Xu Hui (徐辉), then deputy editor in chief at People’s Daily online. Xu was put under investigation in May this year, and was reportedly accused or suspected of blackmail, and of taking bribes from people who had become subject to supervision by public opinion (舆论监督). The accusations might come across as an accusation similar to one made against former Central Military Commission vice chairman Guo Boxiong, who had been accused of 用职务便利, i. e. taking “advantage of his job”, or office. In the context of supervision by public opinion, it would refer to advantages from the job of an influential journalist. Concerning Xu Hui, Radio Free Asia (RFA) was rather specific about what accusations like these could mean, citing allegations that Xu had approached various companies and threatened to publish negative news stories about them if they didn’t buy advertising on the site.

All that said and written, the “investigations” may just as likely be mere tools in an inofficial-official campaign against critical journalism, be it in the context of the “Under the Dome” documentary, or in any other context.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chinese Traffic on WordPress (or on this blog anyway)

You get a statistical summary from WordPress every year, as a blogger on this platform, but as this blog is focusing on China, it’s time to take an individual look at a growing source of traffic, at times of general traffic crisis:

map showing traffic intensity on this blog

The world in 2015 …

map showing traffic intensity on this blog

… and in 2012

WordPress apparently began recording country statistics in 2012, for this blog anyway. And while the statistics in general have been going down for this blog during the past several years, traffic from China is one of a few exceptions.

  Year Views   Position
  2012       23           51
  2013       25           33
  2014       75           14
  2015       52*)           10

Apparently, domestic propanda has been so successful that the lilywhite inland souls may now be exposed to stuff like this. (So it’s less proxy server traffic now, I guess.)

And it seems that Latin America and Africa have also become better informed since 2012. So has Kazakhstan. Good for them.


*) stats by April 28/29, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Look at the Rumors about China Radio International

There has been some talk about plans among China’s leaders to close down a number of foreign-language services – the German-language department among them -, at China Radio International (CRI), China’s international broadcaster. Keith Perron, a radio producer in Taiwan, claimed inside knowledge and suggested that, according to this quote by Glenn Hauser‘s World of Radio, March 26:

At last month’s meeting of the committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, one of the subcommittees, headed by Zhang Dejiang, who is also chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, will form a twelve-member board to look into the effectiveness of shortwave as a [unreadable] platform for China Radio International. Members include leaders from various former ministries, including the [unreadable], culture, propaganda, SARFT, and the central committee.They may be looking at shortwave cuts made in Australia, Canada, Russia, UK, and the US. Last year the Chinese government spent over 600 mega Yuan on the shortwave, that’s about 100 mega dollars US. It includes not only CRI, but China National Radio [aka Chinese People’s Broadcasting Station, CPBS — JR]. They will be looking at staff reductions. CRI currently has a staff of 8,500. They are looking at reducing some 40 percent, closing several of their overseas bureaus, closing CRI Television, some CRI language services. Looked at for axing are: Tagalog, Polish, Greek, Italian, German, Esperanto, Kroatian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Finnish, Bulgarian, and Danish. But English would be expanded, as would Chinese.

What struck me on December 31 last year – but it wouldn’t lead me to dramatic conclusions, of course – was that party secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping had dropped CRI from his new-year’s address. The broadcaster was mentioned along with CPBS and CCTV by Xinhua’s introductory text, but not by Xi himself. Both Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin had made it a tradition to mention CRI, CPBS, and CCTV in their new year’s addresses – and CRI was always mentioned first.

To put the rumors about CRI into some perspective, though, Perron had been a critic of “waste” at CRI for some time, and understatment isn’t onw of his greatest hobbies. The Voice of America (VoA), for example, is a terminally ill patient, which might lead to the question who’s more dead – the American or the Chinese foreign broadcaster.

And Bernd Seiser, chairman of the Radio Taiwan International Ottenau Listeners’ Club, said in his April 10 club bulletin he had been told by CRI staff that

I can confirm that CRI will not terminate its German-language programs on shortwave.

However, listeners who wanted information on shortwave frequencies would need to enquire with the German department, rather than receive frequency notifications automatically by email, said Seiser.

So, how much truth is there in the rumors about closing the departments mentioned by Perron? That’s hard to tell.  For one, it appears unlikely to me that CPPCC committee activities would go completely unreported inside China (which appears to be the case – I’ve seen no such report in the Chinese media). However, it wouldn’t appear exactly unlikely that China’s top cadres want CRI to become more effective. Three years ago, CRI German still ran a program dedicated to listeners’ letters and emails, but the feedback, as a rule, appeared to be embarrassingly low. Regular broadcasts of telephone interviews with German listeners weren’t a terribly reviving factor either. By now, feedback from the audience is interspersed into CRI Panorama, a magazine with a variety of topics, rather than featured in a dedicated program. An editorial staff of 31, according to CRI German’s website anyway, might be expected to draw a bigger crowed on the other side of the radio, too. (That said, there’s no information concerning their working hours.)

What seems highly unlikely to me is a closure of the German department. For the time being, Germany is an important “partner” for the Chinese leadership, in technological and partly in political terms. For one, both China and Germany try to defend their inveterately high trade surpluses against a growing international chorus of criticism. Even a small congregation of “early Christians” is probably worth being nurtured, from the CCP’s point of view.

Will shortwave be reduced? Maybe, but not necessarily. If the early Christians want shortwave, maybe their prayers will be heard. And jamming of foreign broadcasters like VoA, BBC, or All India Radio, will remain in place anyway. To avoid making it unnecessarily obvious, domestic CPBS stations at least will continue to be used as informal jammers in future, too, along with the “Firedrake”.

Does CRI make a big difference in Germany? Hardly so. What does make a big difference is Chinese financial and economic engagement in Germany, and Chinese interest in German products: sponsoring professorships, taking a stake in a new (and not yet used-to-capacity) German seaport, buying Volkswagen cars, etc.. China’s money has great leverage in Germany, even in German politics.

China’s public diplomacy remains a seedling here – but that’s probably no reason to dump CRI German.



» 杨尚昆, 通过中国国际广播电台, Jan 1, 1993
CRI 历史, CRI, undated

Friday, March 27, 2015

Monthly Summary: March 2015 – Death of a China Expert

Bremen, East of Central Station, March 26, 2015

Bremen, East of Central Station, March 26, 2015

1. How’s your Weibo going?

Mainland regulators say people will be able to have nicknames – they will just have to register them with website administrators first,

the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported in January.

The rule apparently took effect on March 1, but yours truly, himself running a Sina Weibo profile, hasn’t been contacted yet.(Having said that, it’s a very low profile – I’m reading there, but I’ve never posted anything myself.)

Either way, it’s »not »the »first try by the authorities to control or to intimidate the microbloggers, and time will show how serious they are this time.

Either way, ways appear to have been found to spoil much of the interest in microblogging.

2. Rectifying Political Ideology at Universities

That blog by Fei Chang Dao was posted on February 25, but it’s probably as important in March and in future. Even if you read no other China blog, make sure you read Fei Chang Dao, and China Copyright and Media, for that matter. What they cover matters much more than the not-really-uncertain fate of Zhou Yongkang – if you want to understaaaaand China.

3. Kailash Calling

Travelling Tibet can be an easy affair, or it can be cumbersome. It might depend on who you are, and where you come from. Here’s an account of scuffproof cheerfulness and patience.

4. “Two Meetings”

The annual tale of two meetings has come to its serene conclusion again this year, with China’s new normal. Just to have mentioned that, too.

5. Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

The Economist suggested in November that

China will use the new bank to expand its influence at the expense of America and Japan, Asia’s established powers. China’s decision to fund a new multilateral bank rather than give more to existing ones reflects its exasperation with the glacial pace of global economic governance reform. The same motivation lies behind the New Development Bank established by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Although China is the biggest economy in Asia, the ADB is dominated by Japan; Japan’s voting share is more than twice China’s and the bank’s president has always been Japanese. Reforms to give China a little more say at the International Monetary Fund have been delayed for years, and even if they go through America will still retain far more power. China is, understandably, impatient for change. It is therefore taking matters into its own hands.

The “People’s Daily” suggests that the AIIB is intended to be complementary to top dogs like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Britain, France, Germany and Italy are European countries that want to be founding members of the AIIB, the British move (which came first in Europe, it seems) angered Washington, a so far reluctant Japanese government may still be persuaded to join the Beijing-led project, and Huanqiu Shibao quotes Russian foreign multimedia platform Sputnik as quoting an analyst as saying that America, too, might still join, so as to hamper China’s influence that way.

6. In Defense of the Constitution: Are you mad?

Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou appeared to question the mental faculties of a Fulbright exchange academic who had asked if the KMT couldn’t drop its claims in the South China Sea.

“Are you mad?”, asked the president – reportedly -, then adding that abandoning those claims would be unconstitutional. He’s also said to have reacted somewhat wooden in another exchange with Fulbright scholars, on the same occasion, March 19.

7. Lee Kuan Yew, 1923 – 2015

Ma’s prayers for Lee Kuan Yew‘s early recovery weren’t terribly successful either; Singapore’s elder statesman died from pneumonia after weeks in hospital. Lee had his admirers both in China and Taiwan, especially for very low levels of corruption in Singapore, and apparently, he had a admirer at the American top, too. Probably no great surprise for John McCain or the tea partisans.

According to “People’s Daily”, Lee was a China expert and a West expert. According to other sources, he appeared to be a democracy expert, too (but he denied that claim).

In an apparently rather terse statement, Benjamin Pwee (方月光), secretary general of the Democratic Progressive Party of Singapore (one of several opposition parties, but neither of them influential in Singapore’s flawed democracy) said that

all great leaders are still people, and inevitably, one can find words of praise and of contempt. But at this time of national grief, let’s remember the contributions he made for the people of Singapore, and affirm his contributions.


Singapore’s authorities closed the “Speakers Corner” at Hong Lim Park on Monday, for an undefined period. Reportedly, truly “free speech” never really ruled there, anyway.



想要更多政治空間和言論自由, CNA, March 23, 2015


Sunday, February 15, 2015

Taiwan Newsarticle: European and American Universities refusing Cooperation with Confucius Institutes

The following is a translation of an article published online by Radio Taiwan International (RTI), on January 13 this year. RTI based their article on coverage by United Daily News (聯合報), the Liberty Times (自由時報, sister to the English-language Taipei Times), and Associated Press (AP).

I haven’t checked upon mainland coverage of these issues yet (RTI mentions Huanqiu Shibao, for example), but might do so next week.

As for Astrid Soderbergh Widding, the Stockholm University vice-chancellor quoted by RTI, the South China Morning Post quoted her in January as saying that “establishing institutes that are funded by another nation, within the framework of a university, is rather a questionable practice”.

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Main Link:
Academic Freedom Threatened, European and American Universities refuse Cooperation with Confucius Institutes

Related Tag:
Confucius Institute

Mainland China’s Huanqiu Shibao reported on January 12 that Stockholm University has announced the termination, by the end of June, of its cooperation with the Confucius Institute in Stockholm – the first Confucius Institute founded in Europe, in 2005. The reason was that given the expansion of bilateral cooperation, this form of co0peration was no longer in step with the times. Before that, two American universities also said that they would not renew their contracts with the Confucius Institutes. These decisions reflect the concerns that the role of Confucius Institutes in the respective countries have caused.


To alleviate doubts, Beijing promotes soft power

◎消除疑慮 北京推軟實力

Supported by its economic power, mainland China’s international political status has risen, Beijing’s rise received high global attention, and it also led to some doubts: to highlight China’s rise as a peaceful one, and to strengthen mainland China’s international influence, Beijing set out from the cultural level to actively promote soft power, and the establishment of Confucius Institutes abroad was what caught most attention among the promotional measures.


In November 2004, the first Confucius Institute put up its name plate in Seoul, and since, Confucius Institutes have also been established in countries in Asia, America, Europe, and Africa.


By September 2014, 123 countries worldwide cooperated with mainland China, having set up 465 Confucius Institutes and 173 Confucius Classrooms. In America alone, 100 universities took part in such programs.


Confucius Institutes lead in funding

◎主導經費教材 孔子學院惹爭議

The Confucius Institutes are usually set up right within the foreign universities that sign contracts with Beijing, but the [central] government in Beijing provides funding, chooses the staff that teaches abroad, and specifies the teaching material. This has caused quite some controversy.


It is [sometimes] said that Confucius Institutes operating within universities have some influence on the curricula of those schools and could endanger the schools’ integrity. These commentators believe that Confucius Institutes pose a threat to academic freedom.


Stockholm University vice-chancellor Astrid Söderbergh Widding says that when institutions within universities are funded by governments of other countries, the approach does indeed pose problems.

斯德哥爾摩大學副校長維丁(Astrid Soderbergh Widding)就表示,大學內設立的機構是由另一個國家政府提供經費,這種作法的確有問題。

The ways Confucius Institutes operate have also attracted the attention of foreign governments. Indian and Japanese officials have questioned that Confucius Institutes only teach the Chinese language – [suggesting that] they also spread ideological attitued, and deliberately influence countries’ assessments of mainland China.


A report published in October 2013 by American think tank “Project 2049 Research Institute” pointed out that while teaching Chinese, Confucius Institutes also inculcate ideological attitudes, thus influencing foreign circles’ judgment of Beijing.


To promote academic independence, American scholars demand end to cooperation

◎維護學術獨立 美學者促停止合作

Nevertheless, Beijing’s strategy of promoting soft power by the establishment of Confucius Institues in numerous countries worldwide has seen growing resistance in recent years. Besides Stockholm University, universities and schools in America and Canada have terminated or suspended cooperation with Confucius Institutes.


When the University of Chicago established a Confucius Institute in 2009, 174 professors of the university jointly opposed. Last year in April, 108 University of Chicago professors jointly demanded that after the cooperation term expire, cooperation with Beijing should be terminated, and the Confucius Institute no longer be allowed on the campus. They believed that the lecturers employed by Beijing had received special training to avoid or neglect politically sensitive topics such as “June 4” or Taiwan. They believed that with Beijing’s control of the lecturers employment and training would earn the University of Chicago’s academic program political  mainland official management and control of political speech and influence on freedom of religion.


On September 25 last year, the University of Chicago announced that the five years of cooperation with the Confucius Institute would not be renewed after September 29.


Shortly afterwards, on October 1 2014, the Pennsylvania State University announced that they would terminate their five years of cooperation with the Confucius Institute.


Beijing’s method of transmitting ideology needs to be corrected

◎傳輸意識形態 北京作法待修正

American paper Wall Street Journal wrote that the professors’ dissatisfaction with the Confucius Institutes came from lacking teaching skills and a refusal to accept some negative chapters in Chinese history*).


In June last year, the American Association of University Professors called for 100 U.S. universities cancel or renegotiate their contracts with the Confucius Institutes, because the Confucius Institutes were propaganda branches of mainland Chinese, particularly dissimenating the mainland authorities ideological attitudes, in violation of academic freedom.


Even earlier, in June 2013, the Canadian Association of University Teachers called on Canada’s universities and schools to terminate relations with the Confucius Institute, because allowing governments of totalitarian states to guide curricula content, teaching material and the topics in classroom dialogue would harm the integrity of all universities.


The University of Manitoba, and the Toronto District School Board refused or suspended the establishment of Confucius Institutes last year, their main concern being that Confucius Institutes could interfere with academic freedom at the schools.

加拿大曼尼托巴大學(University of Manitoba)和多倫多教育局已於去年先後拒絕或暫停設立孔子學院,主要的顧慮就是孔子學院會干涉學校的學術自由。

But is the gradual termination of cooperation with Confucius Institutes by European and American countries purely based on concern about academic freedom, or does it represent an outbreak of fear of mainland China? Future developments will be worth continued observation.




*) If RTI referred to this WSJ blogpost, hiring practice rather than lacking skills were the source of dissatisfaction: the institutes’ hiring practices and refusal to acknowledge unflattering chapters of Chinese history.



» Unobtrusive and Imperceptible Moral Influence, Jan 7, 2012


Saturday, February 7, 2015

CCP Influence on Education in Free Societies is a Problem – but it’s not the Main Challenge

Shoe Me Quick

Kiss Me Quick (while we still have this feeling)

Yaxue Cao of links to questions asked by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith:

Is American education for sale? And, if so, are U.S. colleges and universities undermining the principle of academic freedom and, in the process, their own credibility in exchange for China’s education dollars?

These are important questions, asked in New York University’s (NYU) cooperation with the East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai. And Chris Smith, writes Cao, did not know the answer when he delivered his statement on Thursday.

There are people who think they do know the answer. Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph, a sinologist from south-western Germany, for example. In an interview with German national radio Deutschlandradio he said in the context of German universities cooperating with Confucius Institutes that

The [censoring] scissors are at work in the heads of these people. They know exactly that, if they are sinologists, for example, having cooperations or research, field research in China, they can’t do it the way Chinese, for example, can do it here. They have to cooperate with Chinese bodies. In many cases, these, too, are sub-departments of the central committee. And everyone knows what happens if you attend a talk by the Dalai Lama, for example. There are university boards who don’t go there, and they will tell you why: because they fear that their cooperations will suffer. That, in my view, is not in order. This is where you have to safeguard your independence. After all, that’s how universities came into being in Europe, during the 12th century – as independent institutions.

Every country seems to have its share of sinologists who believe – or believed in the past, anyway -, that free trade
with China would be the catalyst for political liberalism. They don’t seem to say that anymore, or maybe nobody quotes them anymore. But that doesn’t change the attitude of those who seem to believe, for whatever reason, that engagement is always better than maintaining a distance.

Cao also tends to believe that she knows the answer. She draws some conclusions that sound logical to me, and besides, she quotes Chinese stakeholders, whose statements suggest that the CCP carried the day at every stage at the ECNU negotiations with the NYU.

In fact, nobody should ever accuse the CCP of making a secret of their intentions. They discuss these intentions and drafts very openly, in the Chinese press. The problem, and here again it is time to quote Rudolph,

[…] is that the big China bestsellers in this country have all been written by people who can’t even read a Chinese newspaper.

The problem with maintaining standards – and I’m all for defining and defending some – is that political corrections come and go in waves. Campaigns, not reflection, shape the debates when it comes to how much cooperation with totalitarianism a free society can stand. When it is about the CCP infringing on freedoms, complaints usually get some media attention, because this fits into the general propaganda. When Chinese or ethnic Chinese people in Germany get censored, they get hardly any attention – it is as if the process were taking place in an anechoic chamber.

Rudolph, the sinologist quoted above, isn’t only a writer, but also a doer. He was the first president of the German Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, in 1997. And he was a “program observer” at the Chinese department of German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle, probably from the end of 2009 until 2014, appointed and paid by Deutsche Welle. That practice was never a matter of public debate in Germany, and no transparency either – only one news service cared to write a telling report, which only appeared in a media trade journal. At least four Chinese or Chinese-German journalists lost their contracts, apparently in conflicts over what was deemed “too CCP-friendly”. Rudolph doesn’t look like a champion of free speech to me.

The CCP is indeed unscrupulous. Its power abolishes freedom in China, and its influence endangers freedom where societies are supposed to be “autonomous”. A few weeks after Beijing and its puppet administration in Hong Kong had finished off legitimate democratic demands for universal suffrage from the Hong Kong public, Huanqiu Shibao (“Global Times”), one of the flagships of Chinese state media, warns that opposition against a mainland student running for university office at the University of Hong Kong reflected a dangerous “McCarthyite trend” in the former British colony. On a sidenote. if this conflict occured in Germany, Huanqiu might have tried allegations of Nazism instead.*)

But the CCP isn’t the core problem when it comes to its influence on academic institutions and people. When private enterprise becomes an important source of income for universities, that, too, endangers academic independence. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

If there were clear standards, procedures and constant verification of their practice in general, and beyond this particular “communist problem”, nobody would have to fear the CCP anyway.

In that way, Beijing actually helps to demonstrate what is wrong with us. If we don’t get this fixed as free societies, don’t blame China. Don’t even blame the CCP.



*) Recent years have seen a resurgence of Nazi Skinheads in some places in Germany. Attacks on foreigners occur from time to time. The unhealthy trend of racism is also the background to a series of anti-China moves of some German mediaXinhua, in 2008, reacting to the suspension of then DW-Chinese deputy department manager Zhang Danhong.



» 不该让“麦卡锡”进校门, Huanqiu, Feb 6, 2015
» Hearing transcript, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Febr 4, 2015
» Princelings & Sideshows, March 4, 2011


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