Posts tagged ‘CIA’

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pyongyang: Otto Warmbier “a Victim of Obama’s ‘Strategic Patience’ Policy”

Until yesterday (June 22), North Korean newsagency KCNA carried only one article concerning Otto Warmbier, dated June 15: “U.S. Citizen Released”. A short statement said that

U.S. citizen Otto Frederick Warmbier, who has been in hard labor, was sent back home on June 13, 2017, on humanitarian grounds according to the adjucation made on the same day by the Central Court of the DPRK.

Today, KCNA published a lengthy article, titled DPRK FM Spokesman Accuses U.S. of Slandering Humanitarian Measure. KCNA provides no permalinks. The article was published in English and Chinese, and probably in the other regular KCNA languages, too. The English and Chinese versions aren’t completely identical. Both complain about American misrepresentations of the Warmbier case, the English version referring to that as a “smear campaign”, the Chinese one calling American news coverage “black propaganda”.

The tenor of both of KCNA versions – more at length in English than in Chinese on that aspect – is that Washington hadn’t taken all possible measures that could have helped to free Warmbier, and maintained an uncompromising position instead.

Pyongyang, June 23 (KCNA) — A spokesman for the DPRK Foreign Ministry Friday released the following statement over the fact the U.S. administration authorities are heating up the anti-DPRK smear campaign by abusing the humanitarian measure taken by the DPRK as an inhuman act, concerning the death of Warmbier, an American citizen: 朝中社平壤6月23日电 朝鲜外务省发言人23日发表谈话,对美国政府当局借美国人瓦姆比尔死亡事件把朝鲜的人道主义措施说成非人道主义,热衷于反朝黑色宣传予以谴责。谈话内容如下:
Warmbier is clearly a criminal sentenced to reform through labor in accordance with the DPRK law on March 16, 2016 for the hostile act he committed against the DPRK on an assignment from an anti-DPRK plot-breeding organization of the U.S. 瓦姆比尔是分明因受美国反朝阴谋团体的任务,从事反朝敌对活动,于2016年3月16日被朝鲜依法判刑的罪犯。
As was made public to the world, during the press conference on February 29, 2016, Warmbier confessed in tears that he had committed hostile act against the DPRK, with connivance of the U.S. administration, after he received an assignment from the Z-Society of the Virginia University of the U.S. controlled by the Friendship United Methodist Church, an anti-DPRK plot-breeding organization of the U.S., and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). 众所周知,瓦姆比尔2016年2月29日在记者会上流着泪招认,他接受美国反朝阴谋团体“友爱联合监理教会”和中央情报局操控的弗吉尼亚大学Z协会交给的任务,并在美国政府默认下从事了反朝敌对活动。
CNN and other U.S. media outlets are still broadcasting the video of Warmbier admitting his crime and apologizing for it at the press conference in Pyongyang. 美国有线电视新闻网等美国媒体迄今还在放映瓦姆比尔在平壤举行的记者会上认罪和谢罪的视频。
The DPRK-U.S. relations are in the most hostile and belligerent state, and the U.S. is making every frantic effort to disparage the prestige of the dignified DPRK and stifle it while imposing heinous sanctions and pressure unprecedented in history.
Although we had no reason at all to show mercy to such a criminal of the enemy state, we provided him with medical treatments and care with all sincerity on humanitarian basis until his return to the U.S., considering that his health got worse. 朝鲜没有任何理由对这样一个敌对国家的罪犯大发善心,但考虑他的健康状态不佳,出于人道主义立场提供精心治疗,直到他返回美国为止。
As for the groundless public opinion now circulating in the U.S. that he died of torture and beating during his reform through labor, the American doctors who came to the DPRK for repatriation of Warmbier will have something to say about it. 至于美国国内流传瓦姆比尔死因是他在服刑中受到酷刑和殴打的毫无根据的舆论,曾因他的释放事宜访朝的美国医生倒是应该有话要说。
They examined Warmbier and exchanged medical observations about him with our doctors. They recognized that his health indicators like pulse, temperature, respiration and the examination result of the heart and lung were all normal and that we provided him with medical treatment and brought him back alive whose heart was nearly stopped. 他们检查瓦姆比尔的身体后,与朝方医生交换了医学见解,并对他的脉搏、体温、呼吸、心肺检查结果等生命指标均为正常以及朝鲜治愈几乎停止心脏跳动的瓦姆比尔予以承认。
Now the former officials of the Obama administration publicize as their “achievement” the release of 10 American citizens granted by the humanitarian measures we had taken. They cannot but acknowledge the fact that we treat the detainees in accordance with international laws and standard. 奥巴马前政府时期的美国官员现将朝鲜采取人道主义措施释放10名美国公民粉饰为自己的“成绩”,他们应该不会否认朝鲜按照国际法和国际标准对待囚犯。
The fact that Warmbier died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the U.S. in his normal state of health indicators is a mystery to us as well. 瓦姆比尔在生命指标正常的情况下返回美国不到一周就突然死亡,对朝鲜也是个不解之谜。
It reminds us of an incident that Hunziker, an American citizen who had illegally crossed the border and entered the DPRK on August 24, 1996, died in less than a month after he returned home in perfect health accompanied by Bill Richardson, the then U.S. Congressman, on November 27 the same year thanks to our humanitarian measure.
At that time, the U.S had totally ignored and not even mentioned a word about his death. The point here is he was also an American citizen, was he not?
Warmbier is a victim of policy of “strategic patience” of Obama who was engrossed in utmost hostility and negation against the DPRK and refused to have dialogue with the DPRK. 奥巴马被对朝鲜的极度敌对感和反感所俘虏,拒绝同朝鲜举行对话,瓦姆比尔是其“战略忍耐”政策的牺牲者。
Why the U.S. government which claims to care about the welfare of its citizens had not even once made an official request for the release of Warmbier on humanitarian basis during the Obama administration? The answer should be given by the U.S. itself. 试问,如此关心美国公民安全的美国政府为何在奥巴马执政时期从未向朝鲜正式提出瓦姆比尔的人道主义释放问题?答案应由美国自己找。
Although Warmbier was a criminal who committed hostile act against the DPRK, we accepted the repeated requests of the present U.S. administration and, in consideration of his bad health, sent him back home on humanitarian grounds according to the adjudication made on June 13, 2017 by the Central Court of the DPRK. 虽然瓦姆比尔是犯下反朝敌对行为的罪犯,但朝鲜接受美国现政府的反复请求并考虑他健康不好,根据2017年6月13日中央法院裁定,出于人道主义立场送瓦姆比尔回国。
However, the U.S. totally distorted this truth and dared to clamor about “retaliation” and “pressure” on the dignified DPRK while deliberately kicking up the smearing campaign against the DPRK. This is a frontal challenge and political plot against us. 全面歪曲这样的事实,成心对朝鲜血口喷人,悍然渲染对神圣的朝鲜“报复”和“施压”,简直是对朝鲜的正面挑战和政治阴谋活动。
To make it clear, we are the biggest victim of this incident and there would be no more foolish judgment than to think we do not know how to calculate gains and losses. 需要明确的是,此次事件的最大受害者是朝鲜。如果以为朝鲜连得失都不会计算,那可是再愚蠢不过的判断。
The smear campaign against DPRK staged in the U.S. compels us to make firm determination that humanitarianism and benevolence for the enemy are a taboo and we should further sharpen the blade of law. 美国上演的反朝黑色宣传攻势令朝鲜坚定这样的决心:对敌人的人道主义和宽容绝对要不得,应更加磨砺好法律的利剑
The U.S. should ponder over the consequences to be entailed from its reckless and rash act. -0- 美国应对其轻举妄动可能招致的后果深思熟虑。(完)

A discussion about (tourist) travels to North Korea can be found on Foarp’s blog. Please comment there.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Old Friends: No you Can’t, Yes we Can

1. You can’t invite that (alleged) War Criminal, can you?

Granted, there were a number of good reasons to stay away from the CCP’s military parade, and the falsification of history that marched among the ranks – after all, it was the Republic of the two Chinas that won the war -, was one of them. But then, Japan, too, cooks history books, and that would deserve more attention, too – I haven’t heard of any Western leader recently who’d cancel a meeting with Japanese prime ministers because of such issues. Maybe it is because history as a science isn’t considered to push economic growth, and therefore deemed useless. But then, history probably wasn’t a main driver of disharmony anyway.

Rather, what seems to have bugged a number of world leaders was Beijing’s guest list, which included Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan’s president. A scandal?

Not if you ask Hua Chunying (华春莹), spokeswoman at China’s foreign ministry. Some Q&A from the ministry’s regular press conference on Tuesday:

Q: Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will attend the September 3 activities. President Xi Jinping will also meet with him. Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. Is there a contradiction that China invites him to attend activities marking the victory of World War II?


A: African people, including Sudanese people, made important contributions to the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War. It is reasonable and justified for China to invite President Bashir to attend the commemorative activities. China will accord him with due treatment during his stay in China.


Being not a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, China will deal with relevant issue on the basis of the basic principles of international law.


Now, one might ask why China is no signatory to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court. That would go to the heart of the matter, while the spokesperson’s statement remains at the surface. The underlying answer may well be that to Beijing, Omar al-Bashir is primarily the president of Sudan, and only secondly, Beijing’s son of a bitch old friend. That al-Bashir’s immunity is, to Beijing, a matter of state sovereignty, not of personal responsibility or guilt. That aside, the attitude is best compatible with China’s interests in Africa – and maybe, there’s still a bit of a fear among China’s elites that they could, in a worst-case scenario, become targets of the ICC.

In a case like al-Bashir’s, Beijing’s critics are wrong, and Beijing is near-absolutely right. There can be no justice if leaders of small countries can be taken to court, and leaders of great powers remain immune. Peace may be “a journey” and “a never-ending process”, because dialogue is a voluntary choice. But when it comes to justice, tougher standards need to be applied. Unequal justice is an oxymoron.

Hua Chunying’s reference to the Rome Statute is also an elegant swipe against U.S. critics in particular: Washington has signed the Statute, but never ratified it.

2. You can’t Invite Shen Lyushun, can you?

Yes, we can, says Washington D.C., and so it happened on Wednesday. Taiwan’s English-language paper,  The China Post:

In a highly symbolic move, Taiwan’s representative to the United States attended an event in Washington D.C. Wednesday to commemorate the Allied Forces victory in the Pacific and the end of World War II.

Shen Lyushun’s (沈呂巡) attendance was the first time Taiwan’s top diplomat had been invited to attend similar events in the United States.

Now, guess what – Beijing reportedly didn’t like the guest list:

China’s ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai did not attend the event even though he had been invited. Chinese officials have protested the inclusion of Taiwan’s presence at the event.

Which is fine. Dialogue remains a voluntary choice.



» Failure to Arrest, The Guardian, June 24, 2015
» CIA & Hundesöhne, Tagesanzeiger, Feb 7, 2013
» Not a party to treaty, John Bolton, May 6, 2002


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Washington and Islamabad: Dupe or Dump

It’s easy to see that the Abottabad operation (aka Neptune Spear) which killed Osama bin Laden has caused ill-feeling in Pakistan (and it would have caused, umm, ill feelings in America  if the Obama administration had missed the opportunity to capture or kill the man.) That said, I’m not very familiar with the issues, and can’t  judge if

the aspirations of an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis reveals that the US is “enemy number one” and has the status of a foe,

as Pakistan’s The News quotes (unnamed) defence experts.
But I can imagine that Islamabad’s leeway to account to the public, for its – even if duplicitous – alliance with America, is getting smaller with each independent American military operation on Pakistan’s soil. There isn’t much coverage of Pakistani public opinion in our media – but that public does exist, too.

Operation Neptune Spear: just porn?

Operation Neptune Spear: just porn?

How sure should we be that the environment for US interests in Pakistan won’t deteriorate, as its operations in Pakistan continue without explicit agreement? And if Islamabad openly “dumped” the alliance with Washington, or vice versa – would American operations become easier, or more difficult?

Pakistan, almost for sure, would then be a failed state for good. Would the Obama administration want to undertake the task of rebuilding it?

That wouldn’t go down well with American public opinion.

I can’t tell how far one can go in interpreting the law of nations, or how far one should go. But they weren’t written for the sake of devotion. Not everyone who advocates respect for them is necessarily a dreamer. We might have done away with many principles of state-to-state relations if they weren’t actually very practical.


» “No longer prepared to listen”, Washington Post, May 15, 2011
» “No one is going to believe them”, Pakistan Observer, no publishing date given (but apparently of May 15)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Assange: through the Course of his Work

I had some discussions with Ned, a Catholic blogger from Australia, in 2008 / 2009, during the American presidential election campaign, and the early days of Barack Obama‘s presidency. This short thread is the only one I can find right now – either way, Ned distrusted Obama’s liberal-asshole background (this is a more complex issue than you might think; he was by no means in love with GWB, Palin, or Limbaugh either), and he distrusted what he referred to as Obama’s messiahdom.

His objections to the hype (that’s how I understand the messiah referral) was something I could always relate to, even though I still believe that America had a choice between two good candidates in 2008  – John McCain and Barack Obama -, and chose the better one of the two, the one who focused on rebuilding America, rather than the world.

But if that hpye angered Ned, why is he silent now, as one of his very Australian compatriots, Julian Assange, has become the global hero?

Julian Assange: some insight

Julian Assange: some insight (click on this picture for video)

Assange was interviewed by Russia Today‘s (RT) Laura Emmett earlier this month, and her introductory remark and question seem to be  ideal characteristics of an interview with a hyped personality:

Julian, thanks for talking to RT. Now, through the course of your work, it’s reasonable to assume that you have some insight into how political decisions are being made. What do you make of the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa. Do you think that we are seeing genuine social unrest, or are we seeing some kind of orchestrated revolt? And if so, who do you think is behind all this?

Why should Assange have particular insight into how political decisions are made – except for decisions he participates in? He knows how to shed light on confidential “cables”, and he may be called an IT expert. And if I had a chat with someone in a pub and got to hear views like his, I’d think that this is an unusually informed and observing contemporary. But that would be that. I wouldn’t think for a moment that he’d have particular insights into political decision-making, simply because what he says.

That’s not to say that the interview wouldn’t worth to be listened to. From 1’50”, Assange discusses “social networking”, and here, he is involved and both knows more than most people you could ask, and is prepared to say things that many other knowledgeable people wouldn’t be prepared to say.

When listening very closely to Assange’s answer to Emmett’s question – if the UK were still a haven for terrorists (3’10”) -, I seem to understand that Assange believes that it may still be a haven for terrorists. But it’s a quickly-mumbled reply, and he immediately switches to more exhaustive remarks about the UK’s role as a haven for oligarchs and former regime dictators.

Emmett’s next question is about why Wikileaks released Guantanamo information now – is it because Obama has recently announced his re-election campaign, and obviously, closing Guantanamo was one of his main election promises?

Seems that Emmett’s previous question about the UK’s role as a safe haven for terrorism wasn’t that important after all. What really matters is that Obama has “given up on closing Guantanamo”. The reporter is doing little more than throwing in cues for Assange. Many “mainstream media” people would do a better job in quizzing their respondents.

To be fair, the video is edited – from 40 to only 13 minutes. But in short, the only reason to watch the video is that it offers information you may not get elsewhere. If the Guardian (5’59”) sucks, Russia Today sucks even more. Mind you – the Guardian has, according to Assange, reduced the information provided by Wikileaks, beyond the reductions both sides had previously agreed to. The paper has, however, gone far beyond what Russia Today would ever dare, or ever want to do in publishing confidential information.

Mr Ed wants to share this farm's secrets with you

You can look - but you may still be clueless (click on this photo, if you like)

Confidentiality isn’t merely a tool to keep “common people” uninformed – and it isn’t meant to be such a tool in the first place. The intended structure is that members of the government’s executive branch can expect that they can discuss sensitive issues, such as how to deal with a representative of a foreign state, without having to expect that next time they meet that very representative, he will know exactly how they are viewing him – or his intentions. Another aspect of that structure is that democratically-elected members of  parliamentary committees will scrutinize the government’s work and documents – confidential ones included.

Every company of any size has the right to develop strategies without making them public – and every such company will still face some – select – scrutiny. Think of the fiscal authorities. But confidential material only needs to become a public matter when it constitutes an offense. In my humble profession, too, I have the right to talk with one, two, or several colleagues at the same time, to choose my interlocutors carefully, and I’m not obliged to reveal everything we’ve talked about to others. Such rights to confidentiality, too, are limited to what is legal, or in accordance with the rules of procedure. Some confidentiality is essential for decision-making.

Nobody knows the standards by which Wikileaks itself publishes the material it gains from its sources. Wikileaks accounts neither to the authors of its sources, nor to the public. And Wikileaks fans don’t seem to have a problem with that. They let explanations like these suffice:

The more secretive or unjust an organization is, the more leaks induce fear and paranoia in the leadership and planning coterie. This must result in minimization of efficient internal communications mechanisms (an increase in cognitive ‘secrecy tax’) and consequent system-wide cognitive decline resulting in decreased ability to hold onto power as the environment demands adaptation.

Hence in a world where leaking is easy, secretive or unjust systems are nonlinearly hit relative to open, just systems. Since unjust systems, by their nature induce opponents, and in many places barely have the upper hand, leaking leaves them exquisitely vulnerable to those who seek to replace them with more open forms of governance.

But it isn’t the world’s most secretive organizations whose members will be prepared to “leak” information. Don’t hold your breath for leaks from the Chinese bureaucracy, or even from Russia’s. Either members will either be to concerned for their own safety, or too patriotic to leak anything.

Let’s get back to Obama…

There were many reasons as to why he was frequently given messiah-like treatment (hosanna one day one, crucify-that-loser on day 300 (give it a few hundred days either way), and currently he’s-cool-he-caught-Osama). When people believe that a single person or party can solve their problems, they are most probably lazy. If Obama will take care of all that undefined stuff, and we will have full employment, public happiness, or whatever within four years. Be prepared to cry.

Or Assange will take care of all that stuff, and every government will be held accountable. The problem is: everyone who reads easily accessible sources – papers, online articles, and – even if only once a year – a carefully-chosen non-fictional book, will be better informed than anyone who would care to work his way through every damned cable that has been published by Wikileaks since last year. There is no shortcut to a society that holds its government – and its corporations – accountable. It takes more than Assange’s work. And while Obama’s performance does play a certain role after all, Assange’s doesn’t.

Most European societies, plus American society, plus many more around the globe, offer the conditions it takes to be judgmental, and to act in accordance with ones judgment.

Wikileaks is doing more damage than good to such an environment. There is no shortcut to individual judgment. Only the ability to judge, and to act, can hold bureaucracies accountable.


Guantanamo Files, Wikileaks, ca. April 24, 2011

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hermit: Google is a Political Scam

Disclaimer: the following is not exactly what the article behind the link underneath is saying. It constitutes Hermit’s personal opinion, rather than Xinhua‘s.

Google is an Agent of Cultural Imperialism

Hermit the Taoist Dragonfly: Google is an Agent of Cultural Imperialism

Hello Children,

Google is a scam. It wasn’t invented by two PhD students – those students were just dummies chosen and used by the CIA, to gather all the global information.

As the American government is fearing the coming of the Great China, they plot in every way to destroy us. That’s why they leerily invented Google. Google never intended to do business in China. How do we know? Because they are too arrogant to be business people. They were always less cooperative than foreign business people normally are, and this year, without any evidence, they claimed to have suffered a hacking attack from the Chinese government, and later, they released an ultimatum, rudely and in a threatening way (蛮横姿态威胁) demanding that China should allow them to provide their search results without censorship of their own do away with the legal administration, otherwise they would withdraw from the Chinese web searching market. It was the worst threat since the Opium Wars. We have narrowly survived this evil plot, thanks to the vigilance of our leadership.

All of a sudden, after four years in the Chinese market, Google no longer respects the normal ways of doing business (在商言商的普世之道)!

I mean, it works with every international company, except Google. So our experience can tell us that Google is no company. It’s an imperialist agent. Besides, history tells us that no company can afford to withdraw from China!

Besides, there are reports saying that U.S. secretary of state Hilary Clinton invited Google CEOs and other web-savvy bigwigs for a small dinner on January 7! They discussed how tools like Twitter and Google and Youtube could support American intervention in other countries, and encourage popular movements there.

Sorry, children, but we simply can’t afford to allow such dangerous media in China. After all, you people are far too gullible. You have eaten all our lies and manipulations without contradiction for decades – so how could we trust that you won’t eat their*) lies and manipulations just as easily? It will take decades before we can trust you a bit more, and only if you observe the eight honors very carefully. For starters, simply buy this silly explanation from me. Anyway, we will develop and improve internet administration in accordance with your real needs.

Down with cultural imperialism! Yell after me three times.

Now that’s what I call good kids. See you next time, and stay patriotic. Got to tweet fly now.


*) “their” includes all foreign cultural imperialists and their lackeys here at home


Tremendous Improvements, January 22, 2010
Natural disasters and Cola Disasters, China Daily, May 30, 2008

Sunday, July 12, 2009

JR’s Weekender: Anger Management and Anger Manipulation

Thousands of Turks and Uighur expatriates took to the streets across Turkey after Friday prayers, protesting the violence in Xinjiang and burning Chinese flags, according to AFP. The times have changed – it is hard to imagine that any news could have sparked that much anger that quickly only fifteen years ago. But no matter if it is the West, the Middle East, China, or elsewhere, rightful indignation has become a way of life – it is latently simmering in the background, and erupts whenever a Pope says something “wrong”, when a Paralympics athlete is attacked in her wheelchair, when Danish authors depict prophet Mohamed, or when a former German chancellor defies a smoking ban.

No trivialization of Beijing’s policies meant. If protests lead to the right results, such as to a visa for Rebiya Kadeer, this should be welcomed. But it shouldn’t take statements like prime minister Erdoğan‘s to channel or manage Turkish public anger. Such statements hold just more seeds for more of the same anger, because what the prime minister said went beyond the cruel reality. What kind of vocabulary does he intend to use in case of a real genocide?

Chinese indignation, on the other hand, has been given a beautiful mouthpiece just recently. The “Global Times” has probably qualified for the silliest article of the month last week (granted, we are still counting the days). The article demonstrates another kind of anger management. Until three years ago, the Bush administration had managed very successfully to brand any American national who opposed police-state measures as a “traitor” – they left the defamation routine to their proxies, but it was part of the White House’s own work. No wonder that China is trying to ride the pig chased through the global village by George W. Bush. And no wonder that the Chinese government was much happier with the 43rd American president than many other global villagers.

Anyone who supported or still condones the Bush administration’s approach to the war on terrorism should at least sympathize with one of the Global Times‘ points:

Five years ago, when terrorist bombings hit Turkey in November 2003, China took its firm stand on the side of Turkish people and condemned the violent act. However, when the riots happened, inflicting casualities and property damage in Urumqi on July 5, Turkey stands by the side of the thugs, reavealing its shame to the whole world and repaying China with evilness.

But it takes Bush or Cheney logic to see eye to eye with such ideas. The war on terrorism served the agenda of those Mssrs and their cronies’ agenda. The Iraq war wasn’t about going after terrorists. And Beijing’s “war on terrorism in Xinjiang” is just a scam to deflect global attention from the failure its national minorities policy is. Let’s face it: there will more of the same disaster somewhat further south, once the Dalai Lama is no longer around. Unless Beijing stops blaming its own failure on Turkey and other “hostile forces abroad”, and starts looking at the roots of the problems at home, that is.

Friday, January 30, 2009

America, China, and the Turds

Defense secretary Robert Gates was confirmed as defense secretary once again in December. Hilary Clinton has been confirmed by the Senate as America’s new foreign secretary. She had some more-than-just-constructive words for her country’s future relationship with China:

China is a critically important actor in a changing global
a positive and cooperative relationship with China, one where and strengthen our ties on a number of issues, and candidly differences where they persist.
But this not a one-way effort – much of what we will do depends choices China makes about its future at home and abroad.

It was her husband in the White House who helped bringing about Congressional agreement to China’s accession to the World Trade Organization. That probably lays out the baseline for the new administration’s foreign policies toward China.

Financial secretary Timothy Geithner on the other hand will need to do some polishing on his choice of words before being as nice to China as his predecessor Paulson used to be.

The most entertaining Senate confirmation hearing could have been that of Admiral Dennis C. Blair, Obama’s nominee for Director of National Intelligence and U.S. Pacific Command Chief from 1999 to 2002 – if only it hadn’t been in written:

Q (Sen. Bond, Republican): “A number of negative comments about United States policy toward Taiwan have been attributed to you in the past — I believe at one time, you referred to Taiwan as the turd in the punchbowl of U.S./China relations… what is your view on U.S. policy towards Taiwan?”

A: “It is absolutely incorrect that I ever referred to Taiwan itself as the ‘turd in the punchbowl of U.S./China relations. Whoever gave this account to the press was maliciously attempting to portray me as a supporter of China at the expense of Taiwan”.
“I did in fact use the too-colorful phrase ‘tossing a turd in the punchbowl’ in a closed meeting in 2000, but the phrase referred to a specific action by a former Taiwanese government official that had been taken without consulting the United States.”

distastefulAll in writing and not spontaneously. What a pity. Anyway, he’s confirmed now, too. Maybe at one of the press conferences to come, someone might care to ask a follow-up question: How long does it take a turd in a punchbowl to sink? Just curious.

Secretary of Defence Robert Gates discussed his ongoing institutional initiatives in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, and shortly touched on China (pdf document, page 4):

As we know, China is modernizing across the whole of its armed forces. The areas of greatest concern are Chinese investments and growing capabilities in cyber-and anti-satellite warfare, anti-air and anti-ship weaponry, submarines, and ballistic missiles. Modernization in these areas could threaten America’s primary means of projecting power and helping allies in the Pacific: our bases, air and sea assets, and the networks that support them.

We have seen some improvement in the U.S.-Chinese security relationship recently. Last year, I inaugurated a direct telephone link with the Chinese defense ministry. Military to military exchanges continue, and we have begun a strategic dialogue to help us understand each other’s intentions and avoid potentially dangerous miscalculations.
As I’ve said before, the U.S. military must be able to dissuade, deter, and, if necessary, respond to challenges across the spectrum – including the armed forces of other nations.On account of Iraq and Afghanistan, we would be hard pressed at this time to launch another major ground operation. But elsewhere in the world, the United States has ample and untapped combat power in our naval and air forces, with the capacity to defeat any adversary that committed an act of aggression – whether in the Persian Gulf, on the Korean Peninsula, or in the Taiwan Strait. The risk from these types of scenarios cannot be ignored, but it is a manageable one in the short- to mid-term.

There may be surprises in the pipeline during the first months of America’s new government in its relationship with Beijing – but few lapses. Both Clinton and Gates have been there before.

Meantime, Rebecca MacKinnon has some advice for the new president:

… if you really want to take U.S.-China relations to a new strategic level that rises above the day-to-day issues, you need to find new ways to engage the Chinese people themselves — not just their government.

The funny thing about blogging and media is that many players have such short memories. Bill Clinton engaged the Chinese people themselves long ago.

But if Barack Obama wants to do likewise, he may have newer technologies at hand.

And if he should decide to run a blog, he shouldn’t lose interest as quickly as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did. His Excellency’s most recent post in English is of December 2007. [Update, June 20, 2010 – the link is no longer available –]

Saturday, December 20, 2008

How Real (and effective) is the Fifty-Cent-Party?

I hadn’t seen anything that might count as real evidence before. (Maybe that is because I didn’t pay much attention to the theory anyway.) But Michael Bristow of the BBC quoted an official paper four days ago, and that looks somewhat more substantial. According to Bristow’s article, local authorities started hiring commenters some years ago as they could no longer rely on Beijing to censor every piece of unfavorable information on the internet, especially about rather local incidents or quarrels.

A document released by the public security bureau in the city of Jiaozuo in Henan province boasts of the success of this approach. It retells the story of one disgruntled citizen who posted an unfavourable comment about the police on a website after being punished for a traffic offence. One of the bureau’s internet commentators reported this posting to the authorities within 10 minutes of it going up.

The bureau then began to spin, using more than 120 people to post their own comments that neatly shifted the debate. “Twenty minutes later, most postings supported the police – in fact many internet users began to condemn the original commentator,” said the report.

It’s not unlikely that the story of the Fifty-Cent Party (五毛党) started on domestic Chinese commenter threads. If this propaganda tool is real, more evidence will probably emerge within the coming months.

If such a tool seems to be effective to the Chinese Communist Party, I have no doubt they are making use of it. Twisting propaganda is an unpleasant tool, but has probably been operated by many agencies in the past and presence. German author Heinrich Böll was under the influence or even worked for the “Congress for the Freedom of the Culture” – that’s what this website suggests anyway, and I’ve heard about that on German TV before, too. You may suggest agents and moles in every place which is about power and money, if you are leery by nature.

Fifty-Cent Party has become a handy cuss in commenter threads concerning China. I’m still wondering if it takes fifty cents (or any bonus) for commenting in favor of the CCP. (It may however increase a sense of helplessness.) I suppose that at least on international websites, many comments by ethnic or national Chinese that promote Beijing’s views may be the result of successful indoctrination during the time they lived in mainland China. Even ethnic Chinese with foreign passports may have felt frustrated this year, during the sometimes messy Olympic torch rallye. And culture shocks or a feeling of alienation may also drive pro-Beijing commenters (even people without any Chinese backgrounds of themselves).

As for such comments on international websites, I think we should be aware of the possibility that some commenters are in fact paid commenters. But I doubt you can usually identify them as such, or only very rarely. And really, I don’t think that it really matters all that much. What matters is the power of the points a commenter makes. Propaganda can be effective to some extent, but it can’t reverse the effects of failed policies, and it can’t sell bad products in the long run. An argumentation is either convincing, or it is not. Education, open-mindedness and freedom of information, rather than propagandistic training, are the key factors. Personally, I believe that a story is either well-researched and well-told and draws a crowd, or it sucks. Most of we might think of as Fifty-Cent-Party content  sucks, because it comes across as defensive, mortified, and dogmatic.

It makes no sense to accuse any commenter of being a paid one without good evidence (see comment number 8 there). Ricelee (comment number 7 there) could retort an “Epoch Times” allegation (which wouldn’t be flattering either, and just as pointless).

How effective would a Fifty-Cent-party tool be on domestic websites within China, as described with the Jiaozuo Police example? I’m not sure – but I believe that most Chinese readers can sense the smell immediately, and if they aren’t great friends of the Communist Party, I doubt that the deluge of comments in favor of the police has had the desired effect on them. [update insertion: (It may however increase a sense of helplessness of the initial, critical commenters.) ]

So, no matter if the Fifty-Cent Party is real or not, I don’t think it will become a decisive propaganda tool.

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