Posts tagged ‘communication’

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Internet Governance: “the party’s standpoints as a timely rain in a spring breeze, silently moistening all things”

If you are looking for a platform that assumes the ungrateful – but important – task of translating party documents, there it is. It comes with a national interest (not necessarily China’s), but it takes the CCP’s paperwork seriously (which we all should).

The latest there is a translation of a commentary by Zhuang Rongwen (庄荣文), newly appointed head of the “Cyberspace Administration of China” (CAC).

Here’s a bit of the spiritual nourishment in Chinese, and in English:

善于站在网民视角谋划网上正面宣传,推进网上宣传理念、内容、形式、方法、手段等创新,深耕信息内容,注重用户体验,力戒“虚”、务求“实”,使广大网民愿听愿看、爱听爱看,使党的主张春风化雨、润物无声。

Be adept at seeing things from the point of view of netizens in planning positive online propaganda; enhance innovation in online propaganda ideas, content, forms, methods, techniques, etc.; deeply cultivate information content; pay attention to user experience; guard against the “fake” and strive for the “real”; ensure that the majority of Internet users are willing to listen and willing to see, and love to see and love to listen; let the Party’s standpoints be as a timely rain in a spring breeze, silently moistening all things.

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Related

人类灵魂的工程师, 人民日报, Sept 15, 2018
Lu Wei’s visit to Germany, July 17, 2015
“Unobtrusive influence”, Jan 7, 2012
Delighting in Rain, 2012 / 2009

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Seeking “Discourse Power”, Taipei plans to merge Radio Taiwan International, CNA, and Public Television

Note: Links within blockquotes added during translation.

A short article on the website of Public Media Alliance, an international, UK-based association of public broadcasters, reported early this year that Taiwan’s ministry of culture was drafting legislation to integrate the country’s public television services (PTS), the Central News Agency (CNA) and Radio Taiwan International (RTI) “into one independent organisation”.

Radio Taiwan International QSL, 2018

The draft appears to be taking shape now, and rapidly so: CNA reported on Thursday last week that

Since minister of culture Cheng Li-chun‘s appointment, a review of public broadcasting corporations have been conducted, and so far, the ministry of culture has, after communicating, consulting and engaging in dialog with Public Television Service Foundation, Chinese Television System, Central News Agency, Radio Taiwan International‘s boards of directors, labor union representatives, and experts and scholars, reached a consensus, completed a legislative draft, and announced it to the public today.

文化鄭麗君部長上任以來,即啟動公廣集團發展之檢討,自106年7月迄今,文化部已跟公視基金會、華視、中央通訊社、中央廣播電臺的董事會、工會代表及專家學者們召開十幾場諮詢會議,經過不斷地內外溝通、協商、對話後取得共識,完成修法草案並於今天對外公告。

CNA also emphasized that union representatives were “invited to jointly participate in formulating the approach to integration, and actively protect the employees’ rights and interests” (將邀集工會代表共同參與整合辦法的訂定,積極保障員工權益).

This isn’t a particularly clear-cut definition of what union representatives may or may not be entitled do to exert influence in the process, but contary to Taiwan’s private sector, where they are extremely weak, unions do have a role to play in public institutions.

That said, the base for unionised work in those institutions may be much weaker than what mere numbers suggest. For example, the only permanent employee at RTI’s German-language service in 2013 was the head of the department herself, according to the station’s German listeners club, while a number of further members of the department were freelancers.

Taiwan’s Commercial Times (工商時報) reported on Friday that the draft should be sent to the Executive Yuan (basically the cabinet of ministers and chief commissioners) in October, reach the Legislative Yuan by the end of the year, and pass its third reading in June next year.

Overall, about 1,400 employees will be affected, of which 800 work for public television, with revenues of 2,000,000,000 two billion NT dollars for public television, 500 million NT dollars for Central News Agency and Radio Taiwan International combined, and 1.4 billion NT dollars for Chinese Television System. The combined budget was nearly 3.6 billion NT dollars last year.

The Commercial Times:

Cultural minister Cheng Li-chun emphasized that as Taiwan was facing the digital age and market competition, it lacked a cultural propagation strategy on a national level. Also, the existing content was lacking propagation channels, and there was a serious imbalance for incoming and outgoing international culture. Similarly, because of insufficient budgets, legislature and integration, public media were unable to play their propagation role, let alone mastering the power of speech [or discourse power] internationally. Therefore, the ministry of culture wanted to promote the “public media law” for the integration into a public media platform, following NHK’s [Japan’s public radio and television] role as an up-and-coming Asian public broadcaster.

文化部長鄭麗君強調,面對數位匯流時代與市場競爭,台灣缺乏一個國家級的文化傳播戰略,且有內容也缺乏通路,目前國際文化內容輸出入嚴重失衡;同樣在公共媒體方面,因為預算、法制、整合皆不足,也沒有發揮公共傳播的角色,更無法在國際上掌握話語權。所以文化部希望推動《公共媒體法》,讓公媒平台大整合,繼NHK之後成為亞洲新興公共媒體。

Indeed, according to the CNA article on Thursday, the ministry of culture intends to

[…] further promote cultural propagation in the digital age. The public media can provide information domestically, serve different ethnic groups, strengthen cultural affirmation. Internationally, they will not only be able to share Taiwanese culture with the world, but can also become the world’s most trusted newly emerging public media in Asia.

[…..] 進一步推動數位時代的文化傳播。公共媒體對於國內可以提供公共資訊、服務多元族群、強化文化平權;而面對國際,不僅可以與世界分享台灣文化,也能夠成為最受國際信賴的亞洲新興公共媒體。

Apart from the domestic services, NHK also runs Japan’s international media units. Under the name of “NHK World – Japan”, they “intend to establish wider global recognition for the service’s Japanese roots in advance of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

China has taken a similar approach earlier this year, blending domestic broadcasting with international broadcasting.

In its report on Thursday, CNA claims that board members of the media organisations, managers, and union representatives involved had all expressed approval and support 贊同與支持) for the draft at an information meeting on the same day. That could be true: journalists tend to be fans of reflecting ethnic diversity and affirmation, and the ministry of culture also offers more features in its draft that may be convincing. Apart from (apparently) including some kind of labour director in the planned new board, the term of every board member is said to be four years, with appointments*) of half of the body every two years.

If that helps to avoid resignations of the kind reported in October 2008, when the Ma administration took office, that should help to build trust among employees, and the public.

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Notes

*) to be suggested by the executive, and approved by the legislative yuan

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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Plans for English as an Official Taiwanese Language

Duties and a receptive mode (online and offline) are keeping me from blogging at the moment.

by-products

If I had blogged this month, one topic might have been about Taiwan’s (sensible, I believe) plans to make English their second official language. To survive under Chinese pressure, international perceptibility – i. e. communication – is a key issue for Taiwan.

There had been plans to make English official for some time, but they appear to have been taking shape this summer. Pan-blue leaning United Daily News (UDN) published an online article in March this year, quoting both people in favor and against the idea, including criticism by a Chengchi University professor:

Chengchi University professor Her One-Soon says that this, in ideological terms, is about surrender to Western power. “Currently, most of the countries of the world that have made English an official language have been colonized by Britain and America”, but has Taiwan? If [English] is really to become an official language, it only represents Taiwan’s inferiority complex towards its own language and culture.

政大語言所教授何萬順則說,這樣在意識形態上是向西方強權屈膝,「目前世界大多國家以英文做為官方語言,都是被英美殖民過」,但台灣有嗎?若是真的定為官方語言,只是代表台灣對自身語言文化的自卑。

If statistics of six years ago are something to go by, there may be more practical issues that would need to be solved. In November 2012, the English-language Taipei Times quoted a foreign education company’s study which said that proficiency in English was low.

Currently, Taiwan is ranked as a country with rather low proficiency by “Education First” (which emphasizes the importance of perceptibility by listing Taiwan as “Taiwan, China”).

Sunday, August 19, 2018

A VoA Chinese article on the situation of Uyghurs and Muslim minorities

The following is a translation of a Voice of America (VoA) Chinese service’s online article, published on July 27 this year. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

The article refers to a Congressional-Executive Commission on China hearing, conducted on July 26.

World Uyghur Congress’ president Rebiya Kadeer was present at the hearing, and apparently made her remarks to VoA – quoted in the article – on the hearing’s sidelines.

Rebiya Kadeer: Uighurs Today is the Han Chinese peoples’ Tomorrow

Washington — “This is one of the most terrifying things currently happening,” Florida Senator Marco Rubio said. “What is happening under this regime’s jurisdiction looks like a science-fiction novel!”

“ 这是当今世界上发生的最令人毛骨悚然的事情之一, ”美国佛罗里达州联邦参议员鲁比奥(Marco Rubio)说,“这个政权治下发生的事情像是科幻小说!”

What he was referring to is the human rights crisis Xinjiang is currently facing.

他指的是新疆当下面临的人权危机。

As chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Rubio convened a hearing at Senate Office Building1) on Thursday (July 26), to closely follow the situation of Uighur and other Muslim racial minorities’ situation in Xinjiang. This was the US Congress’ first public hearing about this issue.

作为美国国会及行政当局中国委员会主席,星期四(7月26日),鲁比奥在参议院大楼召集了一场听证会,关注维吾尔人和新疆其他穆斯林少数族裔的境遇。这是美国国会首次就这一问题举行公开听证。

Many witnesses attending the hearing said that an all-pervasive security system, DNA gathering, large-scale arbitrary detention, cruelty, extreme restrictions on religion and culture … the Chinese government was working hard to turn Xinjiang into the world’s most highly technogical “policing area”.

出席听证会的多名证人说,无孔不入的监控系统、DNA采集、大规模任意拘押、酷刑、对宗教和文化的极端限制……中国政府正在努力将新疆变为全世界最高科技的“警察地区”。”。

Ambassador Kelley E. Currie, representative to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, said that from April 2017 on, said that the degree of repression by the Chinese authorities, under the leadership of Xi Jinping, was “shocking”, and even hard to compare with the peak time of the “Cultural Revolution”.

美国驻联合国经济和社会理事会代表凯利·克里(Kelley E. Currie)大使说,从2017年4月起,以习近平为首的中国当局对维吾尔人的镇压程度“令人震惊”,即使是在“文化大革命”顶峰时期也难以比及。

“There are bans on ‘unsusual’ beards, and bans on women wearing combinations of glasses and veils in public squares. Muslims refusing to wear shorts, to smoke, to drink alcohol or to eat pork are regarded as criminals. Even refusing to watch official television station’s programs are proofs of crime,” she said.2)

“禁止男子留‘不正常的’胡须,禁止女性在公众场合戴面纱。拒绝穿短裤,拒绝抽烟、喝酒、吃猪肉的穆斯林都被当作犯罪,就连拒绝看官方电视台的节目也是罪证,”她说。

Gulchehra Hoja is a reporter3) at the Uighur team of Radio Free Asia’s headquarters in Washington D.C.. In February this year, she learned that nearly twenty of her own relatives in Xinjiang had been arrested by the Chinese public security department on that day. Before that, her younger brother had been arrested by police, and locked into a re-education camp.

古丽恰克热·霍迦是总部设在华盛顿的自由亚洲电台维语组的记者。今年2月,她得知自己新疆的近20名亲属在同一天被中国公安部门逮捕。此前,她的弟弟已被警方抓走,关进再教育营。

“Testifying here today, and bringing this up still makes me feel sad. My parents remain trapped, and more than twenty of my relatives remain unaccounted for. It can be said with near-certainty that they have been locked into the Chinese government’s so-called ‘re-education camps’,” she said in tears.

“今天我在这里作证 ,说起这些依然让我感到悲伤,我的父母目前仍然被困, 我的20多名亲属仍然下落不明。几乎可以肯定他们被关进了中国政府所谓的‘再教育营’, ”她含着泪说。

Relatives of her five Uighur colleagues have also been arrested and sentenced in China, and this is only a microcosm of the tragedies going on in countless Muslim households in Xinjiang. According to a number of sources, the number of Uighurs imprisoned in the authorities’ “education and transformation” camps is currently at more than one million.

她的另外五名维吾尔同事也都有家人在中国被拘捕、判刑,而这只是无数新疆穆斯林家庭悲剧的缩影。各方消息来源说,目前被关在中国当局以“教育转化”为名建设的营地中的维吾尔人有100多万。

Well-known Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer told VoA that among her family people, more than thirty people had been arrested. She said that the actual number of Uighurs under arrest could be as high as 2 million, and that many children in the region had been sent to orphanages.

知名维吾尔活动人士热比娅告诉美国之音,她自己的家人中有30多人被抓走。她说,被拘禁的维吾尔人的真实数字可能高达200万,当地还有很多儿童被送进孤儿院。

“What is happening in East Turkestan brings to mind the crimes of nazi Germany against Jews during the second world war,” she said. “US Congress should put forward a resolution to close these concentration camps. US officials should earnestly raise the issue of the Uighurs with Chinese officials.”

“发生在东突厥斯坦的事让人联想到第二次大战期间纳粹德国对犹太人的罪行,” 热比娅说,“美国国会应该提出决议案,关闭这些集中营。美国官员应该严肃地和中国官员提出维吾尔人的问题。”

Kadeer also said that not only Americans, but Chinese people too, should stand up. She hoped to send this kind of message to the Han Chinese through the Voice of America: “Our today (is) their tomorrow.”

热比娅还说,不仅是美国,中国人也应该站起身来。她希望通过美国之音向汉人传达这样一个信息:“我们的今天,(就是)他们的明天。”

Rubio said that it was also disturbing that there were companies that intentionally or unintentionally became helpers in the Chinese authorities’ violations of human rights and privacy. He mentioned Hikvision and Dahua technology company as suppliers of monitoring equipment to the authorities in Xinjiang, and also criticized an American company from Massachusetts for supplying DNA gathering tools to Xinjiang.

鲁比奥议员说,在新疆镇压运动中同样令人不安的是,一些企业有意或无意地成为中国当局侵犯人权和隐私的帮凶。他点名中国的海康威视和大华科技公司为新疆当局提供监控设备, 同时批评美国麻萨诸塞州的一家公司为新疆提供DNA采集工具。

He said that some multi-national companies that didn’t like certain positions held by the US government refused to do business with the government, but lobbied in Washington every day, hoping to enter China’s vast markets, turning a blind eye to China’s governing Communist Party’s human rights violations.4)

他说,一些跨国公司因为不喜欢美国政府的某些立场,拒绝和政府做生意,却每天在华盛顿游说,希望进入中国的广阔市场,对中国执政的共产党侵犯人权的行为视若无睹。

“This is really appalling, and absolutely hypocritical,” he said.

“这实在令人气愤,太虚伪了,” 鲁比奥说。

Also testifying at the hearing were US department of commerce officials, scholars, and journalists. With several lawmakers, from the dimensions of US-Sino relations, they explored the political options of dealing with the issue, including raising world peoples’ attention to the fate of the Uighurs, restricting American companies’ relevant business with China, punishing Xinjiang central government officials based on the Magnitsky act, etc..

在听证会上作证的还有美国商务部官员、学者以及新闻工作者。他们和多名议员一道从美中关系的维度探讨处理该问题的政治选项,包括继续引起世人对维吾尔人命运的关注,限制相关美国公司与中国的生意往来,通过《全球马格尼茨基人权问责法》惩治新疆主政官员等。

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Notes

1) this probably refers to the 124 Dirksen Senate Office Building

2) from Currie’s written statement (as of July 25, i. e. one day before the hearing):

The scope of this campaign is truly breathtaking: authorities now prohibit “abnormal” beards and the wearing of veils in public, and classify refusal to watch state television, refusal to wear shorts, abstention from alcohol and tobacco, refusal to eat pork, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, or practicing traditional funeral rituals, as potential signs that individuals harbor extreme religious views.

3) from Gulchehra Hoja’s testimony:

As I testify before you here today, it grieves me to no end to say that my parents remain under threat, and more than two dozen of my relatives in China are missing – almost certainly held in re-education camps run by authorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

4) starting here – or, if it takes too long to load, “a partial and rough transcript”
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Related

“Mistakenly deported”, CBC Radio, Aug 8, 2018

Updates/Related

Research and Study Class, Aug 19, 2018
Turkey, Anadolu Opinion, Oct 31, 2017

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Heilongjiang Daily: Li Min, 1924 – 2018

The following is a translation of an article from Heilongjiang Daily (黑龙江日报). Links within blockquotes added during translation.

There are (or were) at least two prominent women named Li Min. Second from left is deceased Li Min; second from right is Mao Zedong’s daughter Li Min. Photo: Kremlin.ru, President Medvedev’s 2010 visit to China, CC BY 4.0

Main Link: Farewell Ceremony for late Comrade Li Min’s Remains held in Harbin

This papers news of July 29 (Guo Minghua and Sun Jiawei reporting) — Quiet funeral music filled the air, grief knew no limits, and people from all walks of life were in incomparable sorrow, saying their last farewell to Comrade Li Min who was lying peacefully among fresh flowers and incense cedar. The farewell ceremony for Li Min, former vice chairperson of the China People’s Political Consultative Conference’s Heilongjiang Provincial Committee, and warrior of the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army, was held at Harbin Tianheyuan Funeral Parlor. Nearly one-thousand cadres and members of the masses had rushed there to deeply mourn this outstanding member of the Chinese Communist Party, this time-tested, loyal warrior of Communism.

本报29日讯(记者郭铭华孙佳薇)哀乐低回、哀思无限,各界人士怀着无比沉痛的心情,向安卧在鲜花翠柏中的李敏同志作最后告别。29日上午,中国人民政治协商会议黑龙江省委员会原副主席、东北抗联老战士李敏同志遗体告别仪式在哈尔滨天河园殡仪馆举行,近千名干部、群众赶来,深切悼念这位中国共产党优秀党员、久经考验的忠诚的共产主义战士。

Comrade Li Min died in Harbin, on July 21, at 03:39 hours, from illness, aged 951).

李敏同志因病于7月21日3时39分在哈尔滨逝世,享年95岁。

Provincial leaders Zhang Qingwei, Wang Wentao, Huang Jiansheng, Chen Haibo, Wang Changsong, Li Haitao, Gan Rongkun, Wang Aiwen, Zhang Yupu, Wang Zhaoli, Jia Yumei and Du Heping attended the farewell ceremony.

省领导张庆伟、王文涛、黄建盛、陈海波、王常松、李海涛、甘荣坤、王爱文、张雨浦、王兆力、贾玉梅、杜和平出席告别仪式。

Du Yuxin, Song Fatang, Zhang Zuoji and others also attended the farewell ceremony.

杜宇新、宋法棠、张左己等也出席了告别仪式。

At 08:30 hours, the farewell ceremony began. Tianheyuan Funeral Parlor had been decorated in a dignified and solemn manner, with Comrade Li Min’s portrait at the center. Li Min’s body was covered with the CCP’s flag, and with the sound of the funeral music, everyone stood solemnly, with people tearfully observing a moment of silence.

8时30分,遗体告别仪式开始。天河园殡仪馆观天厅布置得庄严肃穆,正中悬挂着李敏同志的遗像。李敏同志的遗体上覆盖着中国共产党党旗,在哀乐声中,全场肃立,人们含泪默哀,深情缅怀李敏同志的光辉业绩和崇高风范。

Comrade Li Min was born in Heilongjiang Province, Tangyuan County, Wutonghe Village, on November 5, 1924. In 1936, she joined the Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army, and she joined the CCP in January 1939. She was sent to the USSR for studies in 1940, and after instruction travels within the Anti-Japanese United Army, she became a political instructor at the communications operations, and deputy party branch secretary in 1942, and received the military merit medal. In August 1945, after entering the Northeast with the Soviet Red Army, she took part in Suihua Prefecture‘s government building, army building, women masses, and other work. From November 1982 to 1993 she served as vice chairperson of the China People’s Political Consultative Conference’s Heilongjiang Provincial Committee.

李敏同志1924年11月5日出生于黑龙江省汤原县梧桐河村,1936年参加东北抗日联军,1939年1月加入中国共产党。1940年被派往苏联学习,1942年抗联部队编为教导旅后,在通讯营任政治教员、党支部副书记等职,被授予战斗功勋奖章。1945年8月随苏联红军进入东北后,参加绥化建政、建军、妇女群众等工作。1982年11月至1993年任黑龙江省政协副主席。

As a Northeastern Anti-Japanese United Army veteran, Li Min vigorously propagandized the Northeastern Anti-Japanese United Army history, promoted the Northeastern Anti-Japanese United Army spirit, propagandized and promoted the spirit of patriotism. She received the Order of Stalin medal, the Soviet War of National Defense Victory order, the remembrance medals of the 60th and 70th anniversaries of the Chinese People’s Victory in the Anti-Japanese War, as well as the Red Army Long March Victory’s 80th Anniversary commemorative medal – more than thirty medals in total. Comrade Li Min put forward that fourteen, instead of eight years of the Chinese People’s Glorious Anti-Japanese War should be included in China’s nation-wide primary and middle school textbooks, a proposal which was adopted2). Comrade Li Min whole life was a revolutionary life, a glorious life, and a huge life.

作为东北抗联老战士,李敏同志大力宣传东北抗联历史,弘扬东北抗联精神,宣传弘扬爱国主义精神,她生前曾荣获斯大林勋章、苏联卫国战争胜利勋章,中国人民抗日战争胜利60周年、70周年纪念章,以及红军长征胜利80周年纪念章等三十余枚奖章。李敏同志提出了关于将中国人民抗日战争光辉历史由八年改为十四年并纳入全国中小学教科书的建议被采纳。李敏同志的一生是革命的一生,光荣的一生,也是伟大的一生。

Leaders and comrades of the Provincial People’s Congress standing committee, the Provincial government, the Provincial Political Consultative Conference’s and military region, garrisoned troops, military police, from Harbin, and other provincial-level comrades, lifetime friends of Li Min, relatives and others also took part in the farewell ceremony.

省人大常委会、省政府、省政协和省军区、驻军、武警及哈尔滨市领导同志,其他副省级老同志,李敏同志生前友好、亲属等也参加了告别仪式。

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Notes

1) Depending on how you count birthdays. As Li Min was born in November 1924, she was 93 years old when she died.

2) [Update, Aug 10] The textbook revision ascribed to Li Min was reported by the Guardian in January 2017, but without a mention of any particular activism leading to this step. Chinese media reported in 2010 that in a local or regional northeastern event, a “Longjiang Internet Media Conference”, Li Min had advocated a revision of this kind, arguing that Chairman Mao fully recognized the Northeastern Anti-Japanese United Army’s role and achievements in the entire Anti-Japanese War, and [he also] pointed out that the war of resistance against Japan began in 1931.

However, no mention of Li was made in a Xinhua report in January 2017.

The revision, Xinhua wrote, had been made after serious expert studies, organized by the ministry of education. In fact, in recent years, historians and educationalists have made active efforts to guide the young generations to a more real, more comprehensive understanding of the War of Resistance. The revision also crushed some foreign forces’ distortions of the organic links between the eight and the fourteen years of war of resistance, and removed the arbitrary blotting of the Chinese Communist Party’s role as the Chinese nation’s tower of strength.

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Related

李敏 (黑龙江省政协副主席),Wikipedia, acc 20180808

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Saturday, May 19, 2018

East-West Relations: “Not the Partner” (1)

The Economist‘s title story on March 3 this year was about “how the West got China wrong”. In some more detail, the same edition explored as to how China is “not the partner you were looking for”.

As a public, we seem to have a tendency to categorically idealize and devalue relationships – even between nations and civilizations. This is how Max Frisch, a late Swiss author and playwright, put cooling love affairs into an exemplary gloomy dialog:

“You are not,” says the disappointed he or she, “who I thought you were.” (“Du bist nicht”, sagt der Enttäuschte oder die Enttäuschte, „wofür ich Dich gehalten habe.”)

Now, I’m not thinking of West-East relations as a love affair, and Max Frisch was describing the feelings of individuals. But the quote applies all the same (even if Frisch would certainly disapprove of putting it into this East-West context). Propaganda shapes “collective identities”, and according to Jacques Ellul, it offers man “a remedy for a basically intolerable situation” – the impossibility of grasping “the world’s economic and political problems”.

Both Western and Chinese narratives about a disappointing relationship are beginning to take shape. Both are top-down propaganda – people at the grassroots, this blogger included, can only draw information from mainstream and alternative media, blogs (which frequently turn newspaper steaks into hamburger meat without changing the substance), and individual contacts. That’s no great competition for propaganda – rather, it’s part of it. I don’t claim to be able to escape from it, either. I’m experimenting. I’m still blogging because it’s fun.

During this summer, I might try to depict “how the West got China wrong”, and “how China” (or uncertain shares of  Chinese public opinion, anyway) “got the West wrong”. It may also be interesting to speculate about how we will continue to get each other wrong, or which of the mainstream narratives, if either of them, will prevail – or how they may have to take realities into account in order to prevail.

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Related

The Primacy of Politics, June 13, 2010

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Friday, May 11, 2018

Inside Report: the Singapore Summit

 

A very special moment …

 

and the very last moment …

… for world peace.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Taiwan cuts Shortwave Broadcasts in French and Spanish – here is why it shouldn’t

Cutting Shortwave broadcasts in French and Spanish

The French and the Spanish programs of Radio Taiwan International (RTI) are no longer broadcast on shortwave. On March 5, Radio Berlin-Brandenburg‘s (RBB) Radio Eins media magazine reported that RTI would terminate its broadcasts in German on March 25, i. e. the day when the current international shortwave frequency plan (A-18) came into effect1).

A notice was added by the Radio Eins editors a few days later, saying that RTI’s German service kept denying this information. However, Radio Eins did not name the source or sources of their information, citing rather general “trade circles” (Branchenkreise).

On March 9, in a regular mailbag program, RTI’s German service reacted to listeners’ questions concerning the shortwave issue, and stated that while the Spanish and French departments were indeed to exit shortwave with effect from March 26, the German service’s shortwave broadcasts would continue.

Seventeen days later, the German service’s denial proved correct – its broadcasts have been continued, now on their traditional summer frequency of 6185 kHz, as predicted on March 9.

In its report, Radio Eins also pointed out that Radio France Internationale (RFI) had terminated its shortwave broadcasts for Asia years ago, and that this had also put an end to Radio Taiwan International’s once lower-cost access to transmissions from France (with transmitters located at Issoudun, central France). The two international broadcasters appear to have exchanged airtime in the past.

On its website, RTI hardly (if at all) communicates the decision to terminate the shortwave broadcasts in Spanish and French. However, a month before Radio Eins wrote about RTI’s shortwave closures, shortwave-watching website swling.com had quoted from an RTI email saying that the station’s French and Spanish services would “unfortunately stop broadcasting on shortwave”. There appears to have been no mention of the German programs at the time.

Following a Trend …

RTI is following a trend among foreign radio services from industrialized countries2). As noted by Radio Eins, Radio France Internationale ended its shortwave broadcasts to Asia years ago. German foreign Radio, Deutsche Welle (DW), terminated its shortwave broadcasts in Chinese with effect from January 1, 2012. Three months earlier, DW had ended its shortwave broadcasts in German.

Earlier in 2011, the BBC and the Voice of America (VoA) had announced their Chinese programs’ withdrawals from shortwave (the VoA later reversed the decision, but BBC Mandarin kept to their exit).

One of the more contested decisions to abandon shortwave was Radio Australia‘s. It took effect by the end of January, 2017. The station made a – not terribly successful, it seems – effort to communicate the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) decision.

Radio Australia’s (now abandoned) role in informing Pacific islanders about emergency situations via shortwave was deemed essential by some critics, and Radio New Zealand (RNZ), Radio Australia’s only existing competitor on shortwave in the Pacific region, leapt at the gap left by the Australians.

But funding public diplomacy is hardly popular in most free societies. Slashed budgets may irritate or infuriate the trade or the immediate users of an abandoned service, but they will hardly become known to a wider public. After all, the (noticeable) remonstrators are usually just some listeners abroad, and apart from that, they are no voters.
In RTI’s case, the question – from the audience perspective – seems to be how prepared the target areas are for the termination of shortwave broadcasts. As for France and Spain, the answer seems to be easy: industrialized, reasonably good internet connections, and with only a few people (probably) who would still listen on shortwave anyway.
But there are drawbacks. In general – this goes for countries with a highly developed internet infrastructure and Latin America or North Africa alike – it is much harder to gain new listeners, than to retain existing ones.
RTI’s management (or the lords of their budgets) may have drawn inspiration from reports like ECLAC’s 3), discussing sharply increasing internet use and access in Latin American countries, and the Caribbean.

But the ECLAC, while optimistic about the development and prospects of the internet in Latin America, also notes that no country in the region has at least 5% of its connections with speeds of more than 15Mbps, compared to 50% in advanced countries, and there is a difference of 41 percentage points in Internet penetration between urban and rural areas in the country that has the greatest gap in the region.And a report (apparently published online in December 2016) by Statista, a Hamburg-based market research company, saw the region’s average monthly internet usage at 18.6 hours in 2016. When you leave Brazil – the leading country in terms of monthly internet usage – out of the calculation, the rate will be even lower.

If the trends indicated by the two papers continue, there may be a time when switching off shortwave makes sense (at least when considering the costs, and the pressures from the broadcasters’ funders). But the data suggests that RTI’s decision to do so came too early.

… but neglecting the Facts

One of the reasons that international broadcasters stop using shortwave frequencies is that radio is a medium used by the poor, rather than by the affluent and influential. That’s not how they communicate their decision (if there is communication at all), but the trade’s high-flown jargon suggests just that.

In a press release of May 18, 2011, less than a year before abandoning shortwave broadcasts in Chinese, German (its native language) and Hindi, Deutsche Welle wrote that by focusing on the internet in many regions of the world, “info seekers” would be reached more effectively,

… especially those who are or will be influential in their countries’ public opinion, and people who actively campaign for democracy, civil liberties and progress in authoritarian states, thus strengthening civil society.

… insbesondere insbesondere jene, die Einfluss auf die öffentliche Meinung eines Landes haben oder zukünftig haben werden, sowie Menschen, die sich in autoritären Staaten aktiv für Demokratie, Freiheitsrechte und Fortschritt einsetzen und so die Zivilgesellschaft stärken.

But nobody knows who will call the shots in a target area, ten or twenty years from now. In Venezuela, it’s an ex bus driver now. Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2011, Lula da Silva, reportedly only learned to read at the age of ten, and worked as a peanut seller and shoe shine boy as a child. Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, was born to a subsistence farming family and started his political career as a rural labor unionist.

If they had been born ten or fifteen years ago, none of them would be a likely regular internet user.

Shortwave radio may not matter as a medium, when it comes to commercial viability, as the owner of a North American shortwave radio station admitted in 1991. In that light, Facebook could be a more or less “real” alternative to shortwave radio.

But on “social media”, a foreign radio station is just one “friend” among many. There may be no studies available, but if there were some, they would probably show that shortwave listeners are a much more dedicated audience than internet users.

In short: shortwave radio remains a crucial medium, especially for Taiwan. The country will almost inevitably lose all or most of its remaining “diplomatic allies” in Latin America, as it has lost official diplomatic ties with nearly every country worldwide already. If shortwave remains crucial in Taiwan’s communications with European countries may be debatable, but to maintain Taiwan’s visibility in Latin America, there can be no doubt that shortwave would be worth the (quite manageable) costs.
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Note

1) While KBS World’s German service via Woofferton, England, is announced under the broadcasting station’s name (Korean Broadcasting Station), Radio Taiwan International’s name is ommitted. Instead, the HFCC states the operator’s company name (Babcock Communications) there. The KBS frequency is also operated by Babcock, and also from Woofferton.
2) Japan may be the only exception.
3) The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The report linked to is dated September 12, 2016.

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Related

Inclusive Internet Index, Economist Group, 2018
Abandoning Shortwave & Opportunities, Oct 3, 2014
A bottomless pit of waste, PCJ, around 2014

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