Posts tagged ‘communication’

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Kim Jong-un: Learning from Foreign Models

North Korea may be a very proud country, taking no orders but from the supreme leader. But the supreme leader himself doesn’t consider himself above learning from great personalities. See for yourselves:




Now it’s your turn. How many more international models for Kim can you find within the relevant coverage?


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CRI’s “Journalism” Talent Show: no Belief in Facts

The innovation experience described at the lianghui seminar in March 2014 wasn’t exactly new: one of the borrowed-boat reporters mentioned on the seminar by China Radio International‘s (CRI) Zhang Hui, “Andrea Yu”, apparently had an earlier appearance at a CCP-conducted press conference, in November 2012, on the last day of the 18th National Congress. A Guardian article published online on November 14, 2012, contains a link to a soundfile where an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) correspondent interviewed Yu.

Sina, apparently quoting or republishing a post from the Chinese Herald (澳洲日报) from March 2014, i. e. also from the 2014 two-sessions season, listed a question from “Louise”, also from CAMG, who asked a question to Zhou Xiaochuan (周小川), governor of China’s central bank.

A foreign correspondent apparently lost patience with the silly theater, and shouted: “Give foreign journalists a chance” (给外国媒体一个机会!)  As he was allowed to ask his question, he hastened to make it clear that he was a real foreign journalist. (Which is confirmed by the article.)

The Sina-published article also mentioned a sham reporter from a Hong Kong TV station, but of course, opportunities to speculate become endless under circumstances like these.

Maybe it’s just China Radio International’s talent show. Journalism it is not. But if you have little else to show for, cynicism may be the attitude of choice – and even a mould for “innovative” propaganda.

It’s not necessarily limited to China. According to the Kyiv Post in September this year, Ukraine-born journalist Peter Pomerantsev described the Kremlin’s propaganda as a truthless narrative:

“The Kremlin narrative,” he says, “now is that ‘there is no truth out there, and you’ll never find it; but go with us because our emotional content is more vital.” That promotes cynicism and “cynicism breaks down critical thinking” because at its root “is something quite medieval and emotional – a world of myths and storytelling.”

“When you don’t believe in facts,” Pomerantsev concludes, “you are just left with that.”


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Innovative Guidance of Public Opinion: China Radio International’s “Independent Journalists”

On March 25, 2014, the Chinese Journalists Association held a seminar in the Association’s press room, according to an article published by the organization. Both the 2014 “National People’s Congress” (NPC), China’s alibi parliament, and the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference”,  had ended about two weeks earlier. The combination of the two is frequently referred to as lianghui (two sessions). The pattern of the seminar didn’t seem to stand out, it was about “implementing the party’s 18th National Congress’ and the 18th Central Committee’s third plenary session’s spirit”, exchanging or sharing experience made with innovative news reporting methods (交流两会新闻报道中的创新经验做法), and with new explorations in increasing the ability or skills of guiding the public (提高舆论引导能力方面所做的新探索).

The beginning was pretty ordinary indeed, if you go by the Chinese Journalists Association account. The deputy director of China Radio International‘s (CRI) central editorial office, Zhang Hui (张晖), provided the participants with lots of statistics:  the “two meetings” had been covered in 55 foreign languages, four national-minority languages, five Han dialects and in standard Chinese, with more than 620 headlines. In form of written pieces or by radio, CRI covered the meetings in 42,000 news items and in 3,800 background reports, using 7,600 photos in the process. Radio reports had been broadcast on shortwave, medium wave, and digital frequencies, covering 160 countries or regions worldwide, in more than fifty foreign languages, Han dialects, and in standard Chinese. According to yet incomplete statistics (by the time of the seminar, that is), CRI had, during the NPC and CPPCC sessions season, received more than 72,000 messages from overseas listeners in more than 160 countries or areas, by letter, telephone, fax, email, and texting.

Many interviews had been recorded, in many languages, with important people, such as the Serbian prime minister, ambassadors from Russia, Mexico, Columbia, Italy, Mongolia and sixteen more states, and foreign parliamentarians and other foreign visitors had conveyed their positive assessments of China’s achievements. A multi-medial approach had been taking all along the way, Zhang told the seminar.

So far, so traditional. And there were tons more of that. Somewhere along the way, Zhang Hui’s shared experience would have sent most foreigners to sleep. But there’s also that magical moment in a Chinese talk, somewhere, when things begin to become more important, and when a Chinese participant would wake up, heeding an intuitive sense of timing, and when he or she really starts listening, at least with one ear.

Zhang Hui  – according to the published record, anyway – had arrived at the innovative aspects of CRI’s lianghui coverage:

CRI brought foreign media forces into play, promoted the localization of production, of distribution, and interaction, put the leading role at the front into effect, and reported globally. 1. Localization leads production and broadcasting closer to the audience. During the past years, CRI has leaned on companies to increase the pace of the “go-out policy”. In the main cities of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, South Korea, Albania, and other countries, localization in research, production, distribution and in the work processes was achieved. Overseas media clusters played a particular role. An FM broadcaster in Lisbon transmitted a special program (“An ABC of the Sessions”), hot issues, guest interviews, foreign press reviews, etc.. An FM station in Bangkok transmitted the story of the two meetings in unceremonious language.

国 际台调动海外媒体力量,推进本土化制作、发布和互动,实现两会报道阵地前移、报道全球覆盖。1.本土化内容制播贴近受众需求。 近年来,国际台依托公司化运作加快“走出去”步伐,在泰国、老挝、柬埔寨、韩国、阿尔巴尼亚等多个国家的主要城市,实现了本土化采集、制作、发布和运营。 两会报道中,海外媒体集群发挥了独特作用。葡萄牙里斯本调频台播出特别节目《两会ABC》、热点问题、嘉宾访谈、外媒评论等。泰国曼谷调频台在《缤纷世 界》栏目中,以轻松活泼的形式讲述两会故事。

In “Studio 93” and similar programs of the FM station in Vientiane, Laos, officials, experts and academics were invited to a special program, to interpret the content of the two sessions. The program “Current Affairs in Chinese”, broadcast by the Albanian FM station, offered the main issues of the day by the “hot words from the two sessions”. CRI’s broadcasting stations with the CAMG media group in Melbourne, Auckland, Bangkok, Incheon, Colomb0, Kathmandu, Ulaanbataar, and other studios, arranged the news programs about the two sessions, organized the coverage mechanisms, and gave an example of the advantages of localization. The studio in Bangkok, through local hosts, in a familiar and effective fashion, gave explanations on [how] the two meetings [work].

老挝万象调频台在《93 播放室》等栏目中开设两会专 栏,邀请老挝官员、专家学者,解读两会相关内容。阿尔巴尼亚调频台在《时事汉语》节目中,开设“两会热 词”,关注当天热点。国际台环球凯歌公司下属的墨尔本、奥克兰、曼谷、仁川、科伦坡、加德满都、乌兰巴托等节目制作室,提前制定中国两会报道方案,建立健 全报道机制,彰显本土化传播优势。泰国曼谷节目制作室通过《泰中一家亲》栏目,由泰国本土主持人向受众解读中国两会,报道贴心,实效显著。

According to a Reuters report published early this month, CAMG Media is one of three foreign joint ventures co-run by China Radio International, or rather, by a 100 percent CRI subsidiary, Guoguang Century Media. Guoguang, according to Reuters, holds sixty percent in EDI media (North America), GBTimes (Finland), and CAMG Media Group (Melbourne), respectively.

Back to the Journalist Association’s seminar article on Wang Hui’s experience account:

2. International coverage localization operations abide by the broadcasting rules. CRI’s EDI Media in North America, GBTimes in Europe, CAMG Media in Australia, Global Iberia in Portugal, and other overseas companies dispatched nine reporters, in their capacities as [Update 20151117: overseas] independent reporters, to the two sessions, where they were positively active. Louise, Andrew and Michael as well as other reporters from CAMG, IBTimes, and EDI Media respectively, asked five questions [each?], to ministers and delegates, concerning property tax, environmental protection, economic growth etc. and achieved broad attention in domestic and foreign media. The nine reporters reported short commentary, blogs, miscellaneous, hot topics on social networks and photo stories [to their respective local or regional stations] and, speaking as borrowed foreign staff, told the Chinese narrative*) well.

2. 国际化新闻运作遵循传播规律。国际台美国环球东方、欧洲环球时代、澳洲环球凯歌、葡萄牙环球伊比利亚等海外公司,派出9名记者以海外独立媒体记者身份 上会,积极活跃在两会会场内外。环球凯歌、环球时代、环球东方上会记者Louise、Andrew、Michael等分别就房产个税、环保治理、经济增长 等在记者会上向各位部长、人大代表提问达5次,受到中外媒体广泛关注。9名上会记者为海外媒体公司开设的网站和落地电台发回短评、记者博客、每日花絮、社 交媒体热议以及图片新闻等报道,实现了借用外籍员工之口和海外媒体平台讲好中国故事。[…]

The Reuters story of early this month isn’t clear about where the idea of “borrowed boats”, i. e. CRI-invested joint ventures abroad, grew first: if the overseas Chinese media entrepreneurs who partner with CRI or CRI themselves got the idea first. “Borrowed boat”, according to Reuters, is how CRI director general Wang Gengnian refers to the overseas outlets concept. Wang Hui, in her work report to the seminar, used the same term in March 2014. And at least one of CRI’s overseas partners, James Su Yantao, described on a media industry convention in 2008 in China how overseas outlets could offer China’s external propaganda advantages.  According to Reuters, EDI Media was founded in the following year, in 2009.


*) Party and state leader Xi Jinping addressed the issue of telling a good Chinese narrative (讲好中国故事) on a central committee external work meeting on November 29, 2014, i. e. eight months after the China Journalists Association seminar described above. But the term is older; Hu Xijin, chief editor of Huanqiu Shibao, discussed the zhongguo gushi in 2013, and the leadership probably picked the concept from the usual circles of public-diplomacy expertise and academia.



» Borrowed Boats hit the News, Jichang Lulu, Nov 4, 2015
» Beijing’s covert Radio Network, Reuters, Nov 2, 2015
» Rumours about China Radio International, April 13, 2015


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Huanqiu Shibao Editorial: no CRI control over local U.S. broadcasters

Jichang Lulu, who is quoted in a Reuters report on China Radio International‘s (CRI) stake in media companies abroad, wrote a post about CRI’s “borrowed-boat” concept on November 4. The blogger (and book author) also disagrees with Reuters on some points, such as the number of “borrowed boats”. Also differently from Reuters, Jichang states that “localization” of official Chinese content can deviate to quite an extent from the official narrative, if it helps to win more credibility among the respective local audiences. The post also contains a link to a rather circuitous Huanqiu Shibao editorial, which reacts to Reuters’ reports, and also contains a swipe at critics of Confucius Institutes, and asks if China should be worried that Chinese students [Update, completed: … that Chinese students in America, Britain, or continental Europe could be brainwashed].

More to the point, in one line, Huanqiu Shibao also denied that there was CRI control over U.S. broadcasters:

Those local American broadcasting stations are not controlled by CRI, even according to Reuters’ disclosure, it [they?] just broadcasted CRI programs.




» Wang Gengnian’s little Sir Echo, Nov 13, 2015


Friday, November 13, 2015

Borrow a Chicken, Produce an Egg*): Wang Gengnian’s Little Sir Echo

Closing remarks of James Su Yantao, speaking in his capacity as a CEO of a Los Angeles radio station, at the 2008 Radio Development Forum:

During the 59 years since the founding of the state, and especially since the thirty years since the the reform and opening up, huge events have unfolded. The actual strength of China’s economic and social development has increased more and more, the people’s standard of living and degree of culture have become higher and higher, and influence at home and abroad has become bigger and bigger. Especially during the tsunami of the global financial crisis and the depression these days, the “China fever” that is sweeping the world is just unfolding. Under the new circumstances, strengthening and improving China’s external propaganda, to build and advance China’s external image, to make China’s external propaganda and image match China’s economic and social development is undoubtedly necessary. On the continuously deepening foundations of Sino-American broadcasting cooperation, EDI also actively develops Chinese-language broadcasting cooperation with all locations across the globe, we have participated in the global simulcast activities of the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn traditional programs, held by China’s Central People’s Broadcasting Station, added this time’s frequency localization cooperation with China Radio International, joint productions with friendly stations, focusing on every [station’s] national and regional special issues, all with good results, and we wholeheartedly hope that in the future, through this cooperative platform of the Radio Development Forum and the Conference on Global Chinese Broadcasting Cooperation, to produce yet more top-quality programs to serve the broad audiences, to advance and enrich Chinese culture.

建国59年以来,特别是改革开放30年以来,中国发生了天翻地覆的变化。中国经济和社会发展的实力越来越强,人民的生活水平和文明程度越来越高,国内外的 影响力越来越大。尤其是在全球金融海啸和经济萧条的今天,席卷全球的 “中国热”更是方兴未艾。在新形势下,加强并改进中国的对外宣传,打造并提升中国的对外形象,使中国的对外宣传和对外形象与中国经济和社会的发展相适应、 相匹配,无疑是很有必要的。在不断加深中美广播合作的基础上,鹰龙传媒也积极开展和全球各地华语广播的合作,曾经多次参加过中国中央人民广播电台举办的中 国春节和中秋等传统节日的全球大型联播活动,再加上今次和中国国际广播电台的全频率本土化的合作以及曾经和一些兄弟友台连线制作,针对各自国家和地区专门 议题的专题节目,都取得了良好的效果,衷心希望未来在更多的领域,透过广播发展论坛和全球华语广播协作网这一合作平台,做出更多优质的节目服务广大听众, 弘扬中华文化。

The roots of Chinese culture are in China, and the overseas Chinese media are just branches, and only when the tree is strong and deeply rooted, the branches can grow well and in full blossom. Only when overseas Chinese media establish themselves well, they can play in concert with Chinese mainstream media, as good cultural links and as bridges of friendship. Herein lies the importance and far-reaching significance of this time’s Radio Development Forum and the Conference on Global Chinese Broadcasting Cooperation.


According to a story published by Reuters earlier this month, James Su, in his capacity as president and CEO of a company named G&E Studio Inc, leases airtime on at least fifteen U.S. stations, distributes China Radio International (CRI) programming, and produces and distributes original Beijing-friendly shows from its California studios.

It looks like a pretty secretive operation. Strangely enough, people who take offense from Western propaganda appear to think that there’s nothing wrong with borrowing a chicken to produce an egg (借鸡生蛋), as Guanchazhe (Shanghai) put it ten days ago. Or maybe they do see the problem, and that’s exactly why they try an undercover approach.

Similar airtime arrangements appear to exist in Europe.



*) Or, as Wang Gengnian, China Radio International’s director general, reportedly put it, borrow a boat.



» Earnest Expectations, May 23, 2015
» Skeletons in the Cupboard, Sept 23, 2014
» RSF and Congressman demand Sanctions, Aug 29, 2014
» Global Field Media company, Nov 30, 2013
» Ambassadors abroad, May 25, 2012
» Be more Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Central Committee’s Promise: 70 Million people “to shake off Poverty by 2020”

“During the next five years, we will let the more than 70 million poor people, who currently live underneath the norm, shake off poverty”, “We guarantee that the poor inhabitants will shake off poverty by 2020, as scheduled”. The 13th five-year plan hasn’t been discussed yet, but the “five-year-goal” to support the poor has become public. This is not only a requirement for a comprehensively-built moderately prosperous society, but also our purpose of development, and the embodiment of our development ethics.


“Ren Zhongping” (任仲平), most probably not a real name but a pseudonym for a team of several editorialists, discussing the agenda of the 18th central committee’s 5th plenum in a People’s Daily editorial on Monday. The editorial also claims that 10 million people had risen above the standard in 2013 and 2014.

Concerning the authorship of People’s Daily editorials, Southern Weekend (from the Nanfang group), five years ago, quoted a written statement by former People’s Daily commentary department director Ma Licheng (马立诚) as saying that

Naturally, People’s Daily’s editorials speak on behalf of the central committee*). This simply requires that the authoring comrade considers and discusses the issue from the party’s position. He can’t replace the party’s policies with individual opinions and thoughts. It wouldn’t be a good thing if such an article were signed by an individual.




*) or: the central authorities? Not sure about the translation.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

This Week (2): If you are Chinese today, can you become Taiwan’s President?

Probably not. But then, especially in Taiwanese politics, everything depends on definitions. If you think – and publicly state – that there is one China with different interpretations (一中各表), and if you add that this means that China is in fact the Republic of China (RoC), and that the constitution doesn’t permit a concept of two Chinas, that might work for a president, or for a presidential candidate, especially when your opponents are in disarray. That was the case with the (governing) DPP when Ma Ying-jeou himself was elected RoC president, in 2008. Back then, and in an article that didn’t necessarily describe Taiwan’s legal status accurately, the Washington Post referred to the president-elect as a smooth Harvard law graduate.

There’s a problem with Chineseness in Taiwan however when your opponents are well-organized and pretty much in tune with the majority of the country. And there’s a problem when you, as a candidate, are anything but smooth. Her Hong Hsiu-chu‘s political career was, but apparently, she owed that to herself, friends, and her wider family, rather than to her party, the KMT. And she is said to be very outspoken – that makes for a difficult relationship with a party that is hardly known for non-conformism.

There’s also a problem with Chineseness in Taiwan when you create the impression that you can’t wait for Taiwan’s “reunification with the mainland”, with mottos like one China, one interpretation (一中同表). Yes, you can afford some non-starters when there is no real opponent, as was the case for Ma Ying-jeou from about 2005 to 2010. All the same, telling an international audience via CNN that Taiwan would never ask the American to fight for Taiwan was too smooth to become acceptable.

Tsai Ing-wen, the oppositional Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) nominee, has managed to convince much of the centrist political spectrum in Taiwan that she is not, like former president Chen Shui-bian, a “troublemaker”. In 2011, during her first candidacy for presidency, then against incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, she acknowledged the Republic of China’s significance for Taiwan, even if Taiwan had its own history. That was on October 10, Taiwan’s national day. This year, she agreed to an invitation by legislative speaker Wang Jin-pyng to attend the official “double-ten” celebrations.

In this context, Hung Hsiu-hong became the actual “radical” in the election campaigns, and her apparent closeness to China only helped Tsai.

Just how much the KMT is in disarray can be seen from this well-meant, but delirious advice as from the KMT-leaning China Post in summer this year:

The Taiwanization faction is wrong. Hung’s China policy can be a weapon with which she can fight Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the DPP who bears its standard. Tsai is far outdistancing Hung, according to polls conducted by pro-Taiwan independence think tanks. Instead of attempting to copy the DPP’s pro-Taiwanization stance, Hung can try to narrow Tsai’s lead by telling eligible voters that her policy is to build a roadmap to eventual Chinese unification. She has to only explain it is a Chinese version of the Commonwealth that is an evolutionary outgrowth of the British Empire and that relations between the Republic of China in Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China would be like those between the United Kingdom and Canada or Australia or New Zealand.

This read as if Kang Youwei had been at work again.

To cut a long, miserable story short: yes, you can (become Taiwan’s President if you are Chinese today). But not if you are too Chinese.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: and now for Something Better?

Once Upon a time, in the UK

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

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

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

But words are one thing; deeds are another.

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

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

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

Fast Forward to 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Universal Ideal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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