Posts tagged ‘communication’

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ma Ying-jeou: “A Considerable Threat Continues to Exist in the Taiwan Strait”

Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou spoke about cross-strait relations in an interview with the BBC‘s Carrie Gracie this month. There is a three-minutes’ video on youtube, and Radio Taiwan International‘s (RTI) Chinese service has a transcript of the interview.

I have based my following translation – not necessarily accurate – on the RTI transcript. Links with in the following Q & A were inserted during translation.

________________

[Asked what his feelings are about China being both an important trading partner and a cause of security threats]

A: We are only some 100 nautical miles away from mainland China, and to us, China is a big risk risk, and also a big opportunity. Any leader of the Republic of China should learn to reduce risks and to expand opportunities, and what I have done during the past seven years is exactly that.

總統:我們與大陸只有大概100多海浬左右的距離,中國大陸對我們來說是很大的風險,也是很大的機會。任何中華民國的領導人都應該學習把風險減少、把機會擴大,而我過去7年來做的就是這件事。

Our economic relations with mainland China, (language and culture), coincide in fairly many ways, while the developmental stages of both sides aren’t identical. Over the past decades, our trade volume with mainland China has continuously risen, and our trade surplus has been huge. The goods we sell to mainland China can be processed further there, be sold to Europe and North America, and this stage has been of mutual benefit in the past.

我們與大陸間的經濟關係,(語言文化上)有相當多一致的地方,而雙方的經濟發展階段並不一樣。過去幾十年當中,我們與大陸的貿易量一直增加,我方享有的順差也非常龐大。我們銷往大陸的貨品會再經過他們加工,賣到歐洲及北美,這樣的關係在過去的階段是互利的。

Of course, mainland Chinese threats stem from the military and the political field, and some people believe that deepening trade and investment relations with mainland China leads to excessive dependence on mainland China. To consider and weigh political and military threats, the mode our government adopted has been to find some consensus that is acceptable to both sides, and to shelve differences. In terms of the economy and trade, obviously, Taiwan can’t avoid some dependence on mainland China, but since I took office, dependence on mainland China has actually decreased, because the government has started the work of market diversification, leading to Taiwan’s trade dependence on mainland China not increasing further, but rather slightly decreasing.

大陸對我們的威脅當然還是來自軍事與政治方面,有些人認為,與大陸的貿易和投資加深,會造成對大陸過度依賴。考量政治與軍事的風險,我們政府採取的方式,就是找出雙方都可以接受的一些共識、擱置歧見。在經濟及貿易方面,台灣當然不可避免部分依賴大陸,但從我上任後,對大陸的依賴程度反而減少了,因為政府開始做好分散市場的工作,使得台灣對大陸的貿易依賴沒有再增加,反而有少許的減少。

[Asked if he believes that China is moving towards democratization, in a long-term trend]

問:習近平上任後,全世界都在期待中國大陸是否會往民主的方向發展,您認為未來中國大陸走向民主化是一個長久趨勢嗎?

A: During the past few years, I have constantly reminded the mainland Chinese authorities that if you want to narrow the psychological gap between the Taiwanese and the mainland Chinese people, freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, these core values of Taiwan, are important factors.  If mainland China were more active concerning these issues, the distance could be narrowed, but also, if there wouldn’t be more positive activity, the distance could also widen. In the past few years, the trends and changes in the psychological gap have also clearly reflected the actual attitude of mainland Chinese authorities in recent years.

總統:在過去幾年中,我不斷提醒大陸當局,想要拉近台灣與大陸人民心理上的差距,很重要的因素就是自由、民主、人權及法治,這些台灣所擁有的核心價值。如果在這些議題,大陸做得更積極,距離就可以拉近,同樣的,如果他沒有更積極的作為,距離就會拉遠。在過去幾年,心理差距的變化趨勢也清楚反映出大陸當局近幾年實際的態度。

On these issues, mainland China has seen good and bad times, sometimes somewhat better, sometimes worsening somewhat, thus remaining in a state of uncertainty.
中國大陸在這些議題上,他們一直是時好時壞,有時候好一點,有時候惡化一點,因此還處於不確定的狀態。

When I was running for re-election four years ago, mainland Chinese people were able to watch our elections on the internet, which was unprecedented. But recently, we have also seen many arrests of human rights activists, making everyone feel worried about mainland China’s human rights situation. Therefore, the feelings their situation causes us are sometimes good, sometimes bad.

在我4年前競選連任時,大陸人民可以透過網路看我們的選舉情況,這是過去都沒有的。但另外我們也看到,最近有很多維權人士被逮捕,使得大家對大陸人權情況惡化感到憂心,所以他們的情況給我的感覺是時好時壞。

[Asked if he feels angry about not having had an opportunity to met Xi Jinping after his efforts to improve relations]

A: Since I assumed office, one can say that cross-strait relations have improved, no matter if we look at economic aspects, cultural aspects, etc.. Therefore, a meeting between the leaders of the two sides would be a natural thing.  During the last two years, we have thought about the APEC summits as an opportunity to meet, but always without success, and of course, that’s a pity. Our current position is to neither rule a meeting out, nor to insist.

從我上任後,兩岸不論在經濟、文化等各方面的關係,都可以說有很大的進展,因此雙方領導人碰面應該是很自然的事情。過去兩年中,我們本來想利用亞太經合會(APEC)的機會碰面,但始終沒有成功,這當然是非常可惜的事情。我們目前的態度還是不排除、但也不會強求。

[Asked if he thinks that not to meet is Xi Jinping’s personal decision, taken from a too arbitrary  (過於獨斷) position]

A: We don’t know their decision-making process, of course, but certainly, the final decision lies with Mr. Xi. Maybe some of our views just differ, because we feel that in the process of developing cross-strait relations, some encounters on international occasions are unavoidable, but mainland Chinese leaders may try their best not to appear with us on international occasions, as they worry this could be against the so-called “One-China policy”. But what I would like to emphasize is that we have said clearly on many occasions that when we reached the “1992 consensus”, it just meant that the two parties both maintain the “One-China principle”, but the meaning we give to it is not identical. Only with this flexibility, the two parties can establish better relations. However, once it comes to international occasions, mainland China remains very unflexible in this regard.

我們當然不知道他們的決策過程如何,但是最後一定是由習先生拍板確定。我們可能跟他採取一些不同的看法,因為我們覺得在兩岸關係的發展過程中,不可避免地會在國際場合碰到,但是中國大陸儘可能避免在國際場合與我們同時出現,因為擔心這樣會違反所謂的「一個中國」原則。不過,我要強調的是,我們在許多場合都曾清楚說明,當初達成「九二共識」就是指雙方都堅持「一個中國」的原則,但是所賦予的涵義並不相同;有此彈性,雙方才能建立更友好的關係。然而一旦到了國際場合,中國大陸在這方面非常僵硬。

[Asked if Xi Jinping’s statement that the cross-strait issue couldn’t be dragged from generation to generation constitutes a threat to Taiwan]

A: I believe that this way of putting it, makes things look as if they had been delayed for a long time. In fact, the two sides having relatively close and friendly relations has only been going on for these seven years. I often say that seven years can’t count as a generation. Patient handling is required. The two sides have been apart for more than sixty years. The atmosphere can’t be changed over night. We believe that cross-strait relations should be promoted patiently and diligently, to let the fruits gradually emerge.

總統:我覺得他這個說法好像我們已經延誤很久了,實際上兩岸之間有比較密切友好的關係也才不過這7年而已,我常說7年不能算是一代,需要耐心來處理,畢竟雙方隔海分治已經60多年了,不可能一個晚上就改變氣氛。我們覺得應該以耐心且很用心地來推動兩岸關係,讓成果逐漸展現。

In fact, the fruits brought about by the cross-strait relations’ development during the past seven years have already surpassed those of the previous fifty years which is very fast, but in the view of the Taiwanese people, they do not wish to move too quickly but to gradually achieve the goal of improved relations.

事實上,在過去7年間,兩岸關係發展所帶來的成果已超過前面的50幾年,這已經算非常快了,但是對台灣民眾而言,他們也不希望走得太快,而是希望逐步達成關係改善的目標。

[Asked if recent mainland Chinese military exercises and their use of the Republic of China’s presidential palace as an imaginary target made him feel uneasy]

A: According to intelligence we’ve collected in the past, they have used mock objects for simulated attacks for a long time. When we conduct military exercises, we also put out defense against such designs. [Mainland Chinese] action of this kind just reminds us that in the Taiwan Strait, in the military field, a considerable threat continues to exist, against which we must prepare.

根據我們過去所蒐集到的情資,他們以台灣做為模擬攻擊的對象已有很長的時間。我方進行軍事演習時,也會針對他們這種設計做出防衛。這個動作只是提醒我們,兩岸之間在軍事領域仍有相當大的威脅存在,我們必須做好防備。

[Asked if the threat against Taiwan doesn’t rise with mainland Chinese military and economic strength]

A: In fact, the balance across the Taiwan Strait, in military terms, has tilted in favor of mainland China, beginning in 2005. Because very year, at a pace of double-digit numbers, and even at a pace of twenty per cent, they increase their national defense budget. It would be difficult for us to engage in an arms race with the mainland in this regard. Therefore, our principle in defense combat is to create a bilateral situation in which any party that wants to use one-sided, non-peaceful means to change the status quo must pay a price it doesn’t want to pay. That’s the only feasible major principle to prevent a cross-strait military conflict. Peace and prosperity have always been the goals of our efforts.

實際上從2005年開始,台灣海峽在軍事方面的均衡是朝大陸傾斜的,因為他們每一年皆以將近兩位數、甚至於將近百分之20的速度在增加國防預算,我們很難在這方面與大陸從事軍備競爭。因此,我方現在所採取的防衛作戰原則就是要造成一種雙邊情勢,使得任何一方要用片面、非和平方式改變現狀時,會付出其不想付的代價,這是唯一能夠阻止兩岸發生軍事衝突的重要原則。和平與繁榮一向都是我們努力的目標。

What I mean is that cross-strait relations exist into all kinds of directions. As for military threats, we must think about ways to reduce them, but in non-military fields, we also want to think about ways to increase them. Therefore, in our dealings with mainland China, we will always see these different directions.

我剛剛的意思是,兩岸之間各種面向的關係都存在,軍事的威脅我們要想辦法減少,而非軍事方面的合作,我們要想辦法增加,所以我們與大陸打交道,永遠有這些不同的面向。

What we prepare for our annual Han Kuang military exercises is just that kind of defense operations, and we have exactly these points in the Han Kuang military exercises. I’m sorry that we can’t disclose these to you. I can’t disclose related details, but we do prepare for conflict scenarios.

而我們每一年漢光演習準備的就是這些防禦作戰,至於我們漢光演習做了哪些科目,很抱歉我們沒有辦法向您透露。我不能透露這些相關細節,但是兩岸之間可能發生衝突的情況,我們要預先做準備。

[Asked if he feels unsatisfied with this.]

A: Of course.

當然。

[Asked if given mainland Chinese military budget increases, and American strategic ambiguity concerning Taiwan, America shouldn’t be more clear about its attitude towards Taiwan, or guarantee support for Taiwan under certain circumstances – and if Obama would be in a position to do this]

A: As for America, the “Taiwan Relations Act” regulations are plain. Of course, we cannot rely on American law and regulations, but on our own preparedness. And our preparations aren’t just about adopting defense measures, but we should, by means of politics and cross-strait relations, eliminate chances for this situation [of military conflict] to occur. Therefore, as for the Taiwanese defense lines against mainland China that I’ve just mentioned, the first line is not about aircraft and artillery, but about reconciliation [or amicable settlement], and thus reducing the risk of conflict erupting, and only this is one of the highest strategies. This is also exactly what Sunzi’s “Art of War” means when saying that  the highest form of generalship is to balk [or counter-attack] the enemy’s plans”.

對美國來講,「台灣關係法」已明文規定。當然我們不能靠美國法律的規定,我們要靠自己的準備,而我們的準備不只是從軍事上做好防禦的措施,更應該從政治上、兩岸關係上,消除這種情況出現的機會,所以我剛提及台灣對大陸的防線,第一道防線不是飛機、大砲,而是兩岸的和解,透過兩岸的和解,使得兩岸發生衝突的機會減少,這才是一個最高的謀略,也就是「孫子兵法」所說的「上兵伐謀」。

[Pressed on whether he would hope for a clear American presidential defense statement in favor of Taiwan if attacked by mainland China]

A: In fact, this problem has always existed during the past sixty years. But during the past seven years, America didn’t need to issue these statements, but could also make the Taiwan Strait maintain peace. The most important key is that this risk is reduced after improving relations with mainland China. The official in charge of cross-strait relations in the U.S. State Department has repeatedly reiterated that stable development of cross-strait relations is an important factor of maintaining constructive relations with Taiwan. In other words, simply relying on America to come to our help to fight this battle. Rather, by lowering this risk to the lowest possible level, by reducing the risk of conflict to a minimum, that’s the highest strategy, and also exactly about “balking the enemy’s plans”.

事實上,在過去60年當中,這個問題一直存在,可是在過去的7年當中,美國已經不需要做這些聲明,但是一樣可以讓台海維持和平,最重要的關鍵是我們與大陸改善關係之後,使得這種風險變少了。美國國務院主管兩岸事務的官員一再重申,兩岸關係的穩定發展,是他們與台灣維持建設性關係的重要因素,換言之,我們不能光靠美國來幫我們打這個仗,而是我們把這種可能的風險降到最低、可能的衝突減少到最少,這才是最高的戰略,也就是「上兵伐謀」。

Saturday, July 18, 2015

International Radio Serbia gets axed in “Privatization Program”

A Radio Jugoslavija QSL card from the 1980s

A Radio Jugoslavija QSL card from the 1980s

The Serbian government intends to close International Radio Serbia (aka Radio Yugoslavia) on July 31. The broadcaster’s statement:

Dear listeners, by the decision of Serbian government, International Radio Serbia – Radio Yugoslavia – ceases to exist on 31 July 2015. Thus our fruitful cooperation with you and our tradition of continously informing the diaspora and the public worldwide of the current events, business and cultural capacities, beautiful landmarks, culture and tradition of Serbia and former Yugoslavia in 12 languages, via short waves, the Internet and the satellite will be terminated. Thank you for having listened to us and for having trusted us for more than 79 years.

It’s strange to think that a country with official – and public – views that frequently differ from the European mainstream would shut its own voice down, but that’s what Belgrade appears to be doing.

One might argue that Tanjug newsagency (also a news organization with quite some history, founded in 1943), would provide an alternative once Radio Serbia is off the air (and offline), but there are at least two drawbacks. One is that Tanjug is only available in Serbian and in English, while Radio Serbia speaks to the world in twelve languages. And the other is that Tanjug isn’t a broadcaster – you don’t get them on the radio.

It’s nice to know that Serbia-China relations are very good, isn’t it? And yes, Tanjug, quoting Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic, will let us know – they’ll even let us know more than Radio Serbia – but only in English. And sure, CCTV will let the Chinese people know – in the evening news, because, after all, the guy from Belgrade met with Zhang Gaoli. But look what you’ll get with this searchword combination: 托米斯拉夫·尼科利奇 “张高丽”. Or with another one: “尼科利奇” “张高丽”.

Sorry to lay this on you, government of Serbia, but there’s no Tanjug among these results. If you think most Chinese people – old and young, high-ranking officials or even students (chances might be somewhat better there) feel easy with English, you may still want to go ahead, though. Good luck with that – God knows what your management consultants may beputting into your heads.

Another point in Radio Serbia’s favor is the coverage of culture and daily life. Most people will be at least as interested in that, as in the world of politics and diplomacy. Or, as Johann Gottfried Herder put it more than two centuries ago, when explaining his goals with the “Letters for the Advancement of Humanity”: in this gallery of different ways of thinking, aspirations and desires,

we certainly get to know periods and nations more deeply than on the deceptive, dreary route of their political and war history. In the latter, we seldom see more of  a people than how it let itself be governed and killed; in the former we learn how it thought, what it hoped and wished for, how it enjoyed itself, and how it was led by its teachers or its inclinations.

This isn’t to say that International Radio Serbia would be a beacon of lofty enlightenment concerning the country – but you do get to listen to Serbian music and cultural descriptions, for example.

A statement by Radio Serbia’s German service, published on June 30, mentions media privatization in Serbia. According to a news article published by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), 47 state-owned media outlets were put on sale on July 1, and should be completed by October. And, not surprisingly if you know the European Union (or the role it frequently plays as a scapegoat, blamed for unpopular policies by national politicians, when they are out of more reasonable points), the Serbian government, according to BIRN, says media privatization is an important part of the pre-accession process with the European Union that will enable Belgrade to open Chapters 23 and 24 of the negotiations on the judiciary.

According to Radio Serbia on June 18, the original deadline for privatization, i. e. June 30, wasn’t met, and Minister of Culture and Information Ivan Tasovac has stated that […] if the process of privatization of the state-owned media is not completed by June 30, it will certainly be commenced by that deadline, and then completed over the next four months at the latest.

The German service’s June 30 post mentioned a debate in parliament where members demanded the inclusion of Radio Serbia into the new timeframe, with a deadline of October 31. However, a total of 35 amendments was rejected by the government majority (three of them referring to Radio Serbia). The most eloquent advocacy reportedly came from the leader of the Socialist Party group Dijana Vukomanović, who emphasized both the multi-lingual program range and the costs – several times lower than those of Tanjug (“dessen Ausgaben mehrfach niedriger sind als die Agentur Tanjug”).

The article, tinged with bitterness, comes to the conclusion that

in this way, the incumbent Serbian government, just like its predecessors since the year 2000, has demonstrated that it is only interested in domestic politics, while the country’s promotion abroad is of no priority.

It appears to be true that the government was in no mood to have a genuine public debate. But the question remains why. If privatization and EU standards were the reason, Radio Serbia could still continue as a media corporation under public law. Many EU countries run broadcasting houses under this formula – to my knowledge, no EU objections have ever been reported.

But then, different standards may be applied after all – and a Reuters report of June 30 mentions not only Brussels, but another big player, too. According to Reuters, Belgrade plans to trim the public sector under a 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) three-year precautionary loan-deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Would that be domestic or foreign politics?

____________

Remarks

Radio Serbia runs a Chinese service. However, chances to listen to the station on shortwave appear to be small in China, as the target area for the only broadcast in Chinese appears to be Europe, at 16:30 UTC on 9635 kHz.

Programs for Europe, in Italian, Russian, English, Spanish, Serbian, German, and French, start at 17:30 UTC on 6100 kHz, and end at 23:30 or 24:00 UTC. Unfortunately, China Radio International (CRI) broadcasts on the same frequency from 20:00 to 23:00 UTC, but usually stays in the background, with a fairly readable signal from Radio Serbia.

There’s an online petition calling for the continuation of Radio Serbia, and a tradition of nearly eighty years.

____________

Friday, June 12, 2015

The BoZhu Interviews: If you want to Believe the Best or the Worst about China, it’s easy enough –

Ji Xiang about getting started with China, stereotypes, and finding a balance between Chinese and Western ways of life.

Ji Xiang is a blogger from Europe who lives in China. In his first blog post, in 2008, he explained how he got his Chinese name. And he is probably one of very few foreign China bloggers who started blogging almost right on arrival in the country, and have kept to the habit ever since.

Q: Ji Xiang, you are Chinese by name, but you are actually from Europe, right?

That’s right. My mom’s British, and my dad’s Italian. I grew up in Italy, although I have also lived in Britain. It’s not too obvious unless you look at my blog very carefully though. Interestingly, some of my readers have assumed I was American in the past.

Q: Could that be because your stance comes across as more “pro-Western” than that of most sinologists or Westerners who speak Chinese? It seems to me that both Foarp and you stand out as rather critical of what might be called “cultural relativism”, or a preparedness to find human rights violations tolerable because of a country’s culture, a “situation on the ground”, etc.

Well, I’m not sure if that makes you seem more like an American or not. Foarp is after all British. But to be honest, I think a lot of Westerners who speak Chinese have the same sort of opinions as I do. I don’t think of myself as “pro-Western” really, I am quite aware of all the bad things Western countries have done around the world, and the shortcomings of the “West” (if there really is such a thing as the West. But that’s another debate). But that doesn’t necessarily mean being pro-Chinese.

When it comes to human rights violations, I don’t really buy cultural justifications. I mean, East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea have created systems where basic human rights are respected, so it obviously isn’t only Western countries which can reach that point. The argument that human rights have to be put aside when a country is still poor and developing is more complicated. I think certain basic rights, like the right not to disappear, be tortured or speak your mind without going to jail, should be respected, and I don’t think the right to have a full belly clashes with these other rights.

There might however be a good argument for not holding elections in countries where most of the people are illiterate, or divided along ethnic or tribal lines. Say in Yemen or Burkina Faso. Even in Arab countries, it is clear that elections often bring religious fundamentalists to power.

Q: You went to China as a teacher in 2005, and came back to the country as a student. How did you get interested in China? You’ve spent a number of years there now, haven’t you?

I actually taught in China in 2004, and that was just for a summer. I then went back to China because I got a scholarship to get a master’s degree there. I have spent over six years in China by now.

Q: Was 2008 a good time to start a blog? You might have started one in 2005, the heydays of the (English-language) “Chinese blogosphere”. Was there a key moment where you felt that you should share your experiences, which got your blog started?

Well in 2005 I didn’t live in China, and had only spent a few months there. I had no basis for writing a blog about it. I only discovered recently that that was supposed to be the heyday of the “Chinese blogosphere”. Pity I missed it. I started my blog when I started living in China full-time. In the beginning, it was mainly to share my experiences with my family and friends back home. Now it’s turned more into a blog of commentary about China.

Q: Do the statistics or feedback give you an idea about who your readers are?

A bit. Most of my hits are from the United States, but I think that might be to do with the fact that most of the VPNs people use in China redirect there. Curiously, I also seem to have a lot of readers from Germany, Ukraine and Russia (well, you are one of the ones from Germany). Other than that, my most read posts are the ones with titles which people can come across randomly on Google.

Q: Apart from the blogs your blogroll, are there others – about China or other countries and topics – that you read regularly?

To be honest, not really. I mostly look at those few blogs on China which are on my blogroll (which includes your one). And there is my uncle’s blog, he lives in Israel and blogs about his life there and Israeli topics.

Q: Did family history contribute to your interest in China?

Not really. I don’t have any relatives who have lived or live in China. Having said that, the first time I came to China was with my parents. They are active in the international Esperanto movement, and in 2004 the World Esperanto Congress was in Beijing, so they were going to China to attend it and I went with them. That’s when I first got interested in China. Being able to speak Esperanto helped plug me in to the community of Chinese Esperanto speakers, which has been a nice way to get to know some cool, unusual Chinese people.

Q: Most bloggers will sometimes be surprised by the responses a post of them triggers. Have there been reactions and comments that surprised you during the past seven years?

After visiting Vietnam, I wrote a post on why the Vietnamese dislike China. It got quite a few reactions from Vietnamese readers, most of them proving my original point. One of them actually claimed that Daoism, the I Ching and the idea of Ying/Yang originally came from Vietnam and not from China. Total nonsense as far as I know. Unfortunately unreasonable nationalism is widespread throughout Asia. At its basis lies a wall of mental rigidity and misinformation which is very hard to break through.  Then again, Europe was probably similar up until the Second World War. And Westerners have their own unreasonable prejudices, just look at the persistence of antisemitic tropes among some people, or how so many Europeans will complain that immigrants get more benefits from the state than locals even when it just isn’t true.

Q: It seems that you’ve got most of your Chinese education in the North. Is that so, and do you think it differs from learning Chinese language, ways of interaction, etc., in the South?

You are correct. Although I’ve traveled all over China, I live in Beijing. It’s a stereotype to say that the North is best for learning to speak Mandarin, but actually I think you can learn just as well in most big Southern cities, because nowadays most people speak it there too. I think the Southern Chinese do tend to be a bit more like we imagine the Chinese to be (quiet, indirect, reserved), but in the main I don’t think the cultural difference between Northern and Southern China is that huge. It might not even be as big as the one between Northern and Southern Italy! Whether you live in a small or a big city, and a rich or a poor part of China, probably makes more difference to your experience. But I’ve never lived in Southern China, so I stand to be corrected.

Q: How would you describe your daily life? Is it becoming still more “Chinese”, concerning your choice of food, newspapers, internet sources, or television?

In some ways I am, and in some ways I’m not. I would say that my lifestyle has stopped becoming more Chinese for a while. In fact, after an initial enthusiasm for “going native”, which many foreigners have at first, I think I have found a balance. In a city like Beijing you can find loads of foreign amenities, and it would be silly not to make use of them. On the other hand I wouldn’t want to live in a bubble like some expats do. It really comes down to who you hang out with, and I still hang out with lots of Chinese.

When it comes to food I am pretty Chinese: I like eating Chinese food when it’s properly made, and I even do my best to cook it at home. I have long stopped eating street food or patronizing cheap, hole-in-the-wall type places though, because of concerns about the hygiene and the quality. Many Chinese seem to have come to the same conclusion. Foreigners who pride themselves on being able to eat in such places without minding the consequences are either young foreign-exchange students, or they are pretty dimwitted.

When it comes to media, I still look at Chinese newspapers every now and again to see what they say, but for real news I mostly turn to foreign sources. Of course the language is one issue (it is obviously still much quicker for me to read in English or Italian), but also I think the European media is just superior in terms of giving you a decent picture of what goes on in the world, and, when it comes to sensitive issues, even in China! Same for entertainment: although I sometimes watch Chinese shows and films, in the main I still watch far more foreign ones. I make full use of Chinese internet sites like Baidu or Weibo though.

Q: Do you see changes on Weibo, in terms of real-name requirement, censorship, etc.?

When I got an account in 2011, it still wasn’t necessary to give your ID/passport number. As far as I know now it is, although I have heard you can still get away with giving a false one. In any case, I am sure that if they really want to they can find out who you are.

Q: Generally, when reading your blog, I got an impression overtime that you might think of China as a project, as a country or civilization headed into a rather benign future, compared with Western societies. And on the other hand, your criicism of China, or its political system, sounds pretty much like the general global criticism of it. Is this an accurate impression?

I’m not entirely sure where you got that impression from. I have unquestionably been getting more pessimistic about China, its system and its prospects over the last few years. I think to an extent the current system is geared in such a way that China always gives the impression to outsiders that it’s almost on the cusp of becoming a decent, progressive, modern and confident society, but then it never quite does. I think the political system is good at producing GDP growth, but pretty hopeless at solving the country’s huge social problems. Yes, China has more and more subways and high speed railways, and that’s useful and good for the people, but surely a country like China could do so much better than just that?

I hope China gets better with time, but I don’t think it’s a given that, if you wait 20 or 30 years, it’s all going to be much better. That’s how a lot of Chinese seem to think: just wait a few decades, and everything will solve itself. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

I think my criticism is also a bit different from that of someone who’s never lived in China, because I am far more aware of aspects like the rise of Chinese nationalism, which many foreign commentators seem blissfully unaware of.

Q: That unawareness seems to be quite a phenomenon. This is what Bruce Anderson (himself not necessarily a human-rights champion) said about Edward Heath, in a BBC radio documentary. Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt might be another case in point.

Is there something Russia (for example) could learn from China, in terms of soothing external propaganda, or winning influential people over abroad?

Well, Chinese officials certainly are very good at flattering foreign visitors, saying the right things to them, and appearing reasonable and friendly. I don’t have much experience with the Russians, but I doubt they are as good at it. It’s probably not something you can learn either, it’s deep-rooted in the culture.

You have to remember that most Westerners know little about China, and obviously want to be open-minded. The unawareness of the rise of Chinese nationalism probably also lies in the fact that China does tend to leave other countries alone, as long they don’t have any territorial disputes with China of course, and as long as they don’t express any views on what China defines as its “internal affairs”. Of course China’s neighbours are very aware of its nationalistic side, especially the ones which have territorial disputes with it. But people in other parts of the world don’t get to see this side of things. And its not obvious to the casual visitor either.

The European media also focuses too much on the Middle East and almost never talks about Asia’s potentially explosive problems, like the dispute in the South China Sea and the anti-Japanese feeling in China or Korea. The only thing they ever talk about is the issue of Tibet, which has certainly damaged China’s image.

Then again, the real issue is one of projection. Many left-wing Westerners are predisposed to think well of any power which challenges the United States anywhere, regardless of what it really is or does. If you want to believe the best about China (or the worst for that matter), and you don’t live there, it’s easy enough. Right wingers on the other hand may see China’s rise as a vindication of free market economics, or god knows what. Everyone sees what they want to see in China, and no one knows much about it. This has always been the case.

Q: Do you have arguments with Chinese nationalists?

Well, in a sense I do, because I have political arguments with people in China, and most Chinese are nationalists at some level, although the level varies. The level of open-mindedness towards opinions which clash with modern Chinese nationalism, as the schools and media have constructed it, also varies. I know many Mainlanders who are perfectly open minded even about issues like Taiwan, and don’t just toe the line. I think they are a minority however. And by the way, they aren’t necessarily the people with most international exposure. On the other hand if you are talking about dyed-in-the-wool fenqing, rational debate is all but impossible.

Q: You have blogged in English for nearly seven years, and quite recently, you have also started a blog in Italian. What’s next? A blog in Chinese?

My written Chinese is really not good enough to blog in it. I would actually be more likely to start a blog in Esperanto, a language I also speak.

Q: Ji Xiang, thanks a lot for this interview.

The interview was conducted by an exchange of e-mails.

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Related

All BoZhu Interviews

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Twenty Years ago: Island Democracy seeks Recognition

1. A Democracy introduces itself

It had been a long and challenging journey, the president said. But there he was, at the lectern at Cornell University, his alma mater, delivering his Olin lecture.

He represented a country with a per-capita income of USD 12,000, its international trade totalling US$180 billion in 1994, and foreign exchange reserves of over US$99 billion, more than those of any other nation in the world except Japan.

His country had developed from a developing country to an industrialized country, and, in a peaceful transition, into a democracy.

Almost every president of the world may tell this kind of story. But this one, told on June 9, 1995, at Cornell University, was a true story. And the president who told it wasn’t welcomed by his colleague Bill Clinton, but shunned instead.

There were no official diplomatic relations between the visiting president’s country, Taiwan, and the United States. Washington recognized the Chinese government in Beijing, which claimed to represent both China and Taiwan.

That the Taiwanese president in 1995, Lee Teng-hui, had been allowed to visit the US didn’t go without saying. He wasn’t a state guest, but the university’s guest.

But his concern wasn’t that of agricultural economist or an academic – it was a politician’s concern:

I deem this invitation to attend the reunion at Cornell not only a personal honor, but, more significantly, an honor for the 21 million people of the Republic of China on Taiwan. In fact, this invitation constitutes recognition of their remarkable achievements in developing their nation over the past several decades. And it is the people of my nation that I most want to talk about on this occasion.

He only fulfilled this promise by half, if at all. Much of his talk was about himself: how he had listened in America and in Taiwan, and how he had learned. That he spoke on behalf of his people. That he heard the yearning of his people to contribute to the international community, with the Taiwan experience, development and democracy.

2. Lee Teng-hui

Even back then, twenty years ago, Lee was seen as the “father” of Taiwanese democracy, even if the ultimate goal or final success of democratization hadn’t yet been reached.

Like all Taiwanese of his generation (and the generation before), Lee grew up as a subject of the Japanese Emperor. From 1895 to 1945, Taiwan had been a Japanese colony. As a colony, Taiwan’s experience with Japan was less bad than China’s in the Japanese war from 1937 to 1945. And parts of Taiwanese population – especially the elites, and not only those of the upper classes – were co-opted by the Japanese elites. Lee Teng-hui’s family was probably co-opted, too. Lee’s brother, Lee Teng-chin, was killed in the Second World War, as a member of the Japanese military. His name is registered in the internationally controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which also contains the name of 14 A-class war criminals.

Reportedly, Lee also tried Communism, out of hatred against the KMT, Chiang Kai-shek‘s Nationalist Party, that had fled to Taiwan to “recover the Chinese mainland” from there.

After Communism, Lee tried the Christian religion, apparently with lasting success. And finally, he had himself co-opted by the (more or less) hated KMT: in 1971, he joined the one-party dictatorship, became minister of agriculture shortly afterwards, then Taipei mayor in 1978, and vice-president in 1984. Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek and his father’s successor as a Republic-of-China president on Taiwan, supported the careers of “indigenous” Taiwanese like Lee, at the cost of the faction of traditional KMT officials who had fled Taiwan along with the Chiangs.

Chiang Ching-kuo died in 1988. The KMT’s central committee elected Lee Teng-hui as party chairman and made him president of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Lee had tried a lot of things, and he had achieved a lot. And he had no small plans for his country.

3. The Will of the People, the Chicken, and the Egg

What a people wants, and if it “can want” anything, is up for arguments.

When a man follows the leader, he actually follows the mass, the majority group that the leader so perfectly represents,

Jacques Ellul wrote in the 1960s, and added:

The leader loses all power when he is separated from his group; no propaganda can emanate from a solitary leader.

Basically, it seems that political leaders in democratic mass societies opportunites to shape their countries are limited. But Lee had become president in extraordinary times. Opposition groups, and “illegally” founded political parties among them, had demanded the lifting of the decades-old martial law for a long time. And when Lee began his second term as president in 1990, after the two remaining years of what had originally been Chiang Ching-kuo’s term, students occupied what is now Taipei’s Liberty Square. Once Lee had been sworn in again, he received a fifty-students delegation and promised Taiwan’s democratization, less than a year after the Tian An Men massacre in China.

Democratization was hardly only on the minds of the opposition, or on Lee’s mind. Chiang Ching-kuo might have had similar plans, even if less ambitious, and American influence probably continued to matter, too, even after Washington had switched diplomatic recognition to Beijing, in 1979. But with Chiang Kai-shek in office, a bloodbath in reaction to the 1990 events would have been much more likely than democratic reform.

4. Full Speed, 1995

Lee Teng-hui’s Cornell speech was part of the first presidential election campaign ever since the KMT had seized power in Taiwan. The mass media, still quite under KMT control, made sure that Lee’s visit to the US wouldn’t go unnoticed at home. On June 6, 1995, Taiwan’s domestic media had started coverage, and that culminated on June 10 (local time in Taiwan), with the Olin lecture.

Back then, when Lee approached a convincing election victory in March 1996, there were misgivings within the KMT about Lee’s loyalty to the KMT goal of “unification” of China and Taiwan. In summer 1999, toward the end of his first democratically legitimized presidential term (and his last term), Lee defined Taiwan’s relations with China as state-to-state relations, or at least special state-to-state relations. Not for the first time, Beijing reacted angrily to the “splittist” in Taipei’s presidential palace.

5. The “New Central Plains”

A lot seems to suggest that in 2000, when his presidency ended, Lee helped to bring about a victory of the oppositional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and their presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian. That spelled completion of the Taiwanese democratization project, but at the cost of Lee’s KMT.

After that, Lee continued his search for ways and visions for Taiwan. In “Taiwan’s Position”, a book published in 1999, Lee focused on his country’s Chinese heritage, but without making clear if he referred to China or Taiwan.

My active advocacy for  the “reform of heart and soul” in recent years is based on my hope to make society leave the old framework, applying new thought, face a new era, stir new vigor, from a transformation of peoples’ hearts. This goes deeper than political reform, and it is a more difficult transformation project, but we are confident that we will, based on the existing foundations of freedom and openness, achieve the building of a new Central Plain.

近年来,我积极倡导“心灵改革”,就是希望从人心的改造做起,让我们的社会走出旧有的框架,用新的思维,面对新的时代,并激发出新的活力。这是一个比政治 改革更加深入、也更为艰巨的改造工程,但是我们有信心,可以在社会自由开放的既有基础上,完成建立“文化新中原”的目标。

Lee had first used the term of “new central plains” in 1996. Scholars kept arguing about what he actually meant with the term. But these were hardly Chiang Kai-shek’s central plains, and, no less likely, Beijing’s.

But obviously, without the KMT, who had expulsed him for his “Taiwanization” business in 2001, and without public office, Lee wasn’t nearly as influential as before. Or, as propaganda expert Jacques Ellul put it in the 1960s, Moses (isolated from the masses) is dead on the propaganda level.

Incumbent Ma Ying-jeou, again a KMT president with rather “Chinese” manners, led a technocratically efficient government, but has been lacking success in terms of propaganda – and in terms of policies that would benefit all classes of society. Now, another “Taiwanese” politician is trying her luck. Tsai Ing-wen concludes her visit to the US today. In March 2016, Taiwan will elect another president. It could be her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

How to talk to Pakistan: Xi Jinping’s Speech in Parliament

Wellness for Pakistan’s International “Face”

Pakistan is both an old and a youg country. This warm soil gave birth to shining old civilizations, and in the modern era, it recorded the glorious poetry of national independence and self-reliance. The people of Pakistan are kind-hearted and gallant, self-respecting and and believing in themselves, and they never give up, staunch and unyielding as their national qualities are. During the past sixty years, the government and people of Pakistan have faced complicated domestic and foreign conditions, calmly reacted to all kinds of serious challenges, and have made remarkable achievements on the road of defending the independence and sovereignty of the country, building the country, and developing its economy. Since the beginning of the new century, Pakistan has been in the first line of the international fight against terrorism, has made huge efforts, has made huge sacrifices, and made outstanding contributions for regional and global peace and stability. The Chinese people deeply respect the people of Pakistan.

巴基斯坦是一个年轻而又古老的伟大国家。这片热土孕育了辉煌灿烂的古代文明,在近代史上书写了争取民族独立、国家自强的壮丽诗篇。巴基斯坦人民善良勇敢、自尊自信,有着百折不挠、坚韧不拔的民族气质。建国60多年来,巴基斯坦政府和人民面对复杂的国内外形势,沉着应对各种严峻挑战,在捍卫国家主权独立和领土完整、建设国家和发展经济的道路上取得了显著成就。进入新世纪以来,巴基斯坦身处国际反恐前沿,付出了巨大努力,承受了巨大牺牲,为地区乃至世界和平稳定作出了突出贡献。中国人民对巴基斯坦人民充满深深的敬意。

Emphasizing “Common Struggles”

As early as 2000 years ago, tbe Silk Road established a friendly bridge between our two old civilizations. China’s Han dynasty’s envoy Zhang Qian, the monk Fa Xian of the Eastern Jin dynasty era, and the monk Xuan Zang all once left their footsteps here. Pakistan believes that “credibility and integrity are of better use than wealth”, and China believes that if someone lacks trustworthiness, you can’t know what he may be good for. The concepts of our two countries’ traditional cultures are in accordance with each other. In the recent past, China and Pakistan have suffered imperialist and colonialist aggression and oppression, sympathized with each other, and supported each other. During the 1930s, the great Pakistani poet Iqbal wrote that “as the sleeping people of China was just awakening, the springs of the Himalya mountain were starting to boil”, speaking highly of the struggle of the Chinese people for national independence, its struggle against foreign aggression, and supporting [the Chinese people’s struggle]. With similar historical experiences and a common history of struggles, the peoples of China and Pakistan can easily relate to each other’s feelings.

早在2000多年前,丝绸之路就在我们两个古老文明之间架起了友谊的桥梁。中国汉代使节张骞、东晋高僧法显、唐代高僧玄奘的足迹都曾经到过这里。巴基斯坦认为“诚信比财富更有用”,中国认为“人而无信,不知其可也”,两国传统文化理念契合相通。在近代,中巴曾经遭受帝国主义、殖民主义的侵略和压迫,彼此同情,相互支持。早在上世纪30年代,巴基斯坦伟大诗人伊克巴尔就写下了“沉睡的中国人民正在觉醒,喜马拉雅山的山泉已经开始沸腾”的诗句,赞扬和声援中国人民争取民族独立、反抗外来侵略的斗争。相似的历史遭遇,共同的斗争历程,使中巴人民心灵相通。

Only the toughest grass can stand high wind, and people show their moral qualities during times of hardship. We will not forget that Pakistan was one of the first countries that recognized New China, and the first Islamic state that established diplomatic relations with New China. At crucial moments, when New China broke the external blockade, retook its legitimate seat at the United Nations, and explored the issues of reform and opening up, Pakistan always stepped forward and gave us selfless and valuable help. When China suffered natural disaster challenges, Pakistan always provided help. During the big Wenchuan earthquake in 2008, Pakistan gave us generous support, mobilized all strategic airfreighters, and took its entire strategic reserves of tents to the disaster area right away. To save space on the flights, medical staff removed the chairs on the planes and set on the floor during the flights. As of today, thousands of Pakistani workers are working with Chinese workers night and day, on projects shouldered by China, from which many touching stories have emerged.

“疾风知劲草,烈火见真金。”我们不会忘记,巴基斯坦是最早承认新中国的国家之一,也是首个同新中国建立外交关系的伊斯兰国家。在新中国打破外部封锁、恢复在联合国合法席位、探索改革开放等关键时刻,巴基斯坦总是挺身而出,给予我们无私而宝贵的帮助。在中国遇到自然灾害和困难挑战的时候,巴基斯坦总是及时伸出援手。2008年中国汶川发生特大地震,巴基斯坦倾囊相助,出动所有的战略运输机,将全部战略储备帐篷第一时间运到了灾区。随行医疗队为节省飞机空间,拆掉了飞机上的座椅,一路上席地而坐。今天,数以千计的巴基斯坦工作人员在各地同中国职工一起夜以继日建设中国承担的项目,涌现出许多感人肺腑的故事。

And when Pakistan was in need, China always gave strong backing, too. China firmly supports Pakistan’s efforts for its sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. When Pakistan suffered particularly heavy floods in 2010, China in the first place provided help with rescue forces from the air and on the ground, sending the biggest medical force in history, and dispatching, for the first time, convoys and helicopters, thus creating a precedent in China’s foreign rescue support. At the end of 2014, after the terrorist attack incident in Peshawar, China invited injured students from Pakistan, and their family people, to get treatment in China, to let the young minds feel the genuine friendship of the Chinese people.

同样,在巴基斯坦需要的时候,中国始终是巴方的坚强后盾。中国坚定支持巴基斯坦维护主权独立和领土完整的努力。2010年巴基斯坦遭受特大洪灾,中国第一时间伸出援手,陆空全方位施援,派出历史上最大规模的医疗救援队,首次派遣大规模车队和直升机执行救援任务,开创了中国对外援助史上的先河。2014年底,白沙瓦恐怖袭击事件发生后,中方专门邀请巴方受伤学生和家人赴华疗养,让孩子们幼小的心灵感受到中国人民真挚的情谊。

Following remarks about deepening strategic cooperation and the establishment of a Sino-Pakistani “economic corridor” (中巴经济走廊), Xi turns to public diplomacy, or “people-to-people diplomacy”:

Thirdly, China and Pakistan will be of the same mind, and maintain their friendship from generation to generation. The people are the decisive force behind the promotion of national progress and the development of history, and the support of the peoples of the two nations is the driving force behind our weather-proof friendship and comprehensive cooperation. 2015 is the year of Sino-Pakistani friendly exchanges. We want to have exchanges by friendship cities [友城?], cultural centers, platforms provided by the news media, to carry out festive activities rich in content, form, and shape. We want to continue the mutual exchange of young people, encourage the young of both countries to have more contacts with each other, and more exchange. During the coming five years, China will provide 2000 training places, and help Pakistan to train 1000 Chinese teachers. We welcome Pakistan’s active participation in the China South Asia Cultural Exchange Program, to make Sino-Pakistani friendship enter the hearts of the people yet more deeply.

第三,中巴要心心相印,坚持世代友好。人民是推动国家进步和历史发展的决定力量,两国人民支持是中巴全天候友谊和全方位合作的不竭动力。2015年是中巴友好交流年,我们要以友城交流、文化中心、新闻媒体为平台,开展形式多样、内容丰富的庆祝活动。我们要延续互派百人青年团的传统,鼓励两国青年一代多来往、多交流。中国将在未来5年内为巴方提供2000个培训名额,并帮助巴方培训1000名汉语教师。我们欢迎巴方积极参与中国-南亚人文交流计划,让中巴友好更加深入人心。

Disinterring an old Promise

The Chinese nation cherishes peace. For more than two-thousand years, Chinese people have known the truth that “Even if the state is great, if [the commander] loves war, [the state] will certainly be destroyed”. The Chinese people value [the principle of] “What you do not wish yourself,do not do onto others”, and do not identify with the idea that strong countries should be hegemons. To take the road of peaceful development is beneficial for China, for Asia, and for the world, and no power can change China’s belief in peaceful development. China adheres to the principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal political affairs, will not impose its own will on others, and even if more powerful than now, it will never seek hegemony.

中华民族历来爱好和平。中国人在两千多年前就认识到“国虽大,好战必亡”的道理。中国人民崇尚“己所不欲,勿施于人”,中国不认同“国强必霸论”。走和平发展道路,对中国有利,对亚洲有利,对世界也有利,任何力量都不能动摇中国和平发展的信念。中国坚持不干涉别国内政原则,不会把自己的意志强加于人,即使再强大也永远不称霸。

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Related

» An Upbeat Visit, New York Times, Apr 21, 2015
» Widely hailed, Radio Pakistan, Apr 21, 2015
» 中巴关系有多铁, CNS, Apr 21, 2015
» India monitoring, Times of India, Apr 20, 2015
» Economic Corridor, Times of India, Apr 18, 2015
» AIR re-tweets Pakistan Bashing, The Hindu, Febr 16, 2015
» Strongest Supporters, Pew, July 14, 2014
» Few Americans trust Pakistan,Pew, Oct 23, 2013
» Should you ever …, May 24, 2011

» Muhammad Iqbal, Wikipedia, accessed 20150422

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Friday, April 17, 2015

A Chinese concept of Internet Revolution: a Need for Traditional Industries to be Reborn with New Bones

A CCTV op-ed, republished here by Enorth (Tianjin), picks up the official buzzword of “Internet plus”, or “互联网”+ in Chinese. The author is a frequently published commentator beyond CCTV, Qin Chuan (秦川).

Main Link: “互联网+”不是加工具 而是转观念

On March 5 this year, chief state councillor Li Keqiang, in his work report, spelled out the action plan for the formulaton of “Internet plus”. From there, “Internet plus” has become one of the most popular terms. There are people who welcome the age of “Internet plus”, and there are others who believe that this year is “the first year of the traditional industry’s internetization”, but there are also people who keep asking questions about why it should be “Internet plus” rather than “plus the internet”.

今年3月5日,李克强总理在政府工作报告上提出制定“互联网+”行动计划。自此,“互联网+”成为最流行的词语之一。有人欢呼“互联网+”时代来了,还有人认为今年是“传统行业互联网化元年”,不过也有人追问,为什么是“互联网+”,而不是“+互联网”?

The enthused tractor driver

Riding into the incomparable Tomorrow

Internet plus had become a concept, writes, Qin, which had already “become hot”. It had the potential of making the Chinese economy take off. In the first quarter’s seven percent of economic growth and the first quarter’s smooth beginning for the national economy, the role played by “Internet plus” was not clearly quantifiable, but certainly discernible.

“Internet plus” isn’t “plus the internet” because the subjects are different, and because their effects are also different. “Plus the internet” stays at the concept of “traditional industries plus the internet” and sees the internet as a tool, but what “internet plus” signals is actually “internet plus all kinds of traditional industries”. The internet isn’t just a carrier, it’s the main frame, it doesn’t play a supporting role, but the indispensible and leading role.

“互联网+”不是“+互联网”,这是因为主体不同,作用也不同。“+互联网”仍停留于“传统业态+互连网”的观念,把互联网视为工具,而“互联网+”传递的信号则是“互联网+各个传统行业”,互联网不只是载体,而是主体,它不是配角,而是当仁不让的主角,不可或缺。

In the second industrial revolution, electricity had led to great changes in many industries, writes, Qin, but the internet wouldn’t only help raising productivity and efficiency as electricity had one; the internet in itself was industrialization (互联网本身已经产业化). Internet companies which had attained some industrial attributes and inspired industrial upgrades should not be underestimated.

Qin urges a broader perspective. The internet was about merging, sharing, transformation and improvement. It was “not an addend, but a multiplier”. Traditional industries were facing big changes, and even needed to be “reborn with new bones” (脱胎换骨)*): Just as scholars say, new technologies and abilities can completely change traditional industries’ efficiency and abilities, and form new operations and business models.

That’s why we can say that “Internet Plus” may bring a technological revolution of far-reaching significance, which may permeat all aspects, not only topple traditional industries, but also provide traditional industries with new life. The shame is that when it comes to “Internet Plus”, quite many people just can’t see its value, or remain superficial about its significance. Reports say that the most serious bottleneck in China for “Internet Plus” are anachronistic concepts [or viewpoints]. At present, rather serious inflexible points of view exist in our countries’ traditional industries, as can be seen in the phenomenon of copying what is already there, a lack of essential understanding and use of cloud computing and services in big data infrastructure, and there is no broad change towards a consumer-led business pattern either.

从这个意义上说,“互联网+”或将带来一种意义深远的技术革命,它渗透在各个方面,不仅颠覆了传统行业,更赋予了传统行业新的生命。遗憾的是,对“互联网+”,不少人并非意识到它的价值,或者将其意义表面化。据报道,中国“互联网+”存在的一大瓶颈是观念落伍:目前我国的传统产业存在较为严重的观念固化现象,体现在因袭原有的信息化老路,对云计算、大数据等基础设施服务缺乏必要的了解和应用,也没有适应以消费者为主导的商业格局的转变。

We suffered from aphasia during several technological revolutions in the past. In this new technological revolution, we must not be marginalized again. The good thing is that the central authorities have already recognized the great significance of “internet plus”, and promoted it systematically. According to reports, the state has already established new industry venture capital funds at a value of 40 billion Yuan. More capital must be raised and integrated, to assist in beefing up industrial innovation.

我们曾在前几次技术革命中失语,在新的技术革命中绝不能再被边缘化。好在中央早已意识到“互联网+”的重大意义,并从制度安排上推动之。据悉,国家已设立400亿元新兴产业创业投资引导基金,要整合筹措更多资金,为产业创新加油助力。

The article doesn’t suggest that anything would be certain, however. The author is careful enough to suggest that “Internet Plus” could lead to these or those desirable results, and his article ends with a maybe (或许), not with a certainly (肯定):

By changing outdated ideas, by embracing “Internet Plus”, we may have an extraordinary tomorrow, with deep changes from China’s economy to Chinese life.

改变落伍观念,拥抱“互联网+”,或许我们将拥有不同凡响的明天,从中国经济到生活状态,各个方面都将深刻改变。

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Notes

*) 脱胎换骨 could also be translated with the more “civil” term of re-inventing themselves, but to be reborn with new bones is a much older saying in China than the business philosophy reflected in self-reinvention. Self-criticism, sometimes necessary for survival when facing accusations of being a bad or weak revolutionary, for example, included the preparedness to be “reborn with new bones”. To be “reborn” that way is also the demand Haiyun, the wife of Cadre Zhang in Wang Meng‘s novel “Butterfly”, is facing after having praised “wrong” novels as an academic lecturer. And the man making these demands on her is Cadre Zhang himself:

All you can do now is to lower your head and to confess your guilt, to start anew, to flay your face and to wash your heart, to be reborn and to change your bones!
只有低头认罪,重新做人,革面洗心,脱胎换骨!”他的每个字都使海云瑟缩,就像一根一根的针扎在她身上,然后她抬起头,张思远打了一个冷战,他看到她的冰一样的目光。

That’s to say, the choice of words reflects a blend of politics and economics, and, indeed of fear and survival. But when isolated from history, it probably amounts to this quote (Andy S. Grove):

For now, let me just say that a strategic inflection point is a time in the life of business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.”

And yes, Only the Paranoid Survive is the title of the book.

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Further Reading

» The Trickies Part, Slate, Jan 21, 2015
» Address Censorship, SCMP, March 8, 2015
» Deutschland will digital, DW, March 16, 2015
» Work Report, China Daily, Mar 5, 2015
»  Work Report (hours later), Mar 5, 2015
» Angst vor Zusagen, Die Zeit, Aug 19, 2014
» Digital Germany 2015, Nov 10, 2010
» The Digital Germany paper (in German)
» Destruction or Development, Mar 15, 2010

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Presidential Elections 2016: Tsai Ing-wen is back

It’s Tsai Ing-wen again, running as the DPP’s nominee for president in Taiwan, and I think she’s a great choice. If she makes it into the presidential palace, expect no ballyhoo (she’s as lousy an actor and speaker just as the incumbent is)  – but expect social reforms that actually benefit the people.

Next time, we will make that final mile, she said in January 2012. Chances are that she and her supporters will make it indeed.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Look at the Rumors about China Radio International

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Related/Updates

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