Posts tagged ‘competitiveness’

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tsai Ing-wen’s Inagurational Address: an Economy with New Bones

The inaugural address in → Chinese and in → English, published by CNA. Prior to President Tsai’s inaugural speech, there were two songs: an indigenous one, and the national anthem of the RoC.

Language observation: I used to think that 脱胎换骨 was merely an mainland Chinese figure of speech (to be reborn with new bones, see footnote →there. This is not so. President Tsai used it too, this morning:

我們要讓台灣經濟脫胎換骨,就必須從現在起就下定決心,勇敢地走出另外一條路。這一條路,就是打造台灣經濟發展的新模式。

The CNA translation puts it less pictographic:

In order to completely transform Taiwan’s economy, from this moment on, we must bravely chart a different course – and that is to build a “New Model for Economic Development” for Taiwan.

So, chances are that Wang Meng and his generation learned that →phrase long before joining the Communist Party. It’s either “KMT”, or still older.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Beijing: Foreign Experts wanted to avert more PR(C) Disasters

Life’s hasn’t been nice to China Radio International (CRI). The propaganda juggernaut hasn’t been mentioned in the nation’s chairman’s new year addresses in recent years (as had been a time-honored custom during previous decades), it had been described as a bottomless pit of waste by Keith Perron (a former CRI presenter himself), and the international broadcaster’s borrowed-boats strategy probably caused some chuckles in the industry, too. Other “international” media outlets from the Middle Kingdom aren’t really effective either. Whenever they catch attention, it’s for anchors losing it, or similar not so-work-related reasons – at least in Western countries.

CRI’s German service is a brilliant example of how propaganda on a foreign audience simply can’t work. On the past two Sundays, they broadcast the same edition of their “listeners forum”, with just one listener quoted there (maybe he was the only one who wrote in), and later on, a “report” on electrical power supply in Tibet (also the second time on two consecutive Sundays). That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any listeners – some actually appear to be listening religiously, and Beijing’s propaganda is in no position to abandon these early Christians. But it appears to be a small flock. And given the truthful (and therefore highly unpleasant) representation of Beijing’s attitude towards Tibet, for example, it can’t be a big audience.

If you, as a government or collective dictatorship, can’t bring yourself to destroy some quarters of the state-owned industrial sector (as prescribed by the neo-liberal foreign press), you certainly cannot break an unsinkable aircraft carrier with thousands of jobs up, either. But you can still do two things. Measure number one is to keep the ineffective bathing tub*) in your coastal waters, while venturing into international waters with some international expertise. That, at least, appears to be on Xi Jinping‘s mind – Xi is the guy who hasn’t mentioned CRI in his new-year addresses.

And while the foreign expertise is going to work for you, you can kick all those foreign correspondents out who treat China unfairly. That would be measure number two. In fact, measure number two has been practiced for ages.

(On a private note, I’m not sure if putting lipstick on the pig will really make the pig look nicer, or more convincing. But then, the pig has little to lose – and I’m going to watch the experiment with some curiosity.)

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Note

*) Given the wide range of languages and target areas, there may be CRI brances which are a success story, in terms of feedback from the audience, etc.. But I haven’t heard of them yet.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

The Mass Line and the Common Netizens: Where You go, We will go (to Listen to You and to Correct You)

An apparently centrally compiled news article on Tuesday, published or aired by Xinhua newsagency and CCTV‘s Xinwen Lianbo evening news among other media outlets, provided details from a Central Leading Group for Internet Security and Informatization conference in Beijing on Tuesday morning. The session was chaired by Xi Jinping (referred to in the article in his capacities as secretary-general, state chairman, central military commissions chairman, and central lading group for internet security and informatization group leader), and the list of attendants included both his informatization group deputy leaders Li Keqiang and Liu Yunshan, other leading party members, and/or experts or stakeholders like Wu Manqing (吴曼青, a Chinese Academy of Engineering fellow as well as a chief engineer at China Electronics Technology Group Corporation), and Jack Ma (马云), Alibaba Group CEO.

As China Media and Copyright notes, the full text of Xi Jinping’s speech wasn’t published, but the blog, apparently run by a Dutch Master of Chinese studies, provides a full translation of the a/m news article. The newsarticle had also caught the attention of The Independent and Reuters.

From the article, as translated by China Media and Copyright:

Xi Jinping pointed out that our country has 700 million netizens; this is an extraordinary number, and an extraordinary achievement. Our country’s economic development has entered a new normal, the new normal requires new drivers, and the Internet can have great potential in this area. We must strive to promote the converged development of the Internet and the real economy, let information flows drive technology flows, financial flows, talent flows and material flows, stimulate the optimization of resource allocation, stimulate the increase of productivity of all factors, and let it play a positive role in promoting innovation and development, transforming economic development methods, and adjusting economic structures.

习近平指出,我国有7亿网民,这是一个了不起的数字,也是一个了不起的成就。我国经济发展进入新常态,新常态要有新动力,互联网在这方面可以大 有作为。要着力推动互联网和实体经济深度融合发展,以信息流带动技术流、资金流、人才流、物资流,促进资源配置优化,促进全要素生产率提升,为推动创新发 展、转变经济发展方式、调整经济结构发挥积极作用。

[…]

Xi Jinping pointed out that we must build a good online ecology, and give rein to the network’s role in guiding public opinion and reflecting the popular will. To realize the “Two Centenaries” struggle objective, it is necessary that all of society acts with one heart in all aspects, and it is necessary that the people of all ethnicities in the entire nation think in the same direction, and devote their energies in the same direction. Netizens come from among the common people, once the common people went online, popular sentiment also went online. Wherever the masses are, there our leading cadres must go as well. All levels’ Party and government bodies, as well as leading cadres, must learn how to march the mass line through the network, regularly go online to look around, understand what the masses think and want, collect good ideas and good suggestions, and vigorously respond to netizens’ concerns, relieve their doubts and dispel their worries. With regard to the broad netizens, we must have more tolerance and patience, we must timely take up constructive opinions, we must timely help where there are difficulties, we must provide timely propaganda and explanation to those who don’t understand the situation, we must timely clear up matters for those with muddled understandings, we must timely resolve grievances and complaints, we must timely guide and correct mistaken viewpoints, to let the Internet become a channel to understand the masses, stay close to the masses, and get rid of worries and overcome difficulties of the masses, and let it become a new channel to carry forward the people’s democracy and accept the people’s supervision. To those online criticisms that stem from good intentions, to Internet supervision, regardless of whether they concern Party or government work, or whether they concern leading cadres individually, regardless of whether they are gentle and mild or whether they are hurtful truths, we must not only welcome them, we must also earnestly study and learn from them.

习近平指出,要建设网络良好生态,发挥网络引导舆论、反映民意的作用。实现“两个一百年”奋斗目标,需要全社会方方面面同心干,需要全国各族人 民心往一处想、劲往一处使。网民来自老百姓,老百姓上了网,民意也就上了网。群众在哪儿,我们的领导干部就要到哪儿去。各级党政机关和领导干部要学会通过 网络走群众路线,经常上网看看,了解群众所思所愿,收集好想法好建议,积极回应网民关切、解疑释惑。对广大网民,要多一些包容和耐心,对建设性意见要及时 吸纳,对困难要及时帮助,对不了解情况的要及时宣介,对模糊认识要及时廓清,对怨气怨言要及时化解,对错误看法要及时引导和纠正,让互联网成为了解群众、 贴近群众、为群众排忧解难的新途径,成为发扬人民民主、接受人民监督的新渠道。对网上那些出于善意的批评,对互联网监督,不论是对党和政府工作提的还是对 领导干部个人提的,不论是和风细雨的还是忠言逆耳的,我们不仅要欢迎,而且要认真研究和吸取。

Much of the news article reflects comments by Xi Jinping about global competition and China’s position there, and even expresses an interest in foreign talents, in that not only we welcome foreign Internet enterprises, as long as they abide by our country’s laws and regulations, but

We must establish flexible talent incentive mechanisms, let talent making contributions feel a sense of achievement and a sense of gain. We must build talent structures and systems with global competitiveness. Regardless of from which country or region they come, as long as they are excellent talents, they will be usable to us.

要建立灵活的人才激励机制,让作出贡献的人才有成就感、获得感。要 构建具有全球竞争力的人才制度体系。不管是哪个国家、哪个地区的,只要是优秀人才,都可以为我所用。

As usual, Xi is presented as a people person, and his academic and professional interlocutors play along pretty well in the CCP choreography:

Xiao Xinguang shaking hands with Xi Jinping

Click above picture for video

Xiao Xinguang in particular can hardly secede from part with his secretary-general.

And Tang Xujun (唐绪军), head of the news and propagation research institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, counted himself lucky to have been there, as he wrote in an article for People’s Daily:

I was fortunate to attend the Internet Security and Informatization conference chaired by secretary-general Xi Jinping, and, with my own ears, listen to secretary-general Xi Jinping’s important speech, from which I benefitted. As an internet and new media researcher, I was deeply impressed by secretary-general Xi Jinping’s elaboration detailed remarks concerning the construction of a good internet ecology and guidance of public opinion, and [the internet’s] reflection of the popular will.

有幸参加了4月19日习近平总书记主持的网络安全与信息化工作座谈会,亲耳聆听了习近平总书记的重要讲话,受益匪浅。作为互联网和新媒体的一个研究者,我对习近平总书记关于要建设网络良好生态,发挥网络引导舆论、反映民意作用的阐述印象深刻。

What is the popular will? Although academic views of the definition of popular will are varied, with different emphasis, there is this fundamental consensus: the popular will is the masses’ public expression, in particular places at particular times, of basically unanimous viewpoints and opinions concerning particular public affairs. [Popular will] is a form of democracy.

什么是民意?尽管在学界对民意的定义五花八门,各有其强调的重点,但基本一致的共识是:民意就是人民群众在特定的时空,对特定的公共事务公开表达的基本一致的观点和意见,它是一种民主的形式。

The Chinese Communist Party is the vanguard of the Chinese working class guided by Marxism. It’s objective is to wholeheartedly serve the people. Therefore, it pursues no personal interests. As early as in 1945, Mao Zedong, answering Huang Yanpei‘s question about how the CCP could escape the [defining treadmill of successive dynasties- my interpretation of 历代王朝兴亡周期率问题], pointed out that “we have already found a new road. It’s democracy. Only when you let the people supervise government, the government will not dare to become compacent. Only when people assume responsibilities, the problem of good governance dying with its founder will no longer emerge. From there onwards, all generations of CCP leaders have always emphasized the mass line of listening to the voice of the people, and to undertake great work to investigate and research its manners. [This last sentence is my very vague and hardly accurate translation of what it probably means – JR.]*)

Since the CCP’s 18th national congress, the CCP’s central committee with Xi Jinping as the secretary-general, mass line education and practice has become a more important starting point for the new era’s state affairs management, with the people at the center, listening to the popular will, and being in tune with the popular sentiment.

中国共产党是以马克思主义为指导的中国工人阶级的先锋队,其宗旨是全心全意为人民服务,因此她没有自己的私利。早在1945年,毛泽东在答黄炎培关于 中国共产党如何跳出中国历史上历代王朝兴亡周期率问题时就指出:“我们已经找到新路,我们能跳出这周期率。这条新路,就是民主。只有让人民来监督政府,政 府才不敢松懈。只有人人起来负责,才不会人亡政息。”从那以后,中国共产党的历代领导人都始终强调“倾听人民的呼声”“大兴调查研究之风”“走群众路 线”。党的十八大以来,以习近平为总书记的党中央更是以“群众路线教育实践活动”作为新时期治国理政的抓手,一切以人民为中心,听从民意、顺应民情。

Tang tries to reconcile the variety of opinions expressed on the internet with the party’s goals by basically re-stating Xi Jinping’s demand that it is necessary that the people of all ethnicities in the entire nation think in the same direction, and devote their energies in the same direction (see blockquotes further above), and that cadres listen to online opinions.

The internet being the biggest variable (最大变量) party cadres face, the internet must be “embraced” to achieve the “postitive energy” [do a browser search →there] mentioned by Xi Jinping, writes Tang.

All the same, Tang seems to like his secretary-general better than the internet and, in perfect internet-ecological terminology, expresses his misgivings about the latter:

This particular feature of the internet [that everyone can be a communicator] has greatly widened individuals’ and all kinds of societal organizations’ channels of expression. Any individuals’ or groups’ information and opinion can disseminate quickly and broadly, and even exceed the disseminational and expressonial powers of traditional media. A tiny event can become big through the internet, and an incident with great influence on the real world, and some grass swaying in the wind online may affect social stability online.

互联网的这种特性,极大地拓宽了个人及各种社会组织的表达渠道,某些个体和团体的信息传播与意见表达可以更迅捷地广泛扩散,甚至具有乃至超过传统媒体 的传播力和表达力。一个微小的事件通过互联网的放大,有可能成为现实中的一个影响巨大的事件,线上的风吹草动也可能影响到线下的社会稳定。

The answer? The main point in “guidance of public opinion” by the respective party and government levels, according to Tang, is to seize (issues? movements?) in a timely manner, while they are still small (因此,各级党和政府应对网上民意、引导网络舆论最重要的就是要做到“及时”, 抓早抓小).

Countless incidents in recent years have restated one lesson over and over again: delayed responses have lead to loss of control. Another point is categorized treatment [of online events]. The demands from the masses are various. There are reasons for all of them – the constructive and interest-led ones, the ridicule, and the angry ones. As service providers, all party and government levels must have a focused “fitting key” [for all situations], to respond in an appropriate way.

近几年无数网络事件反复验证了一个教训:贻误时机往往就意味着失控。其次是要分类对待。人民群众的诉求各种各样,有提出建议性意见的,有维护个 人权益的,有吐槽的,有骂娘的,各有其缘由。作为服务者,各级党和政府就必须有针对性地“一把钥匙开一把锁”,做到应对有方,举措得当。

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Notes

*) Two notes here.

  1. The last above sentence is a very vague and hardly accurate translation of mine – corrections and suggestions to improve it are welcome.
  2. What Tang Xujun refers to as Mao’s reply to Huang Yanpei is translated as the “Cycle” conversation in this Wikipedia article [accessed April 22]:

In 1945, Huang travelled to Yan’an to meet Mao Zedong and they had a conversation. In this dialogue, Huang noted that history is a testament to an observation that no form of government — an empire, a kingdom, a republic, and so on — had ever been able to break out of a cycle of rise and fall.

Huang said,

I’ve lived for more than 60 years. Let’s not talk about what I’ve heard. Whatever I saw with my own eyes, it fits the saying: “The rise of something may be fast, but its downfall is equally swift.” Has any person, family, community, place, or even a nation, ever managed to break free out of this cycle? Usually in the initial stage, everyone stays fully focused and puts in his/her best efforts. Maybe conditions were bad at the time, and everyone has to struggle to survive. Once the times change for the better, everyone loses focus and becomes lazy. In certain cases, as it has been a long time, complacency breeds, spreads and becomes a social norm. As such, even if the people are very capable, they can neither reverse the situation nor salvage it. There are also cases where a nation progresses and prospers — its rise could be either natural or due to rapid industrialisation spurred by the yearning for progression. When all human resources have been exhausted and problems crop up in management, the environment becomes more complicated and they lose control of the situation. Throughout history, there are various examples: a ruler ignores state affairs and eunuchs use the opportunity to seize power; a good system of governance ceases to function after the person who initiated it dies; people who lust for glory but end up in humiliation. None has managed to break out of this cycle.

Mao replied,

The people form the government; the government is the nation’s body. A new path lies ahead and it belongs to the people. The people build their own nation; everyone has a role to play. The government should pay attention to the people and the political party should perform its duty to its utmost and govern with virtue. We will not follow in the footsteps of those before us who have failed. The problem of a good system of governance ceasing to function after its initiator’s death can be avoided. We’ve already discovered a new path. We can break out of this cycle. This new path belongs to the people. The government will not become complacent only if it is under the supervision of the people. If everyone takes responsibility, a good system of governance will prevail.

Footnotes and the translated text can be found →there.

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Related

→ Successes to the Grassroots, January 29, 2014
→ Open the Skies for the Young, May 5, 2013
→ Become a Network Security Advisor, July 31, 2009

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Friday, April 1, 2016

Media Coverage on Ministry of Education’s (MoE) “Blue Book” on Returning Overseas Students and the Labor Market

The Chinese ministry of education (MoE) published a “blue book”, or a government report, on March 25, concerning overseas Chinese students returning to China, and looking for a job there. If Chinese press and government agency coverage on the report is something to go by, this is what the average academic returnee to the motherland looks like:

he is actually mostly a she (59.16 percent of the returnees are female), aged 23 to 33 (absolute average 27.04 yrs old), a masters student (80.7 percent), a postgraduate (9,49 percent), or an undergraduate / a student with a specialized subject (9.81 percent combined). If a postgraduate, his main fields should mainly be chemistry, material science, economics, electronics and electrical engineering, while the masters fields of study are somewhat more into the direction of finance, accounting, business management, management studies, or international business studies.

Statistics seem to suggest that there have been more returnees recently, than the 1978 to 2015 average numbers. Either way, the MoE’s Overseas Students’ Support Center deputy director Xu Peixiang (徐培祥) is quoted as saying that some 70 to 80 percent of students, in recent years, have returned after their studies abroad.1)

97 percent of those who currently study abroad are doing so at their own expense, which appears plausible when looking at the total numbers. In 2015 alone, 523,700 students reportedly left for studies abroad, and 409,100 job-seeking overseas students returned to China that year. By comparison, 248 students left China for studies abroad in 1978, according to Xinhua newsagency.

Very rough calculations with many unknowns: given that 459,800 Chinese left China to study abroad in 2014, according to this government-agency news report, the average of students leaving in 2014 and 2015 combined would be (459,800 + 523,700)/2 = 491,750, and based on an average duration of 22 months (more precisely 21.47 months) of studies abroad among the 2015 returnees,  this would mean that about 901,542 Chinese students would currently be abroad.

Three percent of these would then not study at their own expense (or that of their parents, relatives, etc.). Some 27,000 of the 901,542 abroad would, based on my shoddy calculation, study with a government grant, a scholarship, etc.. And probably, very few, if any, among the 248 who went abroad in 1978, were self-paying students.

23.85 percent of the 2015 returnees have been looking for a job in state-owned companies, 19.4 percent prefer minban operations2), and foreign-invested enterprises, state institutions and financial institutions rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, in the returnees search settings. Only 3.32 percent want to establish businesses of their own (one percentage point up, compared to the 2014 returnees).

When it comes to location and company types, the returnees haven’t necessarily followed their ideas of perfect companies and locations, but looked at some hard facts (and regulations), and have therefore looked for jobs that appeared to be closer within their reach. Either way, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen are still very popular destinations, with 49.34 percent indicating these goals, but this is said to be eight percentage points less than in 2013. This share is now basically focused on other provincial-capital-level cities.

Being in a position to pay for ones studies abroad doesn’t necessarily translate into perfect (or labour-market-oriented) choices, according to the news coverage. Qi Mo (齐默), head of the returnee office at the MoE, is quoted as stating “a certain blindness” in terms of how students (and their parents) are choosing fields of studies (or majors) and places (cities and universities) abroad. Hence, the MoE was trying to provide candidates for self-paid overseas studies, as well as their families, with information to support their choices, according to Qi.

It isn’t strongly highlighted in the news, but it becomes fairly evident that while Xu Peixiang points out how returning overseas students have become a group that receives great attention at our country’s market of talents, there may be particular challenges for returning overseas students, too. When a Xinhua article mentions measures like bases (or opportunities) for practical work as supportive measures for returnees to integrate into the labor market (this might also be translated as internship opportunities), you might suspect some frustration and trouble there. After all, such “opportunities” are hardly the financial return self-paying students (and their families and networks) would expect on their investment (or borrowings).

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Footnotes

1) According to statistics quoted in the Chinese press coverage on the MoE “blue book”, 4.04 million Chinese students have studied abroad from 1978 to 2015. 2.22 million of them have returned so far.

2) minban is a poorly defined term. There are, of course, many ways to find definitions anyway. Dorothy J Solinger, in “China’s Transition from Socialism”, first published in 1993, suggested that

there are three main types: those […] which are supposedly owned and managed by “people” (minyou-minban); those owned by the state but managed by “people” (guanyou-minban); and those jointly operated and owned by the state and the “people” (guanmingongyou).

And in 1999/2000, Guoqiang Tian, now a professor at Texas A & M University and in China, discussed in a paper on Property Rights and the Nature of Chinese Collective Enterprises why collective enterprises, especially township and village enterprises (TVEs) had – those sixteen years ago, anyway – developed more rapidly than privately owned enterprises, in China.

General note: I have no information about survey’s return rate among the former overseas students.

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Friday, March 4, 2016

On the Eve of NPC Session: a Public Opinion Workforce that puts the Party’s Mind at Ease

The “two sessions” season is upon Beijing: both the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference” (CPPCC) and the “National People’s Congress” (NPC, China’s “parliament”) are holding plenary sessions this month. The CPPCC opened on Thursday, and the NPC is scheduled to begin tomorrow.

The Herald, a paper from Zimbabwe, published an online article today that reads as if it had come from the CCP central office by fax and had been published without any changes made to it.

China’s press and broadcasting services will be full of opium info smoothies for the people anyway: Xi Jinping made sure of that in February, inspecting the “People’s Daily”, Xinhua newsagency, and CCTV. And not only CCTV – who had actually been visited by Xi -, but China Radio International (CRI) staff, too, did what good journalists or reporters in the land of socialism with Chinese characteristics have to do: they held meetings, summarizing the spirit of the important talk given by Xi on a party conference concerning news and public opinion work, and drafting roadmaps for their own work.

Indeed, propaganda for audiences abroad appear to matter more than during the Hu Jintao era – or maybe it’s simply that propaganda in general matters more than during the pre-Xi decade. Xi, as quoted by a SARFT online article, republished by Xinhua on February 25:

Under the new historical circumstances, it is the duty and obligation of the party’s news and public opinion work to uphold the banner, to keep to a hopeful lookout, to revolve around the center, to serve the general situation,to unite the people, to encourage the morale and to strengthen moral attitude, to strengthen cohesion and integration, to clarify errors, to discern right and wrong, to link China and the world abroad, and to connect the world.

在新的时代条件下,党的新闻舆论工作的职责和使命是:高举旗帜、引领导向,围绕中心、服务大局,团结人民、鼓舞士气,成风化人、凝心聚力,澄清谬误、明辨是非,联接中外、沟通世界。

[…]

The key for competition among the media is the competition of talents, and at the core of media superiority is the superiority of talents. With greater acceleration [than so far], a workforce for news and public opinion work must be trained whose political determination, routine and methodology can put the party’s and the people’s mind at ease.

媒体竞争关键是人才竞争,媒体优势核心是人才优势。要加快培养造就一支政治坚定、业务精湛、作风优良、党和人民放心的新闻舆论工作队伍。

Beautiful tomorrow. What could possibly go wrong under such auspicious arrangements?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

“Internet Plus” Updates

As Chinese economic growth isn’t quite itself these days, the innovation buzzword keeps growing. State chief councillor Li Keqiang‘s Internet Plus action plan, described in some detail on March 5 last year in his work report to the Third Session of the 12th “National People’s Congress”, is being revived as a news item and covered here by the Washington Post. The article describes an internet town near Haikou as a place where little else can be done:

According to the local government, the Internet Town project will cover the entire Shishan township in 2018, with the completion of an online trading platform and an operation center as well as other facilities. The project will be a major engine for local growth, creating a new source of income for farmers along with the tourism industry that features volcanic tours.

Meantime, the English-language “Global Times” focuses on places where a lot of things that make sense could be done, and where a number of building owners (you can’t say landlord in China) fell for the business concepts of kids whose first profession was to be their daddies’ sons (reportedly, anyway), and who burnt their business war chests rather than using them mindfully. But obviously, the article is generally optimistic about a phoenix [that] will rise from the ashes of the first wave of China’s tech boom.

Chinese innovation may not be exactly what Japan’s industry is waiting for, but Chinese growth is. Ikuo Hirata, a columnist with a number of Japanese papers, suggests that Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe should stop counting on China’s economy as a booster for Abenomics, and that the government should lower its growth target.

Hirata also warns that

[w]hile working to reduce excess capacity in the steel and other traditional sectors, Chinese policymakers are also trying to help high-tech industries, such as robotics, sophisticated machine tools and aerospace, catch up with their rivals in advanced economies. The technological prowess of a country that has a successful manned space mission under its belt should not be underestimated.

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Related

» Traditional industries, new bones, April 17, 2015

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Sunday, November 1, 2015

Angela Merkel’s 8th Visit: another two Days in China

Angela Merkel was to meet Xi Jinping on Thursday, her office’s website wrote earlier this week, referring to the state chairman and party secretary general as “president”. That’s routine in German federal and regional authorities’ contacts with China; party affiliations and roles are mostly ignored.

It was Merkel’s eighth visit to China, Xinhua newsagency informed statistics-obsessed readers. She first visited in August 1997, then as minister for environment protection and nuclear reactor safety. Visits as chancellor followed in May 2006, August 2007, October 2008, July 2010, February 2012, August 2012, and in July 2014.

An End to the “Golden Decade” of German-Chinese Cooperation?

Germany’s press is diverse at first glance, but much of what ends up in regional papers is written by relatively few correspondents or editorialists in Berlin, pooled in news agencies and correspondent’s offices that offer their services to any paper in the market. “Die Krisen reisen mit” (Crises travel along), written by two Deutsche Presseagentur (DPA) correspondents, was published by a number of small or medium-sized regional papers. Sebastian Heilmann, a sinologist, is quoted as saying that London had assumed the leading role in relations with China (this probably refers to the leading role in the European Union).

But the DPA article doesn’t want to leave Heilmann’s remarks uncontested:

That Cameron, all of a sudden, only leers at business doesn’t necessarily suggest convictions and reliability, as can be read from internet users’ sardonic remarks. The chancellor enjoys much greater esteem. But Xi was probably happy to see the human-rights topic basically dropped under the table in London, and the Europeans being split. The [German] federal government takes no stock in this kind of policy changes and remains firm in its critical China policy. Chinese people appreciate reliability. Even the strength of Germany’s industries alone would ensure Germany’s position as China’s “definitely strongest trading partner”, the chancellery believes.

Dass Cameron plötzlich nur noch auf das Geschäft schielt, spricht auch aus chinesischer Sicht nicht unbedingt für Überzeugungen und Verlässlichkeit, wie aus hämischen Kommentaren von Internetnutzern erkennbar wird. Da genießt die Kanzlerin viel größere Wertschätzung. Aber Xi dürfte sich gefreut haben, dass das Thema Menschenrechte in London praktisch unter den Tisch gefallen ist und hier ein Keil zwischen die Europäer getrieben werden konnte. Die Bundesregierung hält von solchen Kurswechseln aber nichts und bleibt in ihrer kritischen China-Politik standhaft. Die Chinesen wissen Zuverlässigkeit zu schätzen. Schon wegen der Stärke der deutschen Industrie werde Deutschland auch “mit Sicherheit der stärkste Handelspartner” der Chinesen  bleiben, glaubt man im Kanzleramt.

Deutsche Welle’s Mandarin service is more elaborate, drawing on a press release from the Mercator Institute for China in Berlin, r rather on the institute’s trade magazine “China Flash”. In an interview with the magazine, Heilmann, the institute’s director, said that Chinese demand for industrial commodities was going down, and at the same time,

there’s a certain disillusionment on the Chinese side, because jointly agreed projects are stagnating: from the Chinese perspective, German industry is too passive in technological cooperation, and the federal government has given too little profile to the issue.

auf chinesischer Seite eine gewisse diplomatische Ernüchterung, weil gemeinsam vereinbarte Projekte stocken: Aus Sicht der Chinesen ist die deutsche Industrie in der Technologiekooperation zu passiv, und die Bundesregierung hat das Thema Innovationspartnerschaft zu niedrig aufgehängt.

As for an action framework for innovation partnership, adopted in Berlin in October 2014, with Chinese chief state councillor Li Keqiang and Merkel in attendance, Merkel would “need to cheer up disappointed interlocutors in Beijing”:

Peking had hoped that German companies would procure Chinese companies with innovative know-how on networked production. However, German companies are understandably skeptical: Industry 4.0 is about fundamental, sensitive future technology. The question if this kind of know-how can be protected in the Chinese context must be answered in the negative, at present.

Peking hatte gehofft, dass deutsche Unternehmen chinesischen Firmen innovatives Wissen zur vernetzten Industrieproduktion beibringen. Doch deutsche Unternehmen sind verständlicher Weise skeptisch: Bei Industrie 4.0 geht es um elementare, sensible Zukunftstechnologien. Und die Frage, ob solches Know-how im chinesischen Kontext geschützt werden kann, muss man derzeit klar verneinen.

In Heilmann’s view, Germany losing its status as an “anchor state” for Chinese engagement in Europe shouldn’t simply be attributed to London’s “fulminant diplomatic campaign”, but to intensifying Chinese interest in international financial markets and tertiary-industry-related know-how.

Meantime, the federal government, in its announcement of Merkel’s visit to China, stated that Berlin’s goal was a balance between economic/technological, and social issues, and to include issues of global order, as well.

Human Rights: “Huanqiu Shibao” pities Merkel

Heilmann doesn’t seem to agree that China’s leaders would appreciate the federal government’s “critical China policy” (see first blockquote). It would be quite possible, Heilmann told “China Flash”, that Chinese government representatives wouldn’t listen to German expostulations “as patiently as they did last year”.

One had to pity Merkel, Huanqiu Shibao wrote in a slightly satirical article, republished here by Guanchazhe (Shanghai) on Thursday:

Today and tomorrow; German chancellor Angela Merkel visits China. So-called human-rights organizations like Amnesty International responded right away, on receipt of the news. This organization, which frequently causes China trouble, as well as the disreputable organizations “World Uyghur Congress” and “International Campaign for Tibet” recently published a joint open letter to Merkel and demanded that she should voice “concern regarding the situation in Chinese judiciary” and to voice her “support for suppressed Uyghur human rights lawyers”.

德国总理默克尔今明两天正式访问中国,大赦国际等所谓人权组织闻风而动。这家经常向中国发难的组织与臭名昭著的“世界维吾尔大会”及“世界声援西藏组织”日前联名给默克尔发公开信,要求后者在访华期间提出“对中国司法现状的担忧”,表达“对被打压维权律师的支持”。

“Tibetan-independence” and “Xinjiang-independence” organization in Western exile have apparently learned something new, adding new concepts like “situation in Chinese judiciary” and “Uyghur human rights lawyers”. That’s very amusing.

流亡西方的“藏独”和“疆独”组织看来最近加强了学习,用上了“司法现状”和“维权律师”等新词,还与大赦国际搞到一起“抱团取暖”,联合挑事,蛮是有趣。

From the perspective of the large public in mainland China, Western leaders who sing the praise of human rights every time when visiting China, come across as somewhat strange. Above all, what they mean by human rights is often different from what Chinese the common people mean. For example, Chinese people are above all concerned by social justice, with educational justice and fair access to medical treatment, home ownership, care for the elderly, etc..

对中国大陆数量庞大的公众来说,西方领导人每次到中国访问时总要像念经背书一样谈谈人权问题,有些怪怪的。尤其是他们说的人权与中国老百姓最关心的权利常常不是一回事,比如中国人最关心社会公平,包括受教育公平、医疗资源公平等,还希望居者有其屋,人人老有所养等等。

Chinese people also want rule by law, they hope for unrestricted freedom of speech, and more democratic government. As far as these [issues] are concerned, the country has a diversity in practice, keeps summing up experiences, and indeed, there are problems on government level that need to be solved. Concepts like democracy and rule by law have found their way into socialist core values. In fact, Chinese society, more than any external force, is more concerned with doing this well, and engages in exploring these issues.

中国人还要求法治,希望言论开放,国家治理更加民主。关于这些,国家有种种实践,不断总结经验,也的确有些治理层面的问题需要破解。民主、法治这些词汇都进入了社会主义核心价值观,究竟怎么做好,中国社会比任何外部力量都更加关心,也在实际探索并努力。

When foreigners talk to China about human rights, this frequently refers to the tiny minority of people who are in jail for challenging China’s political system, defined by the constitution and rules, in a way that  is relevant under criminal law. Our strong impression is that they [foreign visitors] aren’t concerned about Chinese human rights which are constantly improving, that they aren’t concerned for the growing prosperity of a majority of Chinese people, but that they [my translation for the rest of this line may be rather vague or inaccurate – JR]  want to help those who seek confrontation with the Chinese system. By this, they want to cause China trouble and force China to adopt government methods that don’t fit this country.

外国人向中国一谈人权,指的往往是为挑战中国宪法规定 的政治制度而触犯刑法,并因此坐了监狱的极少数人。给我们的强烈印象是,他们不是关心中国人权基本面 的不断改善,不是关心绝大多数中国人的福祉,而是要帮助能数得过来的与中国体制搞对抗的人,他们是要以这种方式找中国麻烦,逼中国采取不适合自己的国家治 理方式。

 Many people from the West say that they are sincerely concerned about human rights and that they can’t ignore the arrests of “dissidents”. But apparently, they don’t understand what those “dissidents” did, that they weren’t seized for “differing opinions”, but for doing things, because of their “different opinion”, that are banned by Chinese law.1)

One had to understand that China frequently gave cause to misunderstandings, Huanqiu Shibao wrote. After all, this was a big world, and far-away China was therefore not easy to understand. However, Western people with strong views about intervention in China should know how to behave in delicate situations. This wasn’t the era of the eight-nation alliance, and China wasn’t in the [weak] position anymore to beg for capital or technology.

Self-confident as Chinese society is today, people know that there are individual Western leaders who visit China with the tic of discussing “human rights”. Therefore, [Chinese people] feel a bit sorry and pity visitors who need to grit their teeth and shoulder the task of discussing “human rights”, so as to report to their superiors at home afterwards. Apparently, Chinese society is more generous than societies that exert pressure on their leaders, and are at times understanding.

中国社会如今自信了,知道西方有个别领导人访华谈“人权”的怪癖,因此对来访领导人要硬着头皮说句“人权”回去交差,有那么点同情和怜悯。怎么办呢,中国社会看来比在后面逼那些领导人的社会大度些,有时也就谅解了他们。

If the Western societies didn’t know how rotten the game in question was, remained unknown, wrote, Huanqiu Shibao. But if the window speeches absolutely had to continue, China would be of help.

“People’s Daily”: Japan should learn from Germany, and from Britain, too

If the Sino-British era is to become about as successful as the preceding Sino-German tandem, remains to be seen. Either way, much seems to suggest that human rights issues are now considered useless obstacles for relations with China.

Hua Yiwen (华益文), an author for the party’s central newspaper People’s Daily, thinks that both sides, Beijing and London, have given a sincere representation of Sino-British relations, with a strategic positioning and a harmonic diversity that made the Chinese public’s positive view of Britain rocket upwards.2)

That said, Hua isn’t as dissatisfied about Germany either. The really bad guys are the Japanese. If one saw how actively both Britain and Germany developed their ties with China, one couldn’t help but think of Japan. Different from Germany, Japan hadn’t dealt with its history, and that was affecting Sino-Japanese relations. And while London’s policies were marked by strategic far-sightedness and political courage, the Abe government had decided “to join the US and to bang the gong of a ‘Chinese threat’, thus paving the way for a Japanese military security policy of its own, and thus adding a complication factor to Sino-japanese relations.

Human Rights: Merkel meets Activists

Angela Merkel reportedly held a private meeting with nine activists at the German embassy in Beijing on Thursday evening, risking host’s ire.

The risk of the CCP leadership’s ire is exaggerated: after all, this isn’t the first meeting of this kind, and if China’s leaders had seriously objected, and considered it worth the price, they could have barred all nine activists from the meeting, as Mo Shaoping, who was invited to such a meeting in February 2012, can tell from his own experience.

Next in the visitors’ line is French president Francois Hollande, scheduled to arrive in Beijing on November 2. State council foreign-language website china.org quotes Zhou Yongsheng (周永胜) of the Chinese University for Foreign Affairs. interprets the visits, closely following each other, as “illustrating the growing influence and the position of power held by China, as acknowledged and appreciated by numerous great countries”.

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Notes

1) Probably, the Chinese dissident who is most prominent abroad should be Liu Xiaobo. (He’s hardly known or remembered within China.) He has been under arrest continuously since December 2008, and was sentenced in December 2009, for “inciting subversion of state power”. As far as I can tell, there were no clear-cut reasons given for the judgment. A conjecturable motive for seizing Liu Xiaobo could be the Charter 08, co-authored by Liu and about to be published at the time.

2) How sustainable “the Chinese public’s benevolence” and the foundations of the “British-Chinese Golden Decade” can be will also depend on a factor that could sound familiar to a message London received from Washington nearly three years ago. Back then, US president Barack Obama had informed David Cameron that he valued a strong UK in a strong European Union. Same message from Xi Jinping, according to Xinhua last week:

Xi Jinping emphasized that the European Union was China’s partner in a comprehensive strategic partnership. China hoped for a prospering Europe, a united Europe, and for an important EU member country, Great Britain, playing an active and constructive role in promoting and deepening Chinese-European relations.

习近平强调,欧盟是中国的全面战略伙伴和最大贸易伙伴。中国希望看到一个繁荣的欧洲、团结的欧盟,希望英方作为欧盟重要成员国为推动中欧关系深入发展发挥更加积极和建设性的作用。

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Related

» Internet Revolution, Chinese concept, April 17, 2015
» Hometown Diplomacy, China Daily, Oct 30, 2015

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

“Foreign Marxists”: the Virtues of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics

The following is a translation from a People’s Daily article, published online on July 27, and by the paper’s printed edition on July 24 this year. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

There’s a great likelihood that this translation contains errors. The translator, i. e. this blogger, has no idea about the concepts involved here.

In the wake of China’s great economic and social achievements, some foreign Marxist scholars’ research focuses on socialism with Chinese characteristics. Most of them praise China’s great achievements and hold an affirmative attitude towards China’s path, China’s theory, and China’s system. Some also researched the causes for China’s successes in depth, as you can improve by accepting experience from elsewhere1). To develop 21rst-century China’s Marxism, we should pay attention to foreign Marxist scholars’ China research, and from this, we should absorb and learn what is useful, while keeping the initiative ourselves in making use of it.

随着我国经济社会发展取得巨大成就,一些国外马克思主义学者将研究聚焦于中国特色社会主义。他们大多赞赏中国取得的巨大成就,对中国道路、中国理论、中国制度持肯定态度,有的还深入研究了中国成功的原因。他山之石,可以攻玉。发展21世纪中国的马克思主义,应关注国外马克思主义学者对中国的研究,从中吸收和借鉴有益的东西,以我为主、为我所用。

Adhere to the road that is in accordance with China’s national condition, the road that provides socialism with Chinese characteristics. The road that is meant to solve the major issues of the fate of the country’s perspectives, the fate of the nation, and the well-being of the people, is to develop 21rst-century China’s Marxism. Nottingham University’s tenured professor and National University of Singapore’s East Asian Institute director Zheng Yongnian2) believes that the successes after New China‘s establishment and particularly during the more than 30 years of reform and opening up, are the results of China taking a road in accordance with its national situation, a road in possession of socialism with Chinese characteristics. This road of development has distinct Chinese characteristics, and can be referred to as the Chinese model. The Chinese model is a combination product [?] of international optimal experience [?] and China’s own practice, showing both global and Chinese qualities. The initiator of the “Beijing Consensus”, renowned American China issues expert Joshua Cooper Ramo, believes that through hard work, own-initiative innovation and bold practice, figured out a development model in accordance with its own country’s national condition, a model clearly superior to the already embattled Latin American model.3) Renowned foreign Marxist scholar Samir Amin believes that China’s path has innovated from the beginnings of the PRC’s establishment, and that if China does not adhere to socialism with Chinese characteristics, the only result would be mere capitalism, and the fate of many countries bears testimony that this could only be a tragedy. Member of the Japanese Communist Party’s politburo standing committee, Fang Jingfu4), also said that the Chinese model is a matter that is still under development. It substance is socialism built through the market, coexisting with capitalism, a path found from competition, a new, peaceful road.

坚持走符合中国国情、具有中国特色的社会主义道路。道路关乎国家前途、民族命运、人民幸福,是发展21世纪中国的马克思主义要解决的首要问题。英国诺丁汉大学终身教授、新加坡国立大学东亚研究所所长郑永年认为,新中国成立后尤其是改革开放30多年来取得的成就,是中国走了一条符合中国国情、具有中国特色的社会主义道路的结果。这种发展道路具有鲜明的中国特色,可以称之为中国模式。中国模式是国际最优经验和中国本身实践相结合的产物,既有世界性,也有中国性。“北京共识”的首倡者、美国著名中国问题专家乔舒亚·库珀·雷默认为,中国通过艰苦努力、主动创新和大胆实践,摸索出一条适合本国国情的发展模式,这种模式显然优于已经陷入危机的拉美模式。著名国外马克思主义学者萨米尔·阿明认为,中国道路从中华人民共和国建立开始就已经是独创性的,如果中国不坚持社会主义道路,其结局就只能是纯粹的资本主义,许多其他国家的命运已经证明这只会是悲剧。日本共产党中央政治局常委绪方靖夫也提出,中国模式是一个还在形成发展过程中的事物,其实质就是通过市场建设社会主义,是一条在与资本主义并存、竞争中寻找到的道路,是一条新的和平之路。

Setting out from a perspective beyond capitalism and adhering to, and developing, the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the latest result from the sinicisation of Marxism. To adhere to and to develop the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the central proposition of developing 21rst-century China’s Marxism. University of Tokyo emeritus professor Makoto Itoh believes that what constitutes socialism with Chinese characteristics is mainly state ownership of the land, the concept of “state ownership of means of production as the main feature” and “diversification of management”, a “consultative type of industrial relations” [or labor-capital relations], etc.. He also points out that the foundations of an economy developed by a theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics will be a market economy with public ownership as the mainstay, with a greater significance of China’s economic system in the 21rst century. Arif Dirlik, a longtime left-wing scholar researching Chinese issues, believes that socialism with Chinese characteristics has some sort of inherent perspective beyond capitalism, and a particular urge to avoid a return to capitalism. The theoretical value of socialism with Chinese characteristics isn’t in current importance for the globalizing economy, but in its efforts to provide some kind of alternative experience to the global capitalist system.

从超越资本主义的视界出发坚持和发展中国特色社会主义理论体系。中国特色社会主义理论体系是马克思主义中国化的最新成果。坚持和发展中国特色社会主义理论体系,是发展21世纪中国的马克思主义的核心命题。东京大学名誉教授伊藤诚认为,中国特色社会主义理论的构成主要有“土地国有”“生产手段的公有为主体与经营管理的多样化”“协商型的劳资关系”等。他还指出,中国特色社会主义理论未来发展的经济基础是以公有制为主体的市场经济,中国经济体制在21世纪将具有更重要的意义。长期研究中国问题的左翼学者阿里夫·德里克则认为,中国特色社会主义具有一种内在超越资本主义的视界,并具有寻求避免回到资本主义的特质。中国特色社会主义的理论价值,不在于它目前在全球经济中的重要性,而在于它正努力为资本主义世界体系提供一种替代经验。

Keeping an eye on the manifestation of socialism’s unrivaled superiority, adhere to and bring to perfection the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is the essential institutional warrant for progress in contemporary China’s development. To adhere to and to perfect the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics is an important task for the development of 21rst-century development of Chinese Marxism. Vladimir Popov, an international economic researcher at the Russian State Economics Institute5), says that “China’s institutional abilities” or socialist system guaranteed that China, during the global economic crisis, maintained a superb expressive power. A major Global system theory representative, Giovanni Arrighi, believes that there are three main systemic reasons for China’s many successes in achieving more than thirty years of rapid economic growth: reform and opening up, unhampered accumulation and deep societal roots. French scholar Tony Andreani points out that the system of socialist market economy represents China’s national condition and systemic advantages. One was China’s status in the primary stage of socialism which was to continue for at least another fifty years. A second advantage was that the economic characteristic of this primary stage of socialism was that public ownership would maintain a dominant position in the economy, with a leading role to play. And a third was that China China would retain state planning and governmental macro-economic control, the role of which, even while exercised by indirect tools, was very powerful. And fourthly, China needed to take the national condition of the country into consideration, with its socialism needing Chinese characteristics.

着眼于彰显社会主义的优越性坚持和完善中国特色社会主义制度。中国特色社会主义制度是当代中国发展进步的根本制度保障。坚持和完善中国特色社会主义制度,是发展21世纪中国的马克思主义的重大课题。俄罗斯国家经济学院国际经济研究生院院长弗拉基米尔·波波夫说,中国“国家的制度能力”即社会主义制度,保证了中国在经历世界经济危机的时候依然可以有出色的表现力。世界体系理论的主要代表人物乔万尼·阿里吉认为,中国30多年成功实现经济高速增长的制度原因主要有三个方面:改革开放、无剥夺的积累与深刻的社会根源。法国学者托尼·安德烈阿尼指出,社会主义市场经济体制体现了中国的国情和制度优势:一是中国当前仍处于社会主义初级阶段,这个初级阶段至少要延续半个世纪。二是中国社会主义初级阶段的经济特点是公有制在经济中占主体地位、发挥主导作用。三是中国仍然保留国家计划和政府的宏观调控,只不过是通过间接手段进行,但其作用十分强大。四是中国必须考虑本国的特殊国情,其社会主义的发展需具有中国的特点。

The discussions of China’s path, China’s theory, and China’s system by foreign Marxists are mostly friendly, objective, and also of enlightening significance. In the development of 21rst-century Chinese Marxism, these views and points of view can be used as a reference system, to continuously strengthen confidence in the path, theories and system, absorb the rationalization proposals they contain, adhere to and broaden the road of socialism with Chinese characteristics, adhere to and develop the theoretical system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, adhere to and bring to perfection the system of socialism with Chinese characteristics, and constantly broaden the range of sinicisation of Marxism.

国外马克思主义学者关于中国道路、中国理论、中国制度的这些论述,大都是友善的、客观的,也是有启示意义的。发展21世纪中国的马克思主义,可以把这些看法和观点作为一个参考系,进一步坚定道路自信、理论自信、制度自信,吸收其中包含的合理化建议,坚持和拓展中国特色社会主义道路、坚持和发展中国特色社会主义理论体系、坚持和完善中国特色社会主义制度,不断开拓马克思主义中国化新境界。

(Authoring unit: Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Research Center for the Theoretical System of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics)

(作者单位:中国社会科学院中国特色社会主义理论体系研究中心)

People’s Daily, July 24, page 7

《 人民日报 》( 2015年07月24日 07 版)

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Notes

1) Literally: taking stones from someone else’s mountain to polish the jade.
2) I can’t judge if this is an accurate account of what Zheng said or says.
3) This seems to refer to the Washington Consensus, in this original sense.
4) Chinese transliteration – I didn’t find his Japanese name online.
5) The institute’s or university’s real name (in English) is probably different.

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