Posts tagged ‘cronyism’

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The U.S. Democrats’ Red Herring: Blaming the Russians

Mattathias Schwartz of The Intercept suggests a statement different from the one US President Obama actually made at his last press conference. That statement, as scripted by Schwartz, would have deviated from the actual statement indeed. But it wouldn’t have provided America with moral and political leadership, as the teaser suggested.

The Intercept's presidential statement

The Intercept’s presidential statement

There’s no question to my mind that Donald Trump and his supporters (professionals and “ordinary people”) have made substantial contributions to brutalize the campaign, and political culture. But there is no question either that the Democratic Party’s establishment has shown its contempt for democratic principle, by pushing Hillary Clinton‘s nomination campaign, at the expense of Bernie Sanders‘. Clinton and her supporters showed quite the “sense of entitlement” once ascribed to China’s leader Xi Jinping.

That – not the Russian exposure of it – is the problem.

Were there American media that exposed the Democratic National Committee’s conduct? I haven’t heard of any. There was no Bob Woodward of our times who would have dug up that pit. The American media didn’t perform. They didn’t pick up their essential role. Moscow simply filled the vacuum.

Maybe that’s what Obama should have said (if he could have). He could have tried to talk some sense into those democrat functionaries (and press people) who are now trying to make the public forget their own role in their candiate’s undoing.

Obviously, there’s no reason to thank the Russian leadership for what they did. But there is no reason to flame them, either. America wasn’t treated like a banana republic this year, it acted like one.

If you want more of the same, shoot the messenger. But if you want democracy that works, do your homework.

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Monday, May 30, 2016

From the Parallel Universe: “I don’t know, has it been reported?”

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ReVideos are a medium that need to be taken with a grain of salt. But somehow, this one of Intercept reporter Lee Fang trying to get an answer from Hillary Clinton as to how much Lloyd Blankfein had invested in her son-in-law’s hedge fund looks to me like a symbol of Mrs. Clinton’s election campaign. It has all the makings of an icon.

The contact between the campaign trail and the real world comes across as if a space ship was struck by a sudden bit of earth. What Lee inquires about – and what others will hopefully to continue inquiring about, too – isn’t exactly news – it has even been part of the hedge fund’s marketing, according to The Intercept. But the timing of this topic could be fatal for Clinton’s campaign.

If you had to choose between Cinton and Trump, what would you do? I don’t know who I’d vote for, if I were an eligible American citizen. But I do know that I wouldn’t vote for either of the two.

search results: Hillary Clinton's emails

True danger signs

Having said this, maybe it’s me who’s living in the parallel universe. Money doesn’t bring a campaign down. Emails do.

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Updates / Related

Bigger Liabilities than Email, DW, May 27, 2016

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: “Social Media”, “Little Secretaries”, Blogs, and the big Trend for 2015

1. Getting Started

To get started, here’s one of my most recent sketches:

And if it isn’t self-explanatory, I’ll come back to it under item #4.

2. “Social Media”

I’m not studying the annual WordPress statistics too thoroughly, but what struck me this time is that, compared with 2013, “social media”, i. e. Twitter and Facebook, have become major referring sites to this blog. that said, maybe 2013 was an exception, because in 2012, too, Facebook and Twitter mattered a lot.

That makes me feel kind of sad. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate Tweets that link to this blog, and I appreciate links from Facebook, too, even if I usually won’t find out what you are writing about there (I’m not facebooking). But the trend seems to indicate that the internet turns from a more public into a growingly privatey-run business. That’s probably not the internet the founding fathers dreamed of.

Woeser found out in December that running an account with Facebook doesn’t make you the owner of that account – well, maybe she knew that all along, but her post came across as somewhat alarmed when she found that what she had reposted on Facebook –  a video of Tibetan Buddhist monk Kalsang Yeshe’s self-immolation that occurred on December 23 […], accompanied by an excerpted report explaining that self-immolation is a tragic, ultimate protest against repression,  had been removed by the company. At any rate, she couldn’t help but suspect that Facebook might be employing “little secretaries”, i. e. censors, just as Sina Weibo does.

Her belief that Chinese dictatorship is manipulating freedom of expression elsewhere, too – i. e. in the West – is understandable, and true to an extent. But internationally, Chinese dictatorship is only one source among several, of censorship and repression, as totalitarian as it may be.

3. Blogs

There’s still a lot of writing going on in the – what was the name again? – English-language Chinese Blogosphere. The nicest surprise this year was the return of EastSouthWestNorth. Obviously, I have no idea if the recent posts, mostly about “Occupy Central”, mark anything more than a stopover, but they are what makes the internet great: raw material, but made intelligible to every user, to work his way through, without easy answers right at his fingertips.

Then there’s Sino-NK. Articles finished and polished, but from a sober perspective, and plowing their way through the past and present of Sino-North Korean relations, rather than leaping at every headline.

Some blogs I used to like are beginning to look like mainstream media, but here is something I’d recommend, to make this three blog recommendations: China Copyright and Media. They do what really needs to be done: they look at the CCP paperwork. That’s no yadayada, that’s the decisions the party is actually taking and never fail to surprise our media when carried out, even though they’ve usually been communicated long before.

I can’t close the blog compartment of this post without a link to that blog post there in Shanghai: the Mother Teresa of the blogosphere, musing about the whereabouts of the legendary Dalai Lama of China blogging.

4. The Big Trend for 2015

It’s not terribly original, but it seems to be obvious. China’s totalitarian skeleton is being refitted with flesh, after a few years of what looks (at hindsight) like a thaw, during the days of the Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao collective troupes. This is now turning into a blend of modernization and personality cult. The slaughterhouse scene heading this post refers to the political death of Zhou Yongkang, and the Great and Impeccable Leader who brought it about. To lose your CCP membership is probably worse than death. If you are a truly faithful Communist, anyway.

Happy new year, everyone!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

June 4, 25 Years Later: Drinking the Wolf’s Milk

The Communist Party of China can’t live with the facts – it can’t even coexist with them. Anyone who thinks that we can “get past” the Tian An Men massacre is wrong. China’s collective leadership itself never got past it, and may never get past it. Nor can their business friends, supporters and well-wishers, at home or abroad. Just as stone can’t rot away, the memory of June 4, 1989 lingers. This memory is the touchstone few people inside China dare to touch upon – not the Chinese nomenklatura, nor their beneficiaries, and those who are both administrators and beneficiaries least of all. You comrades have been working hard, Deng Xiaoping told military commanders on June 9, 1989. The CCP, obviously, isn’t advertising the speech, but isn’t hiding it either – People’s Daily online apparently has the speech in full in its archive.

Deng Xiaoping, June 9, 1989

The only official evaluation so far: Deng Xiaoping defends his reform policies of economic openness and political repression, June 9, 1989 (click picture for video)

Richard Burger has a piece on June 4 today, plus an interesting comment there, and a post on May 19, also on this topic.

Many Chinese people were detained after the massacre. Some are reportedly still in prison; less than a dozen according to an estimate by the Dui Hua foundation.

Those in China who remember, and want to remember publicly, are threatened. In an interview with the New York Review of Books, Hu Jia said that for entering Tian An Men Square on June 4, he could receive a twelve-year prison sentence, and that since February 24 this year, his movements have been restricted by the Beijing Municipal Domestic Security Corps and the Tongzhou Branch of the Beijing Municipal Security Detachment, the latter of who had been around since July 2, 2004.

Hu Jia’s wife Zeng Jinyan has moved to Hong Kong with their daughter. “It’s better for them to be there”, Hu said in the New York Review of Books interview, describing how the CCP flag – not China’s national flag – was hanging at his daughter’s kindergarten on the 90th anniversary of the CCP’s founding (apparently on July 1, 2011). “They taught them that the party’s red flag is color with the blood of martyrs. This is really an evil influence on children. We call this ‘drinking the wolf’s milk’.

On June 1, i. e. on International Children’s Day, party and state leader Xi Jinping visited Haidian National Primary School in Beijing. Choreography had a child convey the party’s message: “[To join the Young Pioneers] is kind of an honor.”

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Related

» Informal Discussions, Open University, Apr 11, 2014
» Xi on Teachers’ Guiding Role, Jan 7, 2012

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Updates/Related

» Two HK Vigils, Tealeaf Nation, June 5, 2014
» Hong Kong vigil, BBC News, June 4, 2014
» Take a trip, foreign friends, China University of Political Science and Law, May 29, 2014

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Chinese Media Control: Three further Efforts

News from foreign (or outside-border) sources must no longer be used by Chinese press people without prior authorization, Radio Australia‘s Mandarin service quotes a notice from China’s SARFT (State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television). Also part of a move to standardize editorial behavior are the management of news websites, and of blogging and microblogging – three further efforts combined. According to Radio Australia, editors and journalists are also told to get approval from their work units before registering with a microblogging platform (probably particularly before registering with Sina Weibo).

Reporters without Borders (RSF) published a statement on Wednesday, roundly condemning the SARFT directive. RSF believes that embarrassing revelations about China’s leaders in foreign media – particularly about the alledged fortunes acquired by former chief state councillor Wen Jiabao‘s and current party general secretary and state chairman Xi Jinping‘s families – had triggered the move.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cultural Revolutions, Great and Small

March 2012 in China was a month of power struggles – that can be safely said, because one member of the polit bureau, Bo Xilai, fell from power.

Then there was chief state councillor Wen Jiabao‘s press conference, on March 14. His remark that a historic tragedy like the cultural revolution could occur again, and that reform was therefore an urgent task, can be interpreted as anything from a call for far-reaching liberalization, to just a handful of technicalities.

According to Sinostand,

If the economy slows or abruptly halts, then the void will have to be filled somehow. That could be done through political reforms that give direct accountability to the people, or some kind of scapegoat could be used to consolidate angst in a direction away from the government. I suspect Wen Jiabao’s calls for the former are in hopes of avoiding the latter.

John Garnaut listened to Hu Dehua‘s family history. Hu Dehua is the third and youngest son of former party chairman Hu Yaobang, a reformer who was ousted by the party establishment in 1987, and died in 1989.

Garnaut mainly recorded Hu Dehua’s story, apparently. It was published by Foreign Policy, on Thursday. At times, it doesn’t seem easy to tell what is Hu’s account, and where Garnaut may be drawing either on Hu’s story, or on sources he had previously known. But Hu Dehua himself is quoted with a statement which corresponds with Sinostand’s interpretation of Wen Jiabao’s mention the Cultural Revolution.

Hu Dehua told his father how pessimistic he felt about his country’s future. Hu Yaobang agreed that the methods and ideologies of the 1987 anti-liberalization movement came straight from the Cultural Revolution. But he told his son to gain some historical perspective*), and reminded him that Chinese people were not joining in the elite power games as they had 20 years before. He called the anti-liberalization campaign a “medium-sized cultural revolution” and warned that a small cultural revolution would no doubt follow, Hu Dehua told me.

Hu Yaobang also told his son that as society developed, the middle and little cultural revolutions would gradually fade from history’s stage.

If Wen Jiabao’s reference to the Cultural Revolution wasn’t mainly meant to be merely a punch into Bo Xilai’s face – which is quite possible, too -, China’s chief state councillor doesn’t seem to believe that such a degree of societal development which would make middle and little cultural revolutions disappear has yet been reached, and he wouldn’t even rule out another big one.

But while Garnaut’s Foreign-Policy article is definitely a scoop, and while one can be pretty sure that Hu Dehua didn’t simply talk with a foreign correspondent because he felt like it, one shouldn’t think of Hu’s or Garnaut’s account as something carved in stone, either.

Hu Yaobang was largely airbrushed from official history after his purge in 1987. But because he did not publicly challenge the Communist Party, he maintained his legacy and his supporters, including all of the current and likely future party chiefs and premiers: Hu Jintao, Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping, and Li Keqiang. All four regularly visit the Hu family home during Spring Festival. But only Wen Jiabao has publicly honored his mentor’s legacy.

The picture chosen from the Hu Yaobang family photo collection shows Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao standing next to Hu Yaobang, and it supports the message of the paragraph quoted above. But when a man is the CCP’s chairman and secretary general, where else would aspiring cadres want to stand?

I have no great doubts that the feelings of both Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao towards Hu Yaobang and his family remained friendly indeed. Wen Jiabao or one of his top officials aren’t unlikely authorizers of Hu Dehua’s meeting with  Garnaut. But that doesn’t mean that Hu Jintao or Wen Jiabao would need to see eye to eye with Hu Yaobang or Hu Dehua, on matters of liberalization. Having seen former Nazi and Communist foot soldiers sitting next to each other and having a beer in West Germany’s 1970s, I seem to understand that no matter how deep political and ideological differences may run, human feelings or even friendship may outlast totalitarianism – if those who retain some human feelings, no matter how low life may get, survive the ideologies at work.

Bo Xilai is out. If he will actually be tried – for alleged corruption, or for offense against party discipline, or whatever, will be a different question. It has been suggested that his adversaries, i. e., apparently, most of the top party leaders,  may shy away from bringing him to trial, because this would deepen the public impression that the party leadership may not be united.

But another explanation would be a fear that such a trial, too, could amount to a little or middle cultural revolution, and could even lead to a big one in the end.
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Note

*) Wang Meng (王蒙), a Chinese writer and former politician, describes similar discussions between a cadre and his son, in the late days of the Cultural Revolution, in The Butterfly (1983, partly auto-biographical). The father’s attitude in Wang’s novel is becoming more liberal, but a gulf remains between the ways the cadre and his son see their country, as the son’s lesson drawn from the Cultural Revolution is to distrust the state as a matter of principle.

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Related

» No World Outside, March 28, 2012

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bo Xilai’s sudden Exit and Political Reform: between Negation and Affirmation

Recent comment from He Weifang (贺卫方), a Beijing University professor of political science and law, has caught some attention outside China, too, but apparently mostly in Taiwanese media, and at Deutsche Welle (quoted here by Wenxue City). He reportedly analyzed reports about Bo Xilai‘s fall from power as reflected in two Hong Kong papers, Ming Pao (明报) and Sing Tao (星島). His remarks refer to Wen Jiabao‘s press conference on March 14, but probably beyond the Q & A quoted in my post there.

If He analyzed HK papers’ reports, he also got questions from at least one HK reporter, by e-mail. The two questions and answers (links within the following blockquote were added during translation):

Q1: Bo Xilai’s Chongqing model gained a popular backing when wealth gap yawns wide. His policies in Chongqing indeed narrowed wealth gap and gained popular support from residents there. I was wondering if his demise would end his Chongqing model completely? Or in some way, steer people’s attention from the good aspects of Chongqing model?

A: It is generally believed that the so-called “Chongqing Model” is mainly shaped by three aspects: “red culture” on the political level, “targeted actions against dark and evil forces in Chongqing“, and the reduction of the income gaps between the poor and the rich. The most criticized aspects are the former two, although there is support for the two of them in Chongqing and elsewhere. The third aspect isn’t that controversial. However, all data published concerning the efficiency of the measures taken to narrow the income gap are actually issued by the Chongqing authorities, and therefore lacking neutral assessment. Also, we can see that the whole process is strongly government-led, whose focus isn’t on creating a market logic of equal opportunities. If this approach will or will not lead to mistakes in financial policies, including the rural land policies‘ impartiality, is also questionable. And then there are concerns about life today being lead on future earnings, short-term inputs being made to curry favor with the public, which may come at high future costs.

答:一般认为,所谓的重庆模式主要由三方面内容构成:政治层面上的红色文化,执法层面上的“打黑除恶”以及民生方面的缩小贫富差距。最受诟病的是前两者,虽然在重庆和其他地方,似乎也有一些人人对于“唱红”和“打黑”表达支持。第三方面内容相对较少争议。不过,那些举措究竟对于缩小贫富差距产生了怎样的效果,目前得到的信息都是由重庆当局发布的,缺少中立的评估。另外,我们可以看到整个过程是在政府强势主导下进行的,其重点并非创造机会均等的市场逻辑。这种做法是否会带来财政决策中的失误,包括重庆所推行的农村土地政策的公正性,都是大可怀疑的。还有寅吃卯粮的隐忧,短期内的高投入讨好了民众,但是却需要未来付出巨大的代价。

Q2: Bo Xilai’s ouster is welcomed by liberals and reformists, and what do you think his fall means for China’s current stagnating political reform?I noticed in your post yesterday on sina weibo*) you commented that it has tremendous for political reform in China.Can you elaborate it more?

A: Bo Xilai’s removal means that the currently highest level of policymakers reject the use policies with similarities to the cultural revolution to solve problems within the system and within society. Obviously, the way Bo acted and publicized himself played a role, too. The reason why I believe that this event is important for China’s future is that it shows that in recent years, the once extremely powerful [unable to translate this – JR] 嚣尘上且颇具蛊惑力 traditonal socialist pattern has suffered negation within the CCP mainstream. This negation is very important, but the most important question for the future is about “affirmation”, i. e. what the contents of structural political reform [or reform of the political system] will be, and by which measures and strategies the designated goal will be realized. Chief state councillor Wen Jiabao constantly suggested structural political reform, and on certain occasions, he put forward some specific goals, such as elections, freedom of the press and judicial independence, etc., but the obvious conflicts between traditional socialist ideology with these kinds of democratic and rule-of-law values remain obstacles which are difficult to overcome. Besides, to get rid of the difficult situation [caused by] powerful interest groups constitutes a grave test.

答:薄之免职意味着,现在最高决策层拒绝用类似文革式政策解决制度与社会中的问题,当然,导致这样的结果也跟薄本人过于张扬的个性和做派有关。之所以我认为该事件对中国未来的发展意义重大,是因为它表明,近年来甚嚣尘上且颇具蛊惑力的传统社会主义模式遭受到中共主流的否定。这种“否定”非常重要,不过,未来最重大的问题仍在于“肯定”,那就是政治体制改革究竟包含怎样的内容,以及通过怎样的措施和策略实现设定的目标。温家宝总理不断地倡言政治体制改革,某些场合也提出过某些具体目标,如选举、新闻自由以及司法独立等,但是,传统社会主义意识形态与这类民主和法治价值之间的明显冲突仍是中共难以逾越的障碍。另外,破除权贵利益集团困局也是一个严峻的考验。

He’s comment seems to suggest that Wen Jiabao’s exit, scheduled to happen within less than a year, will neither spell the beginning, or the end of political reform. However, Ming Pao quoted He as saying that Wen should be considered a sincere promoter of political reform (雖然無說清內容,可能是「天機不可泄露」,但可以肯定他是一個真誠的政治改革推動者).

One reason as to why the international media didn’t make much of He’s comments may be that he is no insider, and not one of the CCP-leaning scholars who are – presumably –  occasionally used by the party to distribute statements which party officials don’t want to make themselves. By these standards, there is nothing revealing in He’s comments, but they do seem to offer some perspective – beyond the Hu Jintao / Wen Jiabao years.

I’m not suggesting that affirmation (of new values) is going to succeed the negation of the traditional-socialist ones. He isn’t doing that either – he refers to change management as a grave test (一个严峻的考验). However, while the step after “negation” – i. e. affirmation of new values – is one He would like to see, the party is likely to feel more comfortable with the dcoumented bottom-line the incoming and outgoing leaders seem to have agreed to, in October 2011 or some time earlier. In short, I believe a limbo between what He defines as negation (of old values) and affirmation (of new ones) is the most likely status for the coming years.

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Note

*) A Sina Weibo re-post by He on March 14 local time, concerning the changes to the criminal code passed by the “National People’s Congress” on March 14, was reprtedly censored some time later.

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Related

» Lacking Substance, China Post, March 25, 2012
» The original Deutsche Welle report (as republished on Wenxue City), Deutsche Welle, March 24, 2012
» Reform or Risk…, FOARP, March 14, 2012

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

From the Commenter Threads: China’s Options, as Exports Dwindle

King Tubby has drawn my attention to a Reuters article on a financial constellation within China which could spell a Chinese financial crisis, some three years after the West’s – and most of the world’s – financial crisis began.

If China had been asleep for centuries (as Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly once  put it), most of the English-language press seems to have been asleep for some three years, when it comes to this issue. Rather than being in awe for China’s simulus, they might have taken note of its financial sources back then. Victor Shih of Northwestern University actually pointed them out – to the international press in Beijing – in March 2010, and while the numbers may not have been easily available before, the press should have been full of questions anyway.

Even earlier, in February 2009, Huang Yasheng of the MIT told Nanfang Daily that while India’s investment only amounted to 50% of China’s, it still created economic growth that amounted to 80% of China’s. The issue is misallocation of capital – the state manipulating investment into channels where it either performs less well as it could elsewhere in the country, or even dumping money into white-elephant projects. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) might make better use of such investment, or loans, but are lacking the attention the state pays to state-owned juggernauts (or, more generally-speaking, .industrialists who are, for cousinhood or other forms or association, particularly close to the CCP.

But neither did  Chinese growth in past years spell as golden an age for the average Chinese people as the hype in our press seemed to suggest, nor will the future necessarily be as messy as is now predicted by a growing number of China experts.

From my comment, in reply to King Tubby’s:

While some of the aftermath of impending financial defaults within China (after all, the creditor-debtor relations are mostly a domestic affair) will be ugly and even dramatic (and it’s easy to excite the Chinese public, both willingly and unwillingly, isn’t it?), it still won’t spell comprehensive economic collapse. The real structural problem in my view is the one which Huang Yasheng and the very recent Reuters article describe: the misallocation of capital. That however is a malfunction China has lived with for decades, and will continue to live with. These have been seemingly golden decades – but never as golden for the average Chinese as our media kept suggesting. The future isn’t as bleak as they like to suggest now, either. The crux will be if the center, i. e. Beijing, will manage to turn the coastal provinces into investors, and consumers, in their domestic relationship with the hinterland which still has quite a potential to grow economically, as export keeps dwindling. I have my doubts about Beijing’s and their provincial fiefs’ ability to tap this potential for growth from within China – but it is an option, and could be a way out of the looming economic straits.

If they managed to do that, it could be a turn to a more sustainable pattern of growth than what we’ve seen so far.

Import substitution could be on the cards, too. There has been some public discussion in China about leaving the WTO more recently (leaving may be a prerequisite for the protectionism import substitution would require). The pressure that would stem from having to do your own R&D, rather than simply importing it, could help innovation. So, there is an underlying rationale underneath the “we-are-victims” talk here, too. Foreign bad, Chinese good is essential artwork for anything you wish to sell in a Chinese debate. But that doesn’t mean that a protectionist position in itself couldn’t make any sense.

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Related

» From another Discussion with King Tubby, January 28, 2011

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