Posts tagged ‘democracy’

Friday, November 27, 2015

Stopping Terrorism by Restricting Legal Gun Ownership?

It’s an established routine: terrorists commit atrocities, and authorities are “taking action” – against civil rights, that is. It’s no different after the Paris attacks: the European Commission announced in a press release on November 18 that control of firearms would be strengthened. It’s not a new plan; it had emerged after the Paris Hebdo massacre, too, but was apparently shelved.

Yes, the terrorists, as Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said, launch attacks on Europe’s people and values. But Europe can take that. What European values will not survive – certainly not in the long run – are attacks on European values by its own, legal institutions. When fear rules, reason gets into hot water.

People who own arms are an easy target for misguided and misguiding policies. One good way to erode civil rights is to choose a topic where “surely, reasonable people will agree”.

You don’t need to like guns. You don’t need to like people who like guns. But this is what solidarity is about:  it’s about joining different people in defending their rights. In this particular case, the point to set out from is to realize that the terrorists who killed innocent citizens in Paris didn’t register their guns before going on their rampage. This is not about terrorism or about protection from terrorism; it’s about rights. Tomorrow, it may be your rights that are called into question. As car drivers, as bungee jumpers, as smokers, or as pacifists.

Do your bit to make sure that terrorism won’t win: protect the rights of people you may not agree with, but who are your fellow European citizens.

If you are a EU citizen, please sign here »



» Je suis Charlie, Jan 8, 2015


Friday, November 20, 2015

CCP commemorates 100th Anniversary of Hu Yaobang’s Birthday

The complete standing committee of the CCP’s politburo attended a symposium in commemoration of former CCP secretary general Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦). The BBC‘s Mandarin service wrote today (around 11:00 UTC) that Chinese news agency Xinhua published a curt report and a photo of the symposium in the Great Hall of the People. According to the BBC, the symposium was a smaller event than what the outside world had expected. A publication of selected works by Hu Yaobang is reportedly under preparation, including 77 written pieces by Hu Yaobang from 1952 to October 1986: articles, speeches, reports, instructions, letters und Vorwörter prefaces – some of them published for the first time. Hu Yaobang was forced to “resign” as the party’s secretary general early in 1987. However, different from his successor Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳) who was deposed in the wake of the 1989 students Tian An Men Square protests, Hu retained his politburo standing committee membership until his death in April 1989 – a death that actually sparked the 1989 students movement.

Hu Yaobang is frequently described as a just political leaderwith ideals, and as careful political reformer, or as a liberal of sorts, at least by the standards of a dictatorship.

According to a (more detailed) Xinhua article published at 11:49 UTC today, party secretary general Xi Jinping (习近平) praised Hu Yaobang in the glowing terms that are usual on occasions like today’s. He described practical-mindedness and pragmatism in seeking the people’s benefit as an outstanding characteristic of the former leader, and tried to harness the remembrance for his recently launched “four comprehensives” (四个全面) project.

While liberalism was certainly no issue, Xi praised Hu’s honest, self-disciplined, sublime demeanour (廉洁自律的崇高风范), or in other words, Xi made Hu an icon for “style”, rather than for content. Hu Yaobang’s image seems to be something the current leadership does not want to do without.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Helmut Schmidt, 1918 – 2015

Deutsche Geisterstunde

The show continues, on the other side of the cupboard

Sunday, October 11, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The KMT could live with losing the RoC Presidency …

… but it can’t put up with a Hung parliament. Hence, Hung Hsiu-Chu (洪秀柱), the KMT’s presidential nominee, might be ousted.



» The Rise and Fall, Brian Hioe / New Bloom, Oct 5, 2015


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn: and now for Something Better?

Once Upon a time, in the UK

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

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

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

But words are one thing; deeds are another.

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

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

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

Fast Forward to 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Universal Ideal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Weekend Links: Western Linguistic Manipulation, Destabilizing Russian Propaganda

Bicycles in Bremen-Sebaldsbrück, August 2015

“The world is upside down”,
said the wrong-way driver

1. China wants an Apology from the Japanese Emperor

That’s what Xinhua demanded on Tuesday, anyway: “Injustice has a source, a loan has a lender” (冤有头,债有主).

2. China wants North Korea to shut up

That’s because North Korea wanted South Korean loudspeakers to shut up. That has now happened, but on Monday, the loudspeaker crisis wasn’t yet resolved, and that was terrible, because South Korean president Park Geun-hye considered to stay at home in Seoul, due to the bad political weather on the Korean peninsula, rather than attending the PLA military parade on September 3.

Korean tensions won’t take China hostage, announced the “Global Times”, the quasi-Chinese parallel universe for foreigners who don’t understand Chinese, suspecting that certain forces in Pyongyang, Seoul, or outside the peninsula are gambling on this. Sino-NK compares the article in English and its – somewhat different – Chinese original.

The anger was actually understandable, as sino-narcissistic as it may have been. After all, Park’s attendance – now (re)confirmed – lends a lot of face to the parade of an army which actually had comparatively little to do with the defeat of Japanese imperialism, as Taiwanese president (and former KMT chairman) Ma Ying-jeou pointed out last month.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon can hardly be considered one of the certain forces in Pyongyang, Seoul, or outside the peninsula anyway. According to Reuters, citing Xinhua, he has defended his trip to Beijing next week to watch a military parade marking the end of World War Two following concern from Japan. Ban is scheduled to attend the sublime distortion of history, too.

Ban defended his planned attendance in Beijing next week after Japan’s foreign ministry had sent a message to the United Nations, saying that the events draw attention to the past for no purpose and that the United Nations should remain neutral, and a senior ministry official expressed strong dissatisfaction with Ban’s plan to observe the military parade in Tiananmen Square.

Tokyo’s top diplomats apparently felt an urgent need to prove that you don’t need to be Xinhua to talk like a wide-mouth frog.

3. China wants to cast off Western Linguistic Manipulation

This is what Huanqiu Shibao, translated and quoted by Fei Chang Dao, actually meant in its editorial on Thursday: a need to cast off Western linguistic manipulations and steer clear of the linguistic traps that they set when it comes to democratic concepts. CCP democratic practice proves that most “lingustic traps” are digital these days.

4. India is a Victim of such Manipulation

No, Mao Siwei, a former consul-general to Kolkata, doesn’t say that. He only suggests that India’s political system has (or leads to) problems, with all important legislation stalled in parliament. And he doesn’t even say that. He only quotes a Times of India editorial that says so.

5. How Marco Rubio would “deal with China”

On the basis of strength and example, of course, like any presidential candidate, prior to entering the White House and inheriting his predecessors desk (and files). Marco Rubio‘s first goal – repeat: first goal – would be to restore America’s strategic advantage in the Pacific. How so? By restoring the Pentagon’s budget to its appropriate level, of course:

This will allow us to neutralize China’s rapidly growing capabilities in every strategic realm, including air, sea, ground, cyber space and even outer space.


I will also promote collaboration among our allies, as America cannot and need not bear the full burden of counterbalancing China’s power.

Well, some of them will be in Beijing on Thursday, saying Hello to the victorious “People’s Liberation Army”. Maybe Rubio should first ask America’s quasi-allies in East Asia what they are going to spend on their countries’ military. Hegemony is unsustainable. Partnership might work.

6. Contested Economist Obituary of Tashi Tsering

The Economist published an obituary on Tashi on December 20 last year, and Woeser, who apparently furnished the news magazine with a photo taken by her husband Wang Lixiong ten years earlier, took issue with several points of the article. A few days after the Economist’s publication, she had recorded her objections. High Peaks Pure Earth offers an English translation. (Btw, Woeser also unveils the identity of the author of the Economist’s obituary – as a rule, authors remain anonymous there. The Economist explains why.)

7. Women can’t keep a Secret secret

Hilary Clinton can’t, Woeser can’t (see previous note, re the Economist’s Tashi Tsering obituary and its now uncovered author), and nor can Ambassador Caroline Kennedy.

Anyway, who cares. In the digital age, secrets are rapidly going out of fashion.

8. No “Russia Today” Rep Office in Latvia

According to Delfi, a Baltic online publication quoted by Euromaidan Press, the Latvian Registry of Enterprises denied permission to RT, saying that “the documents submitted by Russia Today contradict the Constitution of Latvia as well as several other laws”. Seconding the decision, the National Council of Electronic Media in Latvia reportedly alleged that the goal of the Russia Today Russian state news agency is to spread biased information in the information space to support the interests of Russia’s foreign policy.

A People’s Daily article in April suggested that the European Union was on the defensive in a “propaganda war” with Russia.

A rapid-response team to counter the destabilizing influence of Russian propaganda is now being established by the European Service of Foreign Affairs, writes Euromaidan Press.

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.


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.


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.


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


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.


On these issues, mainland China has seen good and bad times, sometimes somewhat better, sometimes worsening somewhat, thus remaining in a state of uncertainty.

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.


[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.


[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.


[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.


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.


[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.


[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.


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.


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.


[Asked if he feels unsatisfied with this.]

A: Of course.


[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”.


[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”.



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