Posts tagged ‘development’

Monday, February 19, 2018

Promising Profits: Syria’s Nation (Re)building Propaganda

Links within the blockquotes were added during translation.

Following America and Russia, China has announced its interest in playing a greater role in Syria, TRT Ankara‘s Chinese service reported on February 12. China’s ambassador in Damascus, Qi Qianjin (齐前进),

said that China wanted to play a greater role in solving the Syria crisis. The diplomat told Xinhua that “the time has come to focus on the development and reconstruction of Syria. I believe that in this course, China can provide more help to the Syrian people and government, and play a bigger role.”

向新华社表示:“现在已到聚焦于叙利亚的发展和重建的时机。我认为中国在这一进程中能够为叙利亚人民和政府提供更多帮助,发挥更多作用。”

Ambassador Qi Qianjin visited al-Mouwasat University Hospital in Damascus, and the hospital director thanked him.

齐前进大使参观了位于大马士革的姆瓦萨特大学医院,医院院长向中国大使表示感谢。

The Syrian communications minister had previously said that Syria’s transportation network, once restored, could become a railroad extending to China.

叙利亚交通部长之前曾表示,在叙利亚交通网得到恢复之后,可建立一个延伸至中国的铁路。

According to a report by China’s “Global Times”, at least 30 Chinese business people have been to Syria since April, to explore investment opportunities.

据中国《环球时报》报道,4月至今至少有30名中国商人前来叙利亚探索投资机遇。

China is acting together with Russia in the Syrian conflict, but has worked hard to avoid American resentment.

中国在叙利亚冲突中与俄罗斯一道行动,另一方面致力于避免美国的不满。

In the United Nations security council’s seven important resolutions concerning Syria, China abstained and chose not to get involved in the US-Russian quibble.

中国在联合国安理会关于叙利亚的7个重要表决中弃权,选择了不卷入俄罗斯-美国较量的道路。

Reportedly, from the three countries of Russia, China and America, China is the only country that hasn’t sent troops to Syria.

据悉,俄中美三国中唯一没有向叙利亚派兵的国家是中国。

Radio Damascus QSL 1980s

Radio Damascus shortwave QSL, 1980s *)

The war in Syria is by no means over, and Turkey itself plays no small role in keeping it alive. According to Syrian foreign radio ORTAS‘ German service on Friday, that day marked the 27th day of “the Turkish regime’s barbarian aggression against the Syrian town of Afrin”. According to the same news broadcast, the Syrian government and the Kurdish “people’s defence units (or protection units, YPG, Volksverteidigungseinheiten)” had agreed to have the Syrian army stationed in Afrin. Both ORTAS and Xinhua quoted Rezan Heddo, a media advisor of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as saying that “Afrin is a Syrian city”.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday night that “of all things”, “dictator Assad’s army is coming to the aid of Afrin region.”

At the same time, Syrian media accuse the US of trying to prolong the war. In its “News and Views” program of February 4, Syrian foreign radio’s English service noted that [27′ 40”]

It is pretty clear that the regional and international powers … do not have a desire to reach a political solution, but, in accordance with their interests in Syria, and for achieving them, those foreign sides try to prolong their war against Syria to give them a chance to extend their presence in the Syrian land under the pretext of combatting terrorism or preserving the alledged national security, as Turkey is claiming to justify its aggression on the Syrian territory.

That said, the Syrian media depict the situation as one where powers hostile to Damascus will prolong, but never win the war. This has been Damascus’ propaganda approach for some time. On October 4 last year, an ORTAS commentary in German claimed that the end of the war was approaching [6’52”]:

Nobody but some hateful or uneducated people can deny this truth. All conditions on the ground and their political consequences are emphasizing that the end of the struggle against terror and terrorist gangs is a matter of time. Aggravations here or there, the committing of crimes by the terrorist gangs is only this terror’s death struggle, carried to Syria from the outside.

It was time to rebuild the country, the same commentary said [08’58”]:

It is clear that the world has begun to think of the post-war situation in Syria, especially concerning a political settlement by dialog among the Syrians themselves. According to that, the Syrians think and talk about reconstruction of the facilities destroyed during the war. The talk in some concerned states, regarding reconstruction and a preparedness to contribute to this mission, is currently “hip”, even in some states that enormously contributed to the destruction of Syria.

Nation-building propaganda is nothing new in Syria. Before the war, too, posters portraying President Bashar al-Assad adorned not only public buildings, but many shops and retail stores, too, some combined with the depiction of a fingerprint in the colors of the Syrian flag, apparently suggesting that there was a genetic link between the people and the regime, in accordance with Syria’s nature. However, at least in Aleppo, you would usually find those posters at the doors of better-off neigborhoods.

But if an era of reconstruction should be upon Syria – depending on which areas are considered sustainably safe by domestic and foreign investors -, the narrative that is shaped by Damascus is beginning to show, as described there by a retired US Army officer:

Nation building can involve the use of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth.

Reconstruction and “dialog” aren’t only aiming at positive dynamics within Syria, but abroad, too. Syria’s officials and media have sent clear signals to friends and enemies abroad. Newsagency SANA reported on September 30 last year that

China’s Special Envoy for Syria Xie Xiaoyan affirmed that his country would support efforts for reconstruction and rebuilding infrastructure in Syria.

Xiaoyan’s remarks came in a seminar held in Beijing University titled “Rebuild Syria,” during which he called on the Chinese companies to participate in the reconstruction.

For his part, Ambassador of Syria in Beijing Imad Mustafa said that Syria seeks to form a joint strategic vision with China and will not wait for the end of the war to begin reconstruction, noting that the priority in that field will be given for companies from friendly countries.

Early in October, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told a delegation led by Russian deputy minister for energy Kirill Molodtsov that [00’41”]

it was obvious that those states that had stood with the Syrian people during its war against terror would be entrusted with the task of reconstruction.

Beijing must have been glad to hear that, too. But TRT Ankara’s report – see beginning of this post – is correct in that China is trying to avoid “American resentment”. For sure, Beijing isn’t asking for it.

Also in September last year, Chinese foreign-policy newspaper Huanqiu Shibao quoted Beijing’s Middle-East envoy Xie Xiaoyan (解晓岩) as saying that he had heard suggestions about reconstructions during his visits both to Russia and Syria:

The situation has improved, but first, the country needs to be stabilized, and comprehensive cease-fire agreements are necessary. It is hard to imagine that war should be conducted on the one hand, and roads should be repaired on the other. What is repaired on one day, may be destroyed one day later. But the fact that war still continues doesn’t mean that the parties couldn’t think about rebuilding and reconstruction. China has sufficient industrial capabilities and is preparing for active involvement in this process.

在访问叙利亚和俄罗斯时,听到有关开始叙利亚重建进程的提议。目前那里的局势已经得到改善。但首先仍需要实现国家稳定,需要全面执行停火协议。很难想象,一边在打仗,一边在修路。修好的基础设施在第二天就会被摧毁。其次,尽管现在战斗仍在进行,这并不意味着各方不去考虑基础设施的改建和重建。中国拥有足够的工业能力,准备积极参与这一进程。

However, Xie also said that

China is the world’s second-largest economy, but it can’t do the rebuilding alone. Reports say that reconstruction is going to cost two to three hundred billion Dollars. Therefore, not only China, but countries of the region and of the international community, too, should make joint efforts to achieve Syria’s reconstruction.

中国是世界第二大经济体,但中国独自无法完成重建工作。据有关报道,重建需要大约2000至3000亿美元资金。 因此,不仅是中国,本地区国家和整个国际社会都应共同努力,实现叙利亚的重建。

In a number of ways, China is well-positioned to draw the lion’s share from post-war profits – once the war is really over, or limited to a few marginal conflict zones. While Russia certainly spearheaded military support for Damascus, and while Beijing rather tried to hedge its bets, Russia may not have those industrial capabilities that Xie Xiaoyan ascribes to his own country.

Western economic powers may prove to be essential in one or another aspect of reconstruction, but Damascus is likely to maintain its position that countries that propped it up during the crisis, and during foreign aggression, should profit most.

That doesn’t mean that China would be extremely popular in Syria – although the war may have helped its soft power there. When former Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao referred to the Arab people as good friends, good partners and good brothers, regional elites, rather than entire populations, came to mind. Wen made his statement about Sino-Arab friendship while Hosni Mubarak was still Egypt’s president, and Wen himself may have cherished a memory of Chinese relations with a – then nationalist rather than islamist – Arabia of the 1950s.

Syria’s regime may be the last (and maybe the only lasting) representative of that cherished past.

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Notes

*) Until some time into the war, ORTAS – named “Radio Damascus” until recently – broadcasted on shortwave. Two frequencies were usually announced, but only one of them actually appeared to be in operation (9330 kHz). Reportedly, the facilities have been demolished – apparently in a regular way, and not because of the war.

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Related

Russia is very clever, Sept 11, 2013
A Just Mideast Position, Febr 16, 2012
Understanding and Support, Oct 25, 2011

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Headlines 2017 (1) – Five Economic Policies

Having addressed one of next year’s headlines, these are some rough notes on China’s economic policies, i. e. this years headlines.

china.org.cn, a website operating “under the auspices of the State Council Information Office” and the China International Publishing Group, tells the world (in English) that

[t]he Chinese economy will focus on quality, a shift from the rapid growth the country has been known for over the past decades since the reform and opening up policy was introduced.

Referring to the Central Economic Work Conference’s summary, the article is mostly about parading the new normal personality cult (“Xi’s economic thought takes shape”), suggesting that

China will develop into a manufacturing powerhouse, with a shift from “Made in China” to “Created in China,” the statement said, as the country is striving to evolve from a world factory that churns out low-end products.

A Chinese-language article, published by Xinhua newsagency in Chinese one day earlier (on Wednesday, when the conference closed), is much more detailed, putting the meeting of officials and economists into the context of the CCP’s 19th national congress, and the current 13th Five-Year plan, with recurrent references to the five policies (五大政策).

In the Journal of Nanjing University’s (南京大学学报) third quarterly in summer this year, economics professor Hu Angang (and a doctoral assistant) suggested that the five policies (literally: five big policies) had afforded China the global number-one position as a high-tech industrial country, having overtaken America in 2015. The state’s visible hand had made this possible, Hu argued, adding that given that the market’s “invisible hand” wasn’t as well developed in China as it was in the US, only a sensible combination of both those hands had put China in its new position. Issues such as ways to define the scopes and goals of competition, as well as performance assessments, were also addressed both by Hu’s paper, and by the central economic work conference.

Hu suggests that there were frequent imbalances in classical economic policies, not least America’s (emphasizing innovation sometimes, or emphasizing job creation at others), while China had struck a balance between an industrial policy (产业政策 政策, the policy China started with 30 years ago), a competition policy (竞争政策), an innovation policy (创新政策), a policy of opening up (开放政策), and a “green” environment-protection policy (绿色政策).

One can’t say that the divide between advocates of a set of “balanced” policies are running right through the Pacific (i. e. between Beijing and Washington). America, too, has its share of advocates for balanced industrial policies. An example for an extremely unbalanced concept: the idea that “America should innovate” while China would manufacture was suggested in 2011, by  New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman, who said that he owed this division-of-labor concept to former Hong Kong chief executive Tung Chee-hwa. (Besides innovation, Tung also had the “green policy” on his mind. What Friedman had in mind, God knows.)

Either way, Ralph E. Gomory, an applied mathematician, pointed out that Friedman’s and Tung’s math didn’t add up:

[w]e need successful industries and we need to innovate within them to keep them thriving. However, when your trading partner is thinking about GDP rather than profit, and has adopted mercantilist tactics, subsidizing industries, and mispricing its currency, while loaning you the money to buy the underpriced goods, this may simply not be possible.

That was six and a half years ago. And obviously, China’s leadership never intended to leave innovation to America for good.

However, Hu Angang’s paper concedes that so far, while being the world’s “number one high tech manufacturing country” (为世界最大高技术产业国), China’s ability to innovate independently from foreign know-how still remains “relatively low”.

Friday, November 24, 2017

19th CCP National Congress Editorial: “A Smile in the World of the Dead”

According to Huanqiu Shibao, Wang Dehua (王德华) is an internet public sentiment analyst. He is also a regular columnist for the paper.

The following is a translation of his editorial published on October 21, the fourth day of the CCP’s 19th national congress. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Main Link: Give a shoutout for the new era, fire yourselves up for China!

The 19th national congress report1) has come up with the major judgment that “socialism with Chinese characteristics is entering a new era”. The words of the “new era” appeared 36 times in secretary general Xi Jinping’s three-and-a-half-hours report. This is a historic turning point, and we are its fortunate witnesses.

十九大报告作出“中国特色社会主义进入新时代”重大判断。“新时代”一词,在习总书记约三个半小时的报告中一共出现36次。这是历史性的转折点,我们是幸运的见证者。

According to secretary general Xi Jinping’s discourse, socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered into a new era, which is “the new historic direction” of China’s development. Entering the new era, Chinese society’s major contradictions have changed into contradictions between the continuously growing needs of the people for a beautiful life, and unbalanced and insufficient development.

按照习总书记的论述,中国特色社会主义进入新时代,这是中国发展“新的历史方位”;进入新时代,中国社会主要矛盾已经转化为人民日益增长的美好生活需要和不平衡不充分的发展之间的矛盾。

For 200 years since 1840, the Chinese nations has gone through one-hundred years of deliverance, one-hundred years of rejuvenation, centering around the question as to how free China from an environment where it had been “the sick man of Asia”, been trampled upon, and been bullied and humiliated. The China of the not-too-distant past ate every medicine and every ideology to save itself, but turning to any doctor one could find only led to the outcome of “remaining unacclimatized”.

从1840年以来的近200年历史,中华民族经历百年救亡、百年复兴;核心是怎么把中华民族的命运,从过去那种“东亚病夫”、任人宰割、任人欺凌的环境中解脱出来。近代中国为了救中国,什么药方都吃过,什么主义都试过,但是病急乱投医的结果是“水土不服”。

With the sound of gunfire, from the October Revolution came Marxism. China’s communists combined China’s national conditions, led the new democratic revolution, and finally tied a knot for deliverance, and solved the problem. To solve the problem of Chinese people taking beatings, Mao Zedong announced from Tian’anmen Tower that “from now on, the Chinese people has stood up”.

十月革命一声炮响,送来了马克思主义。中国共产党人结合中国国情,领导新民主主义革命,最后给救亡的命题打了一个结,作了一个了断。中国人解决挨打的问题,是毛泽东在天安门城楼上发出的那一声“中国人民从此站起来了。”

The Mao Zedong era solved the problem of Chinese people taking beatings, and the Deng Xiaoping era solved the problem of Chinese people going hungry. Singapore’s “Lianhe Zaobao” said in a commentary that “socialism with Chinese characteristics has entered a new era, which means that the Chinese nation has come from standing up and getting rich to the great leap of getting strong”.

毛泽东时代,解决了中国人的挨打问题;邓小平时代,解决了中国人的挨饿的问题。新加坡联合早报评论称,“中国特色社会主义进入新时代,意味着中华民族“迎来了从站起来、富起来到强起来的伟大飞跃”。

“Cheerful singing shall replace mournful sighs, smiling faces shall replace tearful faces, prosperity shall replace poverty. Health shall replace pain and difficulties, wisdom shall replace ignorance, fraternal love shall replace enmity and murder, happiness of life shall replace grief, radiant and enchanting gardens shall replace wasteland” … These words from martyr Fang Zhimins “Lovely China” essay, the new era of a “lovely China”, has arrived now. Fang Zhimin, too, may now carry a smile on his face in the world of the dead.

“欢歌将代替了悲叹,笑脸将代替了哭脸,富裕将代替了贫穷。康健将代替了疾苦,智慧将代替了愚昧,友爱将代替了仇杀,生之快乐将代替了死之悲哀,明媚的花园,将代替凄凉的荒地”……方志敏烈士在《可爱的中国》一文中描绘的“可爱的中国”的“新时代”已经到来,他也可以含笑于九泉了。

There are many interpretations of how the Chinese nation has come from national peril to national rejuvenation. The main principle is that the fate of the nation and the individual are intimately interlinked. During the miserable decade of a century, without a country there was no home2). When the country is strong, I am strong, when the motherland is prosperous, I am prosperous. History has shown time and again that only with the Communist Party, China can be rescued, and only with the Communist Party, China can develop.

中华民族从民族危亡到国家复兴,无不深刻诠释一个道理,国家的命运从来与个人的命运息息相关。在那个悲惨的年代,没有国哪有家;祖国强,我强;祖国富,我富。历史一再证明,只有共产党才能救中国,才能发展中国。

History is a mirror. The pendulum has swung back for the motherland. Heaven is not going to throw down meat pies. Rather, this is the outcome of our forefathers and our own efforts. I am proud because I am a witness, a participant, and a beneficiary of reform and opening up, and of the motherland’s great advance. Several years from here, when facing my offspring, I can proudly say that I took part in the motherlands power and prosperity, I wasn’t a bystander!

历史是一面镜子。祖国30年河东,30年河西。“30年”河东变成河西,天上不会掉下馅饼,是父辈和我们奋斗出来的。我骄傲,因为我是改革开放和祖国腾飞的见证者、参与者,也是受益者。若干年后,当我面对子孙的时候,我可以自豪的说,祖国的强盛我参与了,我不是旁观者!

All the great achievements are the results of continued struggle, all the great causes need to push on, building bridges between earlier and later stages. Each generation carries its generational mission, and we bravely assume our own mission. Don’t forget from where you started, accomplish your misson, always walk with the Party, let the youthful dream fly in the vivid practice of achieving the Chinese dream, and struggle diligently for the future of the motherland!

一切伟大的成就都是接续奋斗的结果,一切伟大的事业都需要在继往开来中推进。 一代有一代人的使命,我们要勇敢地承担起自己的使命。不忘初心,方得始终,始终跟党走,在实现中国梦的生动实践中放飞青春梦想,为祖国的明天努力奋斗!

I wish I could borrow another five-hundred years to see if China achieves the stars and the seas. Give a shoutout for the new era, fire yourselves up for China! (Wang Dehua)

真想向天再借五百年,看看那会的中华是否实现星辰大海。为新时代打call,为中国加油!(王德华)

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Notes

1) “report” refers to the 3.5 hours speech by Xi Jinping
2) a pun of “guojia”, which is a combination of “country”/”state”, and “family”/”home”.
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Saturday, November 4, 2017

CNA: Zhu Rongji backs Xi Jinping Thoughts in rare public appearance

Main Link: Zhu Rongji backs Xi Jinping Thoughts in rare public appearance, CNA/RTI Taipei, Nov 4, 2017. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

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Former Chinese chief state councillor Zhu Rongji, who has rarely appeared publicly after his retirement, had a meeting with foreign guests on Monday afternoon (Oct 30), when he made a rare mention of politics, backing the Xi Jinping Thoughts, and expressing that this was the program of action in the CCP’s leadership of all of China.

自退休後便極少公開露面的前中國國務院總理朱鎔基10月30日下午會見外賓時,罕見提及政治議題,力挺習近平思想,並表示這是中共帶領全中國的「行動綱領」。

According to the official website of Tsinghua University’s School of Economics and Management, Zhu Rongji, in his capacity as the first dean who ever lead the school, met members of the School’s advisory board, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.

根據北京清華大學經濟管理學院官網公告,朱鎔基當天以首任院長身分在北京釣魚台國賓館會見蘋果執行長庫克(Tim Cook)在內的北京清華大學經濟管理學院顧問委員會委員。

Zhu Rongji said during the meeting that he had recently attended the CCP’s 19th National Congress. “This time’s congress took place at the stage of determining victory in the comprehensive building of a moderately well-off society. This important congress was held at a defining moment of the development of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

朱鎔基在會中表示,自己日前作為特邀代表出席中國共產黨第19次全國代表大會。「這次大會是在中國全面建成小康社會決勝階段、中國特色社會主義發展關鍵時期召開的一次重要會議。」

He said that “a string of major achievements” had been made politically, theoretically and practically, that elections had produced “a new generation of central collective leaders with [comrade] Xi Jinping as the core”, and that “Xi Jinping’s major thoughts for a new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics” had been established.

他表示,大會在政治上、理論上、實踐上取得了「一系列重大成果」,選舉產生了「以習近平同志為核心的新一代中央領導集體;創立了習近平新時代中國特色社會主義思想」。

Zhu Rongji also mentioned that “Xi Jinping’s thoughts for the new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics are the most recent achievement of sinicization of Marxism, the political propaganda and guiding action principles of our party as it unitedly leads all nationalities into the new era and as it develops socialism with Chinese characteristcs.”

朱鎔基還提到「習近平新時代中國特色社會主義思想是馬克思主義中國化的最新成果,是我們黨團結帶領全國各族人民在新時代堅持和發展中國特色社會主義的政治宣言和行動綱領,必須長期堅持和不斷發展。」

Zhu Rongji lives a mostly secluded life after his retirement in 2003, and has made only very few public appearances. Mainland Chinese media also repeatedly reported that after retiring, Zhu Rongji had said that “without office and without planning politics, the most important principle is not to talk about work.” Zhu Rongji’s public discussion of political issues is really a rare sight.

朱鎔基自2003年卸任後便深居簡出,極少公開露面。中國大陸媒體也多次報導,朱鎔基退休後曾明確表示,「不在其位,不謀其政,最大的原則就是不談工作」。朱鎔基這次公開談論政治議題實屬罕見。

It is worth noting that according to a Xinhua newsagency report, CCP secretary general Xi Jinping also met members of the Tsinghua School of Economics and Management advisory board’s overseas members, and Chinese entrepreneurs who are also members, at the Great Hall of the People. Both meetings [with Zhu and Xi] even appeared to be accompanied by almost exactly the same staff.

值得注意的是,據新華社報導,中共總書記習近平當天也在北京人民大會堂會見北京清華經濟管理學院顧問委員會海外委員和中方企業家委員。連陪同會見的人員都幾乎一模一樣。

Among them were Chinese state council vice chief councillor Liu Yandong, Ma Kai, CPPCC vice chairman Chen Yuan, and [central] People’s Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan. Only CCP general office director Ding Xuexiang was an additional participant in the meeting with Xi Jinping.

其中包括,中國國務院副總理劉延東、馬凱,全國政協副主席陳元、中國人民銀行行長周小川。習近平會見外賓時只多了中共中央辦公廳主任丁薛祥。

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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Sino-Belarusian Cooperation: Many warm encouraging words

Links within blockquotes added during translation – JR

Deputy Head of the Belarus President Administration Nikolai Snopkov called on the Chinese business to adopt a more active position on the matter of establishment of joint ventures in Belarus during the negotiations with a Chinese delegation led by Xiao Yaqing, Chairman of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission at China’s State Council on 1 August,

the Belarusian Telegraph Agency reported on Tuesday. If you go by the way the newsagency quoted Snopkov, he struck a self-assured tone:

I believe that the corporations attending the current meeting that are discussing projects with Belarus will take an active position on the matter of setting up joint ventures in Belarus. We have heard many warm encouraging words from Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. I think this will give an impetus to the effort to implement the most effective projects in the shortest possible time.

The Belarusian administrator also referred to the platform for his country’s cooperation with China, the Belarus-China industrial park Great Stone (aka China-Belarus Industrial Park).

A leaflet from the industrial park’s administration explains Belarus’ relevance for the Chinese “One-belt-one-Road Initiative” as seen from Minsk:

The Republic of Belarus borders with the European Union and Russia, and is a trade corridor between the Europe Union and the EAEU.

Snopkov also mentioned the role of “powerful effective competitive state-run corporations”. Minsk and Beijing appear to agree that state-owned enterprises should continue to play an important role in their economies. In its July-22 edition, the Economist noted*) that

Strengthening the SOEs is consistent with Mr Xi’s belief in tighter state control of just about every aspect of society. A regulatory clampdown on bank lending to big companies, for example, is a way not just to clean up shadowy fnancial practices but to influence how private firms spend their cash.

Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko, himself a leading expert for everything from nookies for the motherland and delivery times to potatos and military technology, would hardly disagree.

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Note

*) Much, but not all of the “Economist” article can be found in this English lesson on the Sohu platform.

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Related

Gratuitous military assistance, BelTa, June 21, 2017

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Liu Xiaobo, 1955 – 2017

It won’t be long before Liu Xiaobo‘s first post-mortem biography will be published. But it won’t have the last word. There will be further biographies, and each of them will be contested. That’s because of the man himself, and because of his country. He was a man with a conscience, and his country has been a totalitarian dictatorship for nearly seven decades – if you count the KMT’s martial law in, it’s been a dictatorship for much longer than that.

Liu Xiaobo’s political lifespan lasted for three or four decades. That doesn’t count as long in China. The Communist Party’s propaganda works tirelessly to create and sustain the “People’s Republic’s” population’s imagination of a civilizational history of five or more millenia. And at the same time, the party needs to sustain the notion that the most recent seven decades had been the best in China’s history. Not only the past fourty, after the leadership’s decision to “reform and to open up”, but the past seven decades, including Maoism. CCP propaganda’s aim is to build an image of its rule where the pre- and post-1978 decades are one political unit, without substantial contradictions within.

In all likelihood, Liu Xiaobo had foreseen that trend. Many Chinese dissidents, no matter if opponents of China’s cultural restauration, or opponents of the KMT’s military dictatorship on Taiwan, saw a Chinese complacency at work, considering itself the center of the universe.

Cultural criticism is rarely a rewarding trade, but in China, it can be lethal, as shown in Liu Xiaobo’s case.

Liu’s last camp and prison term, which began in 2009 and ended with his relase on medical parole, with cancer in its final stage, had been based on the accusation that he had “incited subversion of state power”. But the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court’s verdict – passed on Christmas day of 2009, probably to keep the level of international attention as low as possible –  only reflected the CCP’s fear of Liu, not the likely divide between the dissident and his people. A likely divide only, because in a totalitarian dictatorship, these things are more uncertain than in an open society. Hu Jia, himself a dissident who spent more than three years in prison from 2007 to 2011, noted during Liu’s dying days that only about one out of a hundred Beijingers knew who Liu Xiaobo was. Michael Bristow, the BBC’s China correspondent  in 2011, made a similar observation back then.

The 1980s mostly came across as a period of economic optimism, but accompanied by phenomena that were viewed negatively – particularly corruption, which was one of the factors that propelled the June-4 movement at its beginning.

Liu’s answer to what was frequently seen as China’s ailments was “westernization”. Stays in Western countries seem to have intensified his idea, just as Deng Xiaoping is said to have had his own cultural shock when visiting Singapore, in 1978.

But there lies a difference between the great statesman, and the great dissident. Singapore, a highly developed city state led by a family clan, is a model not only for authoritarian Chinese nationals – Taiwanese law-and-order-minded people tend to prefer Singapore as a holiday destination, rather than “messy” Hong Kong.

Liu Xiaobo’s model of development was Hong Kong of the 1980s. It was also the crown colony that provided the intellectual in his early thirties with some public resonance. In one of the interviews, given by Liu to a magazine named Kaifang at the time, Liu made statements that astonished the interviewer:

Q. Under what circumstances can China carry out a genuine historical transformation?
A. Three hundred years of colonialism.  Hong Kong became like this after one hundred years of colonialism.  China is so much larger, so obviously it will take three hundred years of colonialism.  I am still doubtful whether three hundred years of colonialism will be enough to turn China into Hong Kong today.

Q. This is 100% “treason.”
A. I will cite one sentence from Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party: “Workers do not have motherlands.  You cannot take away what they don’t have.”  I care about neither patriotism nor treason.  If you say that I betray my country, I will go along!  I admit that I am an impious son who dug up his ancestors’ graves and I am proud of it.

Both the “insults” and Liu’s expressly stated pessimism probably made for a divide between him and many Chinese (as far as they got to know his story). Or, as Roland Soong, a blogger from Hong Kong, noted next to his translation of the 1988 interview, as of 2010, “I suggest that unless Charter 08 (or any other message) can connect with many people in other social strata, it will remain a mental exercise among ‘public intellectuals.'”

And nothing works in the modern middle kingdom, unless it comes with a festive up-with-people sound. (In that sense, China is globalizing indeed.)

When Soong translated the interview quoted from above, and added his assessment of the Charter 08, the global financial crisis had been wreaking havoc on Western economies for about two years, and at least one of the Charter’s demands had fallen from the tree since: #14 called for

Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

There wasn’t necessarily a conflict on this matter, between the party leadership and the authors of the Charter – time will show how the CCP is going to handle the remaining state sector of the economy. But among everyday Chinese people, this demand would hardly strike a chord. Besides, who can imagine a transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership “in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner”?

In the Charter’s preface, the authors wrote:

The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

It was a cautious description of the status quo: Liu and his co-authors understood that only a critical minority would side with them. And indeed, there was more to endure in the pipeline. The educational dictatorship China is now entering encourages anticipatory obedience rather than awareness, and it is likely to succeed. When you keep beating people up long enough – and provide them with a hopeful perspective for the future -, there is little that can help people of conscience to counter the propaganda.

This may be the main difference between Liu and his enemies (and many of his admirers, too): in the eyes of many, only hard power – no matter if you refer to it as “the people’s power” or as the “authorities” -, creates reality. If the realities are good, you don’t need to get involved. If they are evil, you can’t get involved. And when realities come in many shades of grey, you either needn’t or can’t get involved. The power of the powerless is no reality in these peoples’ world – unless they begin to tilt, so that re-orientation appears advisable.

That’s a stabilizing factor, so long as realities remain what they appear to be.  But appearances can be deceiving, often until the very last hour. Who of the Egyptians who ditched their longtime president in 2011, in colossal demonstrations, had known weeks before that he wanted to get rid of him? A mood had capsized. It wasn’t about awareness.

A manipulated and intimidated public tends to be unpredictable, and that can turn factors around that were originally meant to add to “stability”.

China’s leaders feared Liu Xiaobo. They feared him to the extent that they wouldn’t let him leave the country, as long as he could still speak a word. But in all likelihood, they fear China’s widespread, politically tinged, religious sects even more, which have a tradition at least as long as Chinese scholarship. Falun Gong is only one of its latest manifestations.

By suppressing public intellectuals not only before 1978, but after that, too, they provided space for nervous moodiness. The Communists themselves want to “guide” (i. e. control) public awareness, without leaving anything to chance.

But chance is inevitable. Totalitarian routine may be able to cope for some time, but is likely to fail in the long run, with disastrous consequences.

In that light, the CCP missed opportunities to reform and modernize the country. But then, the party’s totalitarian skeleton made sure that they could only see the risks, and no opportunities, in an opening society.

What remains from Charter 08 – for now – is the courage shown by its authors nine years ago, and by the citizens who affirmed it with their signatures.

Each of them paid a price, to varying degrees, and often, their families and loved ones did so, too: like Liu Xia, who had hoped that her husband would not get involved in drafting the Charter, but who would never dissociate herself from him.

Nobody is obligated to show the same degree of courage, unless solidarity or conscience prescribe it. In most cases, making such demands on oneself would be excessive. But those who hate the Lius for their courage – and for lacking this courage themselves – should understand that their hatred is wrong. One may keep still as a citizen – but there is an inevitable human duty to understand the difference between right and wrong. By denying our tolerance toward despotism and by repressing awareness of our own acquiescence, we deny ourselves even the small steps into the right direction, that could be taken without much trouble, or economic hardship.

May Liu Xiaobo never be forgotten – and may Liu Xia find comfort and recovery.

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Updates/Related

再生:致刘晓波, Woeser, July 13, 2017
Rebirth, Woeser/Boyden, July 16, 2017
Wiedergeburt, Woeser/Forster, July 27, 2017
The abuse hasn’t stopped, Wu Gan, July 25, 2017

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

China’s “Core Interests” are becoming peripheral

With the national security law, it has become even clearer that the term refers to what Chinese leaders see as three sacrosanct rights of the nation,

the New York Times (NYT) noted in July 2015:

maintaining the political system, with unquestioned rule by the Communist Party; defending sovereignty claims and territorial integrity; and economic development.

That represented “a considerable expansion” of China’s previous “core-interest” concept, which had been believed to refer to Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang.

The NYT article described a history of expanding the concept. Earlier this year, probably under the flag of “economic-development core interest”, it has reached South Asia.

Arguing that most of India’s “peripheral countries are also Beijing’s neighbors”, a “Global Times” author wrote on March 21 this year that

When an increasing number of Chinese companies get established in these countries, it is inevitable that Beijing will boost defense collaboration with them to protect not only China’s, but also the region’s interest.

If India tried to “balance China” in the region, rather than being part of the pursuit of China and regional countries for common development, grave consequences would be in the pipeline:

If such tendencies in India continue, China will have to fight back, because its core interests will have been violated. This is not what we hope for, but the ball is in India’s court.

In short: with the core interest of economic development comes defense collaboration abroad.

The core is becoming peripheral.

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Related

Your Sea is our Sea, my Sea is my Sea, July 16, 2015
The Stupid Little Mermaid, March 12, 2009

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Political Time Check (Febr 2017): “Synchronized Efforts”

The following is a translation of an article published by the “People’s Daily”, online and in its printed edition, on February 14 this year, by an author named Zhao Zhenyu (赵振宇). Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Main link: “Time Culture – Galloping into the Realms of Dreams”

“A leading cadre’s time of reign is limited, and even more limited is the time he works in the same place. As leading cadres, we must, in the spirit of strife from dawn to dusk, cherish time just the more, make use of this limited time, to do practical and good things for the masses.” During the past few days, when I reviewed secretary general Xi Jinping’s discussion of time, I felt the style of pragmatic and careful work again, and experienced again the time civilization, which is indispensible to the era of pursuing the Chinese dream.

“一个领导干部,在位的时间是有限的,在一个地方工作的时间更有限。我们每一个领导干部都要以‘只争朝夕’的精神,倍加珍惜在位的时间,充分利用这有限的时间,多为群众办实事、办好事。”近日重温习近平总书记关于时间的谈话,再次感受到务实、精细的工作作风,体会到逐梦时代不可或缺的时间文明。

The seasons come and go, untouched by the words that try to describe them. In the beginning, time was an abstract concept, and something hard to grasp. When the forefathers of humankind began to record things by tying knots, measuring time was still something people strived to understand and to master, and became a criterion of civilisational expansion and progress. Of course, in history, people from ancient times formed an awareness of time under the impression of “work from sunrise and to rest after the sunset”, and they developed an attitude that appreciated time, by “attributing little value to a jade ring, but great importance to a single ray of light”. They were careful “not to miss the farming season, so as to reap the harvest in due course”. Time culture, with its connotations of understanding and cherishing time and respecting punctuality, reminds us to scientifically master time, and to effectively use time.

天不言而四时行,时间最初是一个抽象而难以把握的概念。从人类先祖结绳记事开始,定量化的时间才被逐渐认识和掌握,成为文明拓进的一个向度。当然在历史上,古人很早就形成了“日出而作,日入而息”的时间意识,形成了“贱尺璧而重寸阴”的惜时态度,形成了“不违农时,谷不可胜食也”的守时观念。以识时、惜时、守时为内涵的时间文明,提醒我们科学把握时间、有效利用时间。

No blossoming dream can occur without irrigation, and no civilizational advancement can do without the helping hand of time. Time pushes ahead without turning back, and any waste of time amounts to affecting a society’s civilization negatively. Time is the material that forms life, and wasting other peoples’ time means nothing less than scheming murder. In particular, it is the context of “infinite time” and “finiteness of life” that magnifies the value of time and the significance of struggle. That’s why Marx said that all savings ultimately amounted to saving time. As we enter the modern era of milliseconds and microseconds, the architectures-dream value of time becomes yet more apparent. Only by conserving time culture and renovating the notion of time, can we surge forward to enrich human life, and gallop into the realms of dreams.

一切梦想的花开,都离不开时间的浇灌,一切文明的进阶,都离不开时间的助力。时间总是不可逆转地向前推进,对时间的浪费,不啻对社会文明的怠慢甚至贻误。时间是组成生命的材料,浪费别人的时间无异于谋财害命。尤其在“无限的时间”与“有限的生命”的语境下,更凸显出时间的宝贵、奋斗的意义。所以马克思说,一切节约归根到底都是时间的节约。当时代的车轮驶入以毫秒、微秒计时的现代社会,时间的筑梦价值更加显现。涵养时间文明,刷新时间观念,我们才能激荡出彩人生、驰骋梦想国度。

“dit dit dit … Beijing time is x hours.” On December 15, 1970, the National Time Service Center began to broadcast Beijing standard time to the nation on shortwave. From that time on, this familiar timecheck became a reference for peoples’ coming and going. Achieving the goals of the struggles for the Chinese dream and of the “two two-hundreds”, on this brave march forward and the center’s*) strategic dispositons and reform guidelines equally depend on synchronization by Beijing time. All regions, all departments, and all units, in the process of reform and development, are united in action, in unanimous efforts. Connection with the center*) by synchronization and example guarantee that our ideology and our actions serve as rules, and only this enables the entire nation’s chessboard implementation of cooperation, to rise to the cohesive effect of “pearls falling into a jade plate”.

“嘀嘀嘀……北京时间×点整。”1970年12月15日,国家授时中心开始向全国进行短波广播标准的北京时间。从那时起,这个耳熟能详的报时声成为人们出入起居的时间参照。实现中国梦、实现“两个一百年”的奋斗目标,在这条奋进之路上,中央的战略部署和改革方针,同样是我们需要不断对表的北京时间。各地区、各部门、各单位,在改革发展中同中央步调一致、力度一致,一以贯之地与中央对表、看齐,确保我们的思想与行动都以此为准,才能产生“全国上下一盘棋”的落实合力,起到“大珠小珠落玉盘”的聚合效果。

From the venturing cry of “ten thousand years are too long, seize the day, seize the hour” to the firm exploration of “Development is the unyielding argument”, and to the magnificent journey of “reform does not stall, opening up does not stop”, time culture on the national level has amply broken new ground of meaning. We must continue to cultivate this kind of time consciousness. In reality, there is no action of reform and development without a time frame. When it comes to structural reform of production capacities and supply, it is true that resisting forces remain strong, and policies to enable access to pure resources, clean energy etc. comes at high costs, but if we can’t resolutely and decisively implement reform, we may lose the exceptionally favourable opportunity of economic transformation. As for realizing the key issue of moderate prosperity, to seize the opportunity that time provides us with, from an insightful position, is exactly the best attitude to welcome the future.

从“一万年太久,只争朝夕”的创业呐喊,到“发展才是硬道理”的坚定探索,再到“改革不停顿、开放不止步”的壮丽征程,国家层面时间文明充满开拓进取意味。今天,我们仍然需要培育这样的时间意识。现实中,各项改革发展举措,莫不有时间窗口。去产能、去库存等供给侧结构性改革任务固然阻力重重,置备污染净化设备、普及清洁能源等治霾之策固然成本高企,但我们现在如果不能毅然决然地落实改革,就可能丧失经济转型的绝佳时机。对冲刺在实现全面小康关键一程上的中国而言,把握时间给予的机遇,正是眺望前路、迎向未来的最好姿态。

As the times are changing, the dream advances. [Reference to the lunar calendar.] In the new growth ring of the years, our energetic mood shows promise, the struggle forges ahead, and they will certainly carve beautiful memories that won’t drag the mission and the era.

时序更替,梦想前行。农历丁酉年是鸡年,雄鸡司晨昭示时光宝贵,闻鸡起舞激扬勤奋精神。在新的时间年轮里,我们奋发有为、拼搏进取,一定能刻写下不负使命不负时代的美好回忆。

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Note

*) the central committee and/or the central government – probably the central committee in this context

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Related

Strategic inflection point, A. S. Grove, 1996, 1999
Grundrisse (in English), Karl Marx, 1857 – 61

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