Posts tagged ‘education’

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Warum gibt es Propaganda?

Im folgenden Blockquote eine nicht autorisierte Übersetzung aus Jacques Ellul, “Propaganda – the Formation of Men’s Attitudes”, New York, 1965, 1973 in englischer Übersetzung des französischen Originals, Seiten 105 (u.) – 108 (0.).

Fußnoten wurden weggelassen. Inhaltliche Irrtümer beim Übersetzen sowie Typos sind jederzeit möglich.

Ich stelle meine auszugsweise Übersetzung hier unter der Annahme ein, dass sie unter “fair use” fällt, was auf der FC-Plattform möglicherweise nicht der Fall wäre.

Man muss auch im Auge behalten, dass Propaganda sich auf die dichteste Masse konzentrieren muss – sie muss organisiert werden für die enorme Masse Einzelner. Diese große Mehrheit findet sich nicht unter den Reichen oder sehr Armen; Propaganda wird also für die gemacht, die einen bestimmten Lebensstandard erreicht haben. In westlichen Ländern wendet sich Propaganda an den Durchschnittsmenschen, der alleine eine wirkliche Kraft repräsentiert. Aber, man könnte sagen, in den sehr armen Ländern wie Indien oder den arabischen Nationen wendet sich Propaganda an eine andere Masse, an die sehr Armen, die fellahin. Nun, der Punkt ist der, dass diese Armen nur sehr geringfügig und langsam auf irgendeine Propaganda reagieren, die nicht Agitationspropaganda ist. Die Studenten und Händler reagieren – nicht die Armen. Dies erklärt die Schwäche von Propaganda in Indien und Ägypten. Denn wenn Propaganda wirkungsvoll sein soll, muss der Propagandisierte einen bestimmten Vorrat an Ideen und eine Anzahl konditionierter Reflexe haben. Diese werden nur mit etwas Wohlstand erworben, mit etwas Erziehung, und der inneren Ruhe, die aus relativer Sicherheit erwächst.

Im Gegensatz dazu kommen alle Propagandisten aus der oberen Mittelklasse, ob sowjetisch, nazi, japanisch oder amerikanische Propaganda. Die reiche und sehr gebildete Klasse stellt keine Propagandisten zur Verfügung, weil sie fern vom Volk ist und es nicht gut genug versteht, um es zu beeinflussen. Die untere Klasse kann keine zur Verfügung stellen, weil ihre Mitglieder selten die Möglichkeiten haben, sich selbst auszubilden  (selbst in der UdSSR); und wichtiger, sie können nicht ein paar Schritte zurücktreten und sich ihre Klasse mit der Perspektive ansehen, die erforderlich ist, wenn man Symbole für sie konstruieren will. Daher zeigen Studien, dass die meisten propagandisten aus der Mittelklasse rekrutiert werden.

Die Bandbreite propagandistischen Einflusses ist größer und umfasst auch die untere Mittelklasse und die obere Arbeiterklasse. Aber damit, dass man den Lebensstandard erhöht, immunisiert man niemanden gegen Propaganda – im Gegenteil. Natürlich, wenn jeder sich auf dem Level der unteren Mittelklasse befände, hätte die heutige propaganda vielleicht weniger Erfolgsaussichten. Aber in Anbetracht der Tatsache, dass der Aufstieg zu diesem Level allmählich erfolgt, macht der steigende Lebensstandard – im Westen, wie auch im Osten und in Afrika, die kommenden Generationen empfänglicher für Propaganda. Letztere etabliert ihren Einfluss, während Arbeitsbedingungen, Ernährung und Wohnbedingungen sich verbessern und während gleichzeitig ein gewisse Standardisierung der Menschen einsetzt, ihre Umformung zu dem, was man als normale, typische Leute betrachtet. Aber während das Aufkommen eines solchen [106] “normalen” Typs einmal automatisch und spontan war, wird es nun immer mehr zu einer systematischen Schöpfung, bewusst, geplant und beabsichtigt. Die technischen Aspekte der menschlichen Arbeit, ein klares Konzept sozialer Beziehungen und nationaler Ziele, die Errichtung einer Form üblichen Lebens – das alles führt zur Schöpfung eines Typs normaler Menschen und führt alle Menschen in geeigneter Weise, auf einer Vielzahl von Wegen, hin zu dieser Norm.

Darum wird Anpassung zu einem der Schlüsselworte allen psychologischen Einflusses. Ob es sich nun um eine Frage der Anpassung an Arbeitsbedingungen, des Konsums oder eines Milieus handelt – eine klare und bewusste Absicht, Menschen in das “normale” Muster zu integrieren, herrscht überall vor. Dies ist der Gipfel propagandistischen Handelns. Zum Beispiel besteht kein großer Unterschied zwischen Maos Theorie der “Gussform” und dem McCarthyismus. In beiden Fällen ist Normalität das Ziel, in Übereinstimmung mit einer bestimmten Lebensweise. Für Mao ist Normalität eine Art idealen Menschens, der Prototyp des Kommunisten, der geformt werden muss, und dies kann nur damit getan werden, dass der Einzelne in eine Form gepresst wird, in der er die gewünschte Form annehmen wird. Da das nicht über Nacht passieren kann, muss der Einzelne wieder und wieder in die Form gepresst werden, und Mao sagt, dass es dem Einzelnen selbst völlig bewusst ist, dass er sich dieser Operation aussetzen muss.

Auf der anderen Seite und mit anderen Formeln gibt es den McCarthyismus. Der McCarthyismus ist kein Zufall. Er drückt eine tiefe Strömung in der amerikanischen Meinung gegen alles “Unamerikanische” aus und beutet sie gleichzeitig aus. Er beschäftigt sich weniger mit Meinungen als mit einer Lebensweise. Herauszufinden, dass die Zugehörigkeit zu einem Milieu, einer Gruppe oder einer Familie, in der es Kommunisten gibt, als verwerflich gilt, überrascht, denn hier sind nicht Ideen, sondern eine abweichende Lebensweise von Bedeutung. Dies führt in der Literatur zu unamerikanischen Aktivitäten zur Assoziation von Alkoholismus oder Homosexualität mit Kommunismus, und zu den Regeln, bekanntgemacht 1952, die das “Risiko geringer Sicherheit” aufstellte und zur Rasterung von 7.000 Funktionären führte. Es gab für diese Ermittlung keinen anderen Grund als den, dass der Kommunist “anormal” ist, weil er nicht das “normale” akzeptiert – also den amerikanischen way of life. Diese “anormale” Person muss natürlich als solche behandelt, aller Verantwortlichkeiten enthoben und umerzogen werden. Daher wurden amerikanische Gefangene im Koreakrieg, die mit Kommunismus kontaminiert zu sein schienen, nach ihrer Freilassung in Krankenhäuser verlegt und psychiatrisch und medizinisch in einem Krankenhaus in Valley Forge behandelt. In der derzeitigen amerikanischen Meinung werden alle Anstrengungen, das, was dem amerikanischen Way of Life nicht entspricht und ihn gefährdet [zu bekämpfen], notwendigerweise als gute Werke betrachtet.

Zusammenfassend: Die Schaffung von Normalität in unserer Gesellschaft kann eine von zwei Formen annehmen. Sie kann das Ergebnis wissenschaftlicher, psychosozialer Analyse sein, die auf Statistiken beruht – das ist die amerikanische Art der Normalität. Sie kann auch ideologisch und doktrinär sein – das ist der kommunistische Typ. Aber die Ergebnisse sind identisch: solche Normalität führt notwendigerweise zu Propaganda, die den Einzelnen auf das Muster reduzieren kann, das der Gesellschaft am nützlichsten ist.

Eine PDF-Datei der englischsprachigen Vorlage findet sich »dort und enthält auch die hier übersetzten Seiten 105 – 108.

Friday, May 20, 2016

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

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

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

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

The CNA translation puts it less pictographic:

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

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

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Germany: Is “The Ivan” Back?

The Russians are coming was a standard line when I was a child. Sometimes, everyone into the blockhouses would be added. it was meant to be fun, but there was an underlying fear in it.

Another term for Russians in general would be The Ivan*) (probably an echo from “Ivan the Terrible”). At least in West Germany, fear of Russia was part of collective post-war identity – much more so than in Britain or France.

There may be many possible explanations for this, and I tend to believe that it was a combination of several factors (Germany being subject to allied, including Soviet, control being one that lasted particularly long) was one of them. West Germany’s existence and raison d’être as a frontline state was another. And then, there was a widespread inclination among many Germans to see their country as a victim in the first place, rather than as an initiator of Nazism and boundless war.

By 1983, it had become evident, at least in certain quarters, that the USSR had lost most of its expansionary power. In terms of soft power, Moscows message had become about as attractive as athlete’s foot, and in military terms, the “Evil Empire” was grossly overestimated.

But there was a narrative, and as usual (when the narrative is well crafted), it prevailed over facts. On March 31, 1983, US president Ronald Reagan told a Los Angeles World Affairs Council Luncheon that

In the last 15 years or more, the Soviet Union has engaged in a relentless military buildup, overtaking and surpassing the United States in major categories of military power, acquiring what can only be considered an offensive military capability. All the moral values which this country cherishes-freedom, democracy, the right of peoples and nations to determine their own destiny, to speak and write, to live and worship as they choose—all these basic rights are fundamentally challenged by a powerful adversary which does not wish these values to survive.

Der Spiegel, back then a center-left and liberal German newsmagazine, took issue with Reagan. While the USSR was certainly no paper tiger, and while it was true that Soviet military had seen a huge push during two decades under Leonid Brezhnev (with American military budgets being  reduced by some 2.5 percent per year during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter presidencies), the USSR’s military power wasn’t as strong as first reported.

Shortly before a paper was published by US secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger (also in March 1983, and supportive of Reagan’s March-31 remarks), the CIA had retracted all its US statements concerning Moscow’s military budget:

military expenditures had been overestimated by fifty percent. Rather than by three, four, or more percent, there had been growth by a maximum of two percent since 1976.

Such subtleties, however, didn’t put Ronald Reagan off-message. His story remained the same; the Soviet Union was about to put an end to [a]ll the moral values which this country cherishes.

Fourty-year-old statistics like those debted in the early 1980s are hard to verify (or falsify). But in at least one respect, the Spiegel authors, in 1983, were wrong: contrary to what they believed (quoting “experts”), America proved able to finish the USSR off in a gargantuan arms race, and the factors that lead to the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991 were pretty much the weaknesses that the Spiegel authors themselves had pointed out less than a decade earlier.

The rest, as they say, is history. The world, from Alaska to Siberia (the long way round, of course), and from Pole to Pole, happily awaited huge peace dividends. After all, we had reached the end of history.

But Russia felt squeezed by NATO – understandably, the Baltic nations and Poland had felt rather urgently that they needed a strong reassurance against potential future Russian expansionism. (Not everyone appeared to trust the story about the end of history, and besides, a democratic society doesn’t necessarily live in a peaceful, unaggressive state.

Germans have viewed Russia – and the Soviet Union – differently since the mid-1980s. By 1987, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had overtaken Ronald Reagan, in terms of popularity here. That didn’t change after the USSR’s demise: while Gorbachev was seen as a failure, or even a “sellout” of sourts, among many Russians, Germans considered him “the” man who had made German unification possible. And Boris Yeltsin‘s Russia, even if not looking terribly respectable at the time, certainly didn’t look like something to fear either.

In an article in Germany’s weekly Die Zeit, a Moscow correspondent stated in May 1994 that once again, a majority of Russians considered the end of the USSR a greater calamity than its beginnings, and that Russian reformers had not been successful in “learning from the West”, as stipulated by Yeltsin two and a half years earlier.

Yeltsin had to accept that the safeguarding of authority, which had for centuries been based on expansion rather than on enlightenment, could not be redesigned with a new constitution alone.

Jelzin hat einsehen müssen, daß Herrschaftssicherung, die seit Jahrhunderten durch Ausdehnung statt durch Aufklärung erfolgte, mit einer neuen Verfassung alleine nicht umgestaltet werden kann.

Only pacts and compromises with conservative forces could save the “autumn” of Yeltsin’s presidency, the correspondent wrote.

In economic terms, a Stratfor paper dating from November 1999 suggested that veterans of perestroika, such as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin or former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, could strip the oligarchs of their wealth and influence, and enact more centrist policies.

To quite an extent, this seems to be what Vladimir Putin‘s presidency has done. In its early years, it continued the ideological consolidation started by Yeltsin himself, and his administration began to implement a policy that the “Zeit” Moscow correspondent described as west-oriented as a matter of principle, but moving away from America in particular. […] In America, however, the “Zeit” article quoted Yeltsin, forces were concentrating that would like to keep Russia in a state of controllable paralysis. That said, Putin  – in the eyes of investors – may have arrived at a point similar to Yeltsin’s, by now. Too little appears to move, economically.

When reading the press these days – certainly the German press -, you might be forgiven if you think that Russian policies had fundamentally changed since the 1990s. But they haven’t. There has been a remarkable Russian continuity – and a tendency in the West to disregard realities in Russia, and in its remaining sphere of influence.

When late German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle told Moscow in December 2013 that it was “not appropriate” for the EU “to ask third parties for permission before inviting the Ukraine to develop into Europe’s direction”, this represented widespread western- and central European illusions.

Russia, too, is a European country – most Russians live on the European continent, and Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Volgograd not least, are European cities. The discriminatory – and self-centred – approach of equating Europe with the EU has done much to its recent crises, be it on its eastern, be it on its northwestern boundaries.

There is an important difference to make: it would have been unethical if NATO had refused Polish or a Baltic country’s accessions, and it would have been particularly unethical if Germany a main author of Polish partition and loss of the Baltic states’ sovereignty,- had demanded such a refusal.

But in Ukraine, there had been no consensus to join an alliance with the West. In a row, administrations closer to Moscow or closer to the West had been elected, but there had been no continuity. There was Russian intervention, but there had been unwarranted Western interference prior to that. I have no doubt that any Russian leader, be it Putin, Yeltsin, or Gorbachev, would have reacted just the way Putin did. That was no matter of conviction; it was a matter of geopolitics.

Now, Germany’s federal government intends to counter Russian espionage, propaganda, and disinformation in Germany, writes German daily Die Welt. What they mean is, that Russian and pro-Putin publications have blown several issues in the news – issues that have recently troubled many Germans – out of proportions, or given them a slant that favored narratives from the fringes, rather than the much-conjured “center” of German society.

If the German public can be persuaded by domestic propaganda to swing back from a rather “russophile” (since the 1980s) to a rather anti-Russian attitude again (as from the 1940s to the 1970s) remains to be seen. But if the political class have their way, it is going to work that way.

That said, there are surprises, once in a while. In May 2015, Joachim Gauck, not particularly famous for being a friend of the Russian people, gave a speech in the Westphalian town of Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war campsite during World War 1 and, more notoriously, World War 2. What Gauck said, was this:

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

Saying that was laudable, especially as most Germans I know aren’t even aware of this chapter in their history. But there is a catch: to say something only once hardly changes anything. Only regular repetition – as anyone with just a faint idea of how propaganda works can tell you – will make sink inconvenient truths like these sink in. Most Germans I know aren’t actually aware of the scale of German warcrimes against Soviet war prisoners. And to make the warprisoner story sink in isn’t deemed desirable: neither by most of Germany’s media, nor by the German population in general, many of whom would like to see a Schlußstrich, a “final stroke” underneath the complete chapter of Nazism.

Some time in the early 1980s – prior to Gorbachev’s tenure as Soviet party secretary -, the West German foreign office published a booklet for use in school classes. Our school was a rather conservative environment, but the booklet made it into our classroom anyway. Titled “Aufrüsten-Abrüsten” (Armament-Disarmament), it was a try to educate us in foreign politics, and I don’t remember much of it. But there was a remarkable line in it which basically said that, no matter to which conclusions we, as school students, might come concerning the Soviet Union’s role in Europe, we should develop some sympathy – even if not necessarily acquiescence – in the light of the past.

I guess that this booklet had much to do with the man at the helm of the foreign office at the time – Hans-Dietrich Genscher, German foreign minister from 1974 to 1992, who died on Thursday. As phobic as West German feelings against the “East” might have been back then, there seemed to be an understanding, at least in some substantial quarters of the political class, that you can’t have peace without trying to understand those who may (or may not) become your foes, and that your own decisions may matter in the process.

This understanding may no longer be here, and I’m wondering how much misery it may take before we will regain some common sense.

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Notes

*) Max Frisch, in his novel “Homo Faber”, raised a modest monument for German anti-Russian sentiment, in the shape of an, as it turns out later, otherwise/actually/mostly quite likeable German philistine:

No German desired re-armament, but the Russian forced America into it, tragically, which I, as a Swissman […], couldn’t judge, because I hadn’t been to the Caucasus, he [the German] had been in the Caucasus, he knew the Ivan, who could only be taught a lesson with weapons. He knew the Ivan! He said that several times. Only possible lesson through weapons!, he said, because nothing else would impress him, the Ivan —

I peeled my apple.

Distinction between Herrenmenschen and Untermenschen, as advocated by the good Hitler, was, of course, nonsense; but Asians remained Asians —

I ate my apple.

Kein  Deutscher  wünsche  Wiederbewaffnung,  aber  der  Russe zwinge  Amerika  dazu,  Tragik,  ich  als  Schweizer   (Schwyzzer, wie  er mit Vorliebe sagte)  könne  alldies  nicht   beurteilen,  weil  nie im Kaukasus gewesen,  er sei  im  Kaukasus gewesen,  er  kenne den Iwan, der nur durch Waffen zu belehren sei. Er kenne den Iwan!
Das  sagte  er mehrmals. Nur durch Waffen zu  belehren!  sagte  er, denn alles andere  mache  ihm keinen Eindruck,  dem  Iwan   –

Ich  schälte meinen Apfel.

Unterscheidung   nach  Herrenmenschen   und   Untermenschen, wie’s  der  gute  Hitler  meinte, sei  natürlich  Unsinn;  aber  Asiaten bleiben Asiaten –
Ich  aß meinen Apfel.

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Friday, April 1, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Footnotes

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

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

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

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

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

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Monday, February 1, 2016

Daddy Xi, carrying forward China’s Splendid Traditional Culture

Original headline:

Hear Mister Personality Daddy Xi discuss Traditional Culture (听习大大谈传统文化).

The »article, first published by Guangming Daily online (光明网), is a collection of Xi Jinping quotes from 2013 to 2014.

Xinhua re-publication of a Guangming Daily online article

Click picture for source

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Related

» They just like him, BBC, Sept 23, 2015
» The CCP’s Cultural Design, Jan 6, 2012

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Economist: CCP is “Plundering History to justify its Present-Day Ambitions”

Granted, this may become the first time after World War 2 that China commemorates the occasion with a big military parade, rather than with a solemn remembrance ceremony. But did it really take this upcoming September event to make The Economist aware that the Communist Party is plundering history to justify its present-day ambitions? That the Xi leadership is showing a blatant disregard for the fact that it was not the Chinese communists who bore the brunt of the fighting against Japan, but their sworn enemies, the nationalists (or Kuomintang) under Chiang Kai-shek? This is by far the most serious criticism of Beijing that I have seen in the Economist ever since I started reading about a decade ago. And it has been overdue.

To be clear: the Economist has been critical in the past, too. When China (apparently) slowed exports of rare-earth minerals to Japan after the arrest of a Chinese crawler crew by the Japanese coastguard, the paper referred to that as an especially nefarious turn. But that was at a time of open crisis. The real problem isn’t that there are occasional outbursts of Chinese wrath against once criminal or now obstinate neighbors. The problem is the daily mass indoctrination in Chinese schools and media.

The German press also appears to have become more critical. Random choice: “Doubtful of China”, a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung headline a week ago, on August 12. The short leader on page one suggested that

for years, the Chinese government has marketed itself that successfully that one almost believed it could walk on water. Whatever unpleasant things it would do in terms of human rights, the economy worked out, and that was/is the real bottom line for many abroad. For a few weeks now, the high-gloss storefront is getting scratches. Another rather big one has been added by the Chinese central bank now. It has devalued the national currency as much as never in two decades, which is being analyzed on page 15.

In short, the paper quotes “observers” who doubt that the devaluation is a step towards liberalizing the exchange-rate regime, and hence a concession to IMF demands.

The quarrels about Beijing distorting economic competition isn’t new. But how the CCP is distorting history have hardly been a regular issue in the mainstream press. All the same, such views, publicized in no uncertain terms, should be welcomed and encouraged by all people who believe that truthfulness about history is important.

Truthfulness also requires self-criticism. Yes, Beijing is pretty good at selling itself and its record, as noted by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. But most of the successful propaganda work abroad hasn’t been done by Chinese propagandists or “public diplomats”. It has been done by the international press. And if China’s economy should become the big economic attraction again, be it for an unlikely return to double-digit growth rates or for any other reasons, expect the foreign adulation of the incredible strategists to resume.

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Related

» Do markets determine …, M. Pettis, Aug 18, 2015
» CCP should face history honestly, July 7, 2015
» China Cultural Year 2012, March 1, 2012
» Message to a Barbarian, June 26, 2011
» Fragility of Truth, Economist, Oct 8, 2009
» Covert business lobby, Project Censored, 1996/2010

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Monday, May 11, 2015

China’s Press commemorates WW2: Criticizing the Impenitent by Lauding the Remorseful

This was the commemoration of VE day, but the military parade in Moscow on Saturday rather looked like VJ Day. Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping took the seat that had been US president George W.Bush’s ten years earlier, and proably would have been Barack Obama’s, hadn’t he stayed away, as most Western leaders did, as a reaction to Russia’s Ukraine policies.

Xi Jinping's Moscow Mercedes: Germany's leaders boycotted the parade, but the German-made car pool didn't

Xi Jinping’s Moscow Mercedes: Germany’s leaders boycotted the parade, but the German-made car pool didn’t (CCTV/Xinwen Lianbo coverage, click picture for Youtube video)

Also, for the first time ever, according to Chinese media, a Chinese guard of honor took part in the parade. Xinhua celebrated the great moment:

Greeting the air of spring in Moscow and marching to the “Katyusha” theme, the 102-strong People’s Liberation Army guard of honor, full of high spirits, passed Moscow’s Red Square, showing military prestige, and manifesting national power. On the reviewing stand, Chairman Xi Jinping stood and waved to them.

迎着莫斯科的春光,踏着《喀秋莎》的旋律,由102人组成的中国人民解放军仪仗方队意气风发走过莫斯科红场,走出了军威,彰显了国威。检阅台上,习近平主席起身向他们挥手致意。

But they didn’t only attract the world’s attention for their gallant formation and morale, and not only for their distinctive arrangement rhythmic marching pace, and also not only this was the first time that this was the first time China dispatched a guard of honor to take part in a Red-Square military review.

在莫斯科红场,中国军人吸引了世界的目光,这不仅仅是因为他们军容严整、士气高昂;不仅仅是因为他们独特的队形编排和富有韵律的步态步速;也不仅仅因为这是中国首次派出仪仗方队参加红场阅兵。

The Chinese troops on Moscow’s Red Square attracted millions of peoples‘ attention. This guard of honor, representing the Chinese troops‘ image, vigour and strength made people remember the sacrifices made by the Chinese and Russian armies in the world’s just war against and victory over fascism, manifested the strategic and coordinated relationship between the Chinese and the Russian armies, taking the common mission of their two countries to maintain the peaceful development of the world.

在莫斯科红场,接受检阅的中国军人令万众瞩目。这支代表中国军队形象、精神和实力的仪仗方队,令人追忆中俄两国两军为世界反法西斯正义战争胜利作出的牺牲和贡献,彰显着中俄两国两军全面战略协作关系,承载着两国共同维护世界和平发展的使命。

As China’s military passed across Moscows Red Square, the sound of their footsteps expressed the solemn promise of forever remembering history.

当中国军人走过莫斯科红场,铿锵的足音里,表达出铭记历史的庄严承诺。 […]

Forgetting history spells betrayal (忘记历史就意味着背叛), writes Xinhua. Probably, this does not refer to the way the article itself celebrates what was the CCP’s Red Army at the time of World War 2, and ignores the role of the KMT’s – then regular – Chinese troops.

To commemorate war means avoiding war. Seventy years ago, Chinese and Russian did immortal deeds in the world’s war against and victory over fascism. In this 21rst century, the two countries are permanent members of the United Nations‘ Security Council, and bear a great responsibility for the protection of the fruits of victory in World War 2 and international fairness and justice, for the promotion of the international order taking a more just and reasonable direction, for regional and global peace, security, and stability.

纪念战争是为了避免战争。70年前,中俄为世界反法西斯战争胜利建立了不朽的功勋。在21世纪的今天,两国作为联合国安理会常任理事国,对共同捍卫二战胜利成果和国际公平正义,对促进国际秩序朝着更加公正合理的方向发展,对地区及世界的和平、安全、稳定,都负有重大责任。

Kind of naturally, the mainstream Western press is taking a less cordial look at the parade and its supposed implications.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has used the anniversary to whip up patriotism and anti-Western sentiment; at a parade in Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko said Moscow was trying to hog the credit for the World War Two victory at Ukraine’s expense,

says an article published by the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, and concerning Russian-Chinese cooperation, the Guardian’s foreign affairs commentator Natalie Nougayrède wrote on March 26 that

China has a 2,500-year history of strategic thinking driven by a deep distrust of external players. Don’t expect a People’s Daily front page proclaiming a new era of Chinese openness towards the west. Nor should Vladimir Putin’s Russia think that it will find an amenable partner in Xi’s China if it continues to turn its back on Europe. China sees Russia as a declining power that can eventually be transformed into an economic colony – reduced to the role of oil and gas provider. China believes it can make strategic gains if Europe and Russia continue to clash.

While German chancellor Angela Merkel, just as the majority of Western leaders, boycotted the military parade on Saturday, she did meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, to hold talks after they had laid down a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier together. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) refers to Merkel as having acted as the West’s chief interlocutor with the Kremlin throughout the Ukraine crisis, which might serve as one explanation why Merkel didn’t avoid meeting Putin altogether. But in its English broadcast on Monday, Radio Japan added another interpretation:

Merkel and other Group-of-Seven leaders cited the Ukrainian crisis for their absence from Saturday’s parade in Moscow, marking seventy years since the victory over Nazi Germany. But Merkel attended a wreath-laying ceremony in an apparent attempt to show that Germany has faced up to the responsibility for the Nazi atrocities.

That, however, didn’t keep Merkel from unusually plain talk at a joint press conference with the Russian leader. While Putin referred to Germany as a partner and friend, and, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, even suggested that Germany had been the first victim of the Nazis, Merkel said that German-Russian cooperation has suffered a grave setback by Russia’s criminal annexation of Crimea, in violation of international law, and the military conflict in Ukraine (hat durch die verbrecherische und völkerrechtswidrige Annexion der Krim und die militärische Auseinandersetzung in der Ostukraine einen schweren Rückschlag erlitten).

On May 6, in a speech at Schloss Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war camp in western Germany’s state of Northrhine-Westphalia, German president Joachim Gauck, known as a fiery anti-communist, made a speech which took many political observers, at least in Germany itself, by surprise. He addressed a fact that is frequently unknown or hardly known among Germans, and particularly West Germans (thanks not least to what China’s media might have criticized as cooked history textbooks, if West Germany had been Japan):

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

These prisoners were forced on long marches, transported in open goods wagons and sent to so-called reception or assembly camps that provided almost nothing at the start – no shelter, not enough food, no sanitary facilities, no medical care. Nothing. They had to dig holes in the ground and build makeshift huts for shelter – they tried desperately to survive somehow. Huge numbers of these prisoners were then forced to do hard labour which, in their weakened and starving condition, they often did not manage to survive.

The Beijing Evening News (北京晚报) combined a rendition of Gauck’s speech with another laudably self-critical one by Germany’s permanent representative at the United Nations, and a much less laudable one (at least according to the paper itself) by Japan’s permanent representative:

In contrast [to the German permanent representative’s speech], Japan’s permanent representative at the UN, Motohide Yoshikawa, only said: “Our behavior created misery for the peoples of the Asian countries. We must not close our eyes to this.” After that, he made big words about Japan’s “contributions to international peace, and Japan’s support for the United Nations”.

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Related

» China invites Russian Troops, Kyiv Post / Reuters, May 11, 2015
» Even closer, The Atlantic, May 10, 2015
» Wo sind die Nachtwölfe, Telepolis, May 10, 2015
» India’s Grenadiers join Parade, Telegraph India, May 9, 2015

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Japan: Recent Decisions Reflected in Japanese and Chinese Media

New textbooks for Japan’s junior high schools will sharply increase references to Japanese territory, reflecting the government’s view of the sovereignty over the Senkaku and Takeshima islands,

reports Radio Japan, adding that revised instruction manuals for the compilation of textbooks require textbooks to clearly affirm that the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea and Takeshima Islands in the Sea of Japan are Japan’s inherent territory. Junior high schools in Japan include 7th, 8th, and 9th graders, i. e., usually, the age group of 13- to 15-year-olds, according to the Tokyo International Communication Committee’s website. The changes are reportedly scheduled to take effect by April 1 next year.  Radio Japan explains:

Japan controls the Senkaku islands. The Japanese government maintains the islands are part of Japan’s territory. China and Taiwan claim them. As for the Takeshima islands, South Korea controls the islands. Japan claims them.

The NHK website also carries the news.

While NHK also mentions new entries in the textbooks referring to the 2011 tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan, China’s Huanqiu Shibao expands the topic further:

Japan’s ministry of education, on April 6, published the results of redesigning middle school textbooks. The redesigned textbooks refer to the Diaoyutai Islands [China’s name for the Senkaku Islands] and Dokdo Islands (named Takeshima Islands by Japan) as “Japan’s inherent territory”, and also changed the description of the Nanjing Massacre. Deputy director of the China Academy of Social Sciences’ Japan Research Institute diplomatic research room, Lü Yaodong, told Huanqiu Shibao journalists that Japan has ignored condemnation within the international public opinion and persisted in wilfully and arbitrarily “invading” the textbooks, and it could be seen that historical revisionism had now turned from an ideological trend into real action.

日本文部省6日公布了日本中学生教科书的审定结果。这次通过审定的教科书将钓鱼岛和独岛(日本称竹岛)都称为是“日本固有领土”,并更改了对南京大屠杀的表述。中国社科院日本研究所外交研究室副主任吕耀东6日对《环球时报》记者表示,日本未听取国际舆论的谴责,一意孤行,这次又在教科书中“去侵略化”,可以看出历史修正主义在日本社会已从思潮变为实际行动。

It had also been reported that some textbooks had also changed the way in which they described the Nanjing Massacre, writes Huanqiu Shibao.

That the Japanese army had “killed numerous captives and residents” was changed into “among the affected [or involved] captives and residents, numerous were killed”.

另据报道,一些教科书还修改了对南京大屠杀的表述方式。把日军“杀害了众多俘虏和居民”修改为“波及俘虏和居民,出现了众多死伤者”。

Before describing the Murayama apology of 1995, [the?] textbooks also added the position of Japan’s government, according to which all compensation issues between the coutnries involved had been resolved. (According to the Japan Times, the note on compensation issues follows the description of Murayama’s statement. The Japan Times article also includes some statistics on textbook content, both of those currently in use and of those planned to come into use next year. According to the statistics, out of 58 textbooks that included descriptions of the 2011 tsunami disaster, 35 textbooks also discussed the nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

In another news item, Radio Japan reports that

senior foreign and defense officials from Japan and South Korea plan to meet in Seoul next week to hold their first security dialogue in more than 5 years,

as agreed by Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers Fumio Kishida and Yun Byung-se during a meeting. This apparently refers to a meeting between the foreign ministers of South Korea, China and Japan, in Seoul, on March 21 this year.

In another article, featuring less prominently than the one about the textbooks, but also a headline within international news, Huanqiu writes that Japan’s self-defense forces required its members to prepare posthumous notes or letters to their families, for the case of their death in missions abroad. There had been complaints from within the ranks, writes Huanqiu, but the higher echeolons had confirmed the need for preparing posthumous letters, stating that these constituted a good preparation for death in action. The article apparently refers to the Japanese cabinet’s collective self-defense decision of July last year.

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