Posts tagged ‘Europe’

Friday, June 12, 2015

The BoZhu Interviews: If you want to Believe the Best or the Worst about China, it’s easy enough –

Ji Xiang about getting started with China, stereotypes, and finding a balance between Chinese and Western ways of life.

Ji Xiang is a blogger from Europe who lives in China. In his first blog post, in 2008, he explained how he got his Chinese name. And he is probably one of very few foreign China bloggers who started blogging almost right on arrival in the country, and have kept to the habit ever since.

Q: Ji Xiang, you are Chinese by name, but you are actually from Europe, right?

That’s right. My mom’s British, and my dad’s Italian. I grew up in Italy, although I have also lived in Britain. It’s not too obvious unless you look at my blog very carefully though. Interestingly, some of my readers have assumed I was American in the past.

Q: Could that be because your stance comes across as more “pro-Western” than that of most sinologists or Westerners who speak Chinese? It seems to me that both Foarp and you stand out as rather critical of what might be called “cultural relativism”, or a preparedness to find human rights violations tolerable because of a country’s culture, a “situation on the ground”, etc.

Well, I’m not sure if that makes you seem more like an American or not. Foarp is after all British. But to be honest, I think a lot of Westerners who speak Chinese have the same sort of opinions as I do. I don’t think of myself as “pro-Western” really, I am quite aware of all the bad things Western countries have done around the world, and the shortcomings of the “West” (if there really is such a thing as the West. But that’s another debate). But that doesn’t necessarily mean being pro-Chinese.

When it comes to human rights violations, I don’t really buy cultural justifications. I mean, East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea have created systems where basic human rights are respected, so it obviously isn’t only Western countries which can reach that point. The argument that human rights have to be put aside when a country is still poor and developing is more complicated. I think certain basic rights, like the right not to disappear, be tortured or speak your mind without going to jail, should be respected, and I don’t think the right to have a full belly clashes with these other rights.

There might however be a good argument for not holding elections in countries where most of the people are illiterate, or divided along ethnic or tribal lines. Say in Yemen or Burkina Faso. Even in Arab countries, it is clear that elections often bring religious fundamentalists to power.

Q: You went to China as a teacher in 2005, and came back to the country as a student. How did you get interested in China? You’ve spent a number of years there now, haven’t you?

I actually taught in China in 2004, and that was just for a summer. I then went back to China because I got a scholarship to get a master’s degree there. I have spent over six years in China by now.

Q: Was 2008 a good time to start a blog? You might have started one in 2005, the heydays of the (English-language) “Chinese blogosphere”. Was there a key moment where you felt that you should share your experiences, which got your blog started?

Well in 2005 I didn’t live in China, and had only spent a few months there. I had no basis for writing a blog about it. I only discovered recently that that was supposed to be the heyday of the “Chinese blogosphere”. Pity I missed it. I started my blog when I started living in China full-time. In the beginning, it was mainly to share my experiences with my family and friends back home. Now it’s turned more into a blog of commentary about China.

Q: Do the statistics or feedback give you an idea about who your readers are?

A bit. Most of my hits are from the United States, but I think that might be to do with the fact that most of the VPNs people use in China redirect there. Curiously, I also seem to have a lot of readers from Germany, Ukraine and Russia (well, you are one of the ones from Germany). Other than that, my most read posts are the ones with titles which people can come across randomly on Google.

Q: Apart from the blogs your blogroll, are there others – about China or other countries and topics – that you read regularly?

To be honest, not really. I mostly look at those few blogs on China which are on my blogroll (which includes your one). And there is my uncle’s blog, he lives in Israel and blogs about his life there and Israeli topics.

Q: Did family history contribute to your interest in China?

Not really. I don’t have any relatives who have lived or live in China. Having said that, the first time I came to China was with my parents. They are active in the international Esperanto movement, and in 2004 the World Esperanto Congress was in Beijing, so they were going to China to attend it and I went with them. That’s when I first got interested in China. Being able to speak Esperanto helped plug me in to the community of Chinese Esperanto speakers, which has been a nice way to get to know some cool, unusual Chinese people.

Q: Most bloggers will sometimes be surprised by the responses a post of them triggers. Have there been reactions and comments that surprised you during the past seven years?

After visiting Vietnam, I wrote a post on why the Vietnamese dislike China. It got quite a few reactions from Vietnamese readers, most of them proving my original point. One of them actually claimed that Daoism, the I Ching and the idea of Ying/Yang originally came from Vietnam and not from China. Total nonsense as far as I know. Unfortunately unreasonable nationalism is widespread throughout Asia. At its basis lies a wall of mental rigidity and misinformation which is very hard to break through.  Then again, Europe was probably similar up until the Second World War. And Westerners have their own unreasonable prejudices, just look at the persistence of antisemitic tropes among some people, or how so many Europeans will complain that immigrants get more benefits from the state than locals even when it just isn’t true.

Q: It seems that you’ve got most of your Chinese education in the North. Is that so, and do you think it differs from learning Chinese language, ways of interaction, etc., in the South?

You are correct. Although I’ve traveled all over China, I live in Beijing. It’s a stereotype to say that the North is best for learning to speak Mandarin, but actually I think you can learn just as well in most big Southern cities, because nowadays most people speak it there too. I think the Southern Chinese do tend to be a bit more like we imagine the Chinese to be (quiet, indirect, reserved), but in the main I don’t think the cultural difference between Northern and Southern China is that huge. It might not even be as big as the one between Northern and Southern Italy! Whether you live in a small or a big city, and a rich or a poor part of China, probably makes more difference to your experience. But I’ve never lived in Southern China, so I stand to be corrected.

Q: How would you describe your daily life? Is it becoming still more “Chinese”, concerning your choice of food, newspapers, internet sources, or television?

In some ways I am, and in some ways I’m not. I would say that my lifestyle has stopped becoming more Chinese for a while. In fact, after an initial enthusiasm for “going native”, which many foreigners have at first, I think I have found a balance. In a city like Beijing you can find loads of foreign amenities, and it would be silly not to make use of them. On the other hand I wouldn’t want to live in a bubble like some expats do. It really comes down to who you hang out with, and I still hang out with lots of Chinese.

When it comes to food I am pretty Chinese: I like eating Chinese food when it’s properly made, and I even do my best to cook it at home. I have long stopped eating street food or patronizing cheap, hole-in-the-wall type places though, because of concerns about the hygiene and the quality. Many Chinese seem to have come to the same conclusion. Foreigners who pride themselves on being able to eat in such places without minding the consequences are either young foreign-exchange students, or they are pretty dimwitted.

When it comes to media, I still look at Chinese newspapers every now and again to see what they say, but for real news I mostly turn to foreign sources. Of course the language is one issue (it is obviously still much quicker for me to read in English or Italian), but also I think the European media is just superior in terms of giving you a decent picture of what goes on in the world, and, when it comes to sensitive issues, even in China! Same for entertainment: although I sometimes watch Chinese shows and films, in the main I still watch far more foreign ones. I make full use of Chinese internet sites like Baidu or Weibo though.

Q: Do you see changes on Weibo, in terms of real-name requirement, censorship, etc.?

When I got an account in 2011, it still wasn’t necessary to give your ID/passport number. As far as I know now it is, although I have heard you can still get away with giving a false one. In any case, I am sure that if they really want to they can find out who you are.

Q: Generally, when reading your blog, I got an impression overtime that you might think of China as a project, as a country or civilization headed into a rather benign future, compared with Western societies. And on the other hand, your criicism of China, or its political system, sounds pretty much like the general global criticism of it. Is this an accurate impression?

I’m not entirely sure where you got that impression from. I have unquestionably been getting more pessimistic about China, its system and its prospects over the last few years. I think to an extent the current system is geared in such a way that China always gives the impression to outsiders that it’s almost on the cusp of becoming a decent, progressive, modern and confident society, but then it never quite does. I think the political system is good at producing GDP growth, but pretty hopeless at solving the country’s huge social problems. Yes, China has more and more subways and high speed railways, and that’s useful and good for the people, but surely a country like China could do so much better than just that?

I hope China gets better with time, but I don’t think it’s a given that, if you wait 20 or 30 years, it’s all going to be much better. That’s how a lot of Chinese seem to think: just wait a few decades, and everything will solve itself. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

I think my criticism is also a bit different from that of someone who’s never lived in China, because I am far more aware of aspects like the rise of Chinese nationalism, which many foreign commentators seem blissfully unaware of.

Q: That unawareness seems to be quite a phenomenon. This is what Bruce Anderson (himself not necessarily a human-rights champion) said about Edward Heath, in a BBC radio documentary. Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt might be another case in point.

Is there something Russia (for example) could learn from China, in terms of soothing external propaganda, or winning influential people over abroad?

Well, Chinese officials certainly are very good at flattering foreign visitors, saying the right things to them, and appearing reasonable and friendly. I don’t have much experience with the Russians, but I doubt they are as good at it. It’s probably not something you can learn either, it’s deep-rooted in the culture.

You have to remember that most Westerners know little about China, and obviously want to be open-minded. The unawareness of the rise of Chinese nationalism probably also lies in the fact that China does tend to leave other countries alone, as long they don’t have any territorial disputes with China of course, and as long as they don’t express any views on what China defines as its “internal affairs”. Of course China’s neighbours are very aware of its nationalistic side, especially the ones which have territorial disputes with it. But people in other parts of the world don’t get to see this side of things. And its not obvious to the casual visitor either.

The European media also focuses too much on the Middle East and almost never talks about Asia’s potentially explosive problems, like the dispute in the South China Sea and the anti-Japanese feeling in China or Korea. The only thing they ever talk about is the issue of Tibet, which has certainly damaged China’s image.

Then again, the real issue is one of projection. Many left-wing Westerners are predisposed to think well of any power which challenges the United States anywhere, regardless of what it really is or does. If you want to believe the best about China (or the worst for that matter), and you don’t live there, it’s easy enough. Right wingers on the other hand may see China’s rise as a vindication of free market economics, or god knows what. Everyone sees what they want to see in China, and no one knows much about it. This has always been the case.

Q: Do you have arguments with Chinese nationalists?

Well, in a sense I do, because I have political arguments with people in China, and most Chinese are nationalists at some level, although the level varies. The level of open-mindedness towards opinions which clash with modern Chinese nationalism, as the schools and media have constructed it, also varies. I know many Mainlanders who are perfectly open minded even about issues like Taiwan, and don’t just toe the line. I think they are a minority however. And by the way, they aren’t necessarily the people with most international exposure. On the other hand if you are talking about dyed-in-the-wool fenqing, rational debate is all but impossible.

Q: You have blogged in English for nearly seven years, and quite recently, you have also started a blog in Italian. What’s next? A blog in Chinese?

My written Chinese is really not good enough to blog in it. I would actually be more likely to start a blog in Esperanto, a language I also speak.

Q: Ji Xiang, thanks a lot for this interview.

The interview was conducted by an exchange of e-mails.

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Related

All BoZhu Interviews

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Eurasian Challenges (1): Belittling Taiwan to Please China

Following his attendance in Moscow at the commemoration of the 70th VE Day anniversary, Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping paid a three-day state visit to Belarus. Tokyo-based online magazine The Diplomat published a summary of Xi’s visit on May 12, quoting Belorussian president Alexander Lukashenko – as, in turn, quoted by Xinhua newsagency -, as saying that

I adopted China’s step-by-step economic reform style in Bearus and believe that the most important prerequisite for economic development and economic reforms is social stability.

The Diplomat article also quoted Xi Jinping, again via Xinhua, as saying that the “Chinese president” wanted to turn a joint Belarus-Sino industrial park into a pearl on the Silk Road Economic Belt.

The article points out that public attitudes in Eastern Europe were generally more open toward China than in Western Europe, and describes how Beijing tunes its policies and institutions on these two regions, depening on the degrees of openness.

Both Lukashenko and Xi noted that Belarus, thanks to its geographical placement as the gateway between Eurasia and Europe, has a major role to play in bringing the Silk Road Economic Belt to Europe, according to The Diplomat.

As on May 8 in a ceremony in Moscow, Xi also presented medals to World War 2 veterans in Belarus. In both ceremonies, the veterans had reportedly fought in the Japanese War.

Belarussian English-language media – there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of them – appear to remain silent on a joint statement published by the two heads of state, which includes a regular Belarussian political tribute: belittling Taiwan to please China, as Taiwan News put it on Tuesday.

According to the Chinese version of the joint statement,

Belarus reiterated that it it adhered to the one-China policy, acknowledged that the People’s Republic of China represents the entirety of China as its only legal government, that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China’s territory, that [Belarus] opposes any kind of “Taiwan independence”, promises not to establish official relations with Taiwan or to officially interact with Taiwan, that it opposes the accession of Taiwan to any international or regional organizations [where participation is limited to] sovereign states, that it will not sell arms to Taiwan, that it will support peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait and all the Chinese government’s efforts to achieve national reunification.

白方重申坚持奉行一个中国政策,承认中华人民共和国政府是代表全中国的唯一合法政府,台湾是中国领土不可分割的一部分,反对任何形式的“台湾独立”,承诺不与台湾建立官方关系和进行官方往来,反对台湾加入任何仅限主权国家参加的国际组织和地区组织,不向台湾出售武器,支持两岸关系和平发展及中国政府为实现国家统一所作的一切努力。

According to the Taipei Times on May 13, Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Anna Kao (高安) said the ministry “deeply regrets” that Minsk reiterated the position it had long held for the sake of “ingratiating itself with mainland China”.

Radio Taiwan International (RTI) also reports the reaction from Taiwan’s foreign ministry:

Concerning the content of mainland China’s and Belarussia’s joint joint communiqué, the Republic of China’s [Taiwan] foreign ministry said yesterday evening (May 12) that when mainland Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao visited Belarus in 2007, and when the Belarussian president visited mainland China in 2013, all joint communiqués signed by the two sides mentioned “opposition against Taiwan joining any international and regional organizations [with participation limited to] sovereign states”. This time’s repetition of the old tune shows Belarus’ [is prepared to] curry favor with mainland China by issuing this statement which is ignorant of international realities and which inappropriately affects our country’s legal interests, on which the foreign ministry expressed regret.

針對中國大陸與白俄羅斯發布的聯合公報內容,中華民國外交部昨天(12日)晚間表示,2007年大陸總理溫家寶訪問白俄,2013年白俄總統訪問大陸時,雙方所簽署聯合公報就提及「反對台灣加入任何僅限主權國家參與之國際和地區組織」,如今舊調重彈,顯示白俄羅斯長期為討好大陸,而發表此一昧於國際現實並影響我國權益之不當聲明,外交部至表遺憾。

The foreign ministry reiterated that the Republic of China [Taiwan] is a free, democratic sovereign state with the right to apply, in accordance with the people’s wishes, for membership in international organizations in accordance with its legal interests. This decision and approach is unaffected by any individual country’s talk.

外交部重申,中華民國是一個自由民主的主權國家,依據人民意願有權利申請加入攸關其權益之國際組織,此一決心與作法,不受個別國家論調影響。

The foreign ministry said that after the Soviet Union’s disintegration, the Republic of Taiwan [Taiwan] had established a representative office in Belarus, but because of the low volume of business, decided to close it down in 2005. Business was taken care of by the representative office in Russia. Had there ever been arms trade between Taiwan and Belarus? Chiang Su-yih, former representative to Belarus, said that this was “absurd. That has never happened.”

外交部表示,蘇聯解體後,中華民國曾在白俄羅斯設立代表處,但由於業務量低,2005年決定裁撤,業務由駐俄代表處兼管。至於台灣與白俄羅斯間是否曾有武器交易?我國駐白俄羅斯前代表姜書益表示,「荒謬,從沒這回事」。

In an editorial on May 14, the Taipei Times cited the Belorussian-Chinese joint statement as an example of how President Ma Ying-jeou‘s concept of a “1992 consensus” had failed:

In view of Beijing’s continued denigration of Taiwan’s status, it is obvious that such a cross-strait consensus does not exist.

The Taipei Times’ Chinese-language sister paper, the Liberty Times, questions that a meeting between Eric Chu, chairman of president Ma Ying-jeou’s KMT, and Xi Jinping, in China earlier this month, was showing any positive effects, and quotes KMT legislator Johnny Chiang‘s (江啟臣) interpretation of the joint statement:

[Chiang said] Xi Jinping wanted to turn the cross-Strait- bottomline into an international bottomline, as a foretaste for Taiwan’s general elections next year, as a “warning” for Taiwan. The [oppositional] Democratic Progressive Party’s China Department director and [the party’s] legislator Chao Tien-lin believes that dignified and meaningful participation in international organizations was the common position of the Taiwanese people and should not be affected by unreasonable suppression and restrictions. Beijing should respect the Taiwanese peoples’ will and expectations, and “should not deepen Taiwanese society’s negative impression of Beijing”.

對於上述聲明,國民黨立委江啟臣認為,習近平把兩岸關係的底線,放在 國際上變成底線,有針對台灣明年大選情勢的味道,這是對台灣的「示警」。兼任民進黨中國事務部主任的立委趙天麟則認為,有尊嚴、有意義參與國際組織,這是 台灣人民的共同主張,不應遭受不合理的打壓與限制,北京應尊重台灣人民的意志與期望,「不要讓台灣社會加深對北京的負面觀感」。

Now, if you wonder how Beijing likes Taiwanese coverage of Chinese policies, Xinhua provides the answer. They aren’t happy at all.

Whenever that happens, and when criticism right from the CCP’s mouthpieces themselves would appear unbelievable even to a, by now, pretty conditioned Chinese public, one should look out abroad for a voice sympathetic to ones’ own position. Xinhua has found that Taiwan’s Want Daily (旺报) – apparently, according to Xinhua’s excerpts, anyway – commiserates with China, an innocent victim of Taiwanese media aggression.

Xinhua:

An editorial published [by Want Daily] on May 14 points out that Taiwanese media, when reporting or commenting on mainland or cross-strait news, are often full of bias and errors, having misguided Taiwanese peoples’ knowledge of mainland China and of mainland Chinese policies towards Taiwan. When influential Taiwanese media always report mainland Chinese and cross-strait news based on wrong understanding and with a partial attitude, how can the two sides of the Taiwan Strait ever open exchanges further up, and deepen goodwill and understanding, and how can the two sides of the Strait move from confrontation to reconciliation and blend with each other?

14日发表社论指出,台湾媒体报道或评论大陆与两岸新闻时经常充斥偏见与错误,长期误导台湾人对中国大陆及大陆对台政策的认知。如果有影响力的大众媒体总 是以错误的理解与偏颇的态度报道大陆与两岸新闻,两岸怎么可能借着交流的开放与深化增进善意与理解,两岸又怎么可能从对抗走向和解与融一?

Coverage on the joint statement with Belarus is among the list of media sins:

[…] The third is about the joint statement issued by the mainland and Belarus on May 10. A television station’s horse race was that “Belarus opposes Taiwanese participation in sovereign states’ organizations”.

[…..] 三是大陆与白俄罗斯于10日发表联合声明,一家电视台的跑马是“白俄罗斯反对台湾参加以主权国家参加的国际组织”。

But even in the eyes of somewhat critical Chinese readers, the way the Taiwanese paper – allegedly – defends the joint statement might come across as pointless:

As for Belarus’ and Beijing’s joint statement’s wording, it was used as early as in the two sides’ 2007 and 2013 communiqùés, and to keep playing the same tune is without much significance. The expanded interpretations by the media is only needed for internal political struggles.

至于白俄罗斯与北京联合声明中的用语,早在2007及2013年的双方公报中,都曾经出现过这些字眼,旧调重谈实无特别重要涵义。媒体扩大解读,只是为了内部政治斗争的需要。

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Related
» Quoting Ma Ying-jeou, May 20, 2011

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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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Monday, April 13, 2015

A Look at the Rumors about China Radio International

There has been some talk about plans among China’s leaders to close down a number of foreign-language services – the German-language department among them -, at China Radio International (CRI), China’s international broadcaster. Keith Perron, a radio producer in Taiwan, claimed inside knowledge and suggested that, according to this quote by Glenn Hauser‘s World of Radio, March 26:

At last month’s meeting of the committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, one of the subcommittees, headed by Zhang Dejiang, who is also chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, will form a twelve-member board to look into the effectiveness of shortwave as a [unreadable] platform for China Radio International. Members include leaders from various former ministries, including the [unreadable], culture, propaganda, SARFT, and the central committee.They may be looking at shortwave cuts made in Australia, Canada, Russia, UK, and the US. Last year the Chinese government spent over 600 mega Yuan on the shortwave, that’s about 100 mega dollars US. It includes not only CRI, but China National Radio [aka Chinese People’s Broadcasting Station, CPBS — JR]. They will be looking at staff reductions. CRI currently has a staff of 8,500. They are looking at reducing some 40 percent, closing several of their overseas bureaus, closing CRI Television, some CRI language services. Looked at for axing are: Tagalog, Polish, Greek, Italian, German, Esperanto, Kroatian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Finnish, Bulgarian, and Danish. But English would be expanded, as would Chinese.

What struck me on December 31 last year – but it wouldn’t lead me to dramatic conclusions, of course – was that party secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping had dropped CRI from his new-year’s address. The broadcaster was mentioned along with CPBS and CCTV by Xinhua’s introductory text, but not by Xi himself. Both Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin had made it a tradition to mention CRI, CPBS, and CCTV in their new year’s addresses – and CRI was always mentioned first.

To put the rumors about CRI into some perspective, though, Perron had been a critic of “waste” at CRI for some time, and understatment isn’t onw of his greatest hobbies. The Voice of America (VoA), for example, is a terminally ill patient, which might lead to the question who’s more dead – the American or the Chinese foreign broadcaster.

And Bernd Seiser, chairman of the Radio Taiwan International Ottenau Listeners’ Club, said in his April 10 club bulletin he had been told by CRI staff that

I can confirm that CRI will not terminate its German-language programs on shortwave.

However, listeners who wanted information on shortwave frequencies would need to enquire with the German department, rather than receive frequency notifications automatically by email, said Seiser.

So, how much truth is there in the rumors about closing the departments mentioned by Perron? That’s hard to tell.  For one, it appears unlikely to me that CPPCC committee activities would go completely unreported inside China (which appears to be the case – I’ve seen no such report in the Chinese media). However, it wouldn’t appear exactly unlikely that China’s top cadres want CRI to become more effective. Three years ago, CRI German still ran a program dedicated to listeners’ letters and emails, but the feedback, as a rule, appeared to be embarrassingly low. Regular broadcasts of telephone interviews with German listeners weren’t a terribly reviving factor either. By now, feedback from the audience is interspersed into CRI Panorama, a magazine with a variety of topics, rather than featured in a dedicated program. An editorial staff of 31, according to CRI German’s website anyway, might be expected to draw a bigger crowed on the other side of the radio, too. (That said, there’s no information concerning their working hours.)

What seems highly unlikely to me is a closure of the German department. For the time being, Germany is an important “partner” for the Chinese leadership, in technological and partly in political terms. For one, both China and Germany try to defend their inveterately high trade surpluses against a growing international chorus of criticism. Even a small congregation of “early Christians” is probably worth being nurtured, from the CCP’s point of view.

Will shortwave be reduced? Maybe, but not necessarily. If the early Christians want shortwave, maybe their prayers will be heard. And jamming of foreign broadcasters like VoA, BBC, or All India Radio, will remain in place anyway. To avoid making it unnecessarily obvious, domestic CPBS stations at least will continue to be used as informal jammers in future, too, along with the “Firedrake”.

Does CRI make a big difference in Germany? Hardly so. What does make a big difference is Chinese financial and economic engagement in Germany, and Chinese interest in German products: sponsoring professorships, taking a stake in a new (and not yet used-to-capacity) German seaport, buying Volkswagen cars, etc.. China’s money has great leverage in Germany, even in German politics.

China’s public diplomacy remains a seedling here – but that’s probably no reason to dump CRI German.

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Related/Updates

» 杨尚昆, 通过中国国际广播电台, Jan 1, 1993
»
CRI 历史, CRI, undated
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Taiwan Newsarticle: European and American Universities refusing Cooperation with Confucius Institutes

The following is a translation of an article published online by Radio Taiwan International (RTI), on January 13 this year. RTI based their article on coverage by United Daily News (聯合報), the Liberty Times (自由時報, sister to the English-language Taipei Times), and Associated Press (AP).

I haven’t checked upon mainland coverage of these issues yet (RTI mentions Huanqiu Shibao, for example), but might do so next week.

As for Astrid Soderbergh Widding, the Stockholm University vice-chancellor quoted by RTI, the South China Morning Post quoted her in January as saying that “establishing institutes that are funded by another nation, within the framework of a university, is rather a questionable practice”.

Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Main Link:
Academic Freedom Threatened, European and American Universities refuse Cooperation with Confucius Institutes

Related Tag:
Confucius Institute

Mainland China’s Huanqiu Shibao reported on January 12 that Stockholm University has announced the termination, by the end of June, of its cooperation with the Confucius Institute in Stockholm – the first Confucius Institute founded in Europe, in 2005. The reason was that given the expansion of bilateral cooperation, this form of co0peration was no longer in step with the times. Before that, two American universities also said that they would not renew their contracts with the Confucius Institutes. These decisions reflect the concerns that the role of Confucius Institutes in the respective countries have caused.

大陸環球時報12日報導,瑞典斯德哥爾摩大學宣布,將在今年6月底關閉於2005年開辦的歐洲地區第一所孔子學院,理由是,隨著雙邊關係的拓展,這項合作已不符合時宜。在此之前,美國也有2所大學表示不再與孔子學院續約。歐美學府的這些決定反映出孔子學院的角色已在相關國家引發關切。

To alleviate doubts, Beijing promotes soft power

◎消除疑慮 北京推軟實力

Supported by its economic power, mainland China’s international political status has risen, Beijing’s rise received high global attention, and it also led to some doubts: to highlight China’s rise as a peaceful one, and to strengthen mainland China’s international influence, Beijing set out from the cultural level to actively promote soft power, and the establishment of Confucius Institutes abroad was what caught most attention among the promotional measures.

在經濟實力的支撐下,中國大陸的國際政治地位水漲船高,北京的崛起受到國際高度重視,也引發了一些疑慮;為了凸顯中國大陸是和平崛起,並強化大陸的國際影響力,北京從文化層面著手,積極推展軟實力,其中最受矚目的就是在境外設立孔子學院。

In November 2004, the first Confucius Institute put up its name plate in Seoul, and since, Confucius Institutes have also been established in countries in Asia, America, Europe, and Africa.

2004年11月,第一座孔子學院在南韓首都首爾掛牌;後來,亞洲、美洲、歐洲、非洲等許多國家也分別設立孔子學院。

By September 2014, 123 countries worldwide cooperated with mainland China, having set up 465 Confucius Institutes and 173 Confucius Classrooms. In America alone, 100 universities took part in such programs.

截至2014年9月,全球已有123個國家與大陸合作,開辦了465所孔子學院和713個孔子課堂,單單美國就有100所大學參與相關計畫。

Confucius Institutes lead in funding

◎主導經費教材 孔子學院惹爭議

The Confucius Institutes are usually set up right within the foreign universities that sign contracts with Beijing, but the [central] government in Beijing provides funding, chooses the staff that teaches abroad, and specifies the teaching material. This has caused quite some controversy.

這些孔子學院通常是直接設立在與北京簽約的外國學府裡,但卻由北京政府提供經費、選派教師並指定教材。此舉引發相當大的爭議。

It is [sometimes] said that Confucius Institutes operating within universities have some influence on the curricula of those schools and could endanger the schools’ integrity. These commentators believe that Confucius Institutes pose a threat to academic freedom.

有評論表示,孔子學院在大學內運作,對這些學校的課程具有一定的影響力,可能危及該校的完整性。批評者認為,孔子學院對學術自由構成威脅。

Stockholm University vice-chancellor Astrid Söderbergh Widding says that when institutions within universities are funded by governments of other countries, the approach does indeed pose problems.

斯德哥爾摩大學副校長維丁(Astrid Soderbergh Widding)就表示,大學內設立的機構是由另一個國家政府提供經費,這種作法的確有問題。

The ways Confucius Institutes operate have also attracted the attention of foreign governments. Indian and Japanese officials have questioned that Confucius Institutes only teach the Chinese language – [suggesting that] they also spread ideological attitued, and deliberately influence countries’ assessments of mainland China.

孔子學院的運作模式也受到外國政府的關注。印度和日本的官員曾經質疑,孔子學院不僅教授中文,也傳輸意識形態,意圖影響各國對中國大陸的評價。

A report published in October 2013 by American think tank “Project 2049 Research Institute” pointed out that while teaching Chinese, Confucius Institutes also inculcate ideological attitudes, thus influencing foreign circles’ judgment of Beijing.

美國華盛頓智庫「2049計畫研究所」就曾於2013年10月公布一份報告指出,孔子學院在教授中文的同時,也在灌輸意識形態,藉此影響外界對北京的評斷。

To promote academic independence, American scholars demand end to cooperation

◎維護學術獨立 美學者促停止合作

Nevertheless, Beijing’s strategy of promoting soft power by the establishment of Confucius Institues in numerous countries worldwide has seen growing resistance in recent years. Besides Stockholm University, universities and schools in America and Canada have terminated or suspended cooperation with Confucius Institutes.

不過,北京在世界許多國家設立孔子學院推廣軟實力的策略近年來遭遇越來越多的阻力。除了近日的斯德哥爾摩大學外,美國和加拿大去年都有大學院校終止或暫緩與孔子學院合作。

When the University of Chicago established a Confucius Institute in 2009, 174 professors of the university jointly opposed. Last year in April, 108 University of Chicago professors jointly demanded that after the cooperation term expire, cooperation with Beijing should be terminated, and the Confucius Institute no longer be allowed on the campus. They believed that the lecturers employed by Beijing had received special training to avoid or neglect politically sensitive topics such as “June 4″ or Taiwan. They believed that with Beijing’s control of the lecturers employment and training would earn the University of Chicago’s academic program political  mainland official management and control of political speech and influence on freedom of religion.

芝加哥大學於2009年設立孔子學院時,該校就曾有174位教授聯名反對。去年4月,108位芝加哥大學教授聯名要求校方於合約到期後,終止與北京的合作,不再讓孔子學院進駐校園。他們認為,北京方面聘用的講師都受過特別培訓,在課堂上會規避或忽略例如「六四」及台灣等政治敏感議題;這些教授認為,由北京控制教師的聘用和培訓,將導致芝加哥大學的學術計畫受到大陸官方管控的政治言論及信仰自由所左右。

On September 25 last year, the University of Chicago announced that the five years of cooperation with the Confucius Institute would not be renewed after September 29.

去年9月25日,芝加哥大學宣布,與孔子學院的5年合約於該月29日到期後,不再續約。

Shortly afterwards, on October 1 2014, the Pennsylvania State University announced that they would terminate their five years of cooperation with the Confucius Institute.

緊接著,美國賓夕法尼亞州立大學也於去年10月1日宣布,終止與孔子學院的5年合作關係。

Beijing’s method of transmitting ideology needs to be corrected

◎傳輸意識形態 北京作法待修正

American paper Wall Street Journal wrote that the professors’ dissatisfaction with the Confucius Institutes came from lacking teaching skills and a refusal to accept some negative chapters in Chinese history*).

美國華爾街日報曾說,這些大學對孔子學院的不滿來自於「無法教授技能和拒絕接受一些中國歷史負面內容的篇章」。

In June last year, the American Association of University Professors called for 100 U.S. universities cancel or renegotiate their contracts with the Confucius Institutes, because the Confucius Institutes were propaganda branches of mainland Chinese, particularly dissimenating the mainland authorities ideological attitudes, in violation of academic freedom.

去年6月,美國大學教授協會呼籲美國的100所大學,取消或重啟與北京的孔子學院談判協議,因認為孔子學院是大陸當局的宣傳分支,主要在傳播大陸當局的意識形態,此舉違反學術自由。

Even earlier, in June 2013, the Canadian Association of University Teachers called on Canada’s universities and schools to terminate relations with the Confucius Institute, because allowing governments of totalitarian states to guide curricula content, teaching material and the topics in classroom dialogue would harm the integrity of all universities.

加拿大大學教師協會則早在2013年6月即已呼籲加拿大的大學院校與孔子學院斷絕關係,理由是如果允許極權國家的政府機構主導課程內容、教材及課堂上的討論話題,將損及各大學的誠信。

The University of Manitoba, and the Toronto District School Board refused or suspended the establishment of Confucius Institutes last year, their main concern being that Confucius Institutes could interfere with academic freedom at the schools.

加拿大曼尼托巴大學(University of Manitoba)和多倫多教育局已於去年先後拒絕或暫停設立孔子學院,主要的顧慮就是孔子學院會干涉學校的學術自由。

But is the gradual termination of cooperation with Confucius Institutes by European and American countries purely based on concern about academic freedom, or does it represent an outbreak of fear of mainland China? Future developments will be worth continued observation.

然而,歐美國家紛紛停止與孔子學院的合作,純粹只是對學術自由發展感到憂慮,還是代表歐美國家對大陸的另一種恐中發作?後續發展還值得繼續觀察。

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Note

*) If RTI referred to this WSJ blogpost, hiring practice rather than lacking skills were the source of dissatisfaction: the institutes’ hiring practices and refusal to acknowledge unflattering chapters of Chinese history.

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Related

» Unobtrusive and Imperceptible Moral Influence, Jan 7, 2012

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chinese Press Review: Preaching Water, living in France

The BBC had a review of the Chinese press on January 8 and on January 12. The Guanchazhe (Observer, Shanghai) article quoted by the BBC, suggesting that the absence of press freedom in China is in fact a blessing, was written by Song Luzheng, a regular columnist not exclusively for Guancha, who reportedly lives in France and seems to feel extremely challenged by his environment there.

The paragraph partly quoted by the BBC in full:

In either case, from the perspective of the aftermath, this kind of Western freedom of information has not only failed to assist in solving the contradictions between different ethnic groups, but rather intensified them. In fact, with different ethnic groups, with different values and religious beliefs, using one group’s standards to judge another , their collision is inevitable. Isn’t it strange that freedom of information also includes offending other peoples’ religious freedoms? From this perspective, the absence of this kind of freedom of information in China is actually the happiness of all nationalities.

不管怎样,从后果来看,西方这样的新闻自由不但无助于解决不同族群之间的矛盾,相反会激化。毕竟,不同的族群,其价值观和宗教信仰是不同的,如果用一个族 群的标准去衡量另一个,其冲突不可避免。更何况,难道新闻自由也包括冒犯他人信仰的自由吗?从这个角度讲,中国没有这样的新闻自由,实是各民族之幸。

On other occasions, Song Luzheng described democratic societies as idle masses indulging in a life  of pleasure and comfort, and badmouthed his colleagues at Southern Weekly.

In short: Song preaches water, living in France. But he’ll certainly have his share of readers in China.

What the Chinese press seems to have avoided is coverage on how the picture of “world leaders leading the march of 1.5 million was apparently taken. On ForoCoches, a forum nominally dedicated to discussing cars but practically discussing everything (Wikipedia), a user posted two pictures with inscriptions: The caste takes a selfie in Paris.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: Memorable Shortwave Logs

1. Russia

One memorable listen would be the Voice of Russia (VoR or, in its dying days, Radio VR). Last time I listened to the station on shortwave was on March 27, from about 06:30 to 08:00 UTC on 21800 kHz (probably Irkutsk transmitting site). Shortwave transmissions from what had been Radio Moscow until the early 1990s, and Voice of Russia since then, were terminated this year, apparently by the end of March.

2. Northwestern Germany

I came across a low-powered shortwave station (one to ten kW) in northwestern Germany in April, Radio HCJB Weenermoor. HCJB used to be the callsign of a shortwave station in Ecuador, has a history of more than eight decades there, and much of their operations has been shifted to Australia after the construction of an airport near Ecuador’s capital Quito which led to the closure of the big HCJB’s transmission site there.  HCJB’s German department, now named “Vozandes Media”, launched the Weenermoor transmission site in June 2012. Even earlier, apparently in 2009, the German department had installed a shortwave transmitter and an antenna on Pichincha Mountain near Quito. It’s for the local and regional population (programs in Quechuan and Spanish), but can frequently be heard in North America and Europe as well, on 6050 kHz.
Most of the programs aired from Weenermoor aren’t my cup of tea, but they do broadcast a half-hour media magazine several times every Saturday – interesting stuff for German-speaking shortwave listeners.
Many of the first-generation German broadcasters at HCJB were apparently Mennonites. At least three of them, Sally Schroeder, Maria Hübert, and Peter Hübert, were emigrants – or refugees – from the former USSR. Mennonites with a USSR history are frequently referred to as “Russian Mennonites”.

3. Sweden

Then there was the Radio Nord revival. The legendary offshore radio station “Radio Nord” came into life years before yours truly did, but a number of fans in Sweden have established the tradition of making annual broadcasts to commemorate the station. They are also blogging. Their broadcasts in August this year caught my attention, and that was the first time in years that I heard a shortwave signal from Sweden at all (except for ham radio signals, obviously).

4. Northern Germany

Hamburger Lokalradio QSL card, November 2014

Hamburger Lokalradio QSL card: a one-kW transmitter in Göhren (near Schwerin), and studios in Hamburg. 6045 kHz (Wertachtal) is outdated – the Wertachtal transmitter site was » blown up in November.

Almost next door: Hamburger Lokalradio. They are broadcasting mostly on FM in Hamburg (96.0 MHz) and on the internet (see bottom of this page). The station also appears on shortwave (at least) three times a week. Own observation: on Wednesdays at 12:30 UTC or earlier, until 15:00 UTC (or later), on 7265 kHz, and on Sundays, from 14:00 UTC (or earlier) to 14:30 UTC (or later), on 9485 kHz. They broadcast in English, too: Glenn Hauser‘s World of Radio audiomagazine is aired on Saturdays at 07:30 and 15:30 UTC on 7265 kHz, and on Wednesdays, also at 07:30 and 15:30 UTC, on the same frequency, according to this BCL News notice. If you understand German, their culture programs are definitely worth listening to.

5. Ukraine / USA

First time in many years that Radio Ukraine International (RUI) appeared on shortwave again – not from Ukraine, but from Okeechobee, Florida, aired by WRMI. Not an ideal time of day here in central Europe, at 23:30 to 24:00 UTC (and I’m not sure if RUI will stay on the air from Florida with the beginning of this new year), but it’s fun while it lasts. The signal varied during the ten times I listened this year, from good to nil – it was probably much better in North America, the main target area.
I did catch a signal right from Ukraine in May and July, Radio Dniprovska Hvylya, but all in Russian or Ukrainian language.

6. Taiwan

Voice of Guanghua, transmitting from Guanyin or Kuanyin District, Taoyuan City, northwestern Taiwan. Their programs are in Standard Chinese (guoyu), apparently without being jammed. At any rate, it came in pretty well on 9745 kHz at daytime UTC, on December 19 and 26. Japanese tourists seem to have done the usual thorough research and took a photo of the station’s transmitter site, some time during the past ten years.

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Related tag: »shortwave

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Noblejas (Spain) is back: Listening to RTVE on Shortwave

The Asociación Española de Radioescucha (AER) has published RTVE’s trial frequency schedule:

19:00 a 23:00 Mondays through Fridays:

11,685 kHz West Africa and Southern Atlantic
11,940 kHz America (South)
  9,620 kHz America (North)
12,030 kHz Middle East and Indian Ocean

15:00 a 23:00 Saturdays and Sundays:

11,685 kHz West Africa and Southern Atlantic
11,940 kHz America (South)
9,620 kHz America (North)
12,030 kHz Middle East and Indian Ocean

Both 11,940 kHz and 12,030 kHz are coming in fairly well here in northern Germany right now (O=3 and O=4 respectively).

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