Posts tagged ‘Europe’

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

JR’s Press Review (Europe): Resignation, Self-Pity, Defiant Pride, Public Diplomacy

A wave of hatred against Germans is rolling through Europe, writes Germany’s Die Welt, a (comparatively) conservative paper. In an article published on Sunday, its European correspondent calls on Germans to learn from Britain how to handle hatred from others. It doesn’t work, the correspondent suggests, “to pay still more” (Wir können uns also zerknirscht an die Brust schlagen, weil wir nicht noch viel mehr bezahlen).

Hang on – how much have we paid yet? How much have we earned from Euroland? And who is we?

Obviously, no propaganda will work without some aspects of truth, but it has to be far-fetched if you want to argue like Die Welt: for example, it is true that the storm in “social media” about Angela Merkel comforting a teenage refugee, but keeping to her party line all the same, was silly. (But why mention this when Greece is the topic?)

It is also correct to point out that other countries welcome a German scapegoat so as to deflect criticism on failed policies at home.

But to be kind of convincing, Die Welt shouldn’t talk the same talk as those it tries to criticize. Yes, painting Germany as “nazi”, as is done by some of Germany’s critics, is propaganda. But what hurts German elites is hardly the crude message itself. You don’t become a top politican or press man if you take this kind of stuff to heart. The effectiveness of the message is their real problem. Die Welt is now painting Germans who keep to the – once near-unanimous – idea that a European Union must be a union of equals as wussies who can’t handle their world-war-two guilt complex. That move is as stupid as painting Wolfgang Schäuble with that moustache.

The Tagesspiegel reminds its readers of a message by German federal president Joachim Gauck from the Munich Security Conference in 2014, when Gauck allegedly said that Germans needed to “grow up” (Erwachsenwerden). That too was in a different context – more military engagement. Gauck didn’t even talk about growing up. But the word was used in many press interpretations of the speech, and the Tagesspiegel appears to have become used to it.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung tries a kind of constructive approach: “How Germany can improve its image”. More public diplomacy is needed, the paper quotes experts. More and more countries would otherwise distance themselves from the concept of a united Europe.

Maybe some public diplomacy at home wouldn’t hurt, for a start. If you have one foreign, and one domestic message, it won’t work either way. The problem is that clichés, rather than facts and causes, rule the debate. To some extent, this kind of press may actually satisfy the readership, or at least meet an existing demand. But above all, it saves the press from the need to discuss real issues.

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Notes

Swiss paper 20 Minuten (online) linked to all the above three German press articles yesterday, plus the Guardian, and La Stampa. “Social media” get a mention. 20 Minuten tries to keep neutral, calling the Hashtags #BoycottGermany and #ThisIsACoup “more poisionous” than the British and Italian press samples, but also referring to some German reaction patterns as resignation, self-pity, and defiant pride.

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Updates

» Growth all but impossible, M Pettis, Febr 25, 2015

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

International Radio Serbia gets axed in “Privatization Program”

A Radio Jugoslavija QSL card from the 1980s

A Radio Jugoslavija QSL card from the 1980s

The Serbian government intends to close International Radio Serbia (aka Radio Yugoslavia) on July 31. The broadcaster’s statement:

Dear listeners, by the decision of Serbian government, International Radio Serbia – Radio Yugoslavia – ceases to exist on 31 July 2015. Thus our fruitful cooperation with you and our tradition of continously informing the diaspora and the public worldwide of the current events, business and cultural capacities, beautiful landmarks, culture and tradition of Serbia and former Yugoslavia in 12 languages, via short waves, the Internet and the satellite will be terminated. Thank you for having listened to us and for having trusted us for more than 79 years.

It’s strange to think that a country with official – and public – views that frequently differ from the European mainstream would shut its own voice down, but that’s what Belgrade appears to be doing.

One might argue that Tanjug newsagency (also a news organization with quite some history, founded in 1943), would provide an alternative once Radio Serbia is off the air (and offline), but there are at least two drawbacks. One is that Tanjug is only available in Serbian and in English, while Radio Serbia speaks to the world in twelve languages. And the other is that Tanjug isn’t a broadcaster – you don’t get them on the radio.

It’s nice to know that Serbia-China relations are very good, isn’t it? And yes, Tanjug, quoting Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic, will let us know – they’ll even let us know more than Radio Serbia – but only in English. And sure, CCTV will let the Chinese people know – in the evening news, because, after all, the guy from Belgrade met with Zhang Gaoli. But look what you’ll get with this searchword combination: 托米斯拉夫·尼科利奇 “张高丽”. Or with another one: “尼科利奇” “张高丽”.

Sorry to lay this on you, government of Serbia, but there’s no Tanjug among these results. If you think most Chinese people – old and young, high-ranking officials or even students (chances might be somewhat better there) feel easy with English, you may still want to go ahead, though. Good luck with that – God knows what your management consultants may beputting into your heads.

Another point in Radio Serbia’s favor is the coverage of culture and daily life. Most people will be at least as interested in that, as in the world of politics and diplomacy. Or, as Johann Gottfried Herder put it more than two centuries ago, when explaining his goals with the “Letters for the Advancement of Humanity”: in this gallery of different ways of thinking, aspirations and desires,

we certainly get to know periods and nations more deeply than on the deceptive, dreary route of their political and war history. In the latter, we seldom see more of  a people than how it let itself be governed and killed; in the former we learn how it thought, what it hoped and wished for, how it enjoyed itself, and how it was led by its teachers or its inclinations.

This isn’t to say that International Radio Serbia would be a beacon of lofty enlightenment concerning the country – but you do get to listen to Serbian music and cultural descriptions, for example.

A statement by Radio Serbia’s German service, published on June 30, mentions media privatization in Serbia. According to a news article published by Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), 47 state-owned media outlets were put on sale on July 1, and should be completed by October. And, not surprisingly if you know the European Union (or the role it frequently plays as a scapegoat, blamed for unpopular policies by national politicians, when they are out of more reasonable points), the Serbian government, according to BIRN, says media privatization is an important part of the pre-accession process with the European Union that will enable Belgrade to open Chapters 23 and 24 of the negotiations on the judiciary.

According to Radio Serbia on June 18, the original deadline for privatization, i. e. June 30, wasn’t met, and Minister of Culture and Information Ivan Tasovac has stated that […] if the process of privatization of the state-owned media is not completed by June 30, it will certainly be commenced by that deadline, and then completed over the next four months at the latest.

The German service’s June 30 post mentioned a debate in parliament where members demanded the inclusion of Radio Serbia into the new timeframe, with a deadline of October 31. However, a total of 35 amendments was rejected by the government majority (three of them referring to Radio Serbia). The most eloquent advocacy reportedly came from the leader of the Socialist Party group Dijana Vukomanović, who emphasized both the multi-lingual program range and the costs – several times lower than those of Tanjug (“dessen Ausgaben mehrfach niedriger sind als die Agentur Tanjug”).

The article, tinged with bitterness, comes to the conclusion that

in this way, the incumbent Serbian government, just like its predecessors since the year 2000, has demonstrated that it is only interested in domestic politics, while the country’s promotion abroad is of no priority.

It appears to be true that the government was in no mood to have a genuine public debate. But the question remains why. If privatization and EU standards were the reason, Radio Serbia could still continue as a media corporation under public law. Many EU countries run broadcasting houses under this formula – to my knowledge, no EU objections have ever been reported.

But then, different standards may be applied after all – and a Reuters report of June 30 mentions not only Brussels, but another big player, too. According to Reuters, Belgrade plans to trim the public sector under a 1.2 billion euro ($1.3 billion) three-year precautionary loan-deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Would that be domestic or foreign politics?

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Remarks

Radio Serbia runs a Chinese service. However, chances to listen to the station on shortwave appear to be small in China, as the target area for the only broadcast in Chinese appears to be Europe, at 16:30 UTC on 9635 kHz.

Programs for Europe, in Italian, Russian, English, Spanish, Serbian, German, and French, start at 17:30 UTC on 6100 kHz, and end at 23:30 or 24:00 UTC. Unfortunately, China Radio International (CRI) broadcasts on the same frequency from 20:00 to 23:00 UTC, but usually stays in the background, with a fairly readable signal from Radio Serbia.

There’s an online petition calling for the continuation of Radio Serbia, and a tradition of nearly eighty years.

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Friday, July 17, 2015

“Trust is the Foundation of Security”: Chinese National Internet Information Office Director visits Berlin

Phoenix/Ifeng is a media company from Hong Kong. Its Chinese website (simplified characters) is read by a large constituency of mainland Chinese readers who appear to base some trust on the fact that Phoenix is a Hong Kong company.

The CAC (Cyberspace Administration of China), whose director Lu Wei visited Berlin on July 2, only published a photo showing Lu Wei and German interior minister Thomas de Maizière initially, but added a release based on the Phoenix article on July 7.

The following is a translation of the Phoenix/Ifeng article.

“State Internet Information Office” director Lu Wei and federal interior minister de Maizière, photo op, July 2, 2015. Click photo for source.

Main Link: Renew Internet Security policies, Safeguard the State and the People’s Life Security (鲁炜:更新互联网安全政策 确保国家和民众生活安全), Phoenix/Ifeng, July 3, 2015

Chinese National Internet Information Office director Lu Wei arrived in Berlin for a visit on July 2, and met with German federal ministers of the interior and for economic affairs and energy. He also visited the Network Security Center established in Berlin by European companies and said that China would like to strengthen cooperation with international companies and research institutions to jointly administer China’s internet security issues.

中国国家互联网信息办公室主任鲁炜2号到访柏林,先后同德国内政部以及经济能源部官员会面。他还走访欧洲企业在柏林设立的网络安全中心,表示中国愿意同国际企业、研究机构加强合作,共治中国的互联网安全问题。

At the ministry of the interior, interior minister Thomas de Maiziere held talks with Lu Wei. Lu Wei also met with the ministry of economic affairs and energy’s state secretary*) Matthias Machnig on the same day.

在德国内政部,内政部长德梅齐埃同鲁炜举行会谈。鲁炜当天还同德国经济能源部国务秘书马赫尼西会面。

During the talks, the German officials expressed their interest in China’s economic development, and the development of China’s internet industry in particular. and said that Germany actively revised and supervised regulations, making sure that all foreign companies in Germany were treated equally.

在交谈中,德国官员向鲁炜表达了他们对中国经济发展,尤其是中国互联网产业发展的关注,并说德国在积极修订监管法规,确保所有外国企业在德国都被一视同仁。

Lu Wei also went to Nokia’s network security center in Berlin on that day, experienced the latest network security control technology there personally, and listened to experts’ explanations about how prevent malware from intruding into all kinds of trades, as well as to how to create more trustworthy internet security systems, and other topics.

鲁炜当天还前往位于柏林的诺基亚网络安全中心,亲身体验了这里的最新网络安全控制技术,听这里的技术专家介绍如何防范恶意软件对社会各行业的侵扰,以及如何打造更值得信赖的互联网安全系统等话题。

Lu Wei said that the internet isn’t just a techological issue, but also related to social issues of the entire humanity. China had always believed that trust is the foundation of security.

鲁炜说,互联网安全不仅是技术话题,也是关系到全人类的社会话题,中方一直相信,信任是安全的基础。

He used Nokia’s 150 years of development as an example, saying that only socially responsible multinational companies could develop in the long run.

他又以诺基亚150年的发展过程为例,说有社会责任感的跨国企业,才能发展得更久远。

Lu Wei said that China would update its internet security policies, with the core goal to guarantee state security, and security for the life of the people. He also said that China had always paid great attention to policies concerning foreign internet companies’ development in China because this was related to China’s policy of opening up, and China’s attitude of openness had not changed.

鲁炜说,中国还将更新互联网安全政策,核心目标是确保国家的安全,以及民众的生活安全。他还提到,中国对外国互联网企业在华发展的政策一直很重视,因为这关系到中国的开放政策,而中国对外开放的态度是不变的。

Besides meeting important members of the German government, Lu Wei visited a number of companies and research institutes, and spoke at the Third Sino-German Internet Industry Roundtable conference, explaining the development and challenges faced by China’s internet industry.

除了同德国政要会面外,鲁炜在德国访问期间,还会参观多个企业和研究院所,并在3号出席中德互联网产业圆桌会议,致辞介绍中国互联网产业的发展以及所面临的挑战。

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Footnote

*) A state secretary in Germany is one of usually several secretaries next to the minister him- or herself, one rank further down in the bureaucracy.

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Related

» Industrie 4.0 auch mit China, FAZ, July 14, 2015
» Von Festnahmen überschattet, Die Welt, July 14, 2015
» 据凤凰卫视报道, CAC, July 7, 2015
» Deutsche Unternehmen in China, WiWo, June 30, 2015
» Europe targets U.S. Web Firms, WSJ, Nov 27, 2014
» Aneinander vorbei, China Monitor, Oct 18, 2014
» Noch stärker zusammenarbeiten, Bavaria, April 11, 2013

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

This is a Coup

This is a coup d’état – against democracy in Greece, and against democracy all over Europe.

https://twitter.com/hashtag/thisisacoup

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Refined Propaganda: China’s “National Security Law”, and PLA Exercise in Hong Kong

CCTV coverage, July 4

See what happens? – Xinwen Lianbo, CCTV, July 4.
The exercise didn’t feature
prominently in the broadcast,
and was only shown among a
collection of short news
owards the end of the program.

 

 

“People’s Liberation Army” (PLA) troops stationed in Hong Kong conducted a military exercise at Castle Peak (青山, Green Hill) on Saturday morning, China News Service (CNS, 中国新闻网) reported on the same day. More than 500 Hong Kongers “from all walks of life” were invited as guests, according to the report. An imaginary enemy was occupying twelve successive mountain hills there, according to the screenplay, looking for opportunities to infiltrate the city area and to do damage there (训练场内,依次相连的12个山头被一股假想敌占据。指挥所、迫击炮阵地、地堡工事,假想敌在高地构筑阵地,企图伺机对香港市区实施渗透破坏).  It was the PLA’s task to “annihilate them on the spot”, before they could enter the city (在他们尚未进入市区之前,解放军需要将其就地歼灭).

If the CNS report (whose audience will be mainly mainlanders) reflects what the invited Hong Kongers felt, it was as much a revolutionary opera as an exercise:

In the morning at 10:50, three signal lights rose into the air, and the long-awaited PLA-simulated naval gunfire was opened. At command, the enemy targets were shrouded in smoke.

上午10时50分,三发红色信号弹升空,等待已久的解放军模拟舰炮火力率先开火。一声令下,敌方目标即被硝烟笼罩。

[…]
The turns of firepower attacks didn’t stop. Armed helicopters had just taken off, when mortar bombs arrived at high speed. As the flight speed was too fast, and as the sunlight hampered the eye, the trajectories weren’t clearly visible, but explosions, one to another, could be seen on the opposite hilltop. Six rounds of ten mortars firing, and the enemy targets had suffered heavy destruction.

轮番的火力攻击,并未就此收手。武装直升机刚刚飞离,迫击炮弹急速而来。因飞行速度过快,加之阳光刺眼,现场还没看清弹道,炮弹就已在对面的山头上密集爆炸。10门迫击炮6次齐射,敌方目标遭受猛烈的压制摧毁。

You can probably imagine the rest.

Either the SCMP reporter, the CNS correspondent or this blogger’s translation has got some details wrong though. According to the SCMP, it wasn’t six mortars, but six military helicopters that were mobilised fired on targets set up on the mountain from distances of about 1km.

Either way, the SCMP quotes former Hong Kong security chief Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee (叶刘淑仪) as saying that

I don’t think we need to read too much into the timing. I think the garrison has a duty to assure us that they are well-prepared and ready to defend Hong Kong if there is any threat to our security

Her comments referred to a possible link between the exercise, and a sweeping and controversial national security law, passed by China’s “National People’s Congress” three days earlier.

Apparently, the guests did the propaganda work within Hong Kong, telling the SCMP reporter that the timing of the exercise was unimportant, and that the PLA was merely trying to show Hong Kong that it had the power to protect the city.

Radio Free Asia (RFA), a US broadcaster supervised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), points out that the exercise on Saturday had been the first time that the PLA troops stationed in Hong Kong had invited media and guests. Two of these, Regina Ip, Ma Dingsheng (马鼎盛, apparently a Fenghuang/Phoenix-affiliated miltary commentator from Hong Kong), are quoted both by the SCMP, and RFA.

The Economist points out that state security is a job for the top, conveying

the remarkable range of Mr Xi’s worries, with potential threats seen to be emanating from sources as diverse as the internet, culture, education and outer space.

While the vagueness of the “national security law passed in Beijing could be followed by detailed regulations later, it was unlikely that its key terms will ever be defined more precisely. To Mr Xi, vagueness is a useful weapon.

There could be a little relief in Hong Kong, however, the Economist adds, given that the bill would not be applied in the territory.

That said, the bill isn’t lacking ambition outside mainland China. Ît obliges not only Hong Kong or Macau, but Taiwan, too, to defend China’s sovereignty, notes the SCMP. Huanqiu Shibao (环球时报, in an article rendered here by Sina), notes that the passing of the “National Security Law” had ccaused shock in Hong Kong and Taiwan (全国人大常委会高票通过新的国家安全法,在香港和台湾引发震撼).

The Huanqiu article suggests – without becoming to specific about this question – that worries in Hong Kong that people seen as daring oppositionals like Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) could be arrested when visiting mainland China were unfounded, as the bill was not applied in Hong Kong for the time being (即使法律暂时不在香港执行).

There were, of course, many people in Hong Kong who welcomed the new state security law, Huanqiu adds. But the article also quotes BBC coverage according to which the government and the public in Taiwan (literally: the court and the commonality, 台湾朝野一致反对大陆新国安法) unanimously opposed the bill.

The propaganda approach is pretty global, and China appears to have learned a lot from the Western political class, in terms of more refined propaganda. Pretty much the way most of Germany’s mainstream media make people believe that Greece’s political class and activists are pampered (and costly, for Germans) idiots, Huanqiu fosters a climate in which mainlanders will no longer ask why the liberties customary in Hong Kong shouldn’t be applied in mainland China, but rather, why there should be “special treatment” for anyone within “Greater China”.

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Related

» One Movement, two Pictures, Nov 27, 2014

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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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