Posts tagged ‘Hong Kong’

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Hong Kong’s public broadcaster replaces BBC World Service with Mainland Relay

A QDaily article, republished by Fenghuang (Hong Kong) main link – on August 14, 2017. QDaily (好奇心日报) is a news website from Beijing, focusing on commerical news. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

CPBS may be better known as “China National Radio” these days. However, the Chinese name of the station has never changed. CPBS remains the accurate translation of 中央人民广播电台.

Original title: Central People’s Broadcasting Station’s Voice of Hong Kong to replace BBC’S 24-hours broadcast

原标题:中央人民广播电台香港之声,将取代BBC24小时转播

RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong) published a notice on its official website on August 11, saying that “on September 3 at 24:00 hours, the digital audio broadcasting (DAB) service will be officially terminated. There will also be new program arrangements, including the BBC World Service being broadcast  on RTHK’s Radio 4 channel every night, from 11 p.m. to seven a.m., and Central People’s Broadcasting station’s Voice of Hong Kong being broadcast on RTHK’s Radio 61) channel.

8月11日,香港电台(Radio Television Hong Kong,缩写RTHK)在官网发布通知,表示“将于9 月3 日午夜12 时正式终止数码声音广播服务”,并会有节目新安排,其中英国广播公司国际频道将于每晚11 时至早上7 时,在港台第四台转播;中央人民广播电台香港之声将于港台第六台转播。

This adjustment has attracted broad attention within Hong Kong society, because this means that Hong Kong’s Radio 6 channel which used to relay the BBC World Service 24 hours a day will be decidated to China People’s Broadcasting Station from early morning on September 4, beginning at 00:00 hours midnight. Besides, the newly-designed airtime will be when most Hong Kongers enter the land of dreams.

这一调整在香港社会引起广泛关注,因为它意味着,原先全日24 小时转播英国广播公司国际频道(BBC World Service)的香港电台第六台,将从今年9 月4 日凌晨零时开始,专属于中央人民广播电台香港之声;同时,更换到港台第四台转播后,BBC World Service 的转播时长将被压缩到8 小时,且新设定的转播时段,是在大多数香港人进入梦乡之时。

This is another step in RTHK’s response to the Hong Kong government’s March 28 notice of “ending digital audio broadcasting”.

这则通知,是香港电台对今年3 月28 日香港政府发布的“本港终止数码声音广播”,做出的进一步回应。

At the time, Hong Kong’s Commerce and Economic Development Bureau pointed out that within a short period, three commercial organizations – Fenghuang Uradio, Digital Broadcasting Corporation and Metro Broadcast Corporation – had withdrawn from the market, stating operation problems and insufficient audience numbers as reasons for their withdrawals, showing that the market had lost interest in digital audio broadcasting, leaving RTHK (Hong Kong’s only public broadcaster, and a subordinate agency under the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau) as the only provider of digital audio broadcasting services. This meant “a lack of commercial organizations’ participation”, and “no feasibility”. RTHK was therefore required to terminate relevant operations.

当时,香港商务及经济发展局指出,2011年获发数码声音广播的三家商营机构(凤凰优悦、DBC 数码电台及新城电台),“短时间内均以经营困难和没有足够听众群为由退出市场,反映市场对数码声音广播失去兴趣”,而仅剩香港电台(下属商务及经济发展局,香港唯一的公共广播机构)独自提供数码声音广播服务,“缺乏商营机构参与”,“并不切实可行”。因而要求香港电台在六个月内终止相关的服务。

RTHK DAB was officially launched on September 17, 2012. This broadcasting method means “use of digital compression technology for the transmission of various radio program signals, transformed into strings of digital signals.” The advantages [of this procedure] is that a single signal path can cover all of Hong Kong, avoiding interference, improving sound quality, and provide text information service, etc.. In an area like Hong Kong, where up to 70 percent of the territory are mountainous, and high-rise building standing closely to each other, this way of broadcasting is a good choice.

香港电台的数码声音广播在2012年9月17日正式启动,采用数码方式广播电台节目,具体的操作方法是“利用数码压缩技术,把音乐、访问和不同类型的电台节目等信息,转化为一系列数字信号发送”,其优点在于通过单一信道,即可覆盖全香港、避免受到干扰、改善音质、提供文字信息服务等。在山地面积达70% 且高层楼房密集林立的香港,这种广播方式,是一个不错的选择。

To this end, RTHK established dedicated digital channels and five new frequencies, among them Digital-32, broadcasting China People’s Broadcasting Station’s Voice of Hong Kong all day, and Digital-34, broadcasting RTHK’s Channel 6 content, namely the BBC World Service.

香港电台为此专门设立了香港电台数码台,并开发了5个新频道,其中数码32 台全日转播中央人民广播电台香港之声,而数码34 台全日转播香港电台第六台的内容,即BBC World Service。

Voice of Hong Kong is the Central People’s Broadcasting Station’s 14th program. It uses standard Chinese and Mandarin broadcasting news, arts and cultral programs, financial news and life services, whereas the BBC World Service has been relayed on RTHK’s Radio 6 since December 3, 1989, and before it was relayed from five in the afternoon until early next morning, on RTHK’s Radio 5 (stablished in 1978).2)

香港之声是中央人民广播电台的第十四套节目,使用普通话、广东话全日24小时播放新闻、文化艺术、财经、生活服务等内容;而BBC World Service,在1989年12月3日于香港电台第六台开始转播之前,均在每日下午5点至翌日清晨,在香港电台第五台(1978年创立)转播。

Closing RTHK’s digital radio spells the need to newly adjust the content of the originally five channels. The results of this readjustment has been described at the beginning of this article.

关停香港电台数码台,意味着原先5个频道的内容要做新的调整。调整的结果,在本文开头已指出。

RTHK’s communications director Amen Ng Man-yee believes that to maintain Central People’s Broadcasting Station’s Voice of Hong Kong is essential: “this channel was tailor-made at the time of RTHK’s DAB launch, and it can strengthen the cultural exchange between mainland China and Hong Kong.”

香港电台机构传讯总监伍曼仪认为,保留中央广播电台香港之声是必要的:“该频道是为香港电台推出数码广播时度身打造,而且可以加强大陆与香港间的文化交流。”

She also said that the compression of the BBC World Service relay broadcasts to eight hours had been made because listeners could listen directly to the BBC’s website for releveant content. As for the choice of the airtime [from eleven p.m. to seven a.m.], her answer was that because of the time difference, there would be more news updates during the night [by relaying the BBC programs at that time].

她还表示,将BBC World Service 压缩到每日8小时,是因为听众可以直接在BBC 网站收听到相关的内容;至于播放时段的选择,她的回应是,由于时差缘故,在香港深夜时会有较多的新闻资讯更新。

The BBC’s high-ranking publicity commissioner Helen Deller said in an interview with the “Guardian” that they were disappointed about the adjustments, and encouraged listeners to continue listening to the BBC programs through the internet.

BBC 的高级宣传专员Helen Deller 在接受《卫报》采访时表示,他们对这一调整感到失望,并鼓励听众通过互联网服务继续收听BBC 的节目。

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Notes

1) Radio 6 refers to the 675 kHz medium wave transmission (reportedly at 1 kilowatt) which can be heard all over Hong Kong (and in parts of Guangdong province, particularly at nighttime).
2) This seems to deviate from RTHK’s statement which says that [t]he BBC World Service has been broadcast live on RTHK’s Radio 6 on AM675 since 1978.

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Related

Highly symbolic, The Guardian, Aug 13, 2017
DAB no longer realistic, SCMP, March 28, 2017
RTHK Radio and TV, Wikipedia, acc Aug 26, 2017
DAB, Wikipedia, acc Aug 26, 2017

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Liu Xiaobo, 1955 – 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Charter’s preface, the authors wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Updates/Related

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

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

KMT’s Communication: one Party, two Interpretations

It’s nothing unusual that Beijing bemoans a lack of pro-China “patriotism” among members or supporters of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in Taiwan, but on Wednesday (Oct 26), on a regular press conference, a “Taiwan Affairs Office” (TAO) spokesman commented on a debate within the oppositional Kuomintang (KMT), a party with a Chinese history, according to Taiwanese news agency CNA. Former president Ma Ying-jeou, in office from 2008 to May this year, had worked to promote both closer economic ties to China, and some kind of political understanding. The “1992 consensus” always featured prominently in Ma’s China talk, but not so in president Tsai Ing-wen‘s. Now, the question within the KMT appears tobe  if one China, two interpretations (the traditional KMT view of the “consensus”), or one China, one interpretation should be a position to aspire to.

The TAO spokesman, apparently commenting on controversy within the KMT, also reiterated the “1992 consensus”. He mentioned neither two, nor one interpretation, probably because Beijing has never done that anyway.

Previously, the TAO had commented on the issue a fortnight ago. Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Taiwan’s vice president from 2012 to 2016 (serving during president Ma Ying-jeou’s second term in office), had criticized current KMT chairperson Hung Hsiu-chu‘s (洪秀柱) cross-straits policies. In reaction to Wu’s criticism, KMT cultural and communications commission director Chow Chi-wai (周志偉) had quoted Hung Hsiu-chu as saying that the established KMT formular, “one China, two interpretations”; had not been cancelled, and that the KMT’s central committee would work to continuously strengthen communication further.

The English-language China Times pointed out in a report on October 16 that Hung had advocated moving towards a “one China, one interpretation” status during her presidential campaign in 2015. Hung, in a meeting with KMT legislators, had affirmed that to advocate the “different interpretation” version in a scheduled meeting with Chinese party and state chairman Xi Jinping was her “responsibility”.

However, she also said that the lawmakers probably did not understand the meaning of the “1992 Consensus” and how it had been reached.

Hung’s communication style could be described as erratic. Even people who might want to trust her, may not be in a position to do so when it comes to national security issues.

Apart from that, anything like “one China, one interpretation” is a reliable killer of any hope the KMT may have to win national elections.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Panama Papers: Invested, but not Koppied

You needn’t be there yourself, but should your money? Those places are beginning to look like those parties you simply have to get an invitation to, if you want to matter: the “havens” where (many of) the rich and beautiful put their money. The Virgin Islands, for example. Or Panama. Or Luxemburg? Not sure. Ask a bank.

Reportedly, some members of Vladimir Putin‘s tight-knit inner circle do it. Reportedly, Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan (成龍) does it. So do Thais. Lots of Indians, too. And maybe many Americans, but elsewhere.

Others, also reportedly, did so in the past. One of them even says that he lost money in the game.

But not so fast. Media tend to scandalize everything, don’t they?

According to ICIJ, the documents make public the offshore accounts of 140 politicians and public officials. The documents don’t necessarily detail anything illegal, but they do shine a light on the shadowy world of offshore finances,

National Public Radio (NPR) informs its listeners.

So, let’s not jump to conclusions. The problem, either way, is that the investors’ countries’ governments can’t get a picture of what is there. And once an investor is found on a list like the “Panama Papers”, with investments or activities formerly unknown to his country’s fiscal authorities (and/or the public), he’s got something to explain.

Like Argentine president Mauricio Macri, for example.

So, it’s beautiful to have some money there.

Unless the public begins to continuously ask questions about it.

Timely Exits from Paradise

If British prime minister David Cameron is right, the money he and his wife earned from an offshore trust were taxed. His problem, then, would be the general suspicon of the business.

The Cameron couple reportedly sold their shares in question in 2010, the year he became prime minister.

“Best Effect” and “Wealth Ming” reportedly ceased operations in 2012 and/or 2013. That was when CCP secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping took his top positions. The two companies had been run in the Virgin Islands, and Deng Jiagui (邓家贵), husband to Xi’s older sister, had been the owner, Singaporean paper Zaobao reported on Tuesday.

And then, there’s Tsai Ying-yang (蔡瀛陽), one of the 16,785 Taiwanese Mossack Fonseca customers, the law firm the “Panama Papers” were leaked from. According to his lawyer, Lien Yuen-lung (連元龍), Tsay Ying-yang terminated his Koppie Limited company as soon as in 2009, the year following its establishment, so as to cut the losses – 30 percent of the investment, according to a phone interview Lien gave Reuters, as quoted by the Straits Times.

Tsai Ing-wen hasn’t commented herself, and maybe, she won’t any time soon. It doesn’t seem that too much pressure has mounted so far. But questions are asked all the same. On Wednesday, KMT legislators William Tseng (曾銘宗), Johnny Chiang (江啟臣), and Lee Yan-hsiu (李彥秀) told a press conference that in the “many cases” where the Tsai family had encountered controversy, Tsai Ying-yangs name had emerged, and this “gave cause for doubts” (會起人疑竇).

An Emerging KMT Opposition Pattern

William Tseng may become a regular questioner, concerning the financial affairs of Tsai’s family people. One of the “controversies” he had quoted had been the issue of a press conference on March 24. There, with different KMT colleagues,  but the same kind of artwork on the wall behind the panel, showing the suspect of the day, Tseng dealt with the issue of Academica Sinica president Wong Chi-huey‘s daughter’s role as a shareholder of OBI Pharma Inc..

KMT legislators press conference artwork

KMT representations:
Mind the guys in the background

One of his fellow legislators, Alicia Wang (王育敏), raised the issue of the company’s shareholder structure (and neatly placed Tsai’s brother there, too, maybe just to make his name available for quote by Tseng on other occasions:

“President-elect Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) brother and sister-in-law are also shareholders, and so is Wong’s daughter, Wong Yu-shioh (翁郁秀). Are others involved?”

Diplomatic Relations, but no Tax Treaty

The “Panama Papers”, as far as they concern Taiwanese customers, contain not only individuals, but companies, too: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (founding chairman Morris Chang, who served Taiwan as APEC representative in 2006), TransAsia Airways (more recently in the news for the tragic Flight 235 crash), Yang Ming Marine Transport Corporation, Wei Chuan Food Corporation (in the news since 2013), and the Executive Yuan’s National Development Fund.

The Development Fund was not a taxable organization, Taiwan’s foreign broadcaster Radio Taiwan International (RTI) quotes finance minister Chang Sheng-ford. He used the example to make the point that to suggest that some 16,000 keyword search results for Taiwan in the “Panama Papers” did not signify 16,000 cases of tax evasion. That’s just not the way to look at it.

Chang reportedly also said that while, “if necessary”, Taiwan would establish a Panama Papers working group and start investigating the most high risk people and agencies for tax evasion, the country had no tax treaty with Panama. Also, a Taiwanese anti-tax evasion law had not yet been passed.

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Related

The Panama Papers
Achselzucken schadet, Der Freitag, Apr 7, 2016
The Panama Papers, FoarP, Apr 6, 2016

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Friday, January 8, 2016

Human Rights and Economic Records: Botched Measures and Terrible Occurrences

Before the old (lunar) year leaves and a new comes in, things need to be tidied up in China. However, efforts to calm the stock markets by new management measures appear to have been unsuccessful. And in Hong Kong, where RMB trading, is unrestricted, people pay less for China’s currency, according to the New York Times.

There’s still other bad news, and the indicator in this case, too, is Hong Kong.

“Something terrible has happened. We are all afraid. We are leaving now,” an employee told me a few hours before locking the doors for the foreseeable future.

That’s how the BBC‘s correspondent in the former British colony, Juliana Liu, concluded an entry in the broadcaster’s China blog on Monday, and the topic, of course, is the case of five Hong Kong citizens, all associated with the Causeway Bay Bookstore, who have gone missing since October last year. The latest case is Paul Lee, and he went missing late in December.

Hong Kong’s SCMP, one of East Asia’s leading English-language papers, but one with an uncertain future, reported on Monday the first precept speech by a Chinese leader since Mao Zedong. The guy who’s imitating the late great dictator is, of course, current party secretary general, state chairman, and the central military commissions’ (CMC) chairman Xi Jinping. The speech is seen as part of Xi’s efforts to reform China’s military, but obviously, the – probably intended – signal goes beyond the armed forces project.

Given that no other former CMC chairman, from Deng Xiaoping to Hu Jintao, had given a military precept, an associate professor at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law concludes that Xi’s power and authority is even higher than them.

This may or may not be true. If  Wang Qishan, rather than Li Keqiang, ranks second in terms of power or influence within the party, the assessement may be correct. But then, maybe Deng Xiaoping, who faced open ideological competition at times by more conservative party veterans like Chen Yun, simply didn’t need to show off his autority by admonishing the military.

Back then, too, the party was corrupted. But that was at a time when – or that’s how it felt, anyway – everyone had a chance to become rich. Now, there’s a two-fold challenge of corruption and slowing growth.

This could mean that Xi has powers because potential rivals do not want to challenge him, so as not to rock the not-so-stable boat.

If China’s regime manages the switch from an export-led economy to a more services-oriented economy successfully, the doubts in Beijing’s macro-economic control of the economy won’t persist – some disappeared people, in China or elsewhere, have never been a great concern to business.

All the Xidadamania aside however, confidence in mainland China, in Hong Kong, and abroad, appears to be slipping, at least currently.

In an interview with German national radio on Thursday, Markus Taube, a professor at a university in Germany’s Ruhr region, stated “a massive loss of confidence” in China:

What we see in China at the moment, definitely, is a massive loss of confidence. All market actors can see that the CCP has clearly lost its former control capacity. Until now, the Chinese market was always a very [unreadable] […]. Now, this ability to lead isn’t in place and that the state has failed several times, on its own promises.

Das, was wir in China momentan definitiv sehen ist ein massiver Vertrauensverlust. Alle Marktakteure sehen, dass die Kommunistische Partei offensichtlich ihre frühere Steuerungskapazität verloren hat. Bislang war der chinesische Markt immer ein sehr [unreadable] … Fundamentaldaten haben da kaum eine Rolle gespielt, und es war das Vertrauen einfach da, dass die Partei, der Staat, im Endeffekt die Richtung vorgibt [unreadable]. Jetzt ist es so, dass diese Führungsfunktion fehlt und dass der Staat mehrfach versagt hat, auf seine eigenen Versprechen hin.

Not least, Taube said, the “anti-corruption campaign” has discouraged Chinese decisionmakers in charge of approving (or delaying) investment projects.

Given that Chinese control mechanisms – concerning the financial markets – are out of order, Taube, with an audible sigh, introduces an old friend from the 2009 tool cabinet:

It sounds unorthodox, but probably, in the current situation, it would be more appropriate to issue another stimulus package, in that the state, again, to a great extent, pumps money into the economy. A classical Keynesian stimulus package to create state-induced demand so as to restore the economic dynamics on a basic level.

Es klingt sehr unorthodox, aber wahrscheinlich ist es in der momentanen Situation tatsächlich eher angesagt, ein klassisches Konjunkturpaket wieder aufzusetzen, einen Stimulus, in dem der Staat einfach in großem Maße wieder Geld in die Volkswirtschaft hineinpumpt. Also ein klassisches keynesianisches Konjunkturprogramm, in dem einfach staatlich induziert Nachfrage geschaffen wird, und damit einfach die volkswirtschaftliche Dynamik auf einem grundlegenden Level wieder stabilisiert wird.

That said, Taube doesn’t judge the situation by standards of five-year plans, or by taking the long view, as recommended by the Lord of the Confucius Institutes. Taube advocates a stimulus because the methods tried more recently haven’t worked and wouldn’t turn the tide for the coming six months.

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Updates/Related

» Executives Disappearing, HP, Jan 8, 2016

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

CRI’s “Journalism” Talent Show: no Belief in Facts

The innovation experience described at the lianghui seminar in March 2014 wasn’t exactly new: one of the borrowed-boat reporters mentioned on the seminar by China Radio International‘s (CRI) Zhang Hui, “Andrea Yu”, apparently had an earlier appearance at a CCP-conducted press conference, in November 2012, on the last day of the 18th National Congress. A Guardian article published online on November 14, 2012, contains a link to a soundfile where an Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) correspondent interviewed Yu.

Sina, apparently quoting or republishing a post from the Chinese Herald (澳洲日报) from March 2014, i. e. also from the 2014 two-sessions season, listed a question from “Louise”, also from CAMG, who asked a question to Zhou Xiaochuan (周小川), governor of China’s central bank.

A foreign correspondent apparently lost patience with the silly theater, and shouted: “Give foreign journalists a chance” (给外国媒体一个机会!)  As he was allowed to ask his question, he hastened to make it clear that he was a real foreign journalist. (Which is confirmed by the article.)

The Sina-published article also mentioned a sham reporter from a Hong Kong TV station, but of course, opportunities to speculate become endless under circumstances like these.

Maybe it’s just China Radio International’s talent show. Journalism it is not. But if you have little else to show for, cynicism may be the attitude of choice – and even a mould for “innovative” propaganda.

It’s not necessarily limited to China. According to the Kyiv Post in September this year, Ukraine-born journalist Peter Pomerantsev described the Kremlin’s propaganda as a truthless narrative:

“The Kremlin narrative,” he says, “now is that ‘there is no truth out there, and you’ll never find it; but go with us because our emotional content is more vital.” That promotes cynicism and “cynicism breaks down critical thinking” because at its root “is something quite medieval and emotional – a world of myths and storytelling.”

“When you don’t believe in facts,” Pomerantsev concludes, “you are just left with that.”

 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Leadership Styles: No Meeting without Substance

The Taipei Times compared Pope Francis‘ and Xi Jinping‘s leadership styles: the Chinese traveller to America was outwardly strong and internally weak, while the Roman-Argentinian was the exact opposite, the paper wrote in an online article on Tuesday. As a man who kept close to the public, was met with large crowds of people wherever he went and held Mass for almost 1 million people, the Pope had been a perfect example of soft power.

That was a bit like lauding a model mineworker for churning out tons of coal every day, and criticizing a goldsmith for not doing likewise – or vice versa.

Soft power abroad? Quite a number of Chinese people – especially Chinese people with some exposure to foreign cultures and hurt feelings – may long for it, and the Economist logically threatened Xi with something worse than criticism: neglect. But the politburo could care less. As long as the results are satisfactory – and as long as people at home can be made believe that Americans (not just at Boeing) could hardly wait for the Chinese visitor, everything is staying the desirable course.

But what are the results?

The two sides reached broad consensus and achieved a number of positive results, Ta Kung Pao (Hong Kong) wrote on Sunday:

According to a list published by the Chinese ministry of commerce on September 26, the major consensus and results reached by the two sides can be counted as 49 points, fitting into five big categories. Obama, on his own initiative, reiterated that America maintained the one-China principle and did not support “Taiwan independence”, “Tibet independence”, “Xinjiang independence”, and that America would not get involved in Hong Kong affairs.*)

据中国商务部26日公布的成果清单透露,双方达成的主要共识和成果可分5大类共49项。奥巴马在峰会上主动重申,美国坚持一个中国政策,不支持“台独”、“藏独”、“疆独”,也不介入香港事务。

According to Xinhua reports, Xi Jinping made important suggestions concerning the next stage of Sino-American relations, emphasizing the need to promote Sino-American relations that would always develop along the correct track. The two sides agreed to continue efforts to build Sino-American great-power relations of a new type. He [Xi] also emphasized that the Chinese nation was highly sensitive about matters concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He hoped that America would scrupulously abide by the relevant promises, not to support any action aimed at harming China’s unity and stability.

据新华社报道,习近平就下阶段中美关系发展提出重要建议,强调要推动中美关系始终沿着正确轨道向前发展。双方同意继续努力构建中美新型大国关系。他亦强调,中华民族对事关中国主权和领土完整问题高度敏感。希望美方恪守有关承诺,不支持任何旨在损害中国统一和稳定的行动。

In this regard, Obama, on his own initiative, reiterated that America maintained the one-China principle, scrupulously abided by the principles of the three Sino-US Joint Communiqués, and that this position would not change. America did not support “Taiwan independence”, “Tibetan independence”, and “Xinjiang independence”, and would not get involved in Hong Kong affairs. This is the second time after denying American connection to Hong Kong’s “Occupy Central”, during the APEC summit last year, that Obama stated his position.*)

对此,奥巴马主动重申,美国坚持一个中国政策,恪守中美三个联合公报原则,这一立场不会改变。美国不支持“台独”、“藏独”、“疆独”,也不介入香港事务。这是奥巴马继去年APEC期间否认美国与香港“占中”活动有关后,再次公开对有关议题做出表态。

The 49 projects, results and consensus concern the five great fields of Sino-American great-power relations of a new type, practical bilateral cooperation, Asia-Pacific affairs, international affairs, and global challenges. Among these, nearly twenty negotiation points pertaining to financial and trade cooperation and the Sino-American Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), awaited by all circles, have made progress. The information published by the Chinese ministry of information pointed out that both the Chinese and American leader had reiterated that to reach a high-level investment agreement was “the most important economic issue between the two countries”, and that both sides had agreed to strongly push the negotiations and to accelerate the work.

中美达成的49项目成果和共识涉及中美新型大国关系、双边务实合作、亚太地区事务、国际与地区问题、全球性挑战等五大领域,其中有近20项涉及金融和贸易合作,各界期待的中美投资协定(BIT)谈判业已取得进展。中国商务部26日公布消息指,中美两国领导人重申达成一项高水平投资协定的谈判是“两国之间最重要的经济事项”,双方同意“强力推进谈判,加快工作节奏”。

The Chinese achievement list unequivocally mentions: “The two countries’ leaders reiterate that to reach a high-level investment agreement is “the most important economic issue between the two countries”, and both sides agree to “strongly push the negotiations and to accelerate the work, so as to reach a mutually beneficial, double-win, high-level investment agreement”.

中方成果清单中明确提到:“两国领导人重申达成一项高水平投资协定的谈判是两国之间最重要的经济事项。高水平的投资协定将反映双方对于非歧视、公平、透明度的共同成果,有效促进和确保市场准入和运营,并体现双方开放和自由的投资体制。中美两国同意强力推进谈判,加快工作节奏,以达成一项互利共赢的高水平投资协定。”

China Institute of International Studies researcher Yang Xiyu says that this position [held by] the two heads of state was of historical significance, meaning that the world’s biggest developed and the world’s biggest developing country could, as fast as possible, achieve BIT, and that the world’s two biggest economic entities achieving BIT will raise the long-awaited effects, further solidifying the foundations of mutual trust in trade.

中国国际问题研究院研究员杨希雨表示,两国元首这一表态具有历史性意义,意味着世界上最大的发达国家和最大的发展中国家或尽快达成BIT,而世界上最大的两个经济体达成BIT协议将起到引领效应,进一步夯实中美互信的经贸基础。

[…]

Within the list of achievements, several points of consensus have been reached concerning Sino-American network security cooperation, such as China and America agreeing that each country’s government must not engage in, or knowingly support, the stealing of intellectual property rights, including trade secrets, and other classified trade information. China and America committed themselves to jointly define and promote appropriate standards of international society conduct on the internet, and to establish a high-level, joint dialogue system between the two countries, to strike at cyber crime and related issues. A number of American experts said that this was an important outcome of this [Xi] visit, and that strengthening cooperation about network security was a really important field of work in Sino-American relations. Indiana University professor and high-level Council of Foreign Relations network security researcher David P. Fidler believes that the two countries’ having achieved this consensus is “of major significance, and welcome news”.

此次成果清单中,中美网络安全合作达成多项共识。如中美同意,各自国家政府均不得从事或者在知情情况下支持网络窃取知识产权,包括贸易秘密,以及其他机密商业信息;中美承诺,共同继续制定和推动国际社会网络空间合适的国家行为准则,并建立两国打击网络犯罪及相关事项高级别联合对话机制。多位美国专家对此表示,这是此访重要成果,网络安全是中美加强合作的一个非常重要的领域。印第安纳大学法学教授、美国外交学会网络安全高级研究员戴维.菲德勒认为,两国达成的这一共识“意义重大且受人欢迎”。

The two sides will also strengthen anti-corruption cooperation, strengthen high-speed rail cooperation, strengthen cultural exchange cooperation, and reach consensus in reaction to global challenges, broaden practical cooperation on bilateral, regional and global levels, and manage and control differences and sensitive issues in a constructive manner, continuously achieving new positive results.

此外双方还在加强反腐败合作、加强高铁建设合作、加强文化交流合作及应对全球性挑战方面达成共识,将努力拓展双边、地区、全球层面各领域务实合作,以建设性方式管控分歧和敏感问题,不断取得新成果。

A benevolent label for these outcomes could be progress, and an accurate one would be unverifiable progress. It’s sort of obvious that Washington and Beijing wouldn’t issue a snafu statement at the end of the talks. What Beijing might consider a real achievement, however, is the prevention of an exchange of sanctions in the wake of the “network security”, i. e. hack-and-spy, controversies. That doesn’t go without saying – news coverage during late summer pointed to a chance that this could happen.

Hong Kong website Fenghuang (or Ifeng), in an article on September 22, attributed much of the success in defusing the conflicts to a visit by a delegation to Washington from September 9 to 12:

China attaches great importance to Sino-American relations and their future development, and does not ignore the concrete problems that occupy America.

中国关注中美关系大局及未来走向,并未怠慢美国关注的具体问题。

From September 9 – 12, politburo member and the central committee’s political and judicial committee secretary Meng Jianfu visited America in his capacity as Xi Jinping’s special envoy, together with [a delegation of] responsibles at offices for public security, the judiciary, network communication, etc.. He had talks with secretary of state John Kerry, homeland security secretary Jeh Johnson, national security adviser Susan Rice, and other central [US] authorities, to exchange views about cyber crime and other outstanding problems, and to achieve important consensus. Meng Jianzhu’s trip broke with old habits. Under Xi Jinping’s leadership, China’s diplomacy has become more direct and more practical.

9月9日至12日,中共中央政治局委员、中央政法委书记孟建柱以 习近平特使身份,率公安、安全、司法、网信等部门有关负责人访问美国,同美国国务卿克里、国土安全部部长约翰逊、总统国家安全事务助理赖斯等核心部门举行 会谈,就共同打击网络犯罪等突出问题深入交换意见,达成重要共识。中央政法委书记作为特使,打破以往惯例,习近平治下的中国外交更加直接务实。

That, and some more soothing soundbytes from Beijing, appeared to have had their effect on Washington, suggests Fenghuang:

On September 16, Obama made remarks about cyber security again, but according to Reuters, America will not impose sanctions on so-called “cyber attacks” before Xi Jinping’s visit, and maybe not afterwards either.

16日,奥巴马再次就网络安全放话,但据路透社报道,美国不会在习近平访美之前对所谓的“网络攻击”进行制裁,之后可能也不会。

After all, the main goal of the Obama administration had been to put pressure on Beijing, and to address domestic complaints, the Fenghuang article believed.

What looks credible – because it’s said to be long-established practice anyway – is that whatever consensus was indeed there between Washington and Beijing had been reached before Xi Jinping even set foot on American soil.

When he reached the American West Coast from Beijing, he meant business, not soft power – although there’s probably something charming to a 300-aircraft order form, at least among the stakeholders. The traditional microcosms were also conscientiously cultivated, even if Winston Ross of Newsweek was not convinced:

[Xi Jinping’s] handlers, who had corralled me and the reporters from the Associated Press, Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times for the previous hour in anticipation of this exchange, apparently assumed we all spoke Mandarin. The Times reporter shot me a bewildered look. I shrugged. Xi said something to Oregon Governor Kate Brown that she found hilarious. We asked for a transcript of his remarks. We were not given one.

That occasion, Xi’s first stop – i. e. the meeting with American governors and Chinese provincial governors -, wasn’t (much) about substance, Ross alleged. He could have known better, even without translation: maintaining contacts between many layers of business and politics – not just the top echelons – is both a Chinese move to keep contacts going even if top-level relations between China and another country should deteriorate. Besides, while Confucius Institutes and other means of  indoctrination soft power may face some scrutiny at federal or central governments of democratic countries, regional authorities may lack the resources that such scrutiny would require.

Chinese central leaders waste no time with unsubstantial meetings. They waste no time with soft-power ambitions either. It’s the technology, stupid.

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Note

*) VoA has a somewhat different take on this: according to their newsarticle on Wednesday, Obama referred to both the Three Joint Communiqués, and the Taiwan Relations Act, and that had been the only public remarks made about Taiwan during Xi’s state visit in Washington. Ta Kung Pao omitted the mention of the TRA.

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Related

» Joint Press Conference, White House, Sept 25, 2015
» Six-point proposal, Xinhua, Sept 25, 2015

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Links: O2O Business in China

Warning: JR is trying to explain the economy to himself. His word pool and previous knowledge about this topic are shaky, and the following may or may not make sense – you’ll have only have yourselves to blame if you base your homework (or investment decisions) on this post.

Going “Brick-and-Mortar”

Let’s get industrial. O2O is about [people] buying things online, but collecting them from a shop on their side of the computer or smartphone – or having the stuff delivered to their doorstep. But China’s woefully inefficient logistics network .. acts as a brake on e-commerce growth, the Economist wrote in August, and that leads to online retailers seeking “brick-and-mortar” outlets to increase the points of delivery and to make their goods more accessible for their online customers.

Dalian Wanda Group’s (万达集团) and Suning Commerce Group (苏宁云商) are a recent example in the news. Wanda’s property development section (the company’s other major trades would be culture and tourism)  provides department stores or plazas all over the country, and Suning Commerce Group is a retailer with reportedly more than 1600 stores across mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan. The two have signed a cooperation agreement: Suning will open stores at Wanda Plazas throughout the country, Reuters wrote on September 6.

National Soft Power, too

China News Service (CNS) explained, on September 7:

Suning coming into play is a direct result of an upgrade at Wanda. Wang Jianlin has long indicated that the answer would be revealed on this day.

其实,细心的人早就能发现这次合作的蛛丝马迹。它与万达正在进行的业态升级紧密关联。甚至可以说,苏宁的入局,正是万达进行业态升级的直接成果。王健林一直引而不发,直到这一天揭晓答案。

The adjustments had been watched by many skeptical observers for about half a year, without Wang Jianlin providing much of a response during all the time, according to CNS. But as for Wanda’s department stores, or plazas, CNS has reassuring news:

Are Wanda’s stores really as bad as comments from outside suggest? Not at all. One one occasion, in an internal meeting, Wang Jianlin revealed that nearly half of the Wanda stores were incurring losses, but that the other half of them were profitable. He was in a position to cut the outlets that were incurring heavy losses, optimize the portfolio, and then have a attractive story to tell to the Hong Kong capital markets, with a beautiful financial report.

万达百货真的有外界评说的那么糟糕吗?并不是。王健林曾经在一次内部会上透露,万达百货有近一半是亏损的,但还有另一半是盈利的。他完全可以砍掉亏损严重的门店,优化资产组合,用亮丽的财报去给香港资本市场讲一个动听的故事。

The CNS article also points out that Wanda became involved in the culture industry in 2012.

Compared with real estate business, the contribution the culture segment could make to [the Wanda group’s] revenues and profits was very low, but it perfectly fitted into the strategic requirements of the national advancement of soft power, and its synergy effects with real estate, tourism, and other trades was obvious. As big onlooking companies  from the real estate began to recognize [Wanda’s approach], they scrambled to emulate it.

2012年,万达发力文化产业。跟地产比起来,文化产业能够贡献的收入和利润份额在当时非常之低,但是却紧密契合了国家提升软实力的战略需求,与地产、旅游等行业的协同效应非常明显。以至于在后来,许多大型地产企业都看明白了,开始争相效仿。

CNS also refers to the acquisistion of AMC Theatres (AMC Cinemas), and Infront Sports and Media, and offers an explanation as to why such acquisitions would make sense, and concludes:

There are many more such examples. Every draw in this game of chess was made not from a spur of the moment, but as a move taken after careful consideration, serving the transformation plan for the entire Wanda group. This is also true for the adjustments of the stores, and the introduction of Suning.

这样的例子还有很多。万达的每一步棋子都不是临时起意,都是深思熟虑之后的谨慎之举,并为整个集团公司的转型大计服务。调整百货,引入苏宁,也是如此。

The message provided by CCTV’s website for the foreign audience is equally heartwarming:

The Wanda Group, headed by Asia’s richest man Wang Jianlin, seems unstoppable.

Complementary illustration ...

Complementary illustration …

The Financial Times, in an online article published on August 6, isn’t quite that enthusiastic – although, it should be said, their misgivings aren’t about the Wanda-Suning romance which was only made public in September, but about the O2O industry in general. Rising labor costs could hamper the business model, and it is not entirely clear what lasting new business models will emerge.

That said, if O2O is really a lifestyle, as suggested by Chinaskinny, the question might come up, sooner or later, if and how costs play a role in that customer “hobby”, and if the promises it makes to the supplier side are sustainable, For sure, the example of the nail specialists who can make so much more per hour, if based on O2O, is all over the internet, as observed by the FT.

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Related

» Baidu Q3 forecast, TechCrunch, July 27, 2015
» Traditional Industries, new Bones, April 17, 2015
» Central Committee Cultural Decision, Oct 28, 2011

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