Posts tagged ‘human rights’

Saturday, May 19, 2018

East-West Relations: “Not the Partner” (1)

The Economist‘s title story on March 3 this year was about “how the West got China wrong”. In some more detail, the same edition explored as to how China is “not the partner you were looking for”.

As a public, we seem to have a tendency to categorically idealize and devalue relationships – even between nations and civilizations. This is how Max Frisch, a late Swiss author and playwright, put cooling love affairs into an exemplary gloomy dialog:

“You are not,” says the disappointed he or she, “who I thought you were.” (“Du bist nicht”, sagt der Enttäuschte oder die Enttäuschte, „wofür ich Dich gehalten habe.”)

Now, I’m not thinking of West-East relations as a love affair, and Max Frisch was describing the feelings of individuals. But the quote applies all the same (even if Frisch would certainly disapprove of putting it into this East-West context). Propaganda shapes “collective identities”, and according to Jacques Ellul, it offers man “a remedy for a basically intolerable situation” – the impossibility of grasping “the world’s economic and political problems”.

Both Western and Chinese narratives about a disappointing relationship are beginning to take shape. Both are top-down propaganda – people at the grassroots, this blogger included, can only draw information from mainstream and alternative media, blogs (which frequently turn newspaper steaks into hamburger meat without changing the substance), and individual contacts. That’s no great competition for propaganda – rather, it’s part of it. I don’t claim to be able to escape from it, either. I’m experimenting. I’m still blogging because it’s fun.

During this summer, I might try to depict “how the West got China wrong”, and “how China” (or uncertain shares of  Chinese public opinion, anyway) “got the West wrong”. It may also be interesting to speculate about how we will continue to get each other wrong, or which of the mainstream narratives, if either of them, will prevail – or how they may have to take realities into account in order to prevail.

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Related

The Primacy of Politics, June 13, 2010

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Trier: the Statue stands and divides, but Marx isn’t the Problem

This is a sad day in Trier, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. The city where Karl Marx was born in 1818 has accepted a Marx statue as a gift from the Chinese state. As news magazine Der Spiegel wrote in March 2017, 42 members of the city parliament supported the idea of taking the statue, seven opposed it, and four abstained. The statue is scheduled to be unveiled this morning.

The BBC quotes Trier’s mayor Wolfram Leibe as saying that “[w]e have accepted it as a gesture of friendship and this statue should encourage people to deal with Karl Marx,” and that “[m]aybe some judgements and prejudices will be revised.”

Katrin Werner, representing the Left Party, argued in 2017 that “Trier should rise to the occasion and “stand by one of its best-known children.”

But this is missing the point. A “present from the PRC” is a present from the regime. A Green deputy put it best, a year ago: “by accepting a gift, you honor the one who makes the present,” he reportedly said. By refusing to take it, Trier could make a case for human rights.

In an interview unrelated to the Trier statue, but about Marx, Gregor Gysi, former head of Germany’s Left Party from 1989 to 1993, and currently president of the Party of the European Left, when asked why Marx’ ideas deserve attention, given that regimes around the world had justified dictatorship and human rights violation with his ideology, suggested that state socialism had abused Marx. What should be striven for was a freedom-based socialism “that picks up the things capitalism does well, that leaves out what capitalism can’t do well, but only with the support of a popular majority”, plus separation of powers.

But while acknowledging that state socialism was a failure, he also pointed out that all (three) attempts to date to establish genuine democratic socialism – the Paris Commune, the Prague Spring, and in Chile – had been struck down by the military.

When it comes to the Greek Chinese gift, even mainstream German media can see some good in Marx: according to Friedrich Engels, he once said that “all I know is that I’m not a Marxist”. After Marx’ death, Engels ascribed this to Marx, in a critical letter to Paul Lafarge, an opponent to reformism.

Leftists may tend to idealizing democratic socialism – as far as I can see, Salvador Allende, one of the democratic socialists cited by Gysi, did not really have a mandate of a majority for “radical” policies.

But many who take gifts from China – even professorships and statues – aren’t terribly interested in Marx anyway – they are interested in Marxists (provided that those are wealthy and generous). In Lower Saxony, the same cabinet that oversaw the delayed award of citizenship to a British-Italian applicant in 2009 (it became a protracted affair, because she was a member of the left party), sounded happy tunes about China’s financing of one-and-a-half professorships at Göttingen University, in 2010.

Marx? God forbid. But money doesn’t stink. And avoiding offense to the CCP spells business for Trier. The feelings of Chinese tourists must not be hurt.

Marx isn’t the problem. But there are still a few problems in his country – his native land, which once forced him into exile.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Win-Win Flattery: Guanchazhe welcomes an Austrian “Supernova”

1. A Historical First (“Guanchazhe” review of Austrian papers)

Main Link: Historical First! Austrian President and Chancellor visiting China same Time in April (奥地利总统总理4月将同时访华)
Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Guanchazhe is a Chinese economic magazine from Shanghai, and Austrian president Alexander Van der Bellen‘s visit to China isn’t its main issue, of course. That would be how Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and Adam Smith would look upon China’s economic reform if they were still alive.

But Van der Bellen – or more specifically: chancellor Sebastian Kurz – is among the top stories on Saturday, as a correspondent from Germany asks what Austria is looking for in China.

And on March 21, the Austrian double-visit earned itself an exclamation mark:

A historical first! Austrian president and chancellor going to visit China at the same time in April.

史上首次!奥地利总统总理4月将同时访华

Well then – that should tell us how Van der Bellen and Kurz look upon China’s economic reform.

In an article based on several sources (综合报道, i. e. several Austrian newspapers), the article reads as follows (links within blockquotes added during translation):

In what is “the biggest Austrian state visit in history”, according to Wiener Zeitung, Austrian president Van der Bellen and chancellor Kurz are visiting China in April. Several Austrian media report this unparalleled same-time visit to another country under the headline of “historical visit”.

“奥地利历史上最大的国事访问”,据奥地利《维也纳日报》报道,奥地利总统范德贝伦 (Alexander Van der Bellen) 和总理库尔茨(Sebastian Kurz)4月将一同访问中国。总统和总理同时出访同一个国家,在奥地利历史上尚属首次,多家媒体都以“历史性访问”为题进行报道。

The reports said that the Austrian president and chancellor announced on Monday [March 19] that they were to conduct Austria’s largest-scale state visit in Austria’s history, from April 7 to 12.

报道称,奥地利总统和总理周一宣布, 将进行奥地利史上最大规模的国事访问,与总理库尔茨在4月7日至12日访华。

It is reported that no less than four ministers, including foreign minister Karin Kneissl, environment minister Elisabeth Köstinger, infrastructure minister Norbert Hofer and economic and digitalization minister Margarete Schramböck.

据报道,随同两人访华的不少于4名部长,包括外交部长Karin Kneissl、农林环境与水利部长Elisabeth Köstinger、基础设施部长Norbert Hofer和经济及数字化部长Margarete Schramböck等。

The delegation will also include the chairman of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce, about 170 Austrian entrepreneurs, and dozens of Austrian scientists, cultural workers, and others, some 250 members combined.

此外,代表团还包括奥地利商会主席、约170名奥地利企业家和数十名科学家与文化工作者等,共约250人。

Austrian vice-chancellor Strache will temporarily take care of the government. Austria’s chancellor Kurz said that the vice-chancellor would stand in for him at the weekly cabinet meeting.

由于总统和总理同时访华, 奥地利副总理斯特拉赫(Heinz-Christian Strache)将临时管理政府。奥地利总理库尔茨表示,副总理将代替自己主持每周的部长理事会例会。

According to Austria’s “Kronen-Zeitung”, Van der Bellen said that “we can sign various agreements between Chinese and Austrian companies”, and “the state visit will help to move further in the development of bilateral relations, especially in the areas of economics, science, culture and the environment.”

奥地利《皇冠报》报道称,“我们希望能够签署中奥企业之间的各种协议,”奥地利总统范德贝伦表示,“国事访问将有助于进一步发展双边关系,特别是在经济、科学、文化和环境领域。”

Van der Bellen pointed out that in the fields of environmental protection technology and city planning, Austria had exclusive technologies that could be beneficial for China. “China, too, wants to have clean lakes and rivers.” For example, when hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, Austrian companies could be of help.

范德贝伦指出,奥地利在环境保护和城市规划方面的专有技术可以使中国受益,“中国也希望拥有干净和湖泊和河流”,比如中国承办2022年冬奥会,奥地利企业可以提供许多帮助。

According to China’s embassy in Austria, a Chinese ministry of commerce delegation visited Austria in April last year, took part in the Chinese-Austrian Economic Comittee’s 26th conference, attended the 22nd international alpine ski equipment exhibition, and discussed Sino-Austrian winter sports cooperation activities.

据中国驻澳大使馆介绍,去年4月,中国商务部代表团曾访问奥地利,参加中奥经贸联委会第26次会议,出席第22届国际阿尔卑斯滑雪用品展开幕式、中奥冬季运动合作研讨会等活动。

Also, “Kronen-Zeitung” reported that Austria hopes to participate in China’s very active research and development, and to have negotiations about economic exchange agreements.

此外,《皇冠报》还称,奥地利希望参与中国非常活跃的发展研究领域,还有关于文化交流的协议也希望能够进行商谈。

Chancellor Kurz, who is only 32 years old, is Europe’s youngest head of government, and considered to be a “supernova” in the European world of politcs. As for this visit to China, Kurz said that “China is a country with a huge potential”, and several hundred Austrian companies were already operating in China.

年仅32岁的奥地利总理库尔茨,是欧洲最年轻的政府首脑,也被认为是欧洲政坛的“超新星”。对于此次访华,库尔茨表示, “中国是一个潜力巨大的国家”,已有九百多家奥地利企业在中国经营。

Kurz said that to put it simply, China had a veto right at the UN, it was a major participant in reacting to climate change and in the North Korean issue, with a GDP growh target of 6.5 percent this year, and also one of the fastest-growing economies. China’s middle class was growing rapidly, and in economic terms, China was “a newly rising superpower.”

库尔茨称,简单地说,中国在联合国拥有否决权,在应对气候变化和朝鲜问题上是主要的国际参与者,中国今年GDP增速目标是6.5%,也是增速最快的经济体之一,中产阶层迅速成长,在经济上是“新兴的超级大国”。

Kurz conceded that apart from mutual win-win, there were also “sensitive issues” between China and Austria. The key was that “the European and Austrian economies must be protected, by defending them against unfair competition and excessive production.”

此外,库尔茨也坦陈,除了互利共赢外,中奥之间也存在“敏感问题”。关键在于,“欧洲和奥地利经济必须受到保护,以防止不公平竞争或过度产能”。

Kurz said that during his visit to China, Austrian participation in China’s “one belt, one road” project would also be discussed. Austria acknowledges China’s “one belt one road” plan, and its government hopes to reach better coordination. In the preparatory process for this visit to China, all departments were actively involved.

库尔茨也表示,访华期间将讨论奥地利参与中国“一带一路”相关项目问题。奥地利认可中国“一带一路”计划,政府希望能做到更好地协调,在此次访华准备过程中,各部门都积极参与。

According to “Wiener Zeitung”, apart from taking part in Beijing events, the Austrian president and chancellor would also take part in the Boao Forum held on Hainan, and visit Chengdu, western China’s metropolis.

2. Counterweight Hopeful (Guanchazhe short bio of Kurz)

MainLink: Austria turns East (奥地利正在向东转)
Links within blockquotes added during translation.

The supernova (i. e. the Austrian chancellor) is explained in more detail in today’s Guanchazhe article by the correspondent in Germany:

This youngest chancellor in Austria’s history, 31-year-old Kurz, is certainly known to everyone, for his [young] age and appearance. But many people may not know his nature: aged 29, during his tenure as foreign minister, Kurz showed outstanding boldness, standing up to pressure from all sides. Braving the risk of an early end to his career by shutting the Balkan Route, lived up to the mission, averted Europe’s crisis, which was exactly what made him the victor in the October 2017 parliamentary elections.

奥地利这位欧洲史上最年轻的31岁总理库尔茨,想必借着他的年龄与外貌,已被大家所了解。但很多人可能还不知道,他的内在甚至还要远超其出众的外在:时年29岁的库尔茨在外交部长任上时,曾在难民危机中表现出非凡的气魄,顶住各方压力,冒着职业生涯终结的危险关闭西巴尔干路线,最终不辱使命,使欧洲转危为安,正是这点使得他能够在2017年10月的国会大选中胜出。

The correspondent also expresses esteem for Kurz’ successor in Austria’s foreign ministry, Karin Kneissl: an extremely noteworthy personality (一个极其值得注意的人物), speaking English, Arabic, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Italian and Hungarian, and author of a book about China.

In her book, “The Change in the World Order” [literally: “On the Way into a Chinese World Order”], Kneissl writes that the process of Austria’s turn to the East actually opened the curtain on [the scene of] the world order entering a “Chinese order”. As for Europe not expressing hopes to take part in the one belt one road plan, this had mainly been the case  because Beijing had not answered to their persistent ideological demands (such as government transparency, human rights and minimum social security issues).

克莱瑟在他的《世界秩序的改变和换岗》一书中写到,奥地利向东转的进程事实上在几年前就已拉开帷幕——世界秩序将要进入一种新的“中国秩序”。而欧盟并未对中国的一带一路的规划表示希望参与,主要是因为北京方面没有回应他们一贯的意识形态要求(如政府透明,人权以及最低社会保障等问题)。

The correspondent then takes aim right at the regional hegemon – Germany. It was Germany that was largely to blame for the loss of contractual reliability among European states, she writes. The country had acted unilaterally in the European debt crisis of 2009 (欧债危机), in the 2015 refugee crisis, thus harming other European partners and third countries, China’s interests among them:

Kneissl writes in her book that “not wanting to acknowledge the methodology of China’s rise will be regarded by future history scholars as ‘a dangerous and silly refusal to adopt realistic action'” – which is exactly the approach of the authorities in Brussels (EU).

克莱瑟在书中说: “不愿承认中国的崛起的做法,恐怕会被将来的历史学家归为‘危险而愚蠢的拒绝接受现实的行为’”——而这却正是布鲁塞尔(欧盟)当局现今的做法。

An important factor in Kurz’ election victory of last year, the correspondent notes, was his opposition against German chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy.

It’s a long article, and if someone is interested in how Germany’s image has recently been shaped by Chinese media, he might want to translate all of it. German-Chinese relations are souring, reflected not least by some remarks by Sigmar Gabriel (Germany’s foreign minister until a few weeks ago) in an interview with newsmagazine Der Spiegel in January:

For years, we’ve been constantly hearing about a multi-speed Europe. It would be great if that were the case, because that would at least mean that we were all moving in the same direction, just at different speeds. The truth is that we have long had a multi-track Europe with very different objectives. The traditional differences between the north and the south in fiscal and economic policy are far less problematic than those that exist between Eastern and Western Europe. In the south and east, China is steadily gaining more influence, such that a few EU member states no longer dare to make decisions that run counter to Chinese interests. You see it everywhere: China is the only country in the world that has a real geopolitical strategy.

See also this blog and press review, subheadlines “Central Europe (1)” and “Central Europe (2)“. A global and a regional hegemon – China and Germany – are competing for influence in the region.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Shortwave Logs: Radio Romania International (RRI)

If you are looking for a European broadcaster on shortwave, the BBC World Service may come to your mind – or Radio Romania International (RRI). The latter’s range of program languages is quite diverse: English, Chinese, French, Romanian, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, Italian, and German. One a week, on Sundays, there’s a broadcast in Hebrew, too, with a review of the week1).

— Some history

According to the station’s website, first experimental radio programmes for target areas beyond Romania’s borders were aired in 1927. Broadcasting became official on November 1, 1928, on 747 kHz (401.6 meters) – apparently targeted at a domestic audience, in Romanian only. French and English programs followed in 1932, “to inform the diplomatic corps in the Romanian capital city”, and weekly programs in French and German were targeted at central and western Europe. Before the second world war, all foreign broadcasts depended on medium wave transmitters. When the first shortwave transmissions began, the focus appears to have been on the Balkans, and the Middle East. According to RRI, [i] t seems that the first letter received from abroad came from Egypt.

It’s a detailed account of RRI’s history (and that of its preceding organizations, all headquartered in Bucharest’s General Berthelot Street), and will most likely contain some information that is new to the reader.

Olt County's coat of arms, 1985 and post-1989

Olt County’s coat of arms, as depicted on a QSL card of December 1985, and as of these days (click picture for Wiki entry)

— Languages, Programs, Contraditions

RRI provides news, background reports and some cultural coverage. Much of the content is the same in English, German, and Chinese, but focus may differ somewhat. While there is news, some background information and cultural programming in all these languages, listeners’ preferred topics seem to count, too. German listeners frequently enquire about European and social issues – something that appears to be of less interest to Chinese listeners. The scope of Chinese programs may also be somewhat limited by air time: thirty minutes per broadcast in Chinese, rather than sixty, as is the case with some of the broadcasts in English, French, and German.

When it comes to international exchange or openness, RRI certainly can’t be accused of discrimination. The Institut Francais is shown among their partners on the French service’s web pages, and a link to the “Confucius Institute” in Bucharest adorns the Chinese-language main page, side by side with one to the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (with no specified status).

According to RRI’s English service’s website, RRI’s Chinese service, which first went on air on October 1, 1999, benefited from […] Chinese language experts […] as well as our colleagues from Radio China International, the Romanian language department […].2)

Given the kind of “news” being broadcast by China Radio International (CRI), this kind of cooperation doesn’t look appropriate.

Some caveats: undue Beijing’s influence isn’t limited to RRI in particular, or to southeastern Europe in general3) (as suspected by some German quarters). A number of German universities have opted for cooperation with the agency from Beijing, for example, and areas of cooperation are hardly less sensitive.

Also, RRI’s news broadcasts in Chinese don’t appear to differ from those of the English or German departments. When Chinese listeners hear about Romanian citizens who take to the street, opposing changes to the country’s legal system, or Japan’s prime minister emphasizing liberty, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as Japan’s and Romania’s shared values and principles, it may be met with more open minds, than if broadcast by a source that is deemed hostile by its audience.

All the same, turning October 1, 1949 into common ground between the audience and the station’s first broadcast in Chinese (October 1, 1994) spells a major contradiction, when suggesting at the same time, on a different history page, that RRI services turned towards the future, towards once again building a bridge between Romania and the democratic world and re-establishing the link between Romanians living abroad and those back home, a link that had been weakened on purpose by the totalitarian regime.

— Audience

RRI doesn’t offer detailed statistics – few international broadcasters do. It seems likely, however, that a presence on shortwave makes a difference for the better. I wouldn’t hear or read much about the country, if its signals didn’t come in handy. I’m suspecting that within Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, you can listen to RRI with a pressing iron (any appliance with spiral coils should do).

What has kept this blogger from giving feedback to the station is their online policy. It seems that everything that is mentioned in their listener’s-feedback programs goes right online, as a transcript. Facebookers probably won’t mind, but more traditional listeners may be a different story.

Either way, RRI certainly has its fans, and its multipliers.

— Shortwave

Shortwave plays an important role, at least when it comes to middle-aged and old listeners. For one, there’s the technical aspect. Nobody is encouraged to disassemble and reassemble his smartphone, or to boost its transmission power or its sensitivity. Use of shortwave, however, involves technical aspects, and people interested in some DIY. And while an app user may brush any source of information away after a few seconds, shortwave listeners’ attention span is likely to be sturdier.

It would seem to me that among a number of other aspects (sound not least – I find digital sound ugly), shortwave broadcasting signals respect for the listeners. It is more costly than web-based communication, it doesn’t provide broadcasters with as much information about how “efficient”, in terms of listener numbers, their productions actually are (which means that even the invisible listener matters), and it doesn’t ask if a listener lives under circumstances that allow for internet access – be it for economic or censorship reasons.

Shortwave is therefore a unique RRI feature. Bulgaria abandoned its shortwave transmissions years ago, so did Radio Poland, Radio Ukraine International, and Radio Prague (except for some airtime on German or American shortwave stations respectively). Radio Budapest, once one of the most popular Eastern European external broadcasters, is history.

— Recent RRI logs

Broadcasts in Chinese, German, and Hebrew
Time UTC Lang. Date Freq. S I N P O
07:00 German Jan21 7345 5 5 5 4 4
13:30 Chinese Jan21 9610 4 5 5 3 4
17:05 Hebrew Jan21 9790 4 5 5 3 4

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Footnotes

1) RRI’s website states 19:05 hours as the beginning of the transmission, which is standard time in Romania, and in Israel (17:05 GMT/UTC).
2) The Romanian department at CRI still exists, with an online presence, and medium/shortwave transmissions.
3) The “Spiegel” interview in German.

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Headlines 2017 (2) – Li Xuewen

Li Xuewen (黎学文), a writer from Guangzhou, was arrested on December 19China Change, a website focused on news and commentary related to civil society, rule of law, and rights activities in China, reported earlier this month. China Change also published a personal statement by Li Xuewen (same page, following the article).

According to the website, Li was arrested for having attended

a seaside memorial in Xinhui, Guangdong, on July 19, 2017, four days after the eventual death of China’s most known dissident and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo. At least a dozen or so people took part in it, ten have been detained and then released “on bail.”
[…]
Li Xuewen believes that he was recognized by China’s sophisticated surveillance and facial recognition system.

Liu Xiaobo had died of liver cancer on July 13 this year, still serving an 11-years sentence for “inciting subversion of state power”.

China Digital Times wrote in May that Li Xuewen moved to Guangzhou from Beijing, in 2016, after losing a publishing job in the Chinese capital in 2014 due to alleged official pressure.

Liu Xiaobo’s widow Liu Xia who is under house arrest in Beijing, apparently without any official charges against her, was reportedly granted an excursion into the city on Christmas Eve with her younger brother, who visited from Hong Kong.

Apparently earlier on the day of his arrest, Li Xuewen took part in an exchange of messages on Twitter, about the importance of giving equal emphasis to morality, and to utility. His message refers to the memory of late dissidents like Liu Xiaobo, and Yang Tongyan. My Chinese isn’t good enough to translate Li’s tweet into English, but this is the wording:

我想说的是:刘晓波杨天水等人被那么残酷的虐死,民间几十年代价可谓昂贵惨烈,一味的道义标举固然无可非议,但难道不应该提出功利问题了么?功利事关目标,合理的手段,也是合格的反对者应有的责任伦理,谈功利并不意味着放弃道义,只是要强调两者不可偏废。

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Updates/Related

Linked to Gathering, IC Pen, July 16, 2014

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Dalai Lama and Barack Obama meeting in New Delhi

Heads of state and government (apparently) can’t always afford to be polite – not if this CS Monitor report of nearly eight years ago is something to go by. In February 2010, the Dalai Lama, as he left the White House after a meeting with then president Barack Obama, was reportedly “awaited” by “a mound of trash”. A White House spokesman contested the interpretation – see same CS Monitor page.

But there were other downgradings, too, at the time. Obama met Tibet’s spiritual leader in the “map room” of the White House, not in the Oval Office. An ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) reporter interpreted this – most probably accurately – as a concession to China, which had demanded that the meeting not even go ahead.

Aller, Nov 2017

But a wise man who works to better the lot of the People won’t fear the height of a mountain or the width of a river on his way to gain worldly credit.

It will be left to reason here if Donald Trump is too high a mountain, or if meeting him, just like having met all US presidents from George H. W. Bush to Barack Obama while they were in office, wouldn’t benefit Tibet anyway.

There has been another meeting between the Dalai Lama and Barack Obama last Friday, and when you are travelling on behalf of your foundation that carries your name, meetings with the man Beijing loves to hate appear to make sense. The setting in New Delhi appears to have been nicer, too, than in the White House, in 2010.

The meeting apparently hasn’t generated a splash in the Chinese media. Overseas Chinese Website Duowei News, a news website operated from New York (and blocked in China, according to Wikipedia) points out that just before, Obama had completed a China visit, including a Meeting with Xi Jinping at Diaoyutai Guest House. Xinhua newsagency reported on Thursday that Xi and Obama held talks on November 29.

Duowei also adds some statistics, saying that this was the sixth meeting between the Dalai Lama and Obama, and that the most recent one had taken place at the White House, in July 2016, when Obama was still in office. (According to VoA, that was in June 2016.)

During an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) during a visit to Ottawa, the president of Tibet’s exile government in Dharamsala, Lobsang Sangay, advocated the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Way” policy.

Monday, August 21, 2017

In the News & Blogs (Aug 1 – 21): Beijing’s Little Helpers abroad

“China Quarterly” cooperates with China censors / Taiwan hosts 2017 Summer Universiade / Kim spoils Fun for Chinese Guam Visitors / Red-noticed police / The First “Five Marvellous Years” / Want to be Chinese?

Doing Beijing’s Dirty Work (1): Academic Institutions

Update: Cambridge University Press restores articles, Washington Post, Aug 21, 2017

China Quarterly apparently cooperates with Beijing by blocking access to articles and e-books on their website.

Can we expect them to do better? I have my doubts. Their topic is China – and if they don’t cooperate, others will, and might replace the renowned magazine. That’s no excuse, of course, and they could still display character rather than opportunism, but one has to admit that they are facing a tough choice. If they decided otherwise, there would be no academic solidarity – alternative opportunists would chum up to Beijing.

What is therefore needed is a political answer. British legislators will need to make censorship cooperation of this kind illegal, and legislators in other free societies will need to do likewise.

You can’t do Beijing’s dirty work yourself, and remain democratic, liberal, or free.

The public needs to push a political decision. People who care about human rights (those of others, and of their own), should consider to join or support relevant pressure groups, rather than political parties.

If Chinese readers can be blocked from servers in free countries, there is no good reason why we, people who live in (still) relatively free societies, should keep access to them, when Beijing demands otherwise.

This scenario may appear far-fetched now – but what happens at Cambridge now would have been unfathomable two or three decades ago, too.

Besides, no man or woman in a free country should vote for political parties who are prepared to tolerate this kind of practice. Totalitarian challenges must be met with political answers.

Taiwan’s Twelve Days of International Fame

The 2017 Summer Universiade started in Taipei, on Saturday.

Chinese Holidaymakers: Kim spoils the Fun

Huanqiu Shibao (the Global Times‘ Chinese-language sister paper) worried about unwelcome side effects of the US-North Korean war of words during the first half of the month: More than 26,000 Chinese tourists had travelled to Guam in 2016, the paper noted in an article published online on August 11 – an increase by 11 percent compared to 2015. Huanqiu numbers reportedly provided by the Guam Visitors Bureau‘s China Representative Room, an organization that runs offices in mainland China and in Hong Kong.

Guam is an island in the western Pacific. It is U.S. territory, reportedly within reach of North Korean missiles (provided that the missiles are lucky), it hosts a naval base, an air base, a religious shortwave broadcasting station, and thousands of tourists annually.

The Huanqiu Shibao article also quotes from “Sina Weibo” exchanges between Chinese netizens and the Guam Visitors Bureau, where Bureau staff reportedly posted reassuring replies to questions like “will you soon be hit by missiles?”

Probably given the incomplete state of North Korea’s striking force (God knows where the missiles would actually go if the army tried to fire them into Guam’s adjacent waters), or Donald Trump‘s notoriety as a bigmouth with little consistency, no travel warning appears to have been issued by Chinese authorities. According to the BY article, the China Youth Travel Agency told reporters that

the company hadn’t received a political-risks warning notice to suspend departures to Guam until then, and reminded journalists to monitor the China National Tourism Administration’s travel risk reminders.

….. 公司还没有接到因政治风险暂停前往关岛的旅游团的通知,他提醒记者应及时关注国家旅游局的旅游风险提示。

According to statistics quoted by the article, most tourists visiting Guam are from Japan and South Korea, with rapidly rising numbers from mainland China.

Doing Beijing’s Dirty Work (2): Red-noticed Police

The arrest of a German citizen of Turkish origin, Dogan Akhanli, made it into German news during the weekend. According to GfbV, a German organization that keeps track of cases where authoritarian regimes use Interpol to harrass critics abroad, Akhanli was arrested by Spanish police in the city of Granada. Reportedly, Turkey had requested Interpol  to issue a read notice to Spain. The dust appears to settle now, and Akhanli is free again, but the organization calls for reforming Interpol and to make sure that it doesn’t become (or remain) a tool for silencing regime critics abroad.

In the same press release, GfbV notes that Dolkun Isa, secretary general of the World Uyghur Congress, had been arrested in Rome, on July 26 this year. Isa was on his way into the Italian senate when he was arrested. According to GfbV, Chinese authorities are now using Interpol’s “red notice” mechanism systematically, to restrict movement of the regime’s critics abroad, and thus creating a de-facto occupational ban against them (Chinas Behörden nutzen die „Red Notice“ inzwischen systematisch, um die Bewegungsfreiheit von im Ausland lebenden Menschenrechtlern einzuschränken und de facto ein Berufsverbot gegen sie zu verhängen).

It certainly wasn’t the first time that Isa had been arrested. In 2009, South Korea arrested him, apparently on arrival at the airport, and refused him entry into the country. Previously, he had been arrested by the UN security service when visiting the Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

The First Five “Marvellous Years”

China’s state television (CCTV) website reminds the public of CCP secretary general Xi Jinping‘s feats during his first five marvellous years (不平凡五年) in office. On August 14, the media organization published statistics of Xi’s speeches on foreign policy.

So: Want to be Chinese?

Given that under the secretary general’s correct leadership, China is becoming the marvel of the world (an unscientific condensed international press review by JR with no further sources), it should be no surprise that Daniel Bell wants better international access to Chinese citizenship, for meritorious citizens of the world who would like to share in that glory.

Ji Xiang posted some thoughts on that, early this month.

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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