Posts tagged ‘industrial relations’

Friday, February 7, 2020

Obituary: Li Wenliang, 1986 – 2020

One would like to deny it, but even the crudest of propaganda will leave tireless traces on the hard disks of generations. This defines the way Li Wenliang (李文亮), an eye doctor at Wuhan Central Hospital at his lifetime, will be collectively remembered – as a hero who served the people, not as a serious professional.

His death is a calamity, and so is the way he is going to live on in the people’s memory. The authorities didn’t see him in a position to do his job, unhampered by politics. The CCP can’t deal with professional attitudes – to the leadership and its fat cats at the grassroots, ordinary Chinese people are always children, and daddy (or stepdaddy) always knows better. And of course, only daddy must ever excel at his job – be it running the economy, be it running “vocational schools” for alleged “extremists” in Xinjiang, or be it handing down “instructions on how to handle the epidemic”.

Now, Li’s death is becoming a didactic play that flies into the face of the geniuses in Zhongnanhai. Not everything was wrong with the system. A month after Li had been reprimanded for going public (i. e. on the internet) with his medical findings, the Supreme People’s Court reportedly said that “[i]t might have been a fortunate thing if the public had believed the ‘rumors’ then and started to wear masks and carry out sanitization measures, and avoid the wild animal market.”

The unfortunate thing is that the People’s Court’s utterances come across as a try to defuse a dangerous idol – some kind of uncontrollable modernized Lei Feng, conceived and created outside the CPC’s laboratories. He isn’t a marginal idol – even CCTV is sobbing (supposedly, not only outside the Great Firewall of China).

Still, Zhongnanhai may continue to sleep well behind its firewalls. Not even “Sound of Hope”, a Falun-Gong affiliated radio station, appears to find much criticism of the central leadership online, be it because the usual screenplay – idiots at the grassroots, wise leaders at the top – is still effective, be it because the censors are doing a great job.

Li is reportedly survived by his pregnant wife and one child.

Li Wenliang, born in Liaoning Province on October 12, 1986, died in Hubei Province on February 6 or 7, 2020.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Wuhan “in a State of War”, but without Health Protection Upgrades, says virologist

Main Link: “More than ten times as many infections than during SARS”

Yi Guan, or Guan Yi (管軼), a Chinese virologist who is credited with a crucial role in keeping SARS under control in 2004, is critical of Wuhan’s performance in combating the current coronavirus, according to Radio Taiwan International (RTI), quoting from an interview the professor gave Caixin online. For one, he doubts the efficiency of the restrictions on travels from Wuhan, as many people had already returned home to celebrate the new lunar year. Guan believes that by now, the infection rate is at least ten times as high as SARS was.

香港大學新發傳染性疾病國家重點實驗室主任管軼今天(23日)表示,武漢交通封城實際效果存疑,因為不少人已經回家過年。他又表示,武漢肺炎疫情已經無法控制,保守估計感染規模是嚴重急性呼吸道症候群(SARS)的10倍以上。

Guan also called the city’s less spectacular preventive measures into question. While staying in Wuhan on January 21 and 22, he had been to a vegetable market where sanitary conditions had been poor and where only one person in ten had been wearing a face mask. He also found disinfection at Wuhan airport was unsatisfactory, with only sporadic use of chemicals in the waiting lounges. Guan had also been told by a security officer that superiors, worried about the airport’s image, didn’t allow him to wear a face mask, and that all employees who did had brought their own ones, rather than getting them from their employer.

管軼接受中國大陸「財新網」訪問時說,21日曾到武漢考察兩天,發現一個菜市場衛生狀況惡劣,但只有不到一成人戴口罩,22日機場竟然還有旅行團出遊,機場地面沒有消毒,候機大廳只有零星地方放置消毒液。1名安檢人員對他表示,上級擔心影響形象不准戴口罩,口罩都是自備。管軼形容,武漢已經進入「戰爭狀態」,但衛生防護根本沒有升級。

While Wuhan had now entered “a state of war” (戰爭狀態), even basic health protection measures had not been upgraded.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The KMT’s last Chance: Waste Separation in Shanghai

Main Link: Anyone may criticize the KMT, but not former “honorary member” Terry Gou (王丰:谁都有资格批评国民党,但前“荣誉党员”郭台铭没有)

Wang Feng (王丰), born 1956 in Taichung, Taiwan, to a mother from Jiangsu and a father from Hubei, is president of the China Times Group. He is also an occasional interviewee of Guanchazhe, an online news and commentary portal based in Shanghai. The China Times has been owned by Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), a China-leaning businessman, since 2008. While Taiwan’s pan-green political camp detests the paper and doubts its integrity, in turn, Wang Feng, defending the paper in July this year against accusations that it had been taking “phone calls” from China’s “Taiwan Affairs Office” (TAO), criticized the accusers, saying that freedom, democracy and human rights were Taiwan’s hard-won values, and that a pluralistic and democratic society was the only thing Taiwan had over China.

Reporters without Borders (RSF) criticized the China Times Media Group for filing a lawsuit against the Financial Times’ correspondent Kathrin Hille (who had apparently reported about the alleged link to the “TAO” first), calling the legal action abusive. There doesn’t seem to be any news online about if and how the group’s legal proceedings have continued since.

That wasn’t an issue in Wang Feng’s most recent interview with Guanchazhe (published on Saturday) either. It centers around Foxconn founder Terry Gou‘s (郭台銘) withdrawal from the KMT, which had made him an honorary member only in April.

Based on opinion polling, Gou lost the KMT primaries to Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) in July this year.

Han Kuo-yu is now the KMT’s nominee, and therefore the KMT’s official challenger of incumbent president Tsai Ing-wen (DPP),  in Taiwan’s presidential elections, scheduled for January 11, 2020. However, his chances to emerge as Taiwan’s next president have faltered, not least since the beginning of large-scale demonstrations in Hong Kong, against a (now apparently scrapped) extradition law draft by the special administrative zone’s government. The Hong Kong events seem to have raised the Taiwanese public’s awareness of what the “one-country-two-system” approach, advocated by China’s party and state leader Xi Jinping as a “model” for Taiwan, would mean in practice, and an apparent unpreparedness by Han Kuo-yu to criticize Beijing has added to his problems on the campaign trail.

Criticizing Beijing, of course, is nothing Wang Feng would do either, nor would it be something Guanchazhe could publish anyway. If the KMT (rather than Taiwan in general) has any advantage over China in Wang’s book, it wouldn’t be “pluralistic and democratic Society” (as stated in his announcement to sue the Financial Times and the Taiwanese media who had referred to the FT’s Coverage), but the KMT’s potential skills in managing waste separation in, say, Shanghai (比如国民党的环保能力非常强,现在上海在搞垃圾分类,国民党可以派人来当顾问,帮大陆做得更方便、更干净). In such fields, the KMT should enter a competition with the Chinese Communist Party, Wang said, not so much in terms of votes (obviously), but in helping Taiwanese compatriots to leave a favorable Impression on mainland compatriots” (争取人心,不是去争取选票,而是要争取大陆同胞对台湾同胞的好感), and in making peoples’ lives easier.

The “big picture” Wang drafts for the KMT in the interview might be summed up as think global, act in China, suggesting that solving China’s (environmental) problems would contribute to solving the world’s problems. His interview can also be seen as part of Guanchazhe’s efforts to prepare the Chinese public (or the share of it that cares) for a (no longer unlikely) re-election of Tsai Ing-wen as Taiwan’s president.

Terry Wang, apparently a very sensitive man when his own professional integrity, or that of his paper, is called into question, doesn’t mince his words about Terry Gou. As a man who had portrayed himself as a principled man who believed in Mazu and Guan Gong, Gou hadn’t done himself a favor by withdrawing  from the KMT, “neither in terms of business nor politically” (换言之,他现今的脱党举动会在他未来不管是企业还是从政的道路上,布下一个非常不好的变数,而所谓的变数就是让人对他的诚信产生根本的否定), Wang says. He also cites Gou’s management style at Foxconn as an example as to how void his recent criticism of the KMT actually were. After all, if Gou – contrary to the KMT old guards – was indeed a modernizer, he could have democratized Foxconn (郭台铭不“迂腐陈旧”,难道鸿海敢搞企业民主、开明治理吗).

As for the state of the KMT’s unity, Wang suggests a numerical game to predict how the Party would fare:

There is a precondition for the KMT being united, and it is that their candidate must be in a safe zone of winning the elections, or moving close to losing. In such situations, there is a likelihood for unity. If Han Kuo-yu’s support rate isn’t more than 30 percent, but 20 percent or lower, the KMT may split.

国民党的团结必须有一个大前提,就是候选人是在胜选的安全区域,或接近落选的危险边缘,这样他们才有团结的可能性。如果韩国瑜今天不是30%多的支持度,而是20%多或更低,那么国民党就会是分裂的。我刚还在想,国民党的这些人跟战国七雄很相似,他们心中永远有个战国心态,就是“老子弱的时候,就臣服于强者;老子强的时候,又蠢蠢欲动想分裂”。

According to Radio Taiwan International‘s (RTI) German service on September 12, Gou may register as an independent candidate until September 17. He is widely expected to run for president as an independent now. That, however, could force him to state his positions, much more explicitly than up to now, reckons Frozen Garlic, a blogger who has focused on the topic of Taiwan’s elections for more than nine years. Even though Gou had mostly served platitudes during a visit to Chiayi city council earlier this month (and before withdrawing his KMT honorary Membership),

[e]very time Gou speaks, he gives Tsai [DPP] and Han [KMT] an opening to question him and force him to defend his positions and the implications of those positions.

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Related

“We uphold our principles,” Jan 2, 2019

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Updates/Related

Gou bows out, RTI, Sept 17, 2019

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Monday, September 24, 2018

Seeking “Discourse Power”, Taipei plans to merge Radio Taiwan International, CNA, and Public Television

Note: Links within blockquotes added during translation.

A short article on the website of Public Media Alliance, an international, UK-based association of public broadcasters, reported early this year that Taiwan’s ministry of culture was drafting legislation to integrate the country’s public television services (PTS), the Central News Agency (CNA) and Radio Taiwan International (RTI) “into one independent organisation”.

Radio Taiwan International QSL, 2018

The draft appears to be taking shape now, and rapidly so: CNA reported on Thursday last week that

Since minister of culture Cheng Li-chun‘s appointment, a review of public broadcasting corporations have been conducted, and so far, the ministry of culture has, after communicating, consulting and engaging in dialog with Public Television Service Foundation, Chinese Television System, Central News Agency, Radio Taiwan International‘s boards of directors, labor union representatives, and experts and scholars, reached a consensus, completed a legislative draft, and announced it to the public today.

文化鄭麗君部長上任以來,即啟動公廣集團發展之檢討,自106年7月迄今,文化部已跟公視基金會、華視、中央通訊社、中央廣播電臺的董事會、工會代表及專家學者們召開十幾場諮詢會議,經過不斷地內外溝通、協商、對話後取得共識,完成修法草案並於今天對外公告。

CNA also emphasized that union representatives were “invited to jointly participate in formulating the approach to integration, and actively protect the employees’ rights and interests” (將邀集工會代表共同參與整合辦法的訂定,積極保障員工權益).

This isn’t a particularly clear-cut definition of what union representatives may or may not be entitled do to exert influence in the process, but contary to Taiwan’s private sector, where they are extremely weak, unions do have a role to play in public institutions.

That said, the base for unionised work in those institutions may be much weaker than what mere numbers suggest. For example, the only permanent employee at RTI’s German-language service in 2013 was the head of the department herself, according to the station’s German listeners club, while a number of further members of the department were freelancers.

Taiwan’s Commercial Times (工商時報) reported on Friday that the draft should be sent to the Executive Yuan (basically the cabinet of ministers and chief commissioners) in October, reach the Legislative Yuan by the end of the year, and pass its third reading in June next year.

Overall, about 1,400 employees will be affected, of which 800 work for public television, with revenues of 2,000,000,000 two billion NT dollars for public television, 500 million NT dollars for Central News Agency and Radio Taiwan International combined, and 1.4 billion NT dollars for Chinese Television System. The combined budget was nearly 3.6 billion NT dollars last year.

The Commercial Times:

Cultural minister Cheng Li-chun emphasized that as Taiwan was facing the digital age and market competition, it lacked a cultural propagation strategy on a national level. Also, the existing content was lacking propagation channels, and there was a serious imbalance for incoming and outgoing international culture. Similarly, because of insufficient budgets, legislature and integration, public media were unable to play their propagation role, let alone mastering the power of speech [or discourse power] internationally. Therefore, the ministry of culture wanted to promote the “public media law” for the integration into a public media platform, following NHK’s [Japan’s public radio and television] role as an up-and-coming Asian public broadcaster.

文化部長鄭麗君強調,面對數位匯流時代與市場競爭,台灣缺乏一個國家級的文化傳播戰略,且有內容也缺乏通路,目前國際文化內容輸出入嚴重失衡;同樣在公共媒體方面,因為預算、法制、整合皆不足,也沒有發揮公共傳播的角色,更無法在國際上掌握話語權。所以文化部希望推動《公共媒體法》,讓公媒平台大整合,繼NHK之後成為亞洲新興公共媒體。

Indeed, according to the CNA article on Thursday, the ministry of culture intends to

[…] further promote cultural propagation in the digital age. The public media can provide information domestically, serve different ethnic groups, strengthen cultural affirmation. Internationally, they will not only be able to share Taiwanese culture with the world, but can also become the world’s most trusted newly emerging public media in Asia.

[…..] 進一步推動數位時代的文化傳播。公共媒體對於國內可以提供公共資訊、服務多元族群、強化文化平權;而面對國際,不僅可以與世界分享台灣文化,也能夠成為最受國際信賴的亞洲新興公共媒體。

Apart from the domestic services, NHK also runs Japan’s international media units. Under the name of “NHK World – Japan”, they “intend to establish wider global recognition for the service’s Japanese roots in advance of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

China has taken a similar approach earlier this year, blending domestic broadcasting with international broadcasting.

In its report on Thursday, CNA claims that board members of the media organisations, managers, and union representatives involved had all expressed approval and support 贊同與支持) for the draft at an information meeting on the same day. That could be true: journalists tend to be fans of reflecting ethnic diversity and affirmation, and the ministry of culture also offers more features in its draft that may be convincing. Apart from (apparently) including some kind of labour director in the planned new board, the term of every board member is said to be four years, with appointments*) of half of the body every two years.

If that helps to avoid resignations of the kind reported in October 2008, when the Ma administration took office, that should help to build trust among employees, and the public.

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Notes

*) to be suggested by the executive, and approved by the legislative yuan

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Blog and Press Review: Frugal New Year

Warning: the following translation from a classic is just my guesswork – if you copy that for your homework, the mistakes will be your fault, not mine. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Frugal New Year: the Xi Style

The year of the dog is upon us, and it must be a dog’s life if you are a cadre in the Xi Jinping era. That’s what you might believe, anyway, if you read secretary general Xi Jinping’s spiritual nourishment for comrades. After all, in a totalitarian society, administration, legislation, crackdowns and Something Understood all need to come from the same source.

People’s Daily has published three instalments of Xi Jinping thought. The first: go and visit the poor, and ask about their suffering, find solutions to the problems and dump the worries. The second: have an affectionate reunion with your family, as a good family style promotes virtue.

For the third instalment, the sermon turns to the New Book of Tang:
奢靡之始,危亡之渐 (which means something like “what begins lavishly will move towards danger”, I suppose).

I can only find the Chinese original [no English edition] of the  New Book of Tang online, and there, in chapter 105, Chu Suiliang, an advisor with morals, tells his surprised sovereign the meaning of things that only appear to be innocent at first glance:

帝尝怪:“舜造漆器,禹雕其俎,谏者十馀不止,小物何必尔邪?”遂良曰:“雕琢害力农,纂绣伤女工,奢靡之始,危亡之渐也。漆器不止,必金为之,金又不止,必玉为之,故谏者救其源,不使得开。及夫横流,则无复事矣。”帝咨美之。

The emperor said: “Shun made the lacquer, Yu gave us the embroideries, but the remonstrances never seem to end. How can small things be evil?”
Suiliang said: “ornate artwork harms the peasantry, and embroidery hurts the working women. What begins lavishly, will indeed move towards danger. It doesn’t end at lacquerware, it takes gold, too. It doesn’t end there, but jade will be required, too. Those who remonstrate do not want to see things pass the point of no return.”

If my impression of the Chinese texts is basically correct, Xi seems to present himself as someone who speaks truth to power – which is corny at best, and quite probably populist. The latter, anyway, is a tool lavishly handed around among the Davos jetset more recently, and it probably works fine, especially at the grass-roots level, with people who routinely delude themselves.

Roar back, if you still dare, fly or tiger.

Xi Jinping probably found a lot to copy from Ronald Reagan. His May 4 speech in 2013 resembled Reagan’s endless-opportunities speech in 1984. While frequently considered risk averse when it comes to reform, optimism, a “determination … to educate his audience” and “unobtrusive and imperceptible moral influence” (OK – it depends on how much corniness you’ve grown up with) are features Xi’s propaganda style seems to share with the late US president’s.

Footnote: when it comes to education on the ground, education of the public appears to be anything but imperceptible, as The Capital in the North reported in January.

Central Europe (1): After the “Czech Reversal”

The China Digital Times has an article by a Czech academic, describing Chinese influence in Eastern Europe (although the Czech Republic is hardly “eastern” European), and more particularly about a “China Energy Fund Committee” (CEFC). Czech president Miloš Zeman, who is quoted there with some of his characteristically tasteless remarks (about Chinese eyes, before he changed his mind), has explicit opinions about journalism, too.

Central Europe (2): German Mittelstand’s Main Thing

If the German Mittelstand can’t be found in China, it’s probably because they are investing and selling in the Visegrád countries, and beyond. the Handelsblatt‘s English-language edition has a critical assessment of Mittelstand companies role in Central Europe, quoting an apolitical German trade functionary to prove its point:

Ultimately, politics is not that important for businesspeople. Order books are full: That’s the main thing.

Obviously, German politicians (and journalists, for that matter) aren’t nearly as sanguine, and following US President Trump’s attendence at a Three Seas Initiative summit in July 2017, the Economist even recorded Teutonic tremors:

Germany is already concerned about China’s “16+1” initiative with central and eastern European states, a series of investment projects that the Chinese expect will build influence in the region. The Germans are also putting pressure on the Polish government over its illiberal attacks on independent newspapers, judges and NGOs. And they are fending off Polish criticisms that their proposed “Nord Stream 2” gas pipeline from Russia to Germany will make Europe more dependent on Russia.

But the Mittelstand shows no such unease. In fact, smaller and medium-sized companies often feel easier about countries that are closer to Germany, both regionally and culturally – it takes less time to travel, less time spent abroad, less worries about intercultural competence (or its absence), and less worries about market barriers or technology theft.

Hualien, Taiwan

Most people will have heard and read about the earthquake that caused deaths and injuries, especially in Hualien, on Tuesday.

But the place should be known for its beauty, too. There’s a travel blog about the Taroko Gorge, apparently written by a Singaporean, with some practical advice which  should be quite up to date (based on a visit in November 2016). That, plus some history.

The Spy Radio that anyone can hear

No, that’s not the BBC. They’ve only produced a video about numbers stations.

But what’s the fun in them if anyone can listen? I want some numbers of my own.

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Related

Budapest Guidelines, in Chinese and in English, Nov 2017

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Political Time Check (Febr 2017): “Synchronized Efforts”

The following is a translation of an article published by the “People’s Daily”, online and in its printed edition, on February 14 this year, by an author named Zhao Zhenyu (赵振宇). Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Main link: “Time Culture – Galloping into the Realms of Dreams”

“A leading cadre’s time of reign is limited, and even more limited is the time he works in the same place. As leading cadres, we must, in the spirit of strife from dawn to dusk, cherish time just the more, make use of this limited time, to do practical and good things for the masses.” During the past few days, when I reviewed secretary general Xi Jinping’s discussion of time, I felt the style of pragmatic and careful work again, and experienced again the time civilization, which is indispensible to the era of pursuing the Chinese dream.

“一个领导干部,在位的时间是有限的,在一个地方工作的时间更有限。我们每一个领导干部都要以‘只争朝夕’的精神,倍加珍惜在位的时间,充分利用这有限的时间,多为群众办实事、办好事。”近日重温习近平总书记关于时间的谈话,再次感受到务实、精细的工作作风,体会到逐梦时代不可或缺的时间文明。

The seasons come and go, untouched by the words that try to describe them. In the beginning, time was an abstract concept, and something hard to grasp. When the forefathers of humankind began to record things by tying knots, measuring time was still something people strived to understand and to master, and became a criterion of civilisational expansion and progress. Of course, in history, people from ancient times formed an awareness of time under the impression of “work from sunrise and to rest after the sunset”, and they developed an attitude that appreciated time, by “attributing little value to a jade ring, but great importance to a single ray of light”. They were careful “not to miss the farming season, so as to reap the harvest in due course”. Time culture, with its connotations of understanding and cherishing time and respecting punctuality, reminds us to scientifically master time, and to effectively use time.

天不言而四时行,时间最初是一个抽象而难以把握的概念。从人类先祖结绳记事开始,定量化的时间才被逐渐认识和掌握,成为文明拓进的一个向度。当然在历史上,古人很早就形成了“日出而作,日入而息”的时间意识,形成了“贱尺璧而重寸阴”的惜时态度,形成了“不违农时,谷不可胜食也”的守时观念。以识时、惜时、守时为内涵的时间文明,提醒我们科学把握时间、有效利用时间。

No blossoming dream can occur without irrigation, and no civilizational advancement can do without the helping hand of time. Time pushes ahead without turning back, and any waste of time amounts to affecting a society’s civilization negatively. Time is the material that forms life, and wasting other peoples’ time means nothing less than scheming murder. In particular, it is the context of “infinite time” and “finiteness of life” that magnifies the value of time and the significance of struggle. That’s why Marx said that all savings ultimately amounted to saving time. As we enter the modern era of milliseconds and microseconds, the architectures-dream value of time becomes yet more apparent. Only by conserving time culture and renovating the notion of time, can we surge forward to enrich human life, and gallop into the realms of dreams.

一切梦想的花开,都离不开时间的浇灌,一切文明的进阶,都离不开时间的助力。时间总是不可逆转地向前推进,对时间的浪费,不啻对社会文明的怠慢甚至贻误。时间是组成生命的材料,浪费别人的时间无异于谋财害命。尤其在“无限的时间”与“有限的生命”的语境下,更凸显出时间的宝贵、奋斗的意义。所以马克思说,一切节约归根到底都是时间的节约。当时代的车轮驶入以毫秒、微秒计时的现代社会,时间的筑梦价值更加显现。涵养时间文明,刷新时间观念,我们才能激荡出彩人生、驰骋梦想国度。

“dit dit dit … Beijing time is x hours.” On December 15, 1970, the National Time Service Center began to broadcast Beijing standard time to the nation on shortwave. From that time on, this familiar timecheck became a reference for peoples’ coming and going. Achieving the goals of the struggles for the Chinese dream and of the “two two-hundreds”, on this brave march forward and the center’s*) strategic dispositons and reform guidelines equally depend on synchronization by Beijing time. All regions, all departments, and all units, in the process of reform and development, are united in action, in unanimous efforts. Connection with the center*) by synchronization and example guarantee that our ideology and our actions serve as rules, and only this enables the entire nation’s chessboard implementation of cooperation, to rise to the cohesive effect of “pearls falling into a jade plate”.

“嘀嘀嘀……北京时间×点整。”1970年12月15日,国家授时中心开始向全国进行短波广播标准的北京时间。从那时起,这个耳熟能详的报时声成为人们出入起居的时间参照。实现中国梦、实现“两个一百年”的奋斗目标,在这条奋进之路上,中央的战略部署和改革方针,同样是我们需要不断对表的北京时间。各地区、各部门、各单位,在改革发展中同中央步调一致、力度一致,一以贯之地与中央对表、看齐,确保我们的思想与行动都以此为准,才能产生“全国上下一盘棋”的落实合力,起到“大珠小珠落玉盘”的聚合效果。

From the venturing cry of “ten thousand years are too long, seize the day, seize the hour” to the firm exploration of “Development is the unyielding argument”, and to the magnificent journey of “reform does not stall, opening up does not stop”, time culture on the national level has amply broken new ground of meaning. We must continue to cultivate this kind of time consciousness. In reality, there is no action of reform and development without a time frame. When it comes to structural reform of production capacities and supply, it is true that resisting forces remain strong, and policies to enable access to pure resources, clean energy etc. comes at high costs, but if we can’t resolutely and decisively implement reform, we may lose the exceptionally favourable opportunity of economic transformation. As for realizing the key issue of moderate prosperity, to seize the opportunity that time provides us with, from an insightful position, is exactly the best attitude to welcome the future.

从“一万年太久,只争朝夕”的创业呐喊,到“发展才是硬道理”的坚定探索,再到“改革不停顿、开放不止步”的壮丽征程,国家层面时间文明充满开拓进取意味。今天,我们仍然需要培育这样的时间意识。现实中,各项改革发展举措,莫不有时间窗口。去产能、去库存等供给侧结构性改革任务固然阻力重重,置备污染净化设备、普及清洁能源等治霾之策固然成本高企,但我们现在如果不能毅然决然地落实改革,就可能丧失经济转型的绝佳时机。对冲刺在实现全面小康关键一程上的中国而言,把握时间给予的机遇,正是眺望前路、迎向未来的最好姿态。

As the times are changing, the dream advances. [Reference to the lunar calendar.] In the new growth ring of the years, our energetic mood shows promise, the struggle forges ahead, and they will certainly carve beautiful memories that won’t drag the mission and the era.

时序更替,梦想前行。农历丁酉年是鸡年,雄鸡司晨昭示时光宝贵,闻鸡起舞激扬勤奋精神。在新的时间年轮里,我们奋发有为、拼搏进取,一定能刻写下不负使命不负时代的美好回忆。

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Note

*) the central committee and/or the central government – probably the central committee in this context

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Related

Strategic inflection point, A. S. Grove, 1996, 1999
Grundrisse (in English), Karl Marx, 1857 – 61

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

International Press Review: Huanqiu Shibao “quotes” German newspaper on Social Credit System

Main Link / Headline – German media: “Social Credit System” plan will change Chinese Peoples’ Sincerity for the Better

The following is a translation from Huanqiu Shibao‘s international press reviews. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

Germany’s “Süddeutsche Zeitung” in an article on May 23, titled digital plan will change Chinese for the better. China is trying some new things. One of these is social credit digitalization. In the coming three years, China will carry out the “social credit system” plan. Social credit rating will change Chinese peoples’ sincerity for the better.

德国《南德意志报》5月23日文章,原题:数字计划让中国人变得更好  中国正尝试一些全新的事物。社会信用数字化就是其中之一。在未来3年里,中国将实施“社会信用体系”计划。信用评价将让中国人的诚信变得更好。

This means that in the future, there will be a “social credit office” and a sincerity app, assessing if a citizen is honest. Based on the social credit data it will be decided if a citizen can board a plane. Those who always cross the street on a crosswalk and pay their bills in time will be rewarded. For others, who cheat in the higher education exams, or download bootleg movies, their bad social credit will lead to serious consequences.

这意味着未来将有“信用办公室”和诚信App,来评估一个公民是否诚实。而信用电子数据将决定一个公民是否可以登机。那些总走斑马线、及时支付所有账单的人,将得到奖励。而另一些人,如果他们在高考上作弊,或下载盗版电影,其不良的信用将造成严重的后果。

Reportedly, the coastal city of Rongcheng will serve as a testing ground for the “social credit system”. This city hasn’t only established a social credit management structure, but has also defined a social credit standards system, from triple-A to D. If citizens in Rongcheng allow their dog to defecate on public lawns, or if they spread “rumors” on social networks, they will receive punishment by downgrading.

据悉,中国海滨城市荣成市是“社会信用体系”的试点城市。这个城市不仅建立了信用管理机构,还制定了社会信用评价标准体系,等级从“AAA”到“D”不等。在荣成市,如果市民让宠物狗在公共草坪上拉屎,或者在社交网络传播“谣言”,都将受到信用降级惩罚。

According to Chinese plans, the “social credit system” will be implemented nation-wide in 2020. It’s goal, according to the government’s wish: Trustworthy people shall fly freely in the sky, and people with shortcomings in trustworthiness will be “unable to move”.

按照中国的计划,“社会信用体系”将在2020年首次在全国实施。其目标,按照政府的意思:讲信用的人应该自由地在天空下翱翔,而信用缺失的人将“寸步难行”。

Imagine this – in an omniscient, all-perceptive world, a digital system may know you even better than you know yourself.  By means of algorithms, it can help you to do better, and to become more honest. This system will also help you to get loans at lower interest rates, and to get a job at government departments. Isn’t this an honest and harmonious world? (Author: Kai Strittmatter)

想象一下,在一个无所不知、无所不见的世界里,数字机制将比你自己还要了解你。它会通过算法,帮助你做得更好,让你变得更加诚信。这一系统,也助你得到低息贷款,并获得政府部门的工作。难道这不是一个公平、和谐的世界?(作者凯·施特里特马特尔,青木译)

The account by Huanqiu Shibao is no precise reproduction of what Strittmatter wrote – if based on this German-language original. Strittmatter himself based much of his short article on statements by a professor Zhang from Beijing -the  “Imagine-this”-sentence, for example, is originally a quote from the professor, who isn’t mentioned by Huanqiu.

And what is completely left out of the Huanqiu translation is Strittmatters rather succinct roundup: “A dictatorship that reinvents itself, digitally.”

One could think that the translator simply missed the scoff in the original  – but hardly so once the most critical remark is   left out altogether. There must be another plan for even more perfect sincerity at work. Something like this:

If the international press doesn’t work in line with the people’s wishes, the Chinese nation will build itself a more sincere international press review, in line with China’s national conditions.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Populism in China (1): The Downfall of Bo Xilai

There is no Weltinnenpolitik yet, but there are cross-civilizational trends.

The City of Red Songs

There would be no second chance. Gerhard Schröder, former chancellor of Germany, was in a hurry in June 2011, on the sidelines of a forum in southwestern China’s metropolis of Chongqing. He was therefore lacking the time to attend one of the red-song nights that were customary there. But he still pleased his interlocutors with a German proverb: Where people sing, you can settle down – wicked people sing no songs.

In full, the red-songs custom advocated by Chongqing’s party chief Bo Xilai was Singing revolutionary songs, Reading classic books, telling stories and spreading mottos. There would be nine more months of that before Bo Xilai was toppled by his CCP comrades.

A Hudong article explained the activity at the time. It was a mass concept, started in Chongqing in 2008, which was greeted with enthusiasm there, and elsewhere in China. The concept wasn’t outdated, because

if a country and a nation have no correct thought and advanced culture, it will lose its backbone. The current deep changes of the economic system, the structure of society, and the profound adjustment of interest patterns must be reflected in the ideological field. There is diversity in peoples’ minds, and although the mainstream is positive and healthy, while some peoples’ material life conditions have improved, spiritual life is somewhat empty. To change that condition, and to ensure a safe passing of the torch in the cause of the party and the country, the red flag must be righteously upheld, the ideology of Marxism must be consolidated in its guiding position within the ideological field, and the attractiveness and the cohesive power of socialist ideology must be strengthened.

一个国家和民族没有正确的思想、先进的文化,就会失掉主心骨。当前,经济体制深刻变革、社会结构深刻变动、利益格局深刻调整,必然反映到意识形态领域。人们的思想日趋多元多变多样,虽然主流积极健康向上,但一些人物质生活改善了,精神生活却有些空虚。为了彻底改变这种状况,保证党和国家的事业薪火相传,必须理直气壮地举红旗,不断巩固马克思主义在意识形态领域的指导地位,增强社会主义意识形态的吸引力和凝聚力。[Links within these lines omitted.]

According to the HuDong article, CCP politbureau member and Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙来) had deplored the phenomenon of young people who sang decadent songs (唱 .. 靡靡之音, chàng mímí zhī yīn), who were reading “fast-food” kinds of literature (读 .. 快餐文化, dú kuàicān wénhuà), told “low and vulgar stories” (讲 .. 低俗故事, jiǎng dīsú gùshì), and “spread pornographic or dull scripts/pieces” (传 .. 黄段子、灰段子, chuán huáng duànzi, huī duànzi).

So, apparently, there were dirty songs, too. Maybe things weren’t as simple as Schröder had believed. At least one  reader and forum commenter of China’s Huanqiu Shibao didn’t trust Schröder’s expertise and wrote:

OK, listen [to the red songs], you won’t comprehend them anyway. It will be as if you were listening to folk songs.

听吧,反正听不懂,就当听民歌了

The “Chongqing Model” was controversial, at least in the perceivable medial public of China. The party elite wasn’t entirely in love with Bo’s pretentious neo-Maoism. A vice president of Law School at China University of Political Science and Law was quoted by the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times”:

There have been 104,000 “Red Song Concerts” in Chongqing, with 80 million participants. It cost 1,500 yuan ($231) per person for onsite renting and costume expenses, 210 million yuan in total. Adding in the offwork compensation and transportation the final cost is 270 billion [sic – probably means million – JR] yuan. Why don’t they use the money for health insurance?

Bo Xilai’s “Populism”, 2007 – 2012

At the grassroots, however, Bo’s leadership style appears to have worked (maybe it still does). The Chongqing Model wasn’t just about folklore, red or otherwise.

Chongqing (Sichuan province) residents set off firecrackers today, celebrating the execution of the provincial-level city’s former chief justice Wen Qiang (文强), cqnews.net reported in July 2010. The Wall Street Journal explained:

Wen Qiang was put to death following the rejection in May by China’s Supreme Court of an appeal of his conviction on charges including bribery, shielding criminal gangs, rape and inability to account for millions of dollars in cash and assets, according to Xinhua news agency. Xinhua didn’t say how Mr. Wen was executed.

Punching black crime and uprooting vice (拳打黑除恶) was the name of the campaign that cost Wen his life – according to the historical records as Bo would have it, he and his police chief Wang Lijun not only battled against gangs, but infiltrated cadres, too.

The now defunct website Chinageeks published an English translation of Zhang Wen, a former chief editor of the Xinhua magazine Globe:

Bo Xilai and the “northeast tiger” Wang Lijun entered Chongqing and started a war and began a “battling corruption and evil” movement that has gradually begun to spread nationwide and worldwide. This action is in line with the people’s wishes, and at the same time, also in line with what central authorities wish.

At first, the public opinion was very one-sided; no one could find any fault with Bo. The controversy and difference of opinions came with the case of Li Zhuang. Proponents of the democratic rule of law questioned and criticized the legality of Chongqing [court] proceedings, but Bo Xilai’s supporters hold that punishing lawyers who defend “bad people” is appropriate.

Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kailai is a high-level lawyer who has been working for many years. The two have been together for many years and Bo himself was once the head of the Ministry of Commerce, and thus often negotiated international legal issues with foreign opponents. Because of this, Bo Xilai should have a solid conception and knowledge of the law.

But in the end, in the Li Zhuang case, the organs of justice in Chongqing left a bad impression that they might violate legal procedures. Precisely because of this, some people’s opinions on Bo Xilai changed dramatically. I myself once wrote an essay expressing pity that Bo Xilai hadn’t turned out to be the sort of high-quality modern politician [we had hoped].

Chongqing was a small pond for a big fish – Bo Xilai appeared to have hoped for a permanent seat in the CCP’s central politburo, but landed the job as party secretary of Chongqing instead. Chongqing wasn’t an insignificant city, but it was far from where central Chinese power was. Only an alernate politburo membership linked him to Beijing. From 2008, his Maoist song events raised nationwide attention, and even beyond China – Henry Kissinger apparently leapt at the chance Schröder had missed.

In 2011, Bo Xilai started his second campaign for a permanent seat at the CCP’s top table. While the Economist found Bo’s style refreshing, it noted nervously that

The region’s party chief, Bo Xilai, is campaigning for a place on the Politburo Standing Committee in next year’s leadership shuffle. He looks likely to succeed. Like every other Chinese politician since 1949, he avoids stating his ambitions openly, but his courting of the media and his attempts to woo the public leave no one in any doubt. Mr Bo’s upfront style is a radical departure from the backroom politicking that has long been the hallmark of Communist rule and would seem like a refreshing change, were it not that some  of his supporters see him as the Vladimir Putin of China. Mr Bo is a populist with an iron fist. He has waged the biggest crackdown on mafia-style gangs in his country in recent years. He has also been trying to foster a mini-cult of Mao, perhaps in an effort to appeal to those who are disillusioned with China’s cut-throat capitalism.

Bo didn’t appear to aim for the top job as secretary general, the Economist noted, as that position appeared to have been reserved for Xi Jinping. Indeed, Xi succeeded Hu Jintao as party secretary general in autumn 2012, and as state chairman in March 2013.

Bo Xilai’s plans didn’t work that smoothly. In November 2011, a British citizen, Neil Heywood, died in a hotel in Chongqing. Given that Chinese courts don’t work independently from the party, the circumstances of his death can’t be considered resolved. A Chinese court found Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai’s wife, guilty of killing Heywood, and after only one day in court, she got a suspended death sentence.

The BBC‘s China editor Carrie Gracie tried to shed light on the circumstances of Bo Xilai’s rise and fall, and the role Heywood’s death played in the latter, but didn’t find too many interlocutors. Instead, she presented a Rocky Horror Picture Show of elite power struggles with Chinese characteristics. Bo Xilai as the avenger of the common man, a crashing, media-savvy scourge of organized crime, who addressed the public directly, without party media filtering. That hadn’t happened since Mao’s days – “think Donald Trump”.

With support from local police chief Wang Lijun, who fancied leading roles in martial-arts television, too, Bo had exercised a regime that labeled opponents as mafiosi and not only jailed them, but expropriated them too, in favor of Chongqing’s budgets.

It isn’t contested that Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun prosecuted the real or supposed gangsters’ advocates, too, with questionable means. Gracie quotes one of these advocates, Li Zhuang (see above, Zhang Wen’s criticism of Bo Xilai), as Li describes how he was arrested by Wang Lijun personally:

The scene was so over-the-top, loads of police cars surrounding the plane, riot police in helmets and camouflage, armed with submachine guns. I asked, “Why the big show? Is it Obama’s state visit or are you capturing Osama Bin Laden?”

We were surrounded by a huge scrum of reporters. He wanted to show his authority on camera. He was in a trench coat, hands in his pockets. He said: “Li Zhuang, we meet again.”

There were admirers of Bo and Wang, there were critics and enemies, and there were people who detested the two. But at the grassroots, the fans appeared to be numerous. According to Gracie, there are still many.

Making inconvenient lawyers disappear was no unique feature of Bo Xilai, however. The party leadership with Xi Jinping at the core has been proving for years that to them, the rule of law is a theroretical nicety they may or may not care about.

Gracie reduces the causes of conflict between the noisy polit-soloist Bo Xilai and the basically “collectivist” leadership in Beijing on a personal rivalry between princeling Bo and princeling Xi.

Certainly, top politicians’ egos can hardly be overestimated, and when they are Chinese, ostentatious modesty shouldn’t fool anyone.

But Xi alone wouldn’t have gotten Bo under control. Neither with the sudden Neil-Heywood scandal – that became known as the Wang-Lijun incident in China after the police chief fled into the next US consulate and being passed on to the central authorities from there (but only after having spilled the beans). Nor otherwise.

The question suggests itself if Bo Xilai’s career wasn’t finished in summer 2011 anyway, given wide-spread disapproval among the party elite, of his egotistic leadership style in Chongqing.

“Unity is strength” was one of the “red songs” Bo Xilai had them sing in Chongqing (above: October 8, 2009). But it wasn’t only the Xi faction that saw a lack of just that on Bo’s part. Bo was putting himself forward, and that had been a taboo during all the post-Mao years.

He didn’t denigrate his leading comrades – appearances like that of Donald Trump as a campaigner, cursing fellow members of his political class, would have been inconceivable. But putting himself into the limelight (and casting it away from others) amounted to the same thing, by Chinese standards. Besides, given his anti-corruption renown, sanctimonious as it may have been, could have threatened his “comrades”. A tribun within their ranks – that couldn’t work.

Xi Jinping and his predecessor Hu Jintao are said to be rivals. But within the Hu camp, Bo’s populism didn’t seem to resonate either. On the contrary: Wen Jiabao, chief state councillor (aka “prime minister”) during the Hu Jintao era, had been a tireless, even if unsuccessful, advocate of political reform, way beyond economics or technology.

At a press conference in March 2012, after the closing ceremony of the annual “parliament” plenary sessions, Wen warned that China wasn’t immune against another cultural revolution. That John Garnaut, an Australian correspondent in Beijing, got the opportunity to talk with Hu Dehua, one of Hu Yaobang’s sons, may also count as an indication that the comparatively liberal factions in the party leadership were at least as sick of Bo Xilai’s revolutionary operas, as were the Xi supporters.

Garnaut, two weeks after Wen’s press conference, in an indirect account of his conversation with Hu Dehua*):

Hu Dehua told his father how pessimistic he felt about his country’s future. Hu Yaobang agreed that the methods and ideologies of the 1987 anti-liberalization movement came straight from the Cultural Revolution. But he told his son to gain some historical perspective, and reminded him that Chinese people were not joining in the elite power games as they had 20 years before. He called the anti-liberalization campaign a “medium-sized cultural revolution” and warned that a small cultural revolution would no doubt follow, Hu Dehua told me. As society developed, Hu Yaobang told his son, the middle and little cultural revolutions would gradually fade from history’s stage.

From there, everything went fast. Still in March, Bo was dismissed as Chongqing’s party chief. He also lost his alternate membership in the politburo. In summer 2012, his wife Gu Kailai got her commuted death sentence, and in September 2013, Bo was sentenced to life in prison – based on the usual charges for unrigged politicians: corruption.

Is there a Chongqing Heritage?

At first glance, Bo Xilai’s “populism” or “Maoism” is finished. But Bo counted as a champion of many Chinese from the political left. A comment in German weekly Die Zeit, in September 2013, saw the verdict against Bo as a signal from the top that resistance against economic reform was futile.

To assess Bo Xilai’s political heritage objectively. The CCP may be beyond the era when beaten opponents were airbrushed from all photos and records. But the question about how publicly or privately-owned China’s economy should be might impose itself with any questions about Bo Xilai, and the now seven-member standing committee of the politburo can’t use such questions.

A political scientist of Beijing University, He Weifang (贺卫方), hinted at problems in assessing the Chongqing Model’s performance, from 2007 to 2012:

It is generally believed that the so-called “Chongqing Model” is mainly shaped by three aspects: “red culture” on the political level, “targeted actions against dark and evil forces in Chongqing“, and the reduction of the income gaps between the poor and the rich. The most criticized aspects are the former two, although there is support for the two of them in Chongqing and elsewhere. The third aspect isn’t that controversial. However, all data published concerning the efficiency of the measures taken to narrow the income gap are actually issued by the Chongqing authorities, and therefore lacking neutral assessment. Also, we can see that the whole process is strongly government-led, whose focus isn’t on creating a market logic of equal opportunities. If this approach will or will not lead to mistakes in financial policies, including the rural land policies‘ impartiality, is also questionable. And then there are concerns about life today being lead on future earnings, short-term inputs being made to curry favor with the public, which may come at high future costs.

答:一般认为,所谓的重庆模式主要由三方面内容构成:政治层面上的红色文化,执法层面上的“打黑除恶”以及民生方面的缩小贫富差距。最受诟病的是前两者,虽然在重庆和其他地方,似乎也有一些人人对于“唱红”和“打黑”表达支持。第三方面内容相对较少争议。不过,那些举措究竟对于缩小贫富差距产生了怎样的效果,目前得到的信息都是由重庆当局发布的,缺少中立的评估。另外,我们可以看到整个过程是在政府强势主导下进行的,其重点并非创造机会均等的市场逻辑。这种做法是否会带来财政决策中的失误,包括重庆所推行的农村土地政策的公正性,都是大可怀疑的。还有寅吃卯粮的隐忧,短期内的高投入讨好了民众,但是却需要未来付出巨大的代价。

If Bo Xilai was a populist, one of Donald Trump’s kind, or Putin’s, or Neil Farage’s, or whoever, one has to ask oneself how much influence he has maintained over Chinese politics to this day. After all, populists like Geert Wilders aren’t ineffective, merely because they can’t lay their hands on the imperial regalia.

When looking at European populism – that’s only a snapshot, of course -, one can get the impression that populists may not be elected, but they do leave marks on politics, from Merkel’s Willkommenskultur back to the traditional Christian Democrats’ policies, and Britain’s Brexit, implemented not by its original proponents, but by Theresa May, who had used to be a lukewarm supporter of Britain’s EU membership.

Populism is hardly ever the common peoples’ business, but that of the elites. The battles are fought within the political class, as observed by Hu Yaobang in the late 1980s. That is about as true in Europe. However, these battles within the superstructure may create or intensify certain trends in the public mood – and once policies have moved sufficiently into the “populist” direction, the support for these parties wanes, and the electorate turns back to the long-established parties. After all, Joe Blow doesn’t want to look like an extremist.

When Xi Jinping announced China’s new role as a guardian of free trade at the Davos forum in January, German Handelsblatt China correspondent Stephan Scheuer hailed the party and state leader’s “dressing-down for populists”. In Davos, Xi had become “a pioneer of fair-minded globalization”.

What could be beginning to show in China is a comparatively strong Maoist component in propaganda, as long as this doesn’t come at the cost of China’s privileged, and as long as this doesn’t require substantial reallocation of means or wealth to poor classes of population, or laggard regions. But whenever the name “Bo Xilai” should appear in any token event, the exorcists will be just around the corner.

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