Posts tagged ‘laowai’

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rising China, Rotten Diplomacy: No Game-Changer in Sight

Chinese leaders established a China Public Diplomacy Association in Beijing on December 31 last year. English-language party mouthpiece China Daily carried a news article on page 4 one day later, either because of the expected importance the new organization might carry, or because of the relative prominence of at least two participants in the event, foreign minister Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) and former foreign minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星, now chairman of the National People’s Congress foreign affairs committee).

What strikes me in the article is that Yang Jiechi isn’t his own party boss in the foreign ministry. His vice minister, Zhang Zhijun, is. Wu Bangguo on the other hand  is both chairman and party secretary of the National People’s Congress (see notes underneath that post). Not sure how many ministers (if any) double as minister and their ministry’s party secretaries. At the ministry of health, it is also the vice minister who doubles as party secretary, while at the ministry of culture, the minister takes both the state and the party function. Minister of Public Security, Guo Shengkun, also doubles in both functions. He took both the positions in December.

Does this indicate something about Yang Jiechi, or about the importance of his job as foreign minister – i. e. the importance of irrelevance of diplomacy? Not necessarily. But there are other indicators, too. Yang wasn’t even a member of the 17th politbureau (let alone its standing committee). Late in November, in an article for CNN, Linda Jakobson pointed out that the power status of diplomacy within the Chinese leadership was unlikely to rise.

So, one shouldn’t expect the China Public Diplomacy Association to become a game-changer. It’s nice for the (public) diplomats that the 18th National Congress – referred to by Yang Jiechi as quoted within the article translated below – gave public diplomacy a mention in its report. But if that’s something to celebrate, it sheds a sad light on the discipline as a whole. No wonder that Zhao Qizheng, director of the CPPCCs foreign affairs committee, longs for the good old days of Zhou Enlai‘s “convivial diplomacy” (official, semi-official and people-to-people diplomacy). Zhou, after all, was a member of the politburo’s standing committee – and for the first nine years after the establishment of the PRC, he was also its foreign minister. In the 1970s, foreign relations were still a job for the top, and in February 1979, Deng Xiaoping celebrated the improving Sino-American relations with an attack on Vietnam.

We probably have to see the inaugural session of the China Public Diplomacy Association in the light of those glory days – it’s a contrast that doesn’t make either official or unofficial diplomacy look important these days.

Maybe the new situation, frequently mentioned by Yang in his congratulatory speech, is just that situation. But then again, maybe not.

Form your own opinion if you can.

Committee for Friendship with Foreign Countries of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference Shanghai Committee, January 8, 2013.

Main Link: Tell China’s story well, let China’s voice be heard. China Public Diplomacy Association established, Zhou Taitong attends. (讲好中国故事 发好中国声音 中国公共外交协会成立 周太彤出席)

On December 31, 2012, the China Public Diplomacy Association inaugural meeting was held at Diaoyutai Guest House, with foreign minister Yang Jiechi, foreign ministry party secretary and vice minister Zhang Zhijun and other leaders participating and unveiling the association’s nameplate. Shanghai Municipal People’s Consultative Conference vice chairman and Shanghai Public Diplomacy Association’s vice director Zhou Taitong represented Shanghai’ Public Diplomacy Association at the meeting.


At this first general assembly, the “China Public Diplomacy Association charter (draft) was passed, National People’s Congress foreign affairs committee chairman and former foreign minister Comrade Li Zhaoxing was elected as the association’s first president. [1] Former ambassador to Britain and to the Council on Security Cooperation in Asia and Pacific Region Ma Zhengang; [2] China Museums Association deputy director, China Council for the Promotion of Peaceful National Reunification director, and [3] Central Research Institute of Culture and History staff member Comrade Shu Yi were elected as deputy presidents, and China Institute of International Studies fellow Song Ronghua was elected secretary-general.


Minister Yang Jiechi delivered the congratulatory speech. He pointed out that public diplomacy, in a new situation, is an objective requirement for perfecting the design of our country’s diplomacy, and important in broadening our country’s diplomatic work. The 18th National Congress report says that “we must sturdily promote public diplomacy and cultural exchanges”. This exacts higher demands on the promotion of public diplomacy under the new situation. In the new situation, promoting public diplomacy and cultural exchanges means putting efforts into mutual knowledge between China and the world, deepening China’s relations with the world, as well as promoting China’s and the world’s benign interaction and common development. We must develop and expand equality and mutual trust, be tolerant of each other and learn from each other in the spirit of win-win cooperation, we must strengthen dialog and exchange with the peoples of the world, promote mutual understanding, trust, friendship, and cooperation. Developing public diplomacy requires ample use of resources from all walks of life and bringing all factors from society into play. We hope that the China Public Diplomacy Association will carry out and implement the spirit of the 18th National Congress, make major contributions to the cause of China’s public diplomacy, and build fine foundations for the public-opinion environment and the will of the people.


Yang Jiechi emphasized that public diplomacy absolutely needed innovating ways and means, strengthened communication and exchanges with the masses, it needed to draw on the wisdom and the will of the people, domestic and foreign coordination, wholistic planning of the overall domestic and foreign situations, it needed to tell China’s story well and let China’s voice be heard, it needed to explain a real China to the world, and to establish a just and comprehensive view of China.




» Destined to Fail, The Diplomat, January 7, 2013
» A related discussion, Peking Duck, Jan 7, 2013


Friday, October 5, 2012

An Old China Hand, Thirty Years On

A shocking epiphany: cigarettes smell!

A shocking epiphany: cigarettes smell!

One senior retired western diplomat who specialised in China for nearly 30 years recently confided to the FT that the Bo Xilai case had prompted an epiphany when he finally realised the top mandarins were just as tainted as officials at the lower levels.

Financial Times, October 4, 2012

Friday, July 13, 2012

The BoZhu Interviews: So Different, but Sometimes so Alike –

MKL about Taiwanese society, China, domovina, and the European Union

Contrary to many other English-language blogs from Taiwan, MKL‘s isn’t markedly political. Politics does play a role, but usually takes second seat to daily life in Taiwan, and advice to foreign travellers or expats in the early stages of their lives in Taiwan about where to eat out, how to get from one place to another, places to go to on a holiday or on weekends, and about his after-hours obsession – night markets.

MKL started blogging in 2006 – and again in 2008. In February 2009, his monthly output of posts exceeded ten for the first time, and since, another post appeared at least every three or four days.

They were written from a number of places in Asia, and from his native land, Slovenia. For a year and a half now, Taiwan has been his home – it’s where he works, and where he is married.

His blog pages may take a while to load at times, as they usually come with a wide range of photos.

The interview:

Q:  You have been to dozens of countries, in Europe and in Asia. You settled down in Taiwan last year. In a post dedicated to your wife, Lily, you wrote:

Ever since I’ve come here, I tried so hard to make you proud of me. I found work, I complied with the norms of the environment and I’m tirelessly trying hard to survive in the fast-paced reality of Taipei. I feel like I’m caught in a typhoon ever since I’m here. It’s tough, but I will survive, because you’re here with me. You’re the reason I came here, you’re the reason I wanna stay.

How Taiwanese have you become since? And how are your Chinese language skills doing?

A: It might surprise you, but I’m becoming less and less “Taiwanese”, the more I understand Chinese language and the deeper I integrate and immerse myself in the culture. My Chinese level is basic, because my job and the commuting two ways takes about 12-13 hours a day during the week and it’s no piece of cake, it’s very stressful. I’m doing business with European companies and if you know how the traditionally-minded Taiwanese management ticks, you would imagine how big their expectations are. I can order food, drinks and have a simple conversation in Chinese, mostly about some daily matters. Aside from speaking, my hearing or understanding of Chinese improved greatly in the past year. I understand two times more than I can express in Chinese, usually it comes from the context. My whole living and working environment is Mandarin speaking, I have one American colleague who is here for a similar reason, the rest are all Taiwanese. Other foreign friends I have are mostly busy like me. I don’t frequent bars like Brass Monkey, I’m not into drinking and clubbing anymore. I am very Taiwanese in the sense, that I’m caught in this unhealthy system, where the older generation, who could have retired long time ago, run public companies like it’s their private business and where the culture of face and hierarchy often exceeds common sense and innovation. I can see a lot of young Taiwanese as bitter as me, but nobody can (or dares to) do something about it. They hop from company to company hoping to have a job that pays more and enslaves less. But the opposite is mostly the case. Ever since I started to work in Taiwan, I see the whole country in a completely different light.

Q: Your blog is about life in Slovenia, Taiwan, and about travels elsewhere. The difference between the countries where you lived and live – Slovenia and Taiwan – and the countries you visited, does this come down to the difference between family and friends?

A: I always felt a little bit bored in Slovenia. It’s a beautiful country with fairytale like scenery, but it’s small and a lot of things are going backwards in recent years. We used to be a success story in the 1990s, known as the most advanced post communist country in Europe, a role model candidate of all the countries to enter the EU in 2004. And the economic crisis, which started way before 2008 (most young well educated people could not get a good job as early as in the early 2000s), changed the political landscape a lot. People are very split now, much more than in Taiwan. They are divided into liberals (labeled as ex-commies) and conservatives (labeled as ex-nazi collaborators), arguing about who killed more people during WWII and similar nonsense, while young people can’t get jobs, where the social security is steadily disappearing and where a system similar to the one of guanxi enables certain groups to hold power and consume most of the resources. All the positive remains from the communist times such as a sense of community with common goals, solid social welfare, worker’s rights – all that is trampled upon in recent years, big business runs the show in Slovenia and they have good connections to certain parties and politicians. By all means, I’m not a communist and I would never like to have communism back, but not everything was bad during that time. Nevertheless, Slovenia is for me “heimat” (or domovina, as we call it) – and you are right, I do connect it with my family. I miss my mother and sisters every day, I miss the landscape, I miss being home, being one that belongs to somewhere, one that’s not seen as “waiguoren”. I have a very complex relationship with Taiwan, I’m not sure it’s a friend. It can be, but it’s also a friend you don’t fully trust, it’s someone you’re better careful about how much emotions you invest in.

Q: Is Lily blogging, too? And does she play a role in your blogging activities? Or would she rather discourage them?

A: She plays a major role in my way of blogging. If there was a saying that “behind every successful blogger there is a woman”, this would be 100% sure in my case. As you noted, I wasn’t much of a steady and productive blogger in the early stages. I basically put my blog on the map when I moved to Taiwan and started to write more about my experience. Lily introduced me to the Taiwanese way of blogging, which is very deep and informational, with tons of photos showing every detail. I thought: “Wow! This is impressive!” Lily’s style is similar: She would care about a certain quality of her posts and pictures, her articles have a certain order. It’s standardized, yes, but it’s a format, that guarantees a certain quality. I could say the same about your blog: You have structure, you have a theme, a style, a tone and a frame, where you implement all this. And that’s why your readers stick around, that’s why search engine’s will link to you. My philosophy is very similar, just that I have a different style and like to use a lot of pictures. I’m a very visual guy and I like to memorize my life in photos as well as show the reality around me that way. Some are excellent writers, but I can’t only rely on that, well, not in English. And Lily is my prime resource to explain certain cultural particularities in Taiwan and sometimes she wants to take a rest and watch TV, but I’m drafting my blog post and bugging her to explain some Chinese phrases. I always want to know the original meaning of the Chinese character, word or phrase, its cultural connotation and how a Taiwanese person feels about it, what is the context a certain term is commonly used. And my wife, as well as some friends, are my reference for that and I’m very thankful to have them around.

Q: You won Taiwanderful‘s popular online vote for the best overall blog and best travel blog. I was surprised when first reading about it – not because I’d find it an undeserving winner, but rather because it came to my mind that the blogs from and on Taiwan I was mostly reading were much more politics-centered than yours. So, from my personal perception, it seemed to become clear that there is a readership far beyond that. Is the readership of your blog rather diverse, in terms of “blue” (KMT & allies), and “green” (DPP & allies)?

A: My gut feeling tells me, that most of my readers and subscribers are just interested in life in Taiwan, not politics. I’m sure, they have strong opinions about that topic, but it’s not what they want to read on blogs all the time. There are very few Taiwan bloggers, who share so many images about the life in Taiwan like me, as well as about traveling to small towns, food stalls, even night markets. I like to be unique in this way and these things are interesting to blue, green, neutral, and most likely even red-minded readers. I like Taiwan the most, when it’s not related to the daily routine and politics, when i can take off my invisible mask. Despite all the challenges it bears for me, Taiwan is a great place to explore and that’s why I love to promote it as a travel destination.

Q: Are you always using the same camera when taking pictures? Which one(s)?

A: I’m mostly using my wife’s Pentax K-x White, a 2010 model. It has its limitations, but it served us very well so far. She recently bough Tamron AF18-200mm lens, which improved the quality a lot, especially when zooming. But too often a bulky camera has the effect, that you are quickly noticed and make people around you a little bit uncomfortable. So during my daily routine I’m using my iPhone 4 camera with photo processing software to have a retro effect. I like it a lot and it gives me the chance to take unexpected random shots, that turn out great. My wife also has a Canon S100, it’s a smaller pocket camera with great quality, we use it since recently, usually for short trips around Taipei. It’s also less obvious, very good for taking photos in restaurants and malls.

Scooter, New Taipei

There were 14.85 million registered scooters in Taiwan, by 2010 (click picture for source) – photo by MKL

Q: My impression is that most foreign bloggers on Taiwan tend to side with the pan-green camp, rather than the pan-blue one, and often, this political inclination seems to kick in from about the first day they spend in Taiwan. Is that an accurate observation, or are there simply too many blogs that care about politics, but have slipped my attention?

A: You are spot on about that, unless they are dating a Taiwanese girl, that has a blue background and strong opinions on inner politics and cross strait issues (I know some of these cases). But most are green or leaning green from what I perceive. I’m not green nor blue. I had a natural affinity for a certain color, which was related to my home country’s centuries long struggles for independence from Austria and Yugoslavia, but the more I understand how things work in Taiwan, the less I believe, that Taiwan will follow Slovenia’s way. Now I’m mostly apathetic to politics in Taiwan, just like most Taiwanese I know. And I believe there are too many expats blogging about politics and KMT, it’s really not so interesting to read “KMT is bad” in 100 different ways every day – mostly it’s not really “blogging” according to my understanding. If you’re only quoting and commenting on other sources, you’re just a commentator. Blogging for me is about original content, about creativity, surprise, diversity, life and passions.

Q: Has blogging changed your perceptions – on Taiwan, Slovenia, or other places? Possibly even your view of the world? Has life in Taiwan changed your views? Has your marriage changed your views? Has work?

A: Believe it or not, blogging relaxes me. It’s my hobby, it’s my pastime. I have thoughts and ideas, I observe this very foreign and different environment and share it with my readers. It’s basically just expressing myself with words and photos. I’m not a great photographer, but I have a certain style, I know what I want to capture and present. Blogging also helps me to train my brain, to concentrate – maybe it’s similar to those old Taiwanese men, who play mahjong near the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. By reading other blogs, especially on China and Korea, I learned a lot about these countries, I have to say these bloggers affect my perception of them as well. Most foreign Taiwan bloggers don’t impress me, because I can’t relate to them – I usually see Taiwan and its reality way different from them. Perhaps because I’m of a very different background (a small and young, relatively unknown and underestimated post communist country). I’m not too sure.

Q: Is blogging your preferred way of discussing matters of public interest, or do other ways of expressing yourself – social networking, youtube, Twitter, etc. – matter just as much to you, or more? About a year ago, you seemed to lose interest in “social media” – do you still find it boring? And if so, do you still tweet, facebook, etc., because it helps to promote your blog?

A: Ever since I wrote that post, I’m less and less on social media. I’m there for the sake of being there and in hope, that something interesting will happen – but it mostly doesn’t. My updates are usually just links to my new blog posts, Twitter and Facebook help me to get some new readers. If I don’t find social media enchanting, it doesn’t mean that other’s don’t, too. Recently I am very active on Instagram, taking pictures of my daily life in Taiwan. I simply love it. It’s social, but very simple. You post a photo and if it’s good, people “like” it. No pressure to be “friends” or “follow”. I don’t have time for these complexities – I’m very busy and most of my online activity is consumed by blogging or reading blogs, but I am very selective.

Q: How closely do you follow Taiwan- and non-Taiwan-related blogs respectively? Do you (as a reader) or they (as bloggers) focus on certain, recurring kinds of news and topics? Does China play a role in your reading and blogging habits, too?

A: I follow blogs in Google reader, they are divided in several categories. Usually I check all blogs in my Taiwan, China, Korea, Japan and Slovenia folders. These are the countries, that interest me the most. I also like to read some blogs about gadgets and technology and I like travel blogs a lot, too. I am a big fan of Peking Duck and China Smack, I always eagerly read their articles and comments. China also plays a role on my own blog, I’ve recently written several posts about Chinese vs. Taiwanese, because I find it fascinating, how the two people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait can be so different, but sometimes so alike. I intend to write more about this, but I always try to not focus on the political part, but on the cultural and ideological differences. In the industry I am in, I can see how Chinese companies are beating Taiwanese with lower price and comparable, if not better quality of their products and services. It’s an eye opener. I blame the corporate culture, that I have described in my first answer. Taiwan is on the losing end in this part of the world, it’s losing its competitive edge, innovation is driven in China, Korea and quality is traditionally associated with Japan. If that continues in the next years, I fear Taiwan will start to put “Made in China” labels on their products to raise their image. Perhaps I’m exaggerating, perhaps. But I’ve seen a lot in the recent two years – China’s pace is impressive. Taiwan is not doing bad, but a lot of things are stagnating or regressing here. China is definitely moving forward in great leaps and those foreigners, who live here and don’t want to acknowledge that, are either dreamers or simply ignorant.

Q: You said earlier (#8) that  the more you understand how things work in Taiwan, the less you believe that Taiwan will follow Slovenia’s way (i. e. in terms of internationally recognized independence).  Is this related to the way businesses work and bosses lead – or fail to lead? To their authoritarianism? Or do you see factors beyond business?

A: This is related to two things: First this year’s presidential elections, that were a major blow to the independence movement and secondly, China’s rise to a superpower, which is the most important factor here. Taiwan is surrounded by countries, that have greater economic and political power such as Japan, South Korea and PRC, while USA’s role of an ally and protector is diminishing by the year. How can Taiwan survive in such environment on its own, when the country itself is internally split and intentionally not recognized? Can this status quo continue like this forever? Despite Taiwan’s often cited soft power, I am not too optimistic about that. We had nearly 95% of electors, who were attending the independence referendum of Slovenia in 1990, voting in favor for independence. Compare that to Taiwan of today and with the circumstances I mentioned above. If it was a game of chess, China definitely has the upper hand at this point and Taiwan’s next big move can be lethal. People know that and therefore chose the safe way. Not only that, the business potential for Taiwanese making money in China is becoming a more and more important factor for softening the Cold War attitude and moving towards a closer cooperation (perhaps a kind of a union in a decade or two?). Interestingly, in my industry, almost no Taiwanese supplier has a market in China, even though they try very hard to get the business going by opening branches and investing money. However in reality, they are treated like foreign companies, no brotherly feelings there. I’m not sure what will happen in the end, I’m just an observer and I’m trying to not put too much emotions in this issue, because people might decide something, that I disagree with. Taiwan in itself, in its own bubble, is a very complex matter and when you add China to that, it becomes even more complicated. In the end I only hope that it can keep its unique charm, its advanced civil society, freedom of press, freedom of speech and free elections. To keep all that, it might not be necessary to follow Slovenia’s way.

Q: Have you seen big changes in your own blog or blogs, and in the Chinese, Taiwanese or foreign “China blogosphere” since you started blogging yourself? Or have you seen changes in the mainstream media?

A: I think a lot of green bloggers have become more obsessively green, which I find backwards and a lot of initial China bloggers have either become less critical or have stopped blogging. Maybe less critical is not the right word, I believe they just became older, became more nuanced and sober. The spirit of the young single expat, who thought he can change the world sobered up through the years. A lot of these bloggers either moved back to their home countries or they married a local girl and begun to exchange ideology for pragmatism and nuance. It’s a natural process.

Q: Have you ever stopped reading blogs because you felt they were becoming boring, or because they angered you?

A: Yes I did for both reasons. I don’t want to waste time on reading stuff written by people I don’t respect or find repulsive. There are a few Taiwan bloggers, who fit this category.

Q: Do you regularly watch television or listen to the radio? If so, what are your preferred channels, and why?

A: I watch TV, but movies mostly, however I don’t have a lot of time for it. When I was in Slovenia, I used to watch German TV a lot, from talk shows to entertainment. I was also a big fan of CNN and American news in general, especially during the 2008 election campaign: I watched Obama’s victory speech in Chicago at 2 am on CNN and I teared up. But this is the last memorable moment that I have with television. I shifted to Internet, especially here in Taiwan, where there’s not German nor Slovenian TV. And most American TV stations are showing movies nonstop, such as HBO. TV for me is just on, but I don’t really watch it. I spend more time on my Mac, iPhone and iPad, I’m slowly turning into a geek.

Q: What’s the worst online article or post you have ever read about Taiwan (that you remember)? And what’s the best one?

A: The worst must have been an article by some guy, who came to Taiwan and can’t get girls. He’s only trash talking about everything here, completely obsessed with the notion, that Taiwan is the worst place in the world. But I have the feeling, that the book “Cultural Shock-Taiwan: Cow Mentality, Rubber Slipper Fashion in BinLang Country”  must be topping my first example. As for the best posts, there were several and I’m not sure, if I could point out the best one.

Q: Have you become more aware of what it means – to you – to belong to your country? Or about civil liberties and democracy? There was a paragraph in your post-election gleanings in January this year – you wrote from a business trip that

In Germany, almost nobody cared about the election in Taiwan – there were no reports on TV – nothing. Instead, a sunk ship in Italy was nonstop in the news. Same goes for my home country and probably most Western countries. Nobody gives a rats ass about democracy anymore. We’re bitter and self-absorbed, because we saw how governments change, but everything remains the same. It’s not like we want to have dictatorships back, but the feeling of pure enthusiasm for political convictions are over – cynicism prevails these days.

How do you deal with these feelings yourself? Are they simply your feelings, that are going to be with you unless they change, or are you looking for something more sustainable that might replace the past, pure enthusiasm for political convictions? Has some other feeling replaced the old ones since? Or is some cynicism the almost inevitable concomitant of getting older?

A: I think I’ve become very cynical, but for different reasons than the Europeans I met during my business trip. My problem is I don’t know where I really belong. In Taiwan I’m always going to be “waiguoren” and stick out from the rest, but Slovenia for me is at this point very foreign, too. If I go back too early, I will feel, that I’ve failed at what I set myself to achieve. Europe in general has lost its drive and soul in recent years. Most Taiwanese, with whom I work with, see it as the place, where the economy is constantly deteriorating and the Euro continuously depreciating. The export business of most Taiwanese suppliers suffers a lot and that affects people’s perceptions here. When I see how low the Euro has fallen, I feel sad and somewhat insecure about the whole idea of the EU in general, even though I support the ideals of the Union and I’m proud to be EU citizen. You have to know, that the Euro is one of the few connections I have with my native continent. I could get 48 NTD for a Euro in 2010, when I first came to Taiwan. Today, I only get 36.5 NTD and it keeps falling. Is that a sign, that Europe’s best days are over? I’m not sure, but I’m rather pessimistic at this point. I don’t know, if I will lose my cynicism, perhaps, if I find a way to slow down my fast-paced life, but that’s a very challenging task, if you chose to live in Taipei.

Q: MKL, thanks a lot for this interview.


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


All BoZhu Interviews


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Foreigners, and the Social Insurance System in China

There has been some talk about foreigners having to contribute to China’s social insurance system in recent months, but the proof of the pudding is the eating. It seems that by now, at least some local governments are beginning to implement mandatory contributions.

Matthew Stinson, in a post for Rectified Name, refers to Shanghai and Suzhou as places where contributions, at least by and for foreigners working at training centers, are now being paid. Tianjin, where Stinson lives, seems to become another such place. Stinson discusses both some of the arrangement’s background and details, and comes up with some thoughts about how it may, or may not, work.

Income distribution and social insurance have become prominent issues in China, not least as the country is facing challenging demographic trends. Part of deepening reform and opening further, as described by the CCP central committee’s cultural decision, is the promotion of cultural units’ human resources and income allocation, and social insurance systems’ reform. And allocation and social insurance issues go far beyond “culture” (if one wants to reject the idea that to the CCP, everything is “cultural”. Social insurance is a regular item on the State Council’s agenda (at least according to its published records), and social management (社会管理), supported not least by an improved identity card system (身份证制度), may help governments and Yang Rui to sort out the illegally uninsured “foreign trash”.

For sure, from a mere fiscal point of view, mandatory social insurance fees paid by foreigners, despite the drawbacks mentioned on Rectified Name, would provide some badly needed means to turn rural social insurance funding into something substantial.

That said, if social insurance fees were paid by migrant workers – and their bosses, obviously -, it would spell improvement on a very different scale. In such a (unrealistic) case, Li Keqiang, China’s likely chief state councillor, could issue problem-solving instructions Wen Jiabao, even at his best, could only dream of.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

French Architect “with Bo Xilai Ties” Arrested in Cambodia

French architect Patrick Henri Devillers has been arrested by Cambodian police, reportedly with the co-operation of Beijing, which is seeking his extradition. Also reportedly, Phnom Penh is in a process of deciding whether to send Devillers to France, or to follow a demand to extradite him to China. According to the BBC’s Chinese website, Devillers is a friend of Bo Xilai‘s family, and a business friend of Bo’s wife Gu Kailai. According to a Le Monde report, Devillers had first met the Bo family in Dalian, just as another foreign Bo/Gu contact, Neil Heywood had.

But their businesses were different, and not interlinked, Deviller was quoted in the Le Monde report, in May this year (i. e. weeks before his arrest).

“What we had in common is that we were married to Chinese women. We knew each other (…). What I can say about him is that he wasn’t in the bluff. He had a great mental nobility, in the English traditions of honor.”

“On avait en commun d’être mariés à des Chinoises. On se connaissait (…). Je peux dire de lui en tout cas qu’il n’était pas du tout dans l’esbroufe. Il avait une grande noblesse d’âme, dans les traditions anglaises de l’honneur.”

Devillers had first arrived in China in 1987, aged about 27, to learn Chinese, according to Le Monde. It was there that he met his wife who studied the classical zither [probably the guzheng – JR], and started a movie project about the Tian An Men movement in 1989, which ended with the massacre.

During the 1990s, much of his work involved working with the Dalian city government’s architecture and urban planning department.

The way Devillers comes across in the Le Monde article suggests that he took a great interest in China’s intellectual history, and particularly in Taoism.



» Oh, Rule of Law, April 11, 2012



» No Extradition without Evidence, Telegraph, June 20, 2012


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A few Thoughts about the 100-Days Crackdown on Foreigners in China

“China’s crackdown on foreigners raises specter of xenophobia”, read the title of a weekly column by CNN columnist Jaime A. FlorCruz  on June 4. First thing that FlorCruz does is that he quotes his wife, who, like him, lives in Beijing:

“Does this mean I must now carry my passport everyday?” my wife Ana wondered aloud with a mix of bemusement and exasperation.

Umm… does this mean that she hasn’t done so in the past?

CCTV-9 host Yang Rui‘s Weibo comments on the 100-days campaign (scheduled to continue until the end of August)  is quoted. Then come an old China hand’s warnings about how ugly xenophobia can be, with examples from China in the 1970s.

On June 7, Shanghai police raided a party at Yongfu Road and took at least twelve foreigners away on a police van, according to an eyewitness.

That, to be clear, is a very unpleasant experience. But if the police acted on a sound legal basis, it isn’t wrong. The question if xenophobia [is] rearing its head again is inappropriate in context with the current campaign. Xenophobia has never ceased – but the desire to make sure that foreigners who stay in China are doing so legally is basically natural, and legitimate.

The problem with much of the recent international coverage on Beijing’s campaign is that it sheds an uncanny light on what is, basically, any country’s (including China’s) legitimate concern. This kind of coverage also trivializes genuine human-rights violations.

This is where names need to be rectified. It does feel uneasy to be arrested in China. It feels much more uneasy that to get arrested in ones own country, or in a foreign country where you can expect that rule of law will apply. But these are questions foreigners in China might have asked themselves much earlier – say, before they first arrived in China.

If people get exasperated – see first paragraph – because they might be expected to carry their passport whenever they go out, their feelings seem to suggest that have taken too many things in China for granted. In Germany, a country which is – correctly, I believe – considered a lawful country, I have to carry either a passport or an ID card anytime. [See erlian‘s comment, #3 – JR] If I don’t – that’s how I understand the relevant law -, the police are free to arrest me for 24 hours before a judge decides on my case. And I am a German citizen, not a foreigner.

When foreigners are forced to leave China, and the authorities do not provide an explanation, this would be something foreigners might draw conclusions from. They may ask themselves if it makes sense to bet on a future in or with China. There was no reason to force Melissa Chan to leave the country, for example. But no country can be expected to tolerate foreigners who want to stay there without having done the necessary paperwork.

It’s time to either come up with cases where Chinese authorities are seriously fucking the 100-days campaign up – or to become reasonable.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

CRI / Sichuan Online: Will Yang Rui become another Zhao Pu?

Main Link: China Radio International (originally published by Sichuan Online), May 25, 2012

The Weibo message by Wang Rui, a host at CCTV’s English channel, triggered huge controversy. Last Wednesday, he wrote under his real-name account at Weibo that the public security office should clean out the foreign trash, behead the foreign snakes1), identify foreign spies, expel foreign shrews [or the shrew – the article’s wording leaves this open – JR]2), to shut those who demonized China up and to get them out [of the country].  Following that, an American living in China also posted a message, demanding that CCTV should dismiss Yang Rui.  A small number of foreigners, the Wall Street Journal and other Western media supported this demand. (Quoted from Huanqiu Shibao, May 24, 2012.)

A public figure spoke his opinion on public affairs, on a microblog, and was then referred to as “talking a lot of nonsense”, or being “absolutely faceless” [or without qualities] – isn’t it strange that merely for being a CCTV host, he must not express his innermost feelings? A CCTV host, too, is just a mortal. He, too, may express his own views. This has nothing to do with facelessness. This author would rather think that someone who speaks the truth is showing real character. Try to imagine: some years ago, when microblogging didn’t exist, could Yang Rui’s expression of dissatisfaction have triggered so much attention? It is only now that those lines appeared on Weibo that it caught many peoples’ attention, and therefore, netizens “turned a mole hill into a mountain”, blindly expanding the issue’s impact. As Yang’s work unit, CCTV can’t be too harsh, and appropriate freedom of speech must be given. If CCTV “raised hell” every time after being heavily criticized, who among the hosts would still dare to speak the truth?
作为一名公众人物,在微博上表达自己的言论被有些人指为“大放厥词”、“很没素质”,难道就因为他是央视主持人就不能表达内心的想法吗?央视主持人也是凡人,他也能表达自己的观点,这跟素质没有关系。笔者倒觉得一个人敢于说真话才是真正有素质的体现。试想一下,若是几年之前,微博还没有出现之时,杨锐表达一下自己的不满还会有这么多人注意吗?只是现在这句话出现在了微博之上,被很多人关注了,所以网友们便“小题大做”,盲目的扩大了事情的影响。央视作为杨锐的就职单位,也不能对他要求太过“苛刻”,适当的言论自由还是应该给的。如果央视也被众多的批评言论“煽风点火”了,那以后 “主持人”们谁还敢说真话了?

If this needs to be investigated or not, and he is blamed for acting inappropriately in his capacity [as a CCTV host], that Weibo message could affect CCTV’s image negatively. If we, ordinary people, published such a micropost, it wouldn’t cause such a dispute. This author believes that microposts are individual expression, unrelated to “ethnic discrimination” as stated by foreign media. There is only very few “foreign garbage”, and polite and civilized foreigners should not see this shoe as fitting to them.

Maybe our “expecations” about public personalities are too high, that they should always be able to show us a positive, uplifting  face, and report “good” rather than “bad news”.  But outside the workplace, they live their own lives, too, and to blindly turn them into opinion leaders and to turn their opinions into mainstream opinion is wrong.

Language, however excited, should not startle compatriots. Yang Rui only referred to “foreign garbage”, not to all foreigners. One has to see the essence of the matter, and not dwell on the appearances. The case of a British man assaulting a Chinese woman in the street in Beijing, and the “resting-feet” passenger who spat dirty language  at a passenger in the row in front of him are those who Yang Rui attacked as “foreign garbage”. Yang also clarified his Weibo post in a media statement in that “after seeing those incidents, I called those foreigners ‘foreign garbage’, and I believe that when they violate Chinese law, they should be sanctioned by the law. I want to distinguish between them and the quiet majority in the foreign community who observe and respect the rules of Chinese culture and society. To identify those few garbage [people] helps to protect the reputation of decent Westerners.” His Weibo message of May 15 only had a function in reminding people that no matter if Western or Chinese people, neither were above the law.
语言不过激,不足以惊醒国人。何况杨锐只是针对“洋垃圾”,不是指所有外国人。要看到本质,不能只停留在表象。最近发生的北京街头欲对中国女子实施性侵害的英国籍男子以及不顾前排乘客感受口吐脏话的老外“翘脚哥”,才是杨锐抨击的“洋垃圾”。在周一他发给媒体的声明中,也明确地就其微博内容引发的争议进行了解释,“在看过这些事件后,我将这些外籍人士称作‘洋垃圾’,我认为如果他们违反了中国的法律,就应该受到法律的制裁。我想把他们与外国社区中那些遵守和尊重中国文化和社会规则的安静的大多数区别开来。找出这些洋垃圾可以有助于保护正派的西方人的名誉。” 他5月16日发布的微博只是想起提醒作用,表明无论是西方人还是中国人,都不能凌驾于法律之上。

Obviously, Yang Rui didn’t mean to attack foreigners. He only hoped that people would respect the law, that no special rights would be given to “foreign garbage”, that people would act as equals, and that immoral foreigners would be punished in accordance with the law. He also affirmed that “the majority of foreigners” were good people who “observe and respect the rules of Chinese culture and society”, and that with the expulsion of bad people, prejudices against all foreigners would be avoided.

[The following paragraph may not be correctly translated – just a try – JR]

China [needs?]  more people with Yang Rui’s integrity. If he didn’t say the truth,  maybe there would be more radical compatriots, but we just don’t encourage extremists’ methods  to wake the common people with vain self-sacrifices. Up to now, the power of speech should be believed in.

On April 11, 2012, well-known CCTV host Zhao Pu was the first to publish the inside gelatin story, and advised people not to eat yoghurt and jelly, which, for the moment, was a great stir. The micropost triggered concern about poisoned capsules and everyone could see that the “gelatin inside story” did exist. He spoke the facts, but with the result that he “disappeared” from the microblog and from television. Many netizens guess that he was “blacklisted”, but he only says that he won’t comment. Hard to believe that the mistake [in his case], too, was that he was a “CCTV host”? Maybe because of [something] somewhere within the “regulations”, words like these shouldn’t have come from his mouth.

The people wants to hear the truth. If Yang Rui becomes a second Zhao Pu, the people may become even more disappointed.



1) “Snakeheads” would be the literal translation, but that is probably not what it meant in this context.
2) The “foreign shrew” (洋泼妇) is said to refer to Melissa Chan, until recently al-Jazeera‘s China correspondent, and 洋泼妇 has frequently been translated as “foreign bitch”. The translated article doesn’t refer to her specifically. What Yang really meant probably depends on his word power.


» Zhao Pu warns…, “Global Times”, April 9, 2012


Sunday, February 12, 2012

17th Central Committee’s “Culture Document” – 11: Go Global, and no Porn!

« Previous leg of this translation: part 10, Linking the Cultural Industries to the National Economy

The following is a translation of the fifth chapter of the CCP Central Committee’s “cultural document”. For more background concerning the document, see that previous post.

Main Link:

7) Deepen Reform and Opening Further, Accelerate and Establish Systems which are Conducive to the Prosperous Development of Culture


Culture guides the mood of our times, and is the area most in need of innovation. We must firmly grasp the correct direction, accelerate the promotion of cultural mechanisms, built sound leadership by party committees, administrative management, industrial self-regulation, social supervision, enterprises, institutions and units (danwei) which operate in accordance with the law, based on cultural management systems and vigorous cultural production systems, bring positive market factors in to play in the process of cultural resource allocation, make culture get past [old] patterns, and add strong dynamic force to prosperous cultural development.


a) Deepen reform of state-owned cultural units. By focusing on establishing a system of modern enterprise, accelerate and promote the reform of operational cultural units, and foster mainframes in conformity with the market. Specify the cultural units’ characters and functions scientifically, distinguish between them, classify them, take a progressive approach, open them gradually, promote normal state-owned cultural ensembles and troupes, press products which are not about current affairs or politics, [ownership transformation of news websites (?) – 新闻网站转企改制], expand the fruits of publication, distribution, and the film industry’s reform, accelerate their transformation into companies and public limited companies, perfect corporate governance structures in line with modern enterprise system requirements, and reflecting the cultural enterprises’ characteristic assets and operations and management organization. Innovate the investment and financial systems, support state-owned cultural companies’ as they face the capital markets, and support them in attracting social capital, and in carrying out joint-stock transformation. Keep the attributes of public benefit in mind, strengthen the service functions, increase vital development, comprehensively promote cultural units’ human resources and income allocation, social insurance systems’ reform, clear service specifications and the strengthening of performance evaluation in mind. Innovate public cultural service facilities’ operational mechanisms, attract personalities who represent society, professionals, and apply grassroots participation and management. Promote the progressive perfection of party publications’, radio, and television management and operational mechanisms. Promote the application of entrepreneurial management at the units, such as normal current-affairs publishing houses, non-profit publishing houses, ensembles and troupes who represent national characteristics and the country’s artistic level, enhance exposure to the markets, and the ability to serve the masses.


b) A sound, modern culture market system. To promote cultural products and key elements floating reasonably all over the country, an orderly, modern market system for unified and open competition must be built. The focus must be on the development of books and other publications, digital audio and video products, performing arts and entertainment, television series, cartoons, animation, and [computer] games, and similar markets, for the further perfection of a comprehensive international Chinese platform on fairs and exhibitions, etc. Develop chain operation, commodity circulation and distribution, e-commerce and other modern organizations and forms, accelerate the building of large-scale distribution enterprises and logistical bases for cultural products, build distributional networks for cultural products that understand urban and rural needs, with the big cities as the centers, with small- and medium-sized cities complementing them. Accelerate the development of property rights [or ownership rights], copyright, and key markets like those for technology and information, carefully manage major exchange [markets] for cultural property rights, norms, and transactions of cultural assets and artistic works. Strengthen the trade’s organizational building, and build sound intermediary structures.


c) Innovate the cultural management system. Deepen reform of administrative and management systems, accelerate the transformation of government functions, strengthen the functions of policy adjustment, market supervision, social management, and public service, promote the separation of politics and enterprise, separation of politics and business, and provide a reasonable order to the relationship between government and cultural enterprises and units, through control and adjustment. Perfect personnel management, operational management, asset management and lead it into the direction of a combined management system of state-owned cultural assets [or – not sure about the correct translation here – a state-owned management system]. Build a sound and comprehensive administrative and law-enforcement structure for the culture market, and promote a sub-provincial and sub-city administration and responsibility mainstay. Accelerate cultural legislation, define and perfect the laws and regulations concerning the protection of public cultural services, the rejuvenation of the cultural industries, cultural market management, and increase the legal level of cultural construction. Adhere to the management and organizational system, implement principles of who is responsible, and who is in charge, strictly apply policies of cultural capital, cultural enterprise, access and non-access to the cultural product markets, comprehensively apply legal, administrative, economic and technological means to increase management efficiency. Deepen the implementation of “Brush pornography away, and crack down on illegal publications”, perfect cultural market management, firmly remove decadent cultural garbage which poisons the peoples’ minds, conscientiously build a market order which ensures national cultural safety.


d) Perfect security system policies policy guarantee mechanisms. Ensure that growth in public financing of cultural construction exceeds normal growth in public finance revenues, increase the share of cultural expenses in public spending. Expand the range of public financing, perfect financial input methods, strengthen fund management, increase the efficiency of funding used, and ensure cultural service systems’ construction and operation. Implement and improve cultural economic policies, support societal organizations, organizations, donations to and start-ups of non-profit cultural activities, guide non-profit organizations to provide public cultural products and services. [] Establish a national cultural development fund, expand the scale of related cultural funds and special funds, increase the share of all kinds of lottery-generated means for the funding of non-profit undertakings. Continue the use of coherent policies on the reform of the cultural system, and support the transformation of state-owned cultural units for another five years.


e) Promote the Chinese culture’s process of going global. Carry out foreign cultural exchange on multiple channels, in multiple forms, and on multiple levels, broaden participation in the global dialog of civilizations, promote learning from each other, strengthen the inspiration that comes from Chinese culture, and Chinese culture’s influence, for the joint safeguarding of cultural diversity. Innovate ways and means of propaganda abroad, strengthen [the right to speak ones opinion – or the right to dominate others through words: 增强国际话语权], react appropriately to foreign concerns, enhance the international community’s basic understanding of our country, its values, its path of development, understanding for and knowledge of its domestic and foreign policies, and let them discover the our country’s civilizational, democratic, open, and progressive image. Implement the project of our culture going global, improve and support the policies and implementation of cultural products and services going global, support major media organizations in setting up overseas branches, foster a number of external cultural enterprises and intermediary organizations which are globally competitive, improve dubbing, recommendation and introduction, advisory and similar support mechanisms, and gain access to international cultural markets. Strengthen Chinese overseas cultural centers and Confucius Institutes, encourage academia and artistic organization which reflect our country’s level to play a constructive role within relevant international organizations, and organize the translation of outstanding artistic works and cultural quality products. Build mechanisms for cultural exchange, combine governmental exchanges and non-governmental exchanges, bring into play the role of non-governmental cultural enterprise, cultural non-profit organizations in international cultural exchanges, and support overseas Chinese in actively launching sino-foreign cultural exchanges. Establish cultural exchange mechanisms for young foreigners, and establish an award for contributions to the international dissemination of Chinese culture.


f) Actively absorb and learn from outstanding foreign cultural achievements. Adhere to the principles of self-dependance, self-regardness, to learning from every experience that helps to strengthen the building of our country’s socialist construction, from all positive achievements that can enrich our people’s cultural life, from everything that is conducive to our country’s cultural activities, and to its cultural management concepts and mechanisms. Strengthen our country’s intellectual fields, its talents, and its acquisition of technology. Attract foreign investment into fields and enterprises that are designed for this by rules and regulations, and guarantee the investors’ lawful rights and interests.Encourage cultural units to enter cooperation projects with powerful foreign cultural institutions, learn from advanced production technolgies, and from advanced management experience. Encourage foreign-invested enterprises to carry out cultural-technological research and development, and develop outsourcing. Develop international cooperation in the protection of intellectual property rights.


To be continued.


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