Posts tagged ‘media’

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Chinese concept of Internet Revolution: a Need for Traditional Industries to be Reborn with New Bones

A CCTV op-ed, republished here by Enorth (Tianjin), picks up the official buzzword of “Internet plus”, or “互联网”+ in Chinese. The author is a frequently published commentator beyond CCTV, Qin Chuan (秦川).

Main Link: “互联网+”不是加工具 而是转观念

On March 5 this year, chief state councillor Li Keqiang, in his work report, spelled out the action plan for the formulaton of “Internet plus”. From there, “Internet plus” has become one of the most popular terms. There are people who welcome the age of “Internet plus”, and there are others who believe that this year is “the first year of the traditional industry’s internetization”, but there are also people who keep asking questions about why it should be “Internet plus” rather than “plus the internet”.

今年3月5日,李克强总理在政府工作报告上提出制定“互联网+”行动计划。自此,“互联网+”成为最流行的词语之一。有人欢呼“互联网+”时代来了,还有人认为今年是“传统行业互联网化元年”,不过也有人追问,为什么是“互联网+”,而不是“+互联网”?

The enthused tractor driver

Riding into the incomparable Tomorrow

Internet plus had become a concept, writes, Qin, which had already “become hot”. It had the potential of making the Chinese economy take off. In the first quarter’s seven percent of economic growth and the first quarter’s smooth beginning for the national economy, the role played by “Internet plus” was not clearly quantifiable, but certainly discernible.

“Internet plus” isn’t “plus the internet” because the subjects are different, and because their effects are also different. “Plus the internet” stays at the concept of “traditional industries plus the internet” and sees the internet as a tool, but what “internet plus” signals is actually “internet plus all kinds of traditional industries”. The internet isn’t just a carrier, it’s the main frame, it doesn’t play a supporting role, but the indispensible and leading role.

“互联网+”不是“+互联网”,这是因为主体不同,作用也不同。“+互联网”仍停留于“传统业态+互连网”的观念,把互联网视为工具,而“互联网+”传递的信号则是“互联网+各个传统行业”,互联网不只是载体,而是主体,它不是配角,而是当仁不让的主角,不可或缺。

In the second industrial revolution, electricity had led to great changes in many industries, writes, Qin, but the internet wouldn’t only help raising productivity and efficiency as electricity had one; the internet in itself was industrialization (互联网本身已经产业化). Internet companies which had attained some industrial attributes and inspired industrial upgrades should not be underestimated.

Qin urges a broader perspective. The internet was about merging, sharing, transformation and improvement. It was “not an addend, but a multiplier”. Traditional industries were facing big changes, and even needed to be “reborn with new bones” (脱胎换骨)*): Just as scholars say, new technologies and abilities can completely change traditional industries’ efficiency and abilities, and form new operations and business models.

That’s why we can say that “Internet Plus” may bring a technological revolution of far-reaching significance, which may permeat all aspects, not only topple traditional industries, but also provide traditional industries with new life. The shame is that when it comes to “Internet Plus”, quite many people just can’t see its value, or remain superficial about its significance. Reports say that the most serious bottleneck in China for “Internet Plus” are anachronistic concepts [or viewpoints]. At present, rather serious inflexible points of view exist in our countries’ traditional industries, as can be seen in the phenomenon of copying what is already there, a lack of essential understanding and use of cloud computing and services in big data infrastructure, and there is no broad change towards a consumer-led business pattern either.

从这个意义上说,“互联网+”或将带来一种意义深远的技术革命,它渗透在各个方面,不仅颠覆了传统行业,更赋予了传统行业新的生命。遗憾的是,对“互联网+”,不少人并非意识到它的价值,或者将其意义表面化。据报道,中国“互联网+”存在的一大瓶颈是观念落伍:目前我国的传统产业存在较为严重的观念固化现象,体现在因袭原有的信息化老路,对云计算、大数据等基础设施服务缺乏必要的了解和应用,也没有适应以消费者为主导的商业格局的转变。

We suffered from aphasia during several technological revolutions in the past. In this new technological revolution, we must not be marginalized again. The good thing is that the central authorities have already recognized the great significance of “internet plus”, and promoted it systematically. According to reports, the state has already established new industry venture capital funds at a value of 40 billion Yuan. More capital must be raised and integrated, to assist in beefing up industrial innovation.

我们曾在前几次技术革命中失语,在新的技术革命中绝不能再被边缘化。好在中央早已意识到“互联网+”的重大意义,并从制度安排上推动之。据悉,国家已设立400亿元新兴产业创业投资引导基金,要整合筹措更多资金,为产业创新加油助力。

The article doesn’t suggest that anything would be certain, however. The author is careful enough to suggest that “Internet Plus” could lead to these or those desirable results, and his article ends with a maybe (或许), not with a certainly (肯定):

By changing outdated ideas, by embracing “Internet Plus”, we may have an extraordinary tomorrow, with deep changes from China’s economy to Chinese life.

改变落伍观念,拥抱“互联网+”,或许我们将拥有不同凡响的明天,从中国经济到生活状态,各个方面都将深刻改变。

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Notes

*) 脱胎换骨 could also be translated with the more “civil” term of re-inventing themselves, but to be reborn with new bones is a much older saying in China than the business philosophy reflected in self-reinvention. Self-criticism, sometimes necessary for survival when facing accusations of being a bad or weak revolutionary, for example, included the preparedness to be “reborn with new bones”. To be “reborn” that way is also the demand Haiyun, the wife of Cadre Zhang in Wang Meng‘s novel “Butterfly”, is facing after having praised “wrong” novels as an academic lecturer. And the man making these demands on her is Cadre Zhang himself:

All you can do now is to lower your head and to confess your guilt, to start anew, to flay your face and to wash your heart, to be reborn and to change your bones!
只有低头认罪,重新做人,革面洗心,脱胎换骨!”他的每个字都使海云瑟缩,就像一根一根的针扎在她身上,然后她抬起头,张思远打了一个冷战,他看到她的冰一样的目光。

That’s to say, the choice of words reflects a blend of politics and economics, and, indeed of fear and survival. But when isolated from history, it probably amounts to this quote (Andy S. Grove):

For now, let me just say that a strategic inflection point is a time in the life of business when its fundamentals are about to change. That change can mean an opportunity to rise to new heights. But it may just as likely signal the beginning of the end.”

And yes, Only the Paranoid Survive is the title of the book.

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Further Reading

» The Trickies Part, Slate, Jan 21, 2015
» Address Censorship, SCMP, March 8, 2015
» Deutschland will digital, DW, March 16, 2015
» Work Report, China Daily, Mar 5, 2015
»  Work Report (hours later), Mar 5, 2015
» Angst vor Zusagen, Die Zeit, Aug 19, 2014
» Digital Germany 2015, Nov 10, 2010
» The Digital Germany paper (in German)
» Destruction or Development, Mar 15, 2010

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Monday, April 13, 2015

A Look at the Rumors about China Radio International

There has been some talk about plans among China’s leaders to close down a number of foreign-language services – the German-language department among them -, at China Radio International (CRI), China’s international broadcaster. Keith Perron, a radio producer in Taiwan, claimed inside knowledge and suggested that, according to this quote by Glenn Hauser‘s World of Radio, March 26:

At last month’s meeting of the committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference in Beijing, one of the subcommittees, headed by Zhang Dejiang, who is also chairman of the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, will form a twelve-member board to look into the effectiveness of shortwave as a [unreadable] platform for China Radio International. Members include leaders from various former ministries, including the [unreadable], culture, propaganda, SARFT, and the central committee.They may be looking at shortwave cuts made in Australia, Canada, Russia, UK, and the US. Last year the Chinese government spent over 600 mega Yuan on the shortwave, that’s about 100 mega dollars US. It includes not only CRI, but China National Radio [aka Chinese People’s Broadcasting Station, CPBS — JR]. They will be looking at staff reductions. CRI currently has a staff of 8,500. They are looking at reducing some 40 percent, closing several of their overseas bureaus, closing CRI Television, some CRI language services. Looked at for axing are: Tagalog, Polish, Greek, Italian, German, Esperanto, Kroatian, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Finnish, Bulgarian, and Danish. But English would be expanded, as would Chinese.

What struck me on December 31 last year – but it wouldn’t lead me to dramatic conclusions, of course – was that party secretary general and state chairman Xi Jinping had dropped CRI from his new-year’s address. The broadcaster was mentioned along with CPBS and CCTV by Xinhua’s introductory text, but not by Xi himself. Both Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin had made it a tradition to mention CRI, CPBS, and CCTV in their new year’s addresses – and CRI was always mentioned first.

To put the rumors about CRI into some perspective, though, Perron had been a critic of “waste” at CRI for some time, and understatment isn’t onw of his greatest hobbies. The Voice of America (VoA), for example, is a terminally ill patient, which might lead to the question who’s more dead – the American or the Chinese foreign broadcaster.

And Bernd Seiser, chairman of the Radio Taiwan International Ottenau Listeners’ Club, said in his April 10 club bulletin he had been told by CRI staff that

I can confirm that CRI will not terminate its German-language programs on shortwave.

However, listeners who wanted information on shortwave frequencies would need to enquire with the German department, rather than receive frequency notifications automatically by email, said Seiser.

So, how much truth is there in the rumors about closing the departments mentioned by Perron? That’s hard to tell.  For one, it appears unlikely to me that CPPCC committee activities would go completely unreported inside China (which appears to be the case – I’ve seen no such report in the Chinese media). However, it wouldn’t appear exactly unlikely that China’s top cadres want CRI to become more effective. Three years ago, CRI German still ran a program dedicated to listeners’ letters and emails, but the feedback, as a rule, appeared to be embarrassingly low. Regular broadcasts of telephone interviews with German listeners weren’t a terribly reviving factor either. By now, feedback from the audience is interspersed into CRI Panorama, a magazine with a variety of topics, rather than featured in a dedicated program. An editorial staff of 31, according to CRI German’s website anyway, might be expected to draw a bigger crowed on the other side of the radio, too. (That said, there’s no information concerning their working hours.)

What seems highly unlikely to me is a closure of the German department. For the time being, Germany is an important “partner” for the Chinese leadership, in technological and partly in political terms. For one, both China and Germany try to defend their inveterately high trade surpluses against a growing international chorus of criticism. Even a small congregation of “early Christians” is probably worth being nurtured, from the CCP’s point of view.

Will shortwave be reduced? Maybe, but not necessarily. If the early Christians want shortwave, maybe their prayers will be heard. And jamming of foreign broadcasters like VoA, BBC, or All India Radio, will remain in place anyway. To avoid making it unnecessarily obvious, domestic CPBS stations at least will continue to be used as informal jammers in future, too, along with the “Firedrake”.

Does CRI make a big difference in Germany? Hardly so. What does make a big difference is Chinese financial and economic engagement in Germany, and Chinese interest in German products: sponsoring professorships, taking a stake in a new (and not yet used-to-capacity) German seaport, buying Volkswagen cars, etc.. China’s money has great leverage in Germany, even in German politics.

China’s public diplomacy remains a seedling here – but that’s probably no reason to dump CRI German.

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Related/Updates

» 杨尚昆, 通过中国国际广播电台, Jan 1, 1993
»
CRI 历史, CRI, undated
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Argentine Foreign Radio: Online and on Shortwave

In addition, of course, we broadcast on shortwave as we have been doing since 1968, and will keep on doing, because the shortwave is part of RAE’s soul.

Radio Argentina al Exterior (RAE) announcement during The English Connection, the station’s early morning shortwave broadcast on April 9 UTC, after announcing its new website, www.rae.com.ar, which includes a (functioning, actually) livestream.

Radio Argentina al Exterior (RAE) QSL card, 1980s

Radio Argentina al Exterior (RAE) QSL card, 1980s. The station is still active on shortwave in a number of languages – Spanish, Portuguese, English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Good News for Deutsche Welle, but “some used the Discussion about DW Financing to raise their own Profiles”

The German ministry of finance and federal government commissioner for Culture and the Media Monika Grütters have agreed to increase the Deutsche Welle (DW) budget by twelve million Euros, from 2016 on. The Generalanzeiger, a paper from Bonn, and therefore from one of the two cities hosting DW services, describes the agreement – reportedly reached on February 22 – as a mark set by the two against DW director general Peter Limbourg‘s plans to close ten out of the thirty language services run by DW.

Employee committee member Daniel Scheschkewitz had referred to the director general’s plans as hostage-taking, according to the eco-liberal daily taz in December last year. In the same article however, taz also quoted DW spokesman Christoph Jumpelt as saying that Limbourg had pointed out consequences that  budget squeezes on DW could lead to.

But neither the Generalanzeiger, nor taz, come across as convinced. Nor does Tabea Rössner, media spokesperson for the Greens in German federal parliament. In a speech on a demonstration of some 300 DW employees in Bonn on February 23,  she quoted DW general employee committee Ayse Tekin as saying that if the director general wanted an English-language news channel, the budget needed to be increased, and that the news channel should not come at the cost of DW’s regional language services. And she didn’t forget to mention how enduringly she, Rössner, had advocated this position in the federal parliament, in the press, in interviews, and in discussions.

Indeed, Rössner has made DW, and the strategic choice it is facing, publicly noticeable (if anyone has). And she caught the ire of the DW bosses when, a few days ahead of the DW staff protests in Bonn, she allegedly referred to their plans as the organization’s transformation into an English-language news channel. This echoed the two opposing December narratives, about an either reckless or concerned director general. DW spokesman Jumpelt reacted with a press release, on February 20, criticizing Rössner’s representation of the plans – or warnings, depending on whose side of the story you side with – as unobjective. There were “some” who used the discussion about DW financing to raise their own profiles.

If that, too, was targeted at Rössner, it may not be completely off the mark. But every politician who makes DW a topic of public debate – beyond government – is doing the public foreign broadcaster a favor.

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Related

Leaving Rwanda, Febr 12, 2015
Mindless Competition, Jan 6, 2015
Aha, the Russians, Nov 25, 2014
Cooperating with CCTV, Oct 4, 2014

Related tag: Deutsche Welle

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Deutsche Welle: Withdrawal from the Land of a Thousand Hills

Deutsche Welle (DW) is going to close Kigali relay station in Kigali, Rwanda, the last shortwave station in its ownership, on March 29, according to Tabea Rößner, media spokesperson for the Green members of Germany’s federal lower house, the Bundestag. Rößner published the information on February 4, and voices regret:

In our motion of December 2014 we, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen demanded to keep the station operating and to secure transmissions of Deutsche Welle radio programs on shortwave. We want the station to be maintained because we believe that interference-resistant supply of information such as shoretwave need to be kept. This is the more important as geopolitical and foreign-policy constellations can change anytime. Independent coverage needs to be independent from infrastructural issues.

In unserem Antrag vom Dezember 2014 haben wir von BÜNDNIS 90/DIE GRÜNEN gefordert, die Station aufrecht zu erhalten und die Übertragung von Radioprogrammen der Deutschen Welle via Kurzwelle zu sichern. Die Station wollen wir aufrecht erhalten, weil wir der Meinung sind, dass störunanfällige Informationsangebote wie die Kurzwelle unbedingt aufrechterhalten werden müssen. Dies ist umso wichtiger, da geo- und außenpolitische Konstellationen sich jederzeit ändern können. Unabhängige Berichterstattung aber muss von Infrastrukturfragen unabhängig sein.

Indeed, on December 18 last year, when the Bundestag debated, among others, Deutsche Welle’s task plan and budget, had argued that rather than entering a mindless competition with English-language foreign broadcasters, DW, the Greens argued, should strengthen its core competences, maintain shortwave in general, and the Kigali relay station in particular.

Deutsche Welle QSL card confirming reception of Kigali relay station, on September 6, 2014, at 04:00 UTC.

Deutsche Welle QSL card confirming a report on Kigali relay transmissions, September 2014

Adventist World Radio (AWR), a station that broadcasts via stations of its own (Guam among them) and via rented airtime (Nauen in Germany and Trincomalee in Sri Lanka among them), appears to have rented a lot of airtime from Kigali since October last year, according to a report by Radio Berlin-Brandenburg‘s (RBB) media magazine on February 8, who quote Jose Jacob, an Indian ham radio operator, as an unverified source.

A week earlier, the magazine had reported that Kigali relay station would be dismantled.

It won’t be DW’s first withdrawal from the land of a thousand hills. In April 1994, seven German DW staff and four relatives were evacuated from the transmitter site by Belgian paratroopers, while Rwanda was descending into genocide. Most of the Rwandan staff, some eighty out of 120 Rwandan nationals, are believed to have been killed in the 1994 massacres, according to DW.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

CCP Influence on Education in Free Societies is a Problem – but it’s not the Main Challenge

Shoe Me Quick

Kiss Me Quick (while we still have this feeling)

Yaxue Cao of ChinaChange.org links to questions asked by U.S. Congressman Chris Smith:

Is American education for sale? And, if so, are U.S. colleges and universities undermining the principle of academic freedom and, in the process, their own credibility in exchange for China’s education dollars?

These are important questions, asked in New York University’s (NYU) cooperation with the East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai. And Chris Smith, writes Cao, did not know the answer when he delivered his statement on Thursday.

There are people who think they do know the answer. Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph, a sinologist from south-western Germany, for example. In an interview with German national radio Deutschlandradio he said in the context of German universities cooperating with Confucius Institutes that

The [censoring] scissors are at work in the heads of these people. They know exactly that, if they are sinologists, for example, having cooperations or research, field research in China, they can’t do it the way Chinese, for example, can do it here. They have to cooperate with Chinese bodies. In many cases, these, too, are sub-departments of the central committee. And everyone knows what happens if you attend a talk by the Dalai Lama, for example. There are university boards who don’t go there, and they will tell you why: because they fear that their cooperations will suffer. That, in my view, is not in order. This is where you have to safeguard your independence. After all, that’s how universities came into being in Europe, during the 12th century – as independent institutions.

Every country seems to have its share of sinologists who believe – or believed in the past, anyway -, that free trade
with China would be the catalyst for political liberalism. They don’t seem to say that anymore, or maybe nobody quotes them anymore. But that doesn’t change the attitude of those who seem to believe, for whatever reason, that engagement is always better than maintaining a distance.

Cao also tends to believe that she knows the answer. She draws some conclusions that sound logical to me, and besides, she quotes Chinese stakeholders, whose statements suggest that the CCP carried the day at every stage at the ECNU negotiations with the NYU.

In fact, nobody should ever accuse the CCP of making a secret of their intentions. They discuss these intentions and drafts very openly, in the Chinese press. The problem, and here again it is time to quote Rudolph,

[…] is that the big China bestsellers in this country have all been written by people who can’t even read a Chinese newspaper.

The problem with maintaining standards – and I’m all for defining and defending some – is that political corrections come and go in waves. Campaigns, not reflection, shape the debates when it comes to how much cooperation with totalitarianism a free society can stand. When it is about the CCP infringing on freedoms, complaints usually get some media attention, because this fits into the general propaganda. When Chinese or ethnic Chinese people in Germany get censored, they get hardly any attention – it is as if the process were taking place in an anechoic chamber.

Rudolph, the sinologist quoted above, isn’t only a writer, but also a doer. He was the first president of the German Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, in 1997. And he was a “program observer” at the Chinese department of German foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle, probably from the end of 2009 until 2014, appointed and paid by Deutsche Welle. That practice was never a matter of public debate in Germany, and no transparency either – only one news service cared to write a telling report, which only appeared in a media trade journal. At least four Chinese or Chinese-German journalists lost their contracts, apparently in conflicts over what was deemed “too CCP-friendly”. Rudolph doesn’t look like a champion of free speech to me.

The CCP is indeed unscrupulous. Its power abolishes freedom in China, and its influence endangers freedom where societies are supposed to be “autonomous”. A few weeks after Beijing and its puppet administration in Hong Kong had finished off legitimate democratic demands for universal suffrage from the Hong Kong public, Huanqiu Shibao (“Global Times”), one of the flagships of Chinese state media, warns that opposition against a mainland student running for university office at the University of Hong Kong reflected a dangerous “McCarthyite trend” in the former British colony. On a sidenote. if this conflict occured in Germany, Huanqiu might have tried allegations of Nazism instead.*)

But the CCP isn’t the core problem when it comes to its influence on academic institutions and people. When private enterprise becomes an important source of income for universities, that, too, endangers academic independence. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

If there were clear standards, procedures and constant verification of their practice in general, and beyond this particular “communist problem”, nobody would have to fear the CCP anyway.

In that way, Beijing actually helps to demonstrate what is wrong with us. If we don’t get this fixed as free societies, don’t blame China. Don’t even blame the CCP.

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Note

*) Recent years have seen a resurgence of Nazi Skinheads in some places in Germany. Attacks on foreigners occur from time to time. The unhealthy trend of racism is also the background to a series of anti-China moves of some German mediaXinhua, in 2008, reacting to the suspension of then DW-Chinese deputy department manager Zhang Danhong.

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Related

» 不该让“麦卡锡”进校门, Huanqiu, Feb 6, 2015
» Hearing transcript, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Febr 4, 2015
» Princelings & Sideshows, March 4, 2011

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Endless Era of Propaganda

It begins to dawn on me that this won’t be a peaceful world, or even a world of armistices, as long as a fairly big number of people refuse  to think for themselves, about some fundamental things of love and hate, especially collective feelings of love and hate.

This is a great story, pretty short, but as good as many books about similar issues – The Unwelcome Villager, by Karoline Kan.

Hatred is no monopoly of any particular nation, even if at different times, different nations may be more or less prone to it, and especially those ruled by totalitarianism.

But you will find incredibly stupid quotes from any place, anyway. Words like entertaining the idea that PRC China is a cancer/virus to the world. Words so hopelessly goofy, underexposed, and brutal, that any argument would be a waste of time.

That’s what propaganda is doing to people.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chinese Press Review: Preaching Water, living in France

The BBC had a review of the Chinese press on January 8 and on January 12. The Guanchazhe (Observer, Shanghai) article quoted by the BBC, suggesting that the absence of press freedom in China is in fact a blessing, was written by Song Luzheng, a regular columnist not exclusively for Guancha, who reportedly lives in France and seems to feel extremely challenged by his environment there.

The paragraph partly quoted by the BBC in full:

In either case, from the perspective of the aftermath, this kind of Western freedom of information has not only failed to assist in solving the contradictions between different ethnic groups, but rather intensified them. In fact, with different ethnic groups, with different values and religious beliefs, using one group’s standards to judge another , their collision is inevitable. Isn’t it strange that freedom of information also includes offending other peoples’ religious freedoms? From this perspective, the absence of this kind of freedom of information in China is actually the happiness of all nationalities.

不管怎样,从后果来看,西方这样的新闻自由不但无助于解决不同族群之间的矛盾,相反会激化。毕竟,不同的族群,其价值观和宗教信仰是不同的,如果用一个族 群的标准去衡量另一个,其冲突不可避免。更何况,难道新闻自由也包括冒犯他人信仰的自由吗?从这个角度讲,中国没有这样的新闻自由,实是各民族之幸。

On other occasions, Song Luzheng described democratic societies as idle masses indulging in a life  of pleasure and comfort, and badmouthed his colleagues at Southern Weekly.

In short: Song preaches water, living in France. But he’ll certainly have his share of readers in China.

What the Chinese press seems to have avoided is coverage on how the picture of “world leaders leading the march of 1.5 million was apparently taken. On ForoCoches, a forum nominally dedicated to discussing cars but practically discussing everything (Wikipedia), a user posted two pictures with inscriptions: The caste takes a selfie in Paris.

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