Posts tagged ‘soft power’

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Innovative Guidance of Public Opinion: China Radio International’s “Independent Journalists”

On March 25, 2014, the Chinese Journalists Association held a seminar in the Association’s press room, according to an article published by the organization. Both the 2014 “National People’s Congress” (NPC), China’s alibi parliament, and the “Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference”,  had ended about two weeks earlier. The combination of the two is frequently referred to as lianghui (two sessions). The pattern of the seminar didn’t seem to stand out, it was about “implementing the party’s 18th National Congress’ and the 18th Central Committee’s third plenary session’s spirit”, exchanging or sharing experience made with innovative news reporting methods (交流两会新闻报道中的创新经验做法), and with new explorations in increasing the ability or skills of guiding the public (提高舆论引导能力方面所做的新探索).

The beginning was pretty ordinary indeed, if you go by the Chinese Journalists Association account. The deputy director of China Radio International‘s (CRI) central editorial office, Zhang Hui (张晖), provided the participants with lots of statistics:  the “two meetings” had been covered in 55 foreign languages, four national-minority languages, five Han dialects and in standard Chinese, with more than 620 headlines. In form of written pieces or by radio, CRI covered the meetings in 42,000 news items and in 3,800 background reports, using 7,600 photos in the process. Radio reports had been broadcast on shortwave, medium wave, and digital frequencies, covering 160 countries or regions worldwide, in more than fifty foreign languages, Han dialects, and in standard Chinese. According to yet incomplete statistics (by the time of the seminar, that is), CRI had, during the NPC and CPPCC sessions season, received more than 72,000 messages from overseas listeners in more than 160 countries or areas, by letter, telephone, fax, email, and texting.

Many interviews had been recorded, in many languages, with important people, such as the Serbian prime minister, ambassadors from Russia, Mexico, Columbia, Italy, Mongolia and sixteen more states, and foreign parliamentarians and other foreign visitors had conveyed their positive assessments of China’s achievements. A multi-medial approach had been taking all along the way, Zhang told the seminar.

So far, so traditional. And there were tons more of that. Somewhere along the way, Zhang Hui’s shared experience would have sent most foreigners to sleep. But there’s also that magical moment in a Chinese talk, somewhere, when things begin to become more important, and when a Chinese participant would wake up, heeding an intuitive sense of timing, and when he or she really starts listening, at least with one ear.

Zhang Hui  – according to the published record, anyway – had arrived at the innovative aspects of CRI’s lianghui coverage:

CRI brought foreign media forces into play, promoted the localization of production, of distribution, and interaction, put the leading role at the front into effect, and reported globally. 1. Localization leads production and broadcasting closer to the audience. During the past years, CRI has leaned on companies to increase the pace of the “go-out policy”. In the main cities of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, South Korea, Albania, and other countries, localization in research, production, distribution and in the work processes was achieved. Overseas media clusters played a particular role. An FM broadcaster in Lisbon transmitted a special program (“An ABC of the Sessions”), hot issues, guest interviews, foreign press reviews, etc.. An FM station in Bangkok transmitted the story of the two meetings in unceremonious language.

国 际台调动海外媒体力量,推进本土化制作、发布和互动,实现两会报道阵地前移、报道全球覆盖。1.本土化内容制播贴近受众需求。 近年来,国际台依托公司化运作加快“走出去”步伐,在泰国、老挝、柬埔寨、韩国、阿尔巴尼亚等多个国家的主要城市,实现了本土化采集、制作、发布和运营。 两会报道中,海外媒体集群发挥了独特作用。葡萄牙里斯本调频台播出特别节目《两会ABC》、热点问题、嘉宾访谈、外媒评论等。泰国曼谷调频台在《缤纷世 界》栏目中,以轻松活泼的形式讲述两会故事。

In “Studio 93” and similar programs of the FM station in Vientiane, Laos, officials, experts and academics were invited to a special program, to interpret the content of the two sessions. The program “Current Affairs in Chinese”, broadcast by the Albanian FM station, offered the main issues of the day by the “hot words from the two sessions”. CRI’s broadcasting stations with the CAMG media group in Melbourne, Auckland, Bangkok, Incheon, Colomb0, Kathmandu, Ulaanbataar, and other studios, arranged the news programs about the two sessions, organized the coverage mechanisms, and gave an example of the advantages of localization. The studio in Bangkok, through local hosts, in a familiar and effective fashion, gave explanations on [how] the two meetings [work].

老挝万象调频台在《93 播放室》等栏目中开设两会专 栏,邀请老挝官员、专家学者,解读两会相关内容。阿尔巴尼亚调频台在《时事汉语》节目中,开设“两会热 词”,关注当天热点。国际台环球凯歌公司下属的墨尔本、奥克兰、曼谷、仁川、科伦坡、加德满都、乌兰巴托等节目制作室,提前制定中国两会报道方案,建立健 全报道机制,彰显本土化传播优势。泰国曼谷节目制作室通过《泰中一家亲》栏目,由泰国本土主持人向受众解读中国两会,报道贴心,实效显著。

According to a Reuters report published early this month, CAMG Media is one of three foreign joint ventures co-run by China Radio International, or rather, by a 100 percent CRI subsidiary, Guoguang Century Media. Guoguang, according to Reuters, holds sixty percent in EDI media (North America), GBTimes (Finland), and CAMG Media Group (Melbourne), respectively.

Back to the Journalist Association’s seminar article on Wang Hui’s experience account:

2. International coverage localization operations abide by the broadcasting rules. CRI’s EDI Media in North America, GBTimes in Europe, CAMG Media in Australia, Global Iberia in Portugal, and other overseas companies dispatched nine reporters, in their capacities as [Update 20151117: overseas] independent reporters, to the two sessions, where they were positively active. Louise, Andrew and Michael as well as other reporters from CAMG, IBTimes, and EDI Media respectively, asked five questions [each?], to ministers and delegates, concerning property tax, environmental protection, economic growth etc. and achieved broad attention in domestic and foreign media. The nine reporters reported short commentary, blogs, miscellaneous, hot topics on social networks and photo stories [to their respective local or regional stations] and, speaking as borrowed foreign staff, told the Chinese narrative*) well.

2. 国际化新闻运作遵循传播规律。国际台美国环球东方、欧洲环球时代、澳洲环球凯歌、葡萄牙环球伊比利亚等海外公司,派出9名记者以海外独立媒体记者身份 上会,积极活跃在两会会场内外。环球凯歌、环球时代、环球东方上会记者Louise、Andrew、Michael等分别就房产个税、环保治理、经济增长 等在记者会上向各位部长、人大代表提问达5次,受到中外媒体广泛关注。9名上会记者为海外媒体公司开设的网站和落地电台发回短评、记者博客、每日花絮、社 交媒体热议以及图片新闻等报道,实现了借用外籍员工之口和海外媒体平台讲好中国故事。[…]

The Reuters story of early this month isn’t clear about where the idea of “borrowed boats”, i. e. CRI-invested joint ventures abroad, grew first: if the overseas Chinese media entrepreneurs who partner with CRI or CRI themselves got the idea first. “Borrowed boat”, according to Reuters, is how CRI director general Wang Gengnian refers to the overseas outlets concept. Wang Hui, in her work report to the seminar, used the same term in March 2014. And at least one of CRI’s overseas partners, James Su Yantao, described on a media industry convention in 2008 in China how overseas outlets could offer China’s external propaganda advantages.  According to Reuters, EDI Media was founded in the following year, in 2009.


*) Party and state leader Xi Jinping addressed the issue of telling a good Chinese narrative (讲好中国故事) on a central committee external work meeting on November 29, 2014, i. e. eight months after the China Journalists Association seminar described above. But the term is older; Hu Xijin, chief editor of Huanqiu Shibao, discussed the zhongguo gushi in 2013, and the leadership probably picked the concept from the usual circles of public-diplomacy expertise and academia.



» Borrowed Boats hit the News, Jichang Lulu, Nov 4, 2015
» Beijing’s covert Radio Network, Reuters, Nov 2, 2015
» Rumours about China Radio International, April 13, 2015


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Huanqiu Shibao Editorial: no CRI control over local U.S. broadcasters

Jichang Lulu, who is quoted in a Reuters report on China Radio International‘s (CRI) stake in media companies abroad, wrote a post about CRI’s “borrowed-boat” concept on November 4. The blogger (and book author) also disagrees with Reuters on some points, such as the number of “borrowed boats”. Also differently from Reuters, Jichang states that “localization” of official Chinese content can deviate to quite an extent from the official narrative, if it helps to win more credibility among the respective local audiences. The post also contains a link to a rather circuitous Huanqiu Shibao editorial, which reacts to Reuters’ reports, and also contains a swipe at critics of Confucius Institutes, and asks if China should be worried that Chinese students [Update, completed: … that Chinese students in America, Britain, or continental Europe could be brainwashed].

More to the point, in one line, Huanqiu Shibao also denied that there was CRI control over U.S. broadcasters:

Those local American broadcasting stations are not controlled by CRI, even according to Reuters’ disclosure, it [they?] just broadcasted CRI programs.




» Wang Gengnian’s little Sir Echo, Nov 13, 2015


Friday, November 13, 2015

Borrow a Chicken, Produce an Egg*): Wang Gengnian’s Little Sir Echo

Closing remarks of James Su Yantao, speaking in his capacity as a CEO of a Los Angeles radio station, at the 2008 Radio Development Forum:

During the 59 years since the founding of the state, and especially since the thirty years since the the reform and opening up, huge events have unfolded. The actual strength of China’s economic and social development has increased more and more, the people’s standard of living and degree of culture have become higher and higher, and influence at home and abroad has become bigger and bigger. Especially during the tsunami of the global financial crisis and the depression these days, the “China fever” that is sweeping the world is just unfolding. Under the new circumstances, strengthening and improving China’s external propaganda, to build and advance China’s external image, to make China’s external propaganda and image match China’s economic and social development is undoubtedly necessary. On the continuously deepening foundations of Sino-American broadcasting cooperation, EDI also actively develops Chinese-language broadcasting cooperation with all locations across the globe, we have participated in the global simulcast activities of the Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn traditional programs, held by China’s Central People’s Broadcasting Station, added this time’s frequency localization cooperation with China Radio International, joint productions with friendly stations, focusing on every [station’s] national and regional special issues, all with good results, and we wholeheartedly hope that in the future, through this cooperative platform of the Radio Development Forum and the Conference on Global Chinese Broadcasting Cooperation, to produce yet more top-quality programs to serve the broad audiences, to advance and enrich Chinese culture.

建国59年以来,特别是改革开放30年以来,中国发生了天翻地覆的变化。中国经济和社会发展的实力越来越强,人民的生活水平和文明程度越来越高,国内外的 影响力越来越大。尤其是在全球金融海啸和经济萧条的今天,席卷全球的 “中国热”更是方兴未艾。在新形势下,加强并改进中国的对外宣传,打造并提升中国的对外形象,使中国的对外宣传和对外形象与中国经济和社会的发展相适应、 相匹配,无疑是很有必要的。在不断加深中美广播合作的基础上,鹰龙传媒也积极开展和全球各地华语广播的合作,曾经多次参加过中国中央人民广播电台举办的中 国春节和中秋等传统节日的全球大型联播活动,再加上今次和中国国际广播电台的全频率本土化的合作以及曾经和一些兄弟友台连线制作,针对各自国家和地区专门 议题的专题节目,都取得了良好的效果,衷心希望未来在更多的领域,透过广播发展论坛和全球华语广播协作网这一合作平台,做出更多优质的节目服务广大听众, 弘扬中华文化。

The roots of Chinese culture are in China, and the overseas Chinese media are just branches, and only when the tree is strong and deeply rooted, the branches can grow well and in full blossom. Only when overseas Chinese media establish themselves well, they can play in concert with Chinese mainstream media, as good cultural links and as bridges of friendship. Herein lies the importance and far-reaching significance of this time’s Radio Development Forum and the Conference on Global Chinese Broadcasting Cooperation.


According to a story published by Reuters earlier this month, James Su, in his capacity as president and CEO of a company named G&E Studio Inc, leases airtime on at least fifteen U.S. stations, distributes China Radio International (CRI) programming, and produces and distributes original Beijing-friendly shows from its California studios.

It looks like a pretty secretive operation. Strangely enough, people who take offense from Western propaganda appear to think that there’s nothing wrong with borrowing a chicken to produce an egg (借鸡生蛋), as Guanchazhe (Shanghai) put it ten days ago. Or maybe they do see the problem, and that’s exactly why they try an undercover approach.

Similar airtime arrangements appear to exist in Europe.



*) Or, as Wang Gengnian, China Radio International’s director general, reportedly put it, borrow a boat.



» Earnest Expectations, May 23, 2015
» Skeletons in the Cupboard, Sept 23, 2014
» RSF and Congressman demand Sanctions, Aug 29, 2014
» Global Field Media company, Nov 30, 2013
» Ambassadors abroad, May 25, 2012
» Be more Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Angela Merkel’s 8th Visit: another two Days in China

Angela Merkel was to meet Xi Jinping on Thursday, her office’s website wrote earlier this week, referring to the state chairman and party secretary general as “president”. That’s routine in German federal and regional authorities’ contacts with China; party affiliations and roles are mostly ignored.

It was Merkel’s eighth visit to China, Xinhua newsagency informed statistics-obsessed readers. She first visited in August 1997, then as minister for environment protection and nuclear reactor safety. Visits as chancellor followed in May 2006, August 2007, October 2008, July 2010, February 2012, August 2012, and in July 2014.

An End to the “Golden Decade” of German-Chinese Cooperation?

Germany’s press is diverse at first glance, but much of what ends up in regional papers is written by relatively few correspondents or editorialists in Berlin, pooled in news agencies and correspondent’s offices that offer their services to any paper in the market. “Die Krisen reisen mit” (Crises travel along), written by two Deutsche Presseagentur (DPA) correspondents, was published by a number of small or medium-sized regional papers. Sebastian Heilmann, a sinologist, is quoted as saying that London had assumed the leading role in relations with China (this probably refers to the leading role in the European Union).

But the DPA article doesn’t want to leave Heilmann’s remarks uncontested:

That Cameron, all of a sudden, only leers at business doesn’t necessarily suggest convictions and reliability, as can be read from internet users’ sardonic remarks. The chancellor enjoys much greater esteem. But Xi was probably happy to see the human-rights topic basically dropped under the table in London, and the Europeans being split. The [German] federal government takes no stock in this kind of policy changes and remains firm in its critical China policy. Chinese people appreciate reliability. Even the strength of Germany’s industries alone would ensure Germany’s position as China’s “definitely strongest trading partner”, the chancellery believes.

Dass Cameron plötzlich nur noch auf das Geschäft schielt, spricht auch aus chinesischer Sicht nicht unbedingt für Überzeugungen und Verlässlichkeit, wie aus hämischen Kommentaren von Internetnutzern erkennbar wird. Da genießt die Kanzlerin viel größere Wertschätzung. Aber Xi dürfte sich gefreut haben, dass das Thema Menschenrechte in London praktisch unter den Tisch gefallen ist und hier ein Keil zwischen die Europäer getrieben werden konnte. Die Bundesregierung hält von solchen Kurswechseln aber nichts und bleibt in ihrer kritischen China-Politik standhaft. Die Chinesen wissen Zuverlässigkeit zu schätzen. Schon wegen der Stärke der deutschen Industrie werde Deutschland auch “mit Sicherheit der stärkste Handelspartner” der Chinesen  bleiben, glaubt man im Kanzleramt.

Deutsche Welle’s Mandarin service is more elaborate, drawing on a press release from the Mercator Institute for China in Berlin, r rather on the institute’s trade magazine “China Flash”. In an interview with the magazine, Heilmann, the institute’s director, said that Chinese demand for industrial commodities was going down, and at the same time,

there’s a certain disillusionment on the Chinese side, because jointly agreed projects are stagnating: from the Chinese perspective, German industry is too passive in technological cooperation, and the federal government has given too little profile to the issue.

auf chinesischer Seite eine gewisse diplomatische Ernüchterung, weil gemeinsam vereinbarte Projekte stocken: Aus Sicht der Chinesen ist die deutsche Industrie in der Technologiekooperation zu passiv, und die Bundesregierung hat das Thema Innovationspartnerschaft zu niedrig aufgehängt.

As for an action framework for innovation partnership, adopted in Berlin in October 2014, with Chinese chief state councillor Li Keqiang and Merkel in attendance, Merkel would “need to cheer up disappointed interlocutors in Beijing”:

Peking had hoped that German companies would procure Chinese companies with innovative know-how on networked production. However, German companies are understandably skeptical: Industry 4.0 is about fundamental, sensitive future technology. The question if this kind of know-how can be protected in the Chinese context must be answered in the negative, at present.

Peking hatte gehofft, dass deutsche Unternehmen chinesischen Firmen innovatives Wissen zur vernetzten Industrieproduktion beibringen. Doch deutsche Unternehmen sind verständlicher Weise skeptisch: Bei Industrie 4.0 geht es um elementare, sensible Zukunftstechnologien. Und die Frage, ob solches Know-how im chinesischen Kontext geschützt werden kann, muss man derzeit klar verneinen.

In Heilmann’s view, Germany losing its status as an “anchor state” for Chinese engagement in Europe shouldn’t simply be attributed to London’s “fulminant diplomatic campaign”, but to intensifying Chinese interest in international financial markets and tertiary-industry-related know-how.

Meantime, the federal government, in its announcement of Merkel’s visit to China, stated that Berlin’s goal was a balance between economic/technological, and social issues, and to include issues of global order, as well.

Human Rights: “Huanqiu Shibao” pities Merkel

Heilmann doesn’t seem to agree that China’s leaders would appreciate the federal government’s “critical China policy” (see first blockquote). It would be quite possible, Heilmann told “China Flash”, that Chinese government representatives wouldn’t listen to German expostulations “as patiently as they did last year”.

One had to pity Merkel, Huanqiu Shibao wrote in a slightly satirical article, republished here by Guanchazhe (Shanghai) on Thursday:

Today and tomorrow; German chancellor Angela Merkel visits China. So-called human-rights organizations like Amnesty International responded right away, on receipt of the news. This organization, which frequently causes China trouble, as well as the disreputable organizations “World Uyghur Congress” and “International Campaign for Tibet” recently published a joint open letter to Merkel and demanded that she should voice “concern regarding the situation in Chinese judiciary” and to voice her “support for suppressed Uyghur human rights lawyers”.


“Tibetan-independence” and “Xinjiang-independence” organization in Western exile have apparently learned something new, adding new concepts like “situation in Chinese judiciary” and “Uyghur human rights lawyers”. That’s very amusing.


From the perspective of the large public in mainland China, Western leaders who sing the praise of human rights every time when visiting China, come across as somewhat strange. Above all, what they mean by human rights is often different from what Chinese the common people mean. For example, Chinese people are above all concerned by social justice, with educational justice and fair access to medical treatment, home ownership, care for the elderly, etc..


Chinese people also want rule by law, they hope for unrestricted freedom of speech, and more democratic government. As far as these [issues] are concerned, the country has a diversity in practice, keeps summing up experiences, and indeed, there are problems on government level that need to be solved. Concepts like democracy and rule by law have found their way into socialist core values. In fact, Chinese society, more than any external force, is more concerned with doing this well, and engages in exploring these issues.


When foreigners talk to China about human rights, this frequently refers to the tiny minority of people who are in jail for challenging China’s political system, defined by the constitution and rules, in a way that  is relevant under criminal law. Our strong impression is that they [foreign visitors] aren’t concerned about Chinese human rights which are constantly improving, that they aren’t concerned for the growing prosperity of a majority of Chinese people, but that they [my translation for the rest of this line may be rather vague or inaccurate – JR]  want to help those who seek confrontation with the Chinese system. By this, they want to cause China trouble and force China to adopt government methods that don’t fit this country.

外国人向中国一谈人权,指的往往是为挑战中国宪法规定 的政治制度而触犯刑法,并因此坐了监狱的极少数人。给我们的强烈印象是,他们不是关心中国人权基本面 的不断改善,不是关心绝大多数中国人的福祉,而是要帮助能数得过来的与中国体制搞对抗的人,他们是要以这种方式找中国麻烦,逼中国采取不适合自己的国家治 理方式。

 Many people from the West say that they are sincerely concerned about human rights and that they can’t ignore the arrests of “dissidents”. But apparently, they don’t understand what those “dissidents” did, that they weren’t seized for “differing opinions”, but for doing things, because of their “different opinion”, that are banned by Chinese law.1)

One had to understand that China frequently gave cause to misunderstandings, Huanqiu Shibao wrote. After all, this was a big world, and far-away China was therefore not easy to understand. However, Western people with strong views about intervention in China should know how to behave in delicate situations. This wasn’t the era of the eight-nation alliance, and China wasn’t in the [weak] position anymore to beg for capital or technology.

Self-confident as Chinese society is today, people know that there are individual Western leaders who visit China with the tic of discussing “human rights”. Therefore, [Chinese people] feel a bit sorry and pity visitors who need to grit their teeth and shoulder the task of discussing “human rights”, so as to report to their superiors at home afterwards. Apparently, Chinese society is more generous than societies that exert pressure on their leaders, and are at times understanding.


If the Western societies didn’t know how rotten the game in question was, remained unknown, wrote, Huanqiu Shibao. But if the window speeches absolutely had to continue, China would be of help.

“People’s Daily”: Japan should learn from Germany, and from Britain, too

If the Sino-British era is to become about as successful as the preceding Sino-German tandem, remains to be seen. Either way, much seems to suggest that human rights issues are now considered useless obstacles for relations with China.

Hua Yiwen (华益文), an author for the party’s central newspaper People’s Daily, thinks that both sides, Beijing and London, have given a sincere representation of Sino-British relations, with a strategic positioning and a harmonic diversity that made the Chinese public’s positive view of Britain rocket upwards.2)

That said, Hua isn’t as dissatisfied about Germany either. The really bad guys are the Japanese. If one saw how actively both Britain and Germany developed their ties with China, one couldn’t help but think of Japan. Different from Germany, Japan hadn’t dealt with its history, and that was affecting Sino-Japanese relations. And while London’s policies were marked by strategic far-sightedness and political courage, the Abe government had decided “to join the US and to bang the gong of a ‘Chinese threat’, thus paving the way for a Japanese military security policy of its own, and thus adding a complication factor to Sino-japanese relations.

Human Rights: Merkel meets Activists

Angela Merkel reportedly held a private meeting with nine activists at the German embassy in Beijing on Thursday evening, risking host’s ire.

The risk of the CCP leadership’s ire is exaggerated: after all, this isn’t the first meeting of this kind, and if China’s leaders had seriously objected, and considered it worth the price, they could have barred all nine activists from the meeting, as Mo Shaoping, who was invited to such a meeting in February 2012, can tell from his own experience.

Next in the visitors’ line is French president Francois Hollande, scheduled to arrive in Beijing on November 2. State council foreign-language website quotes Zhou Yongsheng (周永胜) of the Chinese University for Foreign Affairs. interprets the visits, closely following each other, as “illustrating the growing influence and the position of power held by China, as acknowledged and appreciated by numerous great countries”.



1) Probably, the Chinese dissident who is most prominent abroad should be Liu Xiaobo. (He’s hardly known or remembered within China.) He has been under arrest continuously since December 2008, and was sentenced in December 2009, for “inciting subversion of state power”. As far as I can tell, there were no clear-cut reasons given for the judgment. A conjecturable motive for seizing Liu Xiaobo could be the Charter 08, co-authored by Liu and about to be published at the time.

2) How sustainable “the Chinese public’s benevolence” and the foundations of the “British-Chinese Golden Decade” can be will also depend on a factor that could sound familiar to a message London received from Washington nearly three years ago. Back then, US president Barack Obama had informed David Cameron that he valued a strong UK in a strong European Union. Same message from Xi Jinping, according to Xinhua last week:

Xi Jinping emphasized that the European Union was China’s partner in a comprehensive strategic partnership. China hoped for a prospering Europe, a united Europe, and for an important EU member country, Great Britain, playing an active and constructive role in promoting and deepening Chinese-European relations.




» Internet Revolution, Chinese concept, April 17, 2015
» Hometown Diplomacy, China Daily, Oct 30, 2015


Friday, October 2, 2015

Leadership Styles: No Meeting without Substance

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

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

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

But what are the results?

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

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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Links: O2O Business in China

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

Going “Brick-and-Mortar”

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

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

National Soft Power, too

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

Complementary illustration ...

Complementary illustration …

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

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



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


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Xi Jinping: Commemorating the War, Expanding the Picture

The following is a translation of a People’s Daily article, republished on Enorth (Tianjin) on Saturday morning local time. The article appears to be a combination of an event, and more or less verbatim quotes from a speech by Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on the occasion. There is no clear distinction between what Xi Jinping said, and what is added by the (unnamed) commentator or commentators (人民日報評論員, as stated by another republishing website).

According to Guanchazhe, a magazine and website from Shanghai, the ceremony described underneath took place on Wednesday, with Xi Jinping awarding commemorative medals to Chinese and foreign war veterans or veterans’ family people, and delivering an important speech (发表重要讲话, a conventional term to express appreciation and attention for the words of top leaders). Li Keqiang, Zhang Dejiang, Yu Zhengsheng, Liu Yunshan, Wang Qishan and Zhang Gaoli reportedly attended the event.

Main link: Carry forward the Spirit

Links within blockquotes added during translation — JR

A heroic spirit between Heaven and Earth, inspiring the Ages with Awe


At the solemn moment of commemorating the 70th anniversary of China’s war of resistance against Japan and the world’s victory over fascism, the motorcade with the veterans of the war of resistance, the martyrs’ sons and daughters,  the former frontline exemplary persons, escorted by guards on motorcycles, first received the reverence of the motherland and the people, on Tian An Men Square. At the Great Hall of the People, State Chairman Xi Jinping awarded veterans, comrades and high-ranking veterans of the war of resistance with the People’s Republic of China’s War-of-Resistance 70-years Commemorative Medal. The whole nation, from the leadership to the masses, cherished the memory of the martyrs in the war of resistance who fought bloody battles, sung the praise of the great war-of-resistance spirit, standing together and expanding towards the great power of the nation’s rejuvenation.


“A nation that is hopeful cannot be without heroes, and a promising country cannot be without pioneers.” Secretary-general Xi Jinping looked back at the hard and bitter war of resistance against Japan, the unremitting and continuous struggle of the Chinese people ever since the opium wars, and how the Chinese nation moved from the darkness into the light, from humiliation to a position of prosperity and strength, inspiring a people of hundreds of millions to move forward along a road marked with the heroes’ footprints, with the confidence to achieve the Chinese dream.


The people uphold their own heroes, the motherland needs her own heroes. Stilling the hunger only by eating tree bark and cotton batting, Yang Jingyu, as he was told to surrender, sternly replied: “no need to say more, just open fire.” Zhang Zhizhong fought to the last moment, “determined to die for the country and the people, just as the sea isn’t clear and stone won’t rot, there won’t be the slightest change.” The eight-hundred heroes of the Sihang Warehouse, “without instructions or command, rather died than retreated”, The 82 Liu Lao Zhuang Lian soldiers fought to the end, all heroically sacrificing themselves for the country … At the Chinese nation’s most dangerous hour, thousands upon thousands of heroes at the war of resistance casted themselves into death, spilled their blood, in a heroic spirit that conquered mountains and rivers, they lifted the hearts of millions of people to awaken the nation to the resistance against foreign aggression. The deeds of their heros will forever remain in history, and their awe-inspiring righteousness will illuminate the centuries.


The heroes come from the people, and the people nurture the heroes. How many mothers, in the fourteen years of the war of resistance, gave their sons to the battlefield, how many common people gave all they had for the country to resist the enemy. This is the ocean of the people’s war which trapped and destroyed the enemy, these are thousands after thousands of heroic sons and daughters who, with their flesh and blood, saved the nation, a Great Wall of defense for the nation’s dignity, and wrote, for a shaken world to read, chapters and pieces of patriotism. “No matter if they directly partipated in the war or if they assisted from the back area, all Chinese people who threw themselves into the war of resistance against Japan are war heroes, they are all national heroes.”


To engrave history in our hearts and to cherish the memory of the martyrs is to inherit the great spirit shown by the heroes. In those years, countless heroes in the war of resistance saw the fall and rise of the world, with a sense of duty from patriotic feelings, faced death without fear, with national integry that would rather die than surrender, [the heroes] defied brutal depression, they fought to the end with sublime heroism, they unyieldingly, firmly and indomitably kept their confidence in victory, casting the great spirit of the war of resistance. Today, we advocate the heroes, learn from the heroes, so that we will advance and enrich that spirit, so that we will defend peace on a new historic journey, so that we will unlock the future, and fulfill our countless heroes’ unfinished hopes to revitalize the Chinese nation.


Great times summon great spirit, a sublime cause requires ambitious minds. To recall how the Eighth Army smashed the Japanese army in the Huangtuling battles, when the writer Wei Wei wrote that “on the battlefield, it was clear to see that two different kinds of spirits measured their strengths against each other. One was the Japanese ‘warrior’s way’ spirit; the other was the Red Army’s revolutionary purpose, finding out whose determination was greater, and who of the two would prevail.” In a blood-and-fire, life-and-death struggle with the aggressor, the spirit of resistance against Japan was hardened into steel, and encouraged the Chinese people to win the first complete victory over foreign invaders in modern times. Today, as we carry out a new great struggle with many historical characteristics, we also need heroes, and a heroic spirit for the new era.


To engrave in our hearts all the things the heroes did for the Chinese nation and the Chinese people, to advocate the heroes, to defend the heroes, to learn from the heroes, to care for the heroes, to advocate the great spirit of patriotism, to advocate the great spirit of the war of resistance against Japan, we can certainly lay the cornerstone of confidence, revive the ability to struggle, to be united with one mind in the struggle for national rejuvenation, to create the Chinese nation’s new splendor.


Original title: Carry Forward the Spirit cast by the Heroes of the War of Resistance




» Open the Skies for the Young, May 5, 2013
» PRC stands Towering, Mar 18, 2013



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