Posts tagged ‘terrorism’

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Hong Kong Security Secretary: “Terrorism breeding in HK, iron fact”

The following is a translation of an RTHK (Radio Television Hong Kong) report on yesterday’s LegCo security panel session. Translated off the cuff. If you find mistakes, please let me know.

Links within blockquote added during translation.

Police have said that from last year to now there have been 14 cases involving explosives, four cases of genuine arms, and 76 arrested, of who 30 had already been prosecuted. Security Bureau secretary John Lee Ka-chiu said that this illustrated that local terrorism was breeding in Hong Kong. He emphasized that counter-terrorism was a responsibility of the entire population, and called on the public to cooperate in law enforcement. The authorities would strike with the strictest laws.

警方說,去年至今出現14宗涉及爆炸品及4宗真槍的案件,共拘捕76人,30人已被檢控。保安局局長李家超說,顯示本土恐怖主義正在香港滋生,強調反恐是全民責任,呼籲公眾配合執法,當局會以最嚴厲的法律打擊。

At the Legislative Council’s Panel on Security meeting, John Lee Ka-chiu said he believed that in various violent [events] there had been financial funding organizations and assistance, such as supplies of helmets, gas masks, weapons and umbrellas, etc., and there had been cases where such material had been provided from ranks behind to the first lines. John Lee Ka-chiu described great numbers of resources, and a lot of related material left behind on the streets after insurrection. He believed that because of the authorities’ recent effective strikes, and maybe because of decreasing funding from abroad, such equipment had been reduced in recent violent incidents.

在立法會保安事務委員會會議上,李家超說,相信在不同暴力中都有資金提供組織及支援,例如提供頭盔、防毒面罩、武器和雨傘等,亦出現將有關物品由後方提供到前方的情況。李家超形容資源很多,而在暴動過後很多有關物品留在街上,他相信由於當局近期有效打擊,又或者是外來資金減少,近期暴力事件中,有關裝備已減少。

Legislative Council member Claudia Mo Man-ching asked the authorities to provide evidence for the cases mentioned, and asked if the authorities had been part of terrorism in the Yuen Long July 21 incident of last year. John Lee Ka-chiu retorted that the other side should not trivialize the violence and added that evidence would be seen in court, describing this as an iron fact.

議會陣線毛孟靜要求當局就提到的案件提供證據,又詢問當局去年元朗7.21事件是否屬本土恐怖主義。李家超反駁對方不要淡化暴力,又說上到法庭就會見到證物,形容是鐵一般的事實。

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Related

Attendance list, June 2, 2020
Background brief, June 2, 2020
For discussion, June 2, 2020

HK officers in Xinjiang, SCMP, Jan 9, 2019

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Updates/Related

“Riding roughshod,” RTHK, Jul 4, 2020

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Xinhua: Jacques Chirac’s “profound awareness”

Main Link: “Jacques Chirac: a French president’s love for China” (希拉克:一位法国总统的中国情缘)

Xinhua, Paris, Sept 26, 2019 — Jacques Chirac, currently France’s “most popular politician,” was also an important foreign leader with a deep affinity to China. On September 26, his family confirmed that this former French president had died on that day, aged 86. The independent and self-determined diplomatic position and anti-war philosophy he took during his presidency has left France and even Europe with a precious legacy.

新华社巴黎9月26日电 雅克·希拉克,法国当代“最受欢迎的政治家”,也是一位有着深深“中国情缘”的外国政要。9月26日,希拉克的家人确认,这位法国前总统当天上午与世长辞,享年86岁。希拉克担任总统期间的独立自主外交立场和反战理念,是留给法国乃至欧洲的宝贵政治遗产。

That’s the way they liked him (click picture for CCTV video)

Gaining fame by opposing war

反战赢声誉

Jacques Chirac was born on November 29, 1932 in Paris, Corrèze [?]1), his father was a manager at Crédit Commericale de France. [Chirac] graduated at Sciences Po and the École Nationale d’Administration. At a young age, he followed Charles de Gaulle’s policies, and was elected to France’s National Assembly before he was 40 years old. In 1974, he became France’s prime minister. After resigning as prime minister in 1976, he founded the Rassemblement pour la République and became its first chairman. From 1986 to 1988, Chirac took up the post of prime minister again. In 1995 he was elected French president, re-elected in 2002, staying in office until he retired in 2007.

希拉克1932年11月29日生于巴黎科雷兹镇,其父曾为法国商业银行总管。他毕业于巴黎政治学院、法国国家行政学院,年轻时就追随戴高乐从政,不到40岁当选为法国国民议会议员。1974年,希拉克出任法国总理。1976年辞去总理职务后,他创立保卫共和联盟并任主席。1986年至1988年,希拉克再度出任法国总理。1995年他当选法国总统,2002年连任,直至2007年卸任。

photo / caption: on July 14, 1995, just been elected president, Chirac attended the Bastille Day military parade at the Place de la Concorde. (Xinhua)

Despite having lost much of its former economic power, France played the role of a top-ranking power in the field of diplomacy. When British and American-led coalition forces started the Iraq war in 2003, France, led by Chirac, stood at the forefront of the anti-war camp.

在希拉克时代,法国尽管经济实力已大不如前,但在外交领域却一度发挥着一流大国的作用。2003年,以英美军队为主的联军发动伊拉克战争,希拉克率领的法国则站在了反战阵营的前列。

Before the Iraq war began, Chirac clearly said that France would exercise its veto power at the UN security council. One year after the beginning of the war, Chirac predicted that the Iraq war would lead to increasing terrorist activities and make the world more dangerous. The facts have confirmed the truth of Chirac’s warning.

伊拉克战争开始前,希拉克明确表示法国会在联合国安理会行使否决权。开战后一年,希拉克就预言,伊拉克战争将导致恐怖活动加剧,会让世界变得更加危险。事实证明,希拉克的警告是正确的。

Chirac’s firm opposition to the war earned France global fame, but especially in the Arab world. Many French people took pride in Chirac, believing that on a matter of peace or war, of life and death, “he had adhered to French principles and upheld justice and morality.”

希拉克的坚定反战立场,使得法国在全球、特别是阿拉伯世界赢得了声誉。不少法国人以希拉克为荣,认为他在“事关和平与战争,生命和死亡”的时候,“坚持了法国的原则,捍卫了正义和道德”。

As the leader of one of the Western powers, Chirac was very clear-headed about the trend of global multi-polarization and advocated a “strong Europe” for that reason. In 2007, he said at a EU summit that “the world’s biggest transformation is that we are going through a decade of transformation, from global uni-polarity to multi-polarity. He also believed that European diversity and social fusion were important factors in maintaining strength.

作为西方大国领袖,希拉克对世界多极化的趋势非常清醒,并主张为此需要“强大的欧洲”。2007年,他在欧盟峰会上表示,“世界最大的变革在于,我们正经历从单极世界向多极世界转变的年代”。他同时认为,欧洲的多样性和社会融合是保持强大的重要因素。

photo / caption: on April 28, 2002, French president Chirac, at the central French city of Nontron, embraced a baby from the welcoming crowed at a election campaign event. The presidential elections were held on May 5 that year. (Xinhua / Reuters)

2002年4月28日,法国总统希拉克在法国中部城市农特龙进行竞选活动时,从欢迎人群中接抱一个婴儿。法国总统选举当年5月5日举行。(新华社/路透)

In 2009, a survey conducted by opinion pollster IFOP for “Paris Match” found that two years after leaving office, Chirac remained the most popular politician in the French peoples’ opinion.

2009年法国民调机构Ifop为《巴黎竞赛画报》所做一项调查中,卸任两年的希拉克被法国人视为“最受欢迎的政治家”。

Deep love for China

中国情缘深

Chirac wasn’t only a well-known politician and diplomat, but also an elegant connoisseur of oriental culture. He had a particular passion for the long history of Chinese culture, which he had studied a lot. French media have called him a man who ardently loves China”, having a “deep affinity towards China”.

希拉克不仅是著名的政治家与外交家,也是品位高雅的东方文化鉴赏家。他对历史悠久的中国文化情有独钟,且颇有研究。法国媒体称他为“热爱中国的人”,有着深深的“中国情缘”。

As a youngster, Chirac often went to Guimet Museum. At the time, he was particularly attracted to Chinese art, especially ancient bronze devices. Appreciation of ancient Chinese bronze devices became his hobby at the time, at times an obsessive one. According to a diplomat familiar with Chirac, he can even accurately determine the historic age of Chinese bronze relics. In July 2007, while attending a NATO summit was “absent-mindedly” reading a book. The moment was captured on camera by a French reporter who published the news that “president takes a short break, studying Chinese bronze devices.”

希拉克在少年时代经常光顾法国国立吉美亚洲艺术博物馆。当时,他被中国艺术品特别是古代青铜器深深吸引。从此,中国青铜器鉴赏研究成为他的爱好,甚至到痴迷程度。据了解希拉克的外交官介绍,希拉克甚至能准确判断中国青铜器的历史年代。2002年7月,希拉克出席北约首脑会议时“开小差”读书。这一幕被在场的法国记者拍下,登报称“总统忙里偷闲,研究中国青铜器”。

Photo/Caption: on December 4, 2000, Chirac appreciated China Liao dynasty relics on a Chinese cultural relic discoveries exhibition in Paris.

2000年12月4日,希拉克在巴黎举办的中国文物考古发现展上欣赏中国辽代文物。(新华社记者李根兴摄)

In September 1978, Chirac, in his capacity as former French prime minister and as Paris mayor, visited China on invitation. After visiting the Qin Shihuang Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an, he was greatly stunned and called the place “the eighth world wonder”.

1978年9月,希拉克以法国前总理、巴黎市市长的身份应邀访华。他在西安参观秦始皇兵马俑后深受震撼,称之为“世界第八大奇迹”。

Jacques Chirac felt emotional links towards Chinese culture and was a major promoter of French cultural exchanges with China. When the Chinese-French cultural year was held from 2003 to 2005, the Eiffel Tower was illuminated in “Chinese red”. This didn’t only pioneer cultural exchange between the two countries, but also played a model role globally.

希拉克情系中国文化,也是法国对华文化交流的主要推动者。2003年至2005年,中法互办文化年,埃菲尔铁塔披上“中国红”。这既是两国文化交流史上的创举,也在世界上具有示范作用。

Chirac left a profound footprint in Sino-French relations and contributed to the “golden decade” of Sino-French” relations. Between the times he assumed and left office as president, he visited China four times, tracking almost half of the country. In the meantime, Sino-French relations kept improving. In 1997, China and France established a comprehensive cooperative partnership, and in 2004, they established a comprehensive strategic partnership.2)

希拉克对中法关系的发展留下了自己的深刻印迹,造就了中法关系的“黄金十年”。1995年出任总统至卸任,希拉克4次访华,足迹几乎遍及半个中国。其间,中法关系不断得到提升。1997年,中法两国建立全面合作伙伴关系,2004年建立全面战略伙伴关系。

In 2006, in an interview with Xinhua reporters before a visit to China, Chirac emphasized that all French people understood the extent to which the prospects of global development depended on China. China and the world were inextricably linked to each other, and this profound awareness was exactly one of Jacques Chirac’s prime motives to vigorously promote Sino-French relations.

2006年,希拉克在访华前接受新华社记者专访时强调,每个法国人都明白,世界的发展前途在很大程度上取决于中国。中国与世界密不可分,这一深刻认识正是希拉克大力推进中法关系发展的原动力之一。

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Note

1) probably a mix-up by Xinhua – Chirac was born in Paris, but many of his ancestors were from Corrèze in central / southwestern France, the department he also represented at the National Assembly from 1967 to 1986 and from 1988 to 1995.
2) Referred to as partenariat global sino-français and partenariat stratégique global respectively, in French-language Chinese publications.

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Related

“Le bruit et l’odeur”, 1991, Wikipedia, acc 20190928
“A completely banal incident”, LA Times, Aug 29, 1987

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Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Headlines (2) – Xi’s First Six Years: the Majestic Journey toward the Highest Common Denominator

The following is the gist (as I see it) of an article published by Xinhua online, on December 16. It centers around events and developments from the past six years, future challenges and intentions, and the role of CCP secretary general Xi Jinping in those events and intentions.

Main Link / original title: The Actual Events of the Party’s Central Committee’s Leading Reform and Opening with Xi Jinping at its Core (以习近平同志为核心的党中央引领改革开放纪实 )
Links within blockquotes added during translation

The article, put together by eleven authors, contains about 10,000 characters, which is unusually long even by Chinese online standards, but will certainly have found interested readers. The length of an article doesn’t deter a Chinese audience. Readers who don’t read Chinese but would like to get the big picture are advised to use Google Translate – it does a surprisingly decent job when translating from Chinese into English.

The paragraphs are interspersed with slogans – such as the most solemn memory is to create more glory, the sincerest commitment to the people is indefatigable struggle (对历史最郑重的纪念,是再创辉煌 / (对人民最真挚的承诺,是不懈奋斗), or reform looks like a problem, and must dare to lead all the more, or this is the resounding call to battle (改革难字当头,更需敢字当先 /  这是高亢激扬的出征号令).

Reform is complicated and sensitive, states the resounding call to battle, so how to prepare a good overall plan for a huge essay?

The project is big indeed: this is a thought (or ideological) innovation unprecedented in history (这是史无前例的观念革新). And you better take this literally, if you are a cadre in China, or wish to score well for other reasons. There is no mention of Deng Xiaoping, let alone Jiang Zemin or Hu Jintao. There isn’t even a mention of Mao (which might be understandable, given that reform and opening wasn’t his main theme anyway). As for Deng, there is a mention of some slogans that became part of his doctrines, but usually reaching further back in history, such as seeking truth in facts or liberating thought, as used in the Deng Xiaoping Theory (邓小平理论).

But there is, of course, a defining trip to the South.

Comrade Xi Jinping’s first inspection destination after taking the position of secretary general was Qianhai, Shenzhen. Facing this homeland where the first “cannon” of reform and opening had rung out, Xi Jinping issued judgment that “our country’s reform has entered the time of storming fortifications and has entered the deep-blue sea areas. He emphasized that “reform does not pause, and opening does not halt. The China of the next forty years is set to make the world feel a whole new level of respect for its new successes!”

2012年12月,习近平同志担任总书记后首赴地方考察,第一站来到深圳前海。
面对这片打响改革开放“开山炮”的热土,习近平总书记作出“我国改革已经进入攻坚期和深水区”的判断,强调“改革不停顿、开放不止步”。下一个40年的中国,定当有让世界刮目相看的新成就!”

Praise is carefully hedged by remarks about a more complicated future, for which new approaches are being developed.

At first, the new requirements are billed.

Having passed several decades of rapid development, China has arrived at a new juncture. The degrees of complexity, hardship and sensitivity have hardly ever been comparable to these years.

经过几十年快速发展,中国又走到了一个新的关口。改革开放的复杂程度、艰巨程度、敏感程度,丝毫不亚于当年。

At home, a number of deep-seated contradictions have continuously amassed during the long period of growth, economic development has entered the new normal, and structural adjustment and kinetic energy conversion are imperative; issues of unbalanced and insufficient development stand out more and more obviously, and the people’s yearning for a fine life becomes increasing urgent.

向内看,经济长期高速增长过程中积累的一系列深层次矛盾不断积聚,经济发展进入新常态,结构调整、动能转换势在必行;发展不平衡、不充分问题日益突出,人民群众对美好生活的向往愈发迫切。

Abroad, the haze of the international financial crisis has not dispersed, regional conflicts occur frequently, the threat of extremism is spreading, international competition under the wave of new technologies revolution and industrial transformation require people to work harder, the dregs of opposition against globalization and protectionism is surfacing, and hyping and mourning [China’s development – this seems to point into this direction] lie in ambush.

向外看,国际金融危机阴霾未散,地区冲突频发,极端主义威胁蔓延;新科技革命和产业变革浪潮下的国际竞争形势逼人,逆全球化、贸易保护主义沉渣泛起,捧杀唱衰中国的论调此起彼伏。

Behind the creation of the “China’s rise” world miracle, premature ideological concepts and institutional malpractice are becoming stumbling blocks for the pace of reform and opening, helping the solidification of barriers, which is all the more an alarm siren, continuously shaking stable social development.

在创造了“中国崛起”的世界奇迹后,不合时宜的思想观念和体制机制弊端正在成为阻碍改革开放步伐的“绊脚石”,利益固化藩篱更是频频触动社会稳定发展的“警报器”。

To meet the challenges, a strong hand is needed – a helmsman who dares to speak inconvenient truths.

To make him speak again, the article revisits an interview Xi gave to Russian television, in February 2014

All the pleasant reforms are completed. The delicious meat has been eaten, and what is still on the dishes are rather tough bones.

The answer to these challenges? There are as many answers as questions, and all from the new great helmsman himself.

For one, there is the Central Comprehensively Deepening Reforms Commission (中央全面深化改革委员会), preceded by a leading small group of a similar name () or Leading Small Group for Comprehensively Deepening Reform (LSGCDR) in December 2013:

Secretary general Xi Jinping held the position of group leader, thus strengthening the central committee’s centralized and integrated leadership in comprehensively deepening reform.

习近平总书记担任组长,加强党中央对全面深化改革的集中统一领导。

There is also the courage to offend thousands, rather than turning your back on the 1.3 billion [得罪千百人、不负十三亿 – thousands of cadres, 1.3 bn Chinese people]: strictly running the party, deepening reform of party discipline and state supervision organization.

Understanding the need to vacate the cage and to replace the old birds with new ones, thus making Phoenix rise from the ashes (腾笼换鸟、凤凰涅槃), to change the way of development, to implement new concepts of development, to deepen supply-side structural reform, an economy that strives into the direction of high quality will be promoted. Also,

bearing future generations in mind, reforming ecological civilization, reforming cadre evaluation, unfolding central environmental protection, we will make the concept of Lucid waters and lush mountains enter deep into peoples’ hearts.

以“为千秋万代计”的视野,深化生态文明领域改革,改革干部考核制度、开展中央环保督察,让绿水青山就是金山银山的理念深入人心;

For whatever reason, the enumeration ends there with ellipses, and turns to another topic – the CCP’s ninteenth national congress.

The article also addresses the “one country two systems” concept (limited to the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge), Zhejiang’s one-stop service practice (最多跑一次), multiple-plans integration practice (多规合一) from Hainan and Ningxia, reform of medical care, medical insurance and pharmaceutical industry (三医联动) in Fujian province, and an internet court in Hangzhou, all referred to as innovation from the grassroots.

Reform of State-owned enterprises – a hard bone (硬骨头) – is described as the job of the top dog, and the C919 airliner, the Beidou Navigation system and the Fuxing Train group are presented are presented as state-enterprise achievements in a process of transforming “made in China” (中国制造) into “intelligently made in China” (中国智造).

Countryside development, deliberations on household registration reform (户籍制度改革的意见), and spiritual nourishment are also mentioned. As for the latter,

to let the people have rich spiritual nourishment, social efficiency must come first, unification of social and economic efficiency culture must be institutionalized day by day, modern public cultural services construction be accelerated, and the cultural project for the people [or benefitting the people – 文化惠民工程] be realized;

为让人民拥有丰富的精神食粮,把社会效益放在首位、社会效益和经济效益相统一的文化体制机制日臻完善,现代公共文化服务体系加快构建,文化惠民工程深入实施;

Here, too, an enumeration ends with ellipses (after the following paragraph).

When the people’s yearning for a good life becomes the common goal of the struggle, when everyone’s participation, everyone’s greatest efforts, and everyone sharing in the fruits of these become the highest common denominator, then reform will converge into a profound and majestic power, and continue the composition of a magnificent chapter on a new era.

当人民对美好生活的向往成为共同的奋斗目标,当“人人参与、人人尽力、人人共享”成为社会的最大公约数,改革正汇聚起深沉而磅礴的力量,续写新时代的壮丽篇章。

Now for the conclusions.

Looking at the world, there is no such governing party that can such a long-term plan as the CCP’s, there is no such country that can operate a steady process, step by step, the unremitting move toward reform’s objectives, and certainly not this nation ability to push open this great gate of opportunity, continuously turning the experience of reform into the reality of development.

放眼世界,没有哪个政党能像中国共产党这样作出如此长远的规划,没有哪个国家能像中国这样一步一个脚印,持之以恒地朝向既定改革目标迈进,更没有哪个民族能够一次次推开机遇的大门,把改革的经验不断变成发展的现实。

Confucius Institute says: if the people work 364 days, let them have one day of joy, and quench their spiritual thirst with articles like this one. However, these are solemn, but also sober times. The armed forces’ modernization gets only two paragraphs (and it’s all about what Xi has done to make it happen), and only when the world is doing fine, China can also do fine (and only if China is doing fine, the world can do fine) – 世界好,中国才能好;中国好,世界才更好.

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Related

Xiong’an, Wikipedia, most recent edit Nov 7, 2018
“四梁八柱”论, Baidu, most recent edit Nov 22, 2018

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Friday, March 16, 2018

OPCW: the Place to Investigate a Nerve Agent sample

One can only wish Sergei Skripal and his daughter a good and complete recovery. Skripal once helped a good cause, and suffered for it in the past. He deserves gratitude, and all former agents living under similar circumstances as he does (or did, until March 4), deserve protection. One thing is for sure: Russia’s political culture encourages lawlessness in the name of “patriotism” – suspicions as aired by Britain’s foreign minister Boris Johnson*) aren’t made up out of thin air. But a plausible narrative is still just a narrative, and even thick air is still only air.

In situations like these, anger and “highly likely” accusations are useless at best, and highly likely, they are damaging for all parties involved.

If Jan von Aken‘s comments in a Deutschlandfunk interview on Thursday are something to go by, there would be no need for the escalation that is under way – at least not yet. The established procedure would be to turn to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), to get their assistance in clarifying any situation which may be considered ambiguous or which gives rise to a concern about the possible non-compliance of another State Party with the chemical weapons convention. In the Skripal case, Russia would have to answer to the OPCW’s executive committee “as soon as possible, but in any case not later than 10 days after the receipt of the request” to clarify.

What Theresa May said on Wednesday is anything but evidence:

Mr Speaker, on Monday I set out that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a Novichok: a military grade nerve agent developed by Russia. Based on this capability, combined with their record of conducting state sponsored assassinations – including against former intelligence officers whom they regard as legitimate targets – the UK Government concluded it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for this reckless and despicable act. And there were only two plausible explanations. Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or conceivably, the Russian government could have lost control of a military-grade nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.

In a conflict, the two immediate parties are rarely the best candidates to sort things out – not, when there is a history of conflict, or when, as the Economist has put it, Britain’s relationship with Russia is poisoned already.

Britain’s ultimatum for an explanation from Moscow had been contemptuously ignored,

writes the Economist. That may be so. Many Russian citizens have their rights ignored, too. But on a day-to-day basis, few people in the West would care. And if I were a Russian, I would probably find the British ultimatum just as comtemptuous – no matter if pro-Putin, anti-Putin or either.

After a first round of escalations, London now seems to be doing the right thing: they have sent (or will send) a sample of the Novichok nerve agent to the OPCW. That looks like a promising first step. The OPCW should also take care of further procedures, if there should be a chance to come to real conclusions.

Van Aken believes that both the British prime minister and the Russian president may have an interest in the current escalation. But May’s chances to rise to the “challenge” don’t look great, and Putin is going to “win the elections” anyway.

Rather, both of them appear to have concluded that they must serve their constituencies with instant certainties.

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Note

*) “The message is clear: We will find you, we will catch you, we will kill you – and though we will deny it with lip-curling scorn, the world will know beyond doubt that Russia did it.”

Monday, February 19, 2018

Promising Profits: Syria’s Nation (Re)building Propaganda

Links within the blockquotes were added during translation.

Following America and Russia, China has announced its interest in playing a greater role in Syria, TRT Ankara‘s Chinese service reported on February 12. China’s ambassador in Damascus, Qi Qianjin (齐前进),

said that China wanted to play a greater role in solving the Syria crisis. The diplomat told Xinhua that “the time has come to focus on the development and reconstruction of Syria. I believe that in this course, China can provide more help to the Syrian people and government, and play a bigger role.”

向新华社表示:“现在已到聚焦于叙利亚的发展和重建的时机。我认为中国在这一进程中能够为叙利亚人民和政府提供更多帮助,发挥更多作用。”

Ambassador Qi Qianjin visited al-Mouwasat University Hospital in Damascus, and the hospital director thanked him.

齐前进大使参观了位于大马士革的姆瓦萨特大学医院,医院院长向中国大使表示感谢。

The Syrian communications minister had previously said that Syria’s transportation network, once restored, could become a railroad extending to China.

叙利亚交通部长之前曾表示,在叙利亚交通网得到恢复之后,可建立一个延伸至中国的铁路。

According to a report by China’s “Global Times”, at least 30 Chinese business people have been to Syria since April, to explore investment opportunities.

据中国《环球时报》报道,4月至今至少有30名中国商人前来叙利亚探索投资机遇。

China is acting together with Russia in the Syrian conflict, but has worked hard to avoid American resentment.

中国在叙利亚冲突中与俄罗斯一道行动,另一方面致力于避免美国的不满。

In the United Nations security council’s seven important resolutions concerning Syria, China abstained and chose not to get involved in the US-Russian quibble.

中国在联合国安理会关于叙利亚的7个重要表决中弃权,选择了不卷入俄罗斯-美国较量的道路。

Reportedly, from the three countries of Russia, China and America, China is the only country that hasn’t sent troops to Syria.

据悉,俄中美三国中唯一没有向叙利亚派兵的国家是中国。

Radio Damascus QSL 1980s

Radio Damascus shortwave QSL, 1980s *)

The war in Syria is by no means over, and Turkey itself plays no small role in keeping it alive. According to Syrian foreign radio ORTAS‘ German service on Friday, that day marked the 27th day of “the Turkish regime’s barbarian aggression against the Syrian town of Afrin”. According to the same news broadcast, the Syrian government and the Kurdish “people’s defence units (or protection units, YPG, Volksverteidigungseinheiten)” had agreed to have the Syrian army stationed in Afrin. Both ORTAS and Xinhua quoted Rezan Heddo, a media advisor of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as saying that “Afrin is a Syrian city”.

German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday night that “of all things”, “dictator Assad’s army is coming to the aid of Afrin region.”

At the same time, Syrian media accuse the US of trying to prolong the war. In its “News and Views” program of February 4, Syrian foreign radio’s English service noted that [27′ 40”]

It is pretty clear that the regional and international powers … do not have a desire to reach a political solution, but, in accordance with their interests in Syria, and for achieving them, those foreign sides try to prolong their war against Syria to give them a chance to extend their presence in the Syrian land under the pretext of combatting terrorism or preserving the alledged national security, as Turkey is claiming to justify its aggression on the Syrian territory.

That said, the Syrian media depict the situation as one where powers hostile to Damascus will prolong, but never win the war. This has been Damascus’ propaganda approach for some time. On October 4 last year, an ORTAS commentary in German claimed that the end of the war was approaching [6’52”]:

Nobody but some hateful or uneducated people can deny this truth. All conditions on the ground and their political consequences are emphasizing that the end of the struggle against terror and terrorist gangs is a matter of time. Aggravations here or there, the committing of crimes by the terrorist gangs is only this terror’s death struggle, carried to Syria from the outside.

It was time to rebuild the country, the same commentary said [08’58”]:

It is clear that the world has begun to think of the post-war situation in Syria, especially concerning a political settlement by dialog among the Syrians themselves. According to that, the Syrians think and talk about reconstruction of the facilities destroyed during the war. The talk in some concerned states, regarding reconstruction and a preparedness to contribute to this mission, is currently “hip”, even in some states that enormously contributed to the destruction of Syria.

Nation-building propaganda is nothing new in Syria. Before the war, too, posters portraying President Bashar al-Assad adorned not only public buildings, but many shops and retail stores, too, some combined with the depiction of a fingerprint in the colors of the Syrian flag, apparently suggesting that there was a genetic link between the people and the regime, in accordance with Syria’s nature. However, at least in Aleppo, you would usually find those posters at the doors of better-off neigborhoods.

But if an era of reconstruction should be upon Syria – depending on which areas are considered sustainably safe by domestic and foreign investors -, the narrative that is shaped by Damascus is beginning to show, as described there by a retired US Army officer:

Nation building can involve the use of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth.

Reconstruction and “dialog” aren’t only aiming at positive dynamics within Syria, but abroad, too. Syria’s officials and media have sent clear signals to friends and enemies abroad. Newsagency SANA reported on September 30 last year that

China’s Special Envoy for Syria Xie Xiaoyan affirmed that his country would support efforts for reconstruction and rebuilding infrastructure in Syria.

Xiaoyan’s remarks came in a seminar held in Beijing University titled “Rebuild Syria,” during which he called on the Chinese companies to participate in the reconstruction.

For his part, Ambassador of Syria in Beijing Imad Mustafa said that Syria seeks to form a joint strategic vision with China and will not wait for the end of the war to begin reconstruction, noting that the priority in that field will be given for companies from friendly countries.

Early in October, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad told a delegation led by Russian deputy minister for energy Kirill Molodtsov that [00’41”]

it was obvious that those states that had stood with the Syrian people during its war against terror would be entrusted with the task of reconstruction.

Beijing must have been glad to hear that, too. But TRT Ankara’s report – see beginning of this post – is correct in that China is trying to avoid “American resentment”. For sure, Beijing isn’t asking for it.

Also in September last year, Chinese foreign-policy newspaper Huanqiu Shibao quoted Beijing’s Middle-East envoy Xie Xiaoyan (解晓岩) as saying that he had heard suggestions about reconstructions during his visits both to Russia and Syria:

The situation has improved, but first, the country needs to be stabilized, and comprehensive cease-fire agreements are necessary. It is hard to imagine that war should be conducted on the one hand, and roads should be repaired on the other. What is repaired on one day, may be destroyed one day later. But the fact that war still continues doesn’t mean that the parties couldn’t think about rebuilding and reconstruction. China has sufficient industrial capabilities and is preparing for active involvement in this process.

在访问叙利亚和俄罗斯时,听到有关开始叙利亚重建进程的提议。目前那里的局势已经得到改善。但首先仍需要实现国家稳定,需要全面执行停火协议。很难想象,一边在打仗,一边在修路。修好的基础设施在第二天就会被摧毁。其次,尽管现在战斗仍在进行,这并不意味着各方不去考虑基础设施的改建和重建。中国拥有足够的工业能力,准备积极参与这一进程。

However, Xie also said that

China is the world’s second-largest economy, but it can’t do the rebuilding alone. Reports say that reconstruction is going to cost two to three hundred billion Dollars. Therefore, not only China, but countries of the region and of the international community, too, should make joint efforts to achieve Syria’s reconstruction.

中国是世界第二大经济体,但中国独自无法完成重建工作。据有关报道,重建需要大约2000至3000亿美元资金。 因此,不仅是中国,本地区国家和整个国际社会都应共同努力,实现叙利亚的重建。

In a number of ways, China is well-positioned to draw the lion’s share from post-war profits – once the war is really over, or limited to a few marginal conflict zones. While Russia certainly spearheaded military support for Damascus, and while Beijing rather tried to hedge its bets, Russia may not have those industrial capabilities that Xie Xiaoyan ascribes to his own country.

Western economic powers may prove to be essential in one or another aspect of reconstruction, but Damascus is likely to maintain its position that countries that propped it up during the crisis, and during foreign aggression, should profit most.

That doesn’t mean that China would be extremely popular in Syria – although the war may have helped its soft power there. When former Chinese chief state councillor Wen Jiabao referred to the Arab people as good friends, good partners and good brothers, regional elites, rather than entire populations, came to mind. Wen made his statement about Sino-Arab friendship while Hosni Mubarak was still Egypt’s president, and Wen himself may have cherished a memory of Chinese relations with a – then nationalist rather than islamist – Arabia of the 1950s.

Syria’s regime may be the last (and maybe the only lasting) representative of that cherished past.

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Notes

*) Until some time into the war, ORTAS – named “Radio Damascus” until recently – broadcasted on shortwave. Two frequencies were usually announced, but only one of them actually appeared to be in operation (9330 kHz). Reportedly, the facilities have been demolished – apparently in a regular way, and not because of the war.

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Related

Russia is very clever, Sept 11, 2013
A Just Mideast Position, Febr 16, 2012
Understanding and Support, Oct 25, 2011

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Is the Truth losing in Today’s World? (And if Yes: How so?)

That’s what Richard Stengel, currently undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, believes, according to a Washington Post article:

“We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today,” Stengel warned in an interview. “Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

And, adds the author of the WaPo article, David Ignatius:

How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?

Fascinating stuff – fascinating, because it feels like a déjà vu to me (and I’m wondering for how many others who have a memory of some decades).

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages in applauding his works.

The Genius leads the spectators: engineering of consent in its early stages.

When I studied and worked in a fairly rural place in China, I had a number of encounters with – probably mainstream – Chinese worldviews. That was around the turn of the century, and these were probably the most antagonistic, and exciting, debates I ever had, as the only foreigner among some Chinese friends. Discussions sometimes ended with the two, three or four of us angrily staring at each other, switching to a less controversial topic, and bidding each other a frosty good-bye.

But there was a mutual interest in other peoples’ weird ideas. That’s why our discussions continued for a number of weekends. At at least one point, I felt that I had argued with overwhelming logic, but my Chinese interlocutor was unimpressed. I blamed Chinese propaganda for his insusceptibility, but apparently, propaganda was exactly his point: “If propaganda helps to keep my country safe, I have nothing against propaganda,” he replied.

I found that gross. The idea that propaganda should just be another tool, something you might volunteer to use and to believe in, so as to keep your country and society stable, was more alien to me than any Chinese custom I had gotten to know.

The idea that truth is, or that facts are, the essential resource of a (working, successful) democracy looks correct to me. Democracy can’t work without an informed public. But when it comes to German mainstream media, I have come to the conclusion that they aren’t trustworthy.

I agree with the WaPo article / Richard Stengel that the US government can’t be a verifier of last resort. No government can play this kind of role. The Chinese party and state have usurped that role, but China is known to be a low-trust society – that doesn’t suggest that they have played a successful role as official verifiers. While many Chinese people do apparently think of their government as the ultimate guardian of national sovereignty and individual safety from imperialist encroachment, they don’t seem to trust these domestic public security powers as their immediate neighbors.

And the ability of any Western government to be a verifier ends as soon as an issue involves state interests, government interests, or governing parties’ interests.

The US government as a verifier of last resort concerning the Syria war? That idea isn’t even funny.

The German government as a verifier of last resort when it comes to foreign-trade issues (within the European Union, or beyond)? Bullshit.

But what about the American media? I don’t have a very clear picture of how they work, but it would seem to me that US television stations usually address the issues that earn them most of the public’s attention. If that is so, it should be no wonder that Donald Trump profited more from media attention, than Hillary Clinton.

But if tweets, rather than platforms, become the really big issues, the media must have abandoned the role that has traditionally been ascribed to them.

German (frequently public-law) media are strongly influenced by political parties, and apparently by business-driven foundations, too.

I don’t know if something similar can be said about American media, but even if only for their attention-seeking coverage, they can’t count as well-performing media either.

What about “social” media? According to Stengel, as quoted by the Washington Post, they give everyone the opportunity to construct their own narrative of reality.

Stengel mentions Islamic State (in 2014) and Russian propaganda campaigns as examples. In the latter’s case, he points to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and other political organizations during the elections in particular.

I believe that Stengel / Ignatius may have half a point. Russia – provided that they were indeed behind the leaks – only targeted Clinton’s campaign, not Donald Trump’s.

But then, wouldn’t it have been the task of the US media to unearth either campaign’s dirty secrets? Russian propaganda performed, even if only selectively, where US media had failed. It exposed practice in the Democratic Party leadership that was hostile to democracy, but acting under the guise of defending it.

How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth, Ignatius finally asks, and quotes Stengel once again, and addressing the role of “social media”:

The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos.

Now, I’m no advocate of free broadcasts for ISIS videos. But if the best hope is the removal of accounts and videos by the commercial providers, it would seem that there isn’t much hope in human power of judgment, after all – and in that case, there wouldn’t be much hope for democracy as a model of government.

Ignatius:

The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”

Wtf? Human-machine processes? Has the “Global Times” hacked the WaPo?

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Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

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