Posts tagged ‘West’

Friday, June 12, 2015

The BoZhu Interviews: If you want to Believe the Best or the Worst about China, it’s easy enough –

Ji Xiang about getting started with China, stereotypes, and finding a balance between Chinese and Western ways of life.

Ji Xiang is a blogger from Europe who lives in China. In his first blog post, in 2008, he explained how he got his Chinese name. And he is probably one of very few foreign China bloggers who started blogging almost right on arrival in the country, and have kept to the habit ever since.

Q: Ji Xiang, you are Chinese by name, but you are actually from Europe, right?

That’s right. My mom’s British, and my dad’s Italian. I grew up in Italy, although I have also lived in Britain. It’s not too obvious unless you look at my blog very carefully though. Interestingly, some of my readers have assumed I was American in the past.

Q: Could that be because your stance comes across as more “pro-Western” than that of most sinologists or Westerners who speak Chinese? It seems to me that both Foarp and you stand out as rather critical of what might be called “cultural relativism”, or a preparedness to find human rights violations tolerable because of a country’s culture, a “situation on the ground”, etc.

Well, I’m not sure if that makes you seem more like an American or not. Foarp is after all British. But to be honest, I think a lot of Westerners who speak Chinese have the same sort of opinions as I do. I don’t think of myself as “pro-Western” really, I am quite aware of all the bad things Western countries have done around the world, and the shortcomings of the “West” (if there really is such a thing as the West. But that’s another debate). But that doesn’t necessarily mean being pro-Chinese.

When it comes to human rights violations, I don’t really buy cultural justifications. I mean, East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea have created systems where basic human rights are respected, so it obviously isn’t only Western countries which can reach that point. The argument that human rights have to be put aside when a country is still poor and developing is more complicated. I think certain basic rights, like the right not to disappear, be tortured or speak your mind without going to jail, should be respected, and I don’t think the right to have a full belly clashes with these other rights.

There might however be a good argument for not holding elections in countries where most of the people are illiterate, or divided along ethnic or tribal lines. Say in Yemen or Burkina Faso. Even in Arab countries, it is clear that elections often bring religious fundamentalists to power.

Q: You went to China as a teacher in 2005, and came back to the country as a student. How did you get interested in China? You’ve spent a number of years there now, haven’t you?

I actually taught in China in 2004, and that was just for a summer. I then went back to China because I got a scholarship to get a master’s degree there. I have spent over six years in China by now.

Q: Was 2008 a good time to start a blog? You might have started one in 2005, the heydays of the (English-language) “Chinese blogosphere”. Was there a key moment where you felt that you should share your experiences, which got your blog started?

Well in 2005 I didn’t live in China, and had only spent a few months there. I had no basis for writing a blog about it. I only discovered recently that that was supposed to be the heyday of the “Chinese blogosphere”. Pity I missed it. I started my blog when I started living in China full-time. In the beginning, it was mainly to share my experiences with my family and friends back home. Now it’s turned more into a blog of commentary about China.

Q: Do the statistics or feedback give you an idea about who your readers are?

A bit. Most of my hits are from the United States, but I think that might be to do with the fact that most of the VPNs people use in China redirect there. Curiously, I also seem to have a lot of readers from Germany, Ukraine and Russia (well, you are one of the ones from Germany). Other than that, my most read posts are the ones with titles which people can come across randomly on Google.

Q: Apart from the blogs your blogroll, are there others – about China or other countries and topics – that you read regularly?

To be honest, not really. I mostly look at those few blogs on China which are on my blogroll (which includes your one). And there is my uncle’s blog, he lives in Israel and blogs about his life there and Israeli topics.

Q: Did family history contribute to your interest in China?

Not really. I don’t have any relatives who have lived or live in China. Having said that, the first time I came to China was with my parents. They are active in the international Esperanto movement, and in 2004 the World Esperanto Congress was in Beijing, so they were going to China to attend it and I went with them. That’s when I first got interested in China. Being able to speak Esperanto helped plug me in to the community of Chinese Esperanto speakers, which has been a nice way to get to know some cool, unusual Chinese people.

Q: Most bloggers will sometimes be surprised by the responses a post of them triggers. Have there been reactions and comments that surprised you during the past seven years?

After visiting Vietnam, I wrote a post on why the Vietnamese dislike China. It got quite a few reactions from Vietnamese readers, most of them proving my original point. One of them actually claimed that Daoism, the I Ching and the idea of Ying/Yang originally came from Vietnam and not from China. Total nonsense as far as I know. Unfortunately unreasonable nationalism is widespread throughout Asia. At its basis lies a wall of mental rigidity and misinformation which is very hard to break through.  Then again, Europe was probably similar up until the Second World War. And Westerners have their own unreasonable prejudices, just look at the persistence of antisemitic tropes among some people, or how so many Europeans will complain that immigrants get more benefits from the state than locals even when it just isn’t true.

Q: It seems that you’ve got most of your Chinese education in the North. Is that so, and do you think it differs from learning Chinese language, ways of interaction, etc., in the South?

You are correct. Although I’ve traveled all over China, I live in Beijing. It’s a stereotype to say that the North is best for learning to speak Mandarin, but actually I think you can learn just as well in most big Southern cities, because nowadays most people speak it there too. I think the Southern Chinese do tend to be a bit more like we imagine the Chinese to be (quiet, indirect, reserved), but in the main I don’t think the cultural difference between Northern and Southern China is that huge. It might not even be as big as the one between Northern and Southern Italy! Whether you live in a small or a big city, and a rich or a poor part of China, probably makes more difference to your experience. But I’ve never lived in Southern China, so I stand to be corrected.

Q: How would you describe your daily life? Is it becoming still more “Chinese”, concerning your choice of food, newspapers, internet sources, or television?

In some ways I am, and in some ways I’m not. I would say that my lifestyle has stopped becoming more Chinese for a while. In fact, after an initial enthusiasm for “going native”, which many foreigners have at first, I think I have found a balance. In a city like Beijing you can find loads of foreign amenities, and it would be silly not to make use of them. On the other hand I wouldn’t want to live in a bubble like some expats do. It really comes down to who you hang out with, and I still hang out with lots of Chinese.

When it comes to food I am pretty Chinese: I like eating Chinese food when it’s properly made, and I even do my best to cook it at home. I have long stopped eating street food or patronizing cheap, hole-in-the-wall type places though, because of concerns about the hygiene and the quality. Many Chinese seem to have come to the same conclusion. Foreigners who pride themselves on being able to eat in such places without minding the consequences are either young foreign-exchange students, or they are pretty dimwitted.

When it comes to media, I still look at Chinese newspapers every now and again to see what they say, but for real news I mostly turn to foreign sources. Of course the language is one issue (it is obviously still much quicker for me to read in English or Italian), but also I think the European media is just superior in terms of giving you a decent picture of what goes on in the world, and, when it comes to sensitive issues, even in China! Same for entertainment: although I sometimes watch Chinese shows and films, in the main I still watch far more foreign ones. I make full use of Chinese internet sites like Baidu or Weibo though.

Q: Do you see changes on Weibo, in terms of real-name requirement, censorship, etc.?

When I got an account in 2011, it still wasn’t necessary to give your ID/passport number. As far as I know now it is, although I have heard you can still get away with giving a false one. In any case, I am sure that if they really want to they can find out who you are.

Q: Generally, when reading your blog, I got an impression overtime that you might think of China as a project, as a country or civilization headed into a rather benign future, compared with Western societies. And on the other hand, your criicism of China, or its political system, sounds pretty much like the general global criticism of it. Is this an accurate impression?

I’m not entirely sure where you got that impression from. I have unquestionably been getting more pessimistic about China, its system and its prospects over the last few years. I think to an extent the current system is geared in such a way that China always gives the impression to outsiders that it’s almost on the cusp of becoming a decent, progressive, modern and confident society, but then it never quite does. I think the political system is good at producing GDP growth, but pretty hopeless at solving the country’s huge social problems. Yes, China has more and more subways and high speed railways, and that’s useful and good for the people, but surely a country like China could do so much better than just that?

I hope China gets better with time, but I don’t think it’s a given that, if you wait 20 or 30 years, it’s all going to be much better. That’s how a lot of Chinese seem to think: just wait a few decades, and everything will solve itself. Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

I think my criticism is also a bit different from that of someone who’s never lived in China, because I am far more aware of aspects like the rise of Chinese nationalism, which many foreign commentators seem blissfully unaware of.

Q: That unawareness seems to be quite a phenomenon. This is what Bruce Anderson (himself not necessarily a human-rights champion) said about Edward Heath, in a BBC radio documentary. Former German chancellor Helmut Schmidt might be another case in point.

Is there something Russia (for example) could learn from China, in terms of soothing external propaganda, or winning influential people over abroad?

Well, Chinese officials certainly are very good at flattering foreign visitors, saying the right things to them, and appearing reasonable and friendly. I don’t have much experience with the Russians, but I doubt they are as good at it. It’s probably not something you can learn either, it’s deep-rooted in the culture.

You have to remember that most Westerners know little about China, and obviously want to be open-minded. The unawareness of the rise of Chinese nationalism probably also lies in the fact that China does tend to leave other countries alone, as long they don’t have any territorial disputes with China of course, and as long as they don’t express any views on what China defines as its “internal affairs”. Of course China’s neighbours are very aware of its nationalistic side, especially the ones which have territorial disputes with it. But people in other parts of the world don’t get to see this side of things. And its not obvious to the casual visitor either.

The European media also focuses too much on the Middle East and almost never talks about Asia’s potentially explosive problems, like the dispute in the South China Sea and the anti-Japanese feeling in China or Korea. The only thing they ever talk about is the issue of Tibet, which has certainly damaged China’s image.

Then again, the real issue is one of projection. Many left-wing Westerners are predisposed to think well of any power which challenges the United States anywhere, regardless of what it really is or does. If you want to believe the best about China (or the worst for that matter), and you don’t live there, it’s easy enough. Right wingers on the other hand may see China’s rise as a vindication of free market economics, or god knows what. Everyone sees what they want to see in China, and no one knows much about it. This has always been the case.

Q: Do you have arguments with Chinese nationalists?

Well, in a sense I do, because I have political arguments with people in China, and most Chinese are nationalists at some level, although the level varies. The level of open-mindedness towards opinions which clash with modern Chinese nationalism, as the schools and media have constructed it, also varies. I know many Mainlanders who are perfectly open minded even about issues like Taiwan, and don’t just toe the line. I think they are a minority however. And by the way, they aren’t necessarily the people with most international exposure. On the other hand if you are talking about dyed-in-the-wool fenqing, rational debate is all but impossible.

Q: You have blogged in English for nearly seven years, and quite recently, you have also started a blog in Italian. What’s next? A blog in Chinese?

My written Chinese is really not good enough to blog in it. I would actually be more likely to start a blog in Esperanto, a language I also speak.

Q: Ji Xiang, thanks a lot for this interview.

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

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Related

All BoZhu Interviews

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Monday, May 11, 2015

China’s Press commemorates WW2: Criticizing the Impenitent by Lauding the Remorseful

This was the commemoration of VE day, but the military parade in Moscow on Saturday rather looked like VJ Day. Chinese party and state leader Xi Jinping took the seat that had been US president George W.Bush’s ten years earlier, and proably would have been Barack Obama’s, hadn’t he stayed away, as most Western leaders did, as a reaction to Russia’s Ukraine policies.

Xi Jinping's Moscow Mercedes: Germany's leaders boycotted the parade, but the German-made car pool didn't

Xi Jinping’s Moscow Mercedes: Germany’s leaders boycotted the parade, but the German-made car pool didn’t (CCTV/Xinwen Lianbo coverage, click picture for Youtube video)

Also, for the first time ever, according to Chinese media, a Chinese guard of honor took part in the parade. Xinhua celebrated the great moment:

Greeting the air of spring in Moscow and marching to the “Katyusha” theme, the 102-strong People’s Liberation Army guard of honor, full of high spirits, passed Moscow’s Red Square, showing military prestige, and manifesting national power. On the reviewing stand, Chairman Xi Jinping stood and waved to them.

迎着莫斯科的春光,踏着《喀秋莎》的旋律,由102人组成的中国人民解放军仪仗方队意气风发走过莫斯科红场,走出了军威,彰显了国威。检阅台上,习近平主席起身向他们挥手致意。

But they didn’t only attract the world’s attention for their gallant formation and morale, and not only for their distinctive arrangement rhythmic marching pace, and also not only this was the first time that this was the first time China dispatched a guard of honor to take part in a Red-Square military review.

在莫斯科红场,中国军人吸引了世界的目光,这不仅仅是因为他们军容严整、士气高昂;不仅仅是因为他们独特的队形编排和富有韵律的步态步速;也不仅仅因为这是中国首次派出仪仗方队参加红场阅兵。

The Chinese troops on Moscow’s Red Square attracted millions of peoples‘ attention. This guard of honor, representing the Chinese troops‘ image, vigour and strength made people remember the sacrifices made by the Chinese and Russian armies in the world’s just war against and victory over fascism, manifested the strategic and coordinated relationship between the Chinese and the Russian armies, taking the common mission of their two countries to maintain the peaceful development of the world.

在莫斯科红场,接受检阅的中国军人令万众瞩目。这支代表中国军队形象、精神和实力的仪仗方队,令人追忆中俄两国两军为世界反法西斯正义战争胜利作出的牺牲和贡献,彰显着中俄两国两军全面战略协作关系,承载着两国共同维护世界和平发展的使命。

As China’s military passed across Moscows Red Square, the sound of their footsteps expressed the solemn promise of forever remembering history.

当中国军人走过莫斯科红场,铿锵的足音里,表达出铭记历史的庄严承诺。 […]

Forgetting history spells betrayal (忘记历史就意味着背叛), writes Xinhua. Probably, this does not refer to the way the article itself celebrates what was the CCP’s Red Army at the time of World War 2, and ignores the role of the KMT’s – then regular – Chinese troops.

To commemorate war means avoiding war. Seventy years ago, Chinese and Russian did immortal deeds in the world’s war against and victory over fascism. In this 21rst century, the two countries are permanent members of the United Nations‘ Security Council, and bear a great responsibility for the protection of the fruits of victory in World War 2 and international fairness and justice, for the promotion of the international order taking a more just and reasonable direction, for regional and global peace, security, and stability.

纪念战争是为了避免战争。70年前,中俄为世界反法西斯战争胜利建立了不朽的功勋。在21世纪的今天,两国作为联合国安理会常任理事国,对共同捍卫二战胜利成果和国际公平正义,对促进国际秩序朝着更加公正合理的方向发展,对地区及世界的和平、安全、稳定,都负有重大责任。

Kind of naturally, the mainstream Western press is taking a less cordial look at the parade and its supposed implications.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has used the anniversary to whip up patriotism and anti-Western sentiment; at a parade in Kiev, President Petro Poroshenko said Moscow was trying to hog the credit for the World War Two victory at Ukraine’s expense,

says an article published by the Daily Telegraph on Sunday, and concerning Russian-Chinese cooperation, the Guardian’s foreign affairs commentator Natalie Nougayrède wrote on March 26 that

China has a 2,500-year history of strategic thinking driven by a deep distrust of external players. Don’t expect a People’s Daily front page proclaiming a new era of Chinese openness towards the west. Nor should Vladimir Putin’s Russia think that it will find an amenable partner in Xi’s China if it continues to turn its back on Europe. China sees Russia as a declining power that can eventually be transformed into an economic colony – reduced to the role of oil and gas provider. China believes it can make strategic gains if Europe and Russia continue to clash.

While German chancellor Angela Merkel, just as the majority of Western leaders, boycotted the military parade on Saturday, she did meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday, to hold talks after they had laid down a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier together. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) refers to Merkel as having acted as the West’s chief interlocutor with the Kremlin throughout the Ukraine crisis, which might serve as one explanation why Merkel didn’t avoid meeting Putin altogether. But in its English broadcast on Monday, Radio Japan added another interpretation:

Merkel and other Group-of-Seven leaders cited the Ukrainian crisis for their absence from Saturday’s parade in Moscow, marking seventy years since the victory over Nazi Germany. But Merkel attended a wreath-laying ceremony in an apparent attempt to show that Germany has faced up to the responsibility for the Nazi atrocities.

That, however, didn’t keep Merkel from unusually plain talk at a joint press conference with the Russian leader. While Putin referred to Germany as a partner and friend, and, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, even suggested that Germany had been the first victim of the Nazis, Merkel said that German-Russian cooperation has suffered a grave setback by Russia’s criminal annexation of Crimea, in violation of international law, and the military conflict in Ukraine (hat durch die verbrecherische und völkerrechtswidrige Annexion der Krim und die militärische Auseinandersetzung in der Ostukraine einen schweren Rückschlag erlitten).

On May 6, in a speech at Schloss Stukenbrock, a prisoner-of-war camp in western Germany’s state of Northrhine-Westphalia, German president Joachim Gauck, known as a fiery anti-communist, made a speech which took many political observers, at least in Germany itself, by surprise. He addressed a fact that is frequently unknown or hardly known among Germans, and particularly West Germans (thanks not least to what China’s media might have criticized as cooked history textbooks, if West Germany had been Japan):

We have gathered here today in Schloß Holte-Stukenbrock to recall one of the worst crimes of the war – the deaths of millions of Red Army soldiers in German prisoner-of-war camps. They died in agony without medical care, starved to death or were murdered. Millions of prisoners of war for whose care the German Wehrmacht was responsible under the law of war and international agreements.

These prisoners were forced on long marches, transported in open goods wagons and sent to so-called reception or assembly camps that provided almost nothing at the start – no shelter, not enough food, no sanitary facilities, no medical care. Nothing. They had to dig holes in the ground and build makeshift huts for shelter – they tried desperately to survive somehow. Huge numbers of these prisoners were then forced to do hard labour which, in their weakened and starving condition, they often did not manage to survive.

The Beijing Evening News (北京晚报) combined a rendition of Gauck’s speech with another laudably self-critical one by Germany’s permanent representative at the United Nations, and a much less laudable one (at least according to the paper itself) by Japan’s permanent representative:

In contrast [to the German permanent representative’s speech], Japan’s permanent representative at the UN, Motohide Yoshikawa, only said: “Our behavior created misery for the peoples of the Asian countries. We must not close our eyes to this.” After that, he made big words about Japan’s “contributions to international peace, and Japan’s support for the United Nations”.

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Related

» China invites Russian Troops, Kyiv Post / Reuters, May 11, 2015
» Even closer, The Atlantic, May 10, 2015
» Wo sind die Nachtwölfe, Telepolis, May 10, 2015
» India’s Grenadiers join Parade, Telegraph India, May 9, 2015

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Monthly Summary: March 2015 – Death of a China Expert

Bremen, East of Central Station, March 26, 2015

Bremen, East of Central Station, March 26, 2015

1. How’s your Weibo going?

Mainland regulators say people will be able to have nicknames – they will just have to register them with website administrators first,

the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported in January.

The rule apparently took effect on March 1, but yours truly, himself running a Sina Weibo profile, hasn’t been contacted yet.(Having said that, it’s a very low profile – I’m reading there, but I’ve never posted anything myself.)

Either way, it’s »not »the »first try by the authorities to control or to intimidate the microbloggers, and time will show how serious they are this time.

Either way, ways appear to have been found to spoil much of the interest in microblogging.

2. Rectifying Political Ideology at Universities

That blog by Fei Chang Dao was posted on February 25, but it’s probably as important in March and in future. Even if you read no other China blog, make sure you read Fei Chang Dao, and China Copyright and Media, for that matter. What they cover matters much more than the not-really-uncertain fate of Zhou Yongkang – if you want to understaaaaand China.

3. Kailash Calling

Travelling Tibet can be an easy affair, or it can be cumbersome. It might depend on who you are, and where you come from. Here’s an account of scuffproof cheerfulness and patience.

4. “Two Meetings”

The annual tale of two meetings has come to its serene conclusion again this year, with China’s new normal. Just to have mentioned that, too.

5. Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB)

The Economist suggested in November that

China will use the new bank to expand its influence at the expense of America and Japan, Asia’s established powers. China’s decision to fund a new multilateral bank rather than give more to existing ones reflects its exasperation with the glacial pace of global economic governance reform. The same motivation lies behind the New Development Bank established by the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). Although China is the biggest economy in Asia, the ADB is dominated by Japan; Japan’s voting share is more than twice China’s and the bank’s president has always been Japanese. Reforms to give China a little more say at the International Monetary Fund have been delayed for years, and even if they go through America will still retain far more power. China is, understandably, impatient for change. It is therefore taking matters into its own hands.

The “People’s Daily” suggests that the AIIB is intended to be complementary to top dogs like the World Bank or the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Britain, France, Germany and Italy are European countries that want to be founding members of the AIIB, the British move (which came first in Europe, it seems) angered Washington, a so far reluctant Japanese government may still be persuaded to join the Beijing-led project, and Huanqiu Shibao quotes Russian foreign multimedia platform Sputnik as quoting an analyst as saying that America, too, might still join, so as to hamper China’s influence that way.

6. In Defense of the Constitution: Are you mad?

Taiwan’s president Ma Ying-jeou appeared to question the mental faculties of a Fulbright exchange academic who had asked if the KMT couldn’t drop its claims in the South China Sea.

“Are you mad?”, asked the president – reportedly -, then adding that abandoning those claims would be unconstitutional. He’s also said to have reacted somewhat wooden in another exchange with Fulbright scholars, on the same occasion, March 19.

7. Lee Kuan Yew, 1923 – 2015

Ma’s prayers for Lee Kuan Yew‘s early recovery weren’t terribly successful either; Singapore’s elder statesman died from pneumonia after weeks in hospital. Lee had his admirers both in China and Taiwan, especially for very low levels of corruption in Singapore, and apparently, he had a admirer at the American top, too. Probably no great surprise for John McCain or the tea partisans.

According to “People’s Daily”, Lee was a China expert and a West expert. According to other sources, he appeared to be a democracy expert, too (but he denied that claim).

In an apparently rather terse statement, Benjamin Pwee (方月光), secretary general of the Democratic Progressive Party of Singapore (one of several opposition parties, but neither of them influential in Singapore’s flawed democracy) said that

all great leaders are still people, and inevitably, one can find words of praise and of contempt. But at this time of national grief, let’s remember the contributions he made for the people of Singapore, and affirm his contributions.

“所有伟大的领导人毕竟都是人,难免可褒可贬。但在这个举国哀悼之际,让我们记得他为国人做所的贡献,肯定他的贡献。”

Singapore’s authorities closed the “Speakers Corner” at Hong Lim Park on Monday, for an undefined period. Reportedly, truly “free speech” never really ruled there, anyway.

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Related

想要更多政治空間和言論自由, CNA, March 23, 2015

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Friday, March 6, 2015

NPC and CPPCC sessions: The Phrasemongering Season has begun

People's Daily online resources for learning cadres

On the Road of Learning
from the Great Helmsman –
click picture for source

China’s ongoing two annual political sessions have once again hit major headlines, as the world is anticipating the country’s new measures to cope with its growth slowdown to a state of “new normal”,

according to a Xinhua report republished by Beijing Review, an English-language propaganda paper for exactly that waiting world. And also according to Beijing Review, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders on Wednesday vowed to fully implement the “Four Comprehensives” strategic layout in order to realize economic and social development targets.

The Four Comprehensives can make clearer what the road to the Chinese dream is about, believes Central Party School professor and doctoral supervisor Xin Ming.

And that’s badly needed stuff, if we go by what the BBC said in February:

Mr Xi denounced political jargon as “empty words” during a speech five years ago.
However, he launched his leadership in 2013 with the idea of the “Chinese dream”, a concept many say is still ill-defined.

So, just how does the “dream” concept become clearer, according to Xin?

The professor believes that the “Chinese dream” is “a strategic layout in the historical process of the realization of the greatest dream of the Chinese nation.”

He considers the “four comprehensives” – the goal of comprehensively building a moderately prosperous society, coprehensive deepening of reform, comprehensive promotion of government by law, and strictly governing the party – constitute three strategic measures (apparently, Xin combines the rule by law and the demand of strictly governing the party).

He believes that, iguratively speaking, one goal and three measures may also count as „three legs of a tripod“ on which the goal is set up. “One body, three feet” are structuring the blueprint of China’s happy future.

他认为,一个目标、三大战略举措,用个形象的说法,就好比是“三足鼎立”,上面架起了目标,“一体三足”构建起了中国未来美好的蓝图。

[…]

“To really comprehensively understand the ‚four comprehensives‘, I’m afraid we need to move one step further, i. e. to understand that besides the one-body-three-feet structure, we must understand which kind of consciousness it highlights.” Xin Ming believes that „behind the four comprehensives, there are contemporary communists,or three strong kinds of consciousness in current Chinese society.

“要想真正全面地理解‘四个全面’,恐怕还要再往前讲,就是仅仅明白了一体三足的战略建构之外,还要明白这一体三足的战略建构凸显了什么样的意识。”辛鸣认为,“四个全面”背后是当代中国共产党人,或者今日中国社会三种意识的强烈凸显。

Xin states “a sense of mission”, “problem awareness”, and a “sense of responsibility” as these “strong kinds of consciousness”. As for the latter,

Chinese Communists‘ have such a noble mission, but at the same time, we clearly encounter problems in the process of completing the mission. How can we deal with the problems? We shy away from them, turn a blind eye to them, or we confront them head-on, crack them, smooth them out, solve them. What does it take to do this job? It takes acceptance of responsibility. Without acceptance of responsibility, there won’t be this kind of strategic vision, there won’t be this sense of responsibility. Maybe we could still pick up what can be done well, what can be done easily, and with immediate effect, but we can’t make a big fanfare over „comprehensiveness“.

中国共产党人有这样一种崇高的使命,同时,我们也很清楚在完成这个使命的过程中会遇到什么样的问题。遇到这些问题怎么办?我们是绕着走、视而不见,还是迎 头而上,去破解问题、化解问题、解决问题。做这些工作要什么?需要一种担当。没有这种担当意识,我们做不出这样一种战略构想,没有这样一种担当意识,也许 我们就会捡好的做,捡容易的做,捡能马上见效的做,而不会在“全面”上大做文章。

All this, written in the run-up to the sessions of the NPC and the CPPCC, may come across as empty words, as observed by the BBC or by unnamed critics quoted by the BBC: Critics say the Communist elite’s obsession with jargon alienates them from plain-speaking Chinese citizens.

That may be so – among an unknown share of the Chinese population. But it would be particularly true for Chinese people who are in constant contact with foreigners, and who may actually feel somewhat embarrassed when their foreign colleagues or friends pick up some of the more colorful blossoms of CCP phrasemongering. But despite all the embarrassment (or fun) it may create, this custom – which isn’t merely “communist” – has been criticized for a century or longer, and it hasn’t gone away. To another unknown share of the Chinese population, the slogans are realities.

Or, as Jacques Ellul wrote in 1962, about a much more obvious and obtrusive kind of CCP propaganda than of our days:

When one reads this once, one smiles. If one reads it a thousand times, and no longer reads anything else, one must undergo a change. And we must reflect on the transformation of perspective already suffered by a whole society in which texts like this (published by the thousands) can be dsitributed and taken seriously not only by the authorities but by the intellectuals.*)

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Note

*) Jacques Ellul, “Propaganda”, New York 1965 (a more recent reprint of it), p. 14

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Related

» Reference Book, Beijing Review, Mar 6, 2015
» Unobtrusive and imperceptible, Jan 7, 2012

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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.

____________

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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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.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chinese Press Review: “a Principled Stance against Terrorism”

Huanqiu Shibao has an editorial about the attack on the Charlie Hebdo editorial staff:

The bloody terrorist attack in Paris has been condemned by many countries’ governments. However, in some non-Western societies, notably in Islamic ones, real popular reactions may be much more complex. But although values are diverse, we believe that under conditions like these, the condemnation of terrorism should be unconditional. In the face of a major issue of right and wrong, any other choice would be out of line with the common interest of humankind.

巴黎《查理周刊》编辑部遭血腥恐怖袭击,多国政府予以一致谴责。然而在一些非西方社会、尤其是伊斯兰社会里,民间的真实反应却可能复杂得多。尽管价值观是多元的,我们认为,在这种时候谴责恐怖袭击应是无条件的。在这一大是大非面前的任何其他选择,都不符合人类的共同利益。

When terrorist attacks occurred in China in the past, the position of Western public opinion was often not firm enough. After official findings in China, Western mainstream media put the descriptions of bloody terrorism in Xinjiang between quotation marks, saying that China claimed it to be “terrorist” incidents. This made Chinese people very angry.

以往在中国出现恐怖袭击时,西方舆论的立场经常不够坚定。西方主流媒体会在中国官方已做出定性后,给发生在新疆那些血腥袭击的恐怖主义描述打上引号,说那是中国声称的“恐怖主义”事件。它们那样做往往让中国人很生气。

The article suggests that Chinese society should do does better and reject double-standards.

We strongly hope that the China’s, Russia’s and other countries’ attitude will ultimately influence the West, and won’t be “adapted” to [its] geopolitical considerations.*)

消除恐怖主义有赖于国际社会的高度团结。这些年西方社会突发恐怖袭击,世界的公开表态总是一致的。中俄等国发生恐怖袭击,西方舆论往往闪烁其词。我们强烈希望中俄等国的坚定态度能最终影响西方,而不是西方对恐怖袭击的地缘政治考虑把我们“改变”。

[…]

Of course, one can debate about strategies to combat terrorism. We notice that the leaders and mainstream media of many Western countries, when commenting on the “Charlie Hebdo” incident, all purposely expressed “support for freedom of information”. We find this debatable.

当然,反对和打击恐怖主义是可以讲策略的。我们注意到,西方多国领导人和主流媒体在评论《查理周刊》事件时,都刻意突出了“对新闻自由的支持”。我们认为这是值得商榷的。

Western freedom of information is part of its political system and social shape, and also one of the core values of Western society. But in the era of globalization, if related Western practice and the core values of other societies collide, there should be a Western will to ease conflicts, as it is not suitable to put ones own values into the center and to increase frictions with a zero-sum attitude.

西方的新闻自由是其政治体制和社会形态的一部分,也是西方社会的核心价值之一。但在全球化时代,当西方有关做法同其他社会的核心价值发生冲突时,西方应当有缓解冲突的意愿,而不宜以自己的价值为中心,以零和态度推动摩擦升级。

An English-language article, much of it identical with or similar to the Chinese version, is also available online, but there are some differences, too. The paragraph with the line I can’t translate properly is entirely missing in the English version.

The idea of enemies of China feasting on calamities within the country is a recurring theme in domestic Huanqiu Shibao articles, from the Dalai Lama‘s alleged indifference and his cliques’ cold and detached gloating after the Wenchuan earthquake 2008 to complaints from the Xinjiang CCP branch about a lack of compassion from Washington after the Bachu County incident in April 2013. In the English edition – which differs greatly from the Chinese one in terms of content anyway -, there’s a tendency to drawing a more positive and self-confident image of China.

While Huanqiu, a paper focused on international affairs, carries at least two Charlie-Hebdo-related stories on its main page online, and the above editorial topping the page, Tianjin’s official news portal Enorth published a list of the twelve victims in a less prominent article today, one that had previously been published by China News Service (中国新闻网, CNS).

In another Enorth article, also originally from CNS, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei is quoted as saying that China had made its position clear on the attack, stating shock and condemnation and expressing condolences to the victims and their relatives:

China is opposed to all forms of terrorism and supports French efforts to safeguard state security.

中方坚决反对一切形式的恐怖主义,支持法方为维护国家安全所做努力。

Hong Lei said that China’s foreign minister had sent a message to French foreign minister Fabius expressing condolences, and emphasizing China’s principled stance against all forms of terrorism.

洪磊说,中国外交部长已经向法国外长法比尤斯致慰问电,向遇难者表示哀悼,并强调了中方反对一切形式恐怖主义的原则立场。

Also today, Enorth republished an article by the Beijing Times (京华时报), with a detailed account of the attack and its victims.

____________

Footnotes

*) This may also point to active use of terrorism by the West to “alter China”, but I’m not sure if that would be an accurate translation.

____________

Related

» ‘Made to eat’ at Ramadan, BBC Blog, July 11, 2014
» Chinese Press Review: Kunming Attack, March 3, 2014

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

2014: “Social Media”, “Little Secretaries”, Blogs, and the big Trend for 2015

1. Getting Started

To get started, here’s one of my most recent sketches:

And if it isn’t self-explanatory, I’ll come back to it under item #4.

2. “Social Media”

I’m not studying the annual WordPress statistics too thoroughly, but what struck me this time is that, compared with 2013, “social media”, i. e. Twitter and Facebook, have become major referring sites to this blog. that said, maybe 2013 was an exception, because in 2012, too, Facebook and Twitter mattered a lot.

That makes me feel kind of sad. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate Tweets that link to this blog, and I appreciate links from Facebook, too, even if I usually won’t find out what you are writing about there (I’m not facebooking). But the trend seems to indicate that the internet turns from a more public into a growingly privatey-run business. That’s probably not the internet the founding fathers dreamed of.

Woeser found out in December that running an account with Facebook doesn’t make you the owner of that account – well, maybe she knew that all along, but her post came across as somewhat alarmed when she found that what she had reposted on Facebook –  a video of Tibetan Buddhist monk Kalsang Yeshe’s self-immolation that occurred on December 23 […], accompanied by an excerpted report explaining that self-immolation is a tragic, ultimate protest against repression,  had been removed by the company. At any rate, she couldn’t help but suspect that Facebook might be employing “little secretaries”, i. e. censors, just as Sina Weibo does.

Her belief that Chinese dictatorship is manipulating freedom of expression elsewhere, too – i. e. in the West – is understandable, and true to an extent. But internationally, Chinese dictatorship is only one source among several, of censorship and repression, as totalitarian as it may be.

3. Blogs

There’s still a lot of writing going on in the – what was the name again? – English-language Chinese Blogosphere. The nicest surprise this year was the return of EastSouthWestNorth. Obviously, I have no idea if the recent posts, mostly about “Occupy Central”, mark anything more than a stopover, but they are what makes the internet great: raw material, but made intelligible to every user, to work his way through, without easy answers right at his fingertips.

Then there’s Sino-NK. Articles finished and polished, but from a sober perspective, and plowing their way through the past and present of Sino-North Korean relations, rather than leaping at every headline.

Some blogs I used to like are beginning to look like mainstream media, but here is something I’d recommend, to make this three blog recommendations: China Copyright and Media. They do what really needs to be done: they look at the CCP paperwork. That’s no yadayada, that’s the decisions the party is actually taking and never fail to surprise our media when carried out, even though they’ve usually been communicated long before.

I can’t close the blog compartment of this post without a link to that blog post there in Shanghai: the Mother Teresa of the blogosphere, musing about the whereabouts of the legendary Dalai Lama of China blogging.

4. The Big Trend for 2015

It’s not terribly original, but it seems to be obvious. China’s totalitarian skeleton is being refitted with flesh, after a few years of what looks (at hindsight) like a thaw, during the days of the Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao collective troupes. This is now turning into a blend of modernization and personality cult. The slaughterhouse scene heading this post refers to the political death of Zhou Yongkang, and the Great and Impeccable Leader who brought it about. To lose your CCP membership is probably worse than death. If you are a truly faithful Communist, anyway.

Happy new year, everyone!

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