Posts tagged ‘West’

Friday, July 14, 2017

Liu Xiaobo, 1955 – 2017

It won’t be long before Liu Xiaobo‘s first post-mortem biography will be published. But it won’t have the last word. There will be further biographies, and each of them will be contested. That’s because of the man himself, and because of his country. He was a man with a conscience, and his country has been a totalitarian dictatorship for nearly seven decades – if you count the KMT’s martial law in, it’s been a dictatorship for much longer than that.

Liu Xiaobo’s political lifespan lasted for three or four decades. That doesn’t count as long in China. The Communist Party’s propaganda works tirelessly to create and sustain the “People’s Republic’s” population’s imagination of a civilizational history of five or more millenia. And at the same time, the party needs to sustain the notion that the most recent seven decades had been the best in China’s history. Not only the past fourty, after the leadership’s decision to “reform and to open up”, but the past seven decades, including Maoism. CCP propaganda’s aim is to build an image of its rule where the pre- and post-1978 decades are one political unit, without substantial contradictions within.

In all likelihood, Liu Xiaobo had foreseen that trend. Many Chinese dissidents, no matter if opponents of China’s cultural restauration, or opponents of the KMT’s military dictatorship on Taiwan, saw a Chinese complacency at work, considering itself the center of the universe.

Cultural criticism is rarely a rewarding trade, but in China, it can be lethal, as shown in Liu Xiaobo’s case.

Liu’s last camp and prison term, which began in 2009 and ended with his relase on medical parole, with cancer in its final stage, had been based on the accusation that he had “incited subversion of state power”. But the Beijing First Intermediate People’s Court’s verdict – passed on Christmas day of 2009, probably to keep the level of international attention as low as possible –  only reflected the CCP’s fear of Liu, not the likely divide between the dissident and his people. A likely divide only, because in a totalitarian dictatorship, these things are more uncertain than in an open society. Hu Jia, himself a dissident who spent more than three years in prison from 2007 to 2011, noted during Liu’s dying days that only about one out of a hundred Beijingers knew who Liu Xiaobo was. Michael Bristow, the BBC’s China correspondent  in 2011, made a similar observation back then.

The 1980s mostly came across as a period of economic optimism, but accompanied by phenomena that were viewed negatively – particularly corruption, which was one of the factors that propelled the June-4 movement at its beginning.

Liu’s answer to what was frequently seen as China’s ailments was “westernization”. Stays in Western countries seem to have intensified his idea, just as Deng Xiaoping is said to have had his own cultural shock when visiting Singapore, in 1978.

But there lies a difference between the great statesman, and the great dissident. Singapore, a highly developed city state led by a family clan, is a model not only for authoritarian Chinese nationals – Taiwanese law-and-order-minded people tend to prefer Singapore as a holiday destination, rather than “messy” Hong Kong.

Liu Xiaobo’s model of development was Hong Kong of the 1980s. It was also the crown colony that provided the intellectual in his early thirties with some public resonance. In one of the interviews, given by Liu to a magazine named Kaifang at the time, Liu made statements that astonished the interviewer:

Q. Under what circumstances can China carry out a genuine historical transformation?
A. Three hundred years of colonialism.  Hong Kong became like this after one hundred years of colonialism.  China is so much larger, so obviously it will take three hundred years of colonialism.  I am still doubtful whether three hundred years of colonialism will be enough to turn China into Hong Kong today.

Q. This is 100% “treason.”
A. I will cite one sentence from Marx’s Manifesto of the Communist Party: “Workers do not have motherlands.  You cannot take away what they don’t have.”  I care about neither patriotism nor treason.  If you say that I betray my country, I will go along!  I admit that I am an impious son who dug up his ancestors’ graves and I am proud of it.

Both the “insults” and Liu’s expressly stated pessimism probably made for a divide between him and many Chinese (as far as they got to know his story). Or, as Roland Soong, a blogger from Hong Kong, noted next to his translation of the 1988 interview, as of 2010, “I suggest that unless Charter 08 (or any other message) can connect with many people in other social strata, it will remain a mental exercise among ‘public intellectuals.'”

And nothing works in the modern middle kingdom, unless it comes with a festive up-with-people sound. (In that sense, China is globalizing indeed.)

When Soong translated the interview quoted from above, and added his assessment of the Charter 08, the global financial crisis had been wreaking havoc on Western economies for about two years, and at least one of the Charter’s demands had fallen from the tree since: #14 called for

Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

There wasn’t necessarily a conflict on this matter, between the party leadership and the authors of the Charter – time will show how the CCP is going to handle the remaining state sector of the economy. But among everyday Chinese people, this demand would hardly strike a chord. Besides, who can imagine a transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership “in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner”?

In the Charter’s preface, the authors wrote:

The Chinese people, who have endured human rights disasters and uncountable struggles across these same years, now include many who see clearly that freedom, equality, and human rights are universal values of humankind and that democracy and constitutional government are the fundamental framework for protecting these values.

It was a cautious description of the status quo: Liu and his co-authors understood that only a critical minority would side with them. And indeed, there was more to endure in the pipeline. The educational dictatorship China is now entering encourages anticipatory obedience rather than awareness, and it is likely to succeed. When you keep beating people up long enough – and provide them with a hopeful perspective for the future -, there is little that can help people of conscience to counter the propaganda.

This may be the main difference between Liu and his enemies (and many of his admirers, too): in the eyes of many, only hard power – no matter if you refer to it as “the people’s power” or as the “authorities” -, creates reality. If the realities are good, you don’t need to get involved. If they are evil, you can’t get involved. And when realities come in many shades of grey, you either needn’t or can’t get involved. The power of the powerless is no reality in these peoples’ world – unless they begin to tilt, so that re-orientation appears advisable.

That’s a stabilizing factor, so long as realities remain what they appear to be.  But appearances can be deceiving, often until the very last hour. Who of the Egyptians who ditched their longtime president in 2011, in colossal demonstrations, had known weeks before that he wanted to get rid of him? A mood had capsized. It wasn’t about awareness.

A manipulated and intimidated public tends to be unpredictable, and that can turn factors around that were originally meant to add to “stability”.

China’s leaders feared Liu Xiaobo. They feared him to the extent that they wouldn’t let him leave the country, as long as he could still speak a word. But in all likelihood, they fear China’s widespread, politically tinged, religious sects even more, which have a tradition at least as long as Chinese scholarship. Falun Gong is only one of its latest manifestations.

By suppressing public intellectuals not only before 1978, but after that, too, they provided space for nervous moodiness. The Communists themselves want to “guide” (i. e. control) public awareness, without leaving anything to chance.

But chance is inevitable. Totalitarian routine may be able to cope for some time, but is likely to fail in the long run, with disastrous consequences.

In that light, the CCP missed opportunities to reform and modernize the country. But then, the party’s totalitarian skeleton made sure that they could only see the risks, and no opportunities, in an opening society.

What remains from Charter 08 – for now – is the courage shown by its authors nine years ago, and by the citizens who affirmed it with their signatures.

Each of them paid a price, to varying degrees, and often, their families and loved ones did so, too: like Liu Xia, who had hoped that her husband would not get involved in drafting the Charter, but who would never dissociate herself from him.

Nobody is obligated to show the same degree of courage, unless solidarity or conscience prescribe it. In most cases, making such demands on oneself would be excessive. But those who hate the Lius for their courage – and for lacking this courage themselves – should understand that their hatred is wrong. One may keep still as a citizen – but there is an inevitable human duty to understand the difference between right and wrong. By denying our tolerance toward despotism and by repressing awareness of our own acquiescence, we deny ourselves even the small steps into the right direction, that could be taken without much trouble, or economic hardship.

May Liu Xiaobo never be forgotten – and may Liu Xia find comfort and recovery.

____________

Updates/Related

再生:致刘晓波, Woeser, July 13, 2017
Rebirth, Woeser/Boyden, July 16, 2017

____________

 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Huanqiu Shibao: Imagine (Mother of all Bombs, Father of all Bombs)

Main Link: Can “Mother of all Bombs” frighten Pyongyang?, Huanqiu Shibao, April 14. Links within blockquotes added during translation.

American military stationed in Afghanistan threw a large airbomb, referred to as “mother of all bombs”, in the country’s eastern mountaineous regions in the evening of Thursday local time. Said bomb’s weight was 9.8 tons, with a capacity amounting to 11 tons of TNT, and it is the largest non-nuclear bomb used by America in combat so far.

驻阿富汗美军当地时间星期四晚上在这个国家的东部山区投掷了一枚有“炸弹之母”之称的大型空爆炸弹,该炸弹重9.8吨,爆炸当量相当于11吨TNT,它是迄今美国在战斗中使用的最大威力非核爆炸装置。

The White House and the US military stationed in Afghanistan said that the use of this precision-controlled blockbuster had been directed at “Islamic State’s” fighting groups’ tunnel and cave systems and eliminated said facilities, and maintained the momentum of American troups striking at “Islamic State”. President Donald Trump said in a brief comment that this had been another successful action carried out by the US military. He also mentioned North Korea, saying that [the issue of] the “mother of all bombs” being a signal to Pyongyang or not wasn’t important.

白宫及驻阿富汗美军表示,使用这种精确制导的巨型炸弹旨在摧毁“伊斯兰国”武装分子的隧道和洞穴系统,该炸弹是清除上述设施同时保持美军打击“伊斯兰国”势头的合适武器。特朗普总统发表简短评论说,这是美军又一次成功的袭击行动。他还提到了朝鲜,表示“炸弹之母”是不是向平壤发出一个信号,这不重要。

Trump hasn’t been president for three months yet, but the US military has launched at least two attacks that drew global attention. One was the bombing of the Syrian air force base, and the other was the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan. Trump is clearly more spontaneous in using US military might than previous US president Obama, and displays some indulgence and pride in American military power.

特朗普担任总统还不到3个月,美国军队发动的攻击至少已经两次受到全球瞩目,一次是轰炸叙利亚空军基地,一次就是在阿富汗使用“炸弹之母”。特朗普对使用美国军力比前任总统奥巴马显然更加随意,他表现出对美国军事力量的某种迷恋和骄傲。

Even the younger president Bush, who conducted two wars, went through detailed procedures prior to war, and the wars were part of an extensive range of expectations. In contrast, both the bombing of a Syrian airbase and throwing the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan came very suddenly. If use of armed force continues at the current frequency and pace, president Trump may be “in constant war”, becoming remembered as the “warring president”.

即使打了两场战争的小布什总统,每一次开战之前都经过了繁琐程序,而且当时的开战处于广泛的预期之中。然而无论攻击叙空军基地还是往阿富汗山区扔“炸弹之母”,来的都很突然。如果按照这样的频率和速度使用武力,那么特朗普总统就要“不停打仗”了,他说不定最终会作为一名“战争总统”被历史记住。

The “mother of all bombs” is a very cruel kind of weapon, consuming a large amount of oxygen in the process, within the range of its explosion. As its destructive force is very large, its so-called “precision control” only applies in a locational sense. In fact, its probability to harm innocent is comparatively high. In the current fields of anti-terrorism operations, with military and civilians being located next to each other, the US military incessantly kills and wounds ordinary people. By using the “mother of all bombs”, Washington doesn’t appear to have taken the issue of innocent fatalities very seriously.

“炸弹之母”是一种非常残忍的武器,它能在爆炸过程中消耗周围的大量氧气,由于破坏力极大,它的所谓“精确制导”只是投放地点意义上的,实际上伤及无辜的概率更高。如今与反恐有关的战区,大多是军民相间的,美军不断在伊拉克、阿富汗等地炸死炸伤平民,现在又把“炸弹之母”投入使用,看来华盛顿并没真把伤及无辜当回事。

Obviously, the purpose of this bombing has been about testing the effect of this weapon. At the same time, it has added a new antic to US military deterrence. Presumably, similarly mountainous North Korea felt the shock waves from far-away Afghanistan. If the US military could, by throwing this bomb [in Afghanistan], get the Pyongyang regime under control, that wouldn’t be a bad thing. However, its likely effect will be contrary.

这次投弹显然有试验该武器实战效果的目的,同时也是给美国的军事威慑增添一个新噱头。想必同样多山的朝鲜感受到了这场遥远阿富汗大爆炸传过来的冲击波。如果美军扔了这个炸弹,就真能把平壤政权给镇住,那倒也不错。然而它所产生的效果很可能是相反的。

Pyongyang’s main line of thought these years has been that if you have no nuclear weapons, the future of their regime will resemble Saddam Hussein’s and Gaddafi’s. The “mother of all bombs” may once again irritate and mislead Pyongyang, about how important it would be to increase the explosive capacity they themselves can master.

平壤这些年来只有一个思维,那就是如果没有核武器,萨达姆和卡扎菲政权的下场就是平壤政权未来的样子。“炸弹之母”可能再次刺激并误导平壤:提高自己所能掌握的爆炸当量是多么重要。

Various analysts believe that Pyongyang has done all the preparation for a sixth nuclear test, and that its top leader Kim Jong-un will now make his final deliberations: to set it off, or not. The latest bit of information conveyed to Pyongyang by the US military won’t contribute to rational choices by Pyongyang.

多方分析认为,朝鲜已经做好举行第六次核试验的各种准备,其最高领导人金正恩可能正在做最后的权衡:引爆还是不引爆。美国军方传递的最新信息对平壤做出理性抉择没有好处。

Reportedly, there is still a non-nuclear bomb that exceeds the “mother of all bombs”. That is the Russian high-efficiency vacuum bomb, called “father of all bombs”. Imagine what would happen if Russia used it to strike at the “Islamic State” in Syria, and how America and the West would condemn Moscow.

据报道,世界上还有比“炸弹之母”爆炸当量更大的非核炸弹,它就是被称为“炸弹之父”的俄罗斯高效率真空炸弹。设想一下,如果是俄罗斯在打击叙利亚“伊斯兰国”组织时扔一颗“炸弹之父”,那么美国和西方舆论会不会往死里骂莫斯科。

America appears to have the privilege to do whatever it wants to do, but this, very probably, means all kinds of danger, rather than more security.

美国像是有想怎么做就怎么做的特权,然而这对世界来说很可能意味着某种危险,而不是更多的安全。

____________

Related

Defending the decision, CNN, April 14, 2017
“MOAB killed dozens”, NY Times, April 14, 2017
Warning to North Korea, KBS Seoul, April 14, 2017
____________

Monday, March 27, 2017

Populism in China (1): The Downfall of Bo Xilai

There is no Weltinnenpolitik yet, but there are cross-civilizational trends.

The City of Red Songs

There would be no second chance. Gerhard Schröder, former chancellor of Germany, was in a hurry in June 2011, on the sidelines of a forum in southwestern China’s metropolis of Chongqing. He was therefore lacking the time to attend one of the red-song nights that were customary there. But he still pleased his interlocutors with a German proverb: Where people sing, you can settle down – wicked people sing no songs.

In full, the red-songs custom advocated by Chongqing’s party chief Bo Xilai was Singing revolutionary songs, Reading classic books, telling stories and spreading mottos. There would be nine more months of that before Bo Xilai was toppled by his CCP comrades.

A Hudong article explained the activity at the time. It was a mass concept, started in Chongqing in 2008, which was greeted with enthusiasm there, and elsewhere in China. The concept wasn’t outdated, because

if a country and a nation have no correct thought and advanced culture, it will lose its backbone. The current deep changes of the economic system, the structure of society, and the profound adjustment of interest patterns must be reflected in the ideological field. There is diversity in peoples’ minds, and although the mainstream is positive and healthy, while some peoples’ material life conditions have improved, spiritual life is somewhat empty. To change that condition, and to ensure a safe passing of the torch in the cause of the party and the country, the red flag must be righteously upheld, the ideology of Marxism must be consolidated in its guiding position within the ideological field, and the attractiveness and the cohesive power of socialist ideology must be strengthened.

一个国家和民族没有正确的思想、先进的文化,就会失掉主心骨。当前,经济体制深刻变革、社会结构深刻变动、利益格局深刻调整,必然反映到意识形态领域。人们的思想日趋多元多变多样,虽然主流积极健康向上,但一些人物质生活改善了,精神生活却有些空虚。为了彻底改变这种状况,保证党和国家的事业薪火相传,必须理直气壮地举红旗,不断巩固马克思主义在意识形态领域的指导地位,增强社会主义意识形态的吸引力和凝聚力。[Links within these lines omitted.]

According to the HuDong article, CCP politbureau member and Chongqing party secretary Bo Xilai (薄熙来) had deplored the phenomenon of young people who sang decadent songs (唱 .. 靡靡之音, chàng mímí zhī yīn), who were reading “fast-food” kinds of literature (读 .. 快餐文化, dú kuàicān wénhuà), told “low and vulgar stories” (讲 .. 低俗故事, jiǎng dīsú gùshì), and “spread pornographic or dull scripts/pieces” (传 .. 黄段子、灰段子, chuán huáng duànzi, huī duànzi).

So, apparently, there were dirty songs, too. Maybe things weren’t as simple as Schröder had believed. At least one  reader and forum commenter of China’s Huanqiu Shibao didn’t trust Schröder’s expertise and wrote:

OK, listen [to the red songs], you won’t comprehend them anyway. It will be as if you were listening to folk songs.

听吧,反正听不懂,就当听民歌了

The “Chongqing Model” was controversial, at least in the perceivable medial public of China. The party elite wasn’t entirely in love with Bo’s pretentious neo-Maoism. A vice president of Law School at China University of Political Science and Law was quoted by the English-language party mouthpiece “Global Times”:

There have been 104,000 “Red Song Concerts” in Chongqing, with 80 million participants. It cost 1,500 yuan ($231) per person for onsite renting and costume expenses, 210 million yuan in total. Adding in the offwork compensation and transportation the final cost is 270 billion [sic – probably means million – JR] yuan. Why don’t they use the money for health insurance?

Bo Xilai’s “Populism”, 2007 – 2012

At the grassroots, however, Bo’s leadership style appears to have worked (maybe it still does). The Chongqing Model wasn’t just about folklore, red or otherwise.

Chongqing (Sichuan province) residents set off firecrackers today, celebrating the execution of the provincial-level city’s former chief justice Wen Qiang (文强), cqnews.net reported in July 2010. The Wall Street Journal explained:

Wen Qiang was put to death following the rejection in May by China’s Supreme Court of an appeal of his conviction on charges including bribery, shielding criminal gangs, rape and inability to account for millions of dollars in cash and assets, according to Xinhua news agency. Xinhua didn’t say how Mr. Wen was executed.

Punching black crime and uprooting vice (拳打黑除恶) was the name of the campaign that cost Wen his life – according to the historical records as Bo would have it, he and his police chief Wang Lijun not only battled against gangs, but infiltrated cadres, too.

The now defunct website Chinageeks published an English translation of Zhang Wen, a former chief editor of the Xinhua magazine Globe:

Bo Xilai and the “northeast tiger” Wang Lijun entered Chongqing and started a war and began a “battling corruption and evil” movement that has gradually begun to spread nationwide and worldwide. This action is in line with the people’s wishes, and at the same time, also in line with what central authorities wish.

At first, the public opinion was very one-sided; no one could find any fault with Bo. The controversy and difference of opinions came with the case of Li Zhuang. Proponents of the democratic rule of law questioned and criticized the legality of Chongqing [court] proceedings, but Bo Xilai’s supporters hold that punishing lawyers who defend “bad people” is appropriate.

Bo Xilai’s wife Gu Kailai is a high-level lawyer who has been working for many years. The two have been together for many years and Bo himself was once the head of the Ministry of Commerce, and thus often negotiated international legal issues with foreign opponents. Because of this, Bo Xilai should have a solid conception and knowledge of the law.

But in the end, in the Li Zhuang case, the organs of justice in Chongqing left a bad impression that they might violate legal procedures. Precisely because of this, some people’s opinions on Bo Xilai changed dramatically. I myself once wrote an essay expressing pity that Bo Xilai hadn’t turned out to be the sort of high-quality modern politician [we had hoped].

Chongqing was a small pond for a big fish – Bo Xilai appeared to have hoped for a permanent seat in the CCP’s central politburo, but landed the job as party secretary of Chongqing instead. Chongqing wasn’t an insignificant city, but it was far from where central Chinese power was. Only an alernate politburo membership linked him to Beijing. From 2008, his Maoist song events raised nationwide attention, and even beyond China – Henry Kissinger apparently leapt at the chance Schröder had missed.

In 2011, Bo Xilai started his second campaign for a permanent seat at the CCP’s top table. While the Economist found Bo’s style refreshing, it noted nervously that

The region’s party chief, Bo Xilai, is campaigning for a place on the Politburo Standing Committee in next year’s leadership shuffle. He looks likely to succeed. Like every other Chinese politician since 1949, he avoids stating his ambitions openly, but his courting of the media and his attempts to woo the public leave no one in any doubt. Mr Bo’s upfront style is a radical departure from the backroom politicking that has long been the hallmark of Communist rule and would seem like a refreshing change, were it not that some  of his supporters see him as the Vladimir Putin of China. Mr Bo is a populist with an iron fist. He has waged the biggest crackdown on mafia-style gangs in his country in recent years. He has also been trying to foster a mini-cult of Mao, perhaps in an effort to appeal to those who are disillusioned with China’s cut-throat capitalism.

Bo didn’t appear to aim for the top job as secretary general, the Economist noted, as that position appeared to have been reserved for Xi Jinping. Indeed, Xi succeeded Hu Jintao as party secretary general in autumn 2012, and as state chairman in March 2013.

Bo Xilai’s plans didn’t work that smoothly. In November 2011, a British citizen, Neil Heywood, died in a hotel in Chongqing. Given that Chinese courts don’t work independently from the party, the circumstances of his death can’t be considered resolved. A Chinese court found Gu Kailai, Bo Xilai’s wife, guilty of killing Heywood, and after only one day in court, she got a suspended death sentence.

The BBC‘s China editor Carrie Gracie tried to shed light on the circumstances of Bo Xilai’s rise and fall, and the role Heywood’s death played in the latter, but didn’t find too many interlocutors. Instead, she presented a Rocky Horror Picture Show of elite power struggles with Chinese characteristics. Bo Xilai as the avenger of the common man, a crashing, media-savvy scourge of organized crime, who addressed the public directly, without party media filtering. That hadn’t happened since Mao’s days – “think Donald Trump”.

With support from local police chief Wang Lijun, who fancied leading roles in martial-arts television, too, Bo had exercised a regime that labeled opponents as mafiosi and not only jailed them, but expropriated them too, in favor of Chongqing’s budgets.

It isn’t contested that Bo Xilai and Wang Lijun prosecuted the real or supposed gangsters’ advocates, too, with questionable means. Gracie quotes one of these advocates, Li Zhuang (see above, Zhang Wen’s criticism of Bo Xilai), as Li describes how he was arrested by Wang Lijun personally:

The scene was so over-the-top, loads of police cars surrounding the plane, riot police in helmets and camouflage, armed with submachine guns. I asked, “Why the big show? Is it Obama’s state visit or are you capturing Osama Bin Laden?”

We were surrounded by a huge scrum of reporters. He wanted to show his authority on camera. He was in a trench coat, hands in his pockets. He said: “Li Zhuang, we meet again.”

There were admirers of Bo and Wang, there were critics and enemies, and there were people who detested the two. But at the grassroots, the fans appeared to be numerous. According to Gracie, there are still many.

Making inconvenient lawyers disappear was no unique feature of Bo Xilai, however. The party leadership with Xi Jinping at the core has been proving for years that to them, the rule of law is a theroretical nicety they may or may not care about.

Gracie reduces the causes of conflict between the noisy polit-soloist Bo Xilai and the basically “collectivist” leadership in Beijing on a personal rivalry between princeling Bo and princeling Xi.

Certainly, top politicians’ egos can hardly be overestimated, and when they are Chinese, ostentatious modesty shouldn’t fool anyone.

But Xi alone wouldn’t have gotten Bo under control. Neither with the sudden Neil-Heywood scandal – that became known as the Wang-Lijun incident in China after the police chief fled into the next US consulate and being passed on to the central authorities from there (but only after having spilled the beans). Nor otherwise.

The question suggests itself if Bo Xilai’s career wasn’t finished in summer 2011 anyway, given wide-spread disapproval among the party elite, of his egotistic leadership style in Chongqing.

“Unity is strength” was one of the “red songs” Bo Xilai had them sing in Chongqing (above: October 8, 2009). But it wasn’t only the Xi faction that saw a lack of just that on Bo’s part. Bo was putting himself forward, and that had been a taboo during all the post-Mao years.

He didn’t denigrate his leading comrades – appearances like that of Donald Trump as a campaigner, cursing fellow members of his political class, would have been inconceivable. But putting himself into the limelight (and casting it away from others) amounted to the same thing, by Chinese standards. Besides, given his anti-corruption renown, sanctimonious as it may have been, could have threatened his “comrades”. A tribun within their ranks – that couldn’t work.

Xi Jinping and his predecessor Hu Jintao are said to be rivals. But within the Hu camp, Bo’s populism didn’t seem to resonate either. On the contrary: Wen Jiabao, chief state councillor (aka “prime minister”) during the Hu Jintao era, had been a tireless, even if unsuccessful, advocate of political reform, way beyond economics or technology.

At a press conference in March 2012, after the closing ceremony of the annual “parliament” plenary sessions, Wen warned that China wasn’t immune against another cultural revolution. That John Garnaut, an Australian correspondent in Beijing, got the opportunity to talk with Hu Dehua, one of Hu Yaobang’s sons, may also count as an indication that the comparatively liberal factions in the party leadership were at least as sick of Bo Xilai’s revolutionary operas, as were the Xi supporters.

Garnaut, two weeks after Wen’s press conference, in an indirect account of his conversation with Hu Dehua*):

Hu Dehua told his father how pessimistic he felt about his country’s future. Hu Yaobang agreed that the methods and ideologies of the 1987 anti-liberalization movement came straight from the Cultural Revolution. But he told his son to gain some historical perspective, and reminded him that Chinese people were not joining in the elite power games as they had 20 years before. He called the anti-liberalization campaign a “medium-sized cultural revolution” and warned that a small cultural revolution would no doubt follow, Hu Dehua told me. As society developed, Hu Yaobang told his son, the middle and little cultural revolutions would gradually fade from history’s stage.

From there, everything went fast. Still in March, Bo was dismissed as Chongqing’s party chief. He also lost his alternate membership in the politburo. In summer 2012, his wife Gu Kailai got her commuted death sentence, and in September 2013, Bo was sentenced to life in prison – based on the usual charges for unrigged politicians: corruption.

Is there a Chongqing Heritage?

At first glance, Bo Xilai’s “populism” or “Maoism” is finished. But Bo counted as a champion of many Chinese from the political left. A comment in German weekly Die Zeit, in September 2013, saw the verdict against Bo as a signal from the top that resistance against economic reform was futile.

To assess Bo Xilai’s political heritage objectively. The CCP may be beyond the era when beaten opponents were airbrushed from all photos and records. But the question about how publicly or privately-owned China’s economy should be might impose itself with any questions about Bo Xilai, and the now seven-member standing committee of the politburo can’t use such questions.

A political scientist of Beijing University, He Weifang (贺卫方), hinted at problems in assessing the Chongqing Model’s performance, from 2007 to 2012:

It is generally believed that the so-called “Chongqing Model” is mainly shaped by three aspects: “red culture” on the political level, “targeted actions against dark and evil forces in Chongqing“, and the reduction of the income gaps between the poor and the rich. The most criticized aspects are the former two, although there is support for the two of them in Chongqing and elsewhere. The third aspect isn’t that controversial. However, all data published concerning the efficiency of the measures taken to narrow the income gap are actually issued by the Chongqing authorities, and therefore lacking neutral assessment. Also, we can see that the whole process is strongly government-led, whose focus isn’t on creating a market logic of equal opportunities. If this approach will or will not lead to mistakes in financial policies, including the rural land policies‘ impartiality, is also questionable. And then there are concerns about life today being lead on future earnings, short-term inputs being made to curry favor with the public, which may come at high future costs.

答:一般认为,所谓的重庆模式主要由三方面内容构成:政治层面上的红色文化,执法层面上的“打黑除恶”以及民生方面的缩小贫富差距。最受诟病的是前两者,虽然在重庆和其他地方,似乎也有一些人人对于“唱红”和“打黑”表达支持。第三方面内容相对较少争议。不过,那些举措究竟对于缩小贫富差距产生了怎样的效果,目前得到的信息都是由重庆当局发布的,缺少中立的评估。另外,我们可以看到整个过程是在政府强势主导下进行的,其重点并非创造机会均等的市场逻辑。这种做法是否会带来财政决策中的失误,包括重庆所推行的农村土地政策的公正性,都是大可怀疑的。还有寅吃卯粮的隐忧,短期内的高投入讨好了民众,但是却需要未来付出巨大的代价。

If Bo Xilai was a populist, one of Donald Trump’s kind, or Putin’s, or Neil Farage’s, or whoever, one has to ask oneself how much influence he has maintained over Chinese politics to this day. After all, populists like Geert Wilders aren’t ineffective, merely because they can’t lay their hands on the imperial regalia.

When looking at European populism – that’s only a snapshot, of course -, one can get the impression that populists may not be elected, but they do leave marks on politics, from Merkel’s Willkommenskultur back to the traditional Christian Democrats’ policies, and Britain’s Brexit, implemented not by its original proponents, but by Theresa May, who had used to be a lukewarm supporter of Britain’s EU membership.

Populism is hardly ever the common peoples’ business, but that of the elites. The battles are fought within the political class, as observed by Hu Yaobang in the late 1980s. That is about as true in Europe. However, these battles within the superstructure may create or intensify certain trends in the public mood – and once policies have moved sufficiently into the “populist” direction, the support for these parties wanes, and the electorate turns back to the long-established parties. After all, Joe Blow doesn’t want to look like an extremist.

When Xi Jinping announced China’s new role as a guardian of free trade at the Davos forum in January, German Handelsblatt China correspondent Stephan Scheuer hailed the party and state leader’s “dressing-down for populists”. In Davos, Xi had become “a pioneer of fair-minded globalization”.

What could be beginning to show in China is a comparatively strong Maoist component in propaganda, as long as this doesn’t come at the cost of China’s privileged, and as long as this doesn’t require substantial reallocation of means or wealth to poor classes of population, or laggard regions. But whenever the name “Bo Xilai” should appear in any token event, the exorcists will be just around the corner.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

China’s rising Aggression against Taiwan – is there anything we can do to counter it?

Nigeria told Taiwan earlier this month to move its de-facto embassy from the capital Abuja to Lagos, the country’s biggest city and its capital until 1976, and seat of the federal government until 1991. According to the Chinese foreign ministry,

Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama told journalists after reaffirming the One-China Policy at a joint press conference with visiting Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, that Taiwan will now have to function in Lagos with a skeletal staff.

One could condemn the decision of the Nigerian government, who have reportedly been promised $40 bn Chinese investment in the country’s infrastructure, and the Taiwanese foreign ministry did just that.

But there will always be governments who are too weak to be principled – and most governments worldwide, and especially those of “developed” and powerful countries, have long played along with Beijing’s “one-China policy”. Big or small countries’ decisions are based on “national interest” (whichever way national interest may be defined).

Still, what Nigeria is doing to Taiwan shows a new quality in harming the island nation. A Reuters report on January 12 didn’t try to “prove” Beijing’s driving force behind the Nigerian decision, but quotes a Taiwanese perception that would suggest this, writing that Taiwan sees the “request” to move its representative office from the capital as more pressure by China to isolate it.

Reuters also wrote that

[w]hile economic ties between the mainland and Taiwan have grown considerably in recent years, their relations have worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, who heads a pro-independence party, was elected president of the island last year.
Beijing has been stepping up pressure on her to concede to its “one China” principle.

In fact, this isn’t just a move to make Taiwan “lose face”, or to re-emphasize the – in Beijing’s view – inofficial nature of Taiwanese statehood and sovereignty. This is an attempt on Taiwan’s lifelines, even if only a small one – for now. If Taiwan has to reduce staff at one of its embassies, simply because Beijing wants the host country to bully Taiwan, this affects Taiwanese trade. And this means that Beijing is making fun of a World Trade Organization member’s legitimate interests.

Looking at it under less formal aspects, this move via Nigeria is also an aggression against Taiwan’s democracy.

The Tsai administration’s position during the past eight months hadn’t even been “provocative”. All they can be blamed for is that they didn’t bow before Beijing’s hatpole, an alleged “1992 consensus” between the Chinese Communist Party and the Taiwanese National Party (KMT). In her inaugural speech in May, President Tsai Ing-wen still acknowledged the fact that there had been KMT-CCP talks that year, and the role the talks had had in building better cross-strait relations. But  she pointed out that among the foundations of interactions and negotiations across the Strait, there was the democratic principle and prevalent will of the people of Taiwan.

It seems that this position – legitimate and reasonable – was too much for Beijing. This should be food for thought for everyone in the world who wants the will of the people to prevail.

J. Michael Cole, a blogger from Taiwan, wrote in September last year that China’s leadership

behaves very much like a 12-year-old: pouting and bullying when it doesn’t get what it wants. To be perfectly honest, it’s rather embarrassing and hardly warrants the space and scare quotes it gets in the world’s media. […]

Why the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has kept at it for so long is because we, the international community, have allowed it to do so. From the hallowed halls of academia to the media, government agencies to the public sphere, we have allowed fear to regulate how we interact with China, with ourselves, and with the rest of the world.

His conclusion: we – and I assume that by “we”, he refers to all freedom-loving people who cherish democracy – need collectively stiffer spines, ; the times when we let the authoritarian-child determine what’s in our best interest should come to an end, not just in the political sphere but in other areas, including the embattled field of free expression, where the 12-year-old has been making a mockery of our proud traditions in journalism and academia.

I wasn’t sure if I agreed when I read this, months ago. Yes, it is true that China’s dollars are corrupting. But aren’t all dollars corrupting, if you are corrupt? Who forces us to take them? I’m wondering if South Africa in the 1980s would have faced sanctions if their white government and elites had had to offer then what Beijing has to offer now. And in that regard, I believe we should see clearly that Western countries frequently put their positions on sale easily, when they are offered the right price.

That was  a main factor in America’s motivation, in the 1970s, to acknowledge Beijing’s “one-China policy”. That’s why the EU is nearly spineless when it comes to interaction with Beijing. And that’s why Taiwan’s own elites are frequently eager to do business with China, even if this limits the island republic’s political scope further.

All the same, China’s measures against democracy are uniquely aggressive in some ways. Above all, they are completely shameless. If they serve their country, Chinese people may advocate them without the least disguise – because it serves China. When an American politician – Donald Trump – does a similar thing by ostensibly “putting America first”, he faces a bewildered global public who can’t believe their own ears. And yes, censorship and records where only the victor writes the history books and declares the defeated parties villains is part of hallowed Chinese tradition. There were Chinese people who were openly critical of that tradition during the 1980s or the 1990s. As far as I can see, there aren’t too many of them any more. (I’m not sure there are any left.)

Chinese “public opinion” may debate measures to optimize business, or CCP rule. But there are no competing visions in China. There is no public opinion. There is only guidance toward totalitarianism.

Can governments play a role in controlling China’s aggression against democracy? Not in the short or medium term, anyway. Any such movement has to start from the grassroots. And it won’t be a terribly big one, let alone a “collective” one, as Cole appears to hope.

But every right move is a new beginning, and a contribution to a better world. We can’t boycott China, and if we could, it might amount to a tragedy.

But we can make new, small, decisions every day: is this really the right time to arrange a students exchange with China? Why not with Taiwan? Is an impending deal with China really in one’s best interest? Could an alternative partner make better sense in the long run, even if the opportunity cost looks somewhat higher right now?

The CCP’s propaganda, during the past ten or twenty years, has been that you have no choice but to do business with China under its rule, no matter if you like the dictatorship and its increasing global reach, or not. The purpose of this propaganda has been to demobilize any sense of resistance, of decency, or of hope.

We need to take a fresh look at China.

As things stand, this doesn’t only mean a fresh look at the CCP, but at China as a country, too. During the past ten years, the CCP has managed to rally many Chinese people behind itself, and to discourage dissenters, apparently a minority anyway, from voicing dissent.

A new personal and – if it comes to that – collective fresh look at China requires a sense of proportion, not big statements or claims. It doesn’t require feelings of hatred or antagonism against China, either. We should remain interested in China, and continue to appreciate what is right with it.

What is called for is not a answer that would always be true, but a question, that we should ask ourselves at any moment when a choice appears to be coming up.

As an ordinary individual, don’t ask how you can “profit” from China’s “rise” (which has, in fact, been a long and steady collapse into possibly stable, but certainly immoral hopelessness).

Ask yourself what you can do for Taiwan.

Happy new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The U.S. Democrats’ Red Herring: Blaming the Russians

Mattathias Schwartz of The Intercept suggests a statement different from the one US President Obama actually made at his last press conference. That statement, as scripted by Schwartz, would have deviated from the actual statement indeed. But it wouldn’t have provided America with moral and political leadership, as the teaser suggested.

The Intercept's presidential statement

The Intercept’s presidential statement

There’s no question to my mind that Donald Trump and his supporters (professionals and “ordinary people”) have made substantial contributions to brutalize the campaign, and political culture. But there is no question either that the Democratic Party’s establishment has shown its contempt for democratic principle, by pushing Hillary Clinton‘s nomination campaign, at the expense of Bernie Sanders‘. Clinton and her supporters showed quite the “sense of entitlement” once ascribed to China’s leader Xi Jinping.

That – not the Russian exposure of it – is the problem.

Were there American media that exposed the Democratic National Committee’s conduct? I haven’t heard of any. There was no Bob Woodward of our times who would have dug up that pit. The American media didn’t perform. They didn’t pick up their essential role. Moscow simply filled the vacuum.

Maybe that’s what Obama should have said (if he could have). He could have tried to talk some sense into those democrat functionaries (and press people) who are now trying to make the public forget their own role in their candiate’s undoing.

Obviously, there’s no reason to thank the Russian leadership for what they did. But there is no reason to flame them, either. America wasn’t treated like a banana republic this year, it acted like one.

If you want more of the same, shoot the messenger. But if you want democracy that works, do your homework.

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?

____________

Related

Why Wikileaks can’t work, Dec 1, 2010

____________

Monday, November 28, 2016

A few Thoughts about Castro

Fidel Castro, in the course of about half a century, became an icon for people who would have liked to challenge America’s leading global role. And he was hated by many Americans. When I asked an otherwise friendly American friend (by letter, back then) in the early 1990s why the embargo was still in place, I got a long and angry answer, as if I had I had trespassed. And when I made some not-too-critical, but not really reverent remarks about Castro the other day, I got an angry answer, too. What you get in a conversation about Castro really depends on your interlocutor (and, of course, on your diplomatic skills).

What is frequently ignored however, is the Cuban people. It is true that fear, intimidation and human rights violations has helped to keep the Cuban Communist Party in power. so have state and party propaganda. Decades of getting the same stories told over and over and over again, in school, the media, and  arguably by Grandpa at home, won’t fail to leave  traces on most human harddisks.

Few political leaders of the 20th and – so far – 21st century trigger as strong emotions as Fidel Castro does. Castro is idolized, and demonized. And more frequently than not, peoples’ reactions to his memory depend on where they belong, or who they side with: America, China, or Russia, for example.

It would take biographic research to judge Castro and his rule. It would require reading one or two biographies, at least. The information that daily mass media offer won’t provide insights into how Cuba has endured, or profitted from, Castro rule since early 1959.

But you wouldn’t run into too many people without clear-cut opinions about Castro.

That’s why countries and civilizations can be surprising to outsiders (and even to insiders). Things happen, and they may appear to be unlogical or bizarre. But they happen for reasons – good or bad -, and the driving forces behind them aren’t necessarily idiocy.

To understand Castro’s rise to power, and the reasons as to why the Cuban Communist Party has been able to cement its dictatorship to this days, we would need to walk the Cuban streets of the 1940s and 1950s, not those of the 2010s.

Research – scientific or journalistic – needs to take us there.

Monday, October 31, 2016

German FM Vietnam Visit: Counter-Balancing China?

“Vietnam is Germany’s important strategic partner”, Nhan Dan‘s Chinese edition quoted German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, in one of its headlines on October 29. Nhan Dan is the organ of Vietnam’s Communist Party central committee.

German foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier left Berlin on October 29 to begin a trip intended to strengthen the two countries’ strategic partnership.

德国外交部长弗兰克-瓦尔特·施泰因迈尔10月29离开柏林,开始启程对越南进行访问,旨在加强两国战略伙伴关系。

German foreign minister Steinmeier is leading a delegation with members in charge of economic and cultural affairs.

德国外长施泰因迈尔率领负责经济和文化事务代表团对越南进行为期三天的访问。

The German foreign minister sees Vietnam as Germany’s important economic, political, cultural and strategic partner. The head of Germany’s federal parliament, Norbert Lammert, visited Vietnam in March 2015, and Vietnam [then] state chairman Trưong Tan Sang’s visit to Germany in November 2015 strengthened the two countries’ relations further.

德国外交部将越南是为德国重要的经济、政治、文化战略伙伴。德国联邦议院议长诺贝特·拉默特2015年3月对越南进行访问和越南国家主席张晋创2015年11月对德国进行访问为两国关系增添了新动力。

In the framework of the two countries’ strategic-partnership action plan, Germany’s and Vietnam’s cooperation activities are developing further, in a variety of fields, with new projects being added every year. One of these important projects is the “German House”, under construction in Ho Chi Minh City, which is going to be a headquarter for German organizations and companies in Ho Chi Minh City.

在两国战略伙伴行动计划框架内,德国与越南合作活动在各领域上继续向前发展,每年都有新的合作项目。两国重要合作项目之一是在胡志明市兴建 “德国屋”,这里将成为在胡志明市德国组织和企业的总部。

Bilateral trade between Vietnam and Germany amounted to 10.3 billion USD in 2015, with German imports from Vietnam at eight bn, and exports to Vietnam at 2.3 bn USD. Major export products from Vietnam are footwear, textiles, farming and seafood products, electronic components, wooden furniture, etc.. Major import products from Germany are machinery, transport, vehicles, chemical products, and measurement instruments, etc..

越德两国2015年双边贸易金额达103亿美元,德国自越南进口80亿美元、对越南出口23亿美元。越南对德国主要出口产品是鞋类、纺织品、农海产品、电子零件和木家具等;越南自德国进口主要产品是机械、运输车辆、化学物品和化学仪器等。

On Sunday, Nhan Dan reported a visit by Steinmeier to a German company’s investment site in Haiphong. According to the newsarticle, the gypsum production site, built by German gypsum producer Knauf, is one of the biggest investment projects in Haiphong.

Vietnam’s foreign broadcaster Voice of Vietnam‘s (VoV) German service adds a short description of the Phu Lac wind farm.

Betram Lang, a MERICS researcher, wrote earlier this month that

[i]n times of rising diplomatic tensions in the South China Sea, the European Union (EU) tries to bolster the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) as a counterweight to China in the region. To this end, the EU has offered generous financial support to foster the regional integration process and sponsor the still politically toothless ASEAN secretariat. It almost tripled previous financial commitments to 196 million EUR between 2014 and 2020.

That however was proving difficult: While Cambodia has been positioning itself as China’s closest ally in South East Asia since at least 2001, other ASEAN countries have recently sought their own kind of ‘privileged relationship’ with the PRC as well.

China’s online media apparently don’t report Steinmeier’s Vietnam visit – most of the Chinese-language coverage appears to be from Vietnamese sources.

Before heading for Vietnam, Steinmeier reportedly called on Vietnam’s leadership for political reforms in Vietnam, an issue that Vietnam’s state-controlled media didn’t cover (not in Chinese, anyway).

In a speech at the opening ceremony for a German and European Law program of study at Hanoi Law University, Steinmeier came back to the topic of political reforms. Successful modernization required the rule of law, and a strong civil society, he said.

Steinmeier also addressed the South China Sea conflict – in a diplomatic way -, plus ASEAN:

For us, but for Vietnam with its important and further growing role in ASEAN and the United Nations, one thing is clear: Peace can only be secured when international law and politics work together. International law aims at guide power within tracks, and the powerful in politics must accept these tracks. The latest decision, based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, was an important legal step. What matters now is that the groundbreaking elements of the decision will gradually be turned into practice of international law.

Für uns, aber auch für Vietnam mit seiner wichtigen und weiter wachsenden Rolle in ASEAN und in den Vereinten Nationen ist jedenfalls eines klar: Frieden wird nur gesichert, wenn Völkerrecht und Politik zusammenspielen. Das Völkerrecht zielt darauf ab, Macht in Bahnen zu lenken, und die Mächtigen in der Politik müssen diese Bahnen akzeptieren. Der jüngste Schiedsspruch, basierend auf der Seerechtskonvention der Vereinten Nationen, war ein wichtiger rechtlicher Schritt. Jetzt kommt es darauf an, dass die wegweisenden Elemente des Schiedsspruches Schritt für Schritt auch völkerrechtliche Praxis werden.

Vietnam’s opposition to China’s naval strategy in the South China Sea has been stronger than that of other ASEAN nations. But geostrategic considerations are only one aspect of Germany’s Vietnam policy. Vietnam’s economy keeps growing fast, and East Germany and Vietnam in particular share a history of economic cooperation.

Deutsche Welle, once Germany’s foreign radio station, in a March 2015 report, commemorating fourty years of German-Vietnamese ties:

When that country [East Germany] collapsed, almost all its Vietnamese workers suddenly lost their jobs. They did not want to return to Vietnam because the employment prospects in their home country were very poor. The Vietnamese economic boom was yet to come.

Even so, the majority of these Vietnamese were still repatriated because they did not have a residence permit.

The conflict over contract workers and the regulation of old debts strained the German-Vietnamese ties for several years, according to Gerhard Will. “Only during the course of negotiations, it became clear to both countries what they could offer a lot to each other,” writes Will, who has been a Vietnam expert and worked at the German Institute of International and Security Affairs in Berlin.

[…]

In 2011, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung signed the “Hanoi Declaration” to establish a “strategic partnership” between the two countries. The two leaders expressed the desire to continue economic partnership and cooperate in the areas of development policy, environment, education and science. The German-Vietnamese University in the city of Ho Chi Minh, founded in 2008, is considered a model project in terms of bilateral cooperation.

There is also a West German-Vietnamese history. 33,000 immigrants may not sound like a big number these days, but it did in the 1970s and 1980s.

%d bloggers like this: