Posts tagged ‘West’

Saturday, February 7, 2015

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

Shoe Me Quick

Kiss Me Quick (while we still have this feeling)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Note

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

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Related

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sunday/Monday Links: Taiwan’s foreign Trade, Scotland’s Referendum, Ilham Tohti on trial, and Taiwan’s President losing it

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Off into another week (a week actually starts on a Sunday)

Off into another week (a week actually starts on a Sunday)

1. Taiwan

William T. Wilson, a researcher with the Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center, and a regular advocate of “free trade”, warns that bilateral or multilateral international trade agreements tend to lock Taiwan out, and increase Taiwan’s economic dependence on China. Wilson recommends that America should launch formal discussions of a bilateral investment agreement (BIA) with Taiwan as soon as possible.

Obviously, Wilson has his eyes firmly set on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a project often described as an impeccable motor of future global economic growth, but also frequently criticised for levering out democratic principles, not least as TPP prescribes a right for foreign companies in member countries to sue national governments under international law (which would make domestic legislation count very little).

2. The usual Suspects

Chinese internet administration has shut nearly 1.8 million user accounts in what is called a pornography crackdown, reports Reuters.

3. Scottish Referendum

Foarp breathes a sigh of relief as the United Kingdom stays united, after days of unease.

The Financial Times had celebrated the referendum as a very civilized struggle (in English on September 12) or as a civilized struggle between unity and independence (in Chinese on September 16). The author was Mure Dickie. That was too much for Beijing – the referendum was, of course, deemed an internal UK matter by official China, but Dickie got a (semi-official – my take of it) reply from Zhi Zhenfeng (支振锋) of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Yes, it was surprising that the UK was willing to let eight percent of the population and about a third of the territory go peacefully, and the consultative, democratic and peaceful procedure deserved praise. In 19th-century America, a referendum had been replied to by war, and the Crimea referendum in March had been carried out under very different circumstances. All that made the British tolerance displayed in the referendum a precious thing.

However, that didn’t make the referendum a great example for the rest of the world. It did reflect particular Western values, which had brought Europe huge technological and economic progress (besides religious wars and separatist chaos), but even in Europe, the referendum was a contested approach, and even within the West, not every referendum and its results had been accepted peacefully. All too often, people in the West had been unable to foresee the long-term effects of their purportedly rational choices.

4. Ilham Tohti on Trial

Ilham Tohti, an Uighur economics professor, is reportedly on trial now, according to China Change, who published excerpts of an account written by Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan writer and a friend of Ilham Tohti. Tohti had been arrested in Beijing in January this year, and his whereabouts had been unknown afterwards.

5. Ma Ying-jeou’s 19th-Plenary-Session speech on September 14

And as this collection of links starts with Taiwan, let’s take a look at what Taiwan Explorer, usually not a terribly “political” blog, has to say about Ma Ying-jeou, Taiwan’s president who has moved into the third year of his second term in office this year.

Ma is president on the KMT ticket, and his party, if his comments during the KMT’s 19th Plenary Session are anything to go by, is quite afraid of the oppositional DPP. But electoral behavior in Taiwan looks somewhat mysterious, at least to me as an outsider. Only four months after having voted Ma into office for a second term, the president’s support and satisfaction rates dropped to numbers between 15 to 22 per cent, and it seems they never really recovered since. Indeed, Ma appears to be completely unable to understand his country’s public.

Nanfang Shuo (aka Wang Hsing-ching / 王杏慶), predicted in summer 2011 that word-games were no solution for the problems that lying ahead if Ma would win a second term as president. Ma’s speech a week ago seems to suggest that he won’t abandon the word games during his remaining time in office – but by now, they appear to have become offensive.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

How Logical, Mr. Palmer!

When business is going fine, CCP cadres are partners. When it’s going less well, they are mongrels [who] shoot their own people.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fourth “China Tibet Development Forum”: Come Sigh with Us

When this snow-covered highland which underwent so many changes is so frequently misrepresented or misunderstood, be it intentionally or unintentionally, more people should be helped to understand the real Tibet,

发生在这片雪域高原的沧桑巨变,一直承受着有意无意的曲解或误解,需要让更多人了解真实的西藏

People’s Daily suggested on Friday.

Having brought together nearly one-hundred guests from thirty countries and territories, the “2014 China Tibet Development Forum” reached a “Lhasa Consensus” that is rich in content and fruitful in its results. Admiring New Tibet’s economic and social development, the improvements in its people’s livelihood, cultural protection, ecological construction and other great achievements, the foreign guests, walking a bit of the snow-covered highland’s irreversible modern cultural development themselves, were all praise.

汇聚世界30多个国家和地区近百位嘉宾的 “2014·中国西藏发展论坛”,达成了内容丰富、成果丰硕的“拉萨共识”。赞赏新西藏在经济社会发展、民生改善、文化保护、生态建设等方面所取得的巨大 成就,赞叹雪域高原走上一条不可逆转的现代文明发展进步之路,是与会中外嘉宾的共同心声。

Myths about the old slave society and alarmist stories harbored and produced by some people meant that besides accelerating Tibet’s scientific development further, opening Tibet up to let more people know “the real Tibet” was necessary, People’s Daily wrote.

But there was a problem. News articles like People’s Daily’s seemed to suggest that every participant had shared the consensus – an impression that at least one participant rejected. Talking to the BBC through his mobile phone, Sir Bob Parker, a former mayor of Christchurch in New Zealand, said that he hadn’t endorsed the statement. While knowing that such a statement had been made, he hadn’t signed up. “I think a number of people who were there were a little surprised to hear about that statement.”

Another attendee, Lord Davidson of Glen Clova, a member of the House of Lords, was reportedly not available for an interview with the BBC.

According to Xinhua, the conference, the first “Tibet Development Forum” held in Tibet itself, was sponsored by the Information Office of China’s State Council and the regional government of Tibet. It was reportedly held on August 12 and 13.

The previous three forums had been held in Vienna in 2007, in Rome in 2009, and in Athens in 2011, according to Tibet Express, a Dharamsala-based website.

Let the world gasp in admiration, Xinhua suggested three years ago, itself all sighs of emotion.

It’s nice when you don’t need to do all the sighing alone – but apparently, some people still stubbornly refuse to join.

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Related

» Appeasing China, May 1, 2014
» Keep Calm, Feb 23, 2014
» Voice of Tibet, Feb 1, 2014
» Science in Action, Dec 26, 2010
» Thanking Sandrup’s lawyers, June 26, 2010
» Zap zap jé, Oct 16, 2009

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Saturday, August 9, 2014

But what if Russia invades (Eastern) Ukraine?

Every epic fail has its turning points. In many cases, historians, years after the events in question, identify turning points different from those presented by the media during the days of war itself.

In the view of many observers, a Russian intervention in Eastern Ukraine – yes, you might call that an invasion, but it seems to me that much of our media prefers the term intervention, unless if it is a Russian intervention – would be such a turning point. If it happens, and if it’s too big to be ignored, it would be one.

But maybe, even if such a Russian intervention, with or without a Western reaction, would happen, historians would identify another turning point: the day when Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko ended the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine on June 30 and vowed that Ukrainian government forces would “attack and liberate” the land. What else should a president of a sovereign country do? And, more interestingly, did he do that in accordance with wishes from EU capitals and Washington DC, or did he do so because he is, after all, Ukraine‘s president, and not the EU’s?

The West has helped you hitherto, Ukraine – but not necessarily by its surpassing favor. Obviously, Russia has its – yet to be determined – share in Ukraine’s agony, but so has the West, and not least Western media.

When a German veteran correspondent, Gabriele Krone-Schmalz, told German television on April 16 that she shared the unease of many German news watchers about an anti-Russian bias, it felt to me as if a general gag order on my country’s media had been lifted. Of course, I was wrong. First of all, there hadn’t been a gag order on reporting flaws or dishonest intentions in Western Ukraine policies. There had only been influences – from political parties who populate much of the boards of German broadcasters, for example. And my sense of relief wasn’t justified either because that interview wasn’t run at primetime, but on a Wednesday night, at 23:20 central European time.

Which is quite characteristic – that’s how media channels can claim that they are pluralistic. Broadcast this kind of stuff when most ordinary people have gone to  sleep. (I only got aware of the video on the internet.)

The media had described the situation as if the EU had only ideals rather than interests, Krone-Schmalz said. Even proposals from Moscow that would have been worth a debate had been labeled as “propaganda”. Rather than taking their positon as observers as neutrally as possible, many journalists had, for example, almost completely missed out on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement’s security aspects, particularly its article 7.

Indeed, I remember noone in the mainstream press taking issue at all.

It is understandable that Western governments want to have options now if Russia invades Ukraine – umm, starts an intervention, umm, sends a convoy with Russian humanitarian assistance to enable humanitarian aid in Donetsk or Luhansk. But to massage public opinion so as to ensure its support for whatever kind of option is wrong. It leads to further bad choices, just as past manipulations have led to the current standoff.

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Related

» Poland seeks Compensation, BBC, Aug 1, 2014
» Nobody dares to (German), Junge Welt, Aug 9, 2014
» Advocacy Journalism, Jan 26, 2012

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