This is a reprint from an old post that I think readers of this blog might find interesting.
Whatever the merits of democracy, I’m more curious about its evangelical preachers.
Democracy is a vague term, like “Christendom”, “Islamic World”, or “the West”. Besides the democratic banner, the political landscapes of the USA, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, India. . . don’t share many common features. In the end, I suspect Democracy could be fantastic for some, at some point in time, and disastrous for others, under different circumstances. Any system, like its human inventors, would age, turn insufferable, then die one day. Some reincarnate, others don’t.
The brute force and passion with which democracies export their faith is bewildering, reminiscent of colonial missionaries. Is the missionary complex simply a hangover from the religious past? Could there be an element of altruism in their uncontrollable urge to share a great social discovery with the rest of humanity? But. . . come on, these are ruthless invaders, operators of 21st Century torture camps and lynching drones so. . . Continue reading Democracy Mission – A Conspiracy Theory→
I have been pretty flabbergasted by how the Western media has been so quick to line up to tote the U.S. government line on Russian or pro-Russian rebel involvement in the downing of Malaysian Flight 17 over Ukraine. The media blitzkrieg has been very impressive, so have the U.S. drumming up for another round of sanctions. While I don’t think the stakes this time is that high as say the U.S. government / media deception about Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc. in the sense that this round of infowar is not really going to lead to major human catastrophe, I am certainly watching with trepidation on how the same machinery of diplomatic, media, and sanctions blitzkrieg can be directed against China.
Well, while still in my doldrums, I suddenly came upon an article that shows that despite the urgent attention on Russia and tragedies unfolding in Gaza, the media arms against China are fully cocked and ready to go!
Hong Kong saw another big demonstration on July 1, when more than 100,000 people marched against the local government and Beijing. Despite having established an even closer economic relationship with mainland China since the handover, anti-Beijing sentiment has now become prevalent in the special administrative region.
Globalization has brought new challenges for the protection of academic freedom and other faculty rights. In the operations of North American universities in other countries, administrators often refer to local customs, practices, and laws to justify practices that the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) would not tolerate on North American campuses. In 2009, our two organizations adopted a joint statement—On Conditions of Employment at Overseas Campuses—setting forth appropriate employment standards for overseas campuses of North American universities and stating our commitment to see that those standards are met.
Globalization has also meant that university administrators have welcomed involvement of foreign governments, corporations, foundations, and donors on campuses in North America. These relationships have often been beneficial. But occasionally university administrations have entered into partnerships that sacrificed the integrity of the university and its academic staff. Exemplifying the latter are Confucius Institutes, now established at some ninety colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. Confucius Institutes function as an arm of the Chinese state and are allowed to ignore academic freedom. Their academic activities are under the supervision of Hanban, a Chinese state agency which is chaired by a member of the Politburo and the vice-premier of the People’s Republic of China. Most agreements establishing Confucius Institutes feature nondisclosure clauses and unacceptable concessions to the political aims and practices of the government of China. Specifically, North American universities permit Confucius Institutes to advance a state agenda in the recruitment and control of academic staff, in the choice of curriculum, and in the restriction of debate. Continue reading US professors urge Western universities to end ties to China’s Confucius Institutes→
[Editor’s note: the English version of post was first posted on Huffington Post and can be found here; and the Chinese version can be found on Guancha.cn here]
SHANGHAI — A few weeks ago at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Shinzo Abe made a bold pitch to Asia to buy in on a new type of Japanese leadership. According to Mr. Abe, the peace that is at the foundation of the Asia Pacific’s unprecedented growth can no longer be guaranteed. Without naming China by name, Mr. Abe warns of a new danger that looms on the horizon. The Asia Pacific needs Japanese leadership and a new affirmation of “international law.”
These are heavy words for uncertain times. But should Asia buy in? In his speech, Mr. Abe talked extensively about The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, declaring his government’s strong support of the Philippines and Vietnam in their claims against China.
In addition to our post on “The Inconvenient Truth Behind the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands” by Han-Yi Shaw, the article “Deconstructing Japan’s Claim of Sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands” by Ivy Lee and Fang Ming in Japan Focus is also worth reading. The Shaw article focuses more on the political history surrouding the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands while the Lee-Ming article focuses more on the legal history.
Oh no … the Chinese government is at it again. The New York Times is running on its front page today an article with the ominous title “Chinese Government Tightens Constraints on Press Freedom.” Here is the full text of the article.
HONG KONG — China introduced new restrictions on what the government has called “critical” news articles and barred Chinese journalists from doing work outside their beats or regions, putting further restraints on reporters in one of the world’s most controlled news media environments.
Reporters in China must now seek permission from their employers before undertaking “critical reports” and are barred from setting up their own websites, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television announced in new rules Wednesday.
The conclusion of a 30-year, 38 BCM/year Sino-Russian gas deal has gotten considerable attention in the media recently. Not surprisingly, much of the coverage – especially in the western media – was emotionally charged, given that Putin’s visit to China & the deal signing coincided with the unfolding crisis in Ukraine. There was no shortage of rhetoric about Putin “making Russia a resource appendage of China” for “good PR”, as if being a resource appendage of the West is so much better. The tirade of rhetoric against this deal reminds me of the type of propaganda we saw when China started boosting trade and investment in Africa. This post will address some of the biggest misconceptions being propagated in the western (& even Russian) mainstream media, and seek to draw conclusions based on facts, rather than anti-Chinese xenophobia. This is a lengthy post, so for those who are not interested in the details, the bold text will give you an adequate summary. Continue reading 5 Popular Misconceptions about the Sino-Russian Gas Deal→
In the lead up to the “25th Anniversary” of the Tienanmen Square Incident of 1989, we are hearing everything again of how a great sad chapter of Chinese history has been – and continue – to be covered up. A politically activist museum even opened in Hong Kong earlier this month. Old, tired politically activists are freshly interviewed by the major Western media outlets again (Guo Jian by FT, for example). New books are published, as reported, for example, in this Washington Post piece.
Even though times have changed, the narrative has not. As 1989 fades ever back further to memory, Western pundits try to re-frame the issue more and more as a current freedom of speech issue. In the Washington Post piece linked above, for example, it is reported:
The contours of today’s brash, powerful China were shaped by decisions made in the immediate aftermath of the Tiananmen crackdown.
China’s leaders are personally vulnerable because they trace their lineage to the winners of the power struggle that cleaved their party in 1989. … The party’s ultimate goal is ensuring its own survival, and it has clearly decided that it needs to keep a lid on discussion about Tiananmen in public, in private and in cyberspace.
China’s online censors are busy scrubbing allusions, no matter how elliptical, to June 4. As the anniversary nears, judging by precedents set in recent years, the list of banned words and terms will grow to include “64,” “today,” “that year,” “in memory of” and even “sensitive word.” History is apparently so dangerous that China’s version of Wikipedia, Baidu Baike, does not have an entry for the entire year of 1989.
Just days ago, I stumbled across “Tiananmen,” written by the British poet James Fenton less than two weeks after the bloody repression. A quarter-century later, his words are still true, perhaps more so even than before.
Yesterday, the U.S. Justice Department indicted five Chinese nationals of the Chinese military, living in China, with cyber espionage in the U.S. against American companies. China has reacted emphatically, calling the allegations trumped up and hypocritical (see, e.g., this xinhua article).
The Justice Department has indicted five members of the Chinese military on charges of hacking into computers and stealing valuable trade secrets from leading steel, nuclear plant and solar power firms, marking the first time that the United States has leveled such criminal charges against a foreign country.
The landmark case paves the way for more indictments and demonstrates that the United States is serious about holding foreign governments accountable for crimes committed in cyberspace, officials said at a news conference Monday.
The Obama administration “will not tolerate actions by any nation that seeks to illegally sabotage American companies and undermine the integrity of fair competition in the operation of the free market,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said.
The criminal charges provoked a response from Beijing, which said Monday that it was suspending high-level cyber talks with the United States that began in June.
China has summoned the U.S. ambassador over the hacking charges. According to an online notice posted Tuesday by state-run Xinhua on Weibo, Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang summoned Abassador Max Baucus to complain that U.S. authorities published their indictment ignoring the strong protests by Chinese authorities. Continue reading A New U.S. China Diplomatic Row a la Devyani Khobragade?→
The U.S. and Phillipines leadership would like to portray their new relationship as rosy, strategic and deep. On the street though, talking to the average Joe, one might get a very different impression.
It’s never good to dip into one’s savings just to live large. Gluttony and largess – when one can ill afford it – is foolish … and a sign of decadence. To me, the U.S. so-called pivot to Asia – emblemized by President Obama’s trip to Japan – represents just that.
TOKYO — President Obama encountered setbacks to two of his most cherished foreign-policy projects on Thursday, as he failed to achieve a trade deal that undergirds his strategic pivot to Asia and the Middle East peace process suffered a potentially irreparable breakdown.
Mr. Obama had hoped to use his visit here to announce an agreement under which Japan would open its markets in rice, beef, poultry and pork, a critical step toward the trade pact. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was not able to overcome entrenched resistance from Japan’s farmers in time for the president’s visit.
This trip was supposed to show that the U.S. is back – and that the pivot is back on track. Yet, on the Washington Post, you will not see any article on Obama’s Japan trip on the top (home) page. On New York Times Home Page, you see just one (the one linked above) – with that one lamenting the visit’s failure.
The following link is an interview of Helmut Schmidt. It’s rare and refreshing to see a Western politician speaking so freely and honestly about Democracy. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/01/china-democracy_n_5067120.html
Based on the above interview, Bill, a thoughtful friend of mine, pretends to be an interlocutor shadowing Herr Helmut Schmidt with his own comments, excerpted from the interview. The result is well worth sharing:
I think it is astonishing and encouraging that you are required to change the leadership every 10 years and that you replace the elder leaders by younger ones. Nobody stays in power any more as long as Mao of Deng.
On the other hand as a foreigner, as the European as I am, I really have no in depth knowledge of Xi Jinping, and I don’t know what kind of people he has surrounded himself with.
One can compare China leadership selection and term limits with the world largest democracy India and world’s most powerful, the US. Even when a leader is voted out of power, the political dynasties of Ghandis, Longs, Roosevelts, Rockefellers, Kennedys, Harrimans, Bushes, etc. continue to exercise power. Family dynasties dominating established democracies morph into ossified institutions as enterprises, foundations and think tanks. They never have to share power with voters or pay attention to their grievances of social inequality. Someone like Sheldon Adelson and Koch brothers give hundreds of millions every two years to hire and fire politicians to consolidate their personal and family influence. One-man-one-vote is often just environmental noise in democratic politics.
China tries hard not falling into this trap. But her chance of success is also in doubt. Xi Jinping’s chooses his own advisors. However, all leaders, democratic or authoritarian, are beholden to kingmakers and the most powerful stakeholders. They could make or break Xi, though to a large extent he is less vulnerable than Western politicians. The 10-year term limit is meant to give Chinese leaders a longer leash to experiment. However well intended and altruistic, Mr. Xi must move the country forward in the next 10 years. That means he is still constrained by many rules of the perpetual power game. History may glorify leaders’ selflessness. Yet human condition and initial conditions of nations to a large extent define all leadership and social agendas.
April 15 is tax day for most Americans. It is the deadline for Americans – rich or poor – to file and pay their taxes. But this year, it appears, it is also smear China day. You may think with so much things going on in the world, things to do, that perhaps for this one day, China might be spared unnecessary smearing. But it is not to be so.
Last week, on April 15, both New York Times and Wall Street Journal ran two underhanded articles on China, assigning the blem for the unfruitful search for missing Malaysian airline MH370 squarely on China. Both papers reported that China was in big on the search for MH370 not necessarily because a majority of the victims were Chinese citizens, but really because Chinese leaders wanted to show off their new technology wares – to grab the International spotlight to to show off. Unfortunately, the Chinese bumbling not only made China look bad, but may have actually stymied the search. Continue reading Malaysia Airline MH370 – American Media Fanning the Flame Wars→
Some think this is just a purely economical issue. The Taiwanese students are not happy with the trade agreements agreed upon but not yet signed into law between the Mainland and Taiwanese side. This is understandable. College graduates in Taiwan has had a tough time getting (good) employment this past several years (decade?). Many – unfortunately – have come to feel protectionism – legal protection from globalism – is the best way to “compete” in the global economy.
However, this is oversimplification. If you listen to the speeches and talks within the protest, you have no doubt this is about partisan politics between KMT and DPP – and also emotional politics invoked against the Mainland. As I noted earlier in a comment in another thread, the main impetus of the protest is not about economics, but about the uneasy unsettled status of Mainland-Taiwan relations. The real reason is unification/independence politics.
But if this is all there is to the protest, I’d not write this post – as there is not much for me personally to write about. It’s just about normal democratic politicking – built upon base politics, misinformation, distortion, emotional rants, hateful or divisive rhetoric, and what I might call ethno/religious/identity politicking.Continue reading Taiwan’s Student Mob?→
It is often said Chinese government propaganda like Xinhua, People’s Daily, are highly agendaed and utterly unreliable. But how about America’s government propaganda? Here’s a recent example as illustration.
Recently, news of protesters killed in Maoming over a chemical plant made suspicious rounds – only in the usual propaganda outlets, Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, and ancillary outlets like Epoch Times, Boxun. These accusations of Chinese government killing protesters were accompanied with photos of citizen laying on the ground bleeding. However, a quick Google image-based search revealed these photos are not from the PX plant protest, but were victims of violent crime elsewhere in China:
Earlier today, I stumbled upon a curious article in the Washington Post titled “This is why Germany doesn’t want China anywhere near Berlin’s holocaust memorial”. According to the article, President Xi was (in short) barred from visiting German’s Holocaust memorial in Berlin because Germany was worried about embarrassing Japan.
Here is a copy of the article in full:
Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Germany for the next two days, meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German officials. It’s the third leg of Xi’s European Union trip, and an important one – as Deutsche Welle notes, Germany is China’s most important trade partner in Europe.
There is, however, once place that Xi isn’t wanted during his time in Germany: Berlin’s famous Holocaust memorial. Der Spiegel reported this month that German authorities had refused a request from Xi’s entourage for an official visit to the site. While the Chinese president may visit the site on his own, it will not be a part of the official itinerary and Merkel will not accompany him.
Visits to the Holocaust memorial, officially known as the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas), are a key part of a trip to Berlin for many visitors. Why wouldn’t Xi be granted an official visit? Continue reading What is a Holocaust?→
With the recent Student protests in Taiwan reached to a breaking point where the Students occupied the Legislative Yuan and Executive Yuan, it seems that the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA) might be open for renegotiation or disband it in its entirety. While it is within their right for the student to protest against the government about this Trade Agreement, but is it in their best interest to do so? The bigger question is if the student protesters don’t want to be ‘annexed’ by China, are they in danger of trade isolation because of protectionism in their country?
In 2010, China and Taiwan have agreed on the ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) and has brought a lot of benefit to Taiwan. It has allowed many companies for cheaper exports to China and Taiwanese companies to set up presence in China, but there are consequences to this trade agreement. This means that if a talented Taiwanese wanted a prospect for a decent job they will have to move in China to work, which cause this kind of brain drain away from Taiwan. Also, Taiwan have put much restrictions on Chinese citizens to allow them to work in Taiwan so Chinese companies are not as willing to set up presence in Taiwan.
Morever, even with the ECFA signed, it still needs more FTA’s with other countries, namely to compete countries like Japan and South Korea which already have global Conglomerates which Taiwan does not have. China is already following South Korea and Japan’s lead in developing giant companies and set up presence in many 3rd world countries, but faces many restrictions in Western Countries like in Huawei’s case. In CSSTA, it allows Taiwanese companies to start setting up presence in China and in doing so, they can go global. However, CSSTA must go the other way and allow less restrictions for Chinese companies to set up presence in Taiwan.
My fear is that if CSSTA is not passed, Taiwanese companies would be even less competitive and many of these Taiwanese companies would simply wither away leaving Taiwan dependent on Western Companies to set up their presence in Taiwan. This is what is happening in many of the ASEAN countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines. Even worse, if the radical right in Taiwan decides to cut off ties with China would be bad for China and worse for Taiwan.
PBS’s Frontline recently aired a documentary of behind the North Korea scene. Among all of the images of the expected misery, poverty, hunger, want, there was 1 segment which I thought was greatly overlooked. A quick exchange between a few North Koreans behind closed doors.
NARRATOR: Behind closed doors, even members of the North Korean elite have voiced unhappiness with the regime, like this businesswoman filmed at a private lunch.
1st MAN: All we’re saying is give us some basic rights, right? We don’t have any.
WOMAN:It’s not like that in China. In China, they’ve got freedom of speech, you know. They went through the Cultural Revolution.
2nd WOMAN: We North Koreans are wise and very loyal. An uprising is still something we don’t understand.
1st MAN: But even that’s only to a certain point.
WOMAN: There can’t be a rebellion. They’ll kill everyone ruthlessly. Yes, ruthlessly. The problem here is that one in three people will secretly report you. That’s the problem. That’s how they do it.
2ndMAN: Let’s just drink up. There’s no use talking about it.
The Western Net users picked up on the line, and laughed at the irony of what they could only attribute to as ignorance of a North Korean. But the real irony is, the North Koreans may have the better understanding of “Free speech” and “cultural revolution”, as do the Chinese who experienced it.
“Freedom of Speech” through “Cultural Revolution”. It couldn’t happen in North Korea, because the regime would “kill everyone ruthlessly”. Need to digest that a bit more.
Politics and Law is the business of Justice. And the Business of Justice, law and politics, is a very dirty business.
Periodically, whenever I feel safe and secure in the knowledge of my place in the world and in my profession as a lawyer practicing somewhat boring law fields, I go visit a court or a jail for a field trip. If you have never done it, in whatever country you live in, you should. Because the experience will remind you of the complexity of morality and fairness.
This is a brief note on elections – that bedrock of modern democracy.
A key and indispensable pillar of modern democracy – heck modernity – is the notion of elections. Elections, many believe, are a fundamental way for people to express their voice, and some believe even for people to engage in self-determination as envisaged in the Charter of the United Nations. Without elections, there can be no political accountability, no political legitimacy. Oh yes, there might be, once in a while, a government such as the one in China today that gains popular approval without elections, but such a political structure cannot be sustained. Over time, bad leadership inevitably arises. Non-democratic political orders provides no means for the people to get rid of a “bad emperor.” Over the long haul, the only way to rid governments that don’t serve the people is elections.
This may sound all fair and good except in real life, elections don’t work that way. In real life – elections rarely project a “people’s voice,” too often detracts from the routine act of governing. And the world has never witnessed – nor do I expect to witness – elections to overturn a truly unjust order.
I was casually browsing through Transparency International’s website, and noticed something peculiar – even though citizens of the Republic of Georgia have a much higher opinion of their country’s ability to deal with corruption in their country relative to their counterparts in the US, and a much more optimistic outlook on the future of public institutions, Georgia ranks 55th on the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), whereas the US ranks 19th (see 2013 rankings). Given the inherent difficulty in measuring actual levels of corruption, I understand why PERCEPTIONof corruption is widely considered the best available proxy. But IF public perception is so important, I still didn’t understand why Georgia is 36 places lower than the US, when its citizens have a far more positive perception about their country’s ability to contain corruption in virtually every category measured.
I did a little digging and asking around, and I found that CPI rankings actually placeLITTLE, IF ANYweighton public perception within the countries being ranked. If Wikipedia is accurate, CPI rankings are actually based on aggregates of “expert opinions” from select institutions that Transparency International (TI) deems “credible”:
“Transparency International commissioned Johann Graf Lambsdorff of the University of Passau to produce the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The 2012 CPI draws on 13 different surveys and assessments from 12 different institutions. The institutions are the African Development Bank, the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Economist Intelligence Unit, Freedom House, Global Insight, International Institute for Management Development, Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, Political Risk Services, the World Economic Forum, the World Bank and the World Justice Project.”
On the other hand, there is a section in TI’s website that covers public opinion, known as the “Global Corruption Barometer” (GCB), from which I noticed the peculiar results in Georgia and the US. This inevitably made me curious about Chinese public opinion of their own institutions compared to that of Americans, so I found the latest dataset (2010/2011) in which both the US and China were included, and here are some excerpts of the survey results, along with my personal interpretation thereof. What I found so far is that IF public perception is supposed to be a good proxy for actual corruption, then one CANNOT conclude that corruption is somehow worse in China than the US, at least not if you’re to believe the citizens of each country. Continue reading Perceptions of corruption in the US and PRC – not exactly what one would expect→
This is apparently a continuation of an old story of how China is “expelling” foreign journalists en masse. However, there are some conflicting details in the story itself.
“Withholding” visas means they accepted the applications, but won’t issue the the visas. However the article later explained, “Chinese authorities had initially accepted resident journalist visa renewal applications from The Times’ reporters. But they stopped doing so — and in some cases returned applications to reporters — after the newspaper ran a report last month detailing ties between JPMorgan Chase and a consultancy in China run by Wen’s daughter.”
If they won’t accept the applications, or return the applications, that’s not “withholding” the visas. The Applications were just REJECTED for some reason, usually technical. As previous story on this noted, the Chinese government had explained that the applications were rejected for technical /formality reasons.