Toughts, news and small talk mainly concerning China from a berlin perspective



Seems its high time for the Japanese government to fire their PR-guys and get new ones, if they really want to join the UN security-council. Or perhaps just rethink its relation to history. Danwei wrote:

A worldwide Chinese petition against Japan getting a seat on the UN Security Council has collected 16 million names in its first week. The original aim was 20 million by August. Names are collected via SMS and on the China918 website.

ESWN had interesting posts about the age-old schoolbook issue, that heats emotions in east Asia ritually every four years. The Spiegel wrote about the growing tension between China and Japan and Japans increasing isolation in East Asia earlier:

Premier Koizumi's regular visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine, which commemorates Japan's war dead, are invariably seen as provocations by Japan's neighbors. The monument also honors Japan's leading war criminals, executed in 1948, as Shinto deities. In protest against such visits, China's President Hu Jintao is stubbornly refusing to meet with Koizumi either in Beijing or Tokyo.

The two Asian leaders would have a lot to talk about -- the nuclear program of North Korea's Stalinist dictator Kim Jong Il would, for example, be high on the list. Instead, China and Japan continue to eye each other suspiciously across the straits. Each antagonizing the other and neither willing to budge.

Everybody who is interested in how China and Japan dealt with the war crimes (especially the Nanjing Massacre) in their history books, read this:

Joshua A. Fogel (Ed.),The Nanjing Massacre. In History and Historiography, 2000.



Virtual Diamond Sutra

For all of you who are interested in chinese history. British library has a virtual copy of the Diamond Sutra, the world' earliest, dated, printed book online.


Chinese media Janus, Li Xiguang

More news from notorious Prof. Li Xiguang, Chinas Media expert Nr. 1 (wrote about him
earlier). China Herald has a post on him, inspired by ESWN. According to the sources they cite Prof. Li seems to be quite flexible in his opinion towards freedom of speech depending to whom he speaks, taking a strong stand for press freedom when he talks to foreign media and same time calling on the own government to tighten the control of the internet. ESWN has a link to an interview with him, where he states:

The most important task is social justice. Only based on social justice, can people be united together. We should insist on humanism spirit, which was also an important part of our tradition. We can reconstruct the value system of Chinese people with the help of our tradition. We should find the common ground of Chinese people’s belief.

Though this sounds quite reasonable I doubt that Prof. Li's definition of "humanism spirit" is the same as that of most western readers.
Also I wonder what kind of "value system" he has in mind, remembering a statement in a BBC interview. There he said, analyzing the problem of corruption, that in past times people had fear, due to Confucianism, Buddhism, or communism. Today their god is money and they have no fear.
Now, for me this sounds like the parole for an authoritarian sytem. Just frighten people enough and they won't do bad things.



German Humor

Yesterday I had to discover, that the bad reputation, German humor has, even made it all the way to china (at china heralds comment section bingfeng wrote:
never expect a german people so hurmous).

Admittedly the topic is a difficult one and even experts sometimes have problems to distiguish truth from untruth. Some say there never existed something like German humor, and the whole thing about it was made up by the British to get rid of their own bad jokes. Others say, citing roman sources about the barbaric habit of joke orgies in German villages, there existed something like it once, but that it has been lost long ago. An American friend of mine once bumped into a German joke in a back alley in Mexico City and had a really good time with it. Unfortunately he couldn't remember how to get back there next day.

Misunderstandings about German humor might also result from the German language itself, as popularity ratings show it in a close race with ancient Greek, winner not decided yet.

Germans on the other hand become more and more popular all over the world. There even is a whole new service industry developing around them. Don't believe me? Check this out: Rent A German




Spring has come to berlin!



Beijing scores own goal

PLA Propaganda Poster

Looks as if the Chinese anti-secession law causes European politicians to rethink the lift of the arms-embargo towards china. Strange thing is, that the majority of Chinese, leaders as well as normal people, don't seem to understand what the whole fuss is made about. A commentary in the GUANGMING RIBAO says, those European politicians are shortsighted, accuses them to treat china with bias, and talks of the arms embargo as a discrimination (link by chinablätter). Also Chinese I know found it odd, that so many of their German friends told them they think the law is a bad thing.

Well as there are a lot of reasons for the European reaction for sure, one major point (particularly for normal people) might be the two world wars, and that many Europeans and especially Germans have realized that two reasons for them were nationalism and chauvinism. So Europeans today are quite sensitive towards nationalistic tones like the ones recently aired in Beijing (but also towards those that have been aired in Washington for some time). Also the affirmation the whole thing will appease the Taiwan straights, and nobody wants to buy weapons in a large scale, is not that convincing.

The SPIEGEL wrote about the lift of the arms embargo to be the next major threat to trans-Atlantic relations some time ago. Perhaps the anti-secession law prevented a new crisis between Europe and America. Another interpretation might be, that it is just a good excuse for European leaders, preventing them from loosing face, as they already were convinced by the

Americans, the NYT points out. I anyway wondered for some time how German chancellor Schröder wanted to convince the Green party to accept the lift of the arms embargo, cause it triggers two neuralgic points in the green worldview: selling arms and human rights.




Seems childhood is over for this blog, as it had its first date (comment) yesterday. All good wishes from my side.



Zedong's children seek their fortune

I'm sometimes puzzled how western journalists who seem to feel the urgent need to write something about china still mix up the easiest things; names are the most common example. Is it so hard to notice that Chinese put the family name first, like everybody knows it from Mao Zedong? Will Hutton of The Guardian Unlimited has a problem with history in his article "Mao's children seek their fortune":

After the sack of Nanjing in 1841, then imperial capital of China, the British secured what the Chinese still call the unequal treaty; Britain won control of Hong Kong and the right to trade freely in opium; the Chinese got nothing. And it was at Nanjing in 1937 that the Chinese were again and more bloodily humiliated by foreigners. The Japanese murdered an estimated 300,000 civilians and soldiers in an atrocity whose calculated, indifferent cruelty rivalled a Nazi death camp, but to which the world has been curiously indifferent.

Unfortunately capital of China in 1841 was Beijing and that already for some time. If the most simple historical facts aren't accurate I wonder how far I can trust his analyses (article is about the challenges Chinese economy is facing)?


Mentioning the Nanjing-Massacre and the Nazis leads me to the history of John Rabe (aka "the good man of Nanjing") a Nazi who along with some twenty other foreigners rescued many Chinese when the Japanese attacked Nanjing in 1937. He is an example of how paradox and absurd history and humans can be sometimes. Been committed to an inhuman and criminal regime on the one side and opposing inhuman and criminal acts on the other side doesn't go along with normal black and white schemata of good and evil. Perhaps he is an example of how patriotism can make people blind towards their own nations crimes.



Sauna Art in Berlin. Xu Tan's "Air is good"

Friday evening it was culture-time for me. I went to the opening of the exhibition "Air is good" of Chinese artist Xu Tan (Link, Link) in Berlins daadgalerie. Actually, exhibition is not the right word as there is only an installation. What you see are two videos of interviews with Germans and Chinese, talking about their views how the two societies changed in the last 15 years and in the middle of the room you have a glass-sauna. Everybody is welcomed to sauna in public – bathrobes and towels are provided and there even is a shower. The sauna is supposed to symbolizes the growing wealth of china, which absorbs critical thought.

I'm not that big into modern art and mostly I find the explanation that is given with it quite constructed, so I wasn't that impressed; maybe also due to the fact, that on such opening-events the talk and the free wine mostly are more important than the art itself. It was a nice event anyway and there were also people enjoying themselves having a sauna.

Seems that I become a culture-maniac, cause today once again is exhibition-time. I will have a look at "About Beauty", wrote about it earlier.



"True Beauty for us is Wealth"

At Berlins Haus der Kulturen der Welt (house of the cultures of the world) an event called "About Beauty", which focuses on concepts of beauty, with particular emphasis on China, will take place soon.

Chinese Choreographer Jin Xing also participates and is quoted in an article in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (abstract of the article in English at signandsight):

"Chinese bodies look weak in comparison with beautiful African bodies. And the Chinese don't have the overriding sense of envy and justice that makes the bodies hard and the people rich in the West. But the concept of spending money in a fitness studio is still utterly alien in China. The Chinese work hard because true beauty for us is wealth."

Now that is a statement and a nice bunch of stereotypes too. Didn't know that the wealth of the West is built on a sense of envy and justice. Wonder if she is aware of the fact, that she confirms the prejudices some people in Southeast Asia have about Chinese being only interested in money. Also I would say that at least some Shanghaiers are working hard because they want a membership in a fitness studio.

About Signandsight: is the English version of the German online cultural magazine Perlentaucher. provides a lively and informative view of cultural and intellectual life in Germany. In Today's Feuilletons, which appears every day (Monday-Friday) at 11am, summarizes the highlights of the cultural pages of the major German language newspapers. Where possible, we link to the articles themselves.
In the Features section, we publish a selection of especially interesting articles in English translation: two or three a week. The Features are saved in an archive, sorted according to both date and topic.


Wen Jiabao censored

About the news in the NYT, that what Wen Jiabao said at a press conference did not match with what was reported by Chinese media, Fons of China Herald wrote:

Maybe I'm too long here but I could not find it that surprising. I had almost ten years ago a talk with a Xinhua reporter who was covering the diplomatic beat and he was very open on how the systems works. "Even our highest leaders can make mistakes when they talk to foreign guests, even when they read a prepared speech," he said. "Mostly such a mistake is already corrected by the translators and since most of the foreign guests do no speak Chinese, they will not notice the difference. When also the translators do not notice the mistake, the media will bring a correct editions of what our leader should have said."

So you foreign correspondents, next time you go to a press conference take your own translator with you. Funny imagination, a room full of journalists, each one with his own translator whispering in his ear.
Wonder how many different versions of the press conference that would produce?


Green GDP wishful thinking?

When I watched BBC’s Talking Point on Sunday (13.5.05) Xiong Lei, Director of the Chinese News Agency, asked about environmental pollution, mentioned the “tempest” of environmental protection, that started end of last year, and the green GDP. Today the Asian Times has an article about the topic:

State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) Vice President Pan Yue told a press conference on February 28 that SEPA and the National Bureau of Statistics would enforce a pilot green GDP accounting system in 10 provinces and municipalities in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei. This would mark China's first step to evaluate the tremendous cost of environmental pollution in the course of its breathtaking economic progress.

and later

Recently, it was reported that the green GDP indicator could be listed as a yardstick to measure the performance of officials and party cadres in 2007.

That would in fact be a big advantage, but it seems that not everybody is pleased with these plans, or at least skeptical about it:

National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) spokesman Zheng Jingping admitted, "as for the green GDP project, the concept is good but the practice will be difficult". He acknowledged that "the idea of green GDP indicates that the social awareness of environmental protection and resource conservation has been awakened", but warned that "the public has pinned too much expectation on the system".


Skeptics already smell a subtle divergence between the SEPA and the NBS over the effects of the new accounting system.

I’m also quite skeptical if these plans will work, even if they have backing from the top of the government. Money has a big seductive power, and with environmental protection mostly you don’t make money. There are a lot of people who have financial interests in opposing the introduction of the Green GDP, and those who suffer under the pollution have no voice. Also the power of the central government isn’t that big on local level, and the decisions, that lead to the severe state in which the environment of China is, are made at provincial and regional level, as the article also mentions.
So it doesn’t look that good for the Chinese Greens, but good luck to them anyway and lets hope for the best.



Has the BBC been cheated?

China Herald wrote:
Last week was a China week for the BBC and the famous discussion program "Question Time" in what was supposed to be an independent audience, that could participate in the discussion. Doubts is rising whether the audience was really that independent. "The translators of our mayor have been making overtime," jokes one of my well-connected friends, who saw the tape. "There were many familiar faces in the audience. I think the BBC has been cheated."

Rather interesting discussion anyway. For all who did not see it the link here .
If you want to see a handpicked audience watch Talking Point with Lei Xiong, Director of the Chinese News Agency, Professor Xiguang Li, and some media students with really though questions. I especially like the Professor, who seems not only to dislike all foreign media but is also critical about the Chinese media cause it's becoming more and more commercialized and due to that fact doesn't report the really important stories, like SARS. So it was not the provincial government who first suppressed reports, but the commercialized media. Interesting, isn't it?



Would Lincoln attack Taiwan?

Another nice example how things can get a little mixed up in our postmodern times. According to the HK Standart those Chinese in favor of the anti-secession bill have a new national model-hero, and this time it even is a foreigner. His name - Abraham Lincoln.
The argument goes, that as Lincoln opposed a secession of the southern states of the USA and went to war to prevent it, today the government of mainland China fights heroic against a secession of Taiwan, and also has the right to attack Taiwan if there are steps undertaken to declare Taiwanese independence.
Isn´t that a great piece of spin?




After yesterday creating this blog, today its time to try something new: write in Chinese. Topic stays the same, Pan Yue (潘岳). It works, great : ) .
I was a little bit surprised how clear and drastic he described the environmental problems China is facing -after all he is a high rank government official and not some kind of Greenpeace activist-, so I did a little research on him. According to the International Herald Tribune, which had an article about him in September 2004, he "has become known nationwide for his outspokenness"; a
nd he has big plans for the future. In an article in Renminwang (thanks to chinablätter for the link) he describes himself as a "Sustainalist" (可持续论者), says that the year 2005 will be the "Year of environmental protection" and announces a "tempest of environmental protection" (环保风暴).
Good luck to him. Looking forward to here more from him.



Ecological Hardliner goes west

Seems that environmental protection becomes more and more important to the Chinese government. At least if you believe that Pan Yue (Deputy Director of the State Environmental Protection Administration of the PRC) means what he says. Running Dog already wondered some time ago if the environmental watchdog has grown some teeth, and now Pan Yue even gives interviews to western media in which he states that "The Chinese Miracle Will End Soon" (in the English edition of the German based magazin Spiegel) if there is nothing done about environmental pollution. Lets hope he not only means what he says, but also has the means and the backup to do it.



The fellow earthling this blog is dedicated to.