Saturday, December 29, 2007

Response to E-mail Correspondent Explaining Circumstances of My Being at University in China in the 1970s

The circumstances of my attending Fudan were that when Canada and China established diplomatic relations in 1970, our foreign minister at the time, Mitchell Sharp, and Premier Zhou Enlai signed an agreement to send 10 students to each other's universities every year. I was on that program. The current Chinese ambassador to Canada, Lu Shumin, was one of those who came to Canada. At the time Fudan had only 13 foreign students --- conditions were quite bad for us at the time compared to universities in the America and Europe due to crowded living condition. no heat or running hot water (or even fans in the heat of summer). rationing, poverty, xenophobic and "class struggle" politics etc. I had a very good experience anyway. The guys in my class were mostly already 30 years-old and took good care to protect me from political hassles. For example when I would listen to the Voice of America Jazz Hour at night, they would report that I was listening to "our nation's radio broadcasts late into the night using headphones to improve my Chinese language ability and general knowledge of China" We always had to consult before they made their reports to make sure that they did not get into trouble if I was up to something bad --- which I was all the time by the standards of that repressive time --- seems we got away with it in the end. I am told by someone who later got access to my file that I was perceived as a model foreigner by the president's office, albeit a bit dimwitted (bu congming was how this was evidently expressed in the file).

Now most of those classmates are in Beijing and evidently much richer than me, but I am not sure where all the money comes from.

But the class keeps in close contact even after all these years which is very much cherished by me.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sadness at the Death of Benazir Bhutto

When I was a student at Cambridge University, Benazir Bhutto was at Oxford, and well-known to us as president of the Oxford Union. She was an outstanding member of our student cohort of those days in the mid-1970s. For reasons I cannot quite sort out, I feel quite affected by her untimely and tragic death earlier today.

Article about Problem of Lack of Accountability for Red Guard Atrocities

This article is worth checking out:

On Mao’s 114th Birthday, Past Catches Up to Former Red Guard Leader

Comment by me: Now 40 years later, it is not just the former Red Guards who are guilty of convenient forgetting. Even more seriously it is now evident that the Communist Party cadres who persecuted intellectuals in the Cultural Revolution will never be made accountable for what they did. After "rehabilitation" in the late-'70s and early- '80s the people who suffered confinement, physical abuse and loss of property, while cleared of all the false charges against them, returned to work units where the cadres complicit in their terrible ordeal continued with their careers as if nothing had happened. Many of these cadres later achieved considerable wealth after "opening and reform."

I have a lot of detailed information about the horrendous things that happened at Fudan University at that time as my teachers (including my thesis supervisor, Yan Beiming, the "#1 target for attack at Fudan") having just returned to campus from exile as farmers and manual labourers and prison talked long and with remarkable dispassion about what had happened to them in 1966 and thereafter. It was very apparent to me that they were still suffering from something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder to varying degrees in those years. This may have been the reason for their obsessive detailing of their Cultural Revolution experience to an outsider like me.

Whenever I return to the Fudan campus the shadows of memory of those terrible times haunt in a way that is almost palpable.

The young students on that campus today know little or nothing about this past.

Please read the comments on this posting below.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deaths by Disappointment in Shanghai?

I called Beijing this morning to speak with one of my room-mates from my student days at Fudan University . I wanted to get an up-date on the condition of one of our classmates who is currently being treated for liver cancer. Seeing as I have one of those "unlimited long distance to China" cheap 'phone plans now, we got to talking at length and the subject turned to prematurely deceased members of our class. He said: "You notice how all of them are natives of Shanghai? It is the culture there. There is so much pressure on Shanghai people to be a success. They die early because of disappointment."

I am not sure if this claim would stand the test of a social scientific survey. Another explanation is that the water in Shanghai has always had a bad flavour that one suspects indicates something unhealthy about it.

But my college room-mate`s theory for why our classmates from Shanghai evidently tend to die younger than those from other regions did give me pause for thought.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Prime Minister of Australia Speaks Chinese Very Well

Here is a link to an interview with the Prime Minister of Australia broadcast on Central China TV: _Minister_Kevin_Rudd_On_China _Central_Tv

This may be a harbinger of a future age when most foreign leaders will have Chinese as their first foreign language.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Ultimate Beneficiaries Speak in Euphemisms

Selection from article with this title published by Howard French in the International Herald Tribune on November 30, 2007 entitled "The thuggery behind the harmonious facade"

"In cities where huge urban redevelopment projects are underway, places like Shanghai, for example, residents who resist forced relocation without anything resembling due process are known to have been summoned to the police headquarters and retained there just long enough for the wrecking crews to knock down their homes in their absence.

Those who protest too much are often simply carted off to teach them a lesson.

Alternately, in another favored tactic, relatives are threatened that if their family member continues to be a nuisance, there could be consequences for others in the family.

Worse still is the contracting out of enforcement to genuine thugs. Here we're talking about local toughs who are deputed to take care of a "bad element," or suppress a demonstration using their fists or a few lengths of pipe. One could cite many examples, like Lu Banglie, who was badly beaten two years ago at Taishi, in Guangdong Province, when he brought a Western reporter with him to investigate the rigging of a village election.

This tactic, which seems to be spreading in China, has the advantage of deniability, since the police are usually careful to remain out of sight while heads are cracked.

Practices like these sometimes draw comparisons to the Wild West, but the more apt parallels belong to old-fashioned dictatorships like the Haiti of Papa Doc, with his notorious Tonton Macoutes.

. . .

Chinese leaders relish stability above all, and an image of harmony and of enlightened modernity. But like their ceaselessly renewed battles against official corruption, the likelihood of reining in contemporary thuggishness seems remote. This is because the very officials who speak in euphemisms when addressing it are its ultimate beneficiaries."

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rick Mercer: Canada's Leading Analyst of Canada-China Relations

An excerpt of a monologue delivered on The CBC Program "Rick Mercer Report" on Nov. 21, 2006:

There's no doubt about it: The major economic superpower on the block these days is China. So it's no surprise that a lot of people freaked out when they heard that the president of China wouldn't even meet with Stephen Harper at the APEC Summit.

But before anyone starts to think that Harper's screwed up one of the most important economic relationships that Canada has, let's be clear on one thing: It was the president of China who asked Harper out in the first place, and then when Harper said yes, China said no and then they said yes again.

It's like China asked Harper out on an Internet date but then changed its mind once he showed up and didn't look like his picture. Hey, that's no swimmer's build! Then when China realized how shallow it would look, it agreed to a date, but drinks, no dinner. Clearly, China is a very fickle mistress.

Now, to be fair, the Liberals were masters at this relationship.
Chretien spent more time in Beijing then he ever spent in Alberta. But that was then, this is now and Canada is definitely off China's Christmas list. Not that Christmas is legal in China -- but you get my point. And so what has the Harper government done that was so bad'
Believe it or not, they've been too critical of China on human rights.

Basically, a bunch of Tories went off to Vancouver and met the Dalai Lama, and China went crazy.

And you know what' Who cares' Last time I looked, Canada was a free country. And the Chinese economy can grow as fast as it wants to, but that does not change the fact that we can meet with whoever we want. We can worship who we want, vote for who we want. Heck, for the time being we can even go out and get married to who we want.

So China's little hissy fit is their problem, not ours. And sure we'll do business with China, but we're not going to act like China. Harper has done nothing wrong here; in fact, when it comes to China, for the first time in a long time, Canada's done something right.

Excerpted from Rick Mercer Report: The Book, Toronto: Doubleday, 2007

Vaclav Havel's Warning

In the course of my reading this morning by coincidence I have come across this quote by Vaclav Havel in 3 different sources:

"Totalitarian societies always appear strong. It looks like everyone is loyal and the regime will be here for centuries, that nothing will ever change, and it's easy to believe that. At some moment, though, the regime's invincibility facade cracks, people gain confidence that they can change things and soon it is all over. Without anybody organizing a demonstration, the passersby had turned into demonstrators who filled the main square in Prague."

There are minor variations in each, but even though one of them is in a book published by Random House in 2001, none of the 3 provide attribution beyond "as Vaclav Havel said." If anyone knows the primary source for this statement by Mr. Havel, I would like to know what it is.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Canada's Developmental Aid to China and Deep Shame at Our Incompetence

I just read Geoff York's report "Arrested Development: Museum latest example of Canada's difficulty in finding useful purposes for funds" in the Globe and Mail issue of November 27 page A23 (it can be read here). It is a devastating critique of the problem of CIDA not having enough people in China with the high level of language and cultural knowledge skills and commitment to "get down and dirty" to make sure that Canadian tax payer's money is effectively used in our developmental aid. The project in question was funded at $16 million. With that kind of money at stake, it is a travesty that we cannot get this right. My feeling is that this Inner Mongolia project had so much money at stake, if desirable to ensure it was not wasted, a CIDA officer should have relocated to the site living in a yurt and eating the local diet. But that at a minimum the officer should have learnt Mongolian to be able to understand and communicate with the local people. But hell would likely freeze over before any of those CIDA people would consider that as the right way to proceed

This sort of thing really makes me ashamed to be a Canadian. There are a lot of things Canada could be doing to redress pervasive systemic injustice that makes life so difficult for the Chinese underclass. But this CIDA-funded Museum does not even let in local people as they cannot afford to pay the admission.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Gail Asper invoked the words of former prime minister John Diefenbaker last night as she explained why she's spent thousands of hours fundraising and promoting the new Canadian Museum for Human Rights.

The managing director of the Asper Foundation and champion of the museum said she found a succinct answer in this Diefenbaker quote: "I am Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

On Not Having Much Understanding of China

I was chatting with a friend in England currently attending an international meeting on China that includes some Mainland officials and academics. Evidently whenever a non-Chinese participant presses a point that the Chinese Government cannot adequately defend, the Chinese delegation's retort of last resort is "you do not much understanding of China's situatiom" (dui zhongguode qingkuang bu da liaojie). But no further explanation is forthcoming, beyond "you are hurting the feelings of the Chinese people" (that one always make me cringe at such debasement of the nobility of the character of the Chinese people at large). The Chinese Government representatives regard this as the final word on whatever it is.

It seems to me that this retort of last resort is typically employed when the non-Chinese person has in fact too much understanding.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Ugly Chinaman" Concept

Lately one of my Chinese friends has been despairing over China's political future and citing Bo Yang's 1985 essay that was later put out in English as a book entitled The Ugly Chinaman and the Crisis of Chinese Culture.

I am not much taken with this essay. To my mind, the concept "Chinese" is actually highly diverse and dynamic, so it is hard to fairly characterize "Chinese culture" as a fixed and unitary category. Anyway these "ugly" aspects are less important than the so many "beautiful" aspects to Chinese culture.

In my own case, my study of ancient Chinese thought at Fudan University in the 1970s has permanently enriched my life. I experienced some ugly and unjust things then, but I attribute them as largely due to the circumstances of the remnants of the failed proletarian cultural revolution. The imposition of an oppressive false ideology had forced people to be dishonest with each other.

Under conditions of openness and freedom the inherent goodness of Chinese culture would surely prevail. "Ugly" aspects would be transformed by the fresh air of new democratic political institutions.

I hope I live to see that day.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Work Consigned to the Remainder Bin

Date: Mon, 12 Nov 2007 15:01:33 -0500 [03:01:33 PM EST]
Subject: Jen, Agape, Tao with Tu Wei-Ming

Dear Prof. Burton,

Global Academic Publishing at Binghamton University has a book entitled "Jen, Agape, Tao with Tu Wei-Ming" in which you contributed. We are currently in the process of reducing our inventory. At the moment there 48 copies in our possession. We would like to know if you have any suggestions as to where these books could be sold. Large discounts will be available for any buyer. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, we can offer them for $3.00 each plus shipping and handling. Thank you for your time.


Freddy Aguero
Marketing Assistant
Global Academic Publishing

Large Cash Payments and the Burden of Proof in Mulroney's $100,000 envelopes

I have a lot of indirect knowledge of corruption and cash transactions in the People's Republic of China. A lot of that sort of thing goes on there. Can't say I have any direct knowledge as so far no one has invited me to a hotel room to slip me a thick envelope of cash. When I have done some consulting work it has always been paid by cheque after the fact and those modest cheques tend to be rather slow coming in the mail.

In Canada all reasonable people would assume that anyone in receipt of a cash payment of $300,000 (even if spread over 3 envelopes) is up to something illegal. The issue in the Mulroney-Schreiber dealings is it is likely that everything was arranged in meetings with no written agenda or minutes taken. So based on my China experience, as long as Mr. Mulroney and the others present in the hotel rooms, parliamentary office, and cottage on Harrington Lake, where Mr. Mulroney met with Mr. Schreiber stick to the explanation that nothing untoward was going on, then Mr. Mulroney will not end up serving time in prison.

But my heart laments.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"Democracy" Section of Foreign Minister Bernier's Address to the House of Commons on October 19


As the Prime Minister has noted, Canada provides a model, a model built on constitutional democracy and economic openness—economic openness combined with social safety nets, equitable wealth creation, and sharing across regions.

Canada will play a dynamic role to strengthen and promote our fundamental values. All Canadians benefit when our neighbours embrace freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Letter to the Globe and Mail about November 6 article "Dalai Lama's welcome angers Chinese delegation"

The China Tibetology Research Center is subsidiary to the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee United Front Work Department. It's primary function is to engage in "soft diplomacy" to make outsiders sympathetic to Chinese Government claims that Tibet has been subject to rule by the Han Chinese since time immemorial and therefore Tibetan demands for autonomy are illegitimate. But the interpretation of history that they present does not stand up to scrutiny. This is not a delegation of scholars and researchers. It is simply a delegation of propagandists for Chinese nationalism. The Tibetologists's sponsor, the China International Culture Association, is indeed, strictly speaking, not a Government organization. It is funded by the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee's Ministry of Propaganda.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

China's "Hurt Feelings" Over Mr. Harper's Meeting with the Dalai Lama

On October 29, Prime Minister Harper met with the Dalai Lama in his office for 40 minutes. The Canadian Prime Minister followed the Tibetan custom of placing a long white silken scarf around the shoulders of the Dalai Lama to welcome his honoured guest. Someone had the brilliant idea of embroidering a large red maple leaf to the scarf reflecting the Dalai Lama's honorary Canadian citizenship. The video of their meeting with the Maple Leaf scarf displayed prominently by the Dalai Lama was a lead item on all the nightly TV news broadcasts. The next day both The National Post and The Globe and Mail published editorials supporting the Government's reception of the Dalai Lama, The Dalai Lama was also received by the Governor-General and by the leaders of the Official Opposition parties.

The response of the Chinese Government was offensive in its tone. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao declared: "The Chinese side demands the Canadian side ... correct its mistaken conduct, immediately adopt effective measures to eliminate adverse impact (from the meeting) and stop winking at or supporting anti-Chinese activities by Tibetan forces. This disgusting conduct has seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and undermined Sino-Canadian relations." This sort of hectoring is unlikely to have much impact on Canadians who are unlikely to buy into the "mistaken conduct" formulation presented in such a condescending and menacing fashion. It is more likely to simply strengthen the resolve of Canadian nationalists to deepen contact with Tibetans. But one suspects that this sort of Foreign Ministry statement is more directed at the Chinese domestic audience than at Canadians.

But some Canadians did support the Chinese Government's line. For example an opinion piece in The Toronto Star the day before by a former diplomat, Harry Sterling, said: "A nation's foreign policies should be based on its national interests, not on the personal whims or prejudices of whoever happens to be its leader at the time. Leaders of governments who confuse their own personal viewpoints with those of their countries' national interests can cause unwelcome and even dangerous consequences for their fellow countrymen. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a leader who increasingly appears to base his foreign policy actions more on his personal or ideological biases than on what may be in the best interests of Canada" ( On October 30, the Canadian Press ran an account of an interview with former Canadian Ambassador to China, Fred Bild (my boss on my first posting in Beijing of whom I have nothing but the best of memories) reading: "A former Canadian ambassador to China believes the government's decision to greet the Dalai Lama on Parliament Hill on Monday could cost Canadian companies lucrative contracts. Fred Bild, who served as ambassador to China between 1990 and 1995, doesn't believe China will intervene and sanction Canada directly. But Bild believes Chinese threats should be taken seriously. Bild told The Canadian Press in an interview on Tuesday that China is a country where the state still has a large influence on economic decisions. He criticized the Tory government for creating a confrontational situation as opposed to the more discreet approach applied by Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney, who reserved their criticism behind closed doors."

I also have yet to encounter any person of Chinese origin who approved of the Prime Minister meeting with the Dalai Lama. One of my Chinese correspondents referred to the Dalai Lama as a "dirty-looking, nasty-dressed Tibetan." Another emailed me to say that "I am very concerned with the Tory policy to Tibet. I am shocked when watching Harper's meeting with Dalai Lama, a meeting of some sort for a head of the state. The real issue here, I think, is not human rights in Tibet and China or a meeting with Dalai Lama, but how the Tory manages emerging issues with or potential impacts on China and how far Harper can go down this confrontational road. The whole event was totally ridiculous--Canada is not the US and Germany. We do not have whatsoever cards to play with the Chinese." The CBC website quoted my colleague and friend at the University of Alberta like this: "'Canada-China relations is somehow cool, if not the lowest point since the 1970s,' said Wenran Jiang, acting director of the University of Alberta's China Institute. He said if the goal is to help Tibetans, Canada should have a more balanced approach when dealing with China — using moral statements rather than 'political theatre' meant to grab votes."

My own feeling is that "criticism behind closed doors" endorsed by Mr. Bild has had no impact on Chinese policy toward Tibet. Moreover, empty "moral statements" not backed by the courage to bear consequences for our convictions, can be a form of tacit sanction to the Chinese authorities to continue their current approach to Tibet. That is to suppress Tibetan spirituality by restricting the numbers of young men who are allowed to become monks and severely restricting access to education in the Tibetan language, especially higher education in Tibetan Buddhism. This amounts to restricting the transmission of Tibetan culture in Tibet. This problem of cultural transmission is the paramount concern expressed to me by the senior monks that I have personally met in Tibet. This follows from the strong push by the Chinese Government to reduce the rich Tibetan culture to folkloric status, as simply a colourful characteristic of one of China's 55 minority nationalities. I am regularly presented by officials of China's Ministry of Ethnic Affairs with coffee table tomes on China's 56 officially recognized ethnic groups. Seems that except for the Han, the 55 others are all "happy people who love to sing and dance." To be modern in China is to speak Mandarin Chinese and eschew religion. Atheism is a prerequisite to membership in the Chinese Communist Party. So Tibetan Buddhists are explicitly denied access to this Party, the sole locus of political power in China today.

Let us assume that the system as espoused by Messrs. Sterling, Bild and Jiang works and the PM next time gives into Chinese pressure and rebuffs the Dalai Lama. Would we have a meeting "behind closed doors" afterwards wherein the Chinese Foreign Ministry would say something like: "You Canadians have corrected your 'mistaken conduct.' While the German Chancellor has recently accepted the Dalai Lama's invitation for lunch you have wisely turned him down. So we have decided not to license a German bank to do foreign currency transactions in Shanghai but we will give that license to a Canadian bank instead"? Do the Canadians then celebrate with grateful thanks to the Communist authorities and crack open the champagne? I don't think so. This is not something most of us ordinary Canadians can stomach. Most Canadian support Prime Minister's stance that "I think Canadians want us to promote our trade relations worldwide. We do that. But I don't think Canadians want us to sell out important Canadian values of belief in democracy, freedom and human rights — they don't want us to sell that out to the almighty dollar."

Certainly there is an important point to be made that our Prime Minister should receive in his office whoever he wishes to see regardless of the protests of a foreign embassy. Undoubtedly the Dalai Lama had a number of important things to say to the Prime Minister over that 40 minutes. But it is indeed mostly about sending a message to the régime in Beijing which is that we respect the Tibetan cultural identity and oppose measures designed to suppress it. Will this cause the Chinese Government to factor in foreign opinion in its determination of future policy on Tibet? I believe that it will.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Interesting Connection Made by Database (I did buy the book about North Korea, 2 copies in fact)

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Flickr Problem: Message from Emily

Flickr Support 写道:
Thank you for contacting Flickr customer care and sorry for the late respond. We are aware that images from Flickr are being blocked for users in China and definitely care very much about our friends who cannot access pictures. Our technical staff has looked into this and determined it is not an issue from our end. It appears that the Chinese government is restricting access to Flickr, although we have not received confirmation from them. We are checking periodically to see if the block is still in place, but haven't detected any change. We hope that it will be a temporary issue. You may also check the Forum for commentary and information about this issue from other Flickr members:
Thank you for your continued patience.

Comment: I used to have some 716 family photos on the Yahoo Photos site. Yahoo Photos closed this service and transferred all my pictures to Flickr ( While Yahoo Photos was readily accessible from China, Flickr is not. But I don't know why the Chinese Government has decided to block access to this photo site, but allows access to others (such as Picassa). I wish they would explain why they are blocking Flickr.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Correspondence with a Former Student About the Plight of Being Chinese Ambassador to Canada

From my former student: Hi, I meant to ask you the other day about the Chinese ambassador to Canada Lu Shumin. I was a student ambassador at the City University of Hong Kong and was involved in a presentation that the Ambassador gave. It was quite a status quo speech about Sino-Canadian relations (bilateral communication will strengthens both countries). I had a chance to speak with him afterward and mentioned that you were one of my Professors at Brock. He said that he knew of you and then the conversation stopped abruptly, haha. I was wondering what your perception of his current involvement in Canadian-Sino relations is. Is he a productive ambassador? How is he trying to improve relations with Canada, if at all? I was just wondering how you felt about his position and goals? Thanks and have a good weekend.

My reply: I do have some sympathy for Mr. Lu as I think it is a lot harder to have to act as Chinese Ambassador to Canada than to be his counterpart, Rob Wright, the Canadian Ambassador to China. This is because as Ambassador he has to fulfil the mandate given him by the Chinese Communist Party. The mandate of the Mr. Lu's Embassy is to promote China's interests abroad by engaging foreign nationals with influence in their country and to encourage "understanding" of China. In our case the "understanding" that is hoped to be arrived at is that China's human rights record is not as bad as western media, NGOs and governments allege, and that such human rights shortcomings that do exist are due to historical, developmental and cultural factors that will be overcome "although it will take a long time" (a mantra repeated in both formal and informal discussions). It is a humiliating position to have to take and one that is less and less tenable as more and more information about what is really going on in China becomes more readily available to Canadians. Then the next recourse is to make dark threats that Canada's economic interests will suffer if we don't keep quiet on China human rights, keep away from the Dalai Lama, and the Uighurs, and the Falungong, and the Taiwanese, etc., etc. These threats for the most part don't seem to have much substance to them, but Mr. Lu is obliged to go through the motions by instructing his subordinates to strike a sort of vaguely menacing pose. It is a kind of diplomacy of desperation. It is for this kind of reason that the Chinese Foreign Ministry has trouble attracting top quality recruits these days. I guess what it comes down to is that Mr. Lu is in the wrong job at the wrong time. But I think there is no reason to doubt that he loves his country and is trying his best under difficult circumstances.

Friday, October 19, 2007

China anti-piracy battle "will take generations"

China anti-piracy battle "will take generations"
By Ben Blanchard

Thu Oct 18, 6:46 AM ET
China's battle against intellectual property rights piracy will take "generations," a senior official said on Thursday, but added the main victims were Chinese and other countries should stop politicizing the issue.
Chinese IPR chief Tian Lipu said the government did not fear the United State's decision to take China to the World Trade Organization over complaints of widespread counterfeiting.
"Have you ever heard of another country whose whole leadership, including the president, study together intellectual property rights?" Tian asked reporters on the sidelines of a Communist Party Congress.
"I've been working in this field for years, and I've not heard of any other country doing this. But this happens in China," said the casually-dressed official.
China regularly defends its record on fighting piracy, saying it is a developing country and needs time. But pirated movies and music discs are openly sold in shops and on street corners in Chinese cities for as little as 8 yuan (about $1) a copy.
"Is IPR protection a problem? Yes, it is. But is it as serious as some say? Not necessarily. To a greater degree, it's hyped-up, politicized. We cannot accept that," said Tian.
"In fact, if China does not do well, the biggest victim will be China itself."
Tian said he had been taken to the northern province of Shandong to see an anti-piracy sweep where counterfeit DVDs and CDs had been rounded up.
"We discovered something -- more than 90 percent of the pirated discs were of Chinese artists," he said.
What China really lacked was awareness about why it was important to protect intellectual property rights. It was only in 2000 that the Chinese expression for IPR protection started appearing in dictionaries, Tian said.
"How long did it take developed countries? 300 years in the case of countries like Britain, or 200 years in the United States," he said. "One generation is not enough here. If you ask me, I estimate it will take three to five generations."
Piracy is a hot political potato.
In April, the United States lodged a complaint with the WTO over Chinese counterfeiting, which followed congressional anger over last year's record $232 billion U.S. trade deficit with China.
Tian brushed off the case.
"The U.S. has taken China to the WTO over IPR. I think China is not scared about this. The facts will prove our point of view," he said.

Reuters report on Internet at:;_ylt=Av9vX_6j4w.3jdULh8KCRGFn.3QA

Comment by me: Reading this sort of nonsense makes me regret my choice of academic study: contemporary Chinese politics. It is same humiliating argument as made by regime apologists for China not becoming democratic within our life times (see my posting about my interaction at the Central Party School below).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Xinhua Report: Chinese taikonauts may build Communist Party branch in space

BEIJING, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Chinese taikonauts (astronauts) may start a branch of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in space, said the country's first taikonaut Yang Liwei.
China now has a 14-strong astronaut team. The team members, including Yang himself, are all CPC members.
"If China has its own space station, the taikonauts on mission will carry out the regular activities of a CPC branch in space in the way we do on earth, such as learning the Party's policies and exchanging opinions on the Party's decisions," said Yang, a delegate to the on-going CPC national congress in Beijing.
"If we establish a Party branch in space, it would also be the 'highest' of its kind in the world," said Yang, who is also deputy director of the China Astronaut Research and Training Center.
According to the CPC Constitution, a grass-root CPC organization should be established where there are three or more CPC members. The latest official figure shows that China has more than 73 million CPC members and about 3.6 million grass-roots CPC organizations.
"Like foreign astronauts having their beliefs, we believe in Communism, which is also a spiritual power," said Yang. "We may not pray in the way our foreign counterparts do, but the common belief has made us more united in space, where there is no national boundary, to accomplish our missions."

Comment by me: The "spiritual power" characterization of China's ruling party's political legitimating ideology gives me pause for thought. As China becomes a more and more important international actor, we may have more and more to worry about if this "spiritual power" is seen a force antithetical to "western democracy."

Christopher Neil, Canadian Pedophile

I feel so saddened to read in the news about an Interpol search for an exhibitionist pedophile who posted photos of himself in the act of sexually abusing Cambodian, Thai and Vietnamese boys on the Internet. It has been determined that the pedophile in question is almost certainly a Canadian from B.C., Christopher Neil. Mr. Neil has evidently been working as an English teacher in elementary schools in Korea, Vietnam and Thailand since 2000. As someone who travels to China quite frequently, I am troubled by the apparent proclivity of some of the Canadian men living in Asian countries to pay for sex with under-aged girls as well as those like Mr. Neil who pay for sex with under-aged boys. The fact that many of these men work by day as school teachers to support their activities in the expat bar districts by night is also disturbing to me.

I have a romantic notion that when I get too old to do my regular work, I will retire to Kunming in southwest China and while away my old age by tutoring local children to improve their English language ability. This strikes me as a noble profession and a good way to keep my old heart young.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Simplicity Sells, Complexity Languishes

I just read an article in this morning's The National Post by David Rieff on the Darfur crisis. In it, Rieff makes the observation that "simplicity sells, complexity languishes." It is a trite truism I suppose, but gives me pause for thought with regard to my work on policy on North Korea and on China.

The fact is that it is hard to get people engaged by analysis that can't be boiled down to a single page of words. Faced with so many competing demands, Government policymakers need terse summaries to work with. I try my best to furnish them. And there is a certain elegance about proposing clean and simple interpretations of the complicated realities of these places. But I always worry about slighting the myriad aspects and factors that have to be smoothed over to produce this sort of précis.

As I accumulate more and more data by simply having been an observer of Chinese politics and society for already some 35 years, I now see a lot of sides to a lot of issues --- they all now seem to represent a complicated interaction along 3 dimensions. But on the other hand I am more and more committed to standing up for what is right and good.

This is related to the fact that I that I have started to notice that so many Chinese colleagues of the generation senior to me are now retired and inclined to self-absorption with their failing health, regrets over their past, and hurt over their perception of neglect by their grown children. So they don't talk about the contemporary public things that inspired our political passions 20 and more years ago anymore.

While it is discouraging to lose my conversation companions to old age, their fate does inspire me to try to do the right thing and strive to make a meaningful contribution, even if just a modest one within my limited area of expertise, before I join them as a new "has been".

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Engaging on Human Rights at the Central Party School in Beijing

On September 26, I spoke on "Human Rights Education, Citizenship, and Social Cohesion" at the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee Party School in Beijing. On September 27, I spoke on "Constitutional Guarantees of Human Rights Protection and Civil Society" at the Chinese Communist Party Sichuan Provincial Committee Party School in Chengdu.

I did because I feel a sense of moral imperative to not simply stand idly by and not speak out frankly about concerns over human rights in China. At the Central Party School one is pretty close to being able to "talk to the boss" there, but I don't harbour any illusion that my words can lead to change from within. Political systemic reform will probably only come to China in response to a crisis or a perception of a looming crisis. Talk is cheap.

There is a tension between the Chinese Government's desire to adopt a "united front policy" to deflect and neutralize criticism of China's lack of compliance with China's international obligation to fulfil the specific articles of UN Human Rights Covenants on the one hand, and on the other very real concerns on the part of Chinese intellectuals and policy makers that unless China engages in meaningful political systemic reform, in years ahead as economic and social transformation continues apace, the current ossified political system could itself be a threat to political stability as it fails to respond to growing problems of corruption and increasing gap between rich and poor, rural and urban, coastal and interior. It is a conundrum for the Communist Party as it seeks to come up with a basis for maintaining its power and its role as the sole existing political establishment. Everybody recognizes that the "social harmonious society" formulation is too lacking in meaningful substance to be sustainable in the long term. But no Chinese participant can state this directly. One Chinese participant stated quite boldly that "a multi-party system with separation of the powers of the executive and legislative branch and an independent judiciary and a de-politicized military is "very difficult". The elephant in the room was the dominating role of the Chinese Communist Party over every aspect of Chinese politics and law. Only outsiders could bring this up, but privately I was told by Chinese participants that they agreed with with everything I said and were grateful that I had made these points frankly and by using appropriate Chinese language. A key in this kind of engagement is to be respectful, good humoured and never condescending. But that being said one gets more respect by not mincing words.

The Central Party School is an ideal place for this sort of engagement because it provides in-service training for very senior Chinese officials and also has a mandate to prepare policy reports for the Chinese Communist Party leadership. At our day-long symposium there were also people from CASS and People's University who work with Party School staff among the 40 or so people participating which included some young grad students from the Party School.

The discussion was very stimulating as it took place in Chinese in an enthusiastic and lively atmosphere. It was evident that there was a significant split in opinion over the need for political systemic reform. On hard-liner in the group took considerable offence at pretty much everything I had said, making these points:
1. I am speaking from a Western perspective. China is an Eastern country with different culture and traditions. There is not one standard for democracy.
My reply was to reject the idea of "east" and "west" pointing out Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. I said there is a standard as defined by the UN human rights covenants all of which have been signed by China and most of them ratified as well. There is nothing in the articles of those covenants at odds with Chinese culture and history.
2. China will become democratic eventually but it will "take a long time." If China adopted independence to the judiciary the country would be unstable (luan) for 20 years
My reply was to cite the example of Eastern European nations such as Czech Republic, Poland, etc. who have made transformations from Leninist systems in a matter of a few years. The Party first broached political systemic reform in a comprehensive way under Zhao Ziyang in 1986 and then similar initiatives were proposed under Jiang Zemin 10 years later. 21 years have passed with no meaningful progress --- the political system is still the same. Is he suggesting that any fundamental change will occur within our lifetimes? if so, when will it be started?
3. I am racist and look down on Chinese
This comment caused the faces of most of the other participants to wince even more than through the earlier part of his comments. He tried to recover by saying that Chinese are racist too by referring to outsiders as "foreign devils." This kind of "rant" really brought the dynamic of the debate into focus. Basically the issue is between those who want no political systemic change and the much larger group who understand the need for it but despair as to how to bring it about.

Anyway I hope to return to the Party School next year. I am thinking of focusing on the merits to China's overall stability of a free press and opening up an NGO sector. I think these are more do-able in the short term than suggesting that the Party should allow an independent judiciary (which would immediately threaten the Party's continued leading role).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

RE: Chinese brothers lose court battle to stay in Canada

AFP - Saturday, September 22
VANCOUVER, Canada (AFP) - - Two Chinese brothers accused by China of embezzling tens of millions of dollars lost a legal battle Friday in their fight to avoid deportation from Canada.
The Federal Court of Canada refused to overturn orders to deport the brothers, Li Dongzhe and Li Donghu, from the country.
The siblings also lost their appeal of Canada's refusal to consider their refugee applications, which had been denied on the grounds that they were already under a removal order.
The Federal Court said their applications were "without foundation in fact and in law."
The brothers, who arrived the Pacific coast city of Vancouver in December 2004, were arrested on February 23.
China accuses the Li brothers, along with a third man, Chinese banker Gao Shan, of involvement in embezzling more than 100 million dollars from a Chinese bank.
The Federal Court's ruling allows Canadian official to begin a process to determine if siblings are at risk of facing the death penalty if they are sent back to China.
Canada does not have capital punishment, and therefore cannot legally deport people to countries where they could be killed or tortured.
The Pre-Removal Risk Assessment process can take more than six months, said Citizenship and Immigration Department spokeswoman Lois Reimer.

Comment by me: It seems it is impossible under present conditions for Canada to return fugitives from Chinese justice to China to be made accountable for their crimes. This is due to Canadian judges' rulings questioning whether Chinese Government assurances that the returnees will not suffer unnatural death after return or be subject to treatment in prison that falls short of UN-mandated standards can be relied upon. Problem is that Canada does not want to become a haven for Chinese corrupt officials/mobsters and that their "getting away with it" by touching base in Canada and making a refugee claim is clearly morally wrong.

Re: AFP Report : China orders strict curbs on 'Idol'-style TV shows

AFP - Saturday, September 22
BEIJING (AFP) - - China has ordered strict curbs on "American Idol"-style TV shows, including a ban on voting via the Internet, telephone or text messages, state media reported Saturday.
The rules also say participants must be healthy and mature, while hosts of the reality TV programmes should not flirt with each other or be nasty.
Such talent shows have become hugely popular in China, with new programmes based on the same basic concept proliferating on TV channels right across the vast nation.
Inviting the public to cast votes had been seen by some observers as, in a small way, education in democratic procedures.
But when the latest rules from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television take effect October 1, only the studio audience will be allowed to vote, the Xinhua news agency reported.
Also, the shows will no longer be broadcast during prime time evening hours between 7:30 pm and 10:30 pm, Xinhua said, presumably a measure meant to curb the viewership.
It appeared one reason for the crackdown was a view that participants were negative role models for the young.
"TV stations must select qualified candidates who show characteristics such as perseverance, maturity, confidence, and health," Xinhua quoted the rules as saying.
"The hairstyle, dress and remarks of candidates should accord with aesthetic values of the general public."
The rules also warned hosts against "flirting with each other," and making "inflammatory or sensational remarks," according to Xinhua.

Comment by me: But another aspect is that these shows are hard for the State Ministry of Radio, TV and Film and for the Party Central Committee Ministry of Propaganda to fully control due to the aspect of democratic vote by ordinary people inherent in their design. I believe that the régime sees them as a potential threat to the established order under leadership of the Party, if entertainment continued to develop along these "wild" lines.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My List of 5 Great Political Science Books as Requested by the Brock University Political Science Students Association

Mencius, The Mencius
Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War
Alexis DeTocqueville, Democracy in America
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation
George Grant, Lament for a Nation

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Translation of report in Singtao Daily about Human Rights Dialogue based on internal Government materials obtained through Access to Information

Chinese Department Downgraded, Canada China Human Rights Dialogue Takes an Unexpected Turn (rough translation by me)

Report by Singtao Daily correspondent Mary Yang; September 7, 2007
A Federal Government internal communication indicates that the Chinese Government agreed to postpone the Canada-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue, so as to allow for mutually agreed reformatting of the activity. But Beijing shortly thereafter at the beginning of this year transferred the responsibility for the Dialogue from the Human Rights Division of the Chinese Foreign Ministry to the geographic branch (the Americas and Oceania Directorate). This has caused concern.
Internal documents that Singtao Daily was able to obtain through the "Access to Information Act" indicate that Ottawa finds it difficult to measure the effectiveness and progress made by the annual Canada-China annual human rights dialogue. The Canadian authorities have already begun initial discussions on the 10th round of Dialogue. The Chinese Foreign Ministry initially adopted an open attitude to reforming the dialogue and agreed to postponing it to allow for sufficient time to come up with a mutually agreed reformatting of the activity.
The Human Rights Dialogue between Canada and China was initiated in 1997 by the previous Liberal government. There have been 9 rounds to far, the most recent one held in 2005. A report assessing the Dialogue, that the authorities commissioned the scholar Charles Burton to write, stresses that if the Dialogue is to become a more effective instrument to promote human rights in China, it is necessary to reconsider its structure and content.
An internal document obtained by the Singtao Daily written to as a brief last December in preparation for a meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, indicates that the Canadian side intended to solicit the views of of Mr. Yang on reforming the Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue.
An e-mailed internal communication from an Ottawa official, issued prior to a January meeting between Canadian officials in Beijing and officials of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, expressed the hope that both the Canadian and Chinese sides would recognize that the Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue needs to be improved. The Canadian side would draft up some proposals and a work plan and hoped that they could work collaboratively with the Chinese Foreign Ministry in fulfilling this plan for improvement. They then could discuss the timing of the next round of the Dialogue.
But after this meeting an e-mailed report from a Canadian official reveals that the Chinese Foreign Ministry made a formal diplomatic communication to the Canadian side indicating that the department responsible for the Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue would no longer be the Human Rights Division, but that it would be transferred to the geographic branch (the Americans and Oceania Directorate). This decision to take effect immediately and to be irrevocable. The Canadian official stressed the importance of the Dialogue to Canada and expressed concern that the geographic branch lacks capacity and expertise in human rights.
Charles Burton indicated that this sort of adjustment is unprecedented, "a clear downgrading" as the Americas and Oceanian Directorate is responsible for Canada, the United States and Oceanian affairs and has no functional responsibility for human rights. He pointed out that this shift indicates that China is reversing itself on human rights and weakening the Human Rights Dialogue. This will make is more difficult for Canada to engage in dialogue with China in future.
The Canadian official also expressed the wish that the Human Rights Division would continue with the Dialogue and share their experience and knowledge with the Americas and Oceanian Directorate.
The Chinese official indicated that if the Americas and Oceanian Directorate requested it, the Human Rights Division could provide them with advice.
The Singtao Daily telephoned the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa but up to press time did not receive any response.
Charles Burton believes that if China is not willing to make the Human Rights Dialogue a meaningful activity, then Canada can adopt other means to promote human rights in China, through the United Nations, or by establishing a new institution to promote democracy, or in other ways.

Chinese original of this report can be found at: Please advise me of any errors in translation (

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Comment on Xinhua Report "China clamps 'hostile forces' for congress"

This report appeared in the China Daily and other Chinese media this week:

(Xinhua)Updated: 2007-09-07 20:50
The Chinese police will intensify its crackdown on "hostile forces and evil cults" in the run-up to the 17th national congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), police chief Zhou Yongkang has said.
"All police should strengthen information collecting work to closely monitor and strike hard on overseas and domestic hostile forces, ethnic splittists, religious extremists, violent terrorists and the Falun Gong cult so as to safeguard national security and social stability," Zhou, minister of public security, told a police meeting.
He warned "the country was going through a period of outstanding disputes among the people, increased crime rates and complex struggles against hostile forces".

Comment by me: It is hard to assess to what extent these "outstanding disputes among the people" and "complex struggles against hostile forces" threaten the bases for the authority of the current régime in China. But their nature seems qualitatively more significant than the purported threat of "class struggle" and "hostile foreign forces" railed against when the Chinese Communist Party was still actively promoting revolution (culiminating in the Cultural Revolution which is now officially deemed by the régime as "ten years of disaster").

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Comment to the Asia Pacific Foundation's "Canada-Asia News"

RE: "CHINA: Leading NGO Says Gov't Will Ban All Tobacco Advertising by 2011" (August 28)

The Chinese Association on Tobacco Control is not actually an NGO as NGOs are understood here in Canada. It is rather a GONGO (Government Organized "NGO") that is subject to the authority of the state, which in China is fully under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. The sine qua non of the non-government organization is that it freely exist in the civil public space separate from the governing apparatus. But the Chinese Communist Party has not defined any aspects of China's society as beyond its authority. The Chinese Association on Tobacco Control is an "official" Party organization sanctioned by the Chinese state's Ministry of Civil Affairs' registration process for "people's mass organizations." It is therefore a "front organization," not a freely formed association of concerned citizens. True NGOs remain illegal under Chinese law.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


While working in my office early this morning, in the 5:00am silence, I could hear the gentle sound of my 3-year old son laughing in his sleep in the room next door.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Guantanamo Uighurs

According to a Canadian Press report released yesterday, Canada was approached by the U.S. on several occasions to accept as refugees in Canada 23 Uighurs that were transported to their Prison Camp at Guantanamo Bay ("Canada balked at Guantanamo refugees: documents" by Jennifer Ditchburn: But we refused to take them. According to the report: "The sticking point seemed to be a point of principle. Under the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement, refugees cannot make claims to enter Canada from the United States except under a few specific exceptions, such as fear they would face the death penalty in America." Presently 17 of the men are still being held in the Camp and live in isolation for 22 hours a day. Five of them were accepted by Albania where they live under difficult conditions and face the risk of Albania giving in to Chinese pressure and being repatriated to China.

I am unclear why it is deemed to be a case that falls under the "Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement." Actually those Uighurs have never been in the USA to my knowledge. The Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp is purposively located outside the USA. Seems to me that Canada could have negotiated concessions in other matters out of the USA if Canada had agreed to help the USA, who apparently feel embarrassed about their incarceration and very harsh treatment of men who are evidently not terrorists or guilty of any crimes. Now Canada bears some responsibility for whatever happens to the 5 Uighurs presently in Albania. Surely we don't want to add another tragedy after the DFAIT mishandling of Mr. Celil's case. Best thing would be to bring them to safety here in Canada.

Why China Sells Poisoned Toothpaste and Poisoned Toys and Defective Tires

The Chinese Government promises to strengthen regulation of product safety and punish severely those who manufacture substandard stuff that is dangerous and unhealthy. But the issue is not simply greedy factory owners who put maximizing their profits over the public good or Government inspectors who can be bribed or intimidated to look the other way. The more fundamental cause is systemic. Under China's one-Party dictatorship, non-governmental organizations such as consumer advocacy groups are not allowed to form. Journalists who expose malfeasance are charged with "false reporting" or "endangering state security." The judiciary is not independent of Government, so the powerful are always protected. The upshot is that when buying a bottle of water in China one is never absolutely sure that the water inside the bottle is what the label on the outside promises and is safe to drink. The prevalence of above legal levels of preservatives, insecticides and other chemicals and bacteria in fresh and prepared foods is also a cause for concern. Fake products and consumer fraud is a fact of life in China today that one learns to live with.

The other negative characteristic of China's current political system is that no one truly represents the interests of ordinary Chinese people. When China's Communist Party abandoned Marxist ideology 20 years ago, it evidently also abandoned its commitment to furthering social justice.

So until China achieves democracy, I'm brushing my teeth with Canadian paste.

An editorial in the National Post on this topic can be found here:
My letter in response to this editorial can be found here:
A letter to the Globe and Mail on this topic can be found here:
An interesting report on fake Vineland, Ontario icewine on sale in China can be found here:

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Report on Democratic Development and Reflections on My Career to Date

I have finished a careful read of all 224 pages of the Report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Advancing Canada's Role in International Support for Democratic Development which was released last month ( This topic, "democratic development," has been the focus of my career for over 25 years, so this Foreign Affairs Committee Report is of compelling interest to me. It also has prompted me to reflect on what I have accomplished in my career in government service, research and teaching. And mostly where my work has fallen short of my aspiration to make the world a better place by doing things that will bring justice to people who have not been fairly treated . Fortunately I am not temperamentally inclined to despair, but there are elements of a Shakespeare "Sonnet 30" kind of moment here:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste;

or putting it more plainly "Thinking it all over, I wish I could point to more evidence that my work had actually made a difference for the people I had been hoping to help and in retrospect wish that I had not had to put so much time into things that in the end did not achieve the desired justice-promoting result."

In my "Rights Across Borders" second-year course for undergrads and in my "Core Seminar in Comparative Politics" course that I teach in Brock's graduate program, I attempt to identify the conditions under which democracy and respect for human rights will flourish. In both classes, I do a lot of "one the one hand . . . and on the other hand" prevaricating. My only clear and unambiguous conclusion is that there is not a lot of "science" in political science. Similarly, in my research work for some years now, I have been struggling with developing scenarios under which North Korea can make a stable transition to democracy. The more political theory I read in search of some analytical framework to structure my metres-thick piles of files on the DPRK, the further I seem to be from completion of this project. But I will persist in it to the end. I reckon it is too important to give it up.

Even though it is now 18 years past, I remember like yesterday watching a TV interview from Tiananmen Square in May 1989. A young student asked about what he understood was meant by "democracy" responding: "I am not exactly sure what it is, but I do know that we need a lot more of it." Actually there is not much consensus among political scientists and other "democracy specialists" beyond this sort of formulation. The Foreign Affairs Committee Report makes note of this fact in several places and urges that we work harder to get the definition of what we are dealing with when we talk about "democratic development" clarified.

My own introduction to democratic deveopment programming was after I was approached in 1992 in my capacity as Counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Beijing by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences with a request that Canada assist the Chinese Government in examining policy options for democratic political reform. So I set up the "CASS-Royal Society of Canada Democracy Project" which had 18 exchanges and conferences between '93 and '98. The idea was that after we provided the final report, President Jiang Zemin would announce a comprehensive program of political reform in his December 1998 speech to mark the 20th anniversary of Deng Xiaoping's opening economic reform program which Deng had launched at the Third Plenary Session of the Eleventh Central Committee in December 1978. But it did not come to pass. The rather watered down and platitudinous speech that Jiang did give did not allow Jiang to retire as "the father of China's post-Mao democracy."

It was disappointing for me, but by this time I was back working in the Political Section of the Canadian Embassy and able to hatch new schemes. I became responsible for coordinating the Bilateral and Plurilateral Human Rights Dialogues with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs --- quiet diplomacy was our new tack. But as I have discussed in earlier postings, it did not fulfil its promise. Staring in the fall of 1998, I oversaw the Civil Society Program for CIDA (changing the name from "Social Initiatives Program" to this more edgy name that means "Citizens'-Society-Program" in Chinese). The purpose of the Civil Society program is to support the development of a non-government public space in China, but the growth of the NGO sector has also proved mostly disappointing ten years on. All in all, lots of good will and trust have been built up, but things have not been going as we had hoped 10 years ago. For example we were pretty excited about the village elections in the early-'90s but there is little progress in extending the electoral process to higher levels of government now over 15 years later and the Village Party Secretary, the most critical local functionary, remains unelected.

The Advancing Canada's Role in International Support for Democratic Development Report which was released last month calls for a review of all the Government of Canada-funded activities to promote respect for democracy and human rights abroad and for the establishment of a new institution to ensure better coordination and effectiveness of future Government-funded democratic development projects. This strikes me as important in light of the above. Especially as the Foreign Affairs Committee could not meet with recipients of governance developmental assistance. They only were able to interview experts in "Democratic Development" and hear reports from representatives of Government agencies and NGOs providing this sort of aid. Moreover with this kind of thing there is a tendency on all sides to report success to protect the income and jobs and career success of the people working in the implementing agencies. So independent disinterested assessment is pretty essential.

The idea is that these "democratic development" activities should empower local agents of change by transfer of knowledge. Actually it is hard to spend large sums of money on this sort of project purpose. But from the bureaucratic point of view of CIDA small projects are not amenable to their administration and reporting requirements. So big projects are proposed. And this leads to the tendency of self-generated sham NGOs to form to attract generous foreign funding. Many of the same NGOs seem to exist on a variety of foreign government and NGO contracts, but democratic engagement evidently only penetrates to a small group and does not sustain once the foreign grant money for foreign travel and other project activities dries up. In China the agencies that have the capacity to successfully apply for foreign funding are actually GONGOS ("Government Organized NGOs") that is to say part of and subject to the direction of the Party/State and not actually in a public space. They are therefore held in check and only give the appearance of representing not civil society. For example, The All-China Women's Federation. the All-China Lawyers Federation, etc., etc.

But still I don't seem able to give this "democratic development" enterprise up. I am scheduled to speak at the Central Party School in Beijing on next month, as part of the Party School's exchange with Rights & Democracy. The project is very controversial. But how could I refuse the invitation of people who ask to know more about "Human Rights and Education in the 21st Century"? I will try my best to not let this be "a dialogue of the deaf." Mainly I do really try to listen. And I will speak openly and honestly. And hope for the best.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Yuquan Temple in Yuxi

Yesterday I travelled by coach from Kunming to the town of Yuxi to visit friends. The journey is only 70 minutes in air conditioned comfort through some outstanding mountainous scenery.

I was quite astonished to find a large new temple compound, completed in 2001, on 60 mu (about 10 acres) just outside the town. The Yuquan (Jade Spring) Temple has 5 large pavilions modelled on the Lingyin Temple in Hangzhou. The Sakyamuni Buddha image is 32 metres high making it, according to the sign outside, "the largest indoor Buddha in Asia" . There is also a very fine enormous lying Buddha image in jade that was imported from Burma.

Evidently this complex cost 150 million yuan (over $20 million Canadian dollars) to build. The money apparently came largely from local people in this prosperous town. Yuxi derives its considerable wealth from the Hongtashan (Red Pagoda) cigarette factory. That is a popular brand which does a lot of sales abroad. The entire town is very beautifully maintained with tropical vegetation and flowering bushes throughout. Yuxi is encircled by misty mountains. The general aspect of the place is paradise-like.

There is nothing modern about the construction of the Yuquan Temple's massive buildings and the beautifully landscaped courtyards. No concession to modern methods has been made in its construction. Elaborate traditional woodwork including unique carving of every window and screen (and there are hundreds of them) dominates, so the Temple compound has the air of having been a place of worship for hundreds of years, not just 6 years. This exquisite temple is just 6 years old! That aspect of it gave me pause for thought.

When I was a student in China in the 1970s, I would use old guide books to try and locate ancient temples in the mountains. All I ever found was the charred and battered remains of buildings that had been destroyed by Red Guards in the Cultural Revolution only a few years before. It was quite discouraging.

But on the Sunday morning I went to the Yuquan Temple there were no tourists aside from us, but I saw some people praying. And the fragrance of incense burning and the faint sound of monks chanting in the distance gently permeated the pavilions and courtyards.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Comments to a Friend on Prospects for an Extradition Treaty Between Canada and China

Yes. I absolutely agree. It is a bit of a long shot, but I think we have to try and work with the Chinese authorities on this. Everybody agrees that Chinese people who have committed serious crimes should not "get away with it" by simply landing in Canada. It is primarily about how to bring the Chinese judicial system up to international standards, but that would mean the judiciary would have to be truly independent of the Party. But that one is already evidently ruled out as an option for the next Party Congress. But I think independence of the judiciary has to come to pass in China sooner or later. Primarily due to domestic reasons, but the international factor is also of increasing importance as it will get easier and easier for Chinese people to travel abroad so more and more embezzlers and gangsters will be able to flee Chinese justice by getting on a 'plane to Canada or other like-minded countries. As the Lai Changxing case demonstrates, Canada really has trouble expelling these people to face trial in China under current conditions.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My Concerns about President Hu Jintao's Recent Speech

Chinese President Hu Jintao delivered a major address at the Central Party School in Beijing on June 25. It was attended by members of the Politburo, the Central Committee, leaders of the military and security services, representatives of all cities, provinces and regions and the heads of top government organizations. It was front page news on the June 26 People's Daily newspaper under the title: "Firmly and Steadfastly Follow the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Struggle to Achieve New Victories in Building a Basically Well-Off Society" (in Chinese: 坚定不移走中国特色社会主义伟大道路为夺取全面建设小康社会新胜利而奋斗). This speech presumably is intended to set the tone of the Party's 17th Congress coming up this fall.

After a careful reading of this long and comprehensive document, I came away with a sense of relative despair. The speech offers little hope that the pervasive problem of Communist Party officials placing serving the public good second to enriching themselves (and their cronies and families) will be effectively addressed in years ahead. The speech suggests to me that the Party cannot come up with any comprehensive policies beyond "more of the same." The speech makes promises (always short on specifics) similar to those that have not been fulfilled before; particularly the professed "unswerving" determination to somehow or other address official corruption which has been reiterated in speech after speech year after year . But the close collaboration of Communist Party officials with business people, sometimes with links to organized crime goes on unabated. The consequences: poor people forced out of their homes with little compensation often involving police intimidation and violence, child slavery in brick-making factories tolerated by officials in Shanxi with greased palms for years, deaths in coal mines where the Government inspectors were instructed to turn a blind eye, etc., etc., go on and on. Measures to encourage the development of a free and independent press and the development of a free and independent judiciary are really the only answer to this sort of thing, in my view. But President Hu's speech makes clear that Party control of the press and Party control of the judicial system will not be open to debate this fall.

Their is an increasingly awareness among ordinary citizens that their Government is not serving the interests of the people at large but rather primarily represents a hugely monied élite and an increasingly prosperous middle class co-opted by them. As the gap between rich and poor ever widens in China, class tensions grow. The Party's measures to respond to this are not proving adequate to the enormity of this issue.

I am increasingly concerned that the period after the 2008 Olympics may prove a "dangerous" one for the Party as ordinary Chinese people start to wonder "what next?"

Comments to a Student on 50th Anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Campaign and Taiwan Issue

I suppose that one could argue that the CCP's failed policies in the 50s, 60s and 70s are "responsible" for the alienation of Taiwan today. I tend to think that the launch of the Anti-Rightist campaign (50 years ago this year, but no one seems to have noticed much) in response to the "Hundred Flowers" was a signal moment in this. US-Soviet rivalry surely played a role in the enforced Taiwan separation from China as did Chiang Kai-Shek personally, but imagine if China had made a liberal choice in 1957 how much better things might have been if there had been no Great Leap Forward famine and no Cultural Revolution political, social and cultural disaster and no reason for Taiwan not to re-unite with the Mainland?

When I return to Shanghai next month I am staying in a new luxury guesthouse on the campus of Fudan that has been built exactly where my student dormitory (Building 4) was located. But when I was back on the campus last month, I was haunted by memories of those bleak days in the '70s when most of my friends were still suffering from the lingering effects of the various forms of torture that intellectuals had suffered until just shortly before I turned up there. People at Brock have no idea about any of this. But I find it hard to slough off the burden of memory of this past.

And ever today, there is still a need for intellectuals in China to "exercise caution."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Comment to a Student on Conflating "American Hegemony" and "Liberal International Order"

Let me comment briefly on the popular view expressed by many Chinese people that you put on p. 17 "Washington wants China to be responsible to America, that is, responsible to the liberal international order that is under its (hegemonic) leadership. According to the hegemony theory, to make China a reasonable power from this perspective would only reinforce American hegemonic rule in the world. It will serve a core American interest." This goes along with the idea (that I believe has no empirical basis) that U.S. and China have "incompatible" "values." All the Chinese people that I know recognize liberal values as good and noble. A liberal international order is not something that the U.S. necessarily fully supports, but it is not something to be lightly discarded as a naive aspiration --- there could be international democracy just as there is domestic democracy in some places. But the same dictators who pay lip service to liberal ideals but justify their non-democratic rule and denial of social and economic justice to those outside their élite group as necessary due to limiting national conditions, tend to espouse a foreign policy doctrine that conflates a liberal international order with "American hegemonic rule." This assertion is demeaning to all democracies. If one asks the average Czech citizens if their decades under Stalinist-style dictators with their secret police and Party member privilege was justified to preserve Czech values and Czech prosperity against the challenge of U.S. bourgeois liberalization, they would likely tell you that things are much better now and their people are proud to be living in a democratic and free Czech Republic. Chinese people deserve the same dignity. And I think it will come, possibly relatively soon. But we can re-visit this question in a few years.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Views of Dalai Lama on How to Approach China's Rise

The Dalai Lama made this comment at the Australian National Press Club on June 12:
"It is absolutely wrong to isolate China and also contain China. It's wrong, morally also wrong. China must be brought into the mainstream of the world community, and now fortunately China themselves want to join the world community. Most welcome. Very good. However ... while you are making good relations, genuine friendship with China, certain principles such as human rights and also democracy, rule of law, free press, these things you should stand firm. That means you are a true friend of China."

Australian Prime Minister's Views on Visit of Dalai Lama to Australia

Prime Minister John Howard is quoted by Sky News as saying this on June 13:
"China has a very different political system to Australia's but I'd ask the Chinese to respect the way our culture and our political system works. This is one of the world's great liberal democracies and someone like the Dalai Lama would always be able to come to Australia."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rough translation by me of report about Canada-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue published in Singtao Daily News June 12, 2007

Request for financial aid in exchange for sensitive topics, Chinese human rights have a price, Canada proposes to suspend Dialogue

By Singtao Daily reporter Mary Yang

The Government of China has requested that the Government of Canada provide financial aid in exchange for Canada being allowed to bring up more sensitive issues in the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue and for greater participation by NGOs. According to unnamed sources, Canada has never responded to China's demand. Liberal Member of Parliament, Bryon Wilfert condemns this proposal by China as unacceptable. Amnesty International calls upon the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee to immediately make public the report on China's human rights. On Monday, The Globe and Mail reported on the content of the report assessing the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue, indicating that China has requested "financial aid in exchange for discussion of sensitive human rights issues." Charles Burton who was responsible for writing the assessment report told the Sing Tao Daily News that officials of the Chinese Foreign Ministry made two requests of Canada during a meeting that took place in 2005. These were a request that Canada provide scholarships for Chinese officials to pursue M.A. degrees in Canada and for short term study visits, and a request that Canada provide a $60,000 contribution to Yunnan Province.

The Chinese officials indicated that if Canada responded favourably to their requests that it would establish a friendship relationship between Canada and China, and that this would lead to benefits. It would lead to a higher quality of Chinese officials coming to work in agencies that deal with human rights. It would make it easier for them to request permission from higher levels and get permission for more issues of a more sensitive nature to be discussed in the bilateral human rights dialogues, and to gain permission for more NGOs to participate in the dialogues. But the Chinese officials did not specify what sensitive topics these would be.

Charles Burton said that this was not the first time has brought up these requests. If he remembers correctly, Australia donated money to construct a school in China. The Chinese officials suggested that Canada could do the same as Australia.

Charles Burton indicated that Canada made clear to China that Ottawa could not fulfil these requests from China because Canada has no means to provide the requested funds. Yunnan is also not one of the Chinese provinces that Canada has identified as priority areas for poverty relief. Moreover, Canada feels that it would be inappropriate to do this.

He speculates that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been assigned responsibility to assist in alleviating poverty in Yunnan, so they would like Canada to lend a hand with this. This incident reflects the Chinese view that the human rights dialogue is designed to help the Government of Canada respond to Canadian citizens' concerns about human rights in China. "They do not feel that China derives any benefit from participating in the human rights dialogue."

Bryon Wilfert believes that the means proposed by China is "completely unacceptable." Human rights is a matter of principle.

Alex Neve, the Secretary General of the Canadian Branch of Amnesty International, also believes that it is unacceptable. "Human rights will never have a price." He points out, this should not be about the "degree of friendship" between Canada and China, but is about the two sides taking objective measures to improve China's human rights.

The House of Commons Human Rights Subcommittee has already adopted a report on China's human rights. One of its purposes is to examine the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue. It is presently slated to be further reviewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Singtao Daily News has learnt that this secret report recommends suspending the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue until major changes are made in it. The Foreign Affairs Committee has reviewed this report in-camera in one session, but has not put this report back on its agenda since.

Information from a source close to the Committee indicates that officials representing the Government had taken the Standing Committee as a rubber stamp and had expected a rapid adoption of the report. But members of opposition parties opposed acting in haste because the 19 recommendations of the report touch on sensitive areas. There is also information suggesting that some members and Party supporters hold views at odds with those of the Human Rights Subcommittee.

Looking at the current Parliamentary agenda, it is unlikely that the Committee will be able to review the China human rights report until Parliament meets again in the fall.

Alex Neve characterized the Foreign Affairs Committee's actions as extremely disappointing. The Committee should immediately make public the report.

For Chinese original of this text see: Please advise me of any errors in the above translation.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Prime Minister's Comments on China at G-8

G8 summit ends in finger pointing
Andrew Mayeda, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, June 08, 2007

. . .

On the final day of the three-day summit, Harper also met with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Afterwards, he warned that, as China's power grows, the country will come under "increasing pressure" from the international community on issues such as democracy and human rights.
"As it grows in importance and wealth, it will face increasing pressure from the world community on issues of democratic development and human rights, on issues like climate change and environmental protection, and on issues of corporate social responsibility, in particular the responsibilities of Chinese enterprises and commercial activities in the Third World," Harper warned.
China is not a member of the G8 but, as a major developing country, it was invited to attend, along with India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.
Harper reported from his bilateral meeting that he emphasized the need to "grow and deepen" the ties between the two countries, but that did not stop him "from aggressively and appropriately raising very legitimate concerns."
Next year's summer Olympics in Beijing will be a test of China's standing on the world stage, predicted Harper.
"When you open your country to the world that way and ask every television camera in the world to come in, I think it would be in your own self-interest to make that image as positive as it can be."
In Ottawa, China's ambassador to Canada, Lu Shumin, said his government is open to continuing a dialogue with Canadian officials to discuss human rights. "I still believe the relations between China and Canada are basically moving forward," Lu told a news conference.
Harper's remarks in Germany came a day after he reproached fellow G8 leader Vladimir Putin for being unwilling to accept criticism about democratic reform and human rights in Russia.
The prime minister also ruffled feathers in Beijing last fall when he pressed China on its human-rights record. He vowed that Canada would not "sell out" its beliefs in democracy, freedom and human rights to the "almighty dollar."

Taken from

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Very Insightful Article About the Nature of the Chinese Stock Market

This is an article from the International Herald Tribune openly available at

Communist capitalists
By Philip Bowring
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HONG KONG: Some of the reasons why the Chinese stock market continues to defy both gravity and the half-hearted efforts of the government to cool it are normal and obvious. But there is another reason that says a lot about a particularly Chinese situation: the relationship between Communist party power and wealth accumulation.
The normal ingredients are a combination of high household savings, low real interest rates and buoyant corporate profits. The nation is awash in cash, in part the domestic counterpart of its trillion dollars of foreign exchange reserves.
Add to this fuel the Chinese love of gambling and the novelty of stock markets, and one has the same combination of circumstances that created mega stock booms in Hong Kong in the early 1970s and in Taiwan in the late 1980s.
But China has an additional ingredient, one that partly explains why the government is ambivalent towards the boom, which has seen stock prices double in six months and price-earnings ratios reach the stratosphere.
For every speech by a mainland official urging caution and for every small dampening measure ranging from taxes on share transactions to increases in bank reserve requirement, there is a speech from another official suggesting that the market buoyancy simply reflects the strength of the economy and the promise of the future.
Of course there are officials who fear that a sudden market collapse could cause unrest among the millions of new small investors who have rushed to take part in this modern form of alchemy, aiming to turn low yielding bank deposits into quick returns on stocks. Although in other countries Chinese have ascribed their stock market losses to bad luck rather than bad government, there is just a chance that the mainland could be different.
The main reason is that the stock market has become the quickest way for officials themselves, as insiders, to get rich quick - and to do so legally.
Even the normally very discreet World Bank recently noted the losses to public coffers resulting from the underpricing of initial public offerings of Chinese shares.
Billions of yuan which might have been collected from the state's sale of shares and put to use improving health and education for the masses had, by implication, ended up in the pockets of those who got first crack at the undervalued shares.
Of course, every company listing on every exchange wants its shares to go to a premium when trading begins. China also had reason to want to spread acceptance of the stock market as a place for investment, as a proper location for household savings. It needs a popular market if it is to continue to sell down its stakes and gradually privatize the economy.
However, there is another reason why the China Securities Regulatory Commission, which oversees the markets, and officials in general, like to see underpricing: The people who mainly benefits are the insiders, the directors, managers, underwriters and other insiders who are favored with share allotments and, if necessary, provided with cheap loans with which to acquire stock.
The absolute loser is the public; the relative loser is the small investor who cannot get stock at the IPO and must buy at a higher price in the secondary market.
The way it works for dozens of relatively small mainland listings has been seen on a grand scale with listings of major mainland enterprises in Hong Kong.
In addition to well-placed mainlanders themselves, very large blocks of stock are first offered to local tycoons and their companies. These placements to anchor investors help ensure the success of the offering, even though the price has already been pitched at a level which is most likely to ensure success. The net result is that relatively few shares are available for the public. One consequence there is a massive oversubscription leading to a stampede for stock when trading begins.
Even though the anchor investors and some of the insiders may be locked in for a while, they are still in a position to make huge profits by virtue of their connections. The investment banks are also huge winners. The listing companies also benefit from interest earned on the oversubscriptions, which have run into billions of dollars. The losers again: the state and the small investors who couldn't get allotments and had to bid up stock in the secondary market.
The listing of mainland companies is in principle beneficial for the economy and corporate governance. But the way it happens is more reminiscent of the Russian version of privatization than of that practiced in established capitalist economies.
Tens of thousands of party officials and company managers are still waiting for their chance to make money from an IPO. So the leadership is nervous about any measure which might kill the goose laying golden eggs for officialdom