Generation 40s – 四十世代

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Danger in mainland media’s rabid nationalism

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2012-09-26

Lanxin Xiang

Lanxin Xiang says the rabid nationalism being peddled by mainland newspapers like the Global Times is hurting China’s interests at home and abroad, not least by staining its global image

Populist nationalism is rising rapidly in China. Much of the official media has found nationalism a very lucrative commodity. Papers like the Global Times, a self-styled quasi-party paper specialising in international affairs, offers striking proof. But nationalistic papers are increasingly a hazard not only for Beijing but also for China’s national interest. What is the secret of the success of papers such as the Global Times, which was founded in 1993 and launched its English-language version only three years ago?

It has prospered by peddling a virulent version of nationalism under a halo of dubious authority. Its editorial approach seems twofold: it claims that the “Chinese model” of governance is the best in the world and the foundation of the regime’s political legitimacy; and it fans nationalistic foreign policy through half-truths and amateurish editorials while banking on its affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party’s chief mouthpiece, People’s Daily.

As a result, the paper attracts attention at home and abroad for its deliberately ambiguous and often questionable authority in explaining Chinese foreign and domestic policies. Many such papers have adopted a tabloid approach so as to increase circulation and at the same time disclaim charges of factual errors both in content and the identities of the authors, who often hold fabricated, “creative” titles. Many “famous scholars” writing for these papers do not have any academic credentials in respectable higher education institutions.

As China Youth Daily – a more serious and pro-reform Chinese paper – recently pointed out, the Global Times has carved out a large commercial niche by “selling nationalism” to the detriment of national interest. Indeed, the paper has been veering towards a vehement ethnic-nationalistic stance in dealing with China’s disputes with other countries, such as the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Diaoyu Islands. Some recent commentaries even made veiled references to Japan being “nuked”.

Such papers also try to create an illusion of establishing an authoritative “Chinese language” in foreign affairs. The danger of this approach is obvious: not only does it help hijack the policymaking process by turning the web-conscious leadership into psychological hostages; it also creates a vicious version of popular nationalism, which is now spreading beyond control.

Undoubtedly, these papers have been innovative; they prosper in any small gap in the media-control monolith by peddling nationalism to support the party line. But they no longer really serve party interests. Papers like the Global Times, for example, often help bring about popular pressure on the leadership to push Chinese foreign policy further into an isolated position. At some point, the leadership will have to realise the enormous damage being done by this type of commercial journalism to China’s national interest.

The success of nationalistic tabloids is nothing new. One can easily find parallels in 20th-century Europe, and it would be a great shame if history should one day place papers like the Global Times in the same category as Der Stürmer, a Nazi tabloid published by Julius Streicher from 1923 to 1945. The paper flourished in Germany on the theme of that extreme version of ethnic-nationalism: anti-Semitism.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, nationalism has been a most powerful weapon for political leaders to rally domestic support. But it is also a dangerous beast – like a tiger. And those who wish to ride a tiger to a designated end should also bear in mind the risk of a fatal injury should they be thrown off. Yet the nationalist media outlets on the mainland appear willing to take any risk to obtain quick commercial success, and they certainly do. They may also have to suffer the consequences for the harm they have done to the common good of the people.

How about the general readership? Today’s China is no longer dominated by a single voice. Many moderate media outlets can directly challenge the position and editorial policy of nationalistic papers. Moreover, as many middle-of-the-road authors stay away or disappear from such outlets, the only driving force will be further tabloidisation. A lack of basic morals will eventually shrink their readership. For many educated people in China, it has become increasingly unbearable to read the Sturm und Drang diatribes about other countries on a daily basis.

China has been promoting its soft power throughout the world over the past 10 years. In some areas, it has achieved success, especially in re-establishing global awareness of Confucian values. Peddling nationalism is, however, a nasty business, which makes only negative contributions to world peace and prosperity.

Papers like the Global Times have offset the limited recovery of China’s image on the world stage and directly helped the revival of the “China threat” thesis in the West. Instead of creating a reasoned and unique “Chinese-language authority” for international affairs, many of the articles and reports hark back to the dark language the modern world has created, misrepresenting China as a country at once racist, assertive and aggressive.

China has benefited from a prolonged period of external peace and this environment has been crucial for its remarkable success in development strategies. Old-fashioned nationalism is the last thing it needs, for it helps neither China and its neighbours nor the world at large, even though it may help papers’ profits.

China’s propaganda tsar seems to be missing the mark: by focusing narrowly on straightforward criticism of the party in the media, the department is overlooking the real danger caused by these radical nationalistic outlets.

Lanxin Xiang is professor of international history and politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva


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Primitive education has no place in HK

South China Morning Post
Comment›Insight & Opinion
2012-09-20

Sin-ming Shaw

Sin-ming Shaw says propaganda has no place in Hong Kong education because it’s in China’s national interest to keep the city open

After less than 100 days in office, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is already in political intensive care. In record time, he has managed to lose his veneer of competence and credibility.

One of his cabinet appointees was arrested for corruption within two weeks of his assumption of his official duties. Another was found to have been a slumlord who owned illegal cage-like flats that he blamed entirely on his wife. Leung himself was caught with several illegal structures at his house.

Leung has also distinguished himself by inciting a large swathe of school teachers and students to stage massive street protests against his hasty effort to insert the “national education” programme into the school curriculum in order to “reconnect” Hong Kong’s young people with the motherland.

The protests forced Leung to withdraw a deadline to implement the new curriculum. He has also given the schools flexibility concerning when and how to introduce it. Yet, this is widely perceived to be a tactical delay. With the job security of schoolmasters at risk, most are sure to implement the programme.

But why does China’s government seek to impose the curriculum in the first place? After all, Hong Kong has one of the world’s most educated populations.

Nevertheless, after more than 60 years in power, the Communist Party continues to retain a deep sense of insecurity. While dissent is the lifeblood of any open society, for China it is a dangerous poison. Moreover, Beijing fears that Hong Kong might present a systemic problem as an alternative form of government.

Instead of accepting that “love” cannot be enforced, Hong Kong’s overzealous “patriots” cannot wait to show their loyalty by trying to mandate primitive propaganda. Few in Hong Kong buy the political elite’s mantra that the national education programme is the “right” thing to do. They know that practically all of the ruling elite’s children attend expensive schools in the US and Britain, where they would be shielded from the mindless drivel at home.

Leung’s son, for example, is reportedly a student at Winchester College, one of Britain’s most exclusive boarding schools. And most of the children of the ruling elite in Beijing are in a similar position. Their parents clearly know that “national education” is not needed for a good education.

Unfortunately, Hong Kong’s younger generation is losing confidence in democracy. Popular elections do not translate into representation in a system designed by mainland China to ensure its allies win a majority every time. As a result, more are turning to street demonstrations to make their voices heard.

Leung’s tone-deafness to popular feeling revives one of the main issues that he managed to dodge during the election campaign. At the time, he denied vehemently that he was a member of the Communist Party. He claimed that he had only Hong Kong’s interest in mind within the limits of “one country, two systems”. So far, however, he seems inclined to make one of those systems resemble the other.

But China’s national interest is to ensure Hong Kong remains a modern and open city. Pulling Hong Kong down, in the name of patriotism, can only impede the advance to modernity that all of China needs to become truly great.

Sin-ming Shaw, a former visiting fellow at Oxford University, is a private investor. Copyright: Project Syndicate


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廣場就在你我身邊

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A16 | 時事評論 | 政局筆記 | By 江麗芬 |
2012-09-15

「未來四年無好日子過!」剛剛當選的建制派議員看着選舉結果後如是說。他分析,在今次選舉中激進勢力抬頭,民主黨在「政改」一役走溫和路線原來會在選舉吃虧,預計只會令議會內的泛民主派議員走得更盡,特區政府、要為政府護航的建制派在未來四年,相信難有好日子過。

立法會選舉曲終人未散,泛民主派取得二十七席,算是守住所謂關鍵少數議席,讓他們在來屆任期就政治制度的改動還可飾演一定的角色,政府還是需要得到他們的支持才可以過關。泛民今次的選舉成績,其實與預期相若,算是不過不失,只是令人有點意外的是,一直在議會內扮演泛民老大哥的民主黨,議席進一步萎縮至六席,地區直選只得四席,新西老巢更是一鋪清袋——「零」議席。

這次的結果,有分析認為激進勢力抬頭,顯示各階層市民對政府甚為不滿。這現象說來也很吊詭。以往不同學術機構做的民意調查都說,立法會在掟蕉、掃枱等行動以後的支持度都在下滑,而人民力量與社民連的支持度,也分別只得2.4%和0.8% ,較民建聯、民主黨和公民黨為低。

不過,今次選舉,兩黨在五區中所得票數是264247 票,以量計算,較上屆得票升41.95%,而且也較民主黨、公民黨今次在地區的總得票數目為多。若按比率來看,得票率佔整體投票人數的6.9%,較平日民調所見的為高。可見,在投票之時,有選民是願意送這些所謂激進的候選人晉身立法會。

相信民主的話,也該會相信大多數的選民的投票抉擇都是理性的。在這前提下,選民支持人力或社民連數目較平日民調回應為多,對政府有不滿之餘,大抵更是他們認為立法會在施政當中能發揮的作用有限,與其說理談政策,不如送一些候選人在議會內示威、叫口號,以作制衡。

投票後責任未完

事實上,不少市民還是相信立法會作用有限。在分組點票的限制下,即使一些對政府其實沒半點約束力的動議,即使得到在席大多數議員支持,但卻往往在分組點票下遭否決。又或者議員要提私人條例草案,回歸以後已變得障礙重重,《基本法》已說明私人條例草案不可涉及公共開支、政治體制和政府政策,如此這樣,幾近無所不包,廢了立法會不少功能,遑論說要像回歸前可以讓當時的議員如陸恭蕙通過《保護海港條例》成功阻止在維港內填海這些重要法案。

當然,回歸以後的選舉制度——比例代表制,其一目的就是要把政黨「零散化」,政黨最大的,如民建聯在議會內佔的議席比例也不足兩成,數目不過半,如此這樣,議員更難在議會內發揮很大的影響力。

雖說,立法會議員不是沒有可能做點事來,但要做的便要花大的力氣。結果下來,不少議員便選易捨難,大聲監察、力求出鏡才是如今政途,於是也難怪一些擅於口號、示威的政黨的支持有所增加。

身為一介市民,在如今這樣的形勢下,不要期望增加十席的立法會便一定會多一點作為,大家只可預計,未來四年議會內的分貝將會高了、動作多了,至於成果卻是另一回事。更何況,在扭曲的制度下,議會能否真正反映市民的意見,其實一直成疑,看民調看到市民對立法會的滿意度永遠在兩成以下的水平,較長期近五成的不滿意程度相對,究竟立法會能否真正說到香港市民的心聲,也說不得準。因此,在投過票、表過態度以後,不要以為責任就此完成、未來四年可以拍拍手,冷眼旁觀。因為到最後,最好的,還是靠自己。

遍地開花以後

靠自己為何重要,看近日的反對「國民教育」的行動便為一例,而且這次的行動更示範了怎樣靠自己。

如今在社交網絡上會見到:反對「國民教育」的聲音,遍地開花。只是,要遍地開花,始終也要有栽花人。倘若不是學民思潮的同學一直咬着這議題不放、拿着誠實豆沙包追着教育局吳克儉局長,後來在開學前絕食,以至關心子女的有識家長站起來組成關注國民教育家長關注組,如今政府推展「國民教育」的情況又會怎樣?相信不會像今天這樣,政府取消三年開展期,並且讓學校可以自決是否開辦此科。

政府如今算是讓了步,但卻不等於唱紅的「國民教育」不會在其他地方滲透,諸如交流團、日常學校活動等等。

有朋友說,她的母校老師跟她說,學校早前帶同學到內地交流團,學生由內地單位「教導」,要問一些正面的問題、不許有負面的質問和回應。如此種種,身為家長有時要阻也不能完全阻得了,而且政府容許學校自決,在給予數十萬元撥款的誘因下,一些老師朋友已預期日後他任教的學校為了增加資源,在反對「國教」的風聲沒那麼緊時,也會開辦「國民教育」科。

因此,要反對洗腦式的「國民教育」,必定是持久戰。要讓遍地開了的花不會凋謝,還得靠一眾公民,繼續發揮影響力,放大聲音要讓政府聽得到。

畢竟, 「靠自己」這回事從來都是一靠靠到底,要讓花繼續開下去,還是要每個人盡自己的一分力參與、讓真正的社會的聲音可以傳開去!

公民廣場就在你我身邊!

江麗芬


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童話王國

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C03 | 城市智庫 | 劍河長篙 | By Alan.C |
2012-09-15

一次參與歐委會的合作研究,隨團出訪歐洲,駕大學的七人車直奔哥本哈根。清晨五時啟程,先經M11 高速公路至M25,在轉往M20 到達Dover 海關,全車七人遞上七本不同國家的護照過境,可能因車身印有大學學院的名字,海關都直接放行,並笑說歸來時須帶上最好的研究,否則放逐歐洲。再乘載車船跨越英法海峽登陸Calais,北往穿越比利時國境,再途徑阿姆斯特丹午膳,到達德國無時速限制的Autobahn國道上,長驅往東北前進,進入兒時書架上常讀到的那久違的童話王國國度──丹麥。

Little Mermaid 中那海岸線旁延綿聳立的小沙丘、God Can Never Die 裏飛鳥成群於藍天下田野草原結集,還有The Snow Queen 裏那皇后身上的輕盈雪花長裙,從前書中的童話王國歷歷呈現於眼前。在安徒生的筆下,童話裏的幕幕片段風景塑造吾人心目中的丹麥,而印象中的童話王國總有一種荒涼的淒美。他的詩意加上神來之筆,給世人展現一幅幅變幻莫測的北歐風景,常令人錯覺丹麥就是一個活生生的童話世界。丹麥確有真實的王子與公主,也有美人魚化石,更有頂尖的古北歐建築,城鎮規模細小而其氣氛卻宛如一個個小花園,各帶一點活潑和夢幻的色彩,不像中、東歐的格局般沉重嚴肅。

別具一格在哥本哈根市中心的哥本哈根大學科學院旁邊, 即Rosenborg城堡附近,有一家名為Arnold Busck的書店,位處中心商業圈的一條小街巷中的一棟十八世紀的建築內,鬧中帶靜。開業初期主要為了方便大學學生尋找或者查閱文獻資料,現已成為全國最著名的書店,既可找到最完備的丹麥文文學作品,又有豐富的英語書系讀物。丹麥的所有書店,都有一與眾不同的格調側重,就是藏書類別均以現代文藝為重點。而在兒童讀物的區域,各種童話書籍更設於童話王國形式設計的小木屋內,內裏當然塞滿了安徒生的幻想影像。

挑選過喜愛的一本丹麥版安徒生童話書籍後,徒步走到運河的西邊,在運河畔的Baresso(意為獨特的感覺)露天咖啡廳小休一會,在波羅的海港口風情的氣氛中,一邊讀書,一邊享受着一口新鮮出爐的丹麥蛋糕,當然不少得一杯丹麥版的Carlsberg。

Alan.C


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裸體王子有話說

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C03 | 城市智庫 | 回眸英倫 | By 毛羨寧 |
2012-09-15

哈里王子最近被美國網站登載了裸露照片,他在拉斯維加斯跟男女朋友開派對盡興。傳媒加以報道,令英國皇室丟臉,連哈里是贊助人的兒童慈善機構WellChild,也有一位患白血病的六歲小男童亞歷士(Alex Logan)說,看見王子時會揶揄他:「真高興你穿回衣服了。」上星期哈里出席這機構的頒獎晚會,揮揮指頭向亞歷士說:「你不斷看媽媽,似乎很想說一些話,但擔心說出來會被她責備。我已聽說過你在ITV電視台訪問中說的佻皮話,但我們還是不提吧。」亞歷士被王子逗着笑。哈里之後在致辭中讚揚醫護人員、義工、患病兒童及其家人說:「你們所付出的實在令人難以用言語形容,但我從來不怕站出來,就讓我試試說吧。」台下觀眾猜不到他會拿自己的窘境做笑柄,為他鼓掌歡呼。英國人有自嘲的幽默感,經常扭轉尷尬場面,說不定還能用作自己的盾牌。

處之泰然

英國人甚至特別包容怪客──無論少數人的立場和行為能不能得到大眾認同,英國人總會找到正面的形容詞來為別人的固執打完場。好像十一年前,有一位名叫韋信(Vincent Bethell)的失業藝術家,是英國有史以來第一位裸體出庭的人。

他早在1998 年開始提倡要「有自由做回自己」(the Freedom to BeYourself),認為人天生便是裸體,穿衣服反而對人體美學、坦誠和開放構成了障礙。「為什麼法例規定公眾地方不許裸體?」於是,他和幾位支持者要求「非性感的裸體」,在任何時間、任何地點都合法化。他進行過許多次當眾脫衣服的示威活動,最著名的抗議運動包括1998年手舉「破壞社會」的大標語在倫敦市中心的Piccadilly Circu s裸體奔跑十五分鐘,還有在國家歷史博物館、國家美術館、高雲花園、唐寧街、國會、蘇格蘭場等名勝地點脫光衣服。雖然有些途人報以惡言,但也有些向他微笑,似是作出鼓勵,「赤棵的確有着巨大、澎湃的力量,能刺激人的思想!」韋信溫文地說。

令他失望的,就是警察見他和同伴穿回衣服後便把他們釋放。2000年7月,他到倫敦警察總署前赤裸裸爬上電線桿,引來無數圍觀者,街道交通大堵塞。警察只好以「造成公眾滋擾」的理由逮捕他,把他關入Brixton 監獄。那五個月裏,他一直拒絕穿衣服,被轉送往高警戒精神醫院Broadmoor也不退讓。最後法庭開審時已經是寒風刺骨的11 月,他寧讓身體凍得發青,也不願意放棄裸體信念。在他踏進法庭之前,法官警告陪審團的兩位女士們都回過頭去,以避尷尬。最後陪審團宣告他勝訴,說他沒有精神問題,也沒有犯罪。他在法庭外舉行了「裸體記者招待會」,慶祝最後勝利。英國大文豪沃夫的兒子Auberon Waugh在《週日郵報》寫下:「我想他證明了一個很好的觀點,儘管我們都不太肯定那觀點是什麼。」自信愈強、愈清楚檢視自己長短處的人,愈能處之泰然,別人攻擊時可以一笑置之。我不得不感謝英國天氣,把許多出洋相和起伏不定的情緒厚厚裹着,讓人在平凡生活中享受一下茶杯裏的小風波。

毛羨寧