Today’s China Readings June 18, 2012

Is there a temporary solution to the Huangyan Island/Scraborough Shoal dispute between China and the Philippines? In China hails PH pullout from Scarborough Shoal the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports:

The withdrawal of a Philippine Coast Guard patrol vessel and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) survey ship on Friday ended the standoff after two months and one week, leaving China in control of Scarborough Shoal…President Benigno Aquino ordered the two vessels home on Friday night as a typhoon over the Pacific Ocean and a low-pressure system over Palawan combined to cause stormy weather in the West Philippine Sea…In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Zhang Hua, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy, said: “We have noticed the withdrawal of government vessels by the Philippine side. We hope this action will help ease the tensions.”

Weather concerns apparently are not shared by the Chinese ships in the area. Given the online rhetoric of a few weeks ago, we should be relieved that economic warfare and diplomacy, not gunfire, appear to have forced the Philippines to back down.

M. Taylor Fravel recently looked at the role of the PLA in the South China Sea, following comments by Ma Xiaotian, a Deputy Chief of the General Staff in the People’s Liberation Army. Fravel writes that:

“Ma’s statement indicates that a broad consensus exists among top party and military leaders to emphasize diplomacy and avoid militarizing the disputes in the South China Sea…The emphasis on using maritime law enforcement agencies to maintain a presence in disputed areas suggests a deliberate effort to cap the potential for escalation while asserting China’s claims. …Of course, China will continue to assert its claims.  But the PLA’s support for a diplomatic approach and limiting the potential for escalation should be noted.”

Expect only good news out of China for the next few months, or at least as reported by Chinese media outlets. WantChinaTimes reports on a directive from Li Changchun, the Politburo Standing Committee member responsible for propaganda. Per the report:

The head of the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department has forbidden all media outlets from reporting “negative” news before the 18th National Congress, a once-in-a-decade leadership transition, also prohibiting journalists from reporting incidents outside the regions in which they live without permission, according to an official statement released Friday. Li Changchun — member of the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee and the party’s propaganda chief — demanded that all news portals must, beginning June 15, to the greatest extent possible publicize the achievements of President Hu Jintao and Premier Minister Wen Jiabao throughout their 10-year tenure. The overarching theme of the coverage is to be “golden decade, flourishing decade.”

Expect even more pressure on Sina to keep Weibo in line.

A London academic infuraited a Chinese diplomat after raising questions about Confucius Institutes. As Tania Branigan reports in Chinese ambassador attacks ‘cold war’ fears over Confucius Institutes:

“Some people are not comfortable to see the rapid growth of Confucius Institutes. They cling to the outdated ‘cold war’ mentality,” Liu Xiaoming said at a recent Edinburgh gathering for the European branches. “They criticise Confucius Institutes for being a tool of China’s ‘national propaganda’. They label teaching Mandarin as ‘ideological infiltration.’ So they have from time to time made irresponsible remarks in western media.”…

Liu’s remarks came after Professor Christopher Hughes, a China expert at the London School of Economics, raised concerns about hosting such centres in the wake of last year’s scandal over the LSE’s dealings with the Gaddafi regime…Hughes said it was “gross interference” for Liu to complain about an internal discussion on ethics at the LSE. “He has insulted me and misrepresented my views by saying that I ‘have a cold war mentality’ for raising important ethical issues and merely repeating what Chinese leaders have said about the Confucius Institutes,” he said.

You can see a sample of Confucius Institute children’s courses online here. If you really want to go deep on this issue I recommend this long essay from China Heritage Quarterly on Confucius Institutes and Controlling Chinese Languages. The KMT used to fund a lot of Chinese language study in the US, and it is natural for governments to pursue a project like this. The core concerns relate to disclosure and academic legitimacy, issues Professor Hughes raised and which clearly struck a very sensitive nerve with the Chinese government. Perhaps Ambassador Liu has forgotten the proverb 此地无银三百两

So was Jon Stewart too harsh on the people of Hacienda Heights, California, who protested a local Confucius Institute, as parodied in a segment by Aasif Mandvi that “exposes the Communist threat as Hacienda Heights introduces a Chinese language program to middle school kids”?

The New York Times profiles Wendi Deng Murdoch in Wendi Murdoch Is Creating a Career of Her Own. There is no mention of the Myspace China mess or her fallout with Zhang Ziyi. We do learn she gets an advance look at the Wall Street Journal and that:

Her first film, “Snow Flower and the Secret Fan,” based on the best-selling book and produced with Florence Sloan, the Chinese wife of another media mogul, the former MGM studio chief Harry E. Sloan, came out in 2011. The pair are close to signing a deal with Sony Pictures to distribute their second movie based on the memoir “Journey of a Thousand Miles,” by the Chinese pianist Lang Lang.

There was another small earthquake outside Beijing early this morning, at the Tianjin-Tangshan border, not far from the epicenter of the massive 1976 quake. Famous Hong Kong Fengshui master Li Kuiming (李居明) predicted 2012 would be a difficult year for China, and he specifically cited problems in North China. He apparently foretold a natural disaster for Japan in 2011. Let’s hope Liu is off this year, though so far it has certainly not been an easy first half of 2012.

The best way to read this blog is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still blocked here. The email signup page is here, outside the GFW. You can also follow me on @niubi or Sina Weibo @billbishop. Comments/tips/suggestions/donations are welcome, and feel free to forward to recommend to friends. Thanks for reading.

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The best way to read this blog is to subscribe by email, especially if you are in China, as Sinocism is still blocked here. The email signup page is here, outside the GFW. You can also follow me on @niubi or Sina Weibo @billbishop. Comments/tips/suggestions/donations are welcome, and feel free to forward to recommend to friends. Thanks for reading.

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