Stehen Sie Auf: The Germans Step Up

Along with and her cabinet members, German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be filling a void left by the Obama administration in speaking frankly to China on environmental and human rights issues.  Apparently being somewhat less in debt to China, or, perhaps, possessing the postwar German penchant for speaking truth to power, adds to the conservative democrat’s ability to do speak with a moral voice.

Without speculating that Germany is simply nervous about losing its status as the top global exporter to China, two stories from Berlin argue for moral strength:

1.Environment Minister Condemns US and China, and

"German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen on Saturday had harsh words for the USA and China over the failure of this month's Copenhagen climate conference. " Via The Local, Germany's News in English

2. Merkel Slams China for Jailing Dissident

"German Chancellor Angela Merkel (ed.: tho someone else is holding the sign in the photo) hit out at the Chinese goverment on Friday after a Beijing court jailed Chinese dissident and human rights campaigner Liu Xiaobo for 11 years," via The Local"

In the meantime, Danwei.org provides some essential reading from the British press about the Chinese role in sabotaging the Copenhagen negotiations, via John Kennedy at the Global Voices Online.

I should add that Liu Xiaobo has been a favorite in the German press for many years now and a fixture on the Beijing circuit for German reporters.  I recall in particular in spring 2008, during the Tibetan uprising/aufstand, that Liu commented extensively on the events via an interview with Der Spiegel, the unparalleled Hamburg weekly newsmagazine.  Perhaps if the Tibetans and the human rights activists paint themselves as advocates of a solidly green future, all the movements which appeal so heavily to the German consciousness could be tapped.

In closing, a few images from Tibet from the first German exhibition to that plateau in 1938-1939.  Yes, this book was published under the auspices of the SS, but the text isn’t, to my brief reading this afternoon, terribly ideological. And perhaps all that really is going to matter in the end is, how much snow has left these peaks in the past 70 years?  If you want to know how many Europeans were left in Tibet in 1950, you can get that original Chinese data translated into English on your behalf on this blog, or you can get your tuckus over to the Foreign Ministry Archives in Beijing with a couple of letters of introduction.

Published in 1943 in Leipzig; courtesy of University of Minnesota Libraries

oops my office for the evening: Hard Times Cafe, Minneapolis

from _Geheimnis Tibet_, courtesy University of Minnesota Libraries

oops a little excerpt from _Red Rogue_ (published by Praeger, 2007) which reminds us that North Koreans love missiles more than carbon reduction targets

Geheimnis Tibet

Yaks in _Geheimnis Tibet_ 皮实!

I don't care what your nationality is / 啥民族性

O Mensch! Gib acht!

Umweltfreudliche Bewegungen, unterstutzen wir mussen/ aus Haken oder Sorgen, die Zukunft uns da rufen/Streben alle nach Gluck, oder Freiheit/welch’ im schwölle Sacke Regierungen mit etwas schwache werfen hat//Sag’ mit anders, heldenhaft ist es doch über Liebe zu reden/lieber Linien, gelb, grün, die sussen Atmen von noch nichtgeborene Kinder zu riechen?  oder im Daseins leben, jetzt, im peinliche Selbstbewußtseins, zwischen angriffenden Kohlewerke und die niederwaschende, hohstimmende, schwebeneaugenen, unglaubliche Masse.

O Mensch! Gib acht!

Bismarckian Musical Nationalism: Modern Fallout

On a day when the Chinese Vice-Premier is meeting with the Japanese leadership, it seems appropriate to think about reconciling remaining differences from the Second World War.

From my perspective as a sometime scholar of the Chinese past and its depiction in CCP propaganda, I view France and Germany as among the most active societies and governments on earth in coming to terms with the past.   Yet there is still plenty to argue about.

These differences often reach most emotionally down to the level of art and music.

This article from Le Figaro’s Paris-Berlin blog details one such misunderstanding about that famous prior German national anthem, “Deutschland, Deutschland uber alles,” a song and its harmonization brought into being via “Papa” Franz Joseph Hadyn and amped up by the Nazi Party in 1933.  Apparently the French Ministry of Defense, unaware that the Germans had discontinued using the anthem in 1991 (and had cleansed its more militant verses since 1950), put the selection on a program for a French military choir to be sung under the Arc d’Triumphe on November 11, 2009 in honor of Franco-German reconciliation.

German soldiers tread the Champs-Elysees on 14 June 1994 (Bastille Day) for the first time since 1945 -- photo via Le Figaro's "Big Steps to Franco-German Reconciliation" photoblog -- click for link

This very much reminds me of the flap when George W. Bush’s protocol master shouted out “the Premier of the Republic of China!” in the White House red-carpet ceremony just before the U.S. Army Band launched into a version of the “Song of the People’s Volunteers.”

In any case, the comments on the above article indicate there is still plenty of work to do in Franco-German relations.  Once Chinese and Japanese get to debate and discuss face-to-face the meaning of “Kimigayo” and the PRC’s stridently anti-Japanese national anthem, perhaps, we will be getting somewhere.

German Views of the PRC

Somehow Sunday and Monday have fused together as a single Teutonic-Sinological seismic entity. Ascribe it to living downtown, to having tens of thousands of real football fans course by one’s window, the sun shards glistening, the croissance of a new day, the blessedness of cynicism held back in a deep gorge somewhere distant and untouchable.

And so one can dwell in Der Spiegel or Suddeutscher Zeitung for an hour or so, and get all Teutonized, feeling the contact point sizzle (es zischt!) between one’s bloodline and a language attached to it…

So that was my glory, and it reached a mini-apotheosis this morning with some East German-PRC research and revisiting some articles I had collected and coursed through with a pen last August 2008, that pregnant month, in Berlin as I thought of Beijing.

To wit:

1. Ullrich Fichtner, “China’s gefährlicher Sommer” [China's Dangerous Summer], Der Spiegel, 4 August 2008 (Vol. 32): 84-92.

[YouTube reading of this poetic opening is forthcoming, because, as a different Dr. once said, "I been in the lab/with a pen and a pad/trying to get this damn label off."] Incomplete, but perhaps useful…


2. Bernhard Bartsch, “Aufgeflogen: Die Pannen und Schwindelein hinter den Kulissen von Olympia sind Stadtgesrpräch in Peking; Die Menschen empören sich über leere Stadien und eine falsche Sängerin” [Flying Away: The Breakdowns and Swindles Behind the Curtain are Conversation in Beijing City; The People are Outraged at Empty Stadiums and a False Singer], Berliner Zeitung, 13. August 2008, p. 3.  [UPDATE: Full text of the German article is available here.]

[Also forthcoming on YouTube, since I enjoyed the discussion of the singer/musical nationalism discussion.]

German Version of the Bartsch article:

English summary of the Bartsch article:


In the meantime….it appears that Bartsch really quoted this fellow rather selectively, or something was lost in the translation into the German. It would seem that the following interview would need to be translated into English, but all the derivative reporting already appears to be have been wrung from this incident. And do check out the new issue of China Quarterly, completely interesting analysis of the 2008 Olympics in the PRC political context!

Wen Jiabao and Angela Merkel

Wen Jiabao and Angela Merkel