ASEM Summit and China’s Role (Part II)

November 3, 2008 Updated: October 2, 2015
Keeping a cool head when faced with red numbers- besides China's small investors, the regime had gambled massively. Does an economic crisis loom on the horizon now? (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)
Keeping a cool head when faced with red numbers- besides China's small investors, the regime had gambled massively. Does an economic crisis loom on the horizon now? (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

The Epoch Times presents the second part of this interview with Joerg Rudolph, an expert in China affairs. 

Epoch Times (ET): What was the outcome of the ASEM summit? 

Joerg Rudolph (Rudolph): I am not quite sure; actually, I had no great expectations. I see so many people here who make their livelihood from politics. For them, the present event was a grand occasion to showcase their importance. 

The American president probably had the desire to do one good thing, finally, before he leaves office. I think there was a lot of rhetoric, a lot of hot air. But not one of the attendees was able to get their arms around the crisis—how to solve it. 

ET: Would one not expect a lot more than hot air during this acute crisis?

Rudolph: This crisis – none of the participants have a clue what is at stake. That is criminal! Those who have precipitated the crisis are ensconced in their offices and won't leave. None of them utter a word. Perhaps even they are unaware of what they have wrought, at least not the major part of it. That is my personal opinion; blowing lots of hot air, showing how indispensable one is, but none of them contributed anything useful to arrive at a solution.

Rudolph: Many people look to China as a hope out of the dilemma.

JR: Only in the West do people consider China as a ray of hope in this financial mess. But they are the victims of their own propaganda during the past few years, those who have always declared, "China is the greatest," and other such comments.

ET: One of China's best-known defenders of "China's Wonder" is author and journalist Frank Sieren.

Rudolph: Frank Sieren does not even speak Chinese, thus one becomes immediately suspicious if he knows anything about China at all. At least he ought to be able to read a modicum of Chinese characters. All those who are unable to do even that can be discounted as "China experts." Of course those kinds of people enjoy the reputation of being "experts," but they let people know in writing that they have no clue, because they do not know the language and are unable to read Chinese writing. 

ET: Are you familiar with the essay "Have all China Scholars been Bought?" (From: "In bed with the mafia – how China experts become corrupt") by Hong Kong economics professor Carsten Holz?

Rudolph: That is a great essay, he is good. What motivates us are things of interest from China experts and scientists. I cannot believe they were bought outright, but perhaps they acted out of fear. They state they would antagonize China if they say or write anything negative, derogatory or realistic; that it would preclude them from ever again traveling in China. But they over-react and take themselves too be too important. People in general are not that interested in those in China who wield the power. But some [critics] actually are banned from entering China.

ET: Just like Helmut Martin who was denied a visa.
Rudolph: Yes.

ET: Chancellor Merkel spoke with Wen Jiabao for one hour. Word is the "Freeze" is over. Did an ice age actually exist between China and Germany?

Rudolph: As I see it, many lobbyists in the economic sectors, like Herr Hambrecht and others, are afraid to make a mistake that might negatively impact their business dealings. Such fear has validity, and people are aware of it, and that is why they always tread lightly. China's politicos can easily ruin someone's business prospects if the rulers so desire. That is where their fear comes from. Then they run to the chancellery in Berlin, lobby interests like BDI and DIHK and who else, and want to plead their cause with German politicians. Usually they persevere, and the politicians are glad when the waters are calmed.

It seems Mr. Schroeder is the man to "make everything right." Ms. Merkel, [German Chancellor] grew up in the former East Germany, under communist rule, and while she is in China many things must seem quite familiar to her. People don't find her as easily swayed as Herr Schroeder. But she will do her best to be conciliatory regarding economic issues. Perhaps she is content in her own right that things are on an even keel again with China. But, having said that, she is not nearly as reticent as Herr Schroeder.  She had met up with two Chinese human rights advocates and two researchers and continues her line of operations.

ET: She defended her meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Rudolph: Yes, that is her! Schroeder would not do that, but that would not bother the Dalai Lama.  Schroeder does everything to make sure his own interests are met. Frau Merkel has all encompassing goal-oriented interests, not merely personal ones.
ET: Were economic relations between China and Germany better during Schroeder's times than they are now under the Merkel chancellery?

Rudolph: I cannot judge that. But managers working under Merkel are more cautious, perhaps even fearful. Schroeder had always "taken care of everything."  They have to make sure to save the Chinese leaders’ faces. Schroeder made "a big impression," but not Frau Merkel; perhaps a bit, that is common courtesy, but I deem her to be different than Schroeder.

Dr. Jörg M. Rudolph is a lecturer and the director of the East Asian Institute at the School of Economics in the Ludwigshafen.  (Matthias Kehrein/The Epoch Times)
Dr. Jörg M. Rudolph is a lecturer and the director of the East Asian Institute at the School of Economics in the Ludwigshafen. (Matthias Kehrein/The Epoch Times)

ET: In spite intimidations and threats from China, the EU Parliament had nevertheless awarded Hu Jia the Sacharow Prize. Do you see an eventual resurgence of a freeze between China and the EU?

Rudolph: No. The Chinese have already addressed this and let it be known "it was not that big a deal," according to a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Office. That shows the Chinese people's mindset – Hu Jia not being important; the only important thing is who it is that is incarcerated. Of course this award is important, but the ruling minions assign it lesser importance; I don't think there will be any further repercussions. But following the Dalai Lama event, many Chinese websites, even China's mouthpiece Xinhua, were ready to call for another freeze between China and the EU/Germany. That is not happening now. Many of the thousands of Chinese bloggers have never even heard of Hu Jia; that's why the regime won't intervene.

ET: Is there any kind of result for the Chinese public following the Hu Jia award?

Rudolph: The Chinese public is unaware of the award. Only a handful know of him. He is much better known abroad. I applaud the EU Parliament for having done that. It needed to be done! The most important development to hope for would be a more transparent and open Chinese regime and society. From my point of view, awarding this prize was a good move and must be continued.

ET: Certain people want us to believe that Western systems and access to human rights could not exist in Chinese society.

Rudolph: Those who say that are the ones who want to further their own interests. Perhaps managers of enterprises, and of course the Chinese rulers with their powers. Saying the former is an exceedingly arrogant statement.
In my view, one must not speak of human rights; instead, people ought to speak of freedom of the press, and freedom of assembly. That is what is at stake. Transparency, freedom of assembly, those are important matters! "Human rights" is too abstract a term. One Chinese magazine is called "Human Rights," a completely overused, outdated term. One must stick to concrete terms: freedom of the press, freedom to demonstrate, and others. If those freedoms can exist in China [without repercussions], everything else will resolve itself. Can you imagine who all would get organized? It would frighten you to see all manner of things emerge, chauvinism, nationalism and arrogance. That would become quite chaotic.

It has to come from the Chinese inside China. Outsiders cannot achieve this, but some in the Chinese nation are pro-active advocates, and do this work intensively. The independent  PEN-Club is one of those.  They are the ones who from behind the scenes broadcast information about the milk scandal and are people who actually analyze current events. Don't' immediately scream "human rights, human rights." That serves no purpose whatsoever! Be specific! Relate what happened and give concrete information, such as with the milk scandal: how the political functionaries were in cahoots with the business community! 

Courageous people like Liu Xiabo have a lot of guts, are intelligent and immune to the manifold CCP propaganda shenanigans that smack of chauvinism and nationalism. Many people are gullible and fall for it, although they are anti-regime in other areas.  We saw this in the spring when the Tibetan events happened. People who otherwise scoff at the CCP officials suddenly became "anti-Western," saying "it is always the Westerners’ fault," whoever "the West" might be. I don't even know what they meant by that. Perhaps it’s the idea of freedom?

Dr. Jörg M. Rudolph (1951) is a lecturer and the director of the East Asian Institute at the School of Economics in the Ludwigshafen. His area of expertise focuses on Chinese history and geography and extends to current political and economic developments. He is publisher of the China Service Sju Tsai – The World of the Chinese ( He was a delegate for German Economic Interests in Beijing between 1997 and 2002, and a founding member of the German Chamber of Commerce in China. He studied Sinology at the East Asian College at Berlin's Free University between 1974 and 1979.

Read Part I in English

Read Part I and Part II in German

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Florian Godovits
Florian Godovits