Red Line — this week we discuss Japan and China clash, Pope’s visit to UK and Susan Boyle


Red Line — this week we discuss Japan and China clash, Pope’s visit to UK and Susan Boyle

Источник: «Voice of Russia»

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Welcome to the Voice of Russia and its weekend program — the Red Line.

This week we would discuss an ongoing diplomatic spat between Beijing and Tokyo, which has already turned into the worst row between Asia’s two economic giants, Pope Benedict stormy visit to UK and conclude with the enigma of a new Guinness Book hero Susan Boyle as a British version of American dream.

Sergei Strokan: Beyond the Headlines. This is Red Line first heading which would focus on China-Japan territorial dispute fueled by the detention of Chinese vessel captain in Japan, presumably on the strength of accusations that he has violated territorial waters of Japan.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: And in this respect, let me ask you, Sergei and Mira, the first question: Do both of you think that this is still solely regional, though big, or global story?

Sergei Strokan: Let me underline few key points. The first point is that China and Japan have locked horns over the string of tiny uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. There is a good English saying «Small is beautiful». But in this particular case I would have put it this way «Small is lucrative». More than lucrative — seductive, divisive, explosive.

The second point is that it is not a minor border row between two banana republics or two Oceanic states hardly seen on the map. The disputed pieces of rocks are presumably very rich in oil and gas and it looks like the root of the whole controversy.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Can you elaborate on it, Sergei?

Sergei Strokan: Well, I believe, what we see is a 21-st century textbook example of clash of — well, not civilizations in this notorious Samuel Huntington understanding, but the two major world economies — number two and number three. In fact, I am a little confused who is second and who is third. Initially, Japan was rated second and China third. And recently there were reports that China has already overtaken Japan, bridging the gap between herself and the United States still running first.

Mira Salganik: Japanese stand very firm on the issue saying that the East China Sea islands which they call Senkaku belong to them, not to the Chinese.

I have noticed that the new Japanese foreign minister appointed last week made himself very clear that Tokyo would not backtrack on its position. And let me remind our audience that Japan has also six-decade long territorial dispute with Russia over South Kuril Islands which they in Japan call «Northern territories».

Ekaterina Kudashkina: And the same Japanese foreign minister before his appointment called South Kurils «occupied lands». And this is what he said about the territory under the jurisdiction of Russian Federation.

So, as I understand, both of you want to say the same thing. The first thing is that this is the story about redistribution of economic wealth and resources in the present world. And the second thing is that this is a story about patriotism and nationalism on one hand — and an ability or inability to find compromise with the neighbor, on the other — isn’t it?

Sergei Strokan: Well, territorial disputes are always politically charged issues. Very highly charged, I would say. Take Falklands, take Spratly islands in the Yellow Sea which are claimed by several countries — Japan, South Korea, Vietnam and others. All over the world it is the same. Arctic is not an island but the main struggle for its riches still lies ahead. By the way, it has been a subject of discussion at a high-profile Moscow conference on Arctic this week. And all of us in this much-spoken interdependent world as we say in Red Line have to learn to balance might and responsibility. Protect our national interest and respect the national interests of the other.

Mira Salganik: Sergei, you sound like a preacher. But is so difficult to adopt that stand when it comes to the reality. Look, what they are doing today in China. They are burning Japanese national flags, staging noisy mass protest. And go to Chinese web-sites. They are almost ready to explode with the pledges so to say «to teach a lesson to Japanese guys» that they should never forget.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Ironically, all this coincided with the anniversary of Chinese invasion in Manchuria in 1931 and happens just some three weeks after we in Red Line discussed troubled history of China-Japan relations in a story on awkward «apologetic diplomacy».

Bur let us hear our expert. Now we are joined by Alexei Voskresensky, Dean with the School of Political Affairs, Moscow State Institute for International Relations.

Thank you very much for joining us, Mr. Voskresensky. Here is our first question to you — how serious is the current diplomatic spat over disputed islands, involving two major Asian economies?

Alexei Voskresensky: I would say it is relatively serious — this is a question with a relatively deep historical background. It is not only the question of the two economies — it is the question of the two nations’ states. And it is not only the dispute over their economic spheres — it is the dispute over the interpretation of the past and the construction of the future on the basis of this interpretation.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Could you expand a little bit on that?

Alexei Voskresensky: Of course. Part of these territories was in the possession of one side, and then another side took them. After the Second World War, when Japan was defeated, American military troops possessed the control of the islands. Then they returned back to Japan. But, according to the San Francisco Treaty, Japan actually ceased to possess these territories. But, as laid down in the treaty, this does not mean that other states could take the islands. So, this is not only the question of these islands which evoked the dispute right now — this is a question of the disputes of different states over other islands, like those disputed between South Korea and Japan, a question of how to interpret the past, the defeat of Japan in the Second World War. Then, there is an addition today — resources.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Do you imply that actually the whole situation is, how to put it, renewable? As soon as one dispute is settled, there is no guarantee that a similar dispute is not going to rise. Is that correct?

Alexei Voskresensky: That’s right. The point is that you cannot settle one dispute as soon as you have a whole set of disputes on the issue. You never can settle only one part of the whole question.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: OK. There is the second question now. As far as we understand, the anti-Japanese sentiment in China has been described as growing.

Alexei Voskresensky: Right, this is a rise of nationalism in the country which is feeling that it is successful economically and people also feel that. So, they want a new interpretation of their role, they are against what was with them in the past and anti-Japanese feelings are the remnants of the past relationships between the two sides, in the first part of the 20th century.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Such feelings are so persistent, as persistent as we can see. What could be the implications for the future regional policies?

Alexei Voskresensky: Definitely, this is one big problem, which is in the focus of attention of everyone, although sometimes not described as an important issue. This is an issue of how to construct the regional world order and who will be the hegemonic state, around whom Eastern Asia would gather and develop in the future, develop in all senses — economic, international, regional, political, military etc. And the issue is part of it, and the side that will get out of such a relatively small question, as the island dispute, will be soon revealed.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Thank you very much, Mr. Voskresensky. It was very interesting talking to you.

And now let’s move to the other hemisphere — and to the next chapter of our program, Between the Lines, in which we invite you to discuss some of the most interesting articles focusing on the current events. This time I’d suggest we take up the Pope’s visit to Britain, a state visit with totally unexpected consequences, I’d say. The chilly welcome has suddenly turned into the enthusiastic support for the pontiff towards the end of his four-day stay in the country.

Despite widespread concerns, Pope Benedict XVI effectively managed to win over the hearts of Catholics and non-Catholics. And to take a deeper look at what actually happened, we would do well to see what Eamon Duffy, a Professor of the History of Christianity at the University of Cambridge, and the author of a book entitled 'Saints and Sinners’, which is the history of the popes, wrote for the Telegraph daily some days before the visit. The story is called «Pope Visit: A visit that reflects our changing times." In 1982, the Church was riding high and John Paul II’s visit was a triumph. But now we have a Pope who does not produce the impression of a strong leader, and these are testing times, he maintained.

Sergei Strokan: Well, Katya, you could hardly argue with that. It’s been thirty years after Pope John Paul II pastoral visit to Britain in May 1982. Much has happened since then, and besides, there are a lot of people who, just like professor Duffy, were rather concerned that Pope Benedict XVI would not make a public figure, losing the comparison to his predecessor.

Mira Salganik: Oh, yes, when Pope John Paul II travelled to Britain, he was four years into his pontificate, and he was seen as an international hero. He seemed almost a superman — young for a pope at 62, he was an athlete as much at home on the ski-slopes as in the pulpit. Besides, he was a poet, dramatist, and philosopher.

Sergei Strokan: A truly impressive description, Mira. But now Benedict XVI, much older — he is 83 — and producing a much more subtle impression — he’s often described as frail, he is known to love cats and the music of Mozart. However, observers claim Benedict has a more refined intellect than John Paul II. Besides, he is the only first-rank theologian to be elected pope for centuries. But professors of theology seldom make adroit leaders.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Well, Sergei, what you have said, in my view, really suits a spiritual leader who doesn’t necessarily have to be adroit, does he? However, yes, just before the visit some people voiced their doubts that the Pontiff would be seen as less charismatic than his predecessor, that he would be greeted by half-empty arenas and angry protests over allegations of clergy child abuse and cover-ups.

Sergei Strokan: Well we all know there have been a number of scandals, and, to follow Professor’s logic, the times have really changed since the visit of John Paul II. The Church’s moral standing was high. So was Catholic confidence. There were some 7000 priests to serve the parishes. In England where most Catholics used to belong to the working class, by early 1980-s they moved into positions of power and influence. Their new status was symbolized by the leadership of Cardinal Basil Hume, an aristocratic monk whose brother-in-law was Secretary to the Cabinet, and whom the Queen liked to call «my Cardinal».

Mira Salganik: Well, now the situation looks different. Catholic morale and moral credibility have taken a special battering from the revelations, clergy numbers have dwindled by more than 20 per cent, and the average age of serving priests is now over 60. With fewer than 250 men currently in training for the English priesthood, the Catholic community faces a looming crisis in clerical provision.

Under Pope Benedict XVI the Vatican has responded defensively to the crisis, it was slow to grasp its seriousness and the need for complete openness in dealing with it. The numbers of priests involved in such cases is miniscule, but the impact on the decent majority of the clergy has been crushing.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Well, Mira, sex abuse has really been devastating to the church. But I am not sure it really is wise to insist on the openness for the non-members of the Church. The guilty have been punished, we know that, and I really believe there is no much need to go into juicy details. And that was also the position of John Paul II, who, as we now discover, was extremely popular. I don’t think openness in these matters would have been good. Yet, if you mean cover-ups, that’s different. They really enabled serial predation.

Mira Salganik: And that was one of the reasons why people were angry, why they were almost offended by the fact that was a state visit, and many expected there would be protests and empty seats at the gatherings.

Sergei Strokan: But, Mira, this never happened. The crowds came out, as they always do for papal visits — 85,000 for a prayer vigil in London, 125,000 lining Edinburgh’s streets, 50,000 in Birmingham to see Benedict beatify John Henry Newman, the famous Victorian convert from Anglicanism. A well-attended protest march and rally took place in London on Saturday but was dwarfed by the number cheering and waving flags when the Pope mobile passed by.

Over the four days of the trip video coverage on the official Papal Visit website was watched as many as 1.3million times, while the site itself had 1.7m page visits.

Mira Salganik: Well, but I suppose you would agree with Professor Duffy that as a communicator of some counter-cultural ideas, Benedict XVI is really accident-prone. If it weren’t for the reactionaries in the Vatican, the argument runs, priests might have been permitted to marry, forestalling the sex abuse crisis. Birth control, gay relationships, divorce and remarriage might have been blessed, bringing lapsed Catholics back into the fold. Theological dissent would have been allowed to flourish, creating a more welcoming environment for religious seekers.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: These arguments sound too populist to me. Indeed, the church’s stringent moral message is not exactly welcome in a multicultural, sexually liberated society. But the example of Protestantism suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the Protestants have done, across the past four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled.

Pope Benedict XVI and John Paul II, by contrast, have worked to maintain continuity with the Christian tradition, even at the risk of seeming reactionary and out of touch.

Some say that this has cost the church its once-privileged place in the Western establishment and earned it the scorn of fashionable opinion.

But then — the continuity, not swift adaptation — is just why, let’s put it this way, traditional Christian denominations are still strong and, as it turns out — much respected.

Well, why don’t we turn to an insider opinion now? We are joined by Igor Chobanov, a Roman Catholic priest serving here in Moscow. Father Igor, how do you assess the results of the Pope’s visit to Britain?

Igor Chobanov: I would say that the four days of the official visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Britain has been a real success, much more successful than the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Britain could have dared to hope. One may say that the Pope addressed the heart of the nation and actually urged the country to examine what kind of Britain it wishes to be. He also impressed the British public opinion by his person — his shyness, deep humility, innocence, and also by his courage to address difficult issues. The very fact that the Pope has come to Britain, which is historically a protestant country, perhaps has finally drawn a line under those sectarian and bloody disputes of the past. His contacts with the hierarchy of the Church of England and various exchanges during this visit were remarkably friendly.

Perhaps, the world of Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron in his farewell address reflected the results of this visit best of all. He said that Benedict has delivered to this country a message, which made it think, and also gave strong assurance that faith has been and always will be part of the fabric of British society. Clearly enough, part of the British public opinion honestly opposed the visit of the Pope to their country. It was their right. But the number of cheering supporters was far greater, than any protest group. For example, 200,000 in the streets of London on Saturday — the time of the visit — compared to about 5,000 protesters, who took part in the march against the visit on the same day. So, I would say it proves the fact that the visit was successful.

On the other hand, it is clear that the modern British society is highly secularized and it influenced the low expectations for the Pope’s visit. We must also compare reactions on this visit in the beginning and at the end. Actually, by the end of this short 4-day-visit, opponents of the Pope were muted by the public support.

I mentioned that the Pope honestly faced all important questions on the agenda both of the church and of the modern society. One of these issues is the secularist character of the modern society. It is the first time in the history of the church that it faces a certain dismay in the questions of faith. It is not for the first time that the church faces the opposition to the values declared in the Holy Scriptures and the Bible. The response of the church to these phenomena has always been rather cool. Partly it is connected with the simple theological fact that in the opinion of the church the act of faith is an act of personal relationship between God and man.

Therefore, if someone wishes to use one’s liberty in order to negate the very idea of the existence of God, this is his human right. The church never tries to engage anyone in its activities. On the other hand, the latest developments in the modern society make it rather difficult for someone to express their opinions. Benedict XVI highly estimated Christian theology, very much respected by scholars of all Christian denominations.

Of course, the subtleties of his thoughts are better perceived in the written form, rather than when he speaks things out. It is therefore a miracle in a sense that he was so well accepted and assessed by the public opinion. Perhaps, it is connected with some features of his personality, first of all, his integrity. Shyness, humility and courage are somehow interconnected in his personality. His theological background makes him very clear and direct in the expression of the verities of faith. Perhaps, people have perceived this integrity, clarity and courage which he wishes to speak to the world.

He is a very refined, very cultured person — that is well-known. He likes music and perhaps, this is a reflection of his education and day of family upbringing. On the other hand, it has also become a part of his daily routine. Almost every evening he is said to play piano for about an hour. Possibly this helps him put away all troubles of the day. But people don’t see this. What they can see is his care of what is said by others, the openness of his mind that does not mean that he wishes them how to compromise the verities of faith.

In the 1990s, being a student in Rome, I had two occasions to attend his lectures at the university. Two things impressed me: the clarity of his lectures, the clarity of his message and his attention to sometimes naïve questions from the students. In a sense, he was much more attentive to the questions of students, than to those of professors. It gives a certain human touch. He is not charismatic, but he manages to establish a direct communication with whoever he speaks to at the moment. That is part of his personality.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Now we are coming to the concluding heading of Red Line that this week is to be called the Woman in the News or — to keep out of gender controversies — the Person in the News.

Susan Boyle hit the headlines again — she has now been entered in the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest-selling record by any female in the UK, the most successful debut album in Britain and as the oldest artist to see a first record hit the number one spot, both at home and in the US.

Mira Salganik: Susan Boyle shot to fame on the 2009 series of Britain’s Got Talent. Her debut album entitled I Dreamed a Dream (from the musical Les Miserables) has won her worldwide acclaim.

She said: «I used to read this book as a wee girl. I never dreamt that one day I would actually appear in the Guinness Book of Records. I only ever wanted to sing and perform. This is truly fantastic.»

Sergei Strokan: Good for her. Congratulations, Susan! I have been going through international media, which is talking a lot about Susan Boyle and could not help noting that it is focused almost exclusively on sales of her album — more than 400 thousand copies in its first week in the UK alone. It went on to sell more than a million copies in just three weeks and her YouTube video has been watched almost 49 million times. It really jarred me that Susan Boyle as person is virtually eclipsed by material symptoms of her success! And let me add that Russian media did the same, which shows that Russia is not alienated from world crap-culture!

Mira Salganik: You are not altogether right, Sergei! It is not that I disagree with what you have said. Indeed, when a devout Catholic Susan Boyle has gladly agreed to sing for the Pope, the media turned it into a debate on commercialization of the Pope’s visit. On the other hand, it was the media that has built her up as a sort of a social phenomenon — albeit unintentionally.

Sergei Strokan: How’s that? What do you mean?

Mira Salganik: By keeping to highlight the singer’s age, her plain looks, her un-glamorous appearance — things that make her odd in the light of modern culture’s fetishization of appearances, particularly of youthfulness and glamour. In contrast, SuBo, as the media started calling her, celebrates priority of talent over appearance. She rejected all attempts to change her image — and she won.

She doesn’t mince words asserting her right to be herself: «Back home we call it „Mutton dressed like lamb“, and that’s what it is. It’s me…my voice that people come to see. You want long legs and boobs, go to a Madonna or Britney or someone like them. I’m here to sing to you and I am not the nicest looking woman in the world.»

Ekaterina Kudashkina: She wants to produce an impression of a simple and clear-cut person dedicated to her art. It seems that by now her producers have learned a few things about her.

Mira Salganik: As for producers — they have no option! Did not one of them say to a professional gathering: «You may be the coolest people in the world, but this year your industry was saved by a 48-year-old Scottish cat lady in sensible shoes.»

Ekaterina Kudashkina: This is true, but don’t you think that her character has been shaped by all of her life before she became a star? Look, Susan Boyle- not yet SuBo! — was born in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland, Her father was a miner; Susan was the youngest of four brothers and six sisters.

Sergei Strokan: I know that prior to Britain’s Got Talent her main experience had come from singing in her local Catholic church, in local choirs, and in karaoke performances at pubs in and around her village.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Yes, and it was her mother who, after Susan won several local singing competitions, urged her to enter Britain’s Got Talent and take the risk of singing in front of an audience larger than her church. She never married, and dedicated herself to care for her ageing mother until she died in 2007 at the age of 91.

Mira Salganik: Susan Boyle still lives in the family home, a four-bedroom council house, with her 10-year-old cat, Pebbles.

In May 2010, Susan Boyle was voted by Time magazine as the seventh most influential person in the world, fourteen places above US President Barack Obama, who received one fifth of her votes, and fifty seven above French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: It is often said that SuBo’s success seemed to have particular resonance in the United States. Probably her life-story is perceived in America as the American Dream with talent overcoming adversity and poverty.

Mira Salganik: In her first appearance at the Britain’s Got Talent she said that she had «never been married, never been kissed».

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Susan Boyle seems to be setting an example for women. Or giving them hope at least. R. M. Campbell, music critic for The Gathering Note compared SuBo to Ella Fitzgerald, in that «… it is really, really hard to make a career if a woman isn’t attractive».

Sergei Strokan: So, Katya and Mira? Do you expect a gender revolution?

Ekaterina Kudashkina: It seems to be coming anyway. Or rather, it’s already here.

And here’s a male’s viewpoint for you. Los Angeles vocal coach Eric Vetro stated «She’s an Everywoman as opposed to an untouchable fantasy goddess, so maybe that’s why people react to her.»

Well, let us find out how they see things in Britain. Now we are joined by Tony Helpin, Moscow correspondent with Times. Do you think that the Susan Boyle Phenomenon is created by the mass media or is it somehow different?

Tony Halpin: Of course, it is a phenomenon created by the mass media, because her appearing on a talent show, which was one of the most popular programs in Britain, was also a product of popular media. The real thing came about through the spread of the viral video on YouTube of her appearance on that program. She was famous globally, quite separately from the sort that she appeared on this television program. We were just people watching this video, commenting and appreciating it — and millions of people around the world did that.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: What was the secret of her success so to say?

Tony Halpin: I think it is a kind of a fairy tale story that everybody really loves. Not an American dream, but a small Scottish village dream — she is a woman in her late 40s who had a very difficult life, spending much of it looking after her sick mother, who was unemployed and just had this dream, which, if you have seen the clip of her appearance on the program, most people loved. They were laughing at her until the moment she opened her month — then everybody was on her side. It was a kind of transformation everyone imagines may to happen to them.

Mira Salganik: Exactly. And it was the most successful clip, wasn’t it?

Tony Halpin: Yes, because it was a kind of an ugly duckling story. We all know the story about the ugly duckling that becomes a swan, and she was exactly that.

Mira Salganik: And everyone saw the transformation.

Tony Halpin: We saw it in a matter of three minutes. It was literally a case when three minutes changed somebody’s life — in fact, someone changing her own life in the space of three minutes and becoming as global phenomenon. That happens very rarely.

Sergei Strokan: How long can this miracle last? Do you have any idea?

TonyHalpin: The thing that is in Susan Boyle’s favor is that she is clearly a very talented singer. You can’t take that fact away. And so you can satisfy all this media hysteria and the hype around her appearance. What you are left with is a voice, which millions of people appreciate well enough to want to buy her discs and to tune in when she appears on the TV. You may not know that during the Pope’s recent visit to Britain, she sang at one of the services that he was attending. So, she is a significant enough star in British terms to make that appearance, which was during the first visit of the Pope. Clearly, she has longevity — people want to hear her voice, people are still interested in her story. As long as this is the case, I guess she will continue to be a popular star.

Mira Salganik: And she’s got that sincerity which makes her contacts with the public easy.

Tony Halpin: That is almost naivety, it just comes from nowhere. There was a sort of purity of intent when she appeared at that talent show — it was her wish and her desire to sing and be like Ellen Page. This is exactly what she is — her dream came true. What makes this whole story interesting is that it makes you wonder how many millions of people around the world have talents which just go undiscovered and how tragic that is. Eventually, that is so awesome when someone like her demonstrates that he has some remarkable ability, which is completely missed by everybody until the late 40s. I wonder how many people go through their entire life with their talents being just missed.

Sergei Strokan: But don’t you think that this is not only the question of talent, but also of esthetic standards? I have a feeling that this story revealed there is a vast audience that can’t take that notorious Madonna-Britney culture, they are looking for a sort of alternative singing.

Mira Salganik: Of course, the public is fed up with it, it is a fact. I’d rather go back to Tony’s words that in three minutes you can become a star. There are masses of middle-aged women who live and hope and suddenly see that it can really happen.

Tony Halpin: Probably, that’s the case. People harbor their dreams through all their lives. People always say that expression that the childhood dreams come true. And indeed, dreams are formed in childhood and people get disappointed when they eventually fail to achieve them. But when it does happen to somebody, it reminds everybody else of their own childhood dreams.

Mira Salganik: Moreover, she didn’t fight for it — it came like magic. That is also attractive.

Tony Halpin: Yes, and she is not the most photogenic star, she is not the kind of person whom you would have minded to be a global star — she is just a humble simple person, quite ordinary looking. But somehow she touched people and that reminded them of their own dreams. That’s why they saw interest in her story. It made people think for a moment that they dreams can come true.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: It is always nice to see a Cinderella story in real life, isn’t it?

Tony Halpin: Indeed it is. It is very touching and one of those universal stories. As I have said, this is one of the reasons why it spread around the world so quickly.

Ekaterina Kudashkina: Absolutely. Tony, thank you ever so much, it was very nice talking to you.

Tony Halpin: Nice to speak to you.

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