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by Euro Reporter
2012-04-16 08:26:08
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New path to bridge cultures

Over the last 35 years, Michael Kahn-Ackermann has witnessed the remarkable changes and strong economic resurgence of China. Now Kahn-Ackermann, has stepped away from a long and illustrious career as the president of the Goethe-Institute China to join the Confucius Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promote Chinese language and culture worldwide, as senior adviser. The new role, says the 66-year-old German Sinologist, give an opportunity to help the world better understand contemporary China, particularly Chinese culture, through frequent cross-cultural exchanges. "China has developed its economic and political prowess, but is still relatively weak when it comes to culture in the global arena," he says.

He says China needs to ensure that its cultural exports promote creative cooperation and are also in sync with what the rest of the world wants. "Chinese people love to see Hollywood films. It is not because Barack Obama wants them to see it, but because the Hollywood producers are masters of the global culture game and knows what kind of stories would appeal to global audiences." Though China has an attractive culture, it still needs to offer something that others are curious and interested about, Kahn-Ackermann says. Setting up Confucius Institutes is a smart move by China to expand its cultural influence, he says, as these institutions are patterned more on the lines of what the world wants. "There is now more than ever a global need to learn Chinese, as people are getting more and more curious about China, due to its rapid economic and political strides. It is natural that they want to know more about China through the language," Kahn-Ackermann says.

He says the Confucius Institute is not only an innovation but an institutional concept model developed by China that other nations can emulate. Unlike other independently organized language and culture promotion centres such as France's Alliance Francaise and Germany's Goethe-Institute, the Confucius Institutes cooperate with established universities, colleges and secondary schools around the world. Every institute is managed by the combination of a Chinese director and a foreign counterpart. "Having two people with completely different cultural backgrounds and experience of working together in one organization is a very complicated and difficult thing. It needs a lot of mutual understanding, patience, goodwill and learning capacity. By setting up more such institutions globally, Kahn-Ackermann says China can also enhance its soft power considerably. "Soft power in my understanding is the capacity to cooperate. It is not to make you believe what I believe or try to convince you that my morals are better than yours. Nor is it a means of conquering without weapons, but rather of successful and creative cooperation."

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Woman tries to hold sexhausted man prisoner in her apartment


It's your typical modern liaison — a man and a woman meet in a Munich bar, get a little drunk because they still have some vestigial social hang-ups about casual sex, head back to the woman's apartment, and do it. When neither of them falls asleep after the first go-round, they do it again and again and again until the man predictably says that he's tired and probably should, um, leave or whatever. Except that he wasn't allowed to just leave.

According to a report, the 47-year-old hostess refused to let her 43-year-old partner leave the apartment even after they had intercourse "several times," insisting that he continue to have sex with her, which he did even after his first escape attempt. When the woman barred his second escape attempt, the man fled to the apartment's balcony, where he succeeded in alerting the police. When the police showed up, the woman allegedly made similar (though unsuccessful) sex demands of them and now faces charges of sexual assault and illegal restraint.

There's an obvious Calypso reference to be made here, and though it's tempting to read this episode of sexual aggression lightly because of the gender reversal of popularly accepted roles, sexual assault is a bad, bad thing, not made any more innocuous by the fact that a woman was the aggressor in this instance. By all accounts, however, the initial hook-up was consensual and, even after being stopped from leaving, the man had sex "several more times" with the woman who detained him. It'd be interesting to see what becomes of these charges, and whether a German defence attorney chronicles this man's entire sexual history in an effort to discredit his accusations and make him seem way too promiscuous in an effort to prove that it was his own fault in the first place for sleeping with a complete stranger. Can you picture a bunch of German talk radio hosts calling this guy a "slut" or suggesting that he was just asking to be held as a prisoner in this woman's apartment? Now that would be quite the gender reversal.

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Inflation better than EU break-up


The biggest default in history is not quite complete, but already it is being seen as inadequate to save Greece. Greek bond yields are rising again, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s says another default is more likely than not and even the International Monetary Fund admits its prescription may go wrong. Spain’s pain has also re-emerged as a reason for financial markets to worry. Austerity is deepening its recession, and foreign investors are shunning its debt. With perfect timing the shortlist for the Wolfson prize on how best to break-up the eurozone was announced. But should a break-up be back on the agenda? The question is vital to every investor with money in Europe. Securities redenominated into drachma, pesetas or lire would be radically devalued, particularly if the alternative was to hold German neue marks.

It really comes down to competitiveness, the root of the eurozone’s problems. Wages and prices in Greece, Italy and Spain have risen far faster than in the eurozone’s core. The result is that peripheral country wages need to be cut sharply and worker protections reduced to make them competitive with Germany. Poul Thomsen, head of the IMF mission to Greece, says that even after five years of recession, Greece needs another 15 per cent cut in unit labour costs. That could best be done through improved productivity, by attacking the rigidities imposed by vested interests (such as truckers and taxi drivers). If that proves politically impossible, it will have to come from real wage cuts.

Helpfully, German workers are showing some signs of unrest. If German wages and inflation rise faster, the periphery will need less deflation to improve its competitive position. Unfortunately, the Bundesbank regards inflation with such horror it is hard to see this being allowed. Either way, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy need “internal devaluation”, mirroring the effects of a weaker currency by cutting wages to regain competitiveness. Mr Thomsen suggests it will take at least a decade for Greece to become fully competitive via internal devaluation. The risk is that politicians decide to shortcut the process and go for a proper devaluation by leaving the euro. The practicalities of how to do this are clearly set out by the Wolfson shortlist. Secret plans, an extended bank holiday, stamping euro notes to turn them into drachma and temporary capital controls feature prominently. A wave of defaults on foreign currency loans would follow, as the corporate sector found income in drachma could not service foreign currency debts. The banks would wobble, if they were lucky.



        
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