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Jewish World Review
Oct. 19, 2007
/ 7 Mar-Cheshvan
A frustrating week on another planet
Here's reassurance for millions of Americans terrified by Chinese noise in the wake of the Dalai Lama's pilgrimage to Washington, where President Bush himself presented the highest civilian award of Congress.
Our Chinese friends are infinitely patient. Even if they intend to bomb our holiest shrines Tysons mall, the Las Vegas Strip, FedEx Field they're not likely to do it tomorrow. They're connoisseurs of the red-hot bon mot, such as this from the spokesman for the foreign ministry in Beijing: "The move of the United States is a blatant interference with China's internal affairs which has severely hurt the feelings of the Chinese people and gravely undermined the relations between China and the United States."
That sounds warlike, but the Chinese themselves don't actually believe any of it, and they don't expect us to pay attention, either. When I lived in Hong Kong during the Cultural Revolution, I became a connoisseur myself, of two-paragraph items in the South China Morning Post detailing the latest official declamations against someone in the West who had "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people." The headline typically repeated the Chinese Foreign Ministry admonition that "this is the 437th serious warning." The implication, which curdled nobody's blood, was that the next time the foolish offender could expect the 438th serious warning.
The Associated Press reported yesterday that "the decision by Washington to honor the Dalai Lama is a setback to Beijing's efforts to lend legitimacy to China's often harsh rule over Tibet and undermine support for the spiritual leader, who remains popular among Tibetans despite fleeing into exile 48 years ago." But China doesn't care what the rest of the world thinks, and the robber-baron government in Beijing, perhaps the last remaining redoubt of rapacious capitalism, knows that nothing it can do will undermine Tibet's spiritual adulation of the Dalai Lama.
The rhetoric probably gains something in translation, and often sounds more like schoolyard yah-yah than the language of diplomacy. It's actually a relief from the split-pea and bean-sprout language of ladies' day in Foggy Bottom. We have no wordsmiths who could turn out robust stuff like this: "China urges the United States to ... remove the terrible impact of its erroneous act, cease supporting and conniving with the separatist activities of the Tibet independence forces ...."
To Beijing's chagrin, the Washington ceremony set off a wild celebration in the Indian town of Dharmsala, where the Dalai Lama established his government in exile. Shops and schools closed, Tibetan flags, banned in China, flew from nearly every building, and dancers performed at daylong picnics.
Dissenters of all kinds, routine and unremarkable in most countries of the West, make Official Chinese noses run, eyes burn and teeth itch. Once, at a luncheon at the Chinese Embassy in Washington, the ambassador scolded The Washington Times for its coverage of the Falun Gong movement, and cited several bad things the Falun Gong followers are guilty of. "Don't you know," he told me, "that Falun Gong denies the deity of Christ?" I couldn't resist asking whether his government now accepts that Christ is the unique Son of G-d? Was this now his government's official policy? The ambassador quickly changed the subject.
But this frustrating week wasn't a total bust for Beijing. Xinhua, the government news agency, reports that the 14 Chinese astronauts will establish an official branch of the Chinese Communist Party once they establish a permanent colony in space. "Like foreign astronauts having their beliefs," said Yang Liwei, spokesman for the rocket men, "we believe in communism, which is also a spiritual power." Fair enough; let many flowers bloom, even fake flowers, among the stars. But what foreign astronauts would really appreciate is a good Chinese restaurant, serving neither dog nor dogma. Nothing would beat a plate of Szechwan Shredded Chicken with Chef's Special Sauce after a hard day's night in space.
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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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