Saturday, November 18, 2006

The "H"-word

Hu Jintao seems to have engaged in a fierce struggle with George W.

In the old days, father Bush (or Bush 41 as he's now named by Newsweek, as compared to the son Bush 43) still had to tell the Americans: "Read my lips". It seemed like the message he had to bring couldn't have been very convincing, as he got stuck with a single term in his presidency. That remark aside, he still required more effort from us than his son does: without reading his lips, everybody already knows what he is going to say: "freedom and democracy". If you want F&D for Iraq, F&D for Afghanistan, F&D for Cuba, F&D for ... well, basically, the entire world ... you can easily rely on Bush Jr. to make it happen !

But the president of the US of A recently has seen a formidable challenger standing up, in the person of the president of the People's Republic of China, Hu Jintao.

Mr.Hu, in line with his country's increasing importance on the world's stage, undoubtedly must have thought that he also needed a term tagged to him like ...uh, a fig leaf to Adam. And thus he took recourse to the most famous of ancient Chinese philosophers, Confucius, to deliver him the concept of "Harmony". From that moment of enlightenment onwards we have seen Mr. Hu embarking on a crusade, first in China itself, but now also outside China's borders, to promote his "harmonious society" and by extension, a "harmonious world":

"China will work with other countries for harmonious coexistence in the political field, common development in the economic field, mutual enriching in the cultural field and mutual trust and coordination in the security field," Hu told a CEO summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hanoi.

Let's call it the "H"-word. I'll readily agree to the fact that it definitely has more appeal than his predecessor Jiang Zemin's "Three Represents":

"Reviewing the course of struggle and the basic experience over the past 80 years and looking ahead to the arduous tasks and bright future in the new century, our Party should continue to stand in the forefront of the times and lead the people in marching toward victory. In a word, the Party must always represent the requirements of the development of China's advanced productive forces, the orientation of the development of China's advanced culture, and the fundamental interests of the overwhelming majority of the people in China." (from Jiang's speech at the 16th CPC Congress)

I guess nobody really ever knew what his ideas represented.

Coming back to Hu, he took a somewhat broader view and defined his ideas for China's harmonious society not in a set of just three but eight guidelines, the so-called "Eight Honors and Eight Disgraces" (八荣八耻):

Hu Jintao listed the "Eight Honors and Disgraces" as follows: "Loving the Mother Country is honorable, harming the Mother Country is disgraceful; Serving the People is honorable, neglecting the People is disgraceful; Upholding science is honorable, blindness and ignorance are disgraceful; Hard work is honorable, idleness disgraceful; Unity and cooperation are honorable, using others for profit is disgraceful; Honesty and keeping one's word are honorable, seeing personal gain and forgetting justice is disgraceful; Respecting laws and regulations is honorable, disobeying laws and regulations is disgraceful; Suffering for the struggle is honorable, conceit and lasciviousness are disgraceful".

Some neat statements in there, no doubt, but I wonder whether he's going to pull off the trick though, as his formidable contender under the F&D banner has the "Ten Commandments" to rely on. They have some trait in common though: you already do not need to read their lips to know what they are going to say, but both of them also don't do very well under intense scrutiny of their deeds.

No matter the force of his resounding buzz-words, Bush Jr. took a "thumping" last week in the mid-term elections. Now if the Chinese joke "胡说八道" (can be read as "Hu speaks about the eight ways / rules", but is also a standard Chinese idiom for "nonsense") is any indication, his "harmony"-trump must have some false chords in it's sound as well.

Gentleman, may The Force be with you and may the best prevail !

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