One of the most popular questions [posed to British Prime Minister David Cameron on the Chinese Twitter copycat-site] was posted by a prominent Chinese think-tank, the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, which is headed by former vice-premier Zeng Peiyan and includes many top government officials and leading economists among its members.
"When will Britain return the illegally plundered artefacts?" the organisation asked, referring to 23,000 items in the British Museum which it says were looted by the British army.
Interesting question. While the Foreigner is not necessarily opposed to returning plundered artifacts, he does wonder when China will volunteer to return all the tribute it illegally plundered from foreign countries during its Imperial period.
Slaves from tributary countries were sent to Tang China by various groups: the Cambodians sent albinos, the Uyghurs sent Turkic Karluks, the Japanese sent Ainu, and Turkish and Tibetan girls were also sent to China.
Anyone care to monetize the value of all those slaves in 2013 dollars?
My hypothesis was that recognition of Term 1 would exceed that of Term 2, which in turn would greatly exceed that of Term 3.
This is in direct contrast with the editors of the China Post, who inexplicably maintain (not as a hypothesis, but as a cold, hard fact!) that Term 3 garners the greatest recognition.
As it turns out, both I and the China Post are incorrect, as the results indicate:
Number Of People Who Recognize The Term
"China's eternal first lady"
Madame Chiang Kai-shek
The informal survey was conducted among 5 Westerners - three of whom were twentyish in age, and two who were fiftyish. My favorite response came from a fiftysomething, who upon hearing the name, May-ling Soong, asked with a completely straight face, "Is she Korean?"
Ha! Dennis, I love you, man!
So there you have it. In the West - apart from the geriatric wards and a few amateur history buffs like myself - May-ling Soong is an utter non-entity.
And what's more, this applies not only to her, but to her husband as well. For it was a genuine surprise to me that even the fifty-year-olds didn't recognize the name, "Chiang Kai-shek".
But how's that for cosmic justice? Chiang Kai-shek murdered Taiwanese in 1947, and what's history's reward?
Oh, my goodness! What a strange little paracosm the editors of the China Post dwell in!
Here's the China Post, on how it imagines we foreigners think of Lady Chiang Kai-shek:
On display at the “Forever Madame Chiang” exhibit [at Taiwan's Dead Dictator Memorial Hall] are more than 250 photos and memorabilia of May-ling Soong, better known in the West as China's eternal first lady. [Emphasis added]
Where to begin?
Listen, about the only China-related epithet Westerners are familiar with is "Butcher of Beijing". And that's really about it.
Now in all fairness, there isa book by that name. But since it languishes somewhere around #680,000 on Amazon's best seller's list, we can safely conclude that the phrase is not likely to ever catch on.
As a Westerner, my hypothesis is that in terms of recognition:
Madame Chiang Kai-shek>May-ling Soong>>>"China's eternal first lady"
In the next day or two, I'll poll a few people here in Waiguoren-land, and see how my prediction holds up.
In the long haul, however, I think Deng Xiaoping would stand head and shoulder (sic) above the rest of the few in spite of his physical stature. In five years, that's 2018 to be exact, China could overtake America as the world's largest economy, according to the Economist. The world is bound to undergo some profound changes because of the new pecking order brought about by Deng's epoch-making reforms 35 years ago. (emphasis added)
This observer is inclined to agree. Surely neither Thatcher nor Reagan can boast of the magnificent achievement of imprisoning and murdering 700,000 of their own citizens!
Odd that Tingles forgot to recount that. Must've slipped his mind...
But given the recent blood-curdling threats issuing forth from a certain North Korean nuclear madman, it's more than a little surprising David Kan Ting couldn't recall that it was Deng Xiaoping himself who was the North Koreans' primary enabler in their drive for nuclear weapons.
It was Deng Xiaoping who looked the other way. Deng Xiaoping who ran interference. Deng Xiaoping who propped them up economically.
It must therefore be Deng Xiaoping and the Chinese Communist party that accepts a good part of the "credit" for the spectre of nuclear armageddon currently stalking Northeast Asia.
To this list, I shall not add the Tiananmen Massacre, of which Deng was the chief architect. Nor shall I mention the 3,000 souls mercilessly exterminated by Deng "we must prepare to spill some blood" Xiaoping.
The [refusal by Deng Xiaoping to allow Britain to keep Hong Kong] made Mrs. Thatcher apoplectic, and she fell on the steps of the Great Hall of the People — a lasting and telling image in the final episode of a 160-year historical drama of China's decline that began with the ignominious Opium War in 1860.
Ohhh, I get it: The fall of the mighty British Empire, and all that. Although I would suggest that the relatively unremarkable occurrance of a middle-aged woman in heels stumbling on stairs is far less "lasting and telling" than the revealing spectacle of Chinese ultranationalists like David Kan Ting crowing about it.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but schadenfreude, by definition, is something one should be ashamed of.
On a bitterly cold day, the Chinese had put on a magnificent parade to welcome Mrs Thatcher. It included hundreds of shivering children in the flimsiest of clothes. She took one look, called for the commander of the parade and ordered him: Take these children off the street or give them warm coats to wear.
So on the basis of this, I'd have to say, no, David Kan Ting of Taiwan's China Post DOES NOT take pleasure in innocent Chinese being mowed down by automatic machine gun fire.
But not so fast. You see, Soong May-ling is long dead-and-gone. And now, David Kan Ting has a new female hero. (A she-ro, if you will.) His latest idol de jour is Peng Liyuan, first lady ogress of China.
(Peng Liyuan, entertaining PLA troops after the Tiananmen Massacre. Unlike Elvis, she don't look "all shook up". Thousands of Chinese murdered? Time to par-tay!
Image from the International Business Times)
So we come once more back to the original question: Does David Kan Ting of Taiwan's China Post take pleasure in innocent Chinese being mowed down by automatic machine gun fire?
Given Dave's rather eclectic choice of heroes, the best that can be said is that the answer is...inconclusive.
A photo of China's new first lady Peng Liyuan in younger days, singing to martial-law troops following the 1989 bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, flickered across Chinese cyberspace this week.
It was swiftly scrubbed from China's Internet before it could generate discussion online. But the image — seen and shared by outside observers — revived a memory the leadership prefers to suppress and shows one of the challenges in presenting Peng on the world stage as the softer side of China.
China's new first lady was as graceful and glamorous as a supermodel when she emerged from Air China's 747 jetliner... --David Kan Ting, The China Post, Wed Mar 27, 2013
Peng Liyuan captivated millions of fans the moment she stepped into the international limelight. Wearing a smile and dressed in a simple black peacoat, she waved... --David Kan Ting, The China Post, Wed Mar 27, 2013
She is the United Nations ambassador for health, working to stamp out the scourge of AIDS. It seems that she possesses every quality necessary for accomplishing the daunting mission before her. --David Kan Ting, The China Post, Wed Mar 27, 2013 [Evidently, soullessness is now a UN job prerequisite. -- The Foreigner]
The star of Peng Liyuan is rising, to the ecstasy of her people at home who have never felt so proud in their lives. Some bloggers described her as “elegant and magnificent,” while others gushed over her “talents and beauty.” --David Kan Ting, The China Post, Wed Mar 27, 2013 [Tell us, Dave, for we really must know: Is she more elegant than magnificent...or more magnificent than she is elegant? Only a dedicated truth-seeker such as yourself can ever hope to be impartial enough to solve this baffling mystery. --The Foreigner]
It seems that the fever about Peng Liyuan is not going to recede any time soon, and rightly so. --David Kan Ting, The China Post, Wed Mar 27, 2013 [Ting's got a fever, and the only prescription...is more Chinese corpses. --The Foreigner]
Now with the godsend [represented by Peng Liyuan's very existence], it's worth the long wait. --David Kan Ting, The China Post, Wed Mar 27, 2013
Whoa, Dave, take a saltpeter or something. Not to run you down or anything, but I haven't seen analysis this objective since last week's hard-hitting expose on Justin Bieber.
David Ting began his slobbery fanboi column by humming an old Taiwanese tune from the '80s titled, "The Drizzle Comes Just In Time." (Drizzle being a good thing, Ting informs us, especially after a period of a long drought.)
Well, it might come as a surprise, but I, too, cannot help humming a tune from the '80s when I now think of Peng Liyuan. Granted, it's not nearly as famous as Ting's -- just some obscure song by a little-known band that never went anywhere. Maybe you've heard of it though.
It's called, Another One Bites The Dust.
Given that China's new first lady, Peng Liyuan, publicly supported the massacre of thousands of her own countrymen, it seems entirely appropriate. (And as an added bonus, it's even got lyrics about machine guns, bullets and dead men dropping like flies as well.)
Postscript: Other '80s songs which could serve as lietmotifs for China's bloodthirsty first lady ogress:
Hit Me With Your Best Shot -- Pat Benetar
Cold-Hearted Snake -- Paula Abdul
I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight -- Cutting Crew
It's A Sin -- Pet Shop Boys
Wipeout -- Fat Boys & Beachboys
What Have You Done For Me Lately? -- Janet Jackson
Don't Forget Me When I'm Gone -- Glass Tiger
Everybody Wants To Rule The World -- Tears for Fears
A View To A Kill -- Duran Duran
Eyes Without A Face -- Billy Idol
An Innocent Man -- Billy Joel
Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? -- Culture Club
Der Kommissar -- After the Fire
Back On The Chain Gang -- The Pretenders
Overkill -- Men at Work
Hard To Say I'm Sorry -- Chicago
Hurts So Good -- John Cougar Mellencamp
Stop Draggin' My Heart Around -- Stevie Nicks
Guilty -- Barbara Streisand & Barry Gibb
[Don't!] Do That To Me One More Time -- Captain & Tennille
Cruel Summer -- Bananarama
UPDATE: One wonders what '80s song Fang Zheng recalls when thinking about Peng Liyuan?
Having been "liberated" from his legs by the tank treads of an "elegant" and "magnificent" PLA panzer, Fang no doubt bitterly remembers the Pet Shop Boys' What Have I Done To Deserve This?
No word yet from David Ting on whether Fang Zheng wore a pair of absolutelyFABULOUS designer prosthetics to the inauguration of Peng Liyuan's husband. They must've been simply to-die-for though, right Dave?
UPDATE #2: All copies of Vogue's infamous "A Rose In The Desert" article have apparently been scrubbed from the internet, save for this one on a Bashar al-Assad fan-site run by an employee of the (ahem!) Syrian State News Agency living in Rome. As for the profile's author, Joan Juliet Buck, she regrets ever writing it.
It all started in China. It was here in the 1930s and 1940s
that the United States was first presented with a dilemma that has recurred
again and again over the decades since: a strategically important country; a
tradition-minded authoritarian ruler, at the head of a corrupt and incompetent
government; a violent insurgency led by a totalitarian and anti-western
movement. What to do?
In China, the US never could quite make up its mind, and Fenby helps us to
Understandably, the Chiang problem flummoxed the Americans who had to deal
with him. While a few Americans (Edgar Snow, John S Service, John K Fairbank)
disgraced themselves either as apologists for Mao or as easy dupes, most of the
US government and military badly wanted to defeat Mao - but were absolutely
baffled by the problem of how to do it. Arm and aid Chiang? And when Chiang
allowed his family and friends to steal the arms and aid and then begged for
more - what then?
Fenby raises one interesting historical might have been. The US never
seriously considered intervening against Mao on the ground: US military forces
were fully committed to the defense of Europe. But as late as May 1949, the
Chinese Nationalists securely held the territory south of the Yangtze, including
the cities of Shanghai and Canton. What if the US had used air and naval power
to prevent the Communists from crossing the river? The richest parts of China
might have joined South Korea, South Vietnam, and West Germany as one of the
divided nations of the Cold War.
Prince Tuan: You must be the American who had the unfortunate encounter with the Boxers this morning.
Maj. Lewis: I'm afraid it was the British missionary who had the hard time, sir.
Prince Tuan: The Chinese government is most distressed, but you must not conclude that all Boxers are bandits. Most of them are harmless vagabonds. Entertainers in the marketplaces (nodding toward Baroness Ivanoff) - much like the gypsies in your country.