Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Henry Who?

Guess who came to receive an honorary doctorate at Beijing University today? That’s right, freakin’ Henry Kissinger. Guess who found out he was coming two hours after the ticket window closed? That’s right, Sam duPont. On the upside, at least our two names have now appeared in the same paragraph.

I did everything I could, honestly; pulled every string available to me. I even went so far as to improvise a press badge, show up at the door with my camera, and insist that I was an important member of the foreign press corps. No dice. I hung about outside the building during his speech, and did manage to snap a picture of him as he was leaving. He’s pretty old.

While loitering, I met some guy (also loitering) who, upon discovering I am a student of 国际关系 (international relations), was interested to talk politics with me. I more or less failed, but he sprinkled his monologue with enough English words that I caught the drift of his diatribe. Basically, he told me, Chinese people don’t think much of American foreign policy—messing with other states’ business and blowing the democracy horn. Countries should mind their own damn business, and not go bothering any Saddams or Castros or anybody else.

I think he probably did speak for the majority of Chinese, but I think it goes beyond China’s obvious self-interest in keeping American hands off such unsavory governments as those in Tehran or, ahem, Beijing. The Chinese possess a very strong racial identity, and that goes along with a strong sense of nationalism. Quite naturally, this extends to other countries, and they view, say, the Iraqi government, as purely the business of the Iraqi people. Fair enough.

Consequentially, I think it’s very difficult for most Chinese to even conceive of a country founded on something other than common racial identity. Community is very important in China. So are relationships, connections, etc. The state is, to the Chinese, another ring of community, of common identity. But I digress…

I steered the conversation towards North Korea—a hot topic of conversation among me and, well, me. My new friend admired North Korea’s noble effort to maintain a pure form of socialism, and hoped countries like the US and China would let them be. “Do you know me?” He asked. “Do you agree my meaning?”

“Well… I understand.”

Also this afternoon, I went to play soccer at the indoor-style outdoor courts on campus. Games rage on, all day every day, and I managed to jump in on a match. Turns out, the language of soccer is an international one: “give me the ball” translates to “Hey!” “Look out” translates to “Hey!”, and any sort of agony (of defeat or injury) translates well to the international distress signal “F***!” Perhaps they’ve been watching too much American television.


Anonymous Frank duPont said...


I imagine Kissinger's been a star in China since his first secret visit with Nixon in 1971. Admire your resourcefulness in trying to get in to the event. Like the photo.

Kissinger, among his other merits and demerits is a big soccer fan. If you had alerted him of your soccer game you might have gotten a meeting with him afterward.

By the way how is the soccer?

ton pere

15/10/06 11:45 AM  

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