Cutting Lang Lang Some Slack

by John Derbyshire

Jay: We are at odds on Lang Lang: You here (and earlier posts linked therefrom) and me here.

In the matter of Lang Lang–watching, I must defer to you. You have, as you said, been writing about him for years.

Still, the strongest statement by him that anyone has yet unearthed, to my knowledge, is:

Playing this song praising China to heads of state from around the world seems to tell them that our China is formidable, that our Chinese people are united. I feel deeply honored and proud.

Very few Chinese people — less than one percent, would be my guess — would find anything exceptionable in that statement. It is the normal kind of thing that a patriotic, apolitical 28-year-old citizen of the People’s Republic would say.

You might say that given his prominence as a public figure, Lang Lang ought to be better informed about the nature of the Chinese regime. Perhaps he ought. Don’t underestimate the depth of ignorance in which younger Chinese are raised, though. Try talking to someone — anyone — of Lang Lang’s generation about the Mao famines, for instance. (Concerning which, by the way, a new book is out, upping the death toll from the formerly-consensus 25-30 million to 40-45 million). If lucky, you’ll get a puzzled look, followed by some dimly remembered version of the Party line. (Which is, that the famines were a consequence of (a) bad weather and (b) the USSR withdrawing aid.) If not lucky, you’ll get an indignant denial.

Lang Lang loves his country, as a human being should. Like most apolitical people — for which you can read “most Chinese people,” or for that matter “most people everywhere,” a thing we political types too easily forget — he has been easy bait for the Communist Party line that they are the nation. I have yet to find a Chinese person who knows the words to “My Motherland” but everybody knows the old standard “Without the Communist Party There Would Be No New China,” with which I once entertained a National Review fundraiser.

I know scores of Chinese people from Lang Lang’s generation and the previous one. None of the quotes I’ve seen attributed to Lang Lang is egregious. Any of them could have been made by wellnigh any 28-year-old raised in China, and most 38- and 48-year-olds, too. (Beyond that you get into deeper waters.) If I am to find Lang Lang objectionable, I shall have to find most of the Chinese people I know likewise, which of course I am not about to do. No, I don’t like it either, and I do what I can by way of patient enlightenment, but that’s how it is.

The proper point of attack here is not Lang Lang but the Obama apparatus, who had no business calling in a Chinese citizen to entertain Hu & Co. At functions like this the host nation should showcase the cultural achievements of its own citizens. When Nixon went to China they made him sit through the “revolutionary ballet” Red Detachment of Women. (Radio Derb suggested we should have offered Hu & Co. a performance of The Vagina Monologues to let them know what we’re capable of.)

The question here is not “Why is Lang Lang so keen to promote his country at every opportunity?” — why wouldn’t he be? — but “Why did the Obamarrhoids give him this particular opportunity?” The answer is at the end of my column.

And on an incidental minor point, I get a twinge of irritation at hearing people (including the ChiComs of course) referring to the Korean War as being China and the Norks vs. America and the ROK. It is true that the U.S.A. and ROK took by far the brunt of the fighting on the allied side, but other countries in the U.N. expeditionary force suffered casualties, too. There is a list of figures for the combat deaths by nationality here. Some of the numbers seem to be doubtful, but the figures for Britain at least:

British casualties were 1,078 killed in action, 2,674 wounded and 1,060 missing or taken prisoner …

 … seem to have been assembled with care. Heck, the Brits even made a movie about that war. (It contained a segment about using a loose round to open the gas valve of a bren that was shown to 1950s British squaddies for instructional purposes. It also contained footage of British troops being bombed in error by the USAF … but hey, bygones.)