The Corner

What I Saw at Hu Jintao’s First State Visit

As Hu Jintao touches down at Andrews, I recall the one and only time I saw the man in the flesh. Through a friend at the State Department who was a favorite of the White House head of protocol, I managed to finagle an invite to the first ever official state visit by a Chinese leader in 2006 (or maybe 2005).

It was a hot day on the South Lawn of the White House, and the state arrival ceremony for Hu included a full fife and drum parade across the grounds, and a full honor guard snaking the staircases leading up to the south portico. President Bush spoke some words of welcome, joined by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. And then Hu came to the podium. I remember exactly two things about the long, tedious Mandarin speech. The first is that, in my boredom, my eyes roamed across the honor guard and settled on a profusely sweating Marine about halfway up the right staircase, standing at full attention and shouldering a ceremonial rifle. I watched him for a few seconds and then, just like that, his knees gave out and he crumpled to the ground — presumably from heat-induced exhaustion. I recall thinking that even the way the Marine collapsed looked neat, efficient, measured, and dignified, and I recall the discipline of the servicemen around him, none of whom so much as moved an eyeball to help him. He lay for a solid two minutes before a White House medic approached to offer assistance.

The second thing I remember: Most of the dignitaries and invited guests were arrayed on the lawn to the left and right of Hu’s podium. The military and ceremonial contingents were behind him on the White House battlements. So the body that Hu was directly addressing was the press, seated in rows of collapsible aluminum bleachers a hundred feet or so in front of him. In the middle of his remarks, one female “photographer” in the stands stood, tore off a jacket to reveal a t-shirt with a slogan I couldn’t make out, and began screaming bloody murder, in Chinese. She was quickly seized and escorted away, and I’d later find out she was cursing Hu up and down for the Chinese regime’s ongoing human rights violations. But what struck me about the outburst at that moment was that Hu Jintao didn’t skip a beat in his remarks; his voice didn’t modulate even a half-tone; and his gaze didn’t break, any more than the gazes of the servicemen next to the collapsed Marine did. 

I’m still not sure what that means, exactly. But I know it means something.

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster has been news editor of National Review Online since 2009, and was a web site editor until 2012. His work has appeared in The American Spectator, The American ...

Most Popular

Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Students’ Anti-Gun Views

Are children innocents or are they leaders? Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development? The Left seems to have a particularly hard time deciding these days. Take, for example, the high-school students from Parkland, ... Read More
PC Culture

Kill Chic

We live in a society in which gratuitous violence is the trademark of video games, movies, and popular music. Kill this, shoot that in repugnant detail becomes a race to the visual and spoken bottom. We have gone from Sam Peckinpah’s realistic portrayal of violent death to a gory ritual of metal ripping ... Read More

Romney Is a Misfit for America

Mitt’s back. The former governor of Massachusetts and occasional native son of Michigan has a new persona: Mr. Utah. He’s going to bring Utah conservatism to the whole Republican party and to the country at large. Wholesome, efficient, industrious, faithful. “Utah has a lot to teach the politicians in ... Read More
Law & the Courts

What the Second Amendment Means Today

The horrifying school massacre in Parkland, Fla., has prompted another national debate about guns. Unfortunately, it seems that these conversations are never terribly constructive — they are too often dominated by screeching extremists on both sides of the aisle and armchair pundits who offer sweeping opinions ... Read More

Fire the FBI Chief

American government is supposed to look and sound like George Washington. What it actually looks and sounds like is Henry Hill from Goodfellas: bad suit, hand out, intoning the eternal mantra: “F*** you, pay me.” American government mostly works by interposition, standing between us, the free people at ... Read More
Film & TV

Black Panther’s Circle of Hype

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) first infantilizes its audience, then banalizes it, and, finally, controls it through marketing. This commercial strategy, geared toward adolescents of all ages, resembles the Democratic party’s political manipulation of black Americans, targeting that audience through its ... Read More