The Corner

Don’t Shoot the Pianist?

On Monday, I did a post on Lang Lang, and his performance at the White House — a performance that was, at least in part, a political and propaganda performance. The pianist played an anti-American propaganda song known throughout China. Hu Jintao and the other Communist bigs were visibly moved and delighted. All the “patriotic Chinese” were moved and delighted. (“Patriotic Chinese” is the Chinese Communist Party’s phrase for those loyal to it.)

In addition, I mentioned Lang Lang in a post yesterday.

For the past week or so, he has been on a PR campaign, proclaiming his innocence in the White House affair. “Gee, I had no idea that the song had any political or propaganda associations whatsoever. I just like the pretty lil’ tune.” As a result, I keep getting mail that says, “Lay off the sweet kid, would you? He just loves China, loves America, and loves music.”

Uh-huh. I see that Lang Lang and his PR team have done very, very well. (I’m not surprised. I have heard from this team for many years, in my capacity as a music critic.) Even NRO readers are pleading his case. They have listened to NPR, and think they know about this matter. And if that’s true of NRO readers — how much truer is it of other Americans and Westerners?

The facts, as I understand them, are these. I am happy to be authoritatively corrected. Before the White House dinner, Lang Lang gave an interview to a Chinese television network. He said, “I thought to play ‘My Motherland’ because I think playing the tune at the White House banquet can help us, as Chinese people, feel extremely proud of ourselves and express our feelings through the song.”

He later wrote a blogpost: “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.”

Oh, I have no doubt. After the dinner, when Chinese democrats and human-rights advocates blew the whistle on him, he and his team went on their campaign. To English-speaking audiences, he said, “Propaganda song? Anti-American associations? All new to me!” He has not said anything like this in Chinese. How could he? It would be completely absurd. It would mark him out as one of the dumbest Chinese on the planet — which he most certainly is not.

I refer readers to Matthew Robertson of the Epoch Times, who is all over this case. A meaty article is here. Other publications are not so interested in the matter — at least in the full truth of it. NRO readers can now return to telling me how Arabs have no taste for democracy, being born to be oppressed.

Over the years, I have come to this conclusion: One of the Chinese government’s greatest assets in the West is that we are very, very reluctant to learn much about China. We don’t wish to probe beneath the surface. We basically want to get along, take our Yellow River tours, and, perhaps above all, make money. This means turning a blind eye — millions of blind eyes — to the rest.

A final word about Lang Lang (to whom I have probably devoted as many words, over the last ten years, as I have to any musician): He is a Vice President of the All China Youth Federation. This is an important and longstanding component of the CCP, which has ruled China, dictatorially, for more than 60 years now. (Ten years longer than Castro and his Communists have ruled Cuba!) Here is the federation’s “basic task”: to “uphold patriotism and the banner of socialism, rally and educate young people from every ethnic group, encourage youth to study Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and Jiang Zemin’s Three Represents,” etc.

Next time I see Lang Lang, I might ask him about those three represents — sorry, Three Represents.


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