Friday, November 23, 2012

Wen Jiabao, as Statesman in Despair: A Fable in the True Sense of the Word?

As any Japanese who managed to stay awake during the compulsory—seriously, no kidding—Classic Chinese Literature classes in high school will remember, Qu Yuan is revered by the Chinese public as the father of Chinese poetry and an exemplary patriot who lived in the kingdom of Chu (circa 1030–223 BCE) during the Warring States Period (475-221 BCE). He was banished from the royal court and later killed himself in despair when he saw that his country Chu was rotting from the inside. Fast forward to 2012, and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, having abdicated his No.3! seat in the CCP Politburo Standing Committee, is retiring from the prime minister’s office in next spring’s government shuffle and the following account surfaces in a Yomiuri Shimbun report from Shenyang. (It’s my translation; it’ll have to do.) Did you read it? Okay, let’s go on.

I think it’s a little fishy. It just doesn’t pass the smell test. It’s hard to believe that anyone who’s waded through the thickets of Chinese officialdom to be prime minister of China for nine years and counting, even in the post-Mao era, would offer such a devastating evaluation of contemporary China and wallow self-pityingly in that shopworn Qu Yuan cliché while talking to Chinese expats. Most likely, it’s just a rumor, magnified in the telling, that reached the attention of some Chinese media outlet in Shenyang. No doubt, denials will be forthcoming if the story has legs. In the meantime, the expression of popular discontent through a legend that has survived and thrived through the millennia and a communist regime, and the typecasting of Wen as statesman in despair, were too good for me to take a pass. Also that such a story could go to print in the post-Hu era. So I’m passing it along to you.

(Seiichiro Takeuchi; Shenyang)
Prime Minister Wen Jiabao,who will retire next spring, while visiting Bangkok from [Nov.] 20, addressed local Chinese merchants and others and said, “I will retire in a few months. I hope that people will forget about me.”
The Chinese media reported this on the 22nd.
Mr. Wen stated that “global respect cannot be gained by economic development and powerful science and technology alone.” He also raised challenged such as “promoting the construction of a democratic legal framework”, “realizing a just society”, and “securing the freedom and rights of the people”, and said that “many things were left undone”.
Mr. Wen, who has been criticized that he has not fulfilled his responsibility to explain suspicions reported by The New York Times in the United States that his family had amassed massive assets, quoted the words of Qu Yuan, a poet in Chu during the Warring States Period, that he “will have no regrets if he dies again and again to seek the truth” and “shall remain faithful and honest even unto death if it is necessary to prove one’s innocence.” It appears that he borrowed words from a poem of the “Patriotic Poet,” who committed suicide in despair because the King of Chu would not heed his repeated council to indirectly plead his own innocence.

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