Unintentional Triumphalism?

Scott wrote here about President Obama’s state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao, and pianist Lang Lang, who played an anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.” The tune is, apparently, universally known in China and many have argued that Lang, and perhaps others, intended a political message. The article to which Scott linked includes this description of a blog post by Lang (the post is in Chinese):

[Lang] expressed this idea more frankly in a later blog post, writing: “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.”

So far, most media outlets have ignored the story. This is all the New York Times has said so far:

One of the highlights of the state dinner was a performance by Lang Lang, a Chinese pianist who has been a sensation in music circles. Mr. Lang played a duet with the American jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, then a haunting traditional Chinese melody called “My Motherland.”
In China, it turns out, “My Motherland” is better known as the theme from the film “Battle on Shangganling Mountain,” a 1956 Chinese classic about a Korean War battle in which a vastly outnumbered band of Chinese soldiers held off American and United Nations forces for 42 days.
If, in retrospect, “My Motherland” might seem to be a regrettable choice for a state dinner, it clearly was unintentional. Mr. Lang, an American-trained pianist who divides his time between the United States and China, is an artist who melds American and Chinese cultures.

I have no idea what the Times thinks was “clearly unintentional.” By his own account, Lang intended to “tell [heads of state from around the world] that our China is formidable, that our Chinese people are united.”
At The Corner, Jay Nordlinger takes a different view:

Last week, I had a note in this space about Lang Lang, who has become a kind of court pianist for President Obama and the Chinese leadership — the Chinese dictatorship, to put it more bluntly.
He played at the Beijing Olympics. He played at Obama’s Nobel ceremony. He played at the White House event for Paul McCartney — the one at which McCartney made a ridiculous anti-Bush crack, which caused Lang Lang and the Obama crowd to laugh like hyenas. And he played at Obama’s state dinner last week for Hu Jintao.
What did he play? Most notably and significantly, he played a famous anti-American propaganda song. Famous in China, that is. Wei Jingsheng, the great Chinese democracy leader, exiled in the United States since 1997, wrote a letter to Congress and Secretary of State Clinton. He said, “I listened to that music with a big shock.” Wei explained that the song, “My Country,” or “My Motherland,” comes from “the best-known Communist propaganda movie about the Korean War,” depicting the Chinese army’s fight with the Americans. The movie is called The Battle of Triangle Hill. Wei said that the movie is as well-known in China as Gone with the Wind is here.
The song refers to the Americans as “wolves” or “jackals,” and says that the Chinese will use weapons to deal with them. Wei commented, “Is that not an insult to the USA to play such . . . music at a state dinner hosted by the US President? No wonder it made Hu Jintao really happy.” Yes, no wonder. As Wei pointed out, Hu is not ordinarily given to public emotion, but he emotionally embraced Lang Lang. …
The Epoch Times quotes a Chinese psychiatrist living in Philadelphia, Yang Jingduan: “In the eyes of all Chinese, this will not be seen as anything other than a big insult to the U.S. It’s like insulting you in your face and you don’t know it, it’s humiliating.” In his letter, Wei said that so-called patriotic Chinese — supporters of the Communist party and the dictatorship — were ecstatic over “My Motherland” at the White House. One such “patriotic Chinese” exclaimed, “The right place, right time, right song!” (This is a phrase with roots in CCP propaganda, as the Epoch Times article explains.)

The Obama administration’s conduct of foreign policy is often referred to as “dumb diplomacy.” But to be insulted without even knowing it, even though a billion others do, is dumb even by Obama standards.

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