China announces its real foreign policy (updated)
In the context of Chinese culture, the state dinner piano tune scandal is a particularly troubling insult -- for what it has announced to the Chinese people. Hu and China's leadership have proclaimed the contempt in which they hold America, and in a particularly insidious way. In essence, the message is: "The Americans are so dumb that they don't even know when we insult them in their inner sanctum of power. Laugh at our enemy."
Symbolic gestures such as this are far more significant in Chinese culture than in our own. The very formality of the occasion magnifies the seriousness. It would be a big mistake to dismiss this incident. The message being sent to the Chinese people, China's East Asian neighbors, and the world is unmistakable.
According to Wikileaks documents, Xi Jinping, expected to replace Hu, has been speaking speaking pointedly of "well-fed Americans." This is another slap, and reveals the underlying attitude being propagated among the Chinese: America is fat, lazy, and stupid, and we Chinese are going to put them in their place.
The Chinese economy today parallels that of the latter-day Soviet Union - immense accomplishments co-existing with immense failures. In some ways, China's stability today is more precarious than was the Soviet Union's before its fall. China's poor are poorer than the Soviet Union's poor, and they are much more numerous - about one billion in a country of 1.3 billion. Moreover, in the Soviet Union there was no sizeable middle class - just about everyone was poor and shared in the same hardships, avoiding resentments that might otherwise have arisen.In China, the resentments are palpable. Many of the 300 million people who have risen out of poverty flaunt their new wealth, often egregiously so. This is especially so with the new class of rich, all but non-existent just a few years ago, which now includes some 500,000 millionaires and 200 billionaires. Worse, the gap between rich and poor has been increasing. Ominously, the bottom billion views as illegitimate the wealth of the top 300 million.