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Sina, China

Global Times: Some Westerners
Provoke China, Lack Self-Respect

But for [Chen Guangcheng and Ai Weiwei] to be chosen as China's top 'thinkers' — could it be that in American English 'thinker' has an entirely different meaning than in Chinese?

Translated By Jessica Whale

28 November 2012

Edited by Mary Young

China - Sina - Original Article (Chinese)

British singer Elton John and his band performed in Beijing on Nov. 25. In front of the audience Elton John unexpectedly said that this performance was “dedicated to Ai Weiwei.” According to Western media reports, the audience's reaction was "relatively calm," while throughout the auditorium there was the sound of "murmur[ing]."*

Because Elton John suddenly made this remark in English and the audience was taken by surprise, we surmise that many audience members did not immediately understand or couldn't believe that he had really said "dedicated to Ai Weiwei."

His unexpected behavior demonstrated clear disrespect for his audience and for his agreement to come perform in China. The audience came to his show to listen to his music, not to hear him preaching about politics and declaring his stance on the issue. He forced political issues into what ought to have been a concert purely for entertainment. Such a breach of conduct showed a lack of misgivings about the impression it would make on the audience.

There most certainly were members of the audience who do not support Ai Weiwei and who also do not appreciate Elton John’s referring to him in this way at a concert. In other words, if it was made known prior to the concert that it would be "dedicated to Ai Weiwei," several audience members would have been unwilling to attend his performance.

Elton John's behavior will certainly increase expectations of provocative behavior from foreign performers while in China and may possibly increase Chinese agencies’ hesitation toward inviting foreign artists to the country. Elton John has been around for many years, but he is creating difficulties for future exchanges between foreign artists and China.

Elton John's behavior lacks respect for other countries’ customs and rules. Acting with such levity and bravado, despite his age, is astonishing.

We suggest that China not be overly fearful of inviting foreign artists to perform in China simply because of Elton John or Bjork's shouting of "free Tibet." [Editor’s note: Bjork actually said “Tibet, Tibet.”] At the same time, in the future Chinese audiences have no obligation to react to this kind of provocation with politeness; the provocateur ought to be protested against or even forced to leave the stage to make him truly embarrassed.

On the whole, Chinese people are too reserved, often not reacting quickly to sudden provocations. Last year in Nanjing during a delegation with Nagoya, the mayor of the Japanese city denied the occurrence of the Nanjing Massacre. The Chinese delegation did not immediately react. In the examples of Bjork and Elton John the circumstances were different, but not without some similarities.

Western society is deeply prejudiced against China. The U.S.’ Foreign Policy magazine published their list of the "100 Top Global Thinkers," which included six Chinese people; surprisingly, the highest ranked was Chen Guangcheng, and the second highest was Ai Weiwei. Even if there are people in China who sympathize with these two men, they would still most likely find this list preposterous.

We do not believe that, in an era of China's diversification, the emergence of Chen and Ai is unexpected, nor do we believe in "total denial" of their ideas. China today faces extremely complex interactions and overlaps of power. But for them to be chosen as China's top "thinkers" — could it be that in American English "thinker" has an entirely different meaning than in Chinese?

We can only say that some people in the West who love to hold a grudge are more and more perturbed in the face of China's rise. Their anxiety over no longer having any means to “halt” China is making them lose seriousness, objectivity and reason. Some people believe that they are genuinely naive rather than faking innocence. It is more likely that neither of these is the case; rather, they are heading into a dead end, creating an even worse situation out of an unfavorable one.

Scholarly and entertainment circles can be a bit awkward in China, but a gust of wind can blow them away. China's vigorous march forward as well as substantial exchanges with Europe and the U.S. will continue. Not long ago the Hollywood movie "Red Dawn" was released. The plot, which undermined the national image of China, was edited because it needed the Chinese box office. This created quite a stir in the West, which was more intense than Elton John's fleeting gossip news; the film portrayed trends in Chinese foreign relations more heavily and powerfully.

*Editor’s note: The Western media actually reported that the audience was shocked and that Elton John said he dedicated his show “to the spirit and talent of Ai Weiwei.” [see for example http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/music/pops-elton-john-publicly-dedicates-beijing-show-to-chinese-artist-dissident-ai-weiwei/2012/11/26/a164c48a-378a-11e2-9258-ac7c78d5c680_story.html]



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