I can understand why John Pomfret, a senior China correspondent from the Washington Post, would strive desperately to convince his readers that China’s international reputation has remained largely unscathed despite the recent ugly displays of racial nationalism in China and among Chinese nationals overseas. After all, his job would be on the line, should international condemnation trigger a Boxer-Rebellion-style anti-foreign campaign in China. I am sure many US investors and American expatriates in China will share John Pomfret’s anxieties. However, one might ask if Mr Pomfret is still sufficiently sentient to acknowledge the interests of his readers to know the true conditions of damages, not to mention the potentially dangerous consequences, of the current recrudescence of nationalism in China.
I really doubted whether Pomfret’s ethics would be so charitable or even be subordinated to any kind of uncynical integrity, after I read his latest blog post titled “China’s Harmonious Diplomatic Symphony“. Of course Pomfret’s admirers might argue that Pomfret has lived among the Chinese for such a long time that he has finally learnt the art of double-speaking. I will let you read the following excerpts from his post and judge it for yourselves:
While its propaganda machine might be sounding a little shrill lately, China’s foreign policy is hitting all the right notes.
Pomfret then cites Hu Jintao’s meeting with Taiwan’s President elect, and Hu’s visit to Japan, and the meeting of several Chinese officials with the Dalai Lama’s envoy, and the concert at the Vatican, as examples of the putative “harmonious symphony” of Chinese diplomacy.
But I would like to draw your attention particularly to the following paragraph about Hu’s 5-day visit to Japan. Here are John Pomfret’s own words:
What’s more, last week, Hu spent five days in Japan using “smile” diplomacy with China’s Asian nemesis. By all accounts, it was a pretty successful trip, a stark contrast to complete disaster that occurred when Hu’s predecessor Jiang Zemin visited Japan in 1998 and gave a screaming lecture about history. The lecture played well in China but not anywhere else. China and Japan have reason to buddy up. Last year, China replaced the US as Japan’s biggest export market – a trend that isn’t going to change.
Incidentally, the Christian Science Monitor (CSM) also carries a report of Hu’s Japan visit. While acknowledging the Tokyo meeting was a ground-laying endeavour with a potential of improving diplomatic ties, Christopher Johnson from CSM further clarifies:
Ping pong and pandas buoyed the five-day visit, but tougher issues, such as dispute over energy exploration, went unresolved.
Hu’s apparently conscious – conscious in the stupid way of the Maoist precedent which has informed it – attempt to reenact Zhou Enlai’s “ping pong and panda diplomacy” indicates that the CCP, under Hu Jintao’s leadership, is incapable of coming up with an original strategy to keep China’s economy open while maintaining a firm grip on one-party rule. The Party’s recent attempts to tap into fermenting nationalistic sentiments in order to deflect public attention from problems brought along by soaring commodity prices, energy shortages and the stock market crash, have proved to be risky and ineffective. Instead, China has infuriated the international community. The country is now on the verge of retreating to its post-1989 isolation, which will be followed inevitably by a major recession. So if Mr Pomfret were honest in his assessment, he would have admitted that Hu Jintao’s recent international manoeuvring was not a diplomatic success. It was, and is, nothing more than an attempt to salvage China’s deteriorating international reputation. From what I can see, Hu Jintao may have to do a bit more than regurgitating old cliches in order to keep his head above the water.