China’s Secret White House Insult

Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist who played for guests the White House State dinner on Jan. 19 honoring Chairman Hu Jintao, apparently regaled the crowd with an unfamiliar melody (to the Americans) that was really a famous anti-American propaganda song from the Korean War, the theme  to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.” 

According to the Epoch Times, early morning TV viewers in China knew the song would be played an hour or two before the performance, and the Chinese who have seen the widely circulated video regard the disrespectful act as a proud moment for China.

The song Lang Lang played describes how beautiful China is, and concludes with, “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” in the song is the United States.

The pianist told Phoenix TV, a Hong Long-based station, “I thought to play ‘My Motherland’ because I think playing the tune at the White House banquet can help us, as Chinese people, feel extremely proud of ourselves and express our feelings through the song. I think it’s especially good. Also, I like the tune in and of itself, every time I hear it I feel extremely moved.”

Nobody knows whether Lang Lang’s decision to play “My Motherland” was his own or was planned by officials. It is almost certain that his choice was known in advance to Chinese diplomats, who did nothing to stop him. His choice to play this music at a White House event can be compared to a pianist at an NAACP banquet playing an arrangement of a Ku Klux Klan anthem unknown to any of the African Americans in the room.

This was, of course, beyond rude and disrespectful, not merely to the host of the dinner, President Obama, but the nation as well. It was a calculated insult, intended to demean and humiliate the United States. Our nation has endured far worse, but in the world of international diplomacy, symbolism is everything

True friends and allies don’t treat each other this way. Let us hope that our government remembers that tune.

4 thoughts on “China’s Secret White House Insult

  1. I can recall a similar occasion some years ago. In a political move, the left wing mayor of Houston (Kathy Whitmire) decided she would “honor” Vietnam era veterans by throwing them the Welcome Home party they never had. It sounded good… until one looked at the musicians in attendance. One prominent ’60’s group present was (direct from Canada) The Guess Who! Yep… what better way to honor us than to regale us with “American Woman”, one of the most hateful anti-American/anti-veteran songs ever written? But the Mayor (apparently like the White House staff) was seemingly ignorant of the lyrics and what they were saying. Or. perhaps, just didn’t care and figured the audience was too dumb to notice.

  2. I don’t necessarily disagree, but like the true Jimmy Carter-style liberal that I am, I would like to know a bit more about the song, its context, and its reputation before making a call. The third verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is pretty hard on both the British (“their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution”) and their Hessian (German) mercenaries (“No refuge could save the hireling or slave from the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave”), yet the song is frequently played in London and Frankfurt without making much of a scene. This sounds a little too much like the story about where Gilbert’s Japanese lyrics for the Mikado’s entrance came from. If a song publicly played in a foreign country is insulting in its original language, who would play or sing it in the expectation that none of the 300+ million people in America would pick up the fact that it’s an “inside joke”?

    Must go — time to pop open a refereshing Billy Beer.

    • I hadn’t thought about verse #3 of the Star Spangled Banner. A country can hardly be required to skip its national anthem, but I’d be surprised if the third verse was ever sung at an official gathering with the British, and if it was, that was wrong. Did you read the linked article? It sure sounds like a calculated, insider insult as described. I can’t learn Chinese right now to make sure.

      Jimmy probably would have sung along.

  3. Tom’s completely right about the third verse which, for obvious reasons, is rarely used today! Other famous anthems that were written during times of war and/or social upheaval (like The Marseillaise) contain some pretty strong lyrics as well! But it’s one thing to play a patriotic song at a state function. It’s quite another to sing it right in the face of your host. I sense subtle politics, here. It’s an old ploy of diplomacy to aim subtle, calculated insults at your opposite number in order to gauge his reaction… and thus his character and resolve. In fact, the Chinese virtually wrote the book on this sort of thing! If so, then Hu has probably confirmed his opinion of Obama as a featherweight in the wide, wonderful world of international doubledealing.

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