I watched the national day parade on TV with my family, and liked it. As expected, the Chinese government managed to put out an impressive show. Then I read some media’s coverage of the parade. Well, let’s just say that those writings were as expected too. Anyway, there are a number of memes and other little oddities, in no particular order, that I want point out. As the title of this post says, this is just an excise of nitpicking.
[Update] I gotta share this photo that I just found with you. When the kids released the balloons at the end of the parade, somehow the these balloons formed a shape that looked like China’s map. Please don’t tell me that this was not a coincidence but a carefully choreographed act.
Many reports noted that President Hu Jintao was wearing a “Mao style tunic” or simply “Mao suit”. Well, no one in China would call it a Mao suit. It is called “Zhongshan zhuang” 中山装, which is named after 孙中山 Sun Zhongshan (better known as Sun Yat-sen), the founding father of modern China and revered both in mainland and Taiwan. It is named after him because he was the one who introduced this style of suit in China. In fact, Wikipedia notes that “in the 1920s and 1930s, civil servants of the Chinese government were required to wear the Zhongshan zhuang.”
By the way, Sun’s picture was prominently on display yesterday in the Tiananmen square, directly facing Mao’s picture. In this picture, Sun was, of course, wearing a Mao suit.
Do reporters understand what “goose-step” is as they describe the Chinese military parade with that term? I know, I know. It’s meant to invoke an image of Nazi Germany or the Soviet. As Answers.com puts it: “the term is sometimes used to suggest the unthinking loyalty of followers or soldiers.” Nevertheless, goose-step has a precise meaning. Wikipedia defines it as:
The marching troops swing their legs from a vertical leg to a nearly horizontally-extending one, bringing it down with a loud simultaneous stepping noise and continuing the cycle in unison.
So these are goose-stepping:
And these are just marching soldiers:
[Update 3] Well, FOARP asserted that definition of goose-stepping should be relaxed from a high kick to “merely that it be raised with the knee locked whilst standing erect on the other foot, and then planted” in comment #58.
Alright, I challenge you to find nontrivial fraction of news reports that refereed to those French and Indians soldiers matching in the Bastille day military parade in July as doing goose-stepping.
And in honor of your homeland, FOARP, there are some pictures of the parade at Sandhurst this year. Please, show me where those soldiers were referred as goose-stepping.
The picture below comes from BBC. Come on! Couldn’t you find some other photos showing common Chinese folks who were not obviously and genuinely celebrating China’s national day to match the caption?
This BBC story also noted the presence of Liu Xiang 刘翔, the world record holder of 110 meter hurdles.
Liu Xiang, the hurdler who disappointed his country by failing to compete in last year’s Games, appears to have been forgiven. The crowd waved and cheered as he passed.
Liu disappointed his country? That’s news to me. Yes, there were some people who were disappointed and saddened that Liu had to withdrawn from the Olympics last year due to injury. But isn’t it a bit exaggerating to imply he was at fault and out of favor in China? What a nice way to paint all of the Chinese people as demanding and cruel with one stroke!
Washington Post’s report also has one of this casual notation that just begs the question: “what’s your point?”
Film director Zhang Yimou, whose early movies were banned in China, is helping to choreograph the National Day celebration, as he did the opening ceremony for the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Zhang Yimou is a world class director and has enjoyed fame and success in China for the last two and half decades. The controversy over his magnum opus “Raise the Red Lantern” was a short lived one in 1991 and did not cause him trouble.
And what other movies besides this one were banned? [Edit] In 1994, his movie “To Live” was never released in theaters in China due to its critical portrayal of various policies and campaigns of the Communist government. However, the movie itself is readily available in China. This movie was also transformed in a 33-episode TV series approved and released in 2005. While Wikipedia referenced Roger Ebert to claim that Zhang was banned from movie making for two years, it is unlikely true with a quick check of his filmography. Mr. Ebert also erroneously stated the female lead, Gong Li, was Zhang’s wife and was similarly banned for two years.
Again, what’s the point of the insertion of this note? Is it that difficult to accept that someone could have done good and done well in China without confronting or being confronted by the government?
Lastly, I have to say that I am rather annoyed by the meme that an once-in-a-decade military parade on China’s national day is somehow a wrong thing to do. An example is the words from Alistair Thornton:
But despite the excitement on the streets, I have a sinking feeling that this could turn out to be the worst PR stunt of all time. To me, it screams, ‘Hey! You in the West! How’s the recession? We just nailed 9% growth. Scared of a rising China? Check out all of our tanks and never-seen-before missiles’. It’s not really the vibe you want to give off in the midst of unprecedented shifts in geopolitical power.
Really, what’s wrong in demonstrating a country’s military strength through a parade? It’s better than showing off your might by invading another sovereign country and dropping cluster bombs on civilians, isn’t it?
[Update 2] Richard, in comment #9 below, took issue with the last sentence above and claimed that it was justifying one wrong with another. Well, that’s not the case here. I was actually contrasting one right with a wrong.
Soldiers and weapons are meant to impress and deter, intended for audiences both inside and out. Seriously, there is nothing wrong in making this point through a parade. It’s a far better way than using them for real, right? Yet in the west, there have been this wide spread practice, conscientiously or not by the participants, to indoctrinate people to automatically perceive this as wrong and something to be feared. The near universal usage of “goose-stepping” is just one example of this propaganda.