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China: Obama, can you?

Obama has been sworn in as the first African American president, with a popular support peaking at its high.  His inauguration summoned as many as two million people, and his address occasionally interrupted by thunder-like claps and acclaims. The rhythmic incanting “O-ba-ma!” oftentimes burst out of the packed and vital throng, people singing and dancing to salute to their new leader with tears in eyes. Though it is in the the depth of winter, swirl pool of crisis, the man has been charged with great hope and authority, thought as the first change people need.

This is astonishing to many Chinese.

It is not that the scene is foreign to us. It is all too familiar. Pomp and ceremony is never absent in the country. People can't help but recall the scene that in 1960s millions of intoxicated crowd parading past Tiananmen Square, with Chairman Mao wavering to them on the platform.  People yelled in chorus “Long live Chairman Mao!”, bearing tears in eyes, because among many, their biggest dream is but to see in person the greatest leader Mao.

Mao and throng
Mao with throng

Obama and crowd
Obama with crowd

Therefore in China today, when faith to the authoritarian is far less fanatic, many of us are so amazed at Americans, puzzled by their “fanaticism”. It is  almost synonymous to personality cult, a tradition largely forgiven, severely criticized, long associated with despotism in China. What happened to the democratic America?

In Tianya, a post with two pages of comments kicks off an interesting discussion of Obama.

yshocker questioned, being confused by the unparalleled heat of America:

我就不明白了,一个总统上任,啥事都没干呢,就搞那么大动静,这是选秀还是干嘛呢,奥巴马说得再好听,那也是嘴皮子功夫了得,到底是怎么样一个人,还是未知呢!

I just don't understand; a new president took the office, having not yet achieved anything, but has already created so profound an impact! Is this just a big show or something else? However sweet his words are, they are just good lip service. What on earth a character is he? It is unknown!

Let-me-say-something (让我也说几句吧), however, proclaims:

看好前景

I bet on him a good future!

But AV journalist (AV记者) made laugh of him and those who always expect America as a rescue and an example of China:

奥巴马上台了,有人出自内心的欢呼,有人似乎找到了新的靠山般的欢呼;这种欢呼,每四年都会来一次。但是这么多年来,他们为之欢呼的人物,为他们改变了什么了么?什么都没有!

As Obama sworn in, some acclaim cordially, some acclaim as if they have found a new backer; Every four years such acclaim would echo. But for so many years, have those figures receiving the acclaims ever changed anything for them? Nothing at all!

八滋 pondered on the millions of dollars spent on the ceremony:

我倒是觉得奥巴马这孩子实诚。 上任第一天,就烧了一把大火。 一亿多美元的钱砸下去办派对,该能拉动多少美国人民的内需阿。这真金白银地花出去,可比什么动动嘴皮子的就职演说更能传递信息。[洋人不是常说lip-service is cheap嘛]
建议我国ZF向奥先生学习。多办大办派对呀,音乐会呀。

I just think Obama is really not a pompous boy. He “set a fire” at his first day in the office. The 100 million spent to hold the inaugural party can dramatically expand the domestic demand. These bucks go much more effective than all the information delivered in his address. (Westerners often say “lip-service is cheap”)
I suggest our government learning from Mr. Obama. Hold big parties and make concerts.

However, though the image of America, in the 8-year Bush administration, has been very negatively affected by the wars it sowed and its unfavored diplomacy, quite a lot comments on the bulletin board still show faith and hope on the new president regardless of the questions. To be more accurate, it is an assent to the American ideals of democracy and liberty.

The initiator of the thread says:

美国先贤的理想是人类历史迄今为止最为重要、最具历史意义的“思想革命”。

I think the American founder fathers’ ideals are the most important and historic revolution of our way to think ever.

美国建国者的理想之所以可贵,盖因他们宣扬的价值观是符合人性的(没有人喜欢被奴役、被限制自由——贱人除外,呵呵),是要所有人(或套用时髦的“最大多数人”)幸福而非极少数权贵的骄奢淫逸,是对掌权者憎恶至少是不信任因而必须加以限制的,是符合理性人的追求但同时对理性抱有适度怀疑的,,所以,除了宗教的固执和非理性的偏见,全世界的人民都能认同。

These ideals are precious because what they advocate is consistent with humanity (no one wants to be enslaved, or be constrained–except mean people); they are for the happiness of majority rather than for the benefit of a few. They dissent, or at least distrust, the rulers so that restrains have to be imposed; they are in accord with the pursuit of any rational people, but also keeps moderate skepticism of pure rationality. So, unless blinded by bigot and irrationality, the whole world would agree upon the creeds.

accq, in his comment, identifies with Obama's speech, particularly in the part explaining how a country can be powerful:

奥巴马在他的演讲中说,美国的强大不是源于它的坚船利炮,而是源于自由、平等的理念和机会均等的社会体制,这是一切创造力的源泉。可惜很多中国人并没有认识到这一点。

In Obama's speech, he said the power of America is not from its weapons and ships, but from a social system in pursuit of liberty, equality and fairness. This is the source of all the creativity. However, most Chinese have not yet been aware of the point.

8 comments

  • […] A nation with a history of dealing with cults of personality grapples with Obama’s immense popularity in the U.S. [Global Voices […]

  • Grappler

    “This is astonishing to many Chinese.”

    How do you attribute that post to astonishment? It sounds like that user is a realist. Questioning why so many people can believe in Obama’s message when he hasn’t done anything to show he can accomplish said goals.

  • Mengya Li

    I find it amusing that when the Chinese support their leaders be it Mao of several decades ago or of Premier Wen today we get labeled as brainwashed yet the worshipping of Obama before he’s actually DONE anything to solve an actual PROBLEMS is apparently perfectly acceptable. At least the Chinese worshipped Mao AFTER he managed to secure China’s borders from foreign invasions and end a civil war, and the rise of support for Premier Wen came AFTER his actions during the Wenchuan earthquake. Obama’s done nothing even close to any of that and America’s making him out to be the best thing after sliced bread.

    It’s absolutely ridiculous the level of hypocrisy and bias.

  • […] [Read more] […]

  • proud anti-chineseq

    @Mengya Li aka idiot

    ..Obama before he’s actually DONE anything to solve an actual PROBLEMS..

    1: Obama was a long time the politican and senator before he became president..
    2: Obama solved already many problems.

    seriously you idiot. try to know what you are talking about

    ….At least the Chinese worshipped Mao AFTER he managed to secure China’s borders from foreign invasions.. You mean after he was marching to soviet-controled Manchuria got it gifted by Stalin and then invaded into forign countries like Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Korea and East Turkestan? thats a very big leap forward before the ultural revolution.. lucky Koreans were saved by Soviets and the dead of Stalin before Chinese took all control over whole Korea..

  • Mengya,

    The answer to your question is very simple.

    If Mao had not been responsible for the unnatural deaths of 50 million Chinese, during peacetime, I don’t think too many people would be making a big deal out of you all worshiping him.
    Look at what Mao was able to have you guys do. He was able to have you scream and cry waving a weird little book all together, thinking this simple ideology was your one and only dream come true. The Obama phenomenon does not come close to that whatsoever. The cult of Mao and communism has been able to make you people willing to kill your parents and teachers out of blind fervor. It caused you to kill the landlords and agree to the oppression (oh, I mean standing up?) of the entire nation under the anti human rights stance of the party.

    You love Wen? That might seem a bit strange because brainwashing is still prevalent in China, factually. Look it up, there are several means the party uses to brainwash and control the Chinese masses. Just look at your media, look at the lies they tell, look at what info they are desperate to hid from you, why? Arent’ they fooling you, aren’t you brainwashed by misinformation and aren’t you in a cult that spreads anti human rights fervor for the sole reason that you believe that the party is right that torture and lies lead to harmony? I would call that brainwashing, I could talk a lot more, but I think you get the point.

  • Eric Ling

    carryanne,

    Your comment is so interesting that I cannot oppose my curiosity but doubt what your major is. And your knowledge continue making me wondering how you can get so much information about China, while most of Chinese have never even heard of it. It is pretty ironic, isn’t it?

    Chinese now face the same situation as Germany used to face 70 years ago. Both of the political and economical crisis trigger the irrationality among chinese youth: They hate foreign countries, especially America and Japan; they worship the tyrants, just because of the little hypercritical friendship being given; they disdain the value of common people, while believing the lies uttered by the big brother. However, the only difference between them is the usage of mass media, which helps the insanity spread.

    So how about United States? Can u people say that you are not brainwashed while the overwhelming information covers the skyline? can u say that the motivation to vote for obama is not his great personal charisma? and can u tell me the reason why the ceremony became such a hilarious carnival? no, u cannot. u cannot even tell the difference between the reason why Hitler was elected and the motivation why u love obama. (I just want u to get the point without intention of offense)

    They are all the same.

  • ILA

    Eric Ling ,
    good questions. No one believed obama. He is a gifted orator as was Hitler. We all voted for him though, you are right, for very different reasons. No one likes a choice of two but it’s rigged
    Insane mccain would have made bush look gun shy and with little joe lieberman joined to his hip (joe wants to nuke Gaza)It would not have been an option. The election protection people were out in force or he might not have prevailed. He has surrounded himself with bushlims and clintonistas, that speaks volumes. It’s all quite sad!

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