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China: Obama, can you?

Categories: East Asia, China, Elections, Governance, Politics

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 [1], 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 [2] kicks off an interesting discussion of Obama.

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


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) [3], however, proclaims:


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:


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]

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 [2] of the thread says:


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


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:


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.