Tuesday, June 21, 2011

More on China -- "Too early to say"

Phil Paine forwards me this post from Delanceyplace.com:
In today's excerpt - the Chinese have often been invoked as having a longer-term perspective on history compared to the West, and to buttress this view, the story is often repeated of Premier Zhou Enlai's response when asked to discuss the impact of the French Revolution. His answer? "Too early to say":

"The impact of the French Revolution? 'Too early to say.'

"Thus did Zhou Enlai - in responding to questions in the early 1970s about the popular revolt in France almost two centuries earlier - buttress China's reputation as a far-thinking, patient civilisation.

"The former premier's answer has become a frequently deployed cliché, used as evidence of the sage Chinese ability to think long-term - in contrast to impatient westerners.

"The trouble is that Zhou was not referring to the 1789 storming of the Bastille in a discussion with Richard Nixon during the late US president's pioneering China visit. Zhou's answer related to events only three years earlier - the 1968 students' riots in Paris, according to Nixon's interpreter at the time.
Phil says:
I'm often amazed at the way even serious journalists and historians abandon all critical faculties when talking about China, and think in cliches, vague images, and old sayings and quotations.  Imagine the same guys analysing the Netherlands in terms of wooden shoes and windmills and taking sayings like "dutch treat" or "Dutch courage" as if they were profound. Or concluding that they can predict American foreign policy by watching old episodes of The Lucy Show.

Image:  1968

1 comment:

  1. I doubt that image is from 1968.

    Pretty important note about Zhou Enlai's comment, if true, though I doubt any hesitancy on Zhou's part came from being afraid to "pass judgement" on French Maoists.