Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A Traveller's Tale

Interesting story in Travellers' Tales, the Far Eastern Economic Review's blog. It's short, and I'm too lazy to write anything tonight, so I'll repost in its entirety:
Dining last night with a group of China watchers, we had the good fortune to be seated next to Willy Wo-Lap Lam, China editor of the South China Morning Post during the paper's glory days. The conversation quickly turned to China's slide backward into a harsh authoritarianism not seen since the screw-tightening following 1989. As Willy noted, people in Beijing are now pining after the days of Jiang Zemin, something nobody thought possible. But the banning of the June issue of the REVIEW because of a review of Jung Chang's Mao biography does fit into a pattern. Willy reminded us of Hu Jintao's extravagant and unqualified praise of Mao on the 110th anniversary of his birth in December 2003. And another telling titbit, on his first visit to Moscow as party secretary, Hu chose to visit a museum dedicated to the author of "How Steel Is Forged," a piece of Soviet-era Stakhanovite propaganda. There is a natural assumption that the younger generation of leaders must be more reformist than their predecessors. But remember that at least Jiang Zemin and his generation were exposed to the imported ideas and intellectual ferment and of the revolutionary period. Hu Jintao and his contemporaries only knew the ideology that was spoon-fed to them, and rose not by making revolution but by being obedient. Hu's fascination with the glories of Soviet industry and power should remind us that the closest world leader to Hu in terms of temperament, as Willy Lam says, is Vladimir Putin.

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