Bo Xilai scandal, update #43
We here at CER gossiped as much as anybody in high school. But call us old-fashioned, we knew that once somebody mentioned Graham Greene, things were getting out of hand. Kids these days have no decency. China scoop of the week clearly goes to The Wall Street Journal, which alleged that the mysterious flight of Chongqing’s former top cop to the US consulate in Chengdu was linked to the death late last year of British national Neil Heywood. Heywood, said to be a “low-level fixer” (not in the plumbing sense) for Bo Xilai, as well as lil’ Guagua’s butler, and oh yea, possibly a spy. Reporters were on that like white on rice. Describing this man without using the terms “well-mannered,” “immaculate,” “impeccably polite” – or for that matter, Bo Xilai’s wife as a “Lady Macbeth” – would be like asking China journalists to never again use the term “Middle Kingdom” or reference dragons – physically painful. And when “friends” compared him to John Cleese (post-Monty Python, we hope) and a protagonist from Graham Greene novel (were they thinking of the actor Michael Cain, perhaps?), you know imaginations are going into overdrive. That’s good news for some, because it means less reporters talking about, oh say, the dying solar industry, falling exports, squeezed oil companies, another government rejection of Huawei, and other minor matters. But who cares? There are British butlers to investigate.
Euphemisms thrive in China. Witness sex toy culture exploding under the friendly label of “adult health protection,” or the long-lasting use of mythical creatures to mock internet censors. When that local government official asks for research (yanjiu), that’s your cue to hand over the cigarettes (yan) and booze (jiu). A knack for “the correct naming of things” is the best accessory a Chinese businessman can have, next to that Louis Vuitton man purse. As China Hearsay points out, Tim Cook appears to have got that memo. Apple joined the hordes of other companies before it to pledge its willingness to invest in China (yes, shocking). But as politically advantageous as all this correct naming may be, sometimes China just takes it too far. The results can be embarassing: Witness state media routinely paddling its little boat of truthiness way beyond the borders of I-believe-you land. Academics also get caught up in the spin – for example, Chinese scholar Dr Yang Jiemin’s response to US ambassador Gary Locke’s speech in Shanghai. “Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Till the good is better and the better, best,” Yang chimed in a lyrical bid to deflect attention that didn’t make it into the official press release. At the end of the day, you have to feel a little sorry for all the journalists and academics that are stuck in hard mode. Try being a spokesperson when there’s nothing to say; it’s bound to come out awkward.