The feminine mystique
Women are a tricky bunch. They may disarm with shiny hair and agreeable smells, but don’t be fooled – exposing them to power is as risky as feeding your Mogwai after midnight. This week, China seemed to be wising up to this reality. Those who have been able to access the Chinese intertubes in the past few days may have seen this phrase reverberating: “Every bad thing a man did in this country was a woman’s fault.” This time around, the phrase is directed at Gu Kailai, the scheming wife of our infamous downtrodden Chongqing party secretary. Gu (now increasingly called Bogu Kailai, either in an effort to protect herself or defame Bo further) became a little – shall we say – intoxicated with her power in Chongqing. (Sources say she demanded the conscription of 20 eunuch attendants and 700 laborers to sew her fabrics – a level of excess rarely seen even in Shanghai!) As the collective wisdom goes, however, Gu is far from an isolated case: Just look at Madame Mao, the Empress regent Wu Zetian and innumerable tricky consorts like Yang Guifei that came before her. Even the squeaky clean Hua Mulan climbed to glory through lies and impersonation. And then there’s that Tiger mom lady.
If there’s a lesson that we should take away from the Bo Xilai affair, it’s to watch out for those so-called “ambitious” and “determined” women. The fairer sex is best when it sticks to the basics: carrying laundry baskets and babies (ladies, thank your stars for that lower center of gravity!). In China, those basics include beautiful but tragic endings: Chinese historical ladies apparently threw themselves into wells and jumped into furnaces with astonishing regularity. The upside, of course, is that they were immortalized in art and poetry. Women have all the luck.
All the news that’s fit to spin
Journalism may be the “life of kings” as Mencken said, but it barely pays enough to support a prodigious Lanzhou lamian habit. So this week, like so many journalists before us, we at CER decided to make a career change and slink into that greasy money pile that is PR. Just our luck that there were positions to be filled in the biggest and greasiest pile of them all – the coffers of the Chinese government! (Having leaned on its ability to control the media perhaps a little too often, the government has begun mixing it up with some PR-style spin.) Our first assignment was a classic PR disaster: Pesky journalists reported that telecom equipment maker ZTE had agreed to ship embargoed American electronic equipment to Iran, certainly not the news to brandish China’s international image. Our spin: All those “servers” were simply Xboxes. Would the American government really deny the Ayatollah the basic human right that is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3? Then the Chinese got into yet another spat with the Phillipines in the ongoing conflict over the South China Sea. Easy: No incursions involving fishing boats or a ship called the “Scent of Princess Coconut” could possibly be construed as an act of aggression. Then came the news that Bo Xilai had been ousted from the Politburo. Hmm… it looks like there are still some things that remain above our pay grade. Oh wait… We’ve got it! His wife murdered some British guy! That’s sure to distract the public for a while. That was easier than we thought.