Hu Ping: My Analysis of the Incident of Lang Lang’s State Dinner Performance

At the State Dinner at the White House with President Hu Jintao, Chinese pianist performed a song titled “My Motherland,” which is a patriotic song from a movie about the Korean War which contains the lyrics, “If the wolves [Americans] come in, we will welcome them with guns.” Once this was discovered, an uproar ensued over whether Lang Lang played the tune as an intentional snub to his American hosts.

Exiled political commentator Hu Ping wrote his take on the incident (translated by CDT):

The White House has denied that there was any problem with Lang Lang’s performance at the State Dinner. However, when we reach the point that the White House has to deny that there is a problem with something, this indicates that there already is a problem. This incident has without a doubt already had a negative impact, but there is a discrepancy between the real impact and people’s estimates. I think the key to this incident is not Lang Lang but the China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. What we must closely examine are the responsible officials in the Ministry.

There are only three possibilities:

1. Before the performance, the officials had no idea what song Lang Lang was going to play.

According to the principle of the CCP that “there is no small matter in foreign relations,” this would accordingly constitute an oversight. But drawing a conclusion from the typical pattern, the possibility that officials did not know the song is pretty small. For such a sensitive occasion, they must have carefully scrutinized and arranged all details. Moreover prior to the state dinner Lang Lang gave an interview on Phoenix Television, in which he clearly stated that he would perform “My Motherland” (Wo de zuguo). How could officials at the Foreign Affairs Ministry not know?

2. Even though they did know, they didn’t pay it much mind, and didn’t consider the problems with the song’s background.

However, the problem is that though perhaps Lang Lang was truly ignorant, could officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs truly be that ignorant? With that level of ignorance how could they fulfill their responsibilities? They would be completely derelict in their duties.

3. Officials at the Foreign Affairs Bureau knew everything, knew that Lang Lang would perform “My Motherland,” and completely understood the background of this song. What would this mean? It goes without saying.

There are only these three possibilities. I would invite them to choose one of them.