China is a big country and as with anything big with jaws and claws, one must be careful about its reaction to provocations. This week Taiwan was not so careful while welcoming Nancy Pelosi and ended up making China very angry. The reprisal was severe; “We shall not buy your biscuits and pastries”, screamed the mainlander Communists. That can be a fate worse than death for the Taiwanese! Last year too, this tiny David called Taiwan had infuriated the dragon Goliath and had met a similarly horrible fate; “We shall not buy your pineapples”, the followers of Xi Jinping had blared on their state-owned daily printed sermon papers. China does not have newspapers as news tends to be disruptive propaganda and only sermons of the Party are fit to print in the Party-owned papers. The Taiwanese shuddered then as they are doing now and resorted to eating their pineapples in innovative forms. Then the Japanese stepped in, having suddenly discovered the manna in Taiwan’s pineapples and outdid the Chinese demand. Farmers are smiling; Xi is scowling. Wait for more news about biscuits and pastries.
China had shown the same dragon flares to Australia in 2020 when the big island that goes around as a continent had the temerity to annoy the fire-spewing dragon by demanding an inquiry into the origins of the Wuhan virus. “We shall not buy your lobsters,” threatened the Chinese. Yet, the Chinese are willing to lose their freedoms more easily than their favourite food, particularly the one that can be watched writhing in the frying pan and sometimes even on the plate. The exports from Australia have increased, the Party says the ban is in place and the Chinese are digging into the lobsters. The answer to the puzzle is simple; the crustaceans are being imported by Hong Kong for the mainland tables. China did promise to the UK that there would be “one country, two systems”!
The Chinese do have a sense of humour – they even have a list of do’s and don’ts for the one who tells a joke and also for the one who listens. If the latter fails to guffaw, the former is obliged to ask in right earnest, “Did you get it?” Of course, this situation does not arise when a senior party official narrates the joke. The listener has a choice; either he laughs or he may never smile again. The Chinese language is not only pictorial; it is graphic too, leaving no room for claiming later that you misunderstood. Every word explains itself, even the word joke. They call it xiàohua or “laugh talk”. So the proletarian is enlightened in advance that the bigwig is doing “laugh talk” and then the failure to laugh is deliberate defiance.
The Party loathes the idea of sharing any trait with the decadent West, including humour. So in 2013, the Americans saw Obama and Xi walking together and compared them to Tigger and Winnie the Pooh, Xi being the latter. The two million strong cyber army of the Party erased every reference to the affable teddy bear and its creator A. A. Milne from the Internet for the Chinese, which is kept sanitised to keep the Tiananmen virus at bay. To show that the party is not against Islam but only in favour of re-education of Muslims, the axe soon fell on Peppa Pig. Even in 2019, the year of the pig, the word could not be mentioned on the net and the innocent Chinese lamented, “No pig in the year of the pig!” and got censored. Solidarity with the supreme leader demands sacrifices and the laughter and smiles are small change.
Supporters of hateful capitalism may only frown and refuse to laugh at the fact that in 1920 China was appointed member of the UN Human Rights Council. It was fully justified by a China proclaiming from the rooftops of the Forbidden City that it is a democracy and nothing is forbidden in China except what is forbidden by the Party. When Biden became so unfair as not to invite Xi’s self-proclaimed democracy to the Summit for Democracy held in December last year, the red China published a “White paper” titled “China: Democracy that works”. It reminds us that the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China says that it is “people’s democratic dictatorship”. Now, it is not the fault of the Chinese sense of humour if you fail to appreciate that phrase. Not only Xi, but even Putin, who runs another “democratic dictatorship” is appreciative of the idea and issued with Xi a long joint statement at Beijing on February 4, 2022. It exhorted the world to champion universal human values, such as peace, equality, justice, democracy and freedom and to respect the sovereignty and security of other states. It reminded the West that there are different versions of democracy and “there is no one-size-fits-all template” for democracy. The statement noted that Russia and China “have long-standing traditions of democracy” perhaps alluding to the “democratic” Czars and emperors, and equally democratic Stalin and Mao. With the West keeping all this “truth” away from us, we all need to spend some time in a Chinese re-education camp.
China has a lot more in common with the “democracy” in Russia. The White Paper claims that China is a “multi-party democracy” though there are no opposition parties in China. It says that in addition to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), there are eight other political parties and the next claim is another tailpiece of dragon’s humour. These eight parties “cooperate closely with the CCP and function as its advisors and assistants”! Western democracies are light-years away from this utopia where other political parties do not strive to snatch power from the ruling party and even assist it in remaining in power. After all, it is only the CCP that has the wisdom to describe their utopia’s democracy as a “Whole-process democracy”. Since the Western education does not equip the reader to unravel this deep wisdom, the White Paper explains: “Whole-process people’s democracy integrates process-oriented democracy with results-oriented democracy, procedural democracy with substantive democracy, direct democracy with indirect democracy, and people’s democracy with the will of the state.” See how simple it is when the heavenly kingdom explains it!
The universe of Chinese sense of humour is too vast to be encompassed in just one post. We shall return soon with more of it.