Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pengyou to Zhengyou

Chairman Mao, originally uploaded by Langoustine.

Aussie PM Kevin Rudd appears to have pulled off something of a coup during his Chinese-language speech (text here) at Peking Uni, according to these expert commentators.

China - government and people - is getting way hacked off with being lectured by the West (see China expert John Pomfret's post here) over Tibet/anything else, yet the alternative might be simply to have to shut up, thus avoiding any Chinese loss of face, and perhaps have a quiet word behind the scenes, which can then be easily ignored. This latter course, apparently, is how a Waiguo Pengyou - foreign friend - is expected to behave. But, in words not reported by the China Daily, Rudd told his audience straight that he had a problem with human rights in Tibet.

Rudd, with his knowledge of China, was able to do this by casting himself as a Zhengyou rather than a Pengyou. A Zhengyou is the valuable friend who tells you the truth, unpleasant as it may be, and thus truly helps you rather than just saying what you want to hear. Pomfret is good on this here, suggesting Rudd could be the West's "secret weapon" in dealing with China, while an Oz China prof goes into more detail here, saying finally:

By introducing the term zhengyou with all of its liberating connotations into our dealings with China, Kevin Rudd has achieved something of considerable significance.

Riveting stuff...

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