Thursday, June 16, 2011

The inscrutable Chinese

There is a little 3-year old girl in San Francisco who calls me "Grandpa Charlie" and who is now in a Mandarin immersion school. I hope she learns a lot and retains in later in life. Then she won't make the same mistakes as so often get reported in the western press.

I was delighted to read in the Financial Times that the statement by Chinese Premier Zhou en-lai in 1972 was a fairly ordinary comment on current events rather than a sign of Chinese patience and historical perspective. When asked by Henry Kissinger about the French revolution, Zhou replied that "it's too soon to tell." Now we have confirmation that the "revolution" in question was the 1968 youth rebellion, not the events of 1789.

I was also reassured to learn that the old chestnut from motivational speakers, that the Chinese word for "crisis" combines the characters for "danger" and "opportunity," is incorrect.

I doubt that I'll ever learn more Chinese than a few tourist phrases, but I'm glad to have these reports, and the continuing ones by James Fallows and his wife Deborah on Chinese for Americans.

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