Long ago, when I was a small girl living in Africa I learned an important lesson – don’t stir up trouble unnecessarily.
One day my parents were at a lunch party at someone’s house; I must have been 5 or 6 years old and I was given a bottle of fizzy lemonade with a straw. I wandered off the terrace into the garden where there was a ‘rockery’. [In central Africa during the 1950s, anthills and termite mounds were often disguised as rockeries with the aid of a few large stones and some strategically placed plants]. I climbed up the rockery and found a hole at the top, ants were coming and going. I thought it would be interesting to see what happened if I poured some of my lemonade down the hole – so I did. Instantly what seemed like millions of ants rushed out of the hole and climbed all over me, biting everywhere. I let out a shriek, and had to be carried into the house and dumped, clothes and all, into a bath of cold water to get rid of the ants.
You may wonder why I have told you that little anecdote. Well, at the moment US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is in the process of pouring lemonade down an anthill, so to speak. He has introduced Senate Bill 2451, to change the name of the street in Washington on which the Chinese Embassy is located. His Bill has already been passed by the Senate without amendment – it is now a matter of conjecture as to whether President Obama will sign the bill into law. At present the street address is 3505 International Place but Senator Cruz wants it changed to 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza.
Liu Xiaobo is a Chinese citizen who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. He is well known academically and for his opinions on human rights. The Chinese government seems to think that the decision to award him the Peace Prize was a deliberatly provocative attempt to stir up trouble in China, as they thought he had done nothing to foster peace either in China or abroad.
Not long before this, Liu Xiaobo was arrested in China, charged with actions ‘jeopardizing China’s National Security’, tried, and sentenced to 11 years in jail. Many people think that this is a travesty, and that he should be released, and have protested vociferously against his imprisonment.
I have no idea whether the charges against Liu Xiaobo are true or false, but I do know that this action by Sen. Cruz is not going to change anything or help Liu Xiabo in any meaningful way; and the decision to do this seems rather puerile.
Like the ants in the rockery, many Chinese citizens, as evidenced on Weibo, are hopping mad at his lack of diplomacy, and his crude attempt to rile the Chinese powers-that-be. Because this isn’t conducive to two countries understanding and learning from one-another.
How would the United States like it if a member of the Politburo endeavored to have the name of the street in Beijing on which the US Embassy is located renamed after Edward Snowden? or Watergate? or – as some have rudely suggested – after Monica Lewinsky?
When you disapprove of the way another sovereign nation manages its affairs, there are ways of letting them know it, and hopefully initiating constructive dialogue. Sen. Cruz should learn how to do that – not be like me and stir up unnecessary trouble and international antagonism.
I try to keep this blog a politics-free zone, but so many people here in Beijing have told me how rude they think the US is being in this case, that I felt you would be interested in what gets them riled up!