How not to win friends and influence nations

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.african ants 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.Washington Embassy USA At present the street address is 3505 International Place but Senator Cruz  wants it changed to 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza.

Liu Xiaobo 4

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!



About herschelian

Started my 60s by moving to China with my DH. Surprised to find I am still here in Beijing eight years later - still finding it an adventure!
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12 Responses to How not to win friends and influence nations

  1. Chris says:

    Hello Jo,
    While I agree with you about Cruz pouring lemonade down an ant hole, frankly, I don’t think the US would care if the Politburo or Beijing named a street after a politically sensitive character. We have so much ridiculousness like this going on all the time, I don’t think it would make a splash unless it furthered someone’s career to do so. 😦

  2. Sheila Taylor says:

    I am in America right now and frankly nothing would surprise me. I had underestimated the fact that most of the inhabitants are certifiable and those who are not seem to have gone native.

    • herschelian says:

      Strong words! but I sort of know what you are saying – having said that, I have some wonderfully civilized American friends. In a country as big as the USA which has been so successful in giving a good life to many, there must be a large number of citizens who are just like us. Granted, you are probably not meeting them at the moment. Dying to hear about N.O. XX

  3. Bea dM says:

    I bet you’ve kept a safe distance away from ants since you were a child 🙂 The comparison is apt, but so many of the going-ons on the US political front are so very puerile. None of the candidates (on either side) seem to have a clue about the rest of the world, about international relations and/or diplomacy except for Mrs Clinton … and that’s seriously worrying. I’m not American, just sayin’ .

    • herschelian says:

      You are so right – I am not a fan of ants – even though I find their lives fascinating – I don’t want them in my house or anywhere near me!
      As to the US election which is looming – I read the press, watch CNN etc and despair. Trump, for God’s Sake; have Americans taken leave of their senses??? Hilary is the only one I would consider but alas she has a huge hill to climb to get there. As I am not American why should I care? – well, because what America does affects us all (and I do have an American grandson!).

  4. camparigirl says:

    And one has to wonder about the nosedive Sino-American relations would take with a President Trump. Funnily enough, I don’t think anyone even knows here about this bill over here.

    • herschelian says:

      Never mind Sino-US relations (we all know Trump boasts that he will ‘cut China out’), its the US relations with every other nation that hangs in the balance. Months ago I thought him standing for the Presidency was just laughable, and that he’d soon be gone. I’m not laughing now. My 92yr old mother reminded me that when Hitler first stood for election, he was regarded as a joke by both Germans and the rest, but little by little he wormed his way forward – and we all know the consequences.

  5. Many wonder why Ted Cruz says and does so many daft things, yet still continues to command lots of air-time. The monopolistic media perpetuates this,,,,, and I can assure you, the majority of Americans are not crazy, or even ignorant. We do have our share, of course, and the press has got an (perhaps unwitting) algorithm to keep this corrupt and buffoonish thing (i.e. American presidential politics) animated right through election day.

  6. Behind the Story says:

    I hadn’t heard about the bill introduced by Cruz. Thanks for this post. I can see why many in China would be angry. Ted Cruz would be a dangerous person to have in the White House. Donald Trump would be worse. The prospect of a President Trump is truly frightening and unfortunately not out of the question. I don’t like to invoke Hitler too quickly, but your mother makes a good point. I stopped laughing about Trump a long time ago.

  7. Behind the Story says:

    Reblogged this on BEHIND THE STORY.

  8. herschelian says:

    Joanna and Behind the Story – thanks for your comments; I must say I felt rather uneasy criticizing a politician in another country – it seemed rather rude. However all the remarks that have been made encourage me that Americans are decent sensible people (at least those who read my blog are!!) and in the end they will prevail.

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