China, Rajapakse & 'Development'
- Deft Dancing on the ‘D’ Word
5 March 2007
Sri Lanka President
Mahinda Rajapakse leaves for China, 25 February 2007
"China fear" to "China fever"
- Pallavi Aiyar, 27 February 2006
China's Strategy of Containing India
- Dr. Mohan Malik, 6 February 2006
India's Project Seabird
and the Indian Ocean's Balance of Power, 20 July 2005
China's Submarine Base in Maldives,
8 May 2005
China undertakes construction of Hambantota Port,
11 April 2005]
Mahinda Rajapaksa has ‘successfully completed’ his state visit to People’s
Republic of China, which spanned from February 26th to March 4th.
The Colombo Daily Mirror (March 5, 2007) carries “a joint communique by
China and Sri Lanka issued at the conclusion of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s
one weeks’ state visit to China.”
domiciled in Japan since 1986, I have been observing the verbal behavior of
ruling Colombo politicians who pout inanities in their begging trips, when they
visit Tokyo and Beijing. Before commenting on the ‘Joint Communique released by
China and Sri Lanka’, I wish to draw attention to President Mahinda’s interview
to Chinese news agency Xinhua, just prior to his state visit. Here are some
excerpts, culled from the China’s People’s Daily Online, dated 25
Sri Lankans consider China’s development as
[source: Xinhua news agency, Feb.25, 2007]
consider that the development of the Chinese people as our own development.
Similarly, we look forward to the Chinese people considering the development
of Sri Lanka as the development of China, due to the friendship between our
countries’, said Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
exclusive interview with Xinhua made on Friday prior to his state visit to
China, Rajapaksa said the relationship between China and Sri Lanka is built
on a solid foundation….
Rajapaksa said China is developing very rapidly despite a very large
population, ‘I believe we have a lot of lessons to learn from that
development. I visit China just at the end of the (Spring) Festival season.
As it is said in our language it is like visiting our relatives,’ said the
funny is that the ‘d’-word President Mahinda had stressed is “development”. How
neat is this deft dancing on the diplomatic circus rope? The other ‘d’-word
(‘democracy’) which the Sri Lankan politicians spew out frequently to the media,
is a taboo word for describing anything relating to China and contemporary
Chinese rulers. Isn’t this a simple demonstration of the phenomenon that either
these Colombo politicians are hypocrites of first degree or that they are
spineless not to offend their powerful hosts. China does not adhere to
democratic principles. Period.
Diplomatic Spin with Focus words and Taboo words
past 20 years, I also have watched how the Colombo wordsmiths use spin in their
texts for the begging trips of Sri Lankan top dogs (especially the President,
Prime Minister and Foreign Minister) to the four Asian countries, namely India,
China, Japan and Pakistan. Here is the accepted format of what are the focus
words and what are the taboo words for use in these four countries.
democracy, terrorism, Rajiv Gandhi
Buddhism, Indira Gandhi
development, trade, arms
democracy, Muslims, Dalai Lama
Buddhism, investment, aid
arms, military training
arms, military training, Muslims
democracy, Buddhism, terrorism
Affinity of Chinese to the Tigers
draw attention to two items in the released Joint Communique, and then muse on a
few threads between these two items.
noted that “The President [Mahinda] also gifted a baby elephant to the
noted that “The two sides resolved to fight tirelessly against the three
evil forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism and will step up
consultation and coordinating on regional and international counter
of President Mahinda to gift a baby elephant to the Chinese. But I’d say, he had
not been thoughtful about his animal gift. I have no grudge on baby elephants.
In mid 1980s, one of President Mahinda’s predecessors [President
J.R.Jayewardene] took along a baby elephant [named Jayathu] gift to Washington
DC and presented it to President Ronald Reagan, with some fanfare. Sadly, few
months later, this baby elephant had a premature death. The autopsy had revealed
that it had parasitic infestation. One can only hope that Jayathu’s sad fate
doesn’t re-visit the gift elephant of President Mahinda.
that President Mahinda had been ill-advised on what animal to present as a gift
for Chinese. In the world view of Chinese, elephant doesn’t hardly register in
the radar. Just check the Chinese zodiac of 12 Animal Signs. The 12 Animals
which feature in the traditional Chinese calendar (in the order of their
appearance): rat, ox, tiger, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, cock, dog and
pig. This year [the Chinese new year commenced on February 18 of this year] is
the Year of Pig. President Mahinda made his trip to China last month, after the
beginning of the Year of Pig. For the purpose of zodiac alignment, is it wrong
to ponder a while that Chinese might have been delighted if President Mahinda
had taken a ‘Sri Lankan’ Pig to China as a gift?
Now to the
cultural affinity of Chinese to the Tigers – the carnivore. Whatever the Colombo
politicians and their panjandrums bad mouth about the LTTE to the Chinese, I
have a hunch that for Chinese ears, it will hardly register. The reason for this
lies in the animal motif of Tamils and LTTE – the Tiger.
revere Tiger, and South China Tiger is one of their national emblems. Period. In
a recent, unsigned news-commentary date-lined Beijing, which appeared in the
Economist magazine (Feb.22, 2007), one sentence reads as follows: “Many
Chinese will take no less kindly to being told the tiger is an undistinguished
mongrel, and that miscegenation is the way forward.”
be a reason why in the Item 7 of the Joint Communique, a bland and insipid
resolve was written “against the three evil forces of terrorism, separatism and
extremism”. A specific mention of LTTE’s
complete name has been omitted.
Colombo rulers battle with the LTTE since mid 1980s and had faced ethnic
cleansing charges from Eelam Tamils since mid 1950s, China’s rulers also had
faced three-pronged separatism campaigns and ethnic cleansing accusations from
Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and Taiwan nationalists since 1950s. Thus, a
“resolve to fight tirelessly” as provided in Item 7 of the Joint Communique is
nothing but a procedural formality.
one of the revered historical and cultural emblems of Tamils. But how many
Tamils know that Chinese also show similar affinity to the Tiger the animal? I
have in my collection a 1933 zoological essay by
entitled ‘The Tiger in China’. For relevance, I reproduce below the first few
paragraphs of this old essay.
The Tiger in China
by Arthur De C.Sowerby
[courtesy: The China Journal, Feb.1933,
vol.18, no.2, pp.94-101]
"To the Chinese and other people of Eastern Asia the tiger is and always has
been what the lion is and has been to the people of the West, holding the
same place in their imaginations and fables. Just as the lion is the great
feline marauder of Africa todday and was so of the Near East and even of
Western Europe in the past, so the tiger is the great feline marauder of
Asia both in fact and in tradition.
From childhood many of us who were born in China have heard innumerable
stories in which the tiger, or lao hu, as the Chinese call the great
cat, has figured more or less prominently, and in a great number of Chinese
myths and legends this fearsome beast of prey plays an important role. To
the Chinese the tiger is the symbol of strength and courage, just as the
lion is with the Westerner; so much so, indeed, that its bones, flesh and
blood are looked upon as medicine of extraordinary efficacy in giving the
person who partakes of them the tiger’s strength and courage. For this
reason they fetch a high price in the medicine shops, and a hunter who kills
a tiger can make many hundreds of dollars out of it if he knows how to
dispose of its remains properly. In Manchuria a tiger will realize a
thousand dollars or more.
The ignorant Chinese of the country-side believe that the tiger is a Ta
Sheng, or Great Spirit, and in the mountainous areas where it occurs
feat it greatly. We were once told a story of how a hunter in the mountains
of Western Shansi killed a tiger, whereafter the inhabitants of the
neighbouring farmsteads and hamlets were greatly plagued by nightly
visitations from the tiger’s soul or ghost, which could perform miracles
beyond the powers of the animal in the flesh, spriting away people and
cattle from locked rooms and byres.
Samuel Couling in his ‘Encyclopeida Sinica’ has the following passage:
‘In Chinese mythology the tiger is often found as a mount for the destroyers
of evil spirits, such as Chang Tao-ling; and Hsuan Tan, the god of riches,
is also sometimes represented riding a tiger. The beast itself is also
counted divine and its picture is often seen stuck on the walls of houses,
bearing the Taoist seal of Cheng Huang, and sometimes with the character
wang, king, on its forehead. The tiger as guardian is often seen painted
on the walls of magistrates’ offices and on private houses. Its claws or the
ashes of its burnt hair are potent and expensive talismans.’
Just as the tiger figures prominently in Chinese mythology so it appears
frequently in Chinese art, being a favourite subject of painters, sculptors,
wood carvers and toy makers alike. It occurs frequently in the art of past
ages, in bronze, in stone, in jade and in clay. Couling’s reference to the
character, wang, which he says is ‘sometimes’ shown on the forehead
of tigers in Chinese paintings, is interesting.
As a matter of fact, it is always so shown in Chinese paintings of the great
feline, for it is actually present in all Chinese and Manchurian tigers.
Such a fact cannot have failed to impress the Chinese with their reverence
for writing, and itself would be sufficient to account for the superstitious
awe in which they hold the tiger. But add to this its enormous strength and
ferocity, its cruel cunning, and the wild and lonely mountain fastnesses and
gloomy forests it chooses for its lair, and it will be seen how readily the
tiger lends itself to a prominent role in myth and legend in a country where
these hold as great a place as they do in China.
Not only does the tiger figure prominently in China’s legend and art, it
also often appears in the history of the country, but space will not allow
of more than a few references. Marco Polo tells us that the Grand Khan
Kublai used tigers to hunt deer, wild cattle, wild boars, bears and
antilopes, while the animal is also mentioned many times in hunts conducted
by the Mongol and Manchu Emperors of China. That it figured largely in the
lives of the warriors and hunters of even earlier times is shown by its
appearance on clay tomb bricks or tiles of the Ch’in period (255-206 BC) or