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Today, prepping a piece on Ai Weiwei in the German press, I popped a few dozen links (beginning with my own “European Sources on East Asia” in my homepage sidebar) and was quickly swimming in excellent, original data from the Francophone world.
Why not share it?
Like this television report from Beijing about the luxury trade in China and those who work in both its heart and at its margins:
Or some footage of President Sarkozy at the new French Embassy in Beijing, exalting in his “duty [devoir]” (“Because it is my duty, it is a pleasure, it is my duty!”), hyping how great the World Expo was for French business (either his penance for threatening to boycott the 2008 Olympics or just recalling glorious visits with Carla), or reminding everyone that we cannot understand today’s world by ignoring China:
More Sarko in Beijing footage here.
French cultural diplomacy in China is really exceptionally rich. This diplomacy includes singers and pianists touring East Asia giving master classes on diction in the French chanson to eager groups of students. No wonder Bizet’s Carmen is doing well in China’s best theater this week. The French Embassy has also taken up the sponsorship of major art photography conferences in Beijing which includes the following photo, linked via the Le Monde China blog, which itself remains as affecting as ever:
This very interesting short video report dates from the days of late February, 2011, with footage of the “Jasmine demonstration” in Beijing and a state-security aborted interview with one of Zhao Ziyang’s old reformist comrades from 1989.
The same group of French journalists covers expropriations and urbanization in Shanghai.
In feel-good news, a French-owned company, Road39, seems to be doing quite well in a niche market in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong: designing svelte clothes for pregnant women.
As a penultimate item, there is this video analysis from what feels like eons ago, describing how Chinese media was covering the revolution in (really the democratic wave [“la vague democratique”] washing over) Egypt:
Finally, although Libération is a relatively small paper in Paris, they manage to have a brave correspondent in China named Philippe Grangereau, who has also penned a rather interesting book about North Korea entitled In the Country of the Big Lie. This month Grangereau provides some first-hand reporting and a photo from the troubled Tibetan areas of western Sichuan, which is where, having digested the complete historical works of Melvyn Goldstein, I will be spending — God and the Chinese visa office willing — about a week this coming August getting my hands and feet dirty, and perhaps even testing the acoustical properties of the mountains when faced with cello licks intermingled with yodeled fragments of translations of Also Sprach Zarathustra.
As we in Seattle continue to host the inimitable Martin Jacques, author of When China Rules the World, I thought this essay by Pierre Haski at Rue89 about French diminution in the Chinese shadow was particularly apropos. Assessing the above photo, Haski writes, horrified:
C’est la photo qui tue. Sans doute ce « moment décisif » cher à Henri Cartier-Bresson était-il trop tentant pour symboliser la nouvelle puissance chinoise et la contrition de Nicolas Sarkozy qui cherchait à se réconcilier avec LA nouvelle superpuissance. Et peut-être que cette image est totalement trompeuse, ne montrant qu’un instant déconnecté de son environnement.
In a different essay, Haski describes how Sarko was convinced/intimidated by Beijing’s tactic of “kill the chicken to frighten the monkeys [杀鸡给猴看/tué le poulet pour effrayer les singes.” And now, Sarkozy’s recent visit to Shanghai and Beijing, it seems, has come at the cost of criticism at home for his “kowtow” to Hu Jintao. Barack Obama, you are no longer tout seul!
AFP reports that after ten hours of talks over five days with French envoy Jack Lang, North Korea agreed in principle to further discussion with France over the issue of human rights.
Footage of Lang expressively describing his accomplishments and wandering around in the immense lobby of what appears to be the Koryo Hotel can be seen on Chinese television here, in English. (Lang’s televised intro to Foreign Minister, along with Sarkozy’s wish list, is here.)
And although, as I reported earlier, his Socialist rival Aubry was interested in Lang getting an Alliance Française set up in Pyongyang to counter the German Goethe Institut in that city, now rumors in Paris have it that Lang is setting himself up as a future minister with the French-German portfolio; thus he is “learning the language of Goethe,” Le Figaro reports. Liberation reflects the French press themes of the last couple of days: nothing substantial on North Korea, but more speculation about Lang’s role as “bon germanophone” in Franco-German relations. Go figure. But Lang will be answering questions this Mardi/Tuesday [today!] so more North Korea news should be flowing out of that sandy city of Paris at some point.
Commentary: Note how in knots the Chinese have the French. Setting aside the standard discount for French self-flagellation, the following article very much indicates that after forty-five years of relations, the relationship between the two republics, while profitable to each, is very much driven by Chinese imperatives.
Marc Epstein, “Paris-Pekin: Supplice chinois: pour mettre fin a la brouille entre les deux pays au sujet du Tibet, la France semble prete a tout. Quitte a s’asseoir sur ses principes ?
[Paris-Beijing: In Order to Put an End to the Row between the two states regarding Tibet, France appears ready to do anything. Does it plan to abandon its principles?]”
Two of the values associated with traditional China, serenity and sagacity, seem to be lacking in the relations between Paris and Beijing. After a row lasting a year mostly over the Tibet question, Presidents Sarkozy and Hu managed to finally to meet privately on the 1st of April, in London, during the G 20 summit. But this normalization has a bitter flavor.
Apres une brouille d’un an ou presque autour de la question du Tibet, les presidents Nicolas Sarkozy et Hu Jintao se sont enfin retrouves pendant une quarantaine de minutes, le 1er avril, a Londres, en marge du sommet du G 20. Mais cette normalisation a un gout amer.