Sunday, January 23, 2011

Ballin' The Jackal: Anti-American Tunes At White House State Dinner?

Today's too-good-to-check story comes courtesy of the Epoch Times, which claims that Chinese classical music export Lang Lang played a scorchingly anti-American Chi-com agitprop "classic" from the Korean War era. Supposedly, a billion Chinese are right now chuckling in their 100-square foot hovels over the spectacle of tuxedoed Americans applauding politely while they are called jackals in song.
Lang Lang the pianist says he chose it. Chairman Hu Jintao recognized it as soon as he heard it. Patriotic Chinese Internet users were delighted as soon as they saw the videos online. Early morning TV viewers in China knew it would be played an hour or two beforehand. At the White House State dinner on Jan. 19, about six minutes into his set, Lang Lang began tapping out a famous anti-American propaganda melody from the Korean War: the theme song to the movie “Battle on Shangganling Mountain.”

The film depicts a group of “People’s Volunteer Army” soldiers who are first hemmed in at Shanganling (or Triangle Hill) and then, when reinforcements arrive, take up their rifles and counterattack the U.S. military “jackals.”

The movie and the tune are widely known among Chinese, and the song has been a leading piece of anti-American propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for decades. CCP propaganda has always referred to the Korean War as the “movement to resist America and help [North] Korea.” The message of the propaganda is that the United States is an enemy—in fighting in the Korean War the United States’ real goal was said to be to invade and conquer China. The victory at Triangle Hill was promoted as a victory over imperialists.

The song Lang Lang played describes how beautiful China is and then near the end has this verse, “When friends are here, there is fine wine /But if the jackal comes /What greets it is the hunting rifle.” The “jackal” in the song is the United States.
Well, that may be. It's certainly easy to believe the Obama State Department would be this clueless. Plus, can you really expect any American - even a Sino-studies PhD - to be intimately familiar with Maoist propaganda songs from the Fifties?

On the other hand, there's the matter of the sourcing. The Epoch Times may be familiar to urban Americans, as ET's yellow news boxes and free papers are a regular feature of the downtown scene (it is in San Francisco, anyway). But, even without reading it, you can kind of tell it's attached to a religious group. It just has a Final Call feel to it, if you know what I mean. And, as it turns out, ET is the news arm for the Falun Gong in exile. So, you know, there's an agenda you have to account for.

That doesn't mean the agenda makes the story untrue, of course. ET makes a plausible claim that, while Lang Lang didn't make a big deal of it at the time, he did mention taking pride in playing the piece in a blog posting (don't know if it was a Chinese language blog). ET also says that TV viewers in China were aware that the song would be played, and further that the mainland Chinese saw the performance as a moment of cultural triumph over the capitalists. Could be. I would certainly credit ET with having better knowledge about what's going on in China than the (non-Chinese speaking) elites who run America's media companies and foreign policy apparatus.

Right now, ET is the only news organization telling this story, but it's been linked (and discussed) at Instapundit, Powerline, Althouse and Breitbart, which means it has already penetrated the right-wing blogosphere pretty thoroughly. That means the MSM, the White House and the Chinese will be quite happy to ignore this little dust-up. If Rush or Fox News pick up on this, however, look for an "explanation" on or about Wednesday afternoon.


  1. You might want to google "China's God Bless America" to see what this song is really about.

    Epoch Times is Well known for it's anti-China slant.

    To say the song is anti-American is like saying Star Spangled Banner is anti-British. We play it to the Queen, does it mean we are rubbing her nose in? The Revolutionary War and Korean War are both historical facts, so what does it have to do with respective state visits today?

    Lang Lang picked a song for the visiting guest, don't read too much into it. It was also sang during the Olympics, in front of President Bush.

  2. Thanks for the update, but you will note that I did discuss the Falun Gong connection to The Epoch Times. I also called this story "too good to check," and expressed some - not enough for you, maybe - skepticism. Still, ET was reporting, not just the playing of the song, but also the anti-American lyrics, as well as the reaction in China. I don't think either of those would be readily knowable to even the best-educated Americans, nor would they be the sort of thing most American media outlets would pick up on.

    Epoch Times is anti-China? Maybe, but most Chinese-language media is pro-China, not because China is so fabulous, but because of government censorship.