US Threatens to Change Chinese Embassy Street Name; Boldest Defence of Human Rights in Decades
Beijing Spokesman Responds: “Exactly”
China Changed Name of Beijing Street of U.S. Embassy to “Anti-Imperialist Street” in 1970’s: Now Location of McDonald’s Selling Most Hamburgers in the World
By Nate Thayer
June 26, 2014
U.S. politicians are boldly moved to rename the street outside the Chinese embassy in Washington “Liu Xiaobo Plaza”, after the jailed Chinese dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 after being sentenced in 2009 to 11 years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” for gathering signatures for a human rights charter.
Beijing is not amused.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman curtly responded: “We believe that the U.S. people will not like to see a U.S. street be named after a criminal.”
A Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing dismissed the congressional measure as “purely a sheer farce” that was “meaninglessly hyping the so-called human rights issue.” When asked whether China would respond tit-for-tat, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, smiled and responded: “What kind of measures do you think China should adopt?”
But this time, Beijing can’t blame the changing-the-name-of-streets tactic on the dark hand of foreign ideology infecting their motherland, because the U.S. Congress is taking a page straight from the ruling Chinese Communist Party playbook.
Only a few years ago, China renamed the street in front of the U.S. embassy in Beijing “anti-imperialist street”.
And for good measure, the Chinese redesignated the road in front of the Soviet embassy “anti revisionist” street.
These policy changes were implemented, along with all kinds of other well thought out populist political initiatives, ushering in what is known the Cultural Revolution. It was then when the still ruling Communist Party of China was run by the hard core, and arguably even more clueless, cousins of the current American Congress, the Red Guards.
“Inspired by the “Red Guards” of the Peking No. 2, 15 and 63 Middle Schools, the revolutionary workers and staff of the Collection of All Virtue Restaurant, which specializes in duck, set out to make revolution and smash to pieces the Collection of All Virtue Restaurant sign which has been hanging there for over 70 years, and they put up a new sign — Peking Roast Duck Restaurant.”– “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Engulfs Peking’s Streets” Peking Review August 26, 1966
After 1966, street names with words like “Lucky” or “Prosperity” were smashed, because they represented politically incorrect thoughts of greed.
The Red Guards even advocated reversing the traffic light system, arguing that the color ‘red’ should mean ‘go’, accusing those opposed of the policy shift of being “lackey’s of the imperialist skinless barbarians.”
“When the “Red Guards” renamed the Hsu Shun Chang (a capitalist’s name) tailoring establishment The East Wind it drew much applause from people in the streets, and they shouted in unison: “Long live Chairman Mao!” “The East wind prevails over the West wind!”–“The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Engulfs Peking’s Streets” Peking Review August 26, 1966
Even the U.S. Congress cannot be accused of proposing goofball policy changes of that level.
Girls with braids had their hair cut off on the street by the Red Guard fashion police.
Boys with tight trouser cuffs had their clothes altered in public to conform with ideologically deemed proper attire authorized by mobs of Red Guard tailors wielding scissors.
“The “Red Guards” of the Peking No. 2 Middle School” issued a declaration: “The hot-beds of capitalism are no longer safe. ‘Duck-tail’ haircuts, ‘spiraling’ hairdos and other ‘queer’ hair styles, ‘cowboy jeans,’ ‘tight-fitting’ shirts and blouses, various kinds of Hong kong-style skirts and dresses, and obnoxious photographs and journals are now under heavy fire. We should not regard these matters lightly, because it is here that the gates to capitalist restoration are wide open….and we are not going to be soft on these things.”-–“The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Engulfs Peking’s Streets” Peking Review August 26, 1966
While few are accusing the U.S. congress of engaging in those levels of political idiocy, but no one is arguing that the ineffectual blowhards of the U.S. Congress are skilled at, well, skilled at most anything,either.
In a 2013 scientific opinion poll, the American public deemed Congress less popular than root canals, head lice, colonoscopies, traffic jams, cockroaches, Donald Trump, France, Genghis Khan, and Brussel sprouts.
I did not make that up.
In the 2013 scientific survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a national public opinion survey organization, voters preferred root canals over the elected federal lawmaking body, with only 32% favoring Congress and 56% who said they would rather endure the dental procedure.
Other results determined showed head lice were held in higher opinion than congress by a whopping 67%, with only 19% preferring the current federal elected lawmaking and policy body; getting a colonoscopy was the choice of 58% with Congress winning the alternative support of 31%; traffic jams won by a respectable 56% of the masses; cockroaches slightly edged out the political leaders 45% to 43%; Donald Trump, the buffoonish real estate huckster was victorious 44% to 42%); France regained some gleam to its tarnished colonial past with 46%of the popular support of Americans over the 37% for their own elected representatives); used-car salesmen 57 to 32%; and Brussels sprouts by an landslide at 69% to 29% for Congress.
To be fair, Congress did lose by only a small margin of a couple of percentage points in a popularity contest with Genghis Khan, with the Mongolian tyrant coming out ahead at 41% over Congress at 37%.
Congress did trounce telemarketers 45 to 35%, and were victorious with 49% over the TV reality star family of the Kardashians 36%, and emerged as favorites over North Korea (61%-26%), the ebola virus (53%-25%), meth labs (60%-21%), and contracting the venereal disease, gonorrhea (53%-28%).
“In a letter to the “Red Guards,” the revolutionary workers and staff of the Wei Tung (Guard the East) Tailoring Shop (originally the Lan Tien [Blue Sky] Tailoring Shop) said: “We resolutely respond to your revolutionary initiative. We are in complete agreement with the revolutionary action of the Peking No. 2 and other middle school ‘Red Guards’ who opposed the making of Hong kong-style dresses and other grotesque clothing. We pledge never to make or sell such trash. Let us join hands to carry the great proletarian cultural revolution to a new and broader and more profound stage.” Vertical and horizontal scrolls filled with revolutionary sentiments have now been posted on the doors of many tailoring establishments. They say: “We are going to make plenty of revolutionary clothing quickly, and we are going to speedily sweep away all outlandish clothing.”— Hsinhua News Agency, Aug. 22
While I couldn’t find any scientific studies comparing public support between the Red Guards and the U.S.Congress, the two countries body of public policy makers, arguably the U.S. Congress does not rank in the same league as the rapacious, incompetent and odious vanguard of the Cultural Revolution, Mao Tse Tung’s Red Guards, , the Chinese decision makers whose brainchild was renaming the Beijing street fronting the U.S.embassy.
But, Communist Party of China of the 1960’sand 1970’s, the same ruling party still in power today same wasn’t winning any popularity contests at the time they passed their version of federal legislation to change street names in their capital city, Beijing.
The Peking Review blared the headline “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution Engulfs Peking’s Streets: The ‘Red Guards’ are fiercely pounding bourgeois customs and habits” in its August 26, 1966 issue.
“The “Red Guards” point out that Peking is the capital of socialist China and the centre of the proletarian revolution; how can streets bearing the foul names which have been left over by imperialism, feudalism and the bourgeoisie be tolerated?,” wrote the official organ of the ruling political party. “Heartily supported by the city’s residents, they have proposed changing Chang An (Eternal Peace) Boulevard to Tung Fang Hung (The East Is Red) Boulevard, Tung Chiao Min Hsiang and Hsi Chiao Min Hsiang (formerly the east and west legation quarters which before liberation were barred to the working people) to Fan Ti (Anti-Imperialist) Street and Fan Hsiu (Anti-Revisionist) Street respectively, Wang Fu Ching (the Well of the Prince’s Palace) to Fang Hsiu (Prevent Revisionism) Road, and Kwang Hua (Glorious) Road, where the Vietnamese Embassy is situated, to Yuan Yueh (Support Vietnam) Road. Spurred on by the revolutionary spirit of the “Red Guards,” the revolutionary workers and staff of the department store on the former Wang Fu Ching removed the words “Wang Fu Ching” on the store’s sign and it is now called the Peking City Department Store. Tung An Shih Chang (the Eastern Peace Market) has been renamed Tung Feng Shih Chang (the East Wind Market). Hsieh Ho (Peking Union Medical College) Hospital which got its name from the U.S. imperialist aggressors is now known as Fan Ti (Anti-Imperialist) Hospital. Tung Jen Hospital has been renamed the Kung Nung Ping (Worker, Peasant, Soldier) Hospital.”
So, the measures taken yesterday by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee ordering the street name change–which they slipped as an amendment into the annual spending bill legislation for the State Department that almost certainly will pass–doesn’t seem, comparatively, a particularly big deal.
And, despite the blustery rhetoric from Beijing, it cannot be argued as a political measure unfamiliar to Chinese leaders.
In a letter requesting the street name change, the congresspeople wrote: “This modest effort. . .would remind their oppressors that they are in fact on the wrong side of history.” Soon, the new mailing address of the Chinese embassy could become 1 Liu Xiaobo Plaza. “Every piece of incoming mail to the embassy would bear the name of the imprisoned Nobel laureate,” said Rep. Frank Wolf, one of China’s most vehement U.S. critics. He said it was “a clear and powerful message that the United States remains vigilant and resolute in its commitment to safeguard human rights around the globe.”
It isn’t the first time a street name was changed in front of the Washington embassy of a political adversary. In 1984, Congress renamed the street in front of the Soviet embassy in honor of then jailed Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, the nuclear physicist-turned critic of Moscow, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975.
And that seemed to have the desired result.
Sydney Rittenberg is one of the few life long eyewitnesses to have lived decades under both the Chinese and U.S. political systems. The American World War Two soldier was a trained linguist fluent in Chinese who interpreted for both Mao and Chou en Lai in the late 1940’s, before deciding to stay in China where he had a front row seat to witness that history of the last half of the 20th century.
In an article in the 1999 issue of “Visions of Asia” titled “Perpetual Revolution Spins Out of Control”, he wrote of the time around the shift in Chinese policy towards street name changing, as well as the other Chinese political policy initiatives, together known as the Cultural Revolution, that resulted in 100 million people dead.
“This sudden release from compulsion accounted for the fiery outburst that made the Cultural Revolution the biggest popular uprising in human history–and one of the greatest holocausts…..As the Cultural Revolution went through its first year, the chaos became so destructive and mob rule so arbitrary that Mao despaired of ever controlling the zealots he had activated, he wrote. “China remained in the grasp of Mao’s radical allies until his death in 1976. By then, an estimated 100 million people had become victims–killed, imprisoned (10 years in solitary for me), persecuted, sent to hard labor.”
Rittenberg, the author of “The Man Who Stayed Behind”, did two long stretches as a Chinese political prisoner, said the country “respond(ed) to their leader’s call” and “as a foreign expert working in China, and the sole American citizen admitted to the Chinese Communist Party, I had been swept up into the Cultural Revolution….first as a zealot and then a victim of the Cultural Revolution.”
Rittenberg, who returned to the U.S. in the 1980’s but still travels and works between his two homelands, said “I lived to see history advance in the wake of this holocaust….and watched China open both their markets and their minds–and join the world, for the first time in history.”
“I thought they were creating a town hall democracy in China, and that Mao himself was discarding one-party rule,” he recalled.
On this month’s street name changing political crisis, which has good relations between the two countries teetering, he noted that “‘Anti-Imperialist Street’ long ago got back its name–and became the site of one of the world’s biggest and most lucrative McDonald’s restaurants.”