Thursday, January 28, 2010

O, haha

By Chip Tsao | published Jan 28, 2010

Not only has President Obama’s engagement strategy with Iran run aground, the olive branches he’s handed to China and Russia have been answered with snubs and contempt. Sidelined in Copenhagen and bullied by al-Qaeda, the former senator from Chicago seems to be a paper tiger destined to lead the American empire to its demise.

Didn’t he himself invite these humiliations? To make a change, Obama appeared palsie-walsie with Putin and Hu, all the while maintaining lukewarm relations with old friends in Britain and France. During the futile Iranian green revolution last year when Iranian anti-government protesters turned to America for moral support, instead of making a statement applauding their enthusiasm, Obama stayed silent. It would’ve helped to have said a few light-hearted PR words, perhaps something like this: “The American government and people have noted with appreciation that the Iranian people have turned to us for inspiration while seeking change. It is purely by coincidence that we also embrace values like freedom to choose our own government, just like Mr. Mousavi and his millions of supporters. Our hearts are always with the heroic Iranian people whose Persian ancestors bravely fought bullies led by Alexander the Great more than 3,000 years ago.” That would’ve also helped promote pirate DVD sales of Oliver Stone’s “Alexander,” one of the decade’s biggest flops.

The Chinese are also having a bit of a psychological problem with Obama. Ask any street hawker in Shanghai what he thinks of the American president, and you’re likely to be greeted with a haughty, “O, haha,” and told, “well, he’s black.” Unwarranted racism aside, what makes it worse for him in China is the rumor that Obama’s half-brother, who has married a Hunanese wife, owns a small restaurant in Shenzhen. Had former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s niece been reported working as a card dealer in one of Stanley Ho’s casinos in 1982 Macau and renting a room at Chungking Mansion for weekend backpacking trips to Hong Kong, the prices at Marks and Spencer in Central would’ve dropped by half, and we Hongkongers would’ve staged an angry demonstration calling for the immediate handover of Hong Kong to China.

Don’t be surprised if Donald Tsang declines a proposed private dinner with Obama at Government House during the president’s stop-over in Hong Kong on the way back from his next kowtowing trip to China, under the pretext that the Chief Executive has to get to bed early for bird watching the next morning. If that happens, you’ll know the real reason is that Tsang the gourmet had quietly visited Shenzhen the previous week and dined with his wife at a little African restaurant. Maybe he generously tipped the owner, but the other Obama didn’t recognize who his VIP customer was.

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