Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Year of the Tiger—And On Welcoming a New Cold War

By Chip Tsao | published Feb 11, 2010

A year into President Obama’s first term, the kid gloves are giving way to a fist, as Sino-US relations plunge faster than a glacier melting off from the North Pole. Arms sales to Taiwan, meetings with the Dalai Lama in the works, punitive tariff increases on made-in-China imports... One just wonders when Obama is going to treat Longhair and Christina Chan for lunch in the Oval Office to give them a formal thumbs-up for another round of besiegement on Chater Road.

There is little doubt that Obama is ushering the world into a new Cold War. Some in China may complain, but they should ask themselves what they offered Mr. Obama in return for the hand of friendship he extended to them. The “hak kwai” was snubbed by a Chinese official at the recent international summit conference in Copenhagen, a slap in the face that likely provoked this retaliatory roundhouse, sort of like Bruce Lee after being spit in the face by a Japanese fighter in one of his nationalistic kung fu movies. It certainly didn’t result in bluffing the President into kowtowing. Long gone are the days when China was a hidden dragon, but Obama is no crouching tiger either.

A new Cold War is a good sign and should be welcomed with our warmest hearts. It was the Cold War that delivered a generation of charismatic and memorable top-class world leaders: Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, of course, but even Charles de Gaulle and Helmut Schmidt are more distinguishable and colossal than the bunch of invisible faces at the G90 or whatever meeting with third-world “leaders” lining up for a group photo before rushing off to the buffet table. During the Cold War, rules were written and strictly obeyed to; terms like the “Eisenhower Doctrine” echoed with such seriousness that we knew the world, however anachronistic it is to imagine this now, was being looked after. When baddies like Chairman Mao opened their mouths, they made you listen because it was not a flash of sound bites, but enduring lines that would earn a humble place in the Oxford Book of Modern Quotations.

It was the Cold War that gave birth to creative geniuses such as the Beatles and Bob Dylan and film classics such as James Bond. We were lucky enough to have had leaders in Hong Kong like the six-foot tall governor Murray MacLehose, who was much unlike the team of midgets we have now, whose sole talent seems to be an ability to stutter through a speech transcribed on note cards before proposing a toast in a banquet hall on a July 1 handover day. Jackie Chan and Maggie Cheung were Hong Kong’s international brands in the old days, not the cropped-headed Tony Chan and juvenile Nina Wang, who shocked the world by wearing Zhang Yimou-esque Chinese costumes. My Chinese New Year of the Tiger wish thus goes to both Obama and Chairman Hu, who would dare to rock the boat, to work together and help bring the change to the world that was promised so articulately a year ago.

Courage and imagination because we were poor, unlike today.

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