Leaders Are No Longer Idols

[Blogger’s Note: In some previous posts I may have misspelled the name of the website as “Tech.cn” – my apologies.]

For background, please refer to the interview of the student (courtesy of ESWN). Here is my translation of the essay:-

“Premier Wen Jiabao went to Beihang University to pay a visit to the students there. In the presence of the nation’s premier, a female student was sitting upright with her back facing him and continuing with her reading. Photos of this have been circulating on the internet and the girl has been named ‘the coolest female student’.

The coolest female student has done practically nothing. But the sight of her back has stirred up certain feelings in us. In the ordinary course of things, the premier is also just a human being like the rest of us – the time of his visit just happened to coincide with a term’s end which is the busiest time for students and it’s no big deal if a student is so engrossed in her studies that she does not bother to stand up and greet the visiting premier. But then this is China. This is a country where people take care not to wash their hands for up to several days after they have had the chance of shaking the hand of a leader. In such a country, it is really cool for someone to remain seated and continue reading when a leader appears out of nowhere.

The fact that such a scene did take place and photos of it did get circulated on the internet proves that the premier’s visit was spontaneous rather than pre-arranged. Based on common knowledge, the lack of advance preparations for a leader’s visit to a certain work unit is probably the result of complying with the leader’s own wish. And that express wish must be rather firm or the visit must be announced on the spur of a moment. Otherwise, those responsible for receiving the leader would not give up planning this and that. I remember in those days when leaders came to inspect our university, all teachers and students who were supposed to show up for the inspection would normally begin rehearsing a month in advance. Not only must the welcoming team’s act be passionate and orderly, their enthusiasm must also be shown to a certain degree. Even those who used the library and those who served meals were required to be trained for the show. At least, in the event of being asked a question by the leader, the well-prepared answer could be given and everything would appear tidy and becoming, with no room for the slightest imperfections, so that the visiting leader would be pleased and the university heads would feel honored.

Such a visiting scene does not need any editing or touching up by the media – all the shots are already perfect. Even the coolest of female students would not have had a chance to act out the coolness in the circumstances. The thing is, if it’s something that’s put on, regardless of how perfect it turns out, it would still be nothing but a show. If the leaders have preference for shows, no doubt it would please everyone. But in case they do not like shows, then the organizers would be suspected of trying to fool them.

Anyway, for a person belonging to a past era like myself, this coolest student’s back signifies the official demise of that era. Young people of today no longer worship political leaders as if they were gods. No matter how highly ranked political leaders are, they are only humans – humans who are like themselves. Even if they worship them, if would be like fans idolizing movie stars – it would not be a god-worshipping ritual. When the leader showed up for a visit, he did not cause this female student to stand up reflexively or make other students in the library act obsequiously. This is something easier said than done. I can still recall those days when people used to worship the leaders from the bottom of their heart, thinking that it would be a sacrilege to even regard leaders as humans who could eat, drink, crap and die just like the rest of us. I think that kind of feeling, at least in a general sense, is no longer prevalent.

The back of the coolest female student indicates that this most populous nation on earth has finally become normal. We can finally view the world, the surroundings and political leaders in a normal way and make our judgment just like other peoples in the world. The egalitarianism that we have been pursuing since the Revolution has finally become reality. Now, if only those local government officials and work unit leaders who still expect the citizens under their governance to worship them can also put aside their arrogance and ban all the servility in their lot, then the world would be a better place yet.”