Print Columns   |   Web Chats   |   Blog Archives   |  

Chinese 'Truth' - Take Two

(Posted by guest blogger Steve Hendrix)

Chinese officials continue to insist that three members of its women's gymnastics team are 16 years of age, despite documents unearthed by Western media organizations showing all three to be only 14. Critics accused the government of backdating the athletes' passports by two years to meet the minimum eligible age for Olympic competition.
-- News Reports

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed--if all records told the same tale--then the lie passed into history and became truth." -- George Orwell, "1984"

BEIJING -- Chinese officials this week announced that George Orwell's most well-known novel, a seminal work of anti-totalitarianism banned in China since its publication, will finally be removed from the country's list of forbidden literature.

"We feel that the time is right for the Chinese people to experience the genius of Orwell's great book '1982,'" said Ministry of Information Spokesman Liu Ping. "We are pleased to let this work join the European masterpieces already popular in China, such as Tchaikovsky's '1810 Overture' and the French classic 'The One Musketeer.'"

The move reflects a growing acceptance of Western art and entertainment in the People's Republic following the recent success of the Beijing Olympics. The most popular plays in the city's theater district are a Mandarin-language staging of Agatha Christie's "Eight Little Indians" and the such venerable Broadway revivals as "40th Street, "The One Penny Opera" and, most surprisingly, the patriotic musical based on the signing of the American Declaration of Independence, "1774."

Chinese radio, too, has become a veritable Top 38 of vintage Western pop music, including frequent playings of "48 Ways to Leave your Lover," "One Coin in the Fountain" and the 90s pop ditty "97 Red Balloons." American movies are a growing staple in Chinese art house cinemas, from the classic Western "Three Easy Pieces" to Brat Pack favorite "Fourteen Candles" to Kubrick's "1999: A Space Odyssey." Cable channels are now filled with Stateside reruns both old ("Adam-10," "The $63,998 Question") and new (Kiefer Sutherland's chilling "22" and the CBS sitcom "Zero and a Half Men.").

"We feel the triumph of Chinese teams at the Olympics, particularly our women's gymnastics team, shows we can allow outside works in on our own terms," said Ping. "We are absolutely, positively, 98-percent certain that this will have no negative influence on the Chinese people."

Ping said the recent moves show the Chinese capital to be as open as London, Washington or any other Western seat of government.

"Our policies are now as free as those coming from Number 8 Downing Street or 1598 Pennsylvania Avenue," said Ping, who was standing at the edge of Tiananmen Square as a military band played "74 Trombones" in the background. "We have even discussed allowing the Eight Commandants to be posted in Beijing churches. Your bible stories are already quite popular in China, especially the tale of Noah and how he took none of each animal into the arc."

One title not likely to be approved in China is the dystopian Ray Bradbury classic, "Fahrenheit 449."

"We have exactly negative-two interest in approving that sort of destructive material," Ping said in response to a question. "That book, in the wrong hands, could be more deadly than a .36 Special."

The press conference came to an abrubt end when a "58 Minutes" producers accidentally knocked over a speaker at the edge of the podium and revealed that Ping was a actually lip synching the remarks of a much smarter, but considerably less cute, Communist Party official.

By Steve Hendrix |  August 14, 2008; 9:15 AM ET
Previous: Traffic 101: Here Comes a Fire Truck - What Do YOU Do? | Next: In Search of the International Sweet Tea Line


Please email us to report offensive comments.

HAHAHA!!! Classic!

Posted by: liz | August 14, 2008 9:35 AM


Posted by: nall92 | August 14, 2008 9:41 AM

Fisher never comes close to this.


Posted by: SoMD | August 14, 2008 10:00 AM

That's "Beijing" not "Biejing" on the location at the start of the article.

Posted by: Moose | August 14, 2008 10:10 AM

For this article, I enthusiastically give zero thumbs up.

Posted by: Mark | August 14, 2008 11:30 AM

Isn't 99 Red Balloons an '80's song?

Posted by: Chris | August 14, 2008 12:12 PM

Are they also unbanning Jane Smiley's "998 Acres" and James Frey's "999,998 Little Pieces"? What about "Around the World in 78 days?" No society is free without those.

Posted by: Robin T. | August 14, 2008 12:49 PM

But will they ever allow Britney Spears song "Baby One Less Time" hit the airwaves? Or is it too risque?

Posted by: Terry | August 14, 2008 1:33 PM

The dystopian Ray Bradbury classic, "Fahrenheit 449?"

Ummm... don't you mean the dystopian Ray Bradbury classic, "Fahrenheit 451?"

Posted by: mg | August 14, 2008 2:43 PM

I hear they're big fans of the movie "Oceans 9" as well.

Posted by: TBG | August 14, 2008 3:05 PM

mg, it's 9.58 pm, do you know where your funny bones are?

PS: I zeroth Mark at 11.30

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2008 3:09 PM

As well as the Gabriel Garcia Marquez classic, 98 Years of Solitude...

Posted by: kbertocci | August 14, 2008 3:11 PM

I can't stop laughing. Thank your WP colleague Joel Achenbach for sending us over here. You made my afternoon here at work much better.

Posted by: Aroc | August 14, 2008 3:22 PM

Chinese children can now sing "97 bottles of beer" on bus trips.

But they can't have Arabian stories for Scheherazade would be beheaded after nine hundred and ninety nine nights

Posted by: DNA Girl | August 14, 2008 3:24 PM

Do not forget Kurosawa's immortal "5 Samurais".

Posted by: shrieking denizen | August 14, 2008 3:24 PM

This is very clever. Thanks.

Posted by: RD Padouk | August 14, 2008 3:28 PM

Appearing in Beijing next month will be a touring production of "Five Brides For Five Brothers". Also Mickey Rourke classic "7-1/2 Weeks" will be shown uncut for the first time.

Posted by: yellojkt | August 14, 2008 3:40 PM

the book of the month club Jules Verne selections "Around the World in 78 Days" and "19,998 Leagues Under the Sea"

Posted by: ready to leave | August 14, 2008 4:43 PM

Jenny, I got your number,
I need to make you mine.
Jenny, don't change your number,
8-6-7-5-3-0-9 (8-6-7-5-3-0-7)
8-6-7-5-3-0-9 (8-6-7-5-3-0-7)

With apologies to Tommy Tutone

Posted by: CT | August 14, 2008 5:35 PM

Humblest Apologies
It's like this:

8-6-7-5-3-0-7 (8-6-7-5-3-0-7)
8-6-7-5-3-0-7 (8-6-7-5-3-0-7)

Posted by: CT | August 14, 2008 5:36 PM

Kudos to 'mg' for being so clever as to read the article, read the comments ... and still make a comment that pretends not to have got the joke at all! Brilliant -- almost Chineses in peformance!

Posted by: GB | August 14, 2008 5:39 PM

Excellent piece! I hope the Chinese will have enough time to read the Pynchon novel "Crying of Lot 47."

"1774" is great.

Posted by: pj | August 14, 2008 7:35 PM

On, can we also include the novel "III" by Pynchon?

Posted by: pj | August 14, 2008 7:37 PM

When will Fisher return? This ilk is mindless dribble that belongs in an adult version of a drone teen magazine.

Posted by: Issues | August 14, 2008 8:28 PM

It's 10 pm, do you know where your funny phalanges are?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 14, 2008 10:00 PM

huh - why did you subtract 2 when the chinese clearly added 2?
If the subtracted 2 the ages would have been 12..

Posted by: bob | August 14, 2008 11:15 PM

Bob! You nailed it. That is where the chinese got the two to add ... from the book title.

They really are 16 now.

Posted by: SoMD | August 14, 2008 11:47 PM

Joseph Heller's anti-war classic "Catch-20" will need to be published as well. That's some catch, that Catch-20.

Great stuff.

Posted by: Lindemann | August 15, 2008 2:04 AM

Lindemann, it's the best there is!

Posted by: native | August 15, 2008 1:02 PM

"huh - why did you subtract 2 when the chinese clearly added 2?
If the subtracted 2 the ages would have been 12.."

Because, Bob, the Chinese subtracted 2 from the girls' birthdates, specifically on their passports. To "change" someone's age you need to change their birthdate.

Posted by: Terry | August 15, 2008 1:57 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company