Chinese President Hu Jintao has just left Chicago, where I live, and his
presence here — where he received a more unadulterated enthusiastic welcome,
led by China’s chief cheerleader Mayor Richard Daley, than he received in
Washington — got me thinking about the main event: his visit to D.C.
I loved that the Obamas’ cherished daughters, Malia and Sasha, were present for some of the festivities, and that Sasha later used President Hu to test her Chinese language skills.
On my frequent walks to my neighborhood Starbucks, I often pass and exchange smiles with Caucasian women pushing strollers holding Chinese babies and toddlers. The children are often dressed in pink. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a boy baby in this particular pairing of mother and child. The reason for all these girls here is one most Americans understand — generally speaking, in China, girls are less valued than boys, and so, in the face of the government’s one-baby policy, comes demand for early genetic sex-determination testing, and, sometimes, girls left by the side of the road to die.
In light of that, I found President Obama’s state-dinner toast to his Chinese counterpart a bit off-key: "While it's easy to focus on our differences of culture and perspective, let us never forget the values that our people share: a reverence for family … and most of all, the desire to give our children a better life.” The American president also recited a Chinese proverb: "If you want one year of prosperity, then grow grain. If you want 10 years of prosperity, then grow trees. But if you want 100 years of prosperity, then you grow people.”
The question was broached to President Hu in a political way — via the charge that the Chinese government forces women to undergo abortion — by a couple of Republican members of Congress. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reported, House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan delays committee assignments until 2017 Lobbying World 'Ready for Michelle' PACs urge 2020 run MORE (R-Ohio) “pressed Hu on reports that the Chinese government has forced women to have abortions under the ‘one-child policy.’ ” Hu evaded the question — which, in any case, is about population control, not gender preference — from BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan delays committee assignments until 2017 Lobbying World 'Ready for Michelle' PACs urge 2020 run MORE, and denied a forced-abortion policy in response to a written question handed him by Florida GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
For the general American public, the most reported and appreciated words of President Obama’s toast were those describing the “beloved giant pandas” that China agreed to allow to remain at the National Zoo in Washington. No mention of gender when it came to the pandas; if only that were true for China’s human population.