Saturday, June 11, 2011

Zhou Enlai was misquoted?

Talk about revisionism. This bit on Zhou Enlai, the former Chinese PM, is going to cause a bit of history to be rewritten. Zhou is famous for having said of the French Revolution and its impact, 'Too early to say'.

This has been famously interpreted as a sign of the far-sightedness of the Chinese, their ability to do serious long-term thinking. A news item in the FT now says that Zhou was misquoted. He was talking of the 1968 student riots in Paris, which had happened three years earlier, not of the storming of the Bastille.

At a seminar in Washington to mark the publication of Henry Kissinger’s book, On China, Chas Freeman, a retired foreign service officer, sought to correct the long-standing error.

“I distinctly remember the exchange. There was a mis­understanding that was too delicious to invite correction,” said Mr Freeman.

He said Zhou had been confused when asked about the French Revolution and the Paris Commune. “But these were exactly the kinds of terms used by the students to describe what they were up to in 1968 and that is how Zhou understood them.”

Apparently, this is not the lone instance of a Chinese leader being misquoted. Deng Xiaoping's, 'To get rich is glorious' is said to be fictional.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I thought the quote was attributed to Chairman Mao