There’s a general energy in the air over Obama’s upcoming visit. Judging by the many, many taxi and motorcycle drivers who have conversations with us to the effect of “美国好,” Obama has become a cultural icon for the Chinese. While the American president represents a polar change in policy and practice for Americans, the Chinese seem to view him as an intelligent and fair man who will directly or indirectly help China in its ascendant world superpower-dom.
So while Americans still seem to like the “change” part of Obama’s message but have given up on the “hope” part, the Chinese seem to place a lot of their hopes and ambitions on him. For instance, a group of Chinese human rights activists from the watchdog group Initiatives for China have sent Obama a letter requesting that he pressure Hu Jintao on a number of issues, including the release of political prisoners, religious persecution, and an admission of guilt for Tiananmen square.
It’s not the first time that an American head of state has heard such requests, of course. Considering the fact that he’s already received the Nobel Peace Prize, however, makes such requests seem almost feasible. Whatever it is, though, the persona of Obama seems to have captured people’s imaginations. Just his image seems to inspire: Liu Bolin, a Chinese artist, created a flaming sculpture of Obama on display in Beijing that symbolizes his “impact on the world.” And we’re not even really sure what ObaMao is supposed to symbolize, but it’s a mash-up of really interesting implications.
With this apotheosis of sorts, it’s going to be very interesting to see whether Obama’s first trip to China will end up being politics as usual, or something more.
Photo from Yahoo