"...And if there be wolves and jackals, we greet them with hunting rifle." -From the lyrics to the music pianist Lang Lang played at the White House January 19
Of it, Britain's Daily Mail says:
The song has been a propaganda tool in China for decades and includes a disparaging reference to Americans as 'jackals' who will be shot with hunting rifles.To follow is a YouTube snip of the section of the 1956 Chinese movie "My Motherland" from which the music was taken. (The clip is full of mid-20th Century communist propaganda [look, Ma, we have hydropower!], and looks to be a ghastly film for those who aren't inspired by the struggle to keep North Koreans in starvation.)
It is likely that Chinese President Hu Jintao and his delegation would have picked up on the reference, even if Barack Obama and the rest of the Americans did not at the time.
Speaking afterwards Lang Lang made no apology for his choice.
'Playing this song praising China to heads of state from around the world seems to tell them that our China is formidable, that our Chinese people are united; I feel deeply honored and proud,' he said.
The Washington Post attempted a defense for Lang, noting that various national anthems have passages hostile to other nations, to wit, our own national anthem celebrates a rare American victory over the British in the War of 1812. But context is everything. Britain and America are now the closest of friends. We don't think evil of the British when we sing the song any more than Britons think the UK is the world's most dominant naval power when they sing "Rule Britannia." But even then, we hardly ever sing the verse in our national anthem that alleges the British have dirty feet and a Briton wouldn't play "Rule Britannia" at the U.S. Naval Academy (unless asked to; it is a pretty good tune).
But Lang Lang thought it was hunky-dory to use a tune to call Americans "jackals" at the White House:
(As a patriotic gesture, Lang Lang's performance doesn't hold a candle to this inspiring, though admittedly fictional, use of music to promote nationalism.)
Bottom line: If reports are correct, most Chinese perceive the song as an insult to the U.S. Lang Lang saying the song shows China to be "formidible" shows he knew the subtext. Thus, his claim to have played it "to bring people together" is not credible.
Addendum: On Facebook's page about the National Center for Public Policy Research, I particularly enjoyed this comment about this blog post: Daniel Beckstedt: Of course, no insult intended. How about for his next gig, he can go to an NAACP meeting and play "Dixie."