While some in the U.S. media have been sympathetically reporting Lang Lang’s claims of ignorance, some Chinese scholars are holding him together with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responsible for his performance at the White House state dinner for President Barack Obama and his guest Chairman Hu Jintao.
Chinese-born pianist Lang Lang responded to critics in an interview with NPR on January 24. He said he knew nothing about the background of “My Motherland,” the Chinese propaganda song he played at the end of the state dinner. It is the theme song for “Battle on Shangganling Mountain,” a 1956 anti-American movie about the Korean War. He said he had performed the piece many times simply because he likes the melody.
Zhang Kaichen is the former Liaison Director of the Propaganda Department of the Shenyang City Communist Party Committee and moved to the United States a year ago. He said: “I don’t believe it was Lang Lang’s decision. It must have been planned and instigated by the Chinese regime. After Lang Lang received criticism, the CCP did not stand up to take responsibility but continued to push Lang Lang to the front of the stage to explain himself in those ridiculous, pathetic, and naïve words.”
Zhang said: “Lang Lang has enjoyed many benefits from living in a free society. However, he chose to stand on the side of the CCP, a regime that persecutes its own people, and it happened in the White House. It is a very shameful act.”
Hu Ping, a well-known scholar and commentator, pointed out that “Lang Lang himself said that he had played the song many times before. As a world-class Chinese artist, how could he not know the background?”
“According to diplomatic practice, the CCP must have known the song in advance, especially during Hu’s visit. Both countries were very cautious this time and planned everything very carefully. Under these circumstances, both parties would have communicated every detail,” said Hu.
Lang Lang wrote in his blog on the night after the performance: “I once again played My Motherland, one of the most beautiful songs in the eyes of Chinese….as if I was telling them about a powerful China and a unified Chinese people. I feel deeply honored and proud.”
Tang Baiqiao, a well-known human rights activist and international affairs expert, commented: “Lang Lang is self-contradictory in his responses. ‘Powerful China and a unified Chinese people,’‘has nothing to do with anything else,’ ‘the strong feelings for the motherland,’ ‘don’t add political themes to the arts,’ all suggest that he is fully aware of the background and is confused about the difference between China and the CCP.
“As an artist, he has played the song many times before and the song was carefully selected. If Lang Lang knew nothing about the background, how did he express his ‘feelings’ through the song?”
Lang Lang used what is a standard arrangement of “My Motherland.” It includes a quotation from another famous anti-American song—the theme song of “Heroic Sons and Daughters,” a propaganda movie that, like “Battle on Shangganling Mountain,” concerns the Korean War (http://www.amazon.com/Heroic-Daughters-Chinese-English-Subtitle/dp/B0015MS9FU).
The lyrics corresponding to the section quoted from “Heroic Sons and Daughters” are “Why is the flag as beautiful as a painting? Because it is dyed by the blood of heroes. Why is the spring eternal? Because the lives of the heroes are blooming.”
This section of the music from the Heroic Sons and Daughters is at 7’45” to 8’15” in this video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kroEprEpvtA.
Zhang Kaichen said, “Playing these two anti-American songs at the state dinner communicates an angle, a feeling, and a mood that obviously carry a political intention. Especially in China, art serves politics. Whatever the CCP does is done with a political agenda. The objective for having Lang Lang play the ‘red songs’ cannot be more obvious.”