Thursday, 29 September 2011

American Values, China and Singapore

Gary Locke is the first Chinese-American US ambassador to China. Since taking up his appointment in Beijing, he has become a minor celebrity in China.   In his first public press meeting, he stressed on his belief in American values:

"On a personal level, I am both humbled and honored to stand here before you as a child of Chinese immigrants representing the US, the land of my birth, and the American values my family holds dear."

What are American values?

There are different meanings and explanations on American values. In Gary words, during his inaugural address as Governor of Washington State in 15 January 1997, these are:  

“For the Locke family, that incident helped establish a deep faith in the essential goodness of mainstream American values:

- The values that reject extremism and division, and embrace fairness and moral progress;

- The value of working together as a community; and

- The values of hard work, hope, enterprise and opportunity.”

And so, Gary Locke wants to share his American values with the Chinese people and perhaps, to promote American values in China.
Minor celebrity creating a buzz

Here are 2 reports about Gary Locke in China.

Gary Locke has become a minor celebrity in China for his modest, unassuming lifestyle, drawing the apparent ire of state-run outlets.

Former US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke has been creating a buzz in China since he arrived last month to take up his new role as US Ambassador. He is the first Chinese-American ever to fill that position, and curiosity about him is running high.

Last month, a Chinese tourist posted online a photo he took of Locke sporting a small backpack and buying his own coffee at the Seattle airport Starbucks. That photo launched endless online comments in China – surprise, admiration, because Chinese officials would have legions of flunkies to do this kind of thing for them, jokes that America must really be short of money if the US Ambassador has to fend for himself.

Chinese officials and media may have different opinions on Gary but the Chinese social media has all the positive remarks and comments on Gary.

Gary Locke and David Adelman

Divide Adelman, is the American ambassador to Singapore, who came here last year.  He caused a flap when Senator Jim Webb asked him whether he intended to engage Singapore on the issues of democracy and press freedom.

"Make no mistake, currently Singapore is not a multiparty democracy, and I intend, if confirmed, to use public diplomacy to work towards greater press freedoms, greater freedom of assembly and ultimately more political space for opposition parties in Singapore to strengthen Singapore into a multiparty democracy," he replied at his nomination hearing in February, reports the Straits Times.

Now, the Singapore newspaper adds, Adelman has clarified that Singapore's domestic politics is for Singaporeans to decide.

(Adelman, who had served as an Assistant Attorney General in Georgia and taught political science at the University of Georgia, also praised Singapore at his nomination hearing. He praised Singapore for its commitment to free trade and helping in Afghanistan and Haiti and guarding against piracy.

"At the top of my agenda will be promoting commerce and trade between the U.S. and Singapore," Adelman said after being confirmed in his post by the US Senate.

Apparently, Gary is promoting American values and Adelman is promoting commerce and trade.  So, Adelman must have an easy time in Singapore as values, being intangible, are difficult to promote than trade and commerce. It is especially difficult to promote American culture in China which has more than 5,000 years of civilization.

Big loud thunder with little rain

Comparing Adelman and Gary, both US ambassadors are so different.  One seems to be more humble than other. One seems to know how to use ‘public diplomacy’ more effectively.

Gary never promised anything but Adelman seemed to suggest during the confirmation hearing, he wanted to bring or promote American values in Singapore, in a ‘public diplomacy’ way.

This is what we called 雷声大雨点小. The thunder is making a big bang but when the rain comes, it is very small. HoweverGary started humbly before going to China but makes a great impact to Chinese people, perhaps a big shock too to the Chinese leaders.

I think we can expect very little from the US ambassador to Singapore. If we are expecting changes, hope to see changes in Singapore political developments, want to make the PAP listening to the people, we have to work it out ourselves.

At the end of the day, the Americans and the west are only interested to make money in Singapore. Singapore is a very comfortable hotel to them, even more comfortable than their home towns.

But can Singapore continue to be a one-party democracy? Will a one-party democracy more stable than a multiparty democracy? May be there is a double standard when comes to money politics?

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