(As you doubtless know, a power struggle is going on in China over the change in the leadership from Mr Hu and Mr Wen to Mr Xi (pronounced Shee) and Mr Li. There has been a lot of speculation over the delay in announcing the names of the new standing committee, China’s top policy-making body. The
reasons for the inordinate delay will be clear after reading the minutes of a meeting of a top committee in China, which is reproduced below. The meeting was in English, in keeping with the Chinese leadership’s wish to learn the language. Involuntary lapses into Mandarin have been translated into English.)
Minutes of the Secret Meeting
Members present: Hu Jintao, General Secretary, Communist Party; Wen Jiabao, Premier; Xi Jinping, future General Secretary; Li Keqiang, future Premier; He Guoqiang, member, Standing Committee; Yu Zhengsheng, Secretary, Shanghai city; Gai Ruyin, Secretary, Harbin city; Lu Hao, Secretary, Gansu; Ai Ping, vice minister; Wong Kar Wai, noted Chinese movie director
Hu: I would like to start by saying we must decide on the new Standing Committee immediately.
Ai: Why should I start when so many senior leaders are present? You should start.
Yu: Why me?
Ai: I didn’t mean Yu, I meant you as in y-o-u. I was talking to Hu.
Wai: What do you mean by saying “Wai owe Yu” — I don’t owe Yu anything. You need to have your head examined if you don’t know who you’re talking to.
Yu: I need to have my head examined? How?
Hao: I didn’t say anything.
Hu: Guys, guys, come to the point.
Gai: There’s only one Gai here.
Wen (in Mandarin): Wha ta dum gai. (Translation: What a dumb guy).
Gai: Who’re you calling dumb?
Yu: I didn’t call anybody dumb.
Gai: I meant you, not Yu.
Hu: It was Wen.
Gai: Just a minute ago.
Hu: I said Wen, not when.
Wen: That’s enough of this nonsense. Don’t you folks know the eyes of the whole world are on us. We must choose a new committee immediately.
Yu: My folks know.
Ai: What do you mean the Ais of the whole world are on us. What have we done? Why are you picking on us Ais?
Li: Who’s Im Mediate Li? Is he on the committee?
He: I’m already on the committee. Who’s Im Mediate Li?
Hu: He’s not my Im Mediate Li. I’ve never heard of him till this moment.
He: I am certainly not any Li. I am He.
Wai: Is “I am He” the right way to say it. Or ‘I am she’ for that matter?
Xi: But I am Xi.
Wai: Really? You look very much like a he. How strange.
Hao: Why am I strange?
Xi: I meant I am Xi, not she.
Ai: Ai am certainly not Xi.
Hu: This is nonsense. Ai wei-li wei-li ang li. (Trans: I am very very angry). It would be funny if it was not so frustrating.
Xi: That is why Confucius says — Speaking English is like testicle, it is both a test and a tickle.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
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