We have grown far too used to the inscrutable Chinese. This explains why the Chinese ambassador Zhang Yan’s curt ‘shut up’ to Anilesh Mahajan, a business journalist, has got us all hot and bothered. In fact, we have got far too used to convoluted diplospeak where elegant sentences enthral us but actually convey very little. Mr Zhang’s sharp retort may actually set off a new trend in diplomacy. And we should lose no opportunity to adopt it. There are many advantages here for us.
For example, we could print maps showing large parts of China, perhaps even a few suburbs of Beijing, as being part of our territory. When our ambassador in China is asked to explain, he need not go into any lengthy dissertation of border treaties and past friendships, a simple ‘shut up’ will do the trick. Of course, we could explore other forms of exchange but the main point should be to keep it really brief. So when the Pakistanis pop around bellyaching about Kashmir or India’s interest in Afghanistan, we need not reassure them that our intentions are kosher or cite past examples of how we have never been an aggressor. We can quite legitimately tell them to buzz off and mind their own business.
This portends an exciting new world where we can dispense with fusty old practices. In fact, we don’t really need to train diplomats to come up with honeyed words. The time has come to tell it like it is. We are not advocating unparliamentary language here. But the next time, say, the Americans come around telling us to open our markets, our ambassador in Washington need not tie herself up in knots explaining that this could hurt domestic industry. She could just tell them how much they are hurting certain parts of our anatomy. But not everyone may see our point of view, so for the moment, do excuse us if we shut up.