Was an anti-American propaganda song played at White House state dinner last week? Sometimes things seem too absurd to be true, unless they are true. During the state dinner with Chinese Hu Jintao and President Obama, pianist Lang Lang played a number of pieces – including a famous (to Chinese citizens) anti-American propaganda song arising out of the Korean War. The song was the theme of a movie called Battle on Shangganling Mountain and is universally recognized by the Chinese. The movie is about a group of Chinese soldiers who are “first hemmed in at Shanganling (or Triangle Hill) and then, when reinforcements arrive, take up their rifles and counterattack the U.S. military ‘jackals.’” The insult has gleefully gone viral in China.
Americans died in this engagement, Americans who have family members alive today. One oral history of the battle describes it thusly: “The medic ran out of morphine before he was hit and went down himself. It wasn’t until the third day of the battle that men could be spared to take the wounded Americans off the hill. It was on that morning that an exploding mortar round knocked Martin unconscious and drove shrapnel into his legs. Although he has no memory of it, he believed the men who carried his stretcher down the steep fire-swept slope of Triangle Hill must have endured a ‘terrible ordeal.’”
Would similar musical insults would have been dared during the Reagan or Bush years at a state dinner?