Chinese Government hypocritical over Yves Saint Laurent Bronzes
No one likes a bully, and usually the bully ends up feeling isolated and a bit of a twit when everyone ignores them. At this point the bully can do two things, reflect on their behaviour and modify it, or just carry on the same way making an even bigger twit of themselves.
In the case of the two bronze heads from the Summer Palace (former residence of the Chinese Emperor) that are currently owned by Pierre Berge, the Chinese regime decided the best course of action was to scream it’s head off and demand the return of the “looted items” forthwith. When they met with silence, they rolled out celebrity mouth pieces like Jackie Chan (a well known expert on History and antiquities, oh wait, not) to step up the pressure on their behalf, then resorted to legal action that was bound to fail.
Chinese often accuse Westerners of not understanding their culture, and in the case the Chinese completely underestimated French attitudes, the sort of childish demanding behaviour the Chinese exhibited was likely to get the cold shoulder and harden attitudes against their demands.
It was clear where things were headed when Mr Berge stated that he had no intention of giving the bronzes back to a regime that had no respect for human rights.
In the latest twist the head of the Chinese National Treasures Fund, Cai Mingchao, placed the winning bid but is now refusing to pay in what he claims is an “act of patriotism” – more like an act of hysterical nationalism.
If we back the truck up a bit, and consider the Chinese Communists Regime general respect towards history, antiquities and in particular their royal family, their whole attitude over a couple of bronze heads is hard to figure out.
This is a regime that was responsible for looting and destroying important historical places and collections like the one at Confucius’s house where Re Guards broke every single item in the house including a huge collection of ceramics dating back hundreds of years.
And that is one example, there are plenty more.
Chinese people owe a debt to the KMT – the Nationalists who fled China to Taiwan – because they took with them large portions of historical bronzes and ceramics that survive today for anyone to see, had they not done this there is no doubt these treasures would not have survived the Communist regime.
I’m personally delighted that Mr Berge has now said he would keep the bronzes. This is a sensible decision on his part.
The Chinese regime has really used this incident as a way of stirring up Nationalist sentiment (with the Help of a Movie Star) and used this as a way of distracting Chinese from the very serious problems in China. It was interesting that in France a couple of public galleries used this opportunity to purchase (at market rates) items they decided were important for public display, indeed this goes on all the time. The Chinese have plenty of money can could have bought these if they thought it important, in the big picture, it’s small change. If Jackie Chan thought they were so important and so obviously sees benefit in sucking up to the Communist regime, why didn’t he buy them and gift them to the ‘Chinese People’ thus gaining more affection from Chinese? It’s been done before so what’s changed now?
The arguments are so inconsistent, while the sacking of the Summer Palace was undeniable, had the palace survived the allies, the Communists would have without doubt melted the bronzes down as they did with so many other things. The Communists hate the royal family and did everything in their power to wipe it out. Why they should be so interested in a couple of bronze heads that symbolise the Imperial families power is odd, and the only clear reason seems to be to stir up nationalist behaviour.
If the Chinese regime want them, pay up, behaving like a spoilt demanding child won’t win any respect or achieve what you want, especially when your behaviour is so obviously inconsistent.
If your’e wondering about what has gone on in China over the last 50 years, and why the Communist Regime behaives as it does, this article is worth reading.