Changing China

Giant on the move

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Grandpa Wen, so happy to see you!

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North Korea knows how to put on a show for honoured guests. Visiting Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was this week treated to a special performance of the “Arirang” mass games, the world’s biggest choreographed extravaganza with as many as 100,000 participants.

Part circus act, part rhythmic gymnastics, the display features dancing girls, goose-stepping soldiers and a massive flip-card section animated by ranks of performers, which this time included one-off Chinese messages added for Wen.

But in the time honoured tradition of opaque Communist regimes, the slogans were likely meant as more than just a simple part of celebrations, and certainly suggested that the isolated regime keeps a very close eye on political developments in the northern neighbour that is one of its few allies.

In almost flawless Chinese they spelt out a giant welcome message that acknowledged their visitor’s populist reputation in China: “Grandpa Wen, so happy to see you!” — which may have been as heartfelt as it was enormous, given there is hardly a steady stream of top international leaders beating a path to the door of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. 

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