28 March 2013

On Xi Jinping's "Shoe Theory"

Photograph: Ivan Sekretarev/AP
During Xi Jinping's first overseas trip since being named president of the PRC, there has been a lot of attention paid to the fashion and glamor of his famous wife, Peng Liyuan. (See here, here, and here.)

Not to be outdone by the first lady, though, Xi has dispensed some fashion advice of his own. In a speech at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Xi told the audience: "It is our position that each country and its people ought to enjoy respect. . . . Only the person wearing the shoe knows whether or not it fits. Only the people of a given country have the right to express their view on whether their country's path to development is appropriate."

In the days since his speech, Xi's "shoe theory" has attracted much Chinese comment. My favorite comes from Hu Ping, who has been an ardent advocate of free expression and democracy in China since the Democracy Wall movement in the late 1970s:

"We want to tell Xi Jinping: You're the shoe, Mr Xi, and we're the foot. It doesn't matter if you say the shoe doesn't pinch; we're the ones who ought to say whether it pinches. In this world, there is only the changing of shoes; whoever heard of cutting off part of your foot to fit the shoe?!"

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