“I want to tell you, I myself did not want to be the president,” said Chinese leader Hu Jintao on Friday, in response to a question from an eight-year-old student in Yokohama. “It was the people in the whole country who voted me in, and wanted me to be the president. I should not let the people throughout the whole country down.”
There was a national election in China? And everyone had the opportunity to vote? Hu Jintao was in fact picked to lead the country by one man, Deng Xiaoping, who had been dead for more than a half decade by the time Hu ascended to the top post in 2002.
There are many things we learn by Hu telling an obvious untruth in public. There is, for instance, the general craving of Beijing’s leaders for legitimacy. Then there is their mendacity. Yet the most important aspect of this lie is that it reveals the supreme confidence of Chinese supremos these days. They now expect us to accept what they say, no matter how absurd.
How did Hu Jintao become this self-assured? Almost all international leaders have become so solicitous of his feelings that he knows that none of them will ever humiliate him by pointing out the falsehood. So he naturally feels that he can fib with impunity.
And what does this mean for us? We know that Hu Jintao feels comfortable in lying. One can only wonder-and dread-what else he thinks he can do without consequence.
So will some president or prime minister please stand up and set the facts straight about how Hu got his current job? It’s time to cut that particular autocrat down to size. For everyone’s good.