Friday, January 21, 2011

Is it really big. Big, big, big, big. Big?

DALEY: More excited than usual these days
Chicago is an internationally-known city that has throughout the decades attracted its share of world leaders.

I still remember the presence of Lech Walesa within our city limits, and there is a certain generation that recalls it as a significant moment when Queen Elizabeth herself visited the city on the shores of Lake Michigan back in ’58.

SO WHY IS it that Richard M. Daley earlier this week got himself so excited that Hu Jintao, the president of China, is visiting Chicago that a part of me wonders if he wet his pants with glee at the very thought,.

The visit that Daley proclaimed to be Big times Six has arrived. Following time in Washington with President Barack Obama earlier this week, the Chinese president arrived in Chicago Thursday night and is getting the civic tour of the city on Friday.

My understanding is that the president will be taken to Walter Payton College Preparatory School, which has a Chinese cultural education center (known as the Confucius Institute) among its programs.

Which to me seems like we in Chicago are all eager to show that we’re not a batch of bumpkins like the people in our surrounding Midwestern states. We have the capacity to comprehend other cultures – which may well be the biggest difference between us in Illinois and those people in Indiana who in recent days have taken to trying to bash us on account of tax rates (that really aren’t as favorable to them as they’d like to dream).

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN us and them is that Chicago gives our state the ability to attract certain business opportunities within the global community that those other states can only dream about.

HU: What will he remember of Chicago?
I can’t envision any international leader getting all that interested in visiting Indianapolis (unless he has some real desire to see auto racing). In fact, I can’t help but think if Hu Jintao tried to visit one of the surrounding states of the Midwest, he’d probably encounter so much hostility as to make him deem such a visit pointless.

Not that he didn’t get such hostility in Chicago.

The protesters whose disgust for China’s apathy toward including human rights with economic freedoms makes them want to cut off the mainland altogether were grouped outside the Chicago Hilton & Towers, the downtown hotel where the president stood during his Midwestern U.S. visit and where Daley and first lady Maggie held a formal dinner that city officials were quick to point out was paid for through private donations.

IN SHORT, THE business interests that want to have ties to China paid to arrange for the leader of a Communist nation to have a nice meal while in our city limits.

After bopping about the Internet, I have read enough conspiracy theories telling me the “real” reason why Hu Jintao included a Chicago stop on his U.S. tour. After all, if he really wanted to see people of Chinese-American descent, he could have just as easily gone to San Francisco or New York.

I think my favorite of these goofy theories are the ones that imply Chinese leaders visited Obama’s adopted hometown because they’re secretly planning to fund Obama’s re-election bid. Therefore, what we have is a gathering between Chinese communists and “the Machine” – that dreaded cast of Chicago political characters who are imposing their autocratic ways on the federal government.

Daley’s brother, William, after all, is the new chief of staff. Now we know whom Daley takes his marching orders from. At least that’s what they’d like us to believe.

ONLY THE KIND of people who are determined to believe that Obama wasn’t really born in the United States and there has to be some way to think of him as a “foreigner” unfit for the presidency would believe this kind of nonsense.

Although I wouldn’t be surprised if the fact that Obama is president did somehow subtly play into the fact that Hu Jintao and his aides included a Chicago visit on their trip to the United States.

This is a city whose public profile has elevated significantly on the international level because of the fact that Obama still owns a home here, and still thinks of himself as such a native that he says he’s traveling to Dallas on Feb. 6 for the Super Bowl – IF the Chicago Bears manage to qualify by beating Green Bay on Sunday.

While I have my own qualms about the Chinese government (not Chinese people themselves), I also realize that we exist in the world with them, and we will have to engage in some business dealings. Any attempt to use the Cuba treatment to isolate them from the world would make us look so ridiculous – moreso than the Cuba trade embargo does these days.

I REALIZE THAT our economic future is going to be advanced through cooperation, not isolation. Besides, I can’t help but wonder if China eventually is going to feel the pressure to give in on the human rights issues – lest they become too cut off from the rest of the world (like the Soviet Union of old)  upon which they want to be a part of.

I just have one hesitation about this trip.

I only hope that Hu Jintao doesn’t catch too long a glimpse of our Chinatown neighborhood. I’d hate to think he’d go back to Beijing with his head filled with examples of Chinese/American gaudiness.


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