The current ambassador to China, Gary Locke, is teaching the Chinese some useful stuff without a word of preaching or assertion, mainly by carrying his own bags and flying economy, and being seen to do so. The German for ambassador is botschafter, which means message carrier, and Locke’s story nicely enlarges our idea of how a message can most effectively be embodied.
I really like this story, including the inept, hamhanded response of the Chinese élites. Locke is giving the usual speeches as well, of course; I especially like this bit:
“I’ve sometimes asked myself: ‘How did the Locke family go in just two generations from living in a small rural village in China to the governor’s mansion?’ ” Locke said in a Sept. 9 speech to students at Beijing Foreign Studies University. “The answer is American openness — building and sustaining an open economy and an open society.”
“Our family’s story is the story of America,” Locke said. And, in a subtle challenge to China to become more open, he added, “we believe these values are independent of any particular political system. They are universal, and universally beneficial to societal advance.”
What the story doesn’t say is that Locke’s attribution of his status to a whole system and not to his own personal merit is also a subtle challenge to our own 1%, who seem to think everything they own was value they created alone, and are busily sawing the rungs out of the ladder.