Xi makes numerous cultural references in policy speech

World Today

Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers a speech during a welcome banquet jointly hosted by Washington State government and friendly communities in Seattle, the United States, Sept. 22, 2015. (Xinhua)

China’s President Xi Jinping kicked off his first state visit to the United States on Tuesday in a landmark trip aimed at enhancing trust and cooperation between the world’s two biggest economies. During a policy speech on China-U.S. relations, he referenced a number of cultural references including “House of Cards”, “Sleepless in Seattle”, and “the Old Man and the Sea.”


“The film Sleepless in Seattle has made the city almost a household name in China,” Xi said when describing China’s familiarity with his host city.

The 1993 romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Reg Ryan is so popular in China that it inspired a 2013 remake “Beijing Meets Seattle.”

Washington state, where Seattle is located, leads U.S. exports to China and China is the largest trading partner for the port of Seattle.

“Washington and Seattle have become an important symbol of the friendship between Chinese and American people and win-win cooperation between the two countries,” Xi said.

A poster of American movie Sleepless in Seattle. (CFP)

(CFP photo)


Speaking of China’s ongoing anti-corruption efforts, Xi said both “tigers” and “flies,” metaphors for high-ranking and low-ranking corrupt officials, have been punished in response to Chinese people’s demand.

“This has nothing to do with power struggle. It’s nothing like what you see in House of Cards,” he added in a surprising reference to the popular American political drama series.

A poster of American political drama series House of Cards. (Xinhua)

A poster of American political drama series House of Cards. (Xinhua)


In his four-point proposal on advancing China-U.S. ties, Xi urged the two sides to understand each other’s strategic intentions correctly so as to give no ground for the Thucydides trap, a Western political theory that an established power becomes so anxious about the rise of a new power that a struggle which eventually leads to war becomes inevitable.

“There is no such thing as the so-called Thucydides trap in the world,” he said.

“We should strictly base our judgement on facts, lest we become victims to hearsay, paranoid or self-imposed bias,” Xi said.

A statue of Thucydides in Vienna. (Photo by ChrisJL/flickr)

A statue of Thucydides in Vienna. (Photo by ChrisJL/flickr)


To illustrate the significance of cultural exchange, Xi shared one of his experiences in reading American literature.

“I was most captivated by Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’ and its description of howling wind, driving rain, roaring waves, small boat, the old man and sharks,” Xi said.

The Chinese leader mentioned that he once visited the breakwater in Cuba’s Cojimar where Hemingway wrote the book, and dropped by the bar the author frequented and ordered a mojito, Hemingway’s favorite rum with mint leaves and ice.

File pic shows a Cuban mojito, a traditional drink favored by Ernest Hemingway. (Xinhua)

File photo of a Cuban mojito, a traditional drink favored by Ernest Hemingway. (Xinhua)

“I just wanted to feel for myself what was on his mind and what the place was like as he wrote those stories,” Xi explained.

“I believe that it is always important to make efforts to get a deep understanding of the cultures and civilizations that are different from our own,” he added.

Xi also mentioned that he once read the “Federalist Papers” and Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” in his younger years when he was also interested in the life stories of American statesmen including George Washington, Araham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt and works of Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Jack London.


Xi used a Chinese character “ren” (人), which means “people”, to illustrate the importance of people-to-people exchanges to the friendship between China and the United States.

“The Chinese character ren or people is in a shape of two strokes supporting each other,” he said. “The foundation of the China-U.S. friendship has its roots in the people, and its future rests with youth.”

Chinese character "Ren", or people in English, written in traditional calligraphy. (Xinhua)

The Chinese character “Ren” written in traditional calligraphy. (Xinhua)

He also announced that China supports the initiative of sending a 50,000 Chinese and American students to study in each other’s country over the next three years and a China-U.S. Year of Tourism that will be launched in 2016.

Story by Xinhua