The Good Ganbu’s 90th Birthday

Helmut Schmidt, German chancellor from 1974 to 1982, and co-editor of Germany’s big weekly Die Zeit for most of the time since, turns  90 this week. He’s an icon in Germany, for being an ostensibly uncaring know-it-all, for his hard work, for regaining an unexpected amount of trust abroad for his country after its only recent Nazi past, for living a more modest life style than Chairman Mao and for driving a smaller car than Leonid Brezhnev, for being living history, for being cool.

On the phone, saving the world

On the phone, saving the world

And for speaking his mind – for traipsing through political correctness chinaware like a reverend hooligan. Democracy in Turkey? Is that our business? (Literally: Is that my beer? Is that your beer?)

About Tibet, too. In May this year, in Die Zeit of course, both the Chinese leadership and the Dalai Lama got their report cards from the old man:

From the Atlantic Times’ translation of the Zeit article:

The Chinese leadership’s response to the protests [in Tibet] was not particularly wise. On the spur of the moment, it seems to have overreacted in Tibet. Certainly, it was wrong to portray the Dalai Lama as a separatist and the mastermind of the disturbances.

And the Dalai Lama must know that

China’s enormous population and migratory pressures will, over the longer term, inevitably lead to continued inflows of many Han Chinese into the uninhabited expanses of Tibet (and Sinkiang).

He has usually saved his more unfriendly comments for people at home:

If you have visions, go and see a doctor.

Parents have handed their educational duties over to 25 television channels and the video industry.

As for those foreign ministers and heads of governments or states, most of them are amateurs when it comes to policies on Europe.

Maybe only one prominent German dared to reciprocate – Hanns-Joachim Friedrichs, a German television anchorman, in 1995:

That’s an odd duck. I’m sure I’ve interviewed him some 20 times. That was always curt and cool. Once in a while, he took the liberty of making a joke, and sneered about the country and people  with this crocodile grin, but nothing special. No quarrel and no cordiality. Only this schoolmastery: you need to put this question differently, this annoying fault-finding – he has never got rid of that.

The good ganbu will be 90 years old tomorrow. Happy Birthday.

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