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An Axe Lost and Found
   2015-04-27 16:03:22    CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Xie Tingting

By Lin Shaowen (About the author)

Ancient wisdom never lets me down in understanding complicated matters. Very often when I hear how great a boss is in making achievements while only seeing "dazzling slogans" but no meaningful action, I'll immediately think of "The Emperor's New Clothes" by Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen. A town of toadies or cowards, except for one single "naive" child. I somehow feel that Andersen is still alive, as there are "new clothes" around, everywhere, every day, yet few people are as "naive", to point out the truth.

A thought-provoking Andersen.

Equally thought-provoking is the ancient Chinese fable "A Man Loses His Axe" by Lv Buwei more than 2,200 years ago. I find it helpful in describing people-to-people relations as well as diplomatic affairs.

A man loses his axe and suspects that it was stolen by the son of his neighbor. So he observes the boy's behavior, the way he speaks and walks, his facial expressions - exactly like a thief. Later, the man recovers his axe when he works in a mountain valley. Then he returns to watch the boy. No such indication at all.

What went wrong in the first place? Preconceived mindset.

The boy is lucky because the man hasn't done anything. But imagine things go the other way, say preemptive action out of preconception. It hurts.

Take family relations in China for example. A mother and daughter may quarrel over disputes, but it's relatively easier to heal the wounds. A same case between mother-and-daughter in-law will more likely lead to a long-term cold war or an endless battle, as suspicion and preconception are reluctant to give way between the two women without a biological blood bond. And they will not easily sit down to sort it out by standing in each other's shoes.

What about state-to-state relations, especially those with different political, ideological, cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds? Normal ties and brotherhood are certainly beautiful words. But more importantly, mutual understanding and mutual trust. Most critical of all is respecting each other's core concerns and interests. In case of differences, you sit down and talk quietly.

Empty talk? Well, President Xi Jinping just visited Pakistan where the two sides signed jumbo deals, to build an economic corridor.

Mindset A - Mutual benefit. The project will offer China a shorter route for its trade and investment with Pakistan, further extending to markets in Central Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa. It also addresses Pakistan's oil and power needs; it will solve the infrastructure and financial difficulties and help with poverty alleviation and anti-terror strategy. For security concerns, the two sides held close-door candid discussions rather than openly pressuring each other, and finally came up with concrete measures. China promised support for Pakistan fighting terrorism in its own way and Pakistan promised to beef up security in project areas. As the leaders put it, jointly, the two sides are building a community of shared-destiny. Or as observers put it - friends in need.

As this is the very first project of the China-advocated modern-day "Silk Road" land and sea development blueprint (the Road and Belt Initiative), we can envision future projects will be designed under the principles of common development, win-win, tackling the critical challenges of partners and addressing their key concerns.

But wait a second, there's the other mindset - will that strengthen their military capabilities? Could it pose a threat? And to whom? Shall I do something now as preemption?  That mindset is scary. It leads to containment, for if you win, I'll lose, so you'd better remain poor and weak. A zero-sum game.

Make no mistake. Here I'm not pointing fingers to any country in particular. It applies everywhere. The world is spacious enough for all countries to be prosperous. My wild imagination would be that one day, that corridor further extends, say to a willing Japan (or other countries) to join and share the pains and gains.

World Book Day also draws my attention of a third "fable" written by an unknown netizen.

A primary school class, with a big guy. He makes "rules" and disciplines others. Sometimes he is fair when punishing real bullies. But he's always precautious seeing anyone growing in size and muscle. He's full of suspicion and has a peculiar preconception. He seldom hesitates in containing any possible challengers, using preemptive measures. One way of doing so is to highlight uncertainties as if they are real risks.

But the fable ends with this: If you see the other guy as a potential rival and deal with him accordingly, you will turn a possible partner to a possible enemy.

About the Author

A radio person, Mr. Lin Shaowen is strongly interested in international relations and Chinese politics. As China is quite often misunderstood in the rest of the world, he feels the need to better present the true picture of the country, the policies and meanings. So he talks a lot and is often seen debating. Then friends find a critical Lin Shaowen criticizing and criticized.

The opinions expressed here are only personal, and do not necessarily represent CRI's official policy.

Read all opinion stories by Lin Shaowen



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