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Tales of Diplomacy: The Great Wall

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Richard Nixon, visiting the Great Wall of China in 1972, said: ‘I think you would have to conclude that this is a great wall.’

Ronald Reagan, visiting the Wall in 1984, said: ‘What can you say except it’s awe-inspiring? It is one of the great wonders of the world.’ Asked if he would like to build his own Great Wall, Reagan drew a circle in the air and said: ‘Around the White House.’

Bill Clinton, visiting the Wall in 1998, said: ‘So if we had a couple of hours, we could walk 10 kilometres, and we’d hit the steepest incline, and we’d all be in very good shape when we finished. Or we’d be finished. It was a good workout. It was great.’

George W. Bush, visiting the Wall in 2002, signed the guest book and said: ‘Let’s go home.’ He made no other comments.

Barack Obama, visiting the Wall on Wednesday, said: ‘It’s majestic. It’s magical. It reminds you of the sweep of history, and that our time here on Earth is not that long, so we better make the best of it.’ During Obama’s visit, the Starbucks and KFC at the base of the Wall were closed.

Comments on “Tales of Diplomacy: The Great Wall”

  1. vmaverick says:

    When you visited the Great Wall, were your remarks acute and memorable? Mine sure weren’t — thank goodness no journalists were there to record them.

  2. Martin says:

    The Great Wall is an extraordinary construction, but why this celebration of a wall? The Great Wall, like the Berlin Wall, the Maginot Line and the West Bank wall, symobolises war, division, fear and hatred. When the Berlin Wall came down there was universal celebration and when the Israeli wall comes down we’ll celebrate too, but we celebrate the existence and technological wonders of walls such as Hadrian’s, the Great Wall and the Maginot Line. Is this because we see them as protecting us and our ‘civilisation’ from them and their ‘barbarity’?

    Perhaps GWB’s was the most diplomatic response.

    Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

  3. Robert Hanks says:

    Well, yes, and castles, palaces and stately homes symbolise oppression, and churches symbolise superstition (and a good bit of oppression as well) – the bits of the past that survive tend not to have lovely associations. But we can celebrate the walls you mention because they no longer divide anything at all (not that the Maginot Line was ever very successful at dividing anything): if the Great Wall still marked an actual political boundary we’d all feel much more ambivalent about it. As it is, we can afford to be impressed by the technical achievement. Civilisation and barbarity don’t come into it.

  4. Camus123 says:

    “not that the Maginot Line was ever very successful at dividing anything” What do you mean? It divided Belgium and France very well and helped the French to pull out of the war with far fewer deaths and less destruction than the 14-18 affair. I’d rate the Maginot Line as a pretty good way to save lives.

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