Confucius Confusion

Confucius is called into action again.

This time the mission is to link an exhibition about the Chinese thinker with one on Albert Einstein in Shanghai. The exhibition, which began its tour in Beijing, then moved to Guangdong, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Ten days before the exhibition was due to open in Beijing, there was a request that all references to the first world war be removed. The censorship request so angered the government of Switzerland, which financed the exhibition, that it insisted that the exhibition be shown as it was or it would cancel the whole thing. Beijing eventually gave in, but now Shanghai is demanding that the exhibition be coupled with one about Confucius. The Swiss are, as before, opposed to the additional demand, and it remains to be seen how events will transpire.

Nobody knows why the German-born father of modern physics and the ancient Chinese sage should share the same exhibition hall. But one thing is certain. Communist China extols or expels someone as it pleases, depending on what use it sees in him. So while Confucius was vilified in the Cultural Revolution, he is now almost deified, with Confucius institutes springing up around the world in recent years to promote the Chinese culture, the film "Confucius" taking up the showtime supposed to be for Avatar when the latter was shown in China in 2009, and last year's ludicrous Confucius Peace Prize orchestrated in reaction to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to dissident Liu Xiaobo.

While such contrasting taken by what is supposed to be the same administration is baffling, it is by no means atypical. The Confucius statue that was unveiled in Tiananmen Square in January was mysteriously removed last week without any official explanation.

It is all Confucius confusion.

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