Talkative Li quoted Weber,Hegel,Jobs,said PM is large-hearted

For all the hard talk that marked Premier Li Keqiang’s bilateral conversations with Indian leaders,the new Chinese PM also left an indelible impression of not being hostage to indoctrinated thoughts as he freely quoted Max Weber to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,sought to qualify philosopher Hegel’s understanding of change to the Vice-President and brought in Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to explain the impact India had on him.

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi | Published:May 21, 2013 2:58 am

For all the hard talk that marked Premier Li Keqiang’s bilateral conversations with Indian leaders,the new Chinese PM also left an indelible impression of not being hostage to indoctrinated thoughts as he freely quoted Max Weber to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,sought to qualify philosopher Hegel’s understanding of change to the Vice-President and brought in Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to explain the impact India had on him.

If that was not enough,he struck the right chord by referring to Gandhi and the seven qualities a politician should possess in his view. This was a Chinese leader who not only showed he was well read,but also that he represented a new generation which was willing to leave the pretense of old Maoist China.

At Singh’s private dinner Sunday,sources said,Li had everyone’s attention when he suddenly mentioned Weber to make the point that there are two classes of politicians — those who are in politics for business and those who are serious politicians.

He then added that those who see it as a business must be made to exit and do just business,leaving space for serious politicians. Weber was a German social philosopher whose theoretical underpinnings were at the heart of the capitalist West’s ideological battle against the Communists who revered Karl Marx.

On Monday,in his meeting with Vice-President Hamid Ansari,Li went into a deep philosophical discussion.

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Talkative Li quoted Weber,Hegel,Jobs,said PM is large-hearted

When Ansari brought up Hegel,whose theory on dialectics was the one Marx built on to come up with his famous theory on dialectical materialism,the Chinese Premier made an unexpected qualification. This was nothing to do with dialectics,but the Hegelian thought on change for which he used the example of the Owl of Minerva that flies with the falling of the dusk but before the night sets in.

Simply put,Li said he had a point of difference with Hegel’s view that benefits of change can only be felt after the event has happened. According to him,countries such as India and China cannot wait for change to happen but have to make them happen.

This was also his theme at the PM’s dinner when he pushed for the two countries to enter into a regional trading arrangement,a free trade agreement of sorts,making the point that together,as one-third of humanity,both nations can reverse the dominance of the West in trade issues exercised through the World Trade Organisation.

Li,in fact,further stressed on this when Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia said the Doha round discussions had not made desired progress.

Unlike his predecessors,the Chinese Premier was very particular that his translator got the nuances right. At one point during the dinner on Sunday,his translator described PM Singh as an “elder” and “kind hearted”. Li stopped him and said he did not mean that,and spoke in English himself to give the exact meaning — “senior statesman” and “large-hearted”.

As for the Steve Jobs reference,Li brought up his biography by Walter Isaacson. Li recounted the profound impact India had on Jobs,particularly his experience with yoga. He then referred to his own visit of 1986 to make the point that India is that a kind of place which can make such an impact and that he also had felt the same after his trip.

Besides this,Li also made an effort to reveal his cultural sensibilities as he recounted that the oldest Buddhist temple was in the province of Henan,of which he was the governor for six years.

In many ways,Li was far from the typical Chinese politician on his first trip abroad after the transition. On many occasions,he broke the straitjacket formal demeanour associated with Chinese leaders as he put his arms around the chair of his neighbour at formal events,extended his hand across the table to reach out to those opposite him and as sources put it,“generally more talkative”.

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