From "Imagine" to the unimaginable. This revelation, if true, is a curiosity on a par with Bob Dylan's confession that, as he put it in his 2004 memoir "Chronicles," he "had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of. ... What I was fantasizing about was a nine-to-five existence, a house on a tree-lined block with a white picket fence, pink roses in the backyard."
The ex-Beatle, who was assassinated in 1980, might have become embarrassed by a radicalism the folk-bard of the counterculture claims not to have shared. But I wonder: If these cultural icons each really hankered after the traditions they did so much to undermine, did either of them ever regret the radical sensibility they both profitably enshrined in every generation since their heyday?
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has an image-reality disconnect problem. This week, he trotted the globe to paste a happy face over China. But the leering, totalitarian monster showed through just the same.
"Tomorrow's China will be a country that fully achieves democracy, the rule of law, fairness and justice," Wen said in London on Monday, as he prepared to ink multibillion-dollar trade deals across Europe. That same day, the Danish newspaper Information began publishing a series of blockbuster articles based on 60 pages of secret documents improbably leaked from the very highest levels of the Chinese government. These documents reveal what we already know about, but rarely get to see in black-and-white: an outline of Chinese government plans for an intensified crackdown on speech and the Internet, and more controls on foreign media; increased surveillance of the population; and renewed internal and external propaganda campaigns to ward off democratic influences.
Does "made in China" still look like a good deal?