BEIJING: For many Chinese people, it was a slightly excruciating reminder of their own childhoods, that moment when their parents aggressively boast of their accomplishments in front of other people, or, even worse, force them to perform for relatives and members of the older generation.
But for 6-year-old Arabella Kushner, the difference was that her performance would be scrutinised by none other than the Chinese president, his wife and a good proportion of the Chinese nation.
Shortly after arriving in China, President Donald Trump proudly showed his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping a video of his granddaughter singing and reciting poems in Mandarin.
The video later became a hit on the Chinese internet, as did another video of Arabella doing the same thing back in 2016. She also performed for Xi and his wife, Peng Liyuan, when they visited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in April.
This time, Arabella, in a Chinese-style dress and in front of an American flag, dedicated her performance to “Grandpa Xi” and “Grandma Peng.” The Chinese leader in turn graded her with an “A plus.”
Her Chinese is very good: She is reported to have been learning it from her Chinese nanny since she was an infant.
She sang a children’s song about sweeping rice fields, a jade-green river and a lake studded with lotus flowers, stocked with fat, golden carp and with flocks of ducks hiding in the reeds. She also recited the Three Characters Classic, an ancient text used to teach children the key values of Confucianism, as well as two other poems and another song.
On the Chinese internet, Arabella won praise — one netizen called her an “adorable girl” whose Chinese is great, according to one widely shared post.
“This little girl is so smart, hope in the future that she can make a bigger contribution between friendly exchanges China and the United States,” wrote another netizen.
China’s Foreign Ministry even brought it up at its regular news conference on Thursday.
“Arabella as a small messenger of Sino-American friendship is deeply loved by the Chinese people,” said spokeswoman Hua Chunying. “I believe it will also help to narrow the feelings and distance between the peoples of China and the United States.”
But there were also plenty of comments expressing sympathy for the small child, from people who may have suffered their own mild childhood embarrassments.
“No one’s daughter can escape the destiny of performing in public,” one user posted on weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, in a typical and widely shared comment.
“It’s not easy for her, because of her grandfather’s job,” said another.
Just one weibo post of the video, by state news agency Xinhua, has alone generated 11.69 million views by Thursday evening, 8,849 forwards, 5,090 comments and 31,302 likes.
Finally, one satirical Twitter account reminded readers that Xi’s daughter had herself presumably learnt a thing or two about American culture, having attended Harvard, and wondering if there might be some reciprocity in the relationship.
“On Trump’s next state-plus visit, Xi Jinping’s daughter will welcome him by singing one of the English songs she learnt at Harvard.
— Washington Post