Six times in eight interviews (so far), I have been asked leading questions by Shanghai journalists eager to pin me down on one side or other of the open war between Lang Lang and Yundi Li, the nation’s most famous pianists.
Lang Lang is the party and media favourite, a poster boy whose placards rise 20 stories high. Yundi is the pretty boy, a pop idol whose millions of Bieber-like young fans attack the Lang Lang army with every invective known to weibo.
To take sides in this conflict as a foreign observer is hazardous, to say the least. All the more reason for local media to try their hand at trapping a wayward opinion. All I have said so far, I think, is that Lang Lang risks losing his home patch to the passionate thrust of Yundi’s social media campaign and to his personal reticence, which appeals the the Chinese mistrust of flamboyance. Lang Lang is a global brand, Yundi a national dish. It’s game-on at every interview.
Who will wins the war is anyone’s guess, but it is raising classical passions in China to fever pitch.
It’s your call.