May 5, 2008


Forbidding city (Rowan Callick | May 06, 2008, The Australian)

A burden of expectation was inevitably attached to the Beijing Games, especially from the Government's side, to display to the Chinese people how the world's leaders were acknowledging the success of its modernisation program. And with the surge of patriotism created by the torch relay (which is now on Chinese soil), the significance of the Games in Chinese eyes has moved far beyond that of a mere sporting festival. In fact, in discussions about the Olympics in China today, sport hardly rates a mention any longer. It is lost in the wider discourse.

Last weekend a Chinese blogger posted the following comment on the website "When a country gets the right to host the Olympic Games, it makes other countries jealous. China is strong, and this makes them afraid. So (the foreigners) encourage Taiwan, and encourage the Dalai (Lama). As Chinese, we should feel infinitely proud of what we are doing with respect to the Dalai, the Carrefour affair (boycotting and protesting against the French stores) and the Olympics."

A taxi driver in Qingdao pasted a sign on the back of his cab in English and Chinese: "Refuse to carry Frenchmen and dogs."

The blogger concluded: "Because we are now getting to a more and more important place among the great nations. No other country will help us ordinary Chinese. The one that can protect us best is always our very own Government! Because we are Chinese!"

Such sentiments - including the identification of the party and Government with all Chinese people - emerge from the Chinese education system, which focuses strongly on the period from the 1840s to the mid-20th century, when China was in a downward spiral as the Qing dynasty's inflexibility led to its collapse and civil war was compounded by a Japanese invasion. Chinese history thus tends to be viewed through the prism of foreign victimisation, even though the 19th-century treaty ports also introduced to the country elements of progress, including education for women, universities, modern medicine and new infrastructure.

Mao Zedong's disastrous Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and other party failures are off limits. China's official historians only don the black armband to mourn foreign incursions.

Similarly, the virulent attacks launched against Western media since the Tibet unrest in March - including death threats - are in part explained by Chinese citizens' lack of access to information. Chinese bloggers assail Western media bias without being able to assess it because of strict internet censorship. Chinese ask why foreigners feel so concerned about Tibetans, ignorant of the range and depth of material on Tibet widely available outside China.

Despite the Government's attempt to defuse some of the angst over the Games by returning to talks with the Dalai Lama's emissaries, the fierce rhetoric and the anti-Dalai Lama campaign, directed by a resurgent propaganda department, continue at full blast.

A commentary in the official China Daily newspaper last Wednesday said: "Dalai is spewing lies, rumour and hearsay. Sabotaging the Olympic Games by agitating violence and fanning Tibet secession won't be tolerated by the Chinese Government and will be firmly opposed by every Chinese. How can a monk full of lies dare to say he values harmony?"

After speaking at the Olympic rally last week, Jia launched an exhibition at the Nationalities Cultural Palace on Tibet, the Past and the Present. State news agency Xinhua says this shows how "Tibet has been an inseparable part of China since ancient times" and compares "the backwardness of old Tibet" with "the development and progress of new Tibet".

Wang Xiaodong, a researcher at the China Youth and Juvenile Research Centre affiliated with the party's Youth League, the core power base of President Hu Jintao, has become a widely published cheerleader for China's new nationalism.

Before the torch relay riots, Wang says, "people here didn't have as much enthusiasm for the Olympics as the Government had. But now we feel involved, because we can't bear the prejudice and hatred from the West."

He says the central recent event in Tibet was "the attack by Tibetan monks against Han and Muslim people". Distorting this into the suppression of freedom-loving Tibetans is "as if China praised the terrorists who drove the airplanes into the twin towers. It's obviously unacceptable to us."

Wang believes this period of resurgent Chinese nationalism will have "a profound and long-lasting significance, like the May4 movement in 1919", when students gathered at Beijing University to draft a manifesto against foreign incursions.

He says: "Some Westerners are saying that Chinese must make an effort to make themselves accepted by the West, That is an outdated opinion. The West must learn how to make itself accepted by the Chinese."

Easy enough to prove that assertion false. There's no place for the Axis of Good at games hosted by an evil regime.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 5, 2008 11:29 AM
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