May 08

Politics and the Beijing Olympics

Written by Buxi on Thursday, May 8th, 2008 at 5:12 pm
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The Christian Science Monitor has an article on the historical links between the Olympics and politics. It’s mostly a repetition of what other articles have said, but there are a few interesting quotes.

Similarities stop there, however, says Susan Brownell, a professor of anthropology at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, currently in Beijing studying Chinese preparations for the Olympics. In the Olympic education campaign that the authorities have been running from primary school level to university, she says, “the Communist party is almost never mentioned, and nor is socialism.”

This is something most Chinese recognize. The government hasn’t made these games about the Communist party; only foreign activists have done that. From our point of view, we are looking to celebrate our country’s remarkable progress over the past 30 years. These Olympics are Beijing’s Olympics, the Chinese people’s Olympics… not the Communist Party’s Olympics.

This is also precisely why there such genuine grassroots anger and frustration from average Chinese that our Olympics have been threatened and abused by overseas activists.

There is another quote from the article that I want to address:

Like the Nazis, the ruling Chinese Communist Party clearly hopes that successful Games will reflect well not just on China as a country, but on its political system itself.

There is no “political system” per se in China today. China has what is officially labeled “socialism with Chinese characteristics”, but no one could possibly define what that means. China hasn’t tried to export its values… frankly, I don’t think we have many political values today. China isn’t funding political parties in other countries, nor is it setting up international academic conferences for studying China’s “political system”.

China is a pragmatic country trying to solve the problems faced by all developing countries, and that is all. As Deng Xiaoping said decades ago, “cross the river by feeling for stones” (摸着石头过河). There are precious few examples of successful developing countries anywhere on this planet, and all of the idealism of the past (faith in capitalism, communism, or any other -ism) hasn’t helped the majority of humanity from living in poverty.

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10 Responses to “Politics and the Beijing Olympics”

  1. Jack Says:

    It sounds too coy to say that China has NO political system. Isn’t anarchy actually having no political system?

    I mean, that’s what the Beijing Subway seems at times, but China’s political system strikes me as a Unitary One-Party Authoritarian Republic. Which is a mouthful.

  2. Buxi Says:

    Perhaps we should say, no “intentional” political system? No ideologically driven political system?

  3. Bing Ma Yong Says:

    It doesn’t matter whether the CCP is promoting China’s political system or not. It’s nothing wrong for Chinese government to promote China. Was German government promoting Germany in the world cup? Was Australian government promoting Australia during Sydney Olympic?

    Chinese people are proud of Beijing Olympics like the Greeks and Australians were few years ago and Chinese people want to have fun during the game like the Greeks and Australians did. Should Chinese people’s right been respected? or Chinese people don’t have the right to enjoy something other people could just because there are people don’t like Chinese government.

  4. snow Says:

    a transitional government and system. still live under the shadow of their predecessors but unable to regenerate any appealing new values and ideologies except being dictated by the public consensus and changing tide of the world, a not too bad pragmatism for now. Mediocre is the word.

  5. jim Says:

    >>There is no “political system” per se in China today

    Sure there is: authoritarian capitalism. China currently has the worst of all political systems, the worst elements of unrestrained, lawless capitalism plus the worst elements of communism. But I’m hopeful that this is just a transitional period.

    The CCP doesn’t mention “socialism” or the Party because it knows that most Chinese don’t believe in that bullshit. The CCP knows that the only ideology that Chinese still believe in is nationalism. That is why they promote it. You just refuse to see that that is the most effective way for the CCP to manipulate you, because you are so willing to be manipulated as long as you feel you are “defending the country.”

    As you mentioned in another post, the CCP didn’t invent Chinese nationalism. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know how to exploit it.

    All governments exploit nationalism — and China isn’t the most nationalist country in the world. I’d give that dubious honor to Korea. Just my opinion.

    Actually, the CCP isn’t China’s real problem. It’s the blind nationalism that allows the CCP to exist in the first place. Just like Mao wasn’t the real problem. If China had a democracy right now, you’d probably have another Mao within a year. So we probably agree at least on that point: China isn’t ready for democracy. Don’t feel bad. The US is barely ready for it and we’ve been doing it for more than 200 years.

  6. Buxi Says:


    I don’t feel “bad” at all that China is not yet ready for a democracy. Humanity has a pathetic record when it comes to helping the billions of people who currently live in developing countries, swamped by poverty.

    Its been 6 decades since the end of the last world war, and while less than 20% of the worlds’ population have prospered in ways that none of our ancestors could’ve ever dreamed of… nearly 80% of the rest of the worlds’ population continues to be left behind, democratic or not.

    I don’t care much about the CCP, and I agree with you that the current political “system” (however you want to define it) should just be a transitional period. But if the CCP can continue the path it’s already put China on for the past 3 decades, then it will have done something remarkable for humanity that few others have been able to match.

  7. S.K. Cheung Says:

    WRT the Olympics and the CCP, there is something I can’t reconcile. I certainly don’t begrudge Chinese people the right to enjoy the Games, to celebrate the Games, and to benefit from the Games much as any prior host has. It is interesting to learn that the CCP has not purposely married its own image with the Olympic brand within China, which seems to suggest they are truly trying to separate politics from a celebration of sport and humanity, which is what the Olympics embodies.
    Even after the Tibet 3/14 business, I don’t think any level-headed westerner would suggest an athlete boycott of the games, for that would punish the world’s athletes and the Chinese people, who are not complicit to the events in question.
    However, while the Olympics is not a political issue, and never should be, the Tibet question undoubtedly is. IF politicians who object to the 3/14 events choose to “skip” the games, they are certainly making a political statement to the CCP. But at the same time, I don’t see how that would materially affect the enjoyment of the Chinese people, or the celebration of sport. So if the world chose to send their athletes but not their politicians, would the CCP and Chinese people view that as protest of CCP actions while respecting the Chinese citizenry, or as something more sinister. And if it is the latter, why?

  8. OCED Says:

    In my judgement, the Chinese reaction to Pro-Tibet demonstrations along the torch route is not complicated at all.

    My overwhelming sense is that the majority of Chinese on the mainland, and overseas, view the Beijing Olympics as the Chinese people’s games not the Communist Party’s games.

    Westerners may believe that awarding the games to China will lend legitimacy to an underserving regime. The Chinese view is that the Games add prestige to the nation called “China” or even the Chinese ethnic group, rather than the government called the “Chinese Communist Party”.

    How else can one explain long-time Hong Kong immigrants, – whose sole reason for immigrating to Canada/U.S. was a fear and hatred of the CCP- have joined overseas Chinese in welcoming the Olympic torch?

  9. S.K. Cheung Says:

    TO OCED:
    I agree with you. So if POLITICIANS skip the games, would Chinese people see it as an affront to their hospitality etc, and therefore take offense? Or would they place more emphasis that the athletes are there to celebrate sport, and leave the political implications to the CCP?

  10. Simon Ellington Says:

    So many intelligence services agents under the guise of journalist in China spinning webs of subversion. Why the need ? well lets call it economics the western corporations want access to the Chinese population and all the nationalised sectors to be in private hands. They are doing their utmost to undermine and humiliate China while billions of us watch they are turning this prestigious sporting event by politicising it.

    What happened to the Sydney Olympics and the aborigines being unrecognised, mistreated, ghettoised and ignored of their rightful ancestral lands ? i will tell you its because western corporations own Australia just like South Africa only white might is right so shutup and dont fight for your rights ! Expect more serious trauma to be inflicted on the Chinese because these corporations will not stop until they get what they want.

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