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Jul 15

The Chinese Olympic Journey

Written by bianxiangbianqiao on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 at 7:34 am
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“We went out to swim in the big pond, but ended up finding ourselves. The ocean did not drawn us, just made us wiser and better”. This was a bit of sentimentality I shared with an undergraduate classmate who also came to the United States for graduate school and spent years trying to “make it” out here. The same sentiment parallels the Chinese experience with the Olympics in particular and their transactions with the world in general, since Deng Xiaoping opened the window on the world (allowing the flies to come in, along with some good stuff).

Two recent Western comments on the Chinese preparation for the Beijing Olympics caught my eye. 1. According to James Fallows, the Chinese authorities’ tightening of control over the situation was defeating their own purpose of impressing their audience – the West, especially its media. 2. Meanwhile, Richard Spencer at the Daily Times started to wonder aloud over his fish pond in his Hutong residence who the games’ intended audience really was. Could it be that the Olympics were designed as a reward for the hardworking Chinese, instead of a “coming out party” to entertain foreigners? My first reaction was Spencer had a more astute grasp on the Chinese psyche. Then I realized both comments could be right, but apply to different stages of the Chinese experience with the Olympics.

Should we separate the official (ccp) and popular feelings toward the Olympics in the discussion? From my observation, the portion of the Chinese population that has cared about and paid attention to the Olympics largely shares the official sentiments. One can say that the official propaganda machine has successfully manipulated the public opinion. The rest of the population does not care about the games either way. My discussion of the evolution of the Chinese experiences with the games focuses on the officialdom and the caring/concerned/involved public.

From a historical perspective, when China acquired the privilege to host the games, it was under a different administration, one that focused on (obsessively) the outside world, or, rather, the West. (It was considered Okay for the Chinese president to go to Japan and piss off the neighbor). We had a president who sang opera, danced, recited poetry and Lincoln speeches, and groomed on camera at state banquets on his foreign visits. We had a flamboyant premier who went to the United States expressly to “sooth their feelings”, just before the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. (He was subsequently known as “soothing Zhu” among overseas Chinese students and scholars). These guys (like a pair of peacocks) really wanted to impress the west. Their vision of the game as a self-celebration party with foreigners (westerners) as adoring house guests spilled into the population and caught on.

When those guys were gone and the current administration took over, the philosophy of domestic governance and dealing with the outside, and the perceived significance of the Olympics, changed. The first change in the wind came in rumors that Wen Jiabao had concerns about the huge budget for building the Olympic venues. (There were a lot of talks about cutting back the scale of constructions.) I imagine that Hu and Wen had been lukewarm about the Olympics in particular and throwing parties to entertain foreigners in general all along. Of course at that point it was too late for them to get off the back of the tiger; the show must go on. Meanwhile, the exuberant feelings about the games continued to infest the Chinese population, and the feverish Chinese media. Not knowing what’s around the corner, the ordinary Zhangs and Wangs were still enthusiastically practicing greetings in English, polishing their manners and trying to kick their bad habits, at the urgent behest of the newspapers and TV talking heads.

Came 2008, a string of events inside and outside of China rudely changed the Chinese perspectives on the Olympics. First it was the Torch Relay in Europe, North America and Australia, and the way the Chinese torch bearers were treated by the locals in those places, quenched the Olympic fire in Chinese hearts (whatever it had stood for). The images of a wheelchair bound Jin Jing protecting the torch bearing the Chinese floating cloud patterns with her frail body in a remote foreign land, surrounded by seething thugs and hissing creeps, served as a wake up call, calling upon the Chinese to face the reality of the world they live in. Looking at those images on a laptop in America, I smiled with relief and an inner peace, for two reasons. First, the fantasy about welcoming the world to a come out party was finally smashed into pieces. Reality tastes sweeter than any fantasy. Second, the Chinese fighting spirit was stirred up, embodied in old girl Jin Jing. What a graceful Chinese fighter. This event and the Tibet incident along with its coverage in the Western media and their game-changing impact on the Chinese view on the Olympics and the world have received plenty analysis. So I skip.

The link between the two domestic disasters (the Chinese New Year Ice Storm and Sichuan earth quake) and the Chinese view on the Olympics has received insufficient attention, as far as I can tell. These disasters and the millions of Chinese crying out for help forced the nation to rethink its priorities. As a society, what are we about? What should we cherish? Is it so important to impress the foreigners, a lot of whom are as*h*les that just sh*t over everything? Intelligent Chinese started asking these questions during the ice storm, and the entire nation found the answer in the rescue efforts in the earth quake. The answer was found in the spontaneous rush to help the fellow Chinese in need, the citizens’ selfless contribution of money, labor and blood, as well as in the government’s swift and decisive responses.

The other day I saw a painting in the Museum, showing two naked White guys of advanced ages, one sitting and the other standing with his back bent over, forcing him to look at his feet. The poor guy had to bend over because he was carrying a huge globe on his back. The title of the painting was “Some Greek guy relieving another Greek guy of the globe”. So the bent over guy could not get rid of the weight on his back and the sitting guy liberated him. The Olympics and psychological burden of impressing the world had been oppressing the Chinese like the globe on the back. Now the globe is removed, by the nation’s responses to the earth quake, and the lessons learned in those responses. Taking care of your own is much more gratifying than impressing foreigners. It gives us a sense of sufficiency and completeness that no impressed foreigner can offer. These insights hit me hard in the face when I made my last trip back home. After years of competing in a foreign land, in other people’s culture, using their language, playing their game, according to their rules, there was such a relief when getting back to the place and people that had made me and shaped me from day one. At the human level, it’s your own folks, the family and everyone else, that really matter.

Going back to Richard Spencer’s question, are the Olympics really for the Chinese’s pleasure and enjoyment or for the world (foreigners, the West) to be impressed and entertained at the expense of the Chinese? Here is my humble opinion. The games have ultimately served as an educational experience for the Chinese. Now that chapter has been turned over and the Chinese have moved on. Before their due date, the Olympics are already outdated and belong to history’s dustbin. Do you sense the Olympic Closure among the Chinese? I certainly have a sense of closure.


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45 Responses to “The Chinese Olympic Journey”

  1. Netizen Says:

    First of all, the games are for athletes. It’s their games. It’s their competitions. Once very four years. Of course some athletes are brain washed and forgot that, tried to boycott their own games.

    Second, for the sponors. They paid the money and want a return on it. It’s totally understandable.

    Third, it’s for the hosting city. It gets some infrastructure left behind when the games is over. For the Beijing case, it is getting a new airport terminal, two great buildings in Bird’s nest and Watercube, some new subway lines, many others.

    Finally, it’s for the spectators in person and afar viewing via TV. Where do the foreign journalists fit in? Or where do foreign spectators fit in? It depends how they behave really.

    From his blog, Richard Spence of Daily Telegraph was obviously upset when he found out he does not fit in the picture very much. As a result, he became very condescending. It’s typical of someone who thought it’s to party and then found out he was not invited.

  2. Netizen Says:

    From his blog, Richard Spence of Daily Telegraph was obviously upset when he found out he does not fit in the picture very much. As a result, he became very condescending. It’s typical of someone who thought it’s Time to party and then found out he was not invited.

  3. Theo Says:

    Short version:

    Thin skinned Chinese take bat and ball and go home.

  4. FOARP Says:

    @Guys – I like this website because normally the posts reflect a desire to reach a conclusion based firmly in reality, one where cherished viewpoints have to make way for facts. This piece does not fit into that at all.

    I guess as a ‘fly’ and an ‘arsehole’ who just ‘shits over everything’, I should just shut my mouth, but here goes:

    1) Heroine Jin Jing might be, but the vast majority of atheletes carrying the torch in western countries were not Chinese. If you want an example of Chinese Olympian ‘fighting spirit’ try this – PRC officials grappling with child atheletes in Thailand who dared to display the ROC flag – real heros huh?

    2) Richard Spencer writes for the Daily Telegraph

    3) In what possible way, except in the view of someone with a bizarrely warped sense of priorities, could the burden of what westerners might think of China when they visit China be greater than that of tens of thousands of dead and hundreds of thousands of people made homeless?

    4) “Some Greek guy relieving another Greek guy of the globe” – ummm, come again? If you can’t be bothered to even research the name of a painting of Atlas why should any of us take what you have written seriously?

    5) “(allowing the flies to come in, along with some good stuff)” – a lovely sentiment, what do you mean by it?

    6) “I imagine that Hu and Wen had been lukewarm about the Olympics in particular and throwing parties to entertain foreigners in general all along.” – Any actual evidence to back this up? The Chinese government ended up spending more than 30 billion USD preparing for the Olympics, the vast majority of that planned for and spent during the current administration. As for Hu/Wen not likeing ‘parties for foreigners’, they’ve had their fair share, both in China and out of it.

    7) “After years of competing in a foreign land, in other people’s culture, using their language, playing their game, according to their rules, there was such a relief when getting back to the place and people that had made me and shaped me from day one.” – Wow, I guess you must have made a lot of friends with that attitude, want to tell us all why you live outside of China?

  5. Wahaha Says:

    Correct me if I m wrong, the points made in the article are:

    1) Two domestic disasters made Olympic “history’s dustbin”.

    2) Olympic is a party for the government and for westerners, not for Chinese. Therefore, the money spent on Olympic is a total waste.

    3) Chinese are brainwashed to embrace the coming party for government and westerners.

    4) “Looking at those images on a laptop in America, I smiled with relief and an inner peace,…” Will you specify what images you were looking at ?

  6. Luofengpo Says:

    Normally I refrain from posting on the blogs I read (I much prefer reading the words of those I deem better seasoned on the topics than myself), but I have to say that the attitude displayed in this piece was deeply upsetting to me, both as an American citizen and a Chinese immigrant. True, it would seem that the Western world has not of late, or perhaps even of recent decades had many positive things to say about China, and I understand the kind of feelings of resentment it can stir up. I myself was victim to this kind of gleeful retribution that’s been going around the past few years. But still, as Chinese living abroad we cannot afford to show this uglier side of us–sure, I, too, feel the sting of foreign reporters and citizens proverbially spitting on the torch relay, and the flagrant disrespect that shows for not only the people running it (to whom it is a great privilege and honor) but also for the sacred tradition of the Olympics and the kind of camaraderie it represents.

    But I find triumph in the graceful reception of such behavior–no lashing out is necessary, no gloating or backhand bragging at China’s achievements. Certainly China’s progress as a country should be measured by the refinement of its people, not through lauding their physical, tangible achievements.

    I’ve digressed a bit (hence why I usually don’t post) but–the Olympics did represent a learning process for China. It taught China (both the Party and the people) to grow into a member of the global community–despite any reluctances these “assholes” as you call them might have to accept it. The lesson is to move away from the kind of blind pomposity that was the tragic flaw and downfall of the dynasties. But it is, of course, possible for people to be given the opportunity to learn something, but fail to comprehend it properly. I believe, respectfully, that you need to revisit the lesson.

  7. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Foarp,

    Good to see you here. Two things first need to get out of the way. A. As you can see I am not here to seek your approval. B. Nobody has identified you as a fly or a-hole, except yourself. Self-depreciation is a virtue but easily over-indulged. Now to your insightful points.

    1. On the Chinese officials grappling with Thai Child athlete, that was wrong. However, was it relevant to the point I was making about our Jin Jing and Chinese fighting spirit? How can you justify a Western wrong on China’s Jin Jing with a Chinese wrong on the Thais child athlete?
    2. About Richard Spencer’s affiliation. Thanks for the correction. Apparently you had no problem understanding who I was referring to.
    3. “In what possible way, except in the view of someone with a bizarrely warped sense of priorities, could the burden of what westerners might think of China when they visit China be greater than that of tens of thousands of dead and hundreds of thousands of people made homeless?” Brilliant point. I think some people in the Chinese government (especially the previous administration, which was alienated from the Chinese population and divorced from the country’s realities) had led the country to the Olympics based on this warped sense of priorities. Now we are learning to get out of it (partly with the experience in the natural disasters) and I am glad we are doing that. At one point I felt the Olympics were our Iraq-light. But I have been overly pessimistic.
    4. About the two Greek guys, I am no expert on Art or Greek Mythology. Obviously you had no problem getting the point, verifying the efficiency and effectiveness of my communication.
    5. About the balance of fly and good stuff. I backtrack a little, a few flies and tons of good stuff. Remember this is not a scientific paper, but about sentiments and guts’ feeling, as you correctly pointed out.
    6. ““I imagine that Hu and Wen had been lukewarm about the Olympics in particular and throwing parties to entertain foreigners in general all along.” – Any actual evidence to back this up?” No is my answer, dear Foarp. I have no access to the Chinese authorities. But to anyone who cares to use his or her brain, that this pair’s toward the games and international relations diverge from the previous administration is as clear as the lines in his/her palm. Yeah, they spent money on the Games. That was what I meant by riding the tiger and could not get off (no exit plan). What do you expect them to do? Call off the games? Under-fund the event to make it an embarrassment?
    7. Why do I live overseas? Simple, to swim in the big pond, kick some asses, take some names and have a few drinks. Yes I have made quite a few close friends here in the United States (not a wide sample of the population though, all in the academia), but they cannot replace family and the folks back home.

  8. Buxi Says:

    @bianxiangbianqiao,

    Great first entry.

    I don’t really understand what stirred up FOARP (who is usually a very reasonable poster) … I can only say, FOARP, I hope you go back and re-read the post with an open mind. Even though the author used a few caustic terms, as he later explained, he didn’t suggest all Westerners (including you) were assholes… just some are. I can’t imagine you’d disagree with that description.

    And Luofengpo, welcome, thanks for your first entry. I don’t really think there was anything ugly in the original author’s post. Can you go back and revisit? I think his post was descriptive, without being an attack on anyone else’s position.

    I didn’t see any outrageous complaining here. I think this is a great summary of how Chinese society has evolved this year, and a good description of my own mind and thoughts. The insights about the Wen/Hu core being more conservative and self-focused than Jiang/Zhu is very interesting… I’ve never thought about that before, but I think it does reflect a difference between the 3rd and 4th generations.

    The hottest term of 2000-2001 was “meeting the rails” (接轨), as in connecting rail tracks between China and the rest of the world. When China was applying for the Olympics in Beijing in 2001, I remember Chinese society being constantly obsessed with how China would impress and interact with the West. We were entering into WTO, and that was a defining moment in Chinese history. Everyone went to bed wondering how China would compete or partner with outside companies.

    I still remember Beijing’s “Museum of the Revolution” had a wax display showing major historical figures from the 19th-20th century… all very typical in any capital in any country. But in the corner was the wax display of a white college student, looking on and (I guess) learning. Not typical, but very representative of the desperate need for foreign approval many Chinese felt at that time.

    I agree with the author. The strange series of events this year is really giving us a new direction to go forward on.

  9. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Luofengpo,

    I respect your world view and approach to people. I hope you have enough tolerance for my approach. Diversity and pluralism mean strength, as we have learned in the United States. There was a song from a Chinese Korean war movie I watched in my early childhood, with this lyric. “When friends come, we have good wine. When the wolves are at the door, greeting them will be the shotgun.” I am glad that China has such christian (not in the religious sense) representatives like you. At this stage of my personal development, I happen to enjoy playing with the shotgun.

  10. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Buxi,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I apologize for a few of the more graphic terms in the post. I blame it on my bad up-bring in a Beijing Hutong. I am working hard to improve myself everyday though. Give me some time.

  11. Netizen Says:

    Back to Richard Spencer of Daily Telegraph. I think he is one of more insightful foreign reporters in China. He was more reflective of Western rude tactics during Torch Relay. He is now the first one to detect the change of mind in Chinese officiadom and populace.

    China’s own citizens are in. Expats and foreign journalists are out. That’s a good first step.

  12. Buxi Says:

    I do feel some closure over the Olympics.

    I really couldn’t care less at this point how many gold medals China wins, and I don’t find myself caring too much whether foreigners enjoy Beijing. I still hope that they do, but not with any sense of real urgency. I’m not even that upset about Western media (including the recent hatchet job by the BBC, re: “weapons” in Darfur)

    I guess I’m reaching a point where it’s more clear than ever that China’s fate is completely in China’s hands. We’ll succeed if we do well, no one can stop us. We’ll fail if we do poorly, no one can save us.

  13. Wahaha Says:

    @Buxi,

    China’s fate is not completely in China’s hand, China needs technology, China needs a friendly global environment for her development, China need the understanding of people in West, we need their help. But at the same time, we have to keep the stability in China. The anti-sentient by western politicians and media has made it extremely hard ,and we are very possibly heading to a 2nd cold war.

  14. zuiweng Says:

    Apart from the fact that I can’t imagine getting worked up about a sporting event as much as bianxiangbianqiao xiong (and quite frankly detest all similar displays of organized mass hysteria), I found this to be a perfectly acceptable piece of opinion, very well expressed, except for some earthy language (animal/human metaphors can so easily go wrong). As for the strong emotional involvement with the OGs and the obsessive search for reasons to be outraged – I don’t see the point, but hey, if you’re doing it doing on your own time, fair enough.

    What intrigues me is the extreme importance attributed to individual *political personalities* and their quirks in matters of decision-making viz. the Olympics. Zhu and/or Jiang (on a whim) got on the tiger and now Wen and Jia and the entire Chinese nation cannot dismount? Hmmm….

    Anyway, have a nice party!

  15. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    The discussion of closure reminds me of a Japanese saying about Shintoism . “Each person has each person’s own Shinto.” I say, each person has each person’s own Olympics, his or her narratives about the event. However, as a public event, there is also a collective cultural view on the Olympics (and Shinto) that most members of the Chinese society buy into. People are narrators and story tellers about their lives and their positions in the world. The closure I referred to was the closure of a shared narrative about the Games among the Chinese population, first initiated and promoted by the Government (with their agenda), and then smashed into pieces by events in and out of China. This closure marks a developmental stage of the national psyche. What went into history’s dustbin was the old narrative of a “come out party”, “impressing the world” and “one world, one dream” sort of juvenile fantasies. It is replaced with a more realistic and reflective narrative with a more appropriate perspective, using China’s current stage of development, the citizens’ immediate and long-term needs (e.g., social security and medical care for the rural and poor) as the context, instead of using foreigners’ perception as the context.

  16. zuiweng Says:

    re.#14
    “Wen and Hu”, of course (and not “Wen and Jia”): Will some of you IT wizards here explain to me why I only ever see the typos after hitting the “Post”-button…

  17. jc Says:

    I think most of the people in the west that claims Chinese are brain washed is just plain naive because they do not have a clue of the situation on the ground. While the country as a whole is making great progress, there are still many problems, and most of them can not be solved overnight. It’s understandable, but still laughable that they believe they have a better idea to develop China. In reality, a lot of Chinese agrees with what the government does not because they are brain washed, but because they have seen/experienced the problems and they know what kind of challenges the government is facing.

    Another major difference is who the government’s policy benefits. The Chinese government has been steadily pursue a policies that benefit most people for the country —- with the cost, sometimes terrible cost of regional or small distinctive groups. Such cost is unavoidable. Should there is a way to take care of both sides, the government would have taken it. Since the choice has to be either or, once a choice is made, somebody gets hurt. But much much more benefit. Needless to say, people in the west neither feel nor appreciates such benefits.

    The Olympics is not just a symbol and a matter of pride, it also provides the government an enormous opportunity to improve a lot of things. Environment issues, public behaviors (not queuing, spitting, etc), service qualities, ect. It also give the country an enormous opportunity for it to see, experience and interact with the rest of the word, including the much more developed west, which is what Den have set to start and Chinese leaders after him pursues. All these benefit China much more than the so called “coming out party” termed by the west.

    The bottom line, China is making every effort it can, and is making great progress. But it will take a long time for it to get where the west is today.

  18. Wahaha Says:

    bianxiangbianqiao,

    Whatever you feel about what government promoted Olympic for, ordinary Chinese promoted Olympic for themselves, like people in South Korea loved every bit of Olympic in 1988 (the government then was an authoritarian and kills hundreds of students and people in 1980 uprising). People were not brainwashed to wait hours on the street to see torch.

    The anti-west-media movements and 5.12 earthquake have clearly used lot of energy and enthuaisam which shouldve been saved for Olympic. I dont know how you failed to see that. If you asked people in New Orlean after Katrina, see if they would be interest in the opening of NBA season, you would get the same sentiment.

  19. Buxi Says:

    @jc,

    The Olympics is not just a symbol and a matter of pride, it also provides the government an enormous opportunity to improve a lot of things. Environment issues, public behaviors (not queuing, spitting, etc), service qualities, ect.

    I remember the 50th anniversary of the founding of the PRC in 1999. Beijing also had a huge clean-up effort back then; they rushed to get roads finished, opened terminal 1 of the Beijing airport, planted flowers, new garbage cans, cleaned everything. Some people also complained about the costs, but I really think that event helped make Beijing a far better city.

    Maybe these events are like final exams… how you do on the exam isn’t the only point; hopefully, you’ll also learn something during the cramming process.

  20. FOARP Says:

    @Bianxiangbianqiao –

    1) I make no attempt to justify, only to point out that such things happen all the time, and are not special events in which only Chinese atheletes are assaulted, nor were the protests only directed at Chinese atheletes.

    2) If there was any international organisation which deserved a right-royal shaking-up it is the IOC, who’s arrogant officials have already began to spread their baleful influence over London. The central lanes of Mile End Road (where I lived up until last month) are going to be turned into a Soviet-style “Limousine Lane” solely for their use. Allegations of exchanging preference in venue selection for special treatment for IOC officials are rife, and London-folk wonder who it was exactly who voted for London to have the games inflicted on it. Believe me, I can well understand a wish to give the IOC the cold-shoulder, but what is all this stuff about the Olympics being ‘for foreigners’? Isn’t it in the CCP’s interests to use the Olympics as good PR both in China and outside of it? Isn’t this what so many have found so objectionable about these Olympics? Isn’t it the fact that these Olympics are not ‘for the world’ but ‘for the Chinese government’? Isn’t it in fact the entirely unhealthy fixation which some people in China have on the Olympics – with many young folk describing the day China was awarded the Olympics as ‘the best day of their lives’, and which the government has done much to encourage through advertising and ‘countdown clocks’ – isn’t it this that has been dispelled?

    3) So the answer to the question “do you have any evidence showing a difference in attitude about the purpose of the Olympics between Hu/Wen and the previous administration” is “no”.

    4) This piece seems to have been rather lazily written, with substantial grounding missing for many of the points you have made, and phrased in a way which is bound to offend “a lot” of people.

    @Buxi – I do hope that people aren’t going to simply go from the point of “caring” what foreigners think to “not caring” what foreigners think. Opinions which are reasoned and informed are always worth listening to. Yes, the previous government tried to play up its successes as good PR for its rule – perhaps in future people should be more circumspect, and not so quick to condemn cynicism as ‘anti-China’ and ‘arrogant’. The handover of Hong Kong, joining the WTO, putting Yang Liwei in space, the Olympics, the Shanghai Expo – none of these things will magically transform China and none of them deserves to have one young high-school or university student call them ‘the best day of my life’. All of them brought problems which should have been expected.

  21. Hemulen Says:

    Bianxiangbianqiao wrote:

    Is it so important to impress the foreigners, a lot of whom are as*h*les that just sh*t over everything?

    Oh well, now this blog has taken a real fenqing onboard, I wonder how long it will take until things will get really messy here. Unlike Buxi, who seems to enjoy living in the States and usually can control his temper, Bianxiangbianqiao apparently hates foreigners (i.e. non-Chinese) on sight and had to delete a lot of almost racist entries from his blog not long ago. Just to give you an idea, I checked around on the internet and found this, scroll down and discover the inner world of the new contributor to this blog:

    http://www.pekingduck.org/2007/12/china-daily-fair-and-balanced/

  22. Buxi Says:

    @Hemulen,

    I’ll give you the same reminder I gave Charles Liu, when he pulled up the history for Jana (of the Epoch Times). You can have whatever preconceived notions you want of anyone, but here, we discuss people on the basis of their current ideas and contributions… not what they may have said in the distant past on some distant blog.

    If you have a comment relevant to what BXBQ wrote, then let’s hear it. As far as calling some foreigners “assholes that shit over everything”, he’s already apologized for being “crude”… I don’t see hatred of foreigners here. But to put it mildly, he made a number of other far more interesting points than that value judgment of foreigners. Try picking one and addressing it.

    @FOARP,

    I do hope that people aren’t going to simply go from the point of “caring” what foreigners think to “not caring” what foreigners think. Opinions which are reasoned and informed are always worth listening to.

    I agree.

    But I think you you might not have perceived the past from our perspective. For years (decades), many Chinese have cared what foreigners thought simply because they happened to be foreigners. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a ridiculous way of viewing the world. Foreigners are human beings, just like the Chinese; some human beings are informed, others are not; some human beings are benevolent and lovable, and others are assholes who shit over everything.

    BXBQ isn’t making too much of an outrageous claim here. He’s not saying that we have to check passports before we care about your contribution… he’s just describing the obvious realization that the Chinese people are starting to understand, that your opinion is no more important than mine, that your policies are no important than ours.

    Let’s put it this way. We should treat a British expats opinions on Chinese policies the same way average Britons treat a recently arrived Chinese immigrants’ opinions on British policies. (And I don’t mean that in an insulting or confrontational way.)

  23. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – That is all I would ask, and saying so is not insulting or confrontational – if you have ever worked in a work place in the UK where foreign immigrants are found you will find much debate going on – and I have never seen anyone simply dismiss something said by an immigrant on the grounds that it came from an immigrant. In fact, anyone resident alien in the UK may vote in our elections, and you may turn on your television any day of the week to see what a journalist from the New York Times, La Stampa, or Der Spiegel thinks about matter in the news.

    The fear of ‘loosing face’ in front of foreigners is something a lot of foreigners in China find oppressive to both parties. Take this for example – one day in Fuzi Miao in Nanjing a British friend of mine was grabbed around the leg by a small child begging for money. Now, all of us are quite aware that it is fruitless to give money to such children as they won’t keep a penny of it – all the cash flows into the pockets of the gang masters, so he didn’t give any money. Despite this the kid held onto his leg and wouldn’t let go, and a crowd slowly gathered around him. My friend was scared that if he tried to shake he kid off he might be set on, so he stayed put until one of the people in the crowd stepped forward and shouted at the kid “don’t let our country lose face! Let go of the foreigner!” and the kid let go. Of course my friend was happy for the help, but the fact that, to the people in that crowd at least, the most objectionable thing about street beggars was that they might be seen by foreigners is a strange one.

  24. zuiweng Says:

    @Buxi (#22)
    „Let’s put it this way. We should treat a British expats opinions on Chinese policies the same way average Britons treat a recently arrived Chinese immigrants’ opinions on British policies. (And I don’t mean that in an insulting or confrontational way.)“

    Or this way:
    We should treat Overseas Chinese opinions on the policies of a couple of dozen states they’ve never been to and / or don’t know the languages and histories of the same way average Chinese treat a recently arrived US immigrants’ opinions on Chinese policies. (And I don’t mean that in an insulting or confrontational way.)

    Or:
    We should treat a 19yr old fenqing’s opinions on freedom of speech and the way western media work the same way average Chinese treat a well-dwelling frog’s opinions of the sky. (And I don’t mean that in an insulting or confrontational way.)

    Or just maybe:
    We should treat anybody’s opinions on Chinese policies the same way average readers treat other commenter’s opinions on British policies. Based on sound reasoning, reliable sources and mutual respect. (And I don’t mean that in an insulting or confrontational way.)

  25. DJ Says:

    zuiweng,

    Please tone it down a bit. Buxi was discussing issues in good faith, and was not picking on you. There is no need to inject such mockery into the discussion here.

  26. zuiweng Says:

    @DJ

    Your being offended about my variations on Buxi’s theme (it is sooo tempting to reel off a dozen more or so) goes to prove my point: Not matter what issue is discussed a given argument should be judged on the basis of sound reasoning, reliable sources and mutual respect. To do otherwise in an environment of anonymity and online identities of dubious stability is just futile. Words to that effect are all over this blog. By Buxi.

    So again: no offense taken and none intended.

  27. Jane Says:

    This piece examines an important turning point in China’s development: the maturation of the Chinese people’s view of themselves and of their position in this world. However, its us (Chinese) v. them (westerners) attitude really gets in the way of its substance.

    Chinese people’s anger towards western media’s coverage of Tibet, torch protests, etc. is understandable. I too, think many westerners have insufficient understanding of language, history, context and culture to make a fair and in depth assessment of some China related issues.

    However, when it comes to the Olympics and the need to show off to foreigners, the Chinese have no one to blame but themselves. To me, this need to show off is one of the major flaws of Chinese culture (just look at some of those nouveau riche Chinese!). Given that this post really examines a problem caused by Chinese themselves, why do I sense so much pent up anger against westerners?

    There are occasions where anger is justified, even the usage of four letter words, but this is not one of them and by letting it slip through, it only obscures the real substance of this entry and the credibility of its writer.

  28. DJ Says:

    zuiweng,

    I wasn’t offended by your language. It’s just that your purposely mimicking style is clearly intended to mock. I just found it not exactly helpful, for your argument or your standing among the participants on this site.

    Buxi has written for this blog and debated in the comments voluminously. I hope you don’t mind that I borrow your words “sound reasoning, reliable sources and mutual respect” in describing his style throughout.

    By the way, I am not sure if you are aware of this: FOARP is an ex-ex-pat and current London resident; Buxi was specifically responding to FOARP and constructed the analogy and the disclaimer accordingly.

  29. Hemulen Says:

    @Buxi

    Point taken, but based on what I know about Bianxiangbiaoqiao and his post I’ll probably let this one pass for the time being.

    For years (decades), many Chinese have cared what foreigners thought simply because they happened to be foreigners. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a ridiculous way of viewing the world. Foreigners are human beings, just like the Chinese; some human beings are informed, others are not; some human beings are benevolent and lovable, and others are assholes who shit over everything.

    Well, that depends. I just read a quote by Lu Xun where he claims that Chinese cannot treat foreigners as equals, they can only look up to them or look down on them. This may be exaggerated, but there is an element of truth in it and it seems to me that the pendulum has swung from one end to the other the last couple of years. As a foreigner, you’ll have to learn to duck, or you’ll get hit by the pendulum.

    Jane wrote:

    Given that this post really examines a problem caused by Chinese themselves, why do I sense so much pent up anger against westerners?

    I think you are right on target here, I’ve never been able to figure that one out.

  30. Wahaha Says:

    @Jane

    “Given that this post really examines a problem caused by Chinese themselves, why do I sense so much pent up anger against westerners?”

    Just like some westerners still compare the current CCP to what it was 50 years, all their knowledge about China is from their media; Chinese know westerners from chinese and west media, which gave them the bad impression. You cant ask Chinese being friendly to some people who try to divide China.

  31. FOARP Says:

    @Hemulen – Didn’t Tacitus say the same thing about the Germans? As for the ‘anger’, I always thought it was far more a sense of being ‘wronged’ by history.

    @Wahaha – The people who caused the biggest division of China that it suffered in the last three hundred years are today worshipped as national heroes.

  32. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Folks, thanks for all the constructive criticism; it will help me improve and make myself a better person. I still have hope for myself.

    I am not racist, nor do I hate non-Chinese. The number of non-Chinese (more specifically, Americans) I talk to in a week in a jolly, loving and respectful manner surpasses many people’s experience with out-group members over a life time. I am not angry either (cool as a cucumber). It hurts to get misunderstood. I am easily drawn into a heated discussion, even when the topic is a hot button. I am passionate about ideas. Sometimes you find people who cannot take the heat and wonder why they stick around in the kitchen.

    I have never been a fan of having the Olympics in Beijing. The problem with hosting the Olympics has nothing to do with the Chinese showiness. The games are not about showing off, but engaging the attendants representing different groups in an interaction. Human interactions can be dysfunctional, depending on the match between the actors, the nature of the interaction and how much space is allowed between them etc. China hosting the Olympics is like my grandma throwing a Frat party in a small room for a bunch of American undergrads with my entire family around. She is bound to be a dysfunctional hostess and make everyone miserable. China needs to engage the world, not return to isolation. The venues of engagement need to be carefully chosen. Engaging people in the wrong situation brings out the bad stuff from everyone involved. The point of my post is a positive one. Although the Chinese Olympic engagement with the West has been a disaster so far, but we discovered each other, thanks to the hostility from outside that forced us to seek each out other and stick together. The sense of communion in affirming a common identity is an immensely rewarding experience. The Chinese solidarity in responding to the earth quake is an extension of the same storyline.

  33. Li Qiang Says:

    BXBQ very sensibily grasped the turning point of Chinese mentality – to which I applaud – but not quite right. His argument was structured only in the context of confrontation between China and the West – being brought up in Beijing Huton, how come he forgot the brothers and sisters from the Third World? Surely he thought Olympics belong to Chinese and Westerners only? Will not those black and brown boys and girls appreciate the greatness of the Bird’s Nestle? When they are marching into the stadium, will not they receive the loudest applaud of Chinese audience?

    It is in this broader golbal perspective China will find its right position in the World. Just think of this – on the VIP stand of the Bird’s Nestle we will see Bush and Sarkozy standing alongside Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-il, and YES (!) Castrol, under the watching of the people all over the world! Has any other country ever been able to bring such a range of enemies and friends together, at one most glamours moment? And why the legendary Castrol, the only survival of the world leader in the last century, who has been absent from public life for years, decided to come to China on this occasion?

    Olympic is not going to be thrown into dust bin. Its torch will glorify Chinese status as the Central Kingdom in the new century. Now let’s forget those self-important westerners, and embrace the world.

  34. JL Says:

    Interesting article, I particularly like the discussion of changes in the leadership’s attitude.

    My two comments are: firstly, I think sentences like this are a bit tasteless: “Is it so important to impress the foreigners, a lot of whom are as*h*les that just sh*t over everything?”
    If your aim is to engage with Western people, to educate them about China, I think insulting them is a bad way to start. I know you say “a lot” not “all”, but what’s the point of saying it all? I won’t encourage any foreigners to engage in a friendly, open-minded way with you.

    Secondly, @ Netizen:
    You might think foreign TV audiences are less important than the domestic audience, but I think the sponsors probably feel differently (and they’re number two on your list). In large modern sporting events, TV audiences count far more than local / live audiences in the decision making processes surrounding the staging of the event. If all Western people truely were committed flag-waving free-Tibeters, who refused to turn on their TVs in order to boycott China, then the Olympics and their sponsors would be in a lot of trouble. But actually they aren’t; and most people in the West don’t care too much about Tibet (despite what you might think).

  35. Joel Says:

    bianxiangbianqiao., thanks for this post.

    For those of us foreigners who are really trying to understand China’s people and culture, etc., this kind of writing is really helpful.

  36. JL Says:

    sorry minor typo which changes the meaning of what I meant to write:

    not “I won’t encourage…”

    but “IT won’t encourage…”

  37. BMY Says:

    Thanks, bianxiangbianqiao.

    Regarding the link Hemulen brought up, it’s good for me to see a site on which insulting from one side is banned and from the other side is tolerated every time and anyone doesn’t agree with the blogger and his mates would get a labelled and name called.. I just happened to click the link and read few posts on that site and the language and attitude especially from one side are just out of my taste. Sorry for out of topic.

    I agree many Chinese people including myself have learned lessons in the past few months. There was too much expectation assumed would come from the west. Now many are more immunized of protesting, criticizing which is a good thing.

    Personally, I never liked the idea of Beijing Olympic and the same time I am proud of it after Beijing won the hosting. (you can see the conflicts in my mind and heart) It’s just too much waste of money. The money can be spent on more better schools in rural China which I think would do better for China if we want to impress some one or what to change some bad habits or want to become a real sports country. China has invested too much on few athletes and medals which I think should be redistributed more towards everyone sports .(I am not here calling for abandoning of participating world sports. I am saying a bit of adjustment of the balance). I am sure someone might bring up a fancy sports hall in a fancy school in shanghai to prove I am wrong. Shanghai is not a average place in China.

    To show off whatever the glory and process have been achieved via Olympic is nonsense regardless how much has been achieved. To use Olympic as a chance to upgrade infrastructure and habits is too much expense. Expect to interact much with other people via a few days big party is also too costy and unrealistic for the size of China.

    But The Olympic is coming and I would still be cheering in front of my TV and also have prepared to see some protests or even violence .

  38. BMY Says:

    come on , FOARP.

    the facts of “the people who caused the biggest division of China that it suffered in the last three hundred years are today worshipped as national heroes” dose not wash off the other facts that there were people and there are people out side of the shrine trying to divide or destroy China. I think you knew wahaha was talking about the second facts. There might be also no need to immediately bring up a wrong doing Chinaman after some one bring up a heroic China(wo)man .

  39. FOARP Says:

    @Li Qiang – “Olympic is not going to be thrown into dust bin. Its torch will glorify Chinese status as the Central Kingdom in the new century. Now let’s forget those self-important westerners, and embrace the world.”

    I thought the whole ‘China is the leader of the third world’ thing was dropped back in the late seventies – or is that just me being ‘self-important’?

    @BMY – Though there may be some people out there plotting to ‘split China’, most of them can be found in India, Nepal, and the nations of Central Asia, the only ones to have ‘successfully split China’ are those who ruled it. My point in bringing up the ROC flag incident was simply to give perspective.

  40. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    Li Qiang,

    Good point. My perspective is limited by my experiences. How can we forget the less-developed countries? Somehow they seldom enter my mind when I think about China and its relation with the world.

    In reality China is calibrating its position in the world not only against the West, but also against Africa and other less developed regions. China has received plenty of criticism (neo-colonialism etc.) for its dealings with Africa.

    However, the Olympics have nothing to do with citizens of impoverished countries. They have other urgent needs. It is the wrong venue to engage poor countries. The Olympics are a rich people’s party, their display of vanity and pursuit for fun and status. It is dawning on the Chinese that the Olympics are not their party, that it is ill-conceived for China to throw this party in the first place. China is trying to join the wrong crowd. The games will go on but the spirit is gone from the Chinese. They will go through the all movements like robots without the genuine emotional investment of 2001 or 2007. It is the games’ psychological significance to the hosting people that has gone to history’s dustbin. This development is a good thing. It liberates the Chinese from a fabricated significance, a delusion.

  41. Wukailong Says:

    Li Qiang: Wait a minute… Surely Kim Jong-il isn’t coming? It would be great if he did, but I just find it hard to believe. If he does, then I hope they show him alongside with Hu Jintao and Bush. That would be one of the greatest moments of my life! 🙂

  42. bianxiangbianqiao Says:

    JL

    “….sentences like this are a bit tasteless: “Is it so important to impress the foreigners, a lot of whom are as*h*les that just sh*t over everything?””

    I understand your concern. The reference to the end of the mammalian digestive track is a crude way of conversation. But context is crucial in all conversations.

    I borrowed this expression from the American animated movie “Team America – World Police”. “There are three types of people in the world….” Then three organs were listed, one digestive and two reproductive, and the personality they each symbolizes explained. Watching this part of the movie I was so impressed by this piece of American wisdom that I almost fell off the couch. It is so crude and offensive that you don’t want to face it, but so penetrating that you cannot escape from it, like all truths. It is simplistic but the simplicity enhances its depth. This is the soul of American social intelligence.

    I apologize for using vulgar and crude terms without thoughtful deliberation. I used them not out of malicious intents, but out of sincerity and self-revelation, which is essential to promoting mutual understanding, especially across different cultures. Now I realize that I need to be more sensitive to other people’s perspectives and stop relying on my assumptions.

  43. Buxi Says:

    @BXBQ,

    However, the Olympics have nothing to do with citizens of impoverished countries. They have other urgent needs. It is the wrong venue to engage poor countries.

    I don’t fully agree on this point.

    I thought some of the most exciting, touching, and luckily controversy-free pictures from the Olympic torch relay came from Buenos Ares and Tanzania. In Tanzania in particular, pictures of people running along flooded streets just to follow the torch… I thought that was a great moment for the Olympic spirit.

    At the Olympic village in 2 weeks, there will be plenty of non-Western and non-Chinese athletes. In my opinion their participation, regardless of how many medals they win, is very meaningful for the Beijing Olympics.

  44. Chops Says:

    Interesting point #43 “there will be plenty of non-Western and non-Chinese athletes. In my opinion their participation, regardless of how many medals they win, is very meaningful for the Beijing Olympics.”

    They are the ones that truly follow the Olympic Creed
    “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

  45. Li Qiang Says:

    BXBQ:
    I agree with Buxi that the third world do not fare best in terms of medals, but Olympics are not only medals -there are some higher values to be presented in particular by the ESSENTIAL participation of the third world, without whom Olympics would lose its moral appeals. Beyond that, you like it or not, no one can deny that Olympics always turn to be a forum of political struggle when they come to bigger countries, be it US, USSR, or China, although less so for smaller ones such as Greece, Spain or Australia.

    In this sense the third world is not only participants, but a powerful political and diplomatic force. On the stage of Bird’s Nest, the standing side-by-side of the leaders from every corner of the globe – no such a scene was seen before – will endorse China’s unique role as a bridge between the West and the rest of the world using her big leverage in international politics, which is of course underpined by China’s forthcoming superpower (We’ve seen how the West has to rely on China on North Korea and Sudan; China reach will go afield to Middle East and Central Asia). China shakes one hand with the West for technology and another with the third world for raw materials. There Hu JinTao will present the map of world in the 21st Century to an audience of 4 billion. Now we can see why China has been so keen to have world leaders to come – and they are all obliged to come – welcome, Sarko!

    Depite the expense of Olympics, the fact that so many countries still bid for them means they are worth it. At least we’ve seen how Olympics have generated so tremendous a political wealth for China, in particular for the CCP(what a gift to them by the West!). The long term consequces will remain to be seen. The fuss made by the West so far just sounded like a distrubing noise in the prelude of a grand harmonious symphony.

    To Foarp:

    The recent development suggests China is re-taking a leading role for the third world – look at UN, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, G5 in G8 summit, Doha negotiation of the WTO… As for my point on self-importance of the West, a good example is the defeat of US and UK by Chinese/Russian veto on Zimbabwe, let alone the rhetorics of boycotting of Beijing Games, and dont’ forget Iraq and credit crunch!

    To Wu Kailong:

    Even if Kim Jong-il does not turn up to greet Bush, would Ahmadinejad not blow him to the Moon?

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