歧義

2008/08/08

Games offer insight into nation’s past and future

Filed under: Bless,Hong Kong,News — pinksealife @ 13:52
As the world turns its spotlight on the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it is not just the nation’s ability to stage a successful Games that is being put to the test. The events of the next 16 days will also have a lasting impact on the way in which the world views China.

EDT16, SCMP, 2008-08-08

Two views of these Games have persisted since the International Olympic Committee’s controversial decision to award them to Beijing in 2001. The first is that this will be China’s coming-out party – a celebration of the country’s emergence on the global arena after 30 years of economic reforms. The second is that the Games will act as a catalyst for change within China. Both concepts need to be re-examined now that the Games is upon us. The well-worn coming-out party label does not adequately describe the deep meaning of these Olympics to China and the Chinese people. The event must be viewed in the wider context of the turmoil and humiliations the country suffered over a century before the opening-up process began. The invasion by foreign powers and the granting of territorial concessions in the 19th and early 20th centuries earned China the derogative title the sick man of Asia. Then, the years of civil war, the Japanese invasion, and – after the Communist Party came to power – the Cultural Revolution, all took their toll.

BRIGHTER CHAPTER

It was not until 1978 that a new, brighter chapter began with the open-door policy. Economic reforms brought dramatic growth and greater prosperity. This and increasingly active engagement with the rest of the world has seen China emerge as a power.

The country’s long and difficult modernisation process has not, however, been marked by any international event comparable to the Olympics. This is why the hosting of the premier sporting event, with all the interest it attracts, is such a landmark for the nation. Seen in its historical perspective, staging the Beijing Games is understandably viewed by the Chinese people as a source of great national pride, one that symbolises the moving on from dark periods in the country’s history and the casting off of past humiliations.

But the Games have also shone a spotlight on areas in which the nation is much in need of improvement. It has been used by some as a rallying point for calls to better the country’s human rights record, usher in democratic reform and bring about changes to the government’s policies in regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang . There was a time when differences between Beijing and its critics over these issues threatened to spoil the Games. Thankfully, the tensions have since eased.

SHARP DIFFERENCES

Yet, the sharp differences between Beijing and its critics remain. This week, for example, foreign protesters were arrested for staging a pro-Tibet demonstration. Last week, the authorities rightly came under fire for failing to provide foreign journalists completely free access to the internet. The run-up to the Olympics has also seen crackdowns on dissent and a tightening of visa restrictions. While there are genuine concerns about terrorism and attempts to disrupt the Games, the crackdowns have not served China’s international image well.

The question of whether the Olympics will act as a catalyst for change in the nation is, therefore, one that remains relevant. President Hu Jintao seemed to recognise this when, in his recent remarks to foreign journalists, he pledged that political and economic reforms would be put in place once the Olympics were over. But any changes brought about by the Beijing Games are unlikely to be quick or dramatic. The nation faces tough challenges in handling its diversity. There will be no compromise on China’s territorial integrity in regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang. But tolerance and understanding of different cultural values needs to be shown, while ensuring that people have a stable environment in which to build better lives. How such diversity is managed is the test of truly great nations and progress must be made.

PLACE FOR DISSENT

There is a place for dissent in every society. Different opinions must be respected and tolerated. It does not matter whether such opinions are regarded as having merit or whether they conform to the government position. Solutions to the country’s problems will be easier to find if a frank exchange of views and a free flow of information is permitted. As for political reform, it is unrealistic to expect a rapid transition to western-style democracy. China has forged its own path with economic reforms that have proved to be successful. There is clearly a need to give people more of a voice on how the nation should be run and a better way of resolving disputes. This will be achieved gradually, in line with China’s cultural and political traditions. But it should be recognised that it is in the nation’s interests to give people greater freedom in which to fulfil their potential.

The ideological differences that exist between China and the west will not disappear after the Olympics. But it is to be hoped that the Games offer an opportunity for the west to gain greater insight into the complex reality of China today and bring about better understanding on both sides. Copyright (c) 2008. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

As a privileged part of China, have we ever let go a bit of what we have been endowed with in the past?

What’s the implication of this when the mainstream voice screaming for a more advanced China with humanity and civilisation?

It’s hard when it touch your piece of cake.

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