Date of this Version
February 25, 2008 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
Living in Beijing as I do, it’s not uncommon to be asked about my feelings on the Olympics. Chinese friends, family, colleagues, and even complete and total strangers (for reasons passing understanding) seem interested in hearing my opinion.
But I’ve learned the hard way that my perspective per se is not what is actually being sought, but rather confirmation of what The People’s Daily and CCTV assure all Chinese is the only possible correct answer: Yes, the Olympics are going to be a huge success and will demonstrate to the world that China is becoming a modern, developed nation. Deviations from that line are not always received well and sometimes elicit outright hostility, which leaves me to wonder: Why is that? Why does concern about the Olympics, criticism of Chinese government policies, or even a news story about the effect of air pollution on athletes, provoke such a visceral response from many Chinese?
Obviously no one set of reasons can cover the gamut of reactions, everybody perceives issues in different ways, but in perusing the comments section of China blogs and the threads on Chinese BBSs, I sense three main themes: the close integration of state/nation/party in both PRC ideology and the minds of the Chinese people; genuine pride at China’s rise in the world and a belief that many countries in “the West” seek to undermine China’s development to satisfy their own selfish strategic goals; and finally, a barely smoldering resentment born out of a history of foreign imperialism in China.