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September 3, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright September 3, 2008. Used by permission.


When the media spotlight shifted instantaneously from Beijing to Denver last week, it was easy to focus on things that the Olympics and the Democratic Convention had in common as spectacles, especially since each ended with a big party in a stadium where rock music played and fireworks exploded. But if there’s a real American sequel to the Beijing Games, it’s the Republican Convention underway in St. Paul.

It’s true that in Denver one big story involved long-term rivals working together to achieve a new goal. This is definitely an Olympian theme in the era of “Dream Teams” made up of members of competing NBA squads.

Beijing-Denver similarities pale, however, when placed beside the deeper links between China’s first Olympics and the latest GOP Convention. Consider these:

The Role of Natural Disasters. The Olympics themselves went ahead as scheduled, but China’s leaders had to alter some features of the torch run due to the massive Sichuan earthquake, so as not to seem inappropriately celebratory at a tragic moment. This brings to mind the last minute alterations to the St. Paul schedule inspired by the hurricane.

Historical Revisionism. For those familiar with China’s modern history, it was deeply ironic to see leaders of the once fiercely anti-Confucian Communist Party look on approvingly as Confucius was quoted and honored during the opening ceremonies. But we’re now seeing something just as drenched in irony: the GOP presenting itself as the party that stands for women’s rights.