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April 10, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright April 10, 2008. Used by permission.


Let’s pretend that, twelve months ago, someone had put me in a room with 20 or so other China specialists, handed us each four slips of paper, and asked us to write on each piece a story with a Chinese theme that we predicted would make headlines in 2008, the year when the Beijing Olympics will start on August 8. It’s quite possible that the following would have happened:

1) One or more of us would have written that a headline-grabbing protest would break out. And going into more detail, some of those who made that forecast would have added this detail—that the authorities, unusually concerned with global public relations in China’s Olympic year, would respond less quickly and less harshly to this oppositional act than they would have at another point in time, though in the end repression would come.

2) Other slips of paper would have forecast that an individual foreigner or group of foreigners would disrupt an Olympic ceremony in an effort to draw attention to a human rights issue. (That would probably have been something I would have written down myself.)

3) Some of us would have predicted that, at some point during the year, the Chinese blogosphere would be filled with complaints that the Western media had been biased in its coverage of an event involving China.

4) At least one or two of us would have speculated that plans would be discussed about the wisdom of handling things differently in upcoming Olympics, due to things that had occurred during the 2008 ones.