China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


Document Type



August 29, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright August 29, 2008 James Farrer. Used by permission.


Mo Bangfu, a Chinese columnist writing for the liberal Asahi Shimbun, used his weekly column the day before the closing ceremonies to award the Beijing Olympics a symbolic “silver medal” for its overall organization (Aug. 23, 2008, p. B3). Despite accusations of fakery, the opening ceremonies and the Olympic volunteers both deserve “gold medals,” as do the ordinary Beijing residents and migrant workers who had to put up with massive everyday inconveniences.

The government, however, deserves a “disqualification” for not allowing any demonstrations in the designated demonstration areas, for restricting the access of normal citizens to the Olympic venues, and also “poor marks” for the large numbers of empty seats at events. As a whole, Mo suggests, the Beijing Olympics deserve a “silver medal,” perhaps summing up the generally positive appraisal of some of the more liberal media voices in Japan. Conservative papers, however, gave the Beijing Olympics much lower marks.

Seeing the Olympics as a watershed event, Japanese commentators have speculated about a “post-Olympic” China, and their prognoses are generally darker than the more optimistic views in the U.S. media. Influenced by Japan’s own postwar experience, columnists ask whether the Beijing Olympics will serve the purpose of integrating China into global society, in the same way achieved by the former Axis powers in the postwar Rome, Tokyo, and Munich Olympics, and later by Seoul in 1988. Most answer negatively. Despite a consensus “silver medal” for a brilliant (if somewhat flawed) show, the Olympics were regarded as a political failure by most Japanese commentators, at least when judged by democratic norms. More darkly, some conservative papers suggest, the Olympics should be seen as a great “success” for the legitimacy of authoritarian rule in China.