As I was skipping through my various feeds this morning, I came across the following quote from Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC:
Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said the Games would "help the world to understand China, and it will also help China to understand the world."
I think we need to send a team into the IOC’s fantasy world and extract them, because they’ve clearly (and totally) misunderstood the situation.
I have two fundamental issues with that quote:
- The world will not understand China
- China has no interest in understanding the world
Why won’t the world understand China? Because the world doesn’t want to. China is the world’s (current) longest-standing culture. Over 5,000 years of history … a lot of it engaged in conflicts. Not so much war with others, but mostly with themselves. That’s 5,000 years of political instability, dictatorships (the Emperors weren’t exactly the nicest of people), insurrections, and various foreign invasions (Mongols, British, and Japanese, to name but a few).
In a country with 1.3 billion people (70% of whom are rural farmers) and a very long history of political upheaval, you can’t really blame the so-called Communist Party (by textbook definition, China isn’t communist, nor has there ever been a truly communist government) for being so strong-armed. It could be even viewed (on an optimistic level) that this is more about ensuring the stability of China as a nation than it is about political power.
If you were being optimistic. I could go pessimistic, but that’s another post…
Here’s the problem, though: The world wishes to impose its political views on China. The world wants China to be democratic. The world wants China to end its human rights abuses. The world wants China to change. This isn’t an act of understanding. This is the world pointing it’s finger at China.
China, on the other hand, is sort of like a bull. It’s a big, heavy animal that pretty much does what it wants, when it wants. Everyone needs that bull for various things (bulls are handy things to have on the global ranch), but if you ask that bull to do something it doesn’t want to do, it’s not going to do it. It doesn’t need to, and it’s quite content to stay the way it is.
More importantly, China doesn’t want to take direction from outsiders. It has its own view of what it needs to survive, and the views of the rest of the world don’t really matter. Why? Because even with everything “bad” that China does, everyone still buys “Made In China” because it’s cheaper than buying it elsewhere. The money keeps coming, so China has no need to change. (Ain’t greed grand?)
Hence, there is no need for China to understand the world. Ergo, it won’t.
So, a note to the IOC: I dunno where the heck you people have been for the last decade, but you really shouldn’t be surprised with the situation you’re walking into. China is effectively third-world in terms of its industrialisation, political system, environmental controls, and judicial process. Their economy makes them damn near the most powerful country on Earth (they own a seriously large chunk of the United States’ debt). Hence all the pollution, lack of access to free information, and all their reasons to crack down on perceived freedoms.
Expect protests and expect problems. The Olympics in Beijing have only just started, but you should expect that you’ll be hearing about these for years to come.
(Incidentally, if my blog isn’t already blocked in China, this should pretty much prevent it from ever being seen there. Oh well.)