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Friday, September 22, 2023

China flexes its muscles on eve of Olympic Games

By Ben Lee WashSpecial to CSMS MagazineOn the eve of the highly expected opening of the Olympic Games, China makes it clear to the world that it is ready to stage one of the greatest Olympics ever, despite some last minutes controversies surrounding its human rights record—a hotly debated topic that continues to hang over the final days of preparations for the opening ceremony. Yesterday, some 4 western human right activists had to be dragged out of Tiananmen Square and led away by police as they were trying to stage an impromptu protest.    Late last night, a video circulated on You Tube showcasing the latest crackdown in Tibet. To top it all, George Bush, in a speech in Thailand ahead of his trip toChina where he will attend the opening ceremonies, outlined America’s achievements and challenges in Asia. Bush, in a speech full of hypocrisy, urgedChina to respect human rights but he was quickly forced to polish his words by recognizingChina’s success as an ever-growing industrial power in Asia.     The Chinese leadership was reportedly furious at a time the country is poised to show the world its true industrial muscles. Bush was quoted to say that “I wasn’t trying to antagonize China, but [I] called such reform the only path to reach full potential.” However, the Chinese are far from taking Bush’s explanation as an apology, and all eyes are on an interesting reception to be held just before Bush attends the opening ceremonies Friday evening and meets with President Hu Jintao on Sunday after he attends church.     But as the party drags on ahead of the highly anticipated grandiose fête, tangible issues like freedom of the press, free assembly, labor rights in China, and detentions of political dissidents are totally eclipsed for the time being. Beijing has overnight become a wonderland, a dazzling place crafted by the best and brightest of the country’s architects and sophisticated European engineers, who put tighter the Olympic village and the gigantic Olympic stadium built by Swiss engineers.    The party last night moved to high gear when the Chinese female soccer team beat Sweden 2-1. The soccer tournament has already started. As the world’s best athletes poured into Beijing and the Olympic flame swept through the Great Wall, China hopes to shift global attention on to what they promised would be “a spectacular celebration of sport.” “We have prepared for the Beijing Olympics for seven years and now we are ready… we are very confident indeed that we will stage a successful Olympics,” organizing committee spokesman Sun Weide told AFP. And then he went on to say that “of course we hope that these will be great Games, even the greatest.”     World watchers believe it is the best of time for China, which clearly seizes the moment to show the world how far it has come since the revolution swept to power in 1949, and specifically the last three decades of a never-seen-before economic development. The Olympics offer a promise of becoming an historic moment showing China’s social as well as economic transformation.     China is today the world’s fastest growing economy with a huge potential of becoming the next world’s greatest super power. The country’s industrial heartland is as sophisticated and as wealthy as any European or North American heartland, and the nouveaux riches are not ashamed to display their newfound wealth that came about as a result of an ever-growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots in a “revolution” that was created precisely to bridge the rapidly widening gap. Today, China is Marxist in name only. The capitalist roaders have clearly gained the upper hand.    What China is poised to display tomorrow is reminiscent to the 1964 Games for Japan and the 1988 event for South Korea. “China is a nation in transition, with a great future, tremendous potential and some challenges,” International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said after arriving in Beijing. “I believe history will view the 2008 Olympics as a significant milestone inChina’s remarkable transformation,” he added.    Certainly, the glamorized party will not come without a price—the price that more than 100,000 Chinese citizens had to pay to make way for new constructions. Blocks after blocks of houses were flattened despite great opposition from human right activists and the Chinese citizens themselves, who lost everything—their neighborhoods, their livelihood, their attachment to a place they loved so dearly and that will, from now on, only live in their memories.    To make sure that all voices of dissent are suppressed, a highly police presence has been put around the major hot spots. Ground-to-ground missiles have been deployed around the Olympic village to keep at bay all possible unwanted intruders.    All seems ready for the party to begin. Alors cavaliers, prenez vos dames!Also see Russia and China: In tandem in an anti-US missile shield summitRussia’s new era?Vladimir Putin solidifies his hold on power in RussiaRussia’s new interest in Southeast AsiaRussia and China in a strategic alliance to counter NATO’s global ambitionsNoteBen Lee Wash lives in Hong Kong. He wrote this piece specifically for CSMS Magazine.

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