|China's porcelain facade
By Mark Alexander
Having just returned from Beijing, where I was the guest with a corporate association, it was a bit disconcerting to watch NBC's glossy coverage of the Olympic games, and China in general, and to endure the echo NBC's coverage is receiving through other media outlets. The network dared not venture off the reservation, and its coverage offered no observation on the obfuscation outside the Olympic village.
Of course, it's the Year of the Rat.
While in China, I enjoyed major Olympic venues, but I was far more impressed by meetings with several Chinese leaders of underground Christian movements, Chinese entrepreneurs, and other Chinese reformers.
Suffice it to say, I found China to mirror what I anticipated: A great people enslaved under the rule of the tyrannical Red Chinese government—1.329 billion people, in fact, who share none of the rights outlined in our Constitution, which most Americans take for granted.
One evening, I was visiting with a former leader of the protests at Tiananmen. We stood above the street in the exact location where video footage of one fearless student protestor confronting a column of tanks was recorded. (He disappeared that bloody night, never to be heard from again.)
In the square, celebrating the "new face of China," stood a very large topiary sculpture of the "running man" icon, symbol of the Beijing Olympics. The irony of this blood-red figure running through Tiananmen Square did not go unnoticed.
Across the square from our location looms another great irony: a 25-foot portrait of Mao Zedong overlooking Tiananmen hangs above the entrance to the Imperial (Forbidden) City, an incredible treasure of structures dating from the 14th century Yuan and Ming dynasties.
Mao was the infamous leader of China's Communist Party from 1945 until his death in 1976. He presided over the deaths of at least 30 million Chinese during his "great leap forward" to centralize China's agricultural production. He also presided over the almost complete eradication of China's cultural and intellectual advances during the "Cultural Revolution" of the 1960s, when his Red Guard murdered more than a million Chinese academic and cultural leaders, and exiled the rest to communal farms.
The blatant irony of Mao's portrait above Tiananmen is that, if not for the objections of other Communist Party leaders during his Cultural Revolution, Mao's Red Guard would have leveled the Imperial City. No small irony also that the entrance under his portrait leads to "The Gate of Heavenly Peace." Not in 1989... Chironic one might say?
Mao may be dead, but he is not gone. His iconic image is ubiquitous in both urban and rural China, even appearing on the face of every denomination of Chinese currency. The Russian people tore down statues of V.I. Lenin soon after the collapse of the Soviet empire. The prevalence of Mao's image is a good indication that the Red Chinese government is still alive and well, despite reports of its imminent demise.
For the 2008 Olympics, China put on its best face, rather like a movie set. Beijing's new airport is among the world's finest. Every main Olympic thoroughfare was newly paved, signed, landscaped and lighted. Even the primary rural routes outside the city had makeovers, with fresh paint and greenery covering 100 feet on either side of those roads. Beyond that makeup, however, was the dirt and dilapidation that makes up most of China's rural areas.
In Beijing, amid the very real modern architecture, there is a modern marvel of an office building which occupies an entire city block. Upon closer inspection, however, it is actually nothing more than a very large frame covered by enormous sheets of vinyl on which had been printed features that might be on a modern building. From major thoroughfares, that building blocks a sea of dilapidated Soviet-era apartment buildings. The vinyl screen even featured two businessmen looking out a window, perhaps speculating on whether the wind would blow them away.
The new Olympic structures were certainly impressive, though few of the 250,000 people who were ejected from Soviet-era block housing that formerly blighted the Olympic green were adequately compensated. Indeed, many of them did not receive alternate housing.
Despite the fact that all construction and many businesses were forcibly shut down for the Olympics, and only autos with license plates ending in even numbers could travel on even days, and odd numbers on odd days, one thing Beijing could not cover up was the oppressive smog.
Of course, they tried.
In the days ahead of the Opening Ceremony, the Chinese government launched "rain rockets" to seed the clouds and pre-empt any precipitation. (I suspect they seeded with "free radicals" from Tibet.) But while there was no rain on the opening parade, the choking smog was still in the air.
There was also no rain on the route of the Olympic torchbearers. Nor were there any protestors. Perhaps that was due to the fact that armored personnel carriers full of Red Guard regulars were blocking every intersection and lining the entire route.
The Red Chinese government also created numerous other environmental effects. Consequently, the ceremony became a metaphor for the whole fraudulent facade that hides China's Communist government under the strong arm of "Dear Leader" president Hu Jintao.
For example, only one of the 29 spectacular firework footprints featured in the aerial footage leading to the Bird's Nest stadium was real; the others were computer generated. NBC host Matt Lauer concluded later that this was just "a cinematic device" that was "almost animation." No, Matt, it was precisely animation.
How did the Chinese government endeavor to deceive a city of 19 million people, and a stadium of 91 thousand spectators, including this humble observer?
During the ceremony, there was only one helicopter overhead, a China Central Television helicopter providing aerial footage edited by the Chinese central government and fed to NBC. Beijingers dared not speak of the disparity in what was happening over their heads versus NBC's coverage, but a few Chinese bloggers got the word out.
Then there was the adorable 9-year old, Lin Miaoke, who we now know lip-synched the "ode to the Motherland," which was actually sung by a 7-year old, Yang Peiyi, whom the government deemed not attractive enough to represent China. Said ceremonial music director Chen Quigang, "The child on camera should be flawless in image, internal feelings, and expression."
There was also that moving march of children in traditional dress, one from each of China's 56 ethnic groups, we were told—except we now know almost all of them were Han, not representatives of each of those other groups. Probably too much risk that one of the little ethnic participants would raise a democracy banner.
Of course, there were veneers beyond the Birds Nest, too.
Along the marathon routes, the 10-foot "culture walls" exhibited cultural images, which the government preferred to promote over images of the slums behind the walls. Again, the air feed was from a CCTV helicopter, and NBC wasn't about to give us a glimpse of the squalor behind those impressive barriers.
Even the less popular venues appeared to be at capacity seating, thanks to the recruitment of "volunteers" to fill the seats.
I am shocked, shocked, to report that the Red Chinese are cheaters, too. There are highly credible reports that three of its celebrated female gold-medal gymnasts had their official credentials updated to indicate they were 16 years old, the minimum age for Olympic gymnasts. Official documents, birth certificates, passports, etc., had previously indicated two of the girls were 13 and one was 14. Perhaps the records were just mixed up when these little girls (who had already survived China's "one child" abortion policy driven by the preference for boys) were snatched from their mothers at the tender age of three and sent to government-sponsored training camps.
Notably absent from any media coverage were protests of any size and description, as all those who were considered a "threat to the success of the Olympics" were kept far away from any cameras.
Likewise, few protests lodged on Chinese Internet sites make it to the outside world.
Having walked some of the Great Wall at one of its highest points prior to the beginning of the Olympics, I can report that on a rare clear day, the view to the east is magnificent. However, few dissenting views from Chinese citizens make it over the Great Firewall of China.
The Chinese government routinely blocks millions of websites with references to Taiwan, Tibet, Darfur, Tiananmen, Amnesty International, freedom, liberty and democracy, ad infinitum. Of course, in part because of essays like the one you are reading, PatriotPost.US is also blocked.
Still, the whole world could access the International Olympic Committee's Beijing website, with its laughable guarantee from IOC president Jacques Rogge of "no censorship in Beijing."
Beyond the Olympics, and beyond China's porcelain facade, the foreign investment in China and the resulting economic growth is as vigorous as the purges by Mao's Red Guard. Still, every fledgling Chinese business owner shares this unspoken concern: Will I still own my business in 10 years, or will the government nationalize it (or otherwise take control of it through excessive taxation—the U.S. model adaptation of Socialism).
There is another economic concern that the entire free world should lose some sleep over. If the Chinese economy does not continue its present growth rate, producing almost 20 million new jobs annually to meet its bulging urban population, the result could be massive civil unrest. More than 50 percent of the Chinese people now live in urban centers, and the illegal migration of rural Chinese to the urban areas continues unabated. Needless to say, as was the case at Tiananmen Square 19 years ago, the Red Chinese government does not handle civil unrest well.
A likely response to civil discord could be the absorption of millions of additional Chinese into the Red Army and service corps, bolstered by a resurgence of Communist nationalism. For sure, the Reds will be looking for some creative activity to occupy the minds of the Chinese people, something to divert them from concern about their empty stomachs.
In 1919, before communism came to China, a student newspaper there boldly proclaimed as its motto, "Democracy—a government for the people, by the people and of the people." Don't expect to see any student newspapers proclaiming anything along those lines anytime soon.
Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.