Three days to go, the country is primed, factories temporarily closed, cars off the roads, the algea invasion temporarily stymied, battalions of garbage collectors pulled back from the urban front-line, peddlers of counterfeit goods pushed further underground, city streets beautified, foreign media covering China like they just found out it’s there, the delegations of diplomats and leaders on their way to pay tribute to the new Chinese empire of bling and what does it all mean?

A coming out party for a nation that boasts 5000 years of history and more skeletons in its closet than there are teeth-marked discarded wooden skewers outside the barbecue place at 3 AM?Who’s coming out, the minority groups, the political prisoners, the AIDS activists, the handicapped, the mentally disabled?

A dazzling display of modern China’s industrial, technological and financial prowess, built atop smashed homes and disrupted lives, with peasant sweat and blood mixed into the concrete for that extra grip.

A host nation assuming its place at the international banquet table, where the big players throw themselves parties for being so damn rich and powerful. Look at my wealth and my power, look at my massive airport and my unrecognisable capital city, totally pimped out, plastic surgerised to perfection, gone the centuries old lanes like wrinkles on an aging face, gone the history, the proles and the disgrace.

A nation has been racing towards this summit of glory, this peak on a mountain of magnificence, this apogee, this zenith, orchestral chords swirling like schools of silvery fish towards the surface, the spin on this things so tight by now that it has its own gravity, pulling matter and lives into it, three days to go until the great collective holding of the breath when all that has been struggled for, all the columns erected, people trained, particulates swept away, the endless stockpiles of vapid speeches exhausted at last, such focus, dedication and hope as to sustain the nightly dreams of countless souls for years on end, comes to pass.

What does it all mean? That the best is yet to come, and come it will, totally inevitable and thoroughly unpredictable.


  1. “By allowing Beijing to host the Games you will help in the development of human rights,” that was said by Liu Jingmin, vice-president of the Beijing Olympic Bid Committee, in 2001.

    It has yet to happen.

    It isn’t political. Human rights – the right to things like health and shelter to the freedom of expression and religion – are the basis of human life. Standing up for human rights is to stand up for the values enshrined in the Olympic Charter

  2. I don’t disagree Kim, but it’s a stretch to say that health and shelter are being denied – certainly in no more devious way than they are in the majority of the world – with the use of the haves and havenots of a capitalist society.

    It is also important to recognize that despite restrictions of both freedom of expression and religion – the Chinese in modern China experience more freedoms than they have at any other point in history. Is it perfect? Not even close, but it’s also not stagnant.

    It’s important to raise awareness about the issues, and never let them fade quietly away – but in my opinion the only awareness being raised outside of China lately is a rather ignorant blackwashing of the strides that have been made in China and complete denial that the general direction the country is heading is towards improvement.

  3. Hey Gabriel, are you in Beijing? Cos if so, you can easily find the old hutongs. I recently wandered through some in the Zhushikou area. Sure, there were plenty of nice, cosmetic walls erected around them, but it wasn’t difficult to find my way into the old, squalid, fetid slums. And history doesn’t get swept away, ever. It has always been preserved in Beijing’s place names at the very least, but there are also ever increasing areas under protection and renovation. The 太庙, for example, recently reopened to the public. And the proles? Well, the Beijing proles are still here, but you can’t expect the migrant workers to hang around at construction sites that are closed for the duration. Of course they’re either heading home for a break or off looking for work elsewhere. So crack open an ice-cold Yanjing, take a good, deep draft, and relax, dude. It’s crazy here, but it’s not that bad.

    Kim, the basis of human life is air, water, food and shelter from the elements.

  4. Things are not perfect here, but improvement is well on the way. When you look back at what China was five, ten years ago, you’ll see what I mean. Please note I don’t simply mean the erection of modern buildings.

  5. And if you drive across North-America you’ll find descendants of the First Nations and Native Americans, but that doesn’t mean their societies and cultures weren’t systematically destroyed by European settlers, colonialists and modern North-Americans.

    I’m not in Beijing, where the authorities sometimes catter to international conscience and good will and spend on infrastructure with the buck of the backwoods, I’m in Dongbei, where they bulldoze by the block and drown it all in Baijiu and Xuehua.

Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲