The Beijing Olympics have now concluded, and in many ways, I think this has been the best Olympics games ever. China is a great nation that has been very welcoming to visitors for a long time, but the Olympics have opened the eyes of the world to China and it has proven to show the world that China is not the way you would read about it in the media.
China has thousands of years of history and a long list of accomplishments to be proud of. Its people are proud, peaceful and warm-hearted. Before the Olympics, it would be difficult to view the mainstream media and extract anything positive about China. Western media portrays China as the next threat to “freedom”, a violator of human rights, and oppressive. But the Olympics have opened many Westerners eyes about everything that is positive about China. Most people associate Communism with Tyrant Dictators. Now the world can see that China has many things very well even with its one-party state. The government treats the people well, and people in China are happy and peaceful. China has its flaws no doubt, and it’s far from being perfect, but many of the things our media criticizes it for are hypocritical for us to say. Furthermore, the West can learn a lot from China from the things it does very well.
I’ve been carefully watching the announcers on NBC throughout the Olympics and the attitude towards the Chinese has completely reversed. At the beginning they were repeatedly bringing up the topic of human rights in China, censorship, pollution, joking about getting sick from the food and investigating every angle of the Olympics to attempt to identify scandals. On the last day of the Olympics I heard nothing but great things about Chinese hospitality, the Great Wall, the history, the people, the list goes on. The very same announcer who was drilling President Bush on Political topics (during what was supposed to be an interview about the Olympic Games) was talking about how great of an experience he’s had in China.
Andrew Potter wrote a good article in a recent Maclean’s magazine “The West, mad at China for being fake: that’s rich”, (September 1, 2008 article) – in response to the media fury that criticized China on its Olympics fakery. I liked the part where he says: “Hard to believe it needs saying, but it is spectacularly hypocritical of Americans to be accusing another country of being mean by privileging beauty over talent – even as China’s manipulations are reported by news anchors who are themselves pumped so full of Botox they look lobotomized”
I’m glad that the world will now view China in a different light now that people are a little bit less ignorant about the country. But you’ll always have people like Omar Welke, a Kitchener resident who wrote a letter to the editor of Maclean’s and said: “I’ll have to forget that China builds its wealth by ignoring common health and labour standards, and floods our markets with cheaply made, often hazardous and tainted manufactured products and food items.”
I’m curious how many products Omar himself has purchased that have actually been hazardous or tainted. Omar must not truly understand the extent of products that are imported into North America from China.
As an American, I will say that unless the U.S. closes Guantanamo Bay and ends the “War on Some Drugs,” we shouldn’t lecture other countries on human rights. And even if we did clean up our own act, lecturing other countries on their internal affairs is bad form and bad policy.
That said, I don’t know how much Westerners can actually learn from the Chinese. Their ethic is entirely different; the Chinese may adapt well to “rule by bureaucracy” but Westerners in the public sector are not quite as motivated by honor and accountability, and more by getting the highest pay and benefits for the least amount of work. In China, Confucius reigns, in America, confusion reigns.