FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Olympic Spectacle and the New China

Hitler’s spin machine used the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games to show off his nation’s muscular ambition. We all know what happened next. In its opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China’s leaders seemed to say to the world: never mind what has come before, ours is a new nation based on China’s own unique achievements. They did not need to say that the $40 billion invested in the Games was a rounding error from the most rapid transfer of national wealth in history; from consumer nations to China’s national treasury.

I’ve never been a fan of televised extravaganzas. They always seem filler material for events or between commercials, seeking to persuade us to buy products we can’t live without. But I suspected that the $300 million opening ceremony would be a horse of a different color.

Along with the world-wide audience estimated at 4 billion, I wasn’t disappointed. The imagination, hard work, perspiration and technology applied to coordinating 20,000 performers was astounding, even through a television set half a world away. The Bird’s Nest Stadium, the site of the opening ceremony, has redefined space for public spectacles. No further explanation was needed, how far China has evolved than the world’s largest LCD screen unfurled on stadium floor or the continuous canopy encircling the external rim of the stadium, used as a projection screen cantilevered to the audience below.

As world leaders sweltered in ordinary bleacher seats, the duration of the event reminded me of performances when China’s nationalism was expressed to visitors through interminably long, low brow movie operas of the revolution. I recall one film, broadcast for my benefit as an early Westerner to visit Shanghai, in which the entire audience of invited bureaucrats slept with their eyes wide open.

The truest note in the NBC coverage of the $300 million extravaganza came when a commentator blurted out that the synchronized movement of 2008 drummers was “a little intimidating”. It started a day earlier, when reporters on the White House press plane were delayed more than 3 hours as Chinese customs officials made a symbolic pause to “decide” how to process the visitors who would report the Games to the world.

This morose reaction was the government’s way of responding to comments by President Bush–to a small and indifferent audience en route to China– deemed to be insulting and an inappropriate meddling in China’s internal affairs.

Watching the spectacular performance, I wondered if President Bush peering through binoculars had the same feeling as me: it put America’s televised spectaculars funded by corporate advertisers– like the Superbowl– to shame. The marketing budget of many Superbowl advertisers is based on a profit model that incorporates, one way or another, low cost imports from China.

Does President Bush ever reflect how the insecurities of Americans, in respect to the economy, war and debt, is so different from what he is experiencing in China, today? The Wall Street Journal reports: “Among a huge swath of Chinese, the Games have taken on a meaning both more benign and more complex. Amid today’s prosperity, opinion polls and individual conversations show a groundswell of unbridled optimism. In many ways, the Chinese have embraced the American Dream– the belief that tomorrow will be better than today.” (“For Chinese, Olympics cap a long march up”, August 8, 2008)

Unlike Hitler in 1936 who was in the process of imposing imperial ambitions on the outside world, China’s political elite (as opposed to the Chinese military leadership) is most concerned with managing its own internal stressors, including a significant percentage of citizens who live in poverty.

The Beijing Olympics in 2008 does not presage some new war: in a certain sense, the impulse to war has been blunted by the peaceful transactions of globalized trade; the victor’s ascendence is measured in reverse proportion to our hollowed out industries and scattered Rust Belts. To the masses in Asia, what our falling economic tide exposes is the first fraction of our standard of living.

This mad scrambling of the world order is irreversible because the United States has failed to reformulate energy policy in response to the massive competition for natural resources and commodities like oil, no longer available in sufficient volume to protect our economic security.

The most frightening part of our passivity is that the American consumer may soon become disposable to China’s decision makers. At some point, China’s internal growth will make our contributions to its treasury a lesser factor in its decisions about securing commodities. It may already be happening.

In the past 30 years, US consumers jump started the fastest growing economy in the world. China is governed today by a political elite that fully embraces Orwellian focus on security and control. Through this set of circumstances, the sight of President Bush waving on US competitors at the Olympics can be interpreted as either a brand new day based on resurgent, grand achievements or a forced smile at a dynamo he understands better now that his own time clock is running out.

ALAN FARAGO, who writes on the environment and politics from Coral Gables, Florida, and can be reached at alanfarago@yahoo.com

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at afarago@bellsouth.net

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail