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Olympics [Aug. 9th, 2008|02:00 am]
Those of you that care know that the Olympics have already started. In fact, if you read any major news outlet, I doubt you've been able to get away from the coverage.

Well, despite the fact that late night TV is reshowing the opening ceremonies again, my point here isn't actually to talk about the details of these games per se, but rather the ongoing debate on whether or not the IOC made the right call in awarding the games to Beijing.

Certainly, there are plenty of reasons for second guessing things already. While China's enthusiasm as a host can't be denied(nor can their giant pocketbook), their standards for things air quality or free internet access do not match what they agreed to in order to win the bid.

Then, of course, there is the Chinese government, a group who's inhumane conduct both at home and abroad certainly needs no introduction.

So why Beijing? The answer for me can be found in the wild celebrations that the selection's announcement set off in China. The government did not, and could not, have orchestrated them. Apparently the government wasn't only in thinking that hosting was an important chance to display cultural pride.

Which brings me to my fundamental point about China: that the government, despite it's rhetoric, is a very seperate social/political entity from the people. The government takes the despicable actions it does because of how it sees itself and its place in the world, only occaisionally making a nod to to the popular will, such as it is.

The people, by contrast, are the ones that have to deal with most of the appaling problems the upheavals of the last half century have caused, and that now do a great deal of the labor to drive the world economy.

As these two groups are joined, it becomes difficult for actions taken by others on an international stage to affect only one. The government reaps benefits for the trade deals which(ostensibly) benefit the chinese people, and the people take some offense at things like the protests at the torch relay about the government's bad behavior.

I really got thinking about this point after the some comments I read by the Dalai Lama about protests against the games because of the crackdown in Tibet, and said that he did not intend to avoid watching the games-albeit in his case, that's all he'll be able to, given his exile.

I'm curious whether the government/people split can be applied historically, or to other states like Russia. Specifically since ~1800 or so, before that you can probably count the number of governments that actively worked with their civil society on one hand. It's something to think about, anyway.

And, in closing, the Parade of Nations is good for pointing out one thing in particular: there are hotties the world over.

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: darkskywatcher
2008-08-09 06:17 pm (UTC)
I'd take that with a heaping helping of salt, tough it is likely to happen eventually. As far as I am concerned the "mandate of Heaven" system isn't as dismantled as the communist party would like to think. If that is true, it does just become a question of when, rather than whether.
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From: thegelf
2008-08-10 12:50 am (UTC)
I'm not too sure that mandate of Heaven is still around in any way that makes a difference. If it is, the Sichuan earthquake would have been interpreted as the gods displaying displeasure with the current government, but in all the news I've heard reported out of China (mainly on NPR), people are praising the government's response, and even saying the earthquake happened to allow the government to show how much it cares for its people.
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[User Picture]From: darkskywatcher
2008-08-11 02:56 am (UTC)
Well, a single event never did do it in the old system.

Also, I seem to recall some criticism about shoddily built schools. But yes, the government didn't do a job as bad as they could have.
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[User Picture]From: monkey_bait
2008-08-10 11:27 pm (UTC)
There was an interesting opinion piece in the Post a couple of days ago that you should take a look at. I think it fits into the distinction that you're drawing vis. government and people, although I think Kamm would argue that the two have grown closer together in recent years as a direct result the availability of information.
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