Giant on the move
Will China change post-Olympics?
I’ve worked intermittently in Beijing for 11 years and in Taipei for 15, but analysing the world’s most populous nation, and an opaque one for that matter, is like a blind man feeling an elephant.
In many ways, I expect it to be business as usual for the Communist Party post-Olympics, resisting political change and tightening the security noose in restive Tibet and Xinjiang. But my money is also on ordinary Chinese clamouring for greater freedoms and forcing their government to be more transparent and accountable.
Chinese have never had it this good since the 1949 revolution, enjoying unprecedented personal freedoms after three decades of liberalisation transformed the country from an economic backwater into the world’s fourth-biggest economy.
They have traded their Mao suits for business suits. They are no longer rationed food and have more than enough to eat. They can choose where to live, travel, study and work and don’t need Party approval to tie the knot.
There is no turning back the clock. As China seeks its rightful place in the world, it is likely to be more open and integrated with the rest of the world.
The word “Westernisation” is still taboo among Chinese leaders, but many of my Chinese friends fancy jeans, McDonald’s hamburger, Kentucky fried chicken, Coca-cola, Hollywood movies and rock and roll. Many Chinese have yet to forgive and forget Japan’s wartime atrocities which Japanese ultra-nationalists claim were fabricated, but Beijing’s roads are filled with Japanese cars and Chinese youth are obsessed with Sony Playstations and Nintendo Game Boys.
With or without the Games, China will change at its own pace.
There is no need to gaze into the crystal ball to find out what China’s future will be. The weather in recent days may be a barometer: cloudy one day, thunderstorms another and finally bright sunny skies.
PHOTO: This combination picture shows the Olympic flame before (L) and after it was extinguished during the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium August 24, 2008. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez