Changing China

Giant on the move

Will China change post-Olympics?

August 25, 2008

torch goes outThe million dollar question on the minds of many: Will China change after the 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


dear benjamin,

for this “…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.”, don’t think it can apply to the rest of the population outside major cities, hence for around 0.9 billlion of chinese, they have not yet led the lifestyles described by you.


Posted by carlos ip | Report as abusive

Yes,China is advanceing at its own pace although it is very slow. and Nobody can not stop the progress of modernization,which is not is necessarily westernization

Posted by Karsten | Report as abusive

“With or without the Games, China will change at its own pace.”…This is the part of the post I’d like to respond to.

In a certain sense the above qoute expresses an anti-imperialist sentiment and amen to that. But, “With or without the Games, China will change at its own pace.”, also ignores the true dynamics of change today. In fact today, we are all being forced to change at a global pace.

China’s herculian preparations for the games is one proof of global interdependency. Sure it was an expression of national pride as dictated by the Chinese Comunist Party, but those 15,000 performers in the opening ceremony were were only going to all that trouble to impress a global audience.

It shows that we, the members of that global audience, have influence.

I know from from news reports and from my relationships with people in China that the preparations for the Olympics involved a deepening of opression. In the runup to the games life became harder for everyone who was already oppressed and marginalized by the system administered by the Chines Comunist Party: disidents, petioners, and people of faith espicially Falun Gong practitioners.

If you and I know this and we know that the whole olympic spectacle that creates a responsibility in each one of us to say no to the way the spectacle was achieved, otherwise we are complicit.

So…Dear CCP,

Thank you for the beautifull facilities you shared with the world. But, I do not aprove of how entire comunities of poor and ordinary Chinese were uprooted to make way for those facilities.

Thank you for the soul stiringly beautifull way the world got to see the beauty of your great people, in the artistic displays of the ceremonies and the athletic displays of the games. But I do not believe that the CCP’s system of repression is the best way to free expression. How much more soul stirring and great could the achievement of Chinese people be if they were free to full political and religious expression.

Posted by Marcos d. J | Report as abusive

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