Sunday, August 10, 2008

Olympism


TAIPEI, Taiwan--I believe that the Chinese people know their country has problems. I also believe that they just want to put on a good show. But I have to wonder if the Chinese people, with the way their media filters information, really understand the severity of their government’s problems.

The Chinese had their feelings hurt by the protests during the Olympic torch relay. Indeed, having protesters jump the torch bearers, use fire extinguishers and climb the Golden Gate Bridge were all ugly acts of getting a message across. Finally, one of the IOC bigwigs Dick Pound has admitted that the torch relay was a “disaster”. They are also considering that future torch relays stay domestic.

For the Chinese to argue that politics shouldn’t be part of the Olympics is ridiculous. I would argue that more than any other host country in the past, China’s bid in the first place was for political gains as opposed to economic development. The torch relay protests were spinned into this conspiracy theory by the West against their country. I cannot agree with their reasoning that this was their torch relay, that this is their Olympics. That is a fundamental difference in how China and the rest of the world view these Beijing Games.

The symbolism of the Olympics should go beyond any one country. There are too many feel-good underdog stories. Consider this CNN spoof with a Barack Obama impersonator, tying the successes of 2 kinds of underdogs:

This presidential campaign has been like a marathon.
And you know who wins marathons?
Guys from Kenya!


Recently, the entire Iraqi Olympic Team was banned by the IOC after its government overthrew the national olympic committee. The IOC’s reasoning was that the Olympic Charter forbids political intervention. Hilarious, I know. Now, after some negotiations Iraq will be sending 4 athletes to Beijing. So, it’s a happy ending. Or is it?

There have been fewer reports that the 24 original members of the Iraqi Olympic Committee were kidnapped and that their whereabouts are still unknown. How many other articles out there appear happy on the surface but what lies underneath is more grave?

An article I came across on the website nbcolympics.com describes the ping-pong diplomacy that opened the door for US table tennis players to enter China in 1971, followed by President Richard Nixon the next year. His visit resulted in the Shanghai Communiqué, in which the US "acknowledged" that Taiwan was a part of China. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter officially switched diplomatic ties to China, leaving Taiwan in the dark. The article was entitled “Pleasant Politics”. For Taiwanese citizens, there was nothing pleasant about this chain of political events.

However, it did in some way foster the democracy movement in Taiwan, spilling over with the Formosa Incident at the end of 1979. A rally on December 10th for Human Rights Day was broken up by police. The “Formosa Eight”: Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介), Shih Ming-teh (施明德), Chang Chun-hung (張俊宏), Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Chen Chu (陳菊), and Lin Hung-hsuen (林弘宣) were indicted on sedition charges. Their 9-day trial, which was broadcast on network television, started on March 18, 1980. Exactly 20 years later, Annette Lu would become the Vice President of the country.

Thus, the manifestation of Taiwan’s democracy is incomparable to China’s lack of progress. Early on, Beijing Olympic organizers had thought of holding the beach volleyball competition in Tiananmen Square, where the country’s democracy movement exploded onto the scene. It’s hard to imagine that Mao Zedong (毛澤東) would be pleased to stare across and see bikini-clad athletes and cheerleaders. It’s also hard to imagine that on July 4th of this year, the vigil held in the Square was not for the victims of the student crackdowns 19 years ago but rather for the victims of the recent Szechuan earthquake.

The leaders of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations have moved on with their lives. Wang Dan (王丹) studied at Harvard and came to Taiwan to observe the presidential election. Chai Ling (柴玲) has gone into the private sector in the US. Wuer Kaixi (吾爾開希) has opened a bar in Taipei. What has happened to their legacy, and why has it been replaced by a nationalist fervor, more intense than ever before?

3 comments:

Sean Su said...

Hello Daphne,

It's a nice blog, although I'd recommend some corrections.

For instance, on the 8th paragraph of your most recent post, the Shanghai Communique is incorrectly described as thus:

His visit resulted in the Shanghai Communiqué, in which the US acknowledged that Taiwan was a part of China.

The Shanghai Communique clearly states that the United States acknowledges that the Chinese on both sides of China and Taiwan, sees Taiwan as a part of China, not that the US agrees in anyway. The wording was vague enough to satisfy the Chinese officials, whom knew what they were talking about, but saw it as flexible enough to call a victory to their superiors. It was also purposely written to give the USA maneuvering space.

Iris Ho said...

Daphne, I love the title of your blog! And the "Chinese Taipei" or "Chinese Taipei" is indeed funny yet pathetic of KMT....

Stuff Mainlanders Like said...

i agree...if you meet any mainlanders in the west, they'll usually say the following things: 1) fuck tibet 2) dont' combine politics and olympics and 3) china is strong.

what they don't realize is this "coming out party" for china is costing a lot of money and there are still people starving to death in the rural regions. when i see hordes of mainlanders protest in front of CNN...i just thought i was ironic and hilarious because they should also protest the CCTV for hiding the truth from them.