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[Opinion] The Fake Olympics

Posted August. 15, 2008 07:55,   


On July 20 last year, the former Beijing bureau chief for the (London) Times Oliver August described a personal episode in an article run in the Los Angeles Times. He said he was covering substandard electronic bulbs made and distributed in Beijing when he was suddenly caught and detained by the manufacturer’s employees. They told him that the company was one of the country’s biggest employers and taxpayers, and that a government office gave them the right to mete out justice. He was held for eight hours for questioning. The Chinese official bribed by the manufacturer even prevented victims of a explosion caused by the bulb from suing for damages.

China’s Communist Party is not elected by popular vote. The problem with the state-managed single party system is that it enjoys absolute power, leading to rampant corruption. Frequent fixes of embarrassing situations through bribes threaten rule of law. Checks and balances are hardly found in China’s legislative, judicial and administrative branches. No freedom of the press exists. Heavy snowfall in February that drove China into a state of emergency was reported by foreign media outlets to the outside world three weeks after the incident. The New York Times said the damage snowballed because of the lack of independent news media in China to criticize the government for its ineptness or warning of an emerging crisis.

This incompetency helped a slew of Chinese counterfeit goods including clothes, watches, liquor, cigarettes, dog food, eggs, toothpaste, toys and drugs to reach global markets. Chinese fakes don’t stop there. Parts of the spectacular Beijing Olympics opening ceremony were also faked. "Hymn to the Motherland," the Chinese national anthem, was lip-synched by a nine-year-old girl. The song was to be sung by a seven-year-old girl, but she was replaced after a high-ranking Chinese official said the girl’s uneven teeth were "too ugly" for the ceremony. A series of spectacular fireworks broadcast live to a global audience of 840 million was also pre-recorded. Given the usually cloudy night sky in Beijing, the fireworks that used computer animation were shot off from a flying helicopter over the city.

Even Chinese netizens harshly blamed their government, saying, “If they produced a fake Olympics, nothing is impossible to make.” The lip-synching at the opening ceremony, however, gets little mention on Chinese Web portal sites. The Associated Press said the Chinese authorities have strengthened censorship. Though China has emerged as a global giant three decades after conducting massive reform, it has a long way to go before joining the ranks of real world powers.

Editorial Writer Huh Moon-myeong (angelhuh@donga.com)