Beijing Stuns

The Chinese can be rightly proud.

The Chinese can be rightly proud.

Having watched China for much of the past 20 years, I had come to expect to be disappointed by the Chinese Communist Party’s inability to restrain its need for safe, conservative art. From the Beijing leadership’s perspective, art, like everything else, is judged not by its ability to move, but by its ability to serve the Party. As a result, major Chinese events broadcast to the world have consistently appeared just as stifling and archaic as the government that continues to hold a billion people back in the name of stability and harmony.

Against this backdrop, yesterday’s Olympic opening ceremonies were a marvelous surprise. Yes, it is clear that Zhang Yimou, the famed and acclaimed movie director, had to make compromises and accept a political imprimatur from the fearful men running Zhongnanhai. Nonetheless, the spirit, strength, and beauty of thousands of years of Chinese culture punched through the usual government crust to express, for the first time to so many at once, the majesty of China to the rest of the world.

Plenty of others have provided a play-by-play, so there’s no need to add to that volume here. Suffice it to say that if I was set back on my heels, I hope that many of my fellow countrymen now are also reconsidering their perception of this complex country that already plays a central role in our economy and will play an increasingly large role in the rest of our world over time.

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    • Rodney F
    • October 22nd, 2008

    A belated comment, but coincidentally I was thinking about this very point. Our perceptions of China need to evolve, because the country is evolving…almost imperceptibly. Unless, like me, you leave the daily analysis of China for a couple of years, and then come back to it. Then you say, wow.

    But I have to admit, my first experience seeing how much China is really changing was when a mutual friend showed me the YouTube video in 2005 of the two Chinese college guys lip-synching to the Backstreet Boys and wearing Houston Rockets jerseys, while a third played videogames, oblivious. At that point, I realized: they are becoming like us.

    • loungecreature
    • October 23rd, 2008

    Yes! That video was a revelation. I think that the Chinese people have a great deal in common with Americans and always have–both societies are essentially conservative, family-oriented, and entrepreneurial. Imagine what China would be like today if it hadn’t been hamstrung by the spectacular madness of Mao’s Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution?

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