Will China's Caged Birds Soar?
12:03 PM, Jul 29, 2008 • By JENNIFER CHOU
During his recent visit to Qatar, Chinese vice president Xi Jinping told a group of Hong Kong reporters traveling with him that the chaotic series of incidents leading up to the Beijing Games, including the Lhasa riot and the frequently interrupted torch relay, should be treated with this mindset:
Despite Xi's "bustling-cage theory," the noisiest of the birds in China have been silenced or put on notice with less than two weeks to go before the Games. Chinese media remain characteristically mum about these arrests and detentions. Instead, they have inundated the public with reports that the Beijing Olympics is the realization of a century-old dream that started in 1908 with these three questions raised by the magazine Tianjin Youth:
The first Chinese athlete to compete in the Olympics was sprinter Liu Changchun. He was eliminated in the preliminary heats of both the 100m- and 200m-dash at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Chinese media have emphasized that Liu was a patriot who represented a poor nation considered by many as "the sick man of East Asia" and widely viewed with "suspicion, disdain, and ridicule."
The second question raised by Tianjin Youth was answered in 1984, when Beijing sent a team to the Los Angeles Games. This marked the People's Republic of China's first full participation in the Olympics. Chinese media find it poignantly significant that it was in Los Angeles, more than half a century after Liu Changchun's humiliating defeat there, that China won its first-ever Olympic gold medal.
On August 8, Beijing will meet the magazine's third challenge as more than 80 heads-of-state attend the opening ceremony of the 29th Olympic Games. The magnitude of this moment of glory is not lost on the Chinese people, as evidenced by this Internet posting:
The question is, how far can a nation of caged birds soar?