With the Beijing Olympics, China was supposed to be revealing the extent of its soft power, supposed to reveal the “mysterious” country that is transforming itself into a world economic power in rapid fashion. To do so, they promised certain things: Open access for the press, curbing civil rights abuses, allowing protesters, and a variety of other things Western nations take for granted.
In many ways, China hasn’t come through. From their Opening Ceremonies dishonesty to their gymnastics naifs, China has come under fire from the mainstream Western press. Now, China’s spokesman, Wang Wei, is firing back.
From Ireland’s SUNDAY BUSINESS POST:
One journalist questioned Wang about the detention of protesters. Another demanded to know why reporters were being harassed. A third accused the Chinese authorities of ‘‘lying through their teeth’’ and grilled a representative of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) about whether she was ashamed to be working with Wang and his colleagues, as volunteers attempted to wrest back the microphone.
Eventually, Wang lost patience. ‘‘There are a few people who have come here to peek, to be critical, to dig into the small details and find fault,” he said, a look of exasperation on his face. ‘‘You are supposed to be in China covering the games.”
Not to be unfair, but dude, that’s exactly what the press is doing. The Olympics are not a politically-agnostic sports contest. They’re rife with geopolitical intrigue, and the host nation — especially an emergent power like China — is going to draw as many questions about its policies as its athletes.
When you toss in 13-year-old gymnasts, fake fireworks, and a casual disregard for basic civil rights, people get mad at you. Sorry, but you wanted the Olympics. This comes with the territory.