The USA had an embargo in place with China, due to having fought the Chinese in Korea during the Korean war. For 20 years no American set foot in PRC territory. At last though, the American table tennis team was sent to China. How was this possible? Was this a private initiative or part of U.S. foreign policy.
In 1971 or thereabouts, President Richard Nixon decided on a policy of "normalization" of relations with China. The arrival of the U.S. pingpong team was the first "feeler" in this process.
This was followed in 1972 by President Nixon's historic visit to China, ending the "Cold War" between the U.S. and China.
True or False: China Is Fit to Play Host
Four years ago, as I rode into Beijing for the first time, the poplar trees along the airport expressway struck me as a false and futile gesture. This was what’s now the old airport expressway, coming from what’s now the old international terminal. At that moment, it was all new to me, and it seemed only reasonable to make some assumptions about what was passing outside the taxi window. The trees, I could see, were puny slender gray-green things, planted in ruler-straight rows, half-vanishing as they receded in the brownish smog.
So here was the New China: a sprig of baby’s breath dropped into a smokestack.
I’ve made a few dozen trips along the expressway since then, as a recurring visitor and eventually,
for the last couple of years, as a Beijing resident. I say “resident” in the sense that my wife and I live here, lease an apartment and have bought a sofa and that our son was born in the city though legally, as a foreign journalist without a certified permanent bureau, I depend on a string of temporary visas. Four years is a long time in Beijing, a city frantically reinventing and rebuilding itself. The poplars have filled out into a wall of green that seems no more or less dishonest than the strips of woods I grew up with in America, concealing subdivisions and the interstate from one another.
The air has gotten cleaner, too not clean, not even close to what most Americans would call clean, but not the unbroken, choking fug of 2004. Automobile traffic is thicker all the time and dust is endemic, but the gradual relocation of heavy industry away from the city center has made things less suffocating. How much less suffocating is an ongoing mystery a critical reading of official statistics strongly suggests that the authorities have been fiddling with the air-quality numbers to meet the ever-growing annual quota of “blue sky” days promised to the International Olympic Committee. Still, the skies are bluer, and blue more often, than they were a few years ago. The government has abandoned the fiction of calling the murk “fog” instead of “haze,” and weeks can go by between the worst episodes of it. Sometimes at night there are stars.
Better yet, it rains: in a city parched by years of drought, made worse by rain-stifling pollution, the June just past was the wettest in 15 years. True, the municipal Weather Modification Office has been blasting the clouds with silver-iodide artillery shells to help the rain along, but the lush plant growth is comforting anyway.
Will conditions be healthy enough for the athletes? Now we are getting to the difficult part. From up close, the answer seems to be that the air probably shouldn’t be too bad if traffic restrictions succeed in keeping half of the three million private cars off the streets, if factories do curb production, if construction digging does halt on schedule, if the wind blows from the north instead of the industrial south and southeast.
But that’s only one small part of the underlying, animating question (or problem): is China fit to host the Summer Olympics? For some segments of the West, it can be answered by a simple syllogism: the Olympics are good. China is bad. China should not host the Olympics.
Like an expandable roller bag, that conclusion can be unzipped to hold whatever ideology you’d like to carry along in it: anti-Communism, democracy, Tibetan independence, press freedom, environmentalism, workers’ rights, Internet openness, Darfur. China can be a disturbing and provoking place to live a state so regulated that uniformed police have knocked on the door and come in to check my family’s papers an enterprise system so unchecked that a hospital demanded money upfront before an emergency C-section. Outside dissent is suppressed by censors, and internal dissent is suppressed by prisons.
And yet there are any number of complications in the contemporary brief against China: the tension between the central government and despotic local officials, the tentative expansion of property rights, newly cordial relations with Taiwan, an increased emphasis by the leadership on abating environmental damage. The tyrannies and intrusions coexist in an ever-shifting balance with progress, possibility and hope. How clean is clean enough? How open is open enough? How free is free enough?
China does not always make it easy to talk about nuance. For all its promises of cooperation and access with the foreign press, the bureaucracy is largely stuck in its habits of suspicion and uncooperativeness toward foreign journalists and of hostility toward unapproved Chinese ones. The closer the Games come, the more the public-security apparatus shows it won’t compromise on maintaining strict control: instituting new checkpoints, adding onerous visa requirements, canceling events and performances as it pleases.
Before we put China on trial, though, we should ask a question about the other part of the argument: how good are the Olympics, again, exactly? In the run-up to the Games, China’s critics have repeatedly compared Beijing in 2008 to Berlin in 1936. And who wants to be pro-Nazi? Pundits were pleased to note, as the torch relay toward Beijing was being disrupted by protests this spring, that the running of the flame was a ritual invented for Hitler’s Games. But so is monumental Olympic urban renewal and the whole vocabulary of heroic Olympic cinematography. Implying that the Beijing Games are uniquely similar to Berlin means willfully ignoring decades of history. The Olympic idealists tend to confuse the Olympic truce the temporary setting aside of international hostilities with the old End of History, that peaceable kingdom achieved after the world’s gradual evolution toward decent liberal democracy. Let’s stipulate here that the Olympic Games are stirring and uplifting, that at their best they achieve the difficult feat of providing an outlet for national pride while fostering international harmony. The Olympic Games are also, as a matter of record, a fascist spectacle, sustained by global corporatism. For more than two decades, on into the 21st century, the I.O.C. was presided over by the former sports secretary of the Franco dictatorship. The same set of rules that will bar participants from waving the Tibetan flag this summer will also block anyone from unfurling an unauthorized Nike advertising banner.
Much of the argument about Beijing deals with the question of whether politics has a place at the Olympics or not. The human-rights protesters or, if you prefer, the splittists of the Dalai clique propose that the Beijing Games can be a platform for criticism of China, along the lines of the celebrated Black Power salutes at the 1968 Games. Yet on the medal stand in Mexico City, John Carlos and Tommie Smith were largely protesting their own country’s injustices, not their hosts’. This point becomes more relevant in light of the fact that 10 days before those Olympics, the Mexican authorities sent tanks and troops into a public square to quash pro-democracy protests, slaughtering hundreds of demonstrators. With the peace secured, the Games went on.
Of what Olympic standards does China fall short? The history of the Games is, in part, a history of bribery, corruption, cheating and doping, from all forms of government and all corners of the world: the 1972 United States-Soviet Union men’s basketball final, the East German swimmer Rica Reinisch, the Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, the South Korean boxer Park Si Hun, the American track-and-field star Marion Jones, the Chinese coach Ma Junren’s Family Army of distance runners. It is almost certain that some of the athletes who climb the podium in Beijing to have a jade-backed gold medal draped around their necks will be giving those medals back after drug enforcement catches up with them.
Despite all this, people around the world will try to swallow their reservations and embrace the Games. Beijing, with its own shortcomings, embraces them with particular enthusiasm. Over and over, the Olympic organizing committee and the state press describe hosting the Games as the fulfillment of a century-old ambition. This refers not to any national goals expressed by the crumbling Qing dynasty in 1908 but to an apparently obscure article published in Tianjin that year unearthed, it seems, through a heroic bit of applied research. The real date of record is 1949, when Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic and when China and the Western world turned their backs on each other.
Caught between international rejection and domestic turmoil, Communist China didn’t send a team to the Summer Olympics for 32 years, a self-imposed exile that finally ended in 1984. In the Cold War West, there was something comical about China’s limited athletic achievement through the decades: here were hundreds of millions of people, and all they were good at was Ping-Pong. That they were ferociously good at it only made it funnier. But the underlying reason was largely geopolitical: during the 1950s, the international table-tennis federation led by a British Communist welcomed China even as the country’s relationship with the rest of the sports world fell apart.
The Chinese enthusiasm for table tennis, then, is less a sign of insularity than of a practical and catholic approach to athletics. This is the underpinning of China’s plan to win the gold-medal count this year to seek out neglected sports like canoeing and to pour resources into them. Victory is victory, and the country is able to make up new athletic priorities as it goes. But this also reflects a fittingly Olympian open-mindedness, the local version of the internationally inclusive spirit that has brought BMX into the fold with the decathlon and the long jump. Watching Chinese TV sports channels is, for an American viewer, like seeing the old “Wide World of Sports” expanded into infinity: swimming, women’s volleyball, European soccer, Formula One racing, minor-league basketball, bullfighting round the clock and all year. When Beijing hosted a world snooker tournament in 2006, there were snooker matches from the British Isles on TV for weeks after.
Even so, the world is not really watching to see if China can reach the highest international levels of trap shooting or the épée. Aug. 8 is meant to mark Beijing’s transformation from a grim, dusty, totalitarian capital to a glittering international destination. The maximalist preparations the most avant-garde stadium ever! The biggest volunteer corps! The most numerous cartoon mascots! are part of an even grander makeover of the entire city, as a symbol of a nation transformed into a center of prosperity and influence in the new century. The combined acreage of construction sites in Beijing is one-and-a-half times the size of Manhattan. Olympic visitors will find newly opened subway lines, new storefronts everywhere, a new downtown skyline with the vertical loop of Rem Koolhaas’s Chinese Central Television building facing the 74-story shaft of China’s World Trade Center Tower 3, in a colossal Freudian standoff across the Third Ring Road. There will be 30 million flowerpots. There will be free wireless in much of the city, at least till the Games are over.
From outside, there’s a tendency to see the whole buildup as Potemkinism, a spectacle put on to fool the visitors. In some regards, that may be so try using the free wireless to reach Blogspot, Tibet.org or even the BBC Web site and see what happens but people in Beijing, Chinese and foreigners alike, keep coming up with a different analogy: the Olympic preparations are like tidying your house in a hurry before company comes over. The clutter gets stuffed into cabinets or under the bed you wipe down the bathroom the guests will be using you hide the dirty dishes and dig out matching forks and cloth napkins. This is not the way you live every day.
Are you defrauding your guests? Or are you showing them how you would live, if things were different?
While Loudoun County Public School officials say they are not officially using CRT in their classrooms, they have pledged to push for 'equity' and have begun using many CRT 'buzzwords and concepts'.
That decision has angered many locals in Loudoun County - which is located just outside of Washington, DC, and is the wealthiest county in the entire country.
Lilit Vanetsyan, who teaches in neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia, also spoke at the Loudoun County School Board meeting on Wednesday night
Van Fleet's criticism was echoed by teacher Lilit Vanetsyan, who in her own fiery address Wednesday night accused school board members of enabling teachers with radically liberal lesson plans at the expense of students' education and mental health.
Vanetsyan, who teaches in neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia, also spoke at Wednesday night's meeting in Loudoun County - addressing not just school board members but also parents and students.
'Parents, the longer that you wait and don't have your child's schools accountable, gives these guys more time to dictate what's best for your child's physical, mental, and emotional health,' Vanetsyan declared.
She then also directly addressed students, saying: 'You are on the front lines of these indoctrination camps. Challenge the staff when you are presented with a ludicrous statement, and do not allow anybody to tell you that you cannot accomplish anything because of your skin color, or to hate yourself because of your skin color.
'Students, it is up to you to be the next generation of victims, or victors.'
China's Cultural Revolution: A shutdown of debate, dissent and free speech that left 20M dead from 1966 to 1976
The Cultural Revolution was a violent political purge that occurred in China from 1966 - 1976.
During that time, Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, tried to purge remnants of capitalism by shutting down debate, dissent and free speech.
For ten years, Chairman Mao's followers burned books, tore down statues and murdered millions loyal to the 'Four Olds' — old ideas, culture, customs and habits
He envisioned a 'Communist Utopia' with a massive redistribution of wealth - but what occurred was a 10-year campaign that brought widespread suffering and a destruction of much of China's ancient cultural norms.
Mao pushed for the formation of 'Red Guards' - groups of militant university and high school students who were put into paramilitary units.
The young recruits were fed propaganda and were relatively easy to influence because of their young age. Their goal was destroy symbols of China's pre-communist past - known as 'The Four Olds': Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Customs.
The New York Times reports that 'Red Guards formed large groups that targeted political enemies for abuse and public humiliation and that 'they carried out widespread destruction of historical sites and cultural relics.'
Roger Lewis wrote in The Daily Mail in 2016 that 'Mao could see the young were impressionable, easy to manipulate and eager to fight. The so-called Red Guards were a 'screaming, self-righteous band' numbering many millions, who went on the rampage.
The Red Guards frequently broke into homes and destroyed paintings and books. They were also required to report dissidents, and were even permitted to inflict bodily harm on them. Universities were their chiefs targets, with the Red Guards turning into baying mobs who would publicly try to destroy those with differing points of view.
Pictured: Red Guards reading Mao's Little Red Book in Beijing, 1966
Writing for The Mail on Sunday last year, professor John Gray stated: 'It is not far-fetched to compare the methods of this 'woke movement' to those of Chairman Mao's Red Guards, who terrorized the Chinese people half a century ago.'
'Hounding of people is strikingly reminiscent of Mao's Cultural Revolution, which wrecked much of what remained of the country's ancient civilization,' he wrote.
'The only way someone accused of thought-crime could escape punishment was through public confession, 're-education' and abject apology in so-called 'struggle sessions', in which they were humiliated and tormented by their accusers,' Gray continued.
'Tragically, the woke movement has reinvented this vile ritual, with teachers, journalists, professors and others seeking to hang on to their jobs by desperately begging forgiveness,' he concluded.
The Cultural Revolution left between 500,000 and 20 million people dead in the space of a single decade.
A Red Guard member chops off the hair of a governor during Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution in China in 1966
A push to incorporate CRT 'buzzwords and concepts' has angered many locals in Loudoun County - which is located just outside of Washington, D.C. and is the wealthiest county in the entire country
There is a slide available on Loudoun County Public School's Equity Partner's websites, 'Racial Equity Tools', which details characteristics of 'White Supremacy Culture'
Vanetsyan's speech comes after educator Monica Gill - who teaches AP Government in Loudoun County, Virginia - told Fox News that the school district's push for 'inclusion' has ironically fueled further division in her upper-crust community.
'We're told that we're living in a county that's suffering from systemic racism and I think that that whole notion has done nothing but damage our community and our school since they began pushing equity,' she said back in April.
'I can tell you, one thing that's for sure, it has been disruptive because there are parents who disagree with this ideology, there are teachers who disagree with it, there are students who disagree with it — and it is harmful,' she stated.
Loudoun parent Scott Mineo has started the Parents Against Critical Race Theory website, which tracks the use of CRT in classrooms.
Monica Gill - who teaches AP Government in Loudoun County, Virginia - told Fox News that the school district's push for 'inclusion' has ironically fueled further division in her upper-crust community
According to one post on the website, there is a slide available on Loudoun County Public School's Equity Partner's websites, 'Racial Equity Tools', which details characteristics of 'White Supremacy Culture'.
Characteristics include 'worship of the written word', 'paternalism', and 'either/or thinking'.
Meanwhile, some parents have even claimed that opponents of CRT are 'racist'.
Last week, TV cameras caught the moment that a parent was flipped off by a neighbor as she explained how friends and family had turned on her because she spoke out against the teaching of CRT.
Mom-of-two Jessica Mendez told Fox News that she has been branded a racist after attempting to block the controversial lessons.
'I had my own family criticize me openly, and asked me you know, what's wrong with me? You know, why didn't I understand? , told the interviewer for Fox News.
But during the interview, a neighbor could be seen walking past in the background where she raised two middle fingers at Mendez and the camera.
'I thought that I had a good friend,' Mendez added.
'I'm really hurt right now because I thought that we had a rapport, that I could be conservative, and she could be liberal, and we could still be friends. I guess I was wrong.'
What is critical race theory? The concept dividing the nation which asserts that US institutions are inherently racist
The fight over critical race theory in schools has escalated in the United States over the last year.
The theory has sparked a fierce nationwide debate in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests around the country over the last year and the introduction of the 1619 Project.
The 1619 Project, which was published by the New York Times in 2019 to mark 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived on American shores, reframes American history by 'placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the center of the US narrative'.
The debate surrounding critical race theory regards concerns that some children are being indoctrinated into thinking that white people are inherently racist or sexist.
Those against critical race theory have argued it reduces people to the categories of 'privileged' or 'oppressed' based on their skin color.
Supporters, however, say the theory is vital to eliminating racism because it examines the ways in which race influence American politics, culture and the law.
Biden Keeps Saying That The Economy Was Tanking Before He Arrived At The White House
Throughout his campaign for congressional Democrats to jam his expensive infrastructure proposal through both chambers, Biden has repeatedly claimed that the economy was tanking before he arrived in the White House.
“Remember, when I took office in January, our economy was in a tailspin,” Biden said last week.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, “Biden uttered these words eight days after his own Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that U.S. real gross domestic product ‘increased at an annual rate of 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2021.'”
Biden claims his infrastructure plan will be good for the U.S. and even potentially stimulate the economy but as noted by The Tax Foundation, federal spending costs will eventually outweigh the benefits for Americans.
“We estimate the infrastructure spending would increase long-run GDP by 0.3 percent, but this positive economic effect is entirely offset by the increase in corporate taxation, resulting in less corporate investment which reduces GDP by 0.5 percent in the long run, reduces wages by 0.5 percent, and eliminates 101,000 full-time equivalent jobs,” the Tax Foundation’s analysis of The American Jobs Plan suggests.
Empirical Trends in the CPC's External Engagement
Unlike most other departments of the Central Committee, the ID-CPC has a well-maintained homepage, on which it reports extensively about its international high-level activities from 2002 onwards. 4 The CPC's documentation usually reveals with whom the CPC interacts, where and when. In some cases, the ID-CPC also gives short descriptions of the topics discussed. It generally reports meetings that involve high-level officials, such as the minister or deputy ministers of the ID-CPC, the heads, and deputy heads of other departments of the Central Committee, or high-level provincial party officials. In total, we downloaded 5,080 (English-language) news items containing announcements and descriptions of party-to-party visits or engagements with other foreign representatives as well as written expressions of empathy such as congratulations or condolences. The CPC's meticulous reporting about its activities aligns with strategic changes in China's foreign policy. The ID-CPC developed its website in the early 2000s when the Chinese government launched its public diplomacy program and encouraged various actors to report on their activities ( Zhao 2015, 189). Public reporting of who is meeting with the CPC aims to credit legitimacy to the CPC's rule and show domestic and international audiences that the CPC has many friends.
Before further analysis, some reflections on the data are in order. Being a product of the ID-CPC itself, the data contain what the ID-CPC wants us to read. To better understand potential biases of the reporting, we triangulated the data with other sources. We interviewed 16 participants of party-to-party exchanges from Africa, Europe, and China to identify potential underreporting. 5 We also triangulated information obtained from news items with local newspapers in those countries in Africa and Asia where we would be most suspicious of underreporting. We focused particularly on countries where relations are controversial, and therefore underreporting might be expected, for example in countries that have tense relations with China or maintain relations with Taiwan. As far as we can judge from the interviews and the local press analysis, the visiting patterns, as documented on the website, appear to be a reliable proxy indicating the frequency of high-level contact between the CPC and its foreign partners.
We count a total of 3,658 delegation contacts with direct interaction between the ID-CPC and foreign representatives between 2002 and 2017. Of these, 2,610 contacts take place between the ID-CPC and foreign parties. In another 1,048 cases, the interaction partners are representatives of the state or state institutions without reported affiliation to a party (such as kings or diplomats), research institutions, or business actors. We count each party-to-party interaction only once even if one and the same party delegation's visit is described in several news items. When a news item describes several meetings with partners from different parties during a single ID-CPC delegation's visit in a foreign country, we consider each party having one interaction with the ID-CPC.
The number of CPC contacts with party and non-party representatives substantially increased between 2002 and 2017 ( figure 1). Particularly after the takeover by President Xi in 2012, there is a steep increase in the ID-CPC's activities. The CPC mostly engages with other party officials non-party contacts are much less frequent. In line with the CPC's own documentation, we identify contact with 462 different political parties in 161 countries between 2002 and 2017. 6 The ID-CPC generally receives visitors in Beijing more than it travels abroad for meetings ( figure 2). This is not surprising, given that the ID-CPC needs to invest more resources to travel abroad than it does to receive foreign guests in China.
Number of contacts of the ID-CPC with party and non-party representatives.
CCP Exploits Its Buying Power to Great Advantage
After 10 years of practice, the Chinese Communist Party had mastered the art of purchase order diplomacy. The skillfulness is reflected in the control of the timing. China has been quite effective at increasing the diplomatic influence of the purchase order by extending the period of purchasing activities or prolonging the contracting process. In the earlier days, the purchase order diplomacy was usually a one-time deal that lasted less than a month. In later years, however, the CCP developed a more effective strategy by making the purchase process a longer negotiation, sending delegations in batches to place purchase orders. These orders were placed strategically before and after their key leader’s visits. Sometimes the activities last more than six months.
For example, between November 2003 and January 2004, four purchasing delegations were sent to the United States. Orders covered airplanes, automobiles, soybeans, and telecommunication equipment. The overall period spanned over two months. On Nov. 18, 2003, the U.S. government suddenly made an announcement that it would set quota restrictions on imports of Chinese fabrics, bathrobes, and corsets. As the announcement was taking place right during the ongoing purchase activities from China, Beijing made a timely response by suspending one delegation that was to purchase soybeans from the United States. The suspension put a lot of pressure on the U.S. agricultural markets. A number of members of Congress from major soybean and wheat producing states, including Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, pressured the Bush Administration and eventually effectuated concessions from the U.S. government. China restored the soybean purchasing delegation weeks afterwards.
The Chinese communist diplomatic skills in trade negotiations reached a new level with the extension of the time duration of the contracting process. Beijing would avoid committing a large deal, but instead start with the framework agreement or an agreement of intent, and finally inked the contract during the high-level visits. Airplane purchase orders were usually done this way. From the original intent to purchase to the final signing of the contract, there were three or four rounds of the official confirmation process, lasting two to three years. Each confirmation process would create a need for good diplomatic and political atmosphere from both sides, thus effectively extending the period in which the CCP controls the bilateral relationship. This way of negotiating showed a maturation of Chinese communist skills in getting the outcomes they wanted.
Of course, any big buyer is going to have a lot of leverage in trade negotiations. That’s the nature of being a big purchaser in a capitalist system, too.
In China, they’re closing churches, jailing pastors – and even rewriting scripture
I n late October, the pastor of one of China’s best-known underground churches asked this of his congregation: had they successfully spread the gospel throughout their city? “If tomorrow morning the Early Rain Covenant Church suddenly disappeared from the city of Chengdu, if each of us vanished into thin air, would this city be any different? Would anyone miss us?” said Wang Yi, leaning over his pulpit and pausing to let the question weigh on his audience. “I don’t know.”
Almost three months later, Wang’s hypothetical scenario is being put to the test. The church in south-west China has been shuttered and Wang and his wife, Jiang Rong, remain in detention after police arrested more than 100 Early Rain church members in December. Many of those who haven’t been detained are in hiding. Others have been sent away from Chengdu and barred from returning. Some, including Wang’s mother and his young son, are under close surveillance. Wang and his wife are being charged for “inciting subversion”, a crime that carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
Now the hall Wang preached from sits empty, the pulpit and cross that once hung behind him both gone. Prayer cushions have been replaced by a ping-pong table and a film of dust. New tenants, a construction company and a business association, occupy the three floors the church once rented. Plainclothes police stand outside, turning away those looking for the church.
One of the officers told the Observer: “I have to tell you to leave and watch until you get in a car and go.”
Wang Yi, pastor of the Early Rain church, who was arrested and detained three months ago, along with his wife. Photograph: Early Rain/Facebook
Early Rain is the latest victim of what Chinese Christians and rights activists say is the worst crackdown on religion since the country’s Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong’s government vowed to eradicate religion.
Researchers say the current drive, fuelled by government unease over the growing number of Christians and their potential links to the west, is aimed not so much at destroying Christianity but bringing it to heel.
“The government has orchestrated a campaign to ‘sinicise’ Christianity, to turn Christianity into a fully domesticated religion that would do the bidding of the party,” said Lian Xi, a professor at Duke University in North Carolina, who focuses on Christianity in modern China.
Over the past year, local governments have shut hundreds of unofficial congregations or “house churches” that operate outside the government-approved church network, including Early Rain. A statement signed by 500 house church leaders in November says authorities have removed crosses from buildings, forced churches to hang the Chinese flag and sing patriotic songs, and barred minors from attending.
Churchgoers say the situation will get worse as the campaign reaches more of the country. Another church in Chengdu was placed under investigation last week. Less than a week after the mass arrest of Early Rain members, police raided a children’s Sunday school at a church in Guangzhou. Officials have also banned the 1,500-member Zion church in Beijing after its pastor refused to install CCTV.
In November the Guangzhou Bible Reformed Church was shut for the second time in three months. “The Chinese Communist party (CCP) wants to be the God of China and the Chinese people. But according to the Bible only God is God. The government is scared of the churches,” said Huang Xiaoning, the church’s pastor.
Local governments have also shut the state-approved “sanzi” churches. Sunday schools and youth ministries have been banned. One of the first signs of a crackdown was when authorities forcibly removed more than 1,000 crosses from sanzi churches in Zhejiang province between 2014 and 2016.
“The goal of the crackdown is not to eradicate religions,” said Ying Fuk Tsang, director of the Christian Study Centre on Chinese Religion and Culture at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. “President Xi Jinping is trying to establish a new order on religion, suppressing its blistering development. [The government] aims to regulate the ‘religious market’ as a whole.”
While the CCP is officially atheist, Protestantism and Catholicism are two of five faiths sanctioned by the government and religious freedom has been enshrined in the constitution since the 1980s. For decades, authorities tolerated the house churches, which refused to register with government bodies that required church leaders to adapt teachings to follow party doctrine.
Members of the Early Rain Covenant Church pray during a meeting in their church before it was shut down in December 2018.
As China experienced an explosion in the number of religious believers, the government has grown wary of Christianity and Islam in particular, with their overseas links. In Xinjiang, a surveillance and internment system has been built for Muslim minorities, notably the Uighurs.
Xi has called for the country to guard against “infiltration” through religion and extremist ideology.
“What happens in Xinjiang and what happens to house churches is connected,” said Eva Pils, a professor of law at King’s College London, focusing on human rights. “Those kinds of new attitudes have translated into different types of measures against Christians, which amount to intensified persecution of religious groups.”
There are at least 60 million Christians in China, spanning rural and urban areas. Congregation-based churches can organise large groups across the country and some have links with Christian groups abroad.
Pastors such as Wang of Early Rain are especially alarming for authorities. Under Wang, a legal scholar and public intellectual, the church has advocated for parents of children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake – deaths many critics say were caused by poor government-run construction – or for families of those affected by faulty vaccines. Every year the church commemorates victims of the 4 June protests in 1989, which were forcibly put down by the Chinese military.
“Early Rain church is one of the few who dare to face what is wrong in society,” said one member. “Most churches don’t dare talk about this, but we obey strictly obey the Bible, and we don’t avoid anything.”
Wang and Early Rain belong to what some see as a new generation of Christians that has emerged alongside a growing civil rights movement. Increasingly, activist church leaders have taken inspiration from the democratising role the church played in eastern European countries in the Soviet bloc or South Korea under martial law, according to Lian. Several of China’s most active human rights lawyers are Christians.
“They have come to see the political potential of Christianity as a force for change,” said Lian. “What really makes the government nervous is Christianity’s claim to universal rights and values.”
Catholics wait to take communion during the Palm Sunday mass at a ‘house church’ near Shijiazhuang. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images
As of 2018, the government has implemented sweeping rules on religious practices, adding more requirements for religious groups and barring unapproved organisations from engaging in any religious activity. But the campaign is not just about managing behaviour. One of the goals of a government work plan for “promoting Chinese Christianity” between 2018 and 2022 is “thought reform”. The plan calls for “retranslating and annotating” the Bible, to find commonalities with socialism and establish a “correct understanding” of the text.
“Ten years ago, we used to be able to say the party was not really interested in what people believed internally,” said Pils. “Xi Jinping’s response is much more invasive and it is in some ways returning to Mao-era attempts to control hearts and minds.”
Bibles, sales of which have always been controlled in China, are no longer available for purchase online, a loophole that had existed for years. In December, Christmas celebrations were banned in several schools and cities across China.
“Last year’s crackdown is the worst in three decades,” said Bob Fu, the founder of ChinaAid, a Christian advocacy group based in the US.
In Chengdu, Early Rain has not vanished. Before the raid, a plan was in place to preserve the church, with those who were not arrested expected to keep it running, holding meetings wherever they could. Slowly, more Early Rain members are being released. As of 9 January, 25 were still in detention.
They maintain contact through encrypted platforms. On New Year’s Eve, 300 people joined an online service, some from their homes, others from cars or workplaces, to pray for 2019. Others gather in small groups in restaurants and parks. One member, a student who was sent back to Guangzhou, said he preaches the gospel to the police who monitor him.
The church continues to send out daily scripture and posts videos of sermons. In one, pastor Wang alludes to the coming crackdown: “In this war, in Xinjiang, in Shanghai, in Beijing, in Chengdu, the rulers have chosen an enemy that can never be imprisoned – the soul of man. Therefore they are doomed to lose this war.”
Why was the US table tennis team sent to communist China even after a difference in ideology? - History
Historically, Americans have not been very effective in dealing with the radical mindset. Like Neville Chamberlain, who really believed the growing hostility with Hitler’s Germany was just a big misunderstanding, Americans have too often believed that if we could only sit down with the Osama bin Ladens of the world they would see that we are a sincere, reasonable people and violence is of no benefit to anyone.
Tucker Carlson wondered why airborne units aren’t used to quell the rioting. They were once.
Contained in the century-long slow leak of Christianity from Western culture are many things of value, not the least of which is the doctrine of evil. Now, a vaguely expressed secular notion that people are basically good and are motivated by similar desires and felt needs is the reigning paradigm.
But conflict with some people, some nations, and some groups is not a question of mutual understanding. It is a question of evil. It is a lesson Americans learned the hard way — but learn it they did — during the Korean War. And in this culturally defining moment, it is a lesson we would do well to recall.
After Operation Chromite in September of 1950 — MacArthur’s daring landing at Inchon and drive across the Korean Peninsula — hundreds of thousands of (North) Korea People’s Army (KPA) soldiers were encircled, captured, and destroyed. As a consequence, the UN prisoner of war population swiftly rose from less than a thousand in August to more than 130,000 by November.
Makeshift POW camps were hastily constructed to house more than 80,000 of that number on Koje-do (Geoje in many modern spellings), a county-sized island just off the southern tip of the Korean Peninsula. Prisoners were divided into four massive enclosures, with each containing eight compounds. U.S. soldiers of subpar quality and insufficient quantity were assigned to keep them there.
When ceasefire negotiations began at Kaesong in July 1951 — which were later moved to Panmunjom — resistance among prisoners became systemic, organized, and violent. Messages were cleverly passed between Gen. Nam Il, North Korea’s chief negotiator at the talks, all the way to Koje-do, where they were delivered through the wire to the communist leaders within the prison camps.
The general’s instructions were clear: create martyrs for the communist cause and thereby undermine America’s moral authority at the negotiating table. To this end, communist enforcers at Koje-do accused their jailers of brutality, cultural insensitivity, and gross mistreatment they staged riots in an effort to provoke an armed response and they prepared for a general prison breakout, to force the UN to transfer front line troops to the rear echelons.
Brigadier Gen. Francis Dodd, the commander of the Koje-do island installation, naively took prisoner complaints at face value. Hence, the communist strategy, part of an old radical playbook, met with startling success. Prisoner violence (usually against other prisoners) was largely overlooked while every accusation of mistreatment from their guards resulted in an investigation, dismissal, and a Drew Brees-like mea culpa. But the communist leaders would not be placated. Like the endgame to coronavirus quarantines, the goalposts were continually moved.
In his classic history of the Korean conflict, This Kind of War, T. R. Fehrenbach writes,
[In World War II] it was not until 1943 Americans had any prisoners, and these were from a foe of the same basic culture, who sensed they were already beaten. (There had never been enough Japanese POWs to matter.) But in Korea the United States not only had taken thousands of POW’s of alien culture it faced an alien psychology also.
On May 7, 1952, Dodd, failing to understand the “alien psychology” of which Fehrenbach wrote, agreed to meet with KPA Senior Col. Lee Hak Ku at the gate of Compound 76. It was there that Dodd stood before a rioting prisoner mob like Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. At a prearranged signal, the American general was seized and pulled deep inside the compound before guards could react. Any attempt to rescue him by force, Americans were told, would result in Gen. Dodd’s immediate execution.
What followed was, in the words of Gen. Mark Clark, “the biggest flap of the war.” In the stuff of a Hollywood epic drama, Dodd was placed on trial for crimes against humanity while ideologically unreliable prisoners were tried and summarily executed by the fanatical communists within the camp.
North Korea and China wasted no time in accusing the U.S. of violating the Geneva Convention. And in a mind-bending twist of facts, the likes of which have not been seen since the New York Times and the Washington Post last went to print, their anti-American allies in the media quickly turned the Koje-do fiasco into a propaganda bonanza. Moscow’s Pravda screamed,
Koje Island! Again, we learn that “civilized” Americans can be yet more inhuman, yet more infamous than the bloody Hitlerites. Dachau was a death camp, Maidenek was a death factory Koje is a whole island of death. The American hangmen are torturing, tormenting, and killing unarmed people here. They are experimenting with their poisons on them.
At Panmunjom, Gen. Nam capitalized on his own success in engineering the revolt on Koje-do:
Day after day, facing his opposite numbers across the conference table, Nam II poured out crocodile tears for the fate of the communist prisoners whom he alleged were suffering fiendish torments inflicted by the “sadistic and inhuman” United Nations jailers. Under a smoke screen of pious platitudes, Nam Il coolly directed the apparatus of subversion, terrorism, and political murder which throttled anti-communist opposition among the POW’s and turned the compounds at Koje-do into armed camps of Red defiance.
An embarrassed President Truman ordered outgoing UN Commander Gen. Matthew Ridgway to bring Koje-do to heel. Ridgway simply passed the problem along to incoming UN Commander Gen. Mark Clark who, in turn, ordered Brigadier Gen. Haydon “Bull” Boatner to the island to quell the insurrection brewing there.
Upon inspection, Boatner quickly realized just how badly the situation had been handled by his predecessors. The compounds had become “autonomous zones” where no American dared go. In the fashion of Seattle’s own autonomous zone leader Raz Simone, Colonel Lee paraded about like a peacock, drilling his soldiers — now armed with knives, flails, spears, and stolen gasoline to make Molotov cocktails — and prepared them for what Boatner could only guess was an attempt to take over the whole island and slaughter its inhabitants.
Boatner, the 14th commander of the prison installation in two years, ordered an immediate evacuation of all civilians from the island. To do the job of breaking resistance at Koje-do, he then demanded that Clark give him a thousand paratroopers from the 187th Regimental Combat Team then in Japan. The so-called “Rakkasans” — literally “umbrella men,” a nickname given to them by the Japanese during the occupation of that country — were a battle-hardened regiment. As if that weren’t enough, the 187th had been recently supplemented by elements of the now-decimated and decommissioned elite Airborne Ranger units. Clark, over a barrel, reluctantly agreed.
My father, one of the aforementioned Rangers, recalled being on leave in Tokyo when he and others received notice that they had two hours to finish their drinks, kiss their girls goodbye, and return to base to prepare for immediate deployment to an unknown destination.
“We thought we were going back into combat. Instead, we deplaned on Koje. By that time, the whole world knew about the SNAFU there. We were briefed and told it would be our job to crush any opposition to breaking up the compounds and moving the prisoners to new ones. That suited us. No man on leave and ordered back into the field does so happily. To say that we arrived in a bad mood is putting it mildly.”
The sudden disappearance of the island’s civilians only to be rapidly replaced by this elite force was an ominous sign to the communist hardliners that there was a new sheriff in town. Then, writes Fehrenbach:
Boatner had the paratroops stage a mock advance into an empty compound next to 76, with fixed bayonets and flamethrowers, while the communist prisoners watched. The demonstration went like clockwork it had been timed and scheduled to the second, and every officer briefed on his part. The demonstration was both impressive and frightening.
According to Gen. Clark, “Staff planning for this operation was done as carefully as for any orthodox military campaign.” Boatner then set up loudspeakers and, in English, Korean, and Chinese, he informed prisoners that if they failed to lay down their arms and divide themselves into groups of 500 for relocation, the boys at his back would be sent in, and they would not shrink from violence. The choice was theirs. Instead of complying with his directive, prisoners barricaded the main gate, dug trenches, and killed any who broke ranks.
The following day, June 10, 1952, at 5:45 a.m., Boatner gave one more warning over the loudspeakers. It was a waste of time. The prisoners, like rioters of recent vintage, shouted defiance and hurled objects — and thus they sealed their own fate.
Boatner decided to start with Compound 76, where most of the communist hardliners were concentrated. Beat them down in full view of the other compounds, he reasoned, and the rest will meekly surrender. It was a savvy move.
“Paratroops are a sharp but fragile tool,” says Fehrenbach, “which, since they cannot be used and then put back into the bottle, are best reserved for special missions … these men wanted to fight. Any fight, anywhere, would do.”
With a full complement of UN observers and members of the international press watching from a nearby hillside — you, too, can watch it all here — Boatner sent in the 187th. Instead of attempting to breach the front gate, they cut the wire at the rear of Compound 76 and entered with fixed bayonets and no cartridges in the chambers. No man was to shoot without a direct order from an officer:
The paratroops advanced, slowly, grimly, pushing them back. Now there was chaos. The POW’s had set their huts afire, and smoke blanketed the area, choking men, obscuring vision. In the Korean press, a number of men panicked, and tried to run. They were killed by their own people, with spears in the back. Then the tough paratroopers met the lines of Koreans, and in a wild melee broke the back of their resistance.
After an hour-and-a-half of fighting and without firing a shot, Boatner was master of Compound 76. Like Saddam Hussein a half a century later, Col. Lee Hak Ku was found cowering in a hole. Literally dragged from it by the seat of his pants, the colonel faced a grim fate — but not from the Americans. Repatriated to North Korea, he was tried and shot in a manner that likely mirrored the kangaroo courts of 76. As for the other compounds, having witnessed firsthand the display of power, their resistance wilted, and order was restored to the island.
Speaking of the incident at Koje-do after the war, General Clark observed that “[It] is in itself both a case study in the technique of communist intrigue and a dire warning of the efficiency and imagination of the communist conspiracy against us.”
All of this should sound eerily familiar to Americans watching the recent riots sweeping the country from Seattle to New York. Yes, I recognize the difference between peaceful protesters and rioters. And I likewise recognize that many well-intentioned people are swept up in both. They are what economist Ludwig von Mises called “useful innocents.” But no one who has studied or observed the tactics of communist, fascist, anarchist, or radical Islamic agitators can fail to recognize that at the core of the Black Lives Matter (and Antifa) movement lies a violent ideology masquerading as a champion of the very things it seeks to undermine: justice and equality.
Before rioting, looting, and lawlessness become, to use a phrase the Left would give us for an altogether different reason, the “new normal,” Americans would do well to look to the past and learn the lessons of Koje-do and the broader lessons that the Cold War taught us about dealing with radical secular ideologies — and make no mistake about it, that is precisely what we are now facing.
As the useful innocents — or idiots, as the case may be — in government, industry, the academy, and even churches rush headlong to apologize for wrongs real and imagined and declare their allegiance to Black Lives Matter, I cannot help but think that these Americans are singing a song of German origin they do not understand, and behind it all is Marx, the master lyricist.
Are the U.S. and China in a Cold War?
To be fair, the U.S.-China relationship had already begun to deteriorate under the Obama Administration when Beijing, starting in 2013, moved to militarize the South China Sea. It did this by creating a total of seven new islands, which it used to house military facilities, and became increasingly confrontational in its relationship with its neighbors.
As a candidate for the presidency in 2016, Donald Trump had repeatedly claimed that the terms of U.S. -China trade were unfair to the U.S. that they had resulted in the loss of millions of high paying manufacturing jobs that both the Chinese government, its state-owned enterprises and private Chinese companies were routinely stealing American technology and that China had taken advantage of the U.S.
Nonetheless, the Trump Administration, notwithstanding that many of its trade officials were notoriously "China hawks," did show a willingness to continue the Sino-American economic relationship, albeit on radically reset terms.
The term "Cold War" was coined in 1947 by Bernard Baruch, a prominent financier and longtime advisor to the U.S. government, to describe the state of U.S. -Soviet relations and the challenges they posed to the U.S. The term resonated with American media and was quickly adopted to describe what historians called, "a war without fighting or bloodshed, but a battle nonetheless."
The Cold War between Washington and Moscow lasted approximately 40 years. It was fought mostly by proxies and in the shadows of covert intelligence operations. To call it bloodless is a misnomer. Bullets fired by proxies were just as lethal as those fired by the military forces that sponsored them a lesson driven home to both American and Soviet soldiers in conflicts ranging from Afghanistan to Vietnam.
It's hard to see how the experience of the Soviet-American Cold War is analogous to the current state of Sino-American relations. The U.S. is not engaged in any military conflicts where its opponents are Chinese proxies.
There have been military clashes between the military forces of China and those of its neighbors. Some, like the Philippines, are bound to the U.S. by defense treaties. Others, like Vietnam or India, have no such agreements, much less any explicit U.S. guarantees of their security, but share a common interest with Washington in preventing Chinese encroachment on their sovereignty. While those incidents had casualties, although none were American, they fall far short of the proxy conflicts that characterized the Soviet-American Cold War.
The U.S. and China are involved in a wide-ranging economic competition, one that spills over into American bilateral relations with other countries, and also impacts the "rules" of an international system that has evolved, largely under American leadership, in the postwar period. The U.S. competes economically with other countries, most notably Japan and the European Union, but this rivalry is different from the Sino-American one.
First, while countries like Japan or the members of the EU compete economically with the U.S., and while they may seek to shape the "rules" of world trade and the international economic system to their advantage, they stop short of seeking a wholesale replacement of the U.S. dollar-centric global financial system. Even the creation of the euro as the common currency of the EU, while it had the added advantage of being an alternative reserve currency to the U.S. dollar, was never envisioned to be a replacement for it.
Secondly, except for China, the other major countries with which the U.S. competes economically are ones that are aligned with the U.S. militarily and, with some exceptions, diplomatically. While economic growth and technological innovation may enhance a U.S. ally's military capabilities, such enhancements do not have bearing on U.S. national security. Indeed, in most cases, they enhance it by expanding alliance wide capabilities or diminishing the U.S. contribution to the common defense.
China is the exception to this rule. The growth of the Chinese economy and its technological sophistication directly impact Beijing's military capabilities while, at the same time, enhancing its diplomatic power. Chinese military and foreign policy has become increasingly, nationalistic, aggressive and combative, a style the Chinese media calls "Wolf Warrior Diplomacy." That means China's economic growth has a direct bearing on America's defense and diplomatic posture in East Asia, specifically and generally in the Indo-Pacific basin.
Not only does that posture increase American defense requirements in the region, it also raises the probability that aggressive Chinese actions, especially ones aimed at countries with which the U.S. has a defense agreement, will lead to a confrontation or even a military clash with the U.S. Currently, Beijing has territorial disputes with every one of its 14 neighbors. In some of these disputes, it is unilaterally changing the "facts on the ground."
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“[An] accomplished study of China and sport. Where Olympic Dreams scores highest is in describing and explaining the importance of the Olympic Games to China's self-esteem and its sense of belonging on the international stage, and how successive leaders have focused on the powerful political platform the event provides.”―Clifford Coonan, South China Morning Post
“In this history of sports in China over the past century, Xu accents the cultural intertwining of athletics and politics as the country continually increases its emphasis on the former to enhance its stature in the world.”―John Maxymuk, Library Journal
“Thoroughly researched and lucidly articulated, Mr. Xu‘s book provides a unique perspective on China through the history of sports. Just as baseball and football define the heart and mind of America, China’s promotion of various sports as national games also speaks to the cultural psyche of a country seeking recognition in the global political arena.”―Yunte Huang, Santa Barbara News-Press
“Probably no Olympic Games has been so deeply tied to a political project as Beijing's. The links between politics in China and the games are well told in Olympic Dreams by the historian, Xu Guoqi, who describes how for more than a century the Olympics has been wrapped up in Chinese ideas about national revival and international prestige.”―Geoff Dyer, Financial Times
“Xu Guoqi's masterful survey of China's hundred-year tryst with the Olympics, Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008, reminds the reader that sports have been central to the construction of the Chinese nation and its links with the rest of the world. Xu shows how politicians have micromanaged every aspect of China's sporting progress.”―Mark Leonard, Chronicle of Higher Education
“What distinguishes this. from so many of the recent flood of books on China, is its emphasis on the political and national role of sport in the Chinese ascendancy. The Olympics are emblematic of the "new" China but, interestingly, [Xu] speculates on whether the long-held dream of the Communist party to host the Olympics may well spell the beginning of its end.”―Steven Carroll, The Age
“This highly readable book traces the history of China's sporting ambition, from an obscure lecture in Tientsin in 1908 to the "high-quality Olympics with Chinese characteristics". It is a useful introduction to an awkward topic that simply won't go away.”―Michael Rank, The Guardian
“A thoughtful and highly informative book that all interested in the Beijing Olympics will find rewarding, and it should be required reading for journalists covering the 2008 Games.”―Steve Tsang, Times Higher Education Supplement
“The entire history of [China's] involvement with the Olympics, and international sport in general, has been overtly political, as Xu Guoqi ably demonstrates in Olympic Dreams.”―Tod Hoffman, Montreal Gazette
“Thoroughly researched and painstakingly footnoted.”―Garth Woolsey, Toronto Star
“The 2008 Beijing games, like other sporting events in the past, will be a window into Chinese national pride and global ambitions. Even though Olympic Dreams was written before the March Tibet riots and the subsequent outbursts of Chinese nationalism, Mr. Xu’s general argument still stands, and is even somewhat prescient. Mr. Xu has a clear and readable writing style, and his analysis is punctuated with lively examples. Beijing’s politicization of sports clearly has some uniquely Chinese characteristics. But that is not necessarily the main lesson of this book. Examples of similar phenomena―from Hungary to Argentina―remind that sports and politics are often two sides of the same coin. The grander the event, the more political the stakes.”―Emily Parker, Far Eastern Economic Review
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From The Washington Post
The Chinese government has said over and over in the last few months that the Beijing Olympics should not be politicized. The uproar over Tibet has no place in the Games, officials insist. Nor do humanitarian concerns over Sudan's Darfur region belong in the Olympic spotlight. As for human rights in China itself, well, that's an internal matter.
Yet, politics have long been at the heart of China's relations with the modern Olympic movement, as Xu Guoqi, an associate professor at Kalamazoo College, shows in his illuminating history, Olympic Dreams. The first time China participated in the Games, in 1932 at Los Angeles, the goal was to prevent Japan from scoring a propaganda coup. Japanese occupation authorities had planned to dispatch a stocky Chinese sprinter named Liu Changchun to represent the Manchukuo republic, the puppet state Japan had set up in Manchuria and Mongolia. To foil that plan, China's Nationalist government hurriedly scraped together some money and sent Liu as a one-man Chinese delegation. He fared poorly as a sprinter but held high the Chinese flag.
Later on, Mao Zedong saw sports victories as a way to prove the superiority of the socialist way. On advice from the U.S.S.R., China cultivated national teams. But during the first two decades of Communist rule, China kept its athletes out of the Olympics to protest Taiwan's participation. (More recently, both China and Taiwan have sent teams under artful compromises over the island's name.)
When Mao decided the time had come to make friends in the West, he also found sports a handy tool for that purpose. Mao and President Nixon had been exchanging secret messages through intermediaries for months before the Chinese sent a team to the World Table Tennis Championship in Japan in April 1971. As Xu relates, Zhou En-lai, who was in charge of foreign relations, issued detailed instructions to the Chinese players on what to do if they met Americans. "The Chinese were not permitted to exchange team flags," for example, but they "could shake hands," Xu notes. When American player Glenn Cowan jumped on a Chinese bus to greet Chinese star Zhuang Zedong, Zhuang was ready with a silk painting to present as a gift. Mao then gave the order for the Chinese players to invite the U.S. team to China by the end of the month, the Americans had alighted in Beijing. "The small ping-pong ball, worth only about 25 cents, played a unique and significant role . . . in transforming Sino-U.S. relations," Xu concludes.
Even before Mao, sports had played an eminently political role in China. Chinese nationalists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw athletics as a way to create vigorous men who could wage war and change the country's reputation as the "sick man of east Asia." As part of the national revival they hoped to foster, they embraced Western sports to counter the Mandarin paradigm of Chinese men as spindly, sedentary and effete.
Despite the reformers' efforts, to some degree the old paradigm has remained alive. Traditionally, most Chinese have been brought up to think they should be clever, disciplined and able to bear hardship, but not powerful or swift. Because Yao Ming's jousts with fellow NBA giants and Liu Xiang's triumph in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2004 Athens Olympics shattered racial stereotypes, they were hailed as breakthroughs by a new generation of Chinese. The 2008 Beijing Olympics, where China hopes to win more medals than any other nation, also was intended to have a political message.
Since abandoning doctrinaire socialism three decades ago, China has enjoyed an economic explosion that has given its 1.3 billion people a standard of living their parents could hardly imagine, and the government has entered into normal relations with most countries, becoming a diplomatic as well as an economic player in Asia and beyond. By hosting the Games, China was going to celebrate this status. Perhaps more important, it was going to receive international recognition of its achievements and, in some measure, acceptance of the Communist Party's glacial pace toward political change.
Xu's misfortune, and China's, is that this landscape, which he ably paints in his final chapter, shifted not long after the manuscript was sent to the printer. Riots in Tibet and protests along the Olympic Torch relay route created a global audience for questions about China's worthiness to host the Olympics. The atmosphere has soured badly, and no one knows whether it can be repaired before the Games begin in August.
The May 12 earthquake in Sichuan also will affect the Olympics. A country in mourning, China is likely to attract sympathy. But sorrow may change the tone of the event. Xu's history of China's participation in the Olympics remains enlightening, but the unsettled 2008 Games have become the stuff of journalism, changing every day.