As the ceremonial scroll in Beijing is rolled to its close at the departure of the Olympics and more recently the Paralympics, there is a sense of relief and acknowledgement in the air. However, the discussion outside of the PRC echoes in different pitches on evaluations of the Games, and the subsequent direction of Beijing after its Olympic feat.

• There are a few like Barry Cohen in The Australian who ask for a fairer games, comparing Beijing 2008 to that of Berlin (1936) and Moscow (1980). However, Cohen and others appear to mistakenly conflate the incomparable climate of power struggle in international politics during the Berlin and Moscow games to the balance of power in the 21st century, and China’s ascending influence.

• Nicolas Kristof in an Op-Ed from The New York Times, argues that China’s significance goes beyond the Olympic achievement and gold medals. Kristof shares a very different, more informed perspective of China’s development. He observes that the key to understanding China’s human rights and censorship issues must not rely on passing judgement through one’s own standards, and one should take note of the various Chinese views on human rights [1] and be aware of the ‘ideological gap’ between the West and East as posited by Liying Zhang on a column from Webdiary.

• Similarly in an article from Australia’s e-journal of social and political debate, Online Opinion, K. C. Boey breaks the monotonous headlines of Beijing’s “broken promises” by noting an independent voice in Australian papers- “Australians have a limited knowledge of China” [2] – and by highlighting the significance of Confucianism in the Opening Ceremony. Fortunately, as Rogges stated at the Closing Ceremony, the Olympic Games has been significant in building this understanding between China and the rest of the world.

In a commentary on the Project Syndicate, Orville Schell expresses what most foreign commenters miss: the ‘deficit of global respect’’ that China as a nation has sworn to fix and how the Olympic Games has seen a reclamation of some of that missing respect. However, the task for Beijing is far from accomplished.

• Indeed the articles in the University of Hong Kong’s China Media Project openly highlight the level of seriousness and sincerity taking place in the recent discourse amongst the Chinese leadership and intelligentsia about the need for more ‘reform and opening’. For instance, see “There is no such thing as the best system, only a better one” and Journalist and reformer Zhou Ruijin speaks on political reform.

There is no doubt that the present is a time of, and for tremendous change. Despite the diversity of opinions on China’s rise, surely we can all agree that facilitating better understanding is a necessary and beneficial step for all, as we acclimatize to shifting global interactions and life as we know it.

Si-Si Dai
is the Copy Editor of The Sinologist.

[1] A fascinating quote from a Chinese netizen in Kristof’s op-ed went as follows: “One person responded disdainfully to my post on human rights: ‘Who cares about that, when we’re all losing our shirts in the stock market. We shareholders love the country, but the country doesn’t love shareholders’.”

[2] John Harms, The Sunday Age


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