by Jennie S. Bev
"One world, one dream" is the official slogan of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It is said to reflect these six values: unity, friendship, progress, harmony, participation, and dreaming. It also expresses the common desire of people all over the world who strive for a common goal: a bright future for humankind.
Friendship, after all, is what unites people, and what is more fun than playing some games with our friends? But is this sporting event really about friendship? Isn't it about power as well? Perhaps, considering China is now more an awakened dragon than an emerging market.
Many people residing outside China –including the 40 million overseas Chinese in the world, approximately 7 million of those in Indonesia– might be seeing China acting politically through this international event, especially considering Tibetans have not been granted the autonomy (not independence) they have been asking for.
Human rights violations have been occurring in China to this very day and it seems human rights advocates have made scant progress. Many Tibetan monks have abandoned their nonviolent vow and others are trying to gain some pre-Olympics momentum with their demonstrations and campaigning.
Many human rights advocates have been pressuring China's government to rectify its record of human rights abuses, particularly in the detention of political dissidents, human rights advocates and religious activists as well as the persecutions of religious believers and forced abortions under the one-child rule. George W. Bush, who arrived in Beijing on August 7, 2008, conveyed the same message.
Many people agree that China has a political agenda to address during the Beijing Olympics and many also use this moment to politicize their side.
Joan Chen, a Shanghainese actress and director based in San Francisco who was born during the Cultural Revolution, wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in response to Chris Daly, a member of San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Daly had demonstrated against the Olympic torch and called for a resolution to "provide the people of San Francisco with a lifetime opportunity to help 1.3 billion Chinese people gain more freedom and rights.” The resolution was not signed by San Francisco's mayor Gavin Newsom.
Despite her family hardships during the revolution, in which her grandfather was wrongfully accused of being a counterrevolutionary and a foreign spy, resulting in his suicide and her family home being confiscated, Chen did not seem to agree with Daly and millions of others. She said, "The Chinese are a proud people. They want freedom and greater rights, but they know they must fight for them from within. They know no one can grant them freedom and rights from afar.”
And I cannot agree more with Joan. The Chinese are a proud people and, while things might be moving at a snail's pace in China, we cannot discount the fact Chinese society has undergone and will continue to undergo metamorphoses. For now, China's economy is its primary asset with technology coming in second. Later, when its political power is ready to be redirected, we might very well see a far different China, one whose power might overwhelm everyone, even the United States.
The Beijing Olympics might be seen as "too political,” bringing too much publicity, both good and bad, but it is probably one of the best tools for building understanding among peoples.
At least for now.
If China were a person, it would have been one of the nouveau riche with a bright future ahead as its financial resources look so promising. And in that role, China may influence the world in an unprecedented way. Perhaps that is exactly China's place in the world: a strong influencer.
Empirically speaking, Chinese civilization has contributed to the world's inventions of astrology, banknotes, drills, forks, gunpowder, noodles, paper, printing, toothbrushes, wine and many other things including the discovery of the American continent, which later was claimed to have been discovered by Columbus.
As a citizen of the world who happens to be an overseas Chinese, I sincerely wish China's return to power will be used for the betterment of humankind, just as it was in ancient times. After all, politics can be used for either good or bad intentions. And the highest power of all comes from good deeds.
I cite Joan Chen again, "Times are changing. We need to be open-minded and farsighted. We need to make more friends than enemies." Let's enjoy the Games and be merry.
We can make either friends or foes with politics. And we definitely prefer the former.
The Jakarta Post, August 9, 2008
Republished by Tracy Press, August 12, 2008