Look to the Future
By Frank Ching
The Beijing Olympics are over, to the relief of many, with no terrorist attacks or disasters except for the fatal stabbing of an American at the beginning of the Games.
In fact, the verdict is virtually unanimous that the Games were a great success, with over 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries having taking part and with many new records having been set.
From the standpoint of medals won, both the United States and China have reason to be pleased. The former won the most number of medals overall ― 110 ― compared with 100 for China. But the Chinese won the most golds, leading the Americans 51 to 36.
The question now is, what next? Beijing residents had clean air for several weeks as a result of an all-out effort to curb pollution and reduce traffic. Now that they know what the air and sky can be like if the government really tried, they would not be happy if things were to go back to the way they were before the Olympics.
The Olympics were China's coming-out party and the country received unprecedented media coverage. The good thing was that while there was much journalistic interest in sensitive issues involving Tibet, Falun Gong and human rights, there was also plenty of other coverage and, by and large, the reportage was much more positive than negative.
The level of interest in China will remain high and the range of topics covered will continue to be wide. Now that China is established as an athletic giant as well as an economic superpower, human rights should no longer be looked at as the only story that journalists should focus on.
Beijing, of course, has to do its part by continuing to relax regulations governing foreign correspondents. The more relaxed rules put in place for the Olympics should be made permanent.
The Olympics should enable China to develop a sporting network involving athletes from different countries, enhancing friendship and cooperation. In future, Chinese athletes should communicate regularly with their counterparts overseas, thus furthering the opening up of China.
If there is one thing that the Olympics should do, it is to accelerate the opening-up of China. And there is likelihood that this will happen even if there are no dramatic examples of this.
The truth is that competitions, such as the Olympic Games, sporting, cultural, economic and even military exchanges will involve China in a tangle of relationships with the outside world that will all enhance the country's opening-up and involvement with the rest of the world. After all, isn't that what a coming-out party is all about?
Deng Xiaoping realized that China's problems stemmed from its isolation, which began centuries ago, during the Ming Dynasty, and that were worsened during the Maoist era.
What caused China to become weak, to suffer its century of humiliation, was its self-centered aloofness brought on by smugness about its own superiority, compared with ``barbarians'' on the outside.
It was pride that brought about China's downfall. In the words of the Qianlong Emperor to Lord Macartney in 1793, ``Our Celestial Empire possesses all things in prolific abundance and lacks no product within its borders'' and therefore there is no need for China ``to import the manufactures of outside barbarians.''
In the 19th century, China's doors were wrested open by the West in search of trade and economic advantages. This was imposed by gunboat diplomacy and exposed China's weakness for all to see.
Deng's solution to China's problems was the open policy, voluntarily opening the country's doors to the world. Deng's wisdom lay in realizing that the solution to China's weakness was not self-reliance, as the Gang of Four asserted, but the construction of a mutually beneficial economic system that would integrate China into the modern world.
And so, the worst result of the Beijing Games would be if China were to turn arrogant as a result of its 51 gold medals and turn its nose up at the rest of the world, thinking that it was better than anyone else. That would sow the seeds for the country's destruction. But there is little likelihood that this will happen.
Now that China has had its coming-out party and has been accepted as an equal in the international community through the hosting of the Olympics, the country should be able to finally put the ``century of humiliation'' behind it and look to the future. There should be no further need to constantly harp on the past and reserve for itself the moral high ground.
Frank Ching is a journalist and commentator in Hong Kong. He can be reached at Frank.email@example.com.