The Search For China's Soul
Senior Editor For Blogs
I wish they gave out Olympic medals for joy because I’m pretty sure my twin daughters would grab the gold after watching Michael Phelps win his 8th gold medal in these Games. His final victory sparked utter pandemonium in our house – wild cheering, flag waving, the banging of pots and – the announcement from one of my girls who said she wants to go to China because as she put it – “Mommy, China is the place where dreams come true”. Wow, not bad for a 10 year old.
Yes China is indeed making a lot of dreams come true for athletes, big businesses, entrepreneurs and Chinese leaders. And all these dreams are the rewards of a meticulous, calculated plan.
Philip P. Pan has just written "OUT OF MAO’s SHADOWS: The Struggle For The Soul of a New China" and wrote in an email to me, “China wants to use these Games to reintroduce itself to the world, to celebrate its return to the ranks of world powers and its remarkable economic success over the past three decades. But the Chinese government's primary objective is to use the Olympics to boost its popularity at home. Communism as an ideology is dead, but the ruling Communist Party wants to use these Games to help make the case to the Chinese people that the one-party political system is still justified -- that an authoritarian government can be even more effective than a democratic one, and that it can be accepted by the rest of the world.
Pan – the former Beijing bureau chief for the Washington Post spent seven years in China - says there is a huge tug of war battle underway for the soul of China and says that the Olympics may bring more to China than what the Party Leaders had planned.
In the same email he wrote, “ … the Olympics might bring about changes that could make the party nervous. The international focus on China has prompted discussion across the country on a wide range of issues -- from the government's policies in Tibet and Darfur to environmental protection and human rights. There's also a national debate going on about the disclosure that the cute little girl at the center of the Opening Ceremonies was lip-syncing -- that the girl who actually sang the song so beautifully was kept off the program because she had crooked teeth and wasn't "cute" enough. So I think it's also possible that the Olympics will usher in a period of greater openness and national self-examination, and perhaps greater engagement with the rest of the world. We’ll have to wait and see”.
Pan’s book details the momentous tug-o-war battle underway now in China for the soul of the country – a battle that will decide the future of the world’s most populous and perhaps, most promising nation.
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