After The Quake: Penetrating StrangenessS


The Olympics begin in August, and they're in China, so, you know, it should be a rather fascinating world event, if you're into fascinating world events. And we are proud to welcome back our Deadspin Beijing Bureau, our own trio of correspondents living in China and reporting on everything they see, Olympics related and otherwise.

Deadspin's Beijing Bureau is manned by three college buddies who "studied" abroad together in Shanghai — one of whom is from Iowa — and now shadily classify themselves as freelance writers. The country has foolishly allowed them to return, and while they work and travel around China during the next year they'll be checking in periodically with dispatches about the Middle Kingdom's utter ridiculousness, hopefully preparing you all for the epic spectacle that will be the Beijing Olympics. When the Games come around they will be there — without tickets and with minimal language skills — ready to document world history for Deadspin. Due to healthy fear of deportation (and an outside chance of imprisonment), the Bureau must remain anonymous. Say "ni hao," after the jump...

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It’s good to be back, people; we’ve got a lot to cover here.

In the week following the devastating earthquake that rocked China’s Sichuan province, government censors, in a move of solemnity, put a three-day moratorium on all entertainment programming on China’s state-controlled airwaves. It was part of a powerfully moving demonstration of national solidarity, the highlight of which was a countrywide three-minute moment of silence (note: only in China are moments of silence punctuated by car horns and air-raid sirens) that was touching in its sincerity and remarkable in its scale.

Curiously, though, as the New York Times’ Olympic blog points out, the Chinese government seemed to extend its entertainment ban to the NBA Conference Finals, which they deemed “too entertaining” for such a serious time. This claim was met with some skepticism, however, with many people linking the ban to recent statements made by NBA stars that were critical of China’s involvement in the situation in Darfur (see Kobe’s Darfur PSA & LeBron’s statements about China’s human rights responsibilities). Whatever the reason for the stifled broadcasts, the games were back on in time for game 4 of the Finals. Two-thirds of the Bureau watched the Celtics’ comeback at a sports bar via a Filipino satellite link. During its commercial breaks the provider Ben Sports ran the following confusing and eerie “letter” to China, written by its CEO:

Mother,
The world laughed at you for being backward;
The world was full of envy and anxiety when you opened up and progressed into a financial powerhouse;
The world condemned you when you put law and order into the upheaval and lawlessness created by followers of a self proclaimed Robin Hood in t¡bet but failed to applaud when you used your influence to save the lives of Burmese monks;
The world threatened to boycott and disrupt the August Olympics on ground of your violations of human rights standards set by the West who by apartheid policies and discrimination of coloured people blatantly violated for ages the same standards set.
Let me tell you Mother as a dragon seed brought up outside China;
They fear you Mother as you out compete them;
They fear you Mother as you are set to replace them at the healm of world order faster than they can accept;
They fear you Mother as you refused to take sides in every international dispute as you believe that to each his own and from each his best;
They fear you Mother as you have by hardwork hastened the failure and decadence of self assumed western supremecy system;
And finally for the period 12th May to eternity, you have shown the world the tenderness, love and care of the best guardian government and leaders the Chinese People can ever have contrasting greatly with the aftermath of the Florida and Burmese cyclone.
Mother, words of praises and admiration will never come from the West as they have painted you falsely as a hardcore monster with no feelings for your own for too long and the Western World is watching with total disbelief on CNN, BBC, Fox Media, live, the search, rescue, care and rebuilding operations to restore life and normalcy into the millions of displaced victims led by brothers Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao demonstrating love care and simplicity with no political agenda whatsoever.
Mother, we whether in or out of the Great Wall are lucky and proud to be descendants of the ever Supreme Dragon.

Amen
Mr. Ben Chairman/CEO Bensports Satellite TV May 2008

The way things are going on the broadcast front, all international networks may consider following Ben Sports’ example by issuing an awkwardly poignant ode to BOCOG. As Rick mentioned here, the major broadcast groups are starting to get kind of nervous they won’t be able to deliver the usual standard of Olympic coverage. BBC’s executives are saying that preparation for these Olympics has been more logistically and politically confusing than the 1980 Moscow Games. To put this in perspective, one of the biggest sporting events in world history is happening in less than two months, and no one knows whether they’ll be able to get their equipment and personnel in the country, provide aerial shots, or even broadcast live feed of the Games.

Some of these difficulties stem from China’s new visa policies that have, incidentally, nudged many of the Bureau’s friends out of the country. To apply for a tourist visa to visit China one now needs to provide the following:

- A bank statement
- A letter from one’s employer stating that he or she knows the applicant is going to China
- A receipt for a round-trip airfare
- Proof of a hotel reservation for the duration of one’s stay
- A letter of invitation from someone in China
- An AIDS test…

Contrast this with the old policy that, as recently as three months ago, required only that one fill out a form and bring one’s passport to the nearest consulate. For some extra cash the whole thing could be taken care of in one day.

If one is able to get a visa to visit China to respectfully and quietly cheer for his or her home country this August, one would do well to become acquainted with a new document released by BOCOG succinctly titled: “A guide to Chinese law for Foreigners coming to, leaving or staying in China during the Olympics.” The nine-page document (curiously issued only in Chinese) contains the official policies on 57 wide-ranging topics including, but not limited to:

- People with “mental diseases” as well as drug smugglers, prostitutes and terrorists are not permitted into the Country
- Religious or political banners that may “disturb public order” are forbidden at any Olympic venue
- Foreigners may not bring to China any ammunition, poisons, or materials “that are harmful to China’s politics, economics, culture and morals”
- Sleeping outside is forbidden

And in a final, strange development, Beijing’s People’s Daily, the official English-language mouthpiece of the Communist Party — a fascinating publication, by the way — just released a skeptical assessment of presumptive Dem. nominee (and gold medalist in hope!) Barack Obama that criticizes his political experience and questions the significance of his perceived racial breakthrough. It’s an interesting, if at times poorly worded critique of “Change We Can Believe In”:

The skin color of Senator Barack Obama poses the greatest focus of attention in he ongoing U.S. presidential election campaign this year. This Democratic nominee with half of the blood from the African stock in his veins has been commended as the "star of change", who now seems to look especially dazzling and splendid with his victory in the recent primaries.

He goes on:

His success, nevertheless, is because he does not underscore his racial features, and has even intentionally drawn a clear line with those radical blacks. So, it can be said that Obama triumphs either because of his skin color or not because of it.

And further:

So his rise has not done away with privileges for the white Americans but reinforces their privileges on the contrary.

The author Ding Gang — who according to an article in The Washington Post may actually be a pen name for the paper’s editors — seems to be saying that Obama’s political ascension is merely a case of racial assimilation, undermining the notion of radical change felt by many starry-eyed Americans.

Something to consider in all of this is that both Obama and Hillary Clinton urged George Bush to boycott the Olympics this summer, and said they would do the same if they were in office. To us, it’s all related: If you publicly criticize Mother China, expect a response from her. Which, um, makes us all a little nervous.