Beijing in the Blogs


China is so hot right now. By the end of this week the country will be in the spotlight of up to 20,000 of the world’s journalists. Beijingers have been directed to be on their best behaviour when talking to foreigners, with handy tips such as don’t pick your nose or inquire about marital status (unless you really mean it), and the CPP has made halting steps toward dismantling the great firewall.

China knows this is its chance to prove itself to the world and it’s doing its best not to stuff up – within limits.

Meanwhile, local bloggers and sinophiles are providing an insider’s view of the countdown to 080808. Here’s a round-up of what they’ve got to say.

Thomas Crampton writes that "the Anti-CNN community has busted the BBC for using a photo on July 29 showing Chinese police looking at a monitor that has been used by the BBC on multiple stories reaching back to at least August 26, 2000."

Over at Time‘s China Blog, they’re already dissing predictable coverage of the event, with some hot tips for western journalists:

"After saying the nice things about the new buildings, get your translator to find a Beijing yam seller whose slum was knocked down to make way for the Olympic badminton hall. Do a few paras on him, and how all the money thrown at the Games is not helping the poor, and how terrible the huge income gap is. Make sure you write at least three times as much about the yam seller whose slum was pulled down as you do about all the new apartments, new metro lines, the growth in car ownership, the expanding health insurance and all the other good news about China that nobody in the west really wants to know about."

Beijing-based journalist Kaiser Kuo has a little more constructive advice for his western colleagues.

"The bureaus of reputable western papers here in China have a rule against quoting taxi drivers. But since Beijing’s cabbies are so fabulously colorful, you will be permitted one exception. Make it a good one. Helpful hint: That story about efforts by our city’s cabbies to learn English phrases? That one’s been written several thousand times so please, anything but that one."

He adds "a special enjoinder to photographers: please resist the temptation to position yourself in a hutong with a decrepit but charming tile-roofed courtyard home in the foreground and a shiny, hyper-modern steel-and-glass skyscraper rising behind."

There’s no Olympic medal for sports apparel, but shanghaiist reports that the race between the top two brands is hotly contested in Beijing this (northern) Summer.

"Nike and Adidas are employing very different strategies to court the Chinese market… Nike is not an Olympic sponsor, and one of the consequences of that is restriction of its advertising in Beijing during the Olympic period. Until about a week ago, Nike had a large advertising presence around shopping hot spot Wangfujing, but that changed after the restrictions went into effect July 19."

Blackandwhitecat reports on the mysterious moves of China’s net nannies after the CCP’s surprise backflip on internet censorship last week: "So, with all these anti-China forces suddenly allowed to swarm across the border, why was ESWN suddenly blocked?"

So the freedom of speech issue is yet to be resolved. And we’ll get back to you about political protests. On the upside, gamers are standing up for their rights:

"In contrast to gamers elsewhere, Chinese gamers have since 2003 been carrying out numerous forms of real-world and online protests, litigations, petitions, and insurgencies in large scale and with high frequency. This activism may be seen as an incipient ‘gamer rights protection’ (wanjia weiquan) movement of China."

Stalwart Shanghai blogger, Wang Jian Shuo, is in Beijing for the Games. The weather’s foggy, the streets are empty, there’s nothing to do.

"I talked with many people, including hotel servant, taxi driver, and my friend. My overall impression is, they feel depressed because of all the restrictions. They just feel the ‘interference’ of the Game is beyond that line."

Expect a building boom in a couple of months time as a result of the restrictions, says China correspondent Richard Spencer, in his blog at the Telegraph. "Factories said that they would make up for lost production by boosting it after the games – after all, if you are going to build a certain number of new apartment blocks in Beijing, you can make up for the ones you don’t build in July and August by building twice the number in September and October."

Hong Kong residents have been polled on their attitudes to the Olympics. The results are posted at EastSouthWestNorth. "Somewhat proud" wins the day.

Sounds like backandwhitecat is not proud at all, however:

"Next month in Beijing, hundreds of people on drugs will run around in circles and throw things. I’ve heard various people here, enthused with the passion of the sacred flame, saying that this is the most important thing that has ever happened in China – displaying either a disturbing lack of knowledge of Chinese history or a very strange interpretation of it… My problem is that despite eight years of publicity, I still don’t know what the Olympic spirit really is."

Remember the Sydney Olympics? Remember the torch relay? Regional Australia never had it so good. From Grong Grong to Wagga Wagga, from Moe to Yea, from Carnarvon to Kuttabul, the country’s hidden gems were proudly illuminated by the Olympic flame. On the way to 080808, the torch has also passed through some of China’s more obscure outposts. Sports Illustrated China correspondent, Guan Jun, has been following the relay and reports from Northern China’s Liaoning province that local residents have been told to look enthusiastic as the torch passes through – and offered some odd compensation for their efforts.

"The torch relay was set to start beside Pengcheng estate, were nearly a hundred residents faced the street. It was them who were the earliest to have their doors knocked upon, because the government wanted to use their balconies to hang a Chinese flag together with a poster of the five Olympic rings. Several dozen widths of banner were placed neatly together, all to display Benxi residents’ ‘enthusiasm for the Olympic torch’.

"The sound of doors knocking didn’t only come once, but from then quite often. Police and neighborhood cadres came frequently to carry out their work, confirming the number of inhabitants, having them register, and notifying them to make sure the apartment will not be left empty during the torch relay, that they will not be permitted to open the windows then, stand at them and look out, or move past them.

"As emotional compensation, every home received one watermelon."

Forget the yam seller – now there’s your colour story.

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