Get Off China's Back


It seems everybody is on China’s back these days. In fact, you might say that if China-bashing were an Olympic sport, it would be a major blow to all the commentators who like to say things like "if China-bashing were an Olympic sport", so for journalism’s sake, thank God it isn’t.

The criticisms are the same old stuff: human-rights this, pollution that, non-breeding pandas the other. The way people were talking, you’d think nobody had ever repressed their own people and imposed draconian restrictions on free speech before. It’s typical of the negativity that has descended on our society of late; some might call it the tall poppy syndrome. Ian Thorpe experienced it, Rex Hunt experienced it, and now China’s experiencing it. Oddly enough, our deep hatred of China has coincided with the ascent of our first Sinophile Prime Minister, which I can’t help thinking points to a deep-seated Freudian psychosis in our national consciousness, probably caused by Penny Wong.

The unfortunate thing is the negativity over China’s petty tyranny comes as the country prepares for what I feel will surely be the greatest and most spectacular Olympic Games since the last ones in Sydney, which were so wonderful all Olympic activity was banned for eight years to allow the world to properly bask in the euphoria. The Sydney Games were, as was reported at the time, of an ineffable marvellousness unmatched by any event in human history except possibly the resurrection of Jesus – and even he never even medalled in the 400 metres – but the Beijing Olympics are likely to be even better, lacking, as they do, Nikki Webster.

Given that, it’s a shame so many people are saying China should never have been given the Games at all, due to its human rights abuses and anti-democratic government. It seems a terribly unfair thing to say; nobody said Antwerp shouldn’t host the Games just because nobody knew where it was. Nobody said Montreal shouldn’t host the Games just because they spoke French. So why should Beijing be denied for such trivial reasons? As Premier Wen Jiabao so rightly said, "you squash a few students and they never let you forget it".

But, right or wrong, the Beijing Olympics have placed China squarely in the global spotlight, and I suppose these tiresome criticisms must be addressed if we are to move forward as a progressive, tolerant species. I think once the issues are looked at in a cool and dispassionate way, it will be seen that China is not so bad, and in fact should be acting as a kind of model for our own society.

Firstly, human rights. Many column inches have been given over to attacking China for its human rights record when they could have been put to better use complaining about the decline in spelling on the internet. Is their human rights record so bad? Yes, they don’t allow public dissent. Yes, they take political prisoners. Yes, they might have occasionally, for want of a better word, "killed" people. But need I remind you that Australia’s own Government is responsible for Lara Bingle? I don’t think we’re in any position to throw stones. In fact, it would be far better for us to learn from our northern neighbours.

Take Falun Gong. Now, the Chinese Government doesn’t like Falun Gong, and is trying to stamp it out. Naturally, the Falun Gongers (or "Gongwegians") don’t like this, and like to bitch and complain like religious folk always do. But the Chinese Government says Falun Gong is an evil cult, and when seen in that light, their actions are most laudable. Australia could do with some of that attitude; we failed to stamp out evil cults, and now what do we have? Hillsong CDs in the Top Ten. Freedom of religion came back to bite us there, now didn’t it?

Or take Tibet. People get so emotional about China oppressing the people of Tibet, but have you ever met a Tibetan? They’re really, really annoying. They’re always banging on about lungtoks, and they smell like yaks. You’d oppress them too, if you met them. You wouldn’t be able to help yourself.

And then of course there’s pollution. It has been noted by keen-eyed pundits that Beijing has a fair amount of pollution, and it is true that the air has attained a consistency such that the Olympic shooting events will now take on a certain Matrix-like quality. However, the Chinese word for "crisis" is the same as that for "opportunity" – and the word for "oxygen" is the same as that for "Play-Doh". Beijing is ready to enter a new age as a tourist mecca by promoting itself as the world’s only completely brown city. Which is also something Australians should stop and think about the next time they feel like complaining about excessive traffic congestion. Look at the big picture; China does.

And censorship? All these journalists up in arms because their internet’s been censored? Oh no, they cry, like the snivelling little girls they are, we can’t log onto – however shall we report on the modern pentathlon without easy access to critical appraisals of the legacy of Ehud Olmert? Yes, journalists really are the scum of the earth, something China realised long ago.

What these dribbling sissies don’t understand is just how advantageous internet censorship should be. We need more of it here, to prevent impressionable citizens accessing harmful sites. For example.

The benefits of the Chinese way of life just keep coming. For instance, citizens have been instructed to mind their manners. Imagine if Australians followed such dictates – we would finally be free of the endless stream of strangers asking us where we live or whether we’re healthy. Imagine if Australians went around saying "You’re excellent" to disabled people, instead of patronising and talking down to them like we do now.

And what about designated areas for protests? Maybe you feel a bit "iffy" on this idea, but just imagine for one moment, being able to know where Bob Brown is at any given moment. "Where’s Bob?" one could ask. "He’s protesting over in that park, which he’s not allowed to leave," one would reply. "Great! Let’s break out the whale meat and four-wheel-drives and get this party started!"

I suppose the main point is that we humans are always striving to attain some kind of utopia on this planet. If only we stopped and thought for a moment, we might realise that it was right in front of us all along, in that big cuddly country up north. We shouldn’t just give them the Olympics, we should give them our thanks, for showing us the way to a happier world. The Chinese Way.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.