18 March 2008

China's Disquieting Summer

By Jonathan Fairbank

When in 2001 the Beijing Olympics Committee won the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese government was so overjoyed that it launched several days and nights of public partying. Members of the government would spare no expense to stage the greatest, the most spectacular and the most awe-inspiring Games ever – one befitting a nascent superpower. And they shall. Such is the power of China’s ruthless (but admirable) efficiency.

In the mists of glorious dreams and glittering fantasies, the old men in charge forgot that with the Olympics come the world’s mass media, cell-phone journalists and bloggers. Such a magnetic media presence will undoubtedly invite mischief.

As the winter ice began to thaw and spring flowers started to bud, a well choreographed “uprising” took place in Llasa, the capital of the Tibet National Autonomous Area. Robed monks reportedly stoned Chinese soldiers and civilians alike, and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) responded with gunfire. Fatalities – perhaps as high as 100 – have been widely reported.

And it is not even Spring yet.

Other areas of China – particularly the so-called National Autonomous Areas consisting mainly of China’s non-Han minorities – will erupt in similarly choreographed rebellions in the Spring and Summer leading to the magical hours of 8.08.08, the start of the Beijing Olympic Games. The provinces of Xinjiang in the extreme northwest and Ningxia in the west central region are most vulnerable.

No doubt the reliable services of China’s two million-man PLA will be used to quell the uprisings, and the world’s glaring media will dutifully gasp, point and scream at the cadre of bespectacled fogies in cheap suits residing in Zhongnanhai.

Little will these gawking media types realize that it is they who invite – and in some instances trigger -- the mischievous riots, which have and will result in deadly responses from the PLA.

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