False start for China?

All eyes on China at the moment – they must have expected that, but what the world wanted to see was a new approach. Awarding the Olympics is defended as an incentive – a carrot, if you like – to lure China away from it’s old ways. Sadly, it looks like that’s not gonna happen. A few interesting events this week to illustrate the problem.

Tibet: it’s a tricky issue and I won’t pretend it’s a simple right and wrong, but if the Chinese want Tibetans to feel like part of China, then they’ll need to start treating them as equals. It’s never been that way, and recent events indicate, it’s not going to be that way any time soon. A bunch of foreign journalists are led on a tightly controlled tour of Lhasa, but the tour gets out of control and a few, incredibly brave monks mob the journalists and attempt to get their side of the story heard. Reports on Xinhua, put their own spin on the event, but the most telling piece of commentary is a story that has China’s foreign ministry condemning the western news services for ‘distorting’ the news and applauding an anti-cnn website as a “reflection of the chinese people’s condemnation”… which people? certainly not the monks. Ironic stuff.

Olympics: no point saying they shouldn’t have got the games – it was done and dusted years ago. Totally unfair to all involved to talk of boycotts; athletes have given up years of their lives in preparation for this, they shouldn’t be asked to make a political statement when it was the politicians’ mistake in the first place. The athletes never chose Beijing. Heartening to see the approach of the Czech and Polish leaders, boycotting the Opening ceremony is the perfect way to deliver the snub that would sting China’s leadership most. A loss of face. The French president is considering the same.

and finally Maps: another report from Xinhua, so you can be assured that the point of view is strictly pro government, however it shouldn’t alter the facts… apparently: “10,000 online map websites operated in China, most of them showing maps without approval”… that’s right, maps without approval! “A hotline has been set up for the public to report illegal websites” – the walls have ears – and “those websites would be closed down”. My favourite quote:

“The campaign would also target websites that made mistakes such as labeling Taiwan a “country”, wrongly drawing national boundaries, or omitting important islands including the South China Islands, Diaoyu Islands and Chiwei Island”

The only site that seems to have the official blessing is the State Bureau of Surveying and Mapping (SBSM), which has a whopping 418 Chinese and world maps, that obviously give the Chinese people all the information they’re ever going to be allowed to need.