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New China?
April 23, 2008 6:51 AM   Subscribe

The Olympic Boom is shaping a new Beijing. These fancy new venues and skyscrapers are being built largely by migrant workers facing a harsh reality. The non-stop construction has also threatened to make these "green games" brown. The city may be smoggy and mistreated migrant workery now, but don't you worry, a series of measures will be taken to curb the pollution for the events.
posted by clearly (54 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Du Shaozhong, deputy director of the city’s Environmental Protection Bureau, told reporters. “Just tell everybody they don’t have to worry.”

Did he do the Jedi hand-wavy thing when he said that? Who wants to take bets on how many marathon runners are going to cough up blood?
posted by Mach5 at 7:07 AM on April 23, 2008


Someone usually shows up in these discussions to say, "It's mostly dust." Watch for it.

Beijing is the most perceptibly-polluted place I have ever been - worse than LA in the '70s, even. By that I mean that the haze was thicker, and the smell from coal burning was more noticeable than LA's mix of pollutants. If the government manages to make the air clean in August, it will be a major feat. Also a temporary one. I hope my wife enjoys it; she's going to be there then.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 7:08 AM on April 23, 2008


On the other hand, if Beijing actually manages to pull this off, it will really illustrate just how much pollution can actually be reduced when people actually give a damn.
posted by delmoi at 7:16 AM on April 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


The closer we get, the more it appears that this is the worst possible PR experience for China and the Chinese. Their responses to criticisms are not appropriate in western society to the point that one wonders why they want to join.
posted by ewkpates at 7:17 AM on April 23, 2008 [8 favorites]


On the other hand, if Beijing actually manages to pull this off, it will really illustrate just how much pollution can actually be reduced when people actually give a damn.

And when the pollution returns afterwards - as it invariably will - it will really illustrate how little of a damn people actually give.
posted by three blind mice at 7:25 AM on April 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Chinese nationalism looks exactly like american nationalism of the Freedom Fries variety: rejecting criticism because the critics are "just jealous of us", etc. (In the U.S. it was "cheese eating surrender monkeys"; in China it's "fat lazy americans".)

It's especially infuriating because there couldn't be any better showcase of how blind nationalism bites you in the ass than the U.S. invasion of iraq.
posted by Tlogmer at 7:41 AM on April 23, 2008


Chinese nationalism looks exactly like american nationalism

No it does not. Where are the Chinese flag lapel pins?
posted by three blind mice at 7:44 AM on April 23, 2008


Some people on the Chinese side started to insult me for speaking English and told me to speak Chinese only. But the Americans didn't understand Chinese. It's strange to me that some Chinese seem to feel as though not speaking English is expressing a kind of national pride. But language is a tool, a way of thinking and communicating.

Yep, reminds me of anti-spanish sentiment in the american south.
posted by Tlogmer at 7:46 AM on April 23, 2008


Chinese flag lapel pins? You mean these?
posted by Tlogmer at 7:47 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mach 5 - "Who wants to take bets on how many marathon runners are going to cough up blood?"

The World Record Marathoner won't be coughing up blood. He pulled out of the race citing concerns of the pollution triggering 'exercise-induced asthma.'

I'd set the O/U at 15 and lean towards the over. Miles 20-26.2 may well be worth watching.

The trill of victory and the agony of def...err...bleeding lungs.
posted by clearly at 7:49 AM on April 23, 2008


Also, I've been told that after convening an assembly to condemn me, my high school revoked my diploma and has reinforced patriotic education.

Wow -- I hadn't heard that aspect before.
posted by Tlogmer at 7:51 AM on April 23, 2008


On the other hand, if Beijing actually manages to pull this off, it will really illustrate just how much pollution can actually be reduced when people actually give a damn.

Not really. All it will prove is just how well an authoritative regime can sweep problems under the rug long enough to cover them up for the international public. The day after the olympic closing ceremonies the air quality and traffic in BJ will be worse than ever to make up for the days off. Additionally, they are presently squeezing every once of life force out of the workers and the environment in order to shoddily throw up "luxury suite" facades and pound out knock-off brand name products so that all will be done for the few days they go to zero output.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:52 AM on April 23, 2008


Just a quick word from an American in China before I go to bed.

First of all, NONE of the people I know, especially Chinese, buy into this shit. There are 15 million people in Beijing. 50 showed up at the French embassy. Wuhan, by Beijing standards at least, is a hick town if there ever was one. While a lot of Chinese people don't take Western media coverage well (and the truth is I do think a lot of it is more negative than necessary), they also aren't Mao-worshipping idiots. They don't like the government AND people insulting their country. This is my view from the ground.

The "heart china" people on MSN? They're the same people messaging me asking where to buy Italian leather and good cheese. Fucking rich redneck pricks. I know this one girl who protested outside of Toures le J'oure (I think that's how you spell it) in Wudaokou, a French bakery...STARTED IN AND OWNED BY KOREA. Protesting the Korean chain restaurants'll show those damn French.

What else? Well, I went to Carrefourre (Jialefu in Chinese, which is way easier to say) this weekend, and it was packed, as always. I can unashamedly say I hate Chinese people in crowds, but that's because I hate people in crowds, and the beauty of this crowd was that there wasn't a single blind patriot among them. Get the fuck out and stay out, bitches.

Most of the conversations I've heard say it's retarded. The 愤青 being 愤, the 非主流 being 非主流, and the government not even having its totalitarian shit together enough to stop protests by nationalist extremists.

See, all their effort was focused on keeping out foreigners. :) Look up the changes to China visa policy. That's where all their effort was when this shit started.
posted by saysthis at 8:05 AM on April 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Well, for what it's worth, the weather here in Beijing has been beautiful this week. Yesterday was crystal-clear blue skies, as nice as out in the countryside (this after two days of rain and strong winds). Today was almost as nice.

I hate to sound like a kool-aid drinker, but the pollution here is not that bad anymore. It's gotten a lot better. The first time I came to Beijing (2002) I was in slack jawed amazement at the pollution, the sun was blunted and the city was in a perpetual twilight. I felt grimy and gritty immediately after walking outside. Clothes that had been hung out to dry took on an acrid, bitter smell. It was just really unpleasant. It's not like that anymore. There are lots of smoggy days, but there are lots of sunny days as well. Summer will probably be worse, but the much talked about temporary anti-pollution measures will probably make a big difference.

There are lots and lots of problems with China and with the Olympics, but everyday air quality has improved a lot in 5 years in the two cities I've lived in. I never read stories about this kind of thing outside of China though. It doesn't fit easily into either of the main archetypes for stories about China: 1 - China is so screwed-up it's headed for inevitable economic/political/ecological destruction that might or might not take the rest of the world with it. or, 2 - China is so thoroughly out-competing the rest of the world that they will shortly be masters of the entire globe, dooming the West to obscurity, indigence, and irrelevance.
posted by bluejayk at 8:12 AM on April 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Chinese nationalism looks exactly like american nationalism of the Freedom Fries variety

Except for the fact that in the US, I can criticize the whole stupid Freedom Fries thing without landing in jail.

Chinese nationalism is spurred by four thousand years of ethnocentric imperialism, two hundred years of offended pride, and a deep-seated cultural preference for conformity and stability over freedom of thought and action. US nationalism has its roots in colonialism, late-19th-century Christian exceptionalism, the US's geographic isolation and a whole lot of money and military spending.

They may look similar on the face of it, but they are very different worldviews.
posted by xthlc at 8:18 AM on April 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Also, the pollution in Beijing was frigging horrible when I lived there last year. We'd leave the windows open overnight and our floor would be covered in black soot in the morning.

Then, sometime around August, they did their trial run for the Olympics during a visit by a delegation of African leaders. Cars with even and odd license plates alternated days on the road, and they shut down %60 of the factories and plants in Hebei. We had four days of the most beautiful and clear weather I'd ever seen in the city. I could see mountains in the distance. Mountains!

Then the Africans left, the haze descended and I had a smoker's cough again.
posted by xthlc at 8:24 AM on April 23, 2008


In related news: China's bubble bursts.
posted by ericb at 8:25 AM on April 23, 2008


Then, sometime around August, they did their trial run for the Olympics during a visit by a delegation of African leaders.

My god was that a glorious couple of weeks or so though, wasn't it?!? You could get from one end of town to the other in a taxi (allowed on the ring roads) in minutes, and the sky was actually blue. Then the smog returned and the sky went back to grey/brown and the murals of happy smiling African children and Massai wariors and girraffes on the savana began to melt under the acid rain. A true trial run for the olympics if there ever was one.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:35 AM on April 23, 2008


I moved to Beijing about a week before those cretins from the IOC visited in the first place to evaluate the bid. It was beautiful - cold, clear, sunny. We were like, where's this pollution that everyone talks about? A week later, the fat little Belgians left and the coal plants fired up again, and it went back to gray and hazy. Mind you (I sound like my grandfather here) this was before everyone had a car. I think about this every time I read about green tech in China. It would be such a beautiful country if they cleaned it up (and if the population dropped by about 20%, but I guess they are working on that).

Also, xthlc is absolutely right about the differences between the two nationalisms. American nationalism is about individuality, Chinese society is relentlessly conformist.
posted by alexwoods at 9:28 AM on April 23, 2008


Ew, I have a friend who put a "♥ CHINA" thing in her MSN name. Kind of creepy after reading that Grace Wang article.
posted by delmoi at 9:57 AM on April 23, 2008


saysthis nobody I know in America bought into "weapons of mass destruction" or the "Axis of Evil" bullshit either. And yet we invaded Iraq and during the push into Baghdad SUV drove around my city with American flags flapping. USA! USA! USA!

Let's just say you and I can only see a tiny fraction of the stupidity of the human animal at any given time.
posted by tkchrist at 9:59 AM on April 23, 2008


nobody I know in America bought into "weapons of mass destruction" or the "Axis of Evil" bullshit either.

Speaking as someone who lives in Texas, what I wouldn't give to be able to claim that.
posted by mr. creosote at 10:33 AM on April 23, 2008


well i'm convinced... america=china. or, wait... let's ask Grace Wang what she thinks.
posted by ewkpates at 10:33 AM on April 23, 2008


nobody I know in America bought into "weapons of mass destruction" or the "Axis of Evil" bullshit either.

Speaking as someone who lives in Massachusetts, what I wouldn't give to be able to claim that.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:22 AM on April 23, 2008


Speaking as someone who lives in Massachusetts, what I wouldn't give to be able to claim that.

Hey. I thought that was the Liberal Homo State?

It's amazing how insular we can get. In 2004 I was the first person against the war my cousin, who lives in Idaho, met. He couldn't get his head around it. I was shocked how completely people in my family's small Idaho town drank the Bush Koolaid. Now? He says he should have paid attention.
posted by tkchrist at 11:35 AM on April 23, 2008


Narrated slide show on Beijing + Olympics from Monocle magazine's website.
posted by rumbles at 11:38 AM on April 23, 2008


Selling Out? A Defense of Commercial Engagement in China
posted by homunculus at 11:42 AM on April 23, 2008


China’s Troubled Torch Arrives in Australia
posted by homunculus at 11:43 AM on April 23, 2008


saysthis nobody I know in America bought into "weapons of mass destruction" or the "Axis of Evil" bullshit either.

Well, I would say the same thing, but look what happened to the Dixie Chicks, for example. You're forgetting how bad it was in '02/03. The only difference is that the Dixie Chicks were already in the public eye, while this girl was just a student, less able to defend herself.

Another example would be Ward Churchill, who was a fraud apparently, but he happened to be some random obscure academic who got elevated to a national object of ridicule for anti-american comments, or Sami Al Arain who was bashed for making pro-Palestinian comments after 9/11 and lost his (tenured) job as a Computer Engineering professor long before any of his legal problems began, based entirely on his public comments.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 AM on April 23, 2008


(Actually, I should say I did know people who bought into that stuff, but I didn't personally meet anyone who seemed to hate anti-war types, but obviously they were out there)
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on April 23, 2008


A Chinese blogger's take on the Grace Wang essay, in translation. Also starring in Dorm Drama.
posted by klue at 12:04 PM on April 23, 2008


klue: Contrary to my previous comment, it's nice to see that China and the West have some things in common. Like asshole disingenuous nationalist bloggers who pretend to make logical arguments and somehow wind up at MY COUNTRY RIGHT OR WRONG DIE TRAITOR DIE
posted by xthlc at 12:26 PM on April 23, 2008


Chinese flag lapel pins? You mean these?

No, these!
posted by ddaavviidd at 12:40 PM on April 23, 2008


US row over China-made blood drug
posted by homunculus at 12:59 PM on April 23, 2008


On the other hand, if Beijing actually manages to pull this off, it will really illustrate just how much pollution can actually be reduced when people actually give a damn.

In the 1960s and 1970s, America was very badly polluted. Its leaders responded to the need to clean up the country with the Clear Air and Superfund Acts and the (don't laugh) EPA. Things slowly got better.

A (relatively) clean environment is possible, you just need citizens who give a damn and leadership that follows up with decisive action, through clear legislation and serious enforcement.

It's just as easy to let the house get messy when people don't give a shit, and leadership is corrupt. That's why we have eight years of Bush and the accompanying liars in the EPA, lies about pollution in post 9-11 NYC, illegal back room deals with energy companies, and lax enforcement and outright disassembly of laws regulating release levels of greenhouse gases, toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

The only reason the Chinese government cares about the environment in Beijing is that the Olympics are being held there. Perhaps most Chinese citizens are resolved to thinking they need to trade their health for a job, working without enforced safety and environmental standards. The whole country is run through one big back room deal, really.

But maybe the clean-up will show Beijing residents that there is another way to live, and they'll push their country's leadership for the same laws and enforcement that the British and Americans enacted after their own environment crises. One can hope.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:03 PM on April 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hey. I thought that was the Liberal Homo State?

Maybe so, but the "Homo" does not stand for homogeneous. Even today, there are people in my town who write things like, "I don't get why people are dumping on Bush" because the economy is wonderful and terra, etc. Idiots are everywhere.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:05 PM on April 23, 2008


But maybe the clean-up will show Beijing residents that there is another way to live, and they'll push their country's leadership for the same laws and enforcement that the British and Americans enacted after their own environment crises.

The problem with that is that the CCP always pushes back, and harder. See Falun Gong.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 1:07 PM on April 23, 2008


US climber barred from Everest over Tibet banner: official

Well, it could have been worse.
posted by homunculus at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2008


From Selling out? A defense of commercial engagement in China:

"Contrary to the perceptions of some, Western capitalism is not about maximizing profit at the expense of civil society, rule of law and human rights."

Well, in theory at least. Here's a story about how Rupert Murdoch has been doing business with China.
posted by Termite at 2:37 PM on April 23, 2008


Well, it could have been worse.

Well, it would pretty much be a P.R. disaster of a western Tibet protester was shot dead over the Olympic torch.

On the other hand, it would obviously have been pretty bad for the guy.
posted by delmoi at 4:44 PM on April 23, 2008


All this talk about China is distracting us from the fact that the important olympics are only two years away. Get your Sumi, Quatchi, and Miga pins now!

(Seriously: Like or dislike China all you want, but you've got to admit that they're nobody's fool. Our futures are linked and I think it would be best if we learned to get along with each other a bit more smoothly.)
posted by LastOfHisKind at 6:01 PM on April 23, 2008


Heat rises for torch relay
posted by homunculus at 6:55 PM on April 23, 2008


On the other hand, if Beijing actually manages to pull this off, it will really illustrate just how much pollution can actually be reduced when people in charge actually give a damn.

And when the pollution returns afterwards - as it invariably will - it will really illustrate how little of a damn people
in charge actually give.
posted by owhydididoit at 8:01 PM on April 23, 2008


First of all, NONE of the people I know, especially Chinese, buy into this shit. There are 15 million people in Beijing.

Wuhan, by Beijing standards at least, is a hick town if there ever was one.

Most of the conversations I've heard say it's retarded.


Well, that's not exactly shocking since I'd think that the people who are in the social circle of a young laowai living in Beijing to be exceptionally richer and more international-looking than the rest of the country.

Wuhan, by the cosmopolitan standards set by Beijing or Shanghai, maybe indeed be a hick town. But it's a hick town of nearly 10 million people. You add up the population of all those second-tier cities (Changsha, Hefei, etc.) and that's hundreds of millions of people with different attitudes than the average Wudaokao-going Beijingren.
posted by alidarbac at 8:36 PM on April 23, 2008


First of all, NONE of the people I know, especially Chinese, buy into this shit.

What shit? Sure the Carrefour boycott is in reality very small, but everybody I talk to is either very pissed at the western media over their coverage of Tibet, or is too apathetic to care. Over half my contacts on MSN messenger have those stupid "(love)china" symbols next to their names, and MSN messenger is pretty much only used by Chinese who have frequent contact with foreigners (none of my QQ contacts have the symbol). That's the scary thing about Chinese nationalism, it's usually the most educated and most well informed who are the most fervent. Ask your friends in Beijing what they feel like about Japan, to really test their cosmopolitanism.
posted by afu at 11:05 PM on April 23, 2008


How can we compete with a country that has hick towns of ten million people?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:04 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


it's usually the most educated and most well informed who are the most fervent

A one party system that rewards it's own membership, I'm shocked, SHOCKED!
posted by Pollomacho at 4:57 AM on April 24, 2008


Man, how sad, it'd be lovely if the world could see Beijing's pollution problem during the olympics. Maybe someone will help us all by setting fire to a coal storage facility or such. :(
posted by jeffburdges at 5:27 AM on April 24, 2008


Man, how sad, it'd be lovely if the world could see Beijing's pollution problem during the olympics.

It would be far better is the world saw their own pollution problems during the olympics and went home and did something about it. The Chinese will have to be the ones to decide that China needs to clean up its act.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:34 AM on April 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


The High Price of Diplomacy with China: For two years, the Bush administration has tried to scuttle a federal human rights lawsuit that threatens to embarrass one of China’s top political leaders. The suit accuses Bo Xilai, a member of China's elite Politburo, of supervising forced labor camps where torture and execution occurred.
posted by homunculus at 1:23 PM on April 24, 2008


Authorities prepare ceremony for Olympic torch in Potala Square: fear prevails in Lhasa during crackdown
posted by homunculus at 12:29 AM on April 25, 2008


Chinese rail link to Nepal via Tibet in five years
posted by homunculus at 1:47 AM on April 27, 2008


'Free Tibet' flags made in China
posted by homunculus at 11:50 AM on April 28, 2008


AIUK: Human Rights for China
posted by homunculus at 9:34 AM on May 5, 2008


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