The devastating Sichuan quake took many eyes off the upcoming Olympics in Beijing this summer. At first, that was a welcome thing for the cadres, who took in the world's sympathy and offers for help (not that they actually accepted the latter, but I digress). Over time, as it became clear many of the casualties came not from the earthquake itself but the shoddy school construction due to corrupt cadres, the bloom came off the rose. This is especially true for those of us in the United States who saw the horrifying attempts by Communist-instigated mobs to silence the people of the Flushing neighborhood in New York City.
Still, even at its worst (so far), the earthquake aftermath has diverted attention from the upcoming Communist Olympiad. As August approaches, I suspect that will change.
What this means for the Communists is fairly simple - they want a propaganda bonanza, and they're determined to get it. Already, the Committee to Protect Journalists is sounding the alarm about Olympic censorship (Boycott 2008), but I sincerely doubt that MSM will raise such a stink and risk losing access. Several Olympic committees outside Communist China attempted to order their own athletes silenced, only relenting after intense pressure at home (for one example, see the New Zealand Herald, via Boycott 2008).
So, for August of 2008 anyway, this will be fantastic for the Communists. What it will mean for the Chinese people is much less clear.
I have never subscribed to the notion that the Olympics can be a catalyst for change. The supposed model for this thinking (South Korea 1988) is full of holes, and the other two Olympiads which bear resemblance (Berlin 1936 and Moscow 1980) did what they were supposed to do for the home tyrants. Already, the cadres are making sure the lockdown on the locals is firmly in place (Between Heaven and Earth).
What makes me less than completely pessimistic is what will likely come to light after the Games.
Beijing has been on a mass construction binge to accommodate the demands of the Summer Olympics. Already, the city has witnessed arbitrary land seizures normally reserved for the rural interior (where cadres can turn ordinary peasant farmland into useless industrial complexes with the kickbacks a member of the Chinese Communist Party can come to expect in life). To date, however, there hasn't been a lot of talk about corruption within the building spree. I don't expect that silence to last much into September (let alone 2009).
Why am I so certain? The CCP is not just a corrupt and totalitarian dictatorship; it is also a home for several factions (large and small) to compete against each other for power and money. In some respects, it closely resembles the American Mafia's "Commission" - the organization set up by Lucky Luciano to bring the Mafia families together to settle disputes and map out strategy. While all factions within the CCP are loyal to the CCP itself (the regime is, after all, the source of their riches), there is no such loyalty to other factions within.
Thus, anyone from the remnants of Jiang Zemin's faction is sure to find their "Olympic errors" exposed within weeks of the closing ceremonies. Meanwhile, said remnants are by now sure to find some of Hu Jintao's cronies with their hands "in the cookie jar."
A project with this much to do and this little time to do it ends up with cost overruns just due to human error under the best of circumstances - and the CCP running the show is about as far removed from optimal as one can get. I'm suspecting the graft on this is titanic.
So could the effect of it be. Corruption is the political weak link in the chains the Communists have placed on their own people. Before now, the average citizen of Communist China could console himself or herself with the notion that only local-level cadres were corrupt - or, to be more accurate, that the corruption of high-level cadres was done discreetly enough for no one to notice it. However, if the Olympics, the one event that has supposedly brought all Chinese together in pride, is found instead as a symbol of the embarrassing graft and incompetence that killed so many in Sichuan, opinion of the Games could turn on a dime.
The only rationale the Communist regime has left for denying freedom to the Chinese people was the notion that only the CCP could protect Chinese pride in a dangerous world. If the above comes to fruition, that logic will not merely be debunked; it will be made laughable. The Chinese people would then have no reason not to demand their country back from the cadres who have imprisoned them for so long. The Communists can't afford to have that happen, but their thirst for ill-gotten gains and rampant factionalism may make it inevitable.
If so, then perhaps the Olympics really will become an agent of change - only it won't be an intended and gradual change, but rather an accidental, ironic, and revolutionary one.
Meanwhile, here's what else made the news today.
Taiwan diplomats in Communist China: Formal talks between the island democracy and the Communist regime are set to resume in earnest tomorrow (BBC).
Dalai Lama in Australia: Tibet's spiritual leader will spend five days Down Under, and will meet acting Prime Minister Chris Evans (BBC and Epoch Times). Green Party leader Bob Brown hopes Prime Minister Rudd will also meet the Dalai Lame when he (Rudd) returns from Japan (AAP via Epoch Times).
South Korean kidnapped by Stalinist regime over three decades ago flees to Communist China: Yun Jong-su, who was a South Korean fisherman until Stalinist North Korea kidnapped him in 1975, "is said to have escaped from North Korea into China in May, taking refuge at the South Korean consulate in the Chinese city of Shenyang" (BBC). Sadly, the news is not all good: "Mr Yun fears his wife and daughter - who he had hoped would follow him - have been arrested since his escape."
More news on “another Chinese province”: The Stalinists refuse South Korean corn, criticized American beef, and are getting Filipinos hooked on meth; One Free Korea covers it all.