Even as my local ESPN Radio talk show host (John Thompson) talked Olympic events, he publicly ripped the regime for its opening ceremony lip-sync fiasco. Shockingly, the regime continued to defend its move (BBC, Small Dead Animals, and Washington Times).
On the one hand, it may seem odd that replacing a seven-year-old singer with a "prettier" face on stage would cause so much damage, in light of the wet blanket thrown on journalists (London Daily Telegraph) and protesters (BBC and CNN). A more ominous problem would be reports that there is a cover-up regarding the Todd Bachman murder (the cadres had better party this Epoch Times source is wrong, but their refusal to let anyone investigate is not a good sign - Sydney Morning Herald via NRO Media Blog). None of this even discusses the cadres' misbehavior outside the Games: e.g., its human rights abuses (CNN), machinations against Taiwan (Washington Times), and the propping up of its despicable Korean colony (BBC and One Free Korea).
On the other hand, a symbol is a symbol, and when it comes to the lies, repression, and callousness of the regime, telling a seven-year-old girl that she's too ugly for the stage and ordering a nine-year-old cutie to lip-sync it combine for a near-perfect metaphor.
Meanwhile, the real problem of the Games (for the cadres, that is) shows up in two different arenas. The first is, literally, the arenas themselves, which are drawing an unexpected level of no-shows, so much so that the regime has resorted to "busing in teams of state-trained "cheer squads" identifiable by their bright yellow T-shirts to help fill the empty seats and improve the atmosphere" (Washington Post). The second is the stock market, which the cadres hoped would zoom upward (or at least stop falling) once the great propaganda exercise got underway. Instead, the steep drop shows no signs of slowing down (Epoch Times).
What does it mean? Something that even yours truly didn't quite anticipate: the Chinese people may be tuning out the Olympics. If this is even remotely true, it would be a tremendous blow to the cadres. The entire purpose of the Beijing Olympiad was to convince the Chinese people that their overlords had the approval of the rest of the world, but it won't matter much if the intended audience isn't paying attention.
For those of us outside Communist China, this is a useful reminder that even within dictatorships, the repressed population can steer the course of events. They may be unable to dislodge the regime at a certain time, but they can determine how much energy the regime must spend to maintain itself. Russian and Eastern European populations bled Soviet Communists dry in the 1970s and 1980s by refusing to acquiesce to tyranny, and by 1991 the Soviets simply ran out of political and economic fuel.
The Chinese Communist Party, of course, learned from that history, and have been skillfully trying to avoid it ever since. However, one of their main sources of "energy" was supposed to be these Olympics; yet we are already seeing that the Communists' expectations may not be fulfilled. That could leave the regime far weaker than it wants when the inevitable post-Olympic hangover sets in.
The Olympiad is not a failure to the Communists - not yet, anyway - but it isn't off to nearly the start that the regime wanted or needed. Thus, the regime may stumble into repeating the very history they hoped to avoid (Chi again):
Nine years after the Berlin Games, Hitler’s Germany lay in rubble and swastikas were wiped off the face of Europe. Nine years after the 1980 Moscow Olympics, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Empire soon dissolved. Nine years after the 1984 Games in Sarajevo, Tito’s Yugoslavia was no more.
Can’t wait to see what will happen in 2017.
Much to my pleasant surprise, I'm finding that I can't wait either.