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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What the Beijing Olympics mean to me as a Chinese-Singaporean

Most of us, Chinese-Singaporeans are glad to see the Olympics opening ceremony gone so well.  I was on the MSN with a PRC friend in Beijing and he described the carnival mood over there.  And how he is so happy that China has stood high that night.  The Western media, however, bitched non-stop about how communist the whole thing looks and about human rights, pollution, nationalism, Tibet and the spending.  Sour grapes, perhaps.  Haven't they always been adopting a terrible double standard when looking at these things?
 
I have my own criticism of China - on many of the same things the West complains about, although I do not necessarily agree with their perpective.  Even then, I have also seen how this country has made significant and real progress on the lives of its citizens and the rest of the world.  Without China's rapid progress, the world would not have enjoyed cheap manufactured products and rise in standard of living the past decade.  I am myself a beneficiary of a boom linked to the Chinese capital markets.  What is even more important is that, recent polls have shown that the Chinese people trust their own government alot more than the extent to which the people of the West trust their own government. 
 
As a Singaporean of Chinese descent, the Olympics has a significance too.  The press has reported about how, to the Chinese (i.e., of PRC) people, the Olympics signifies the re-emergence of China after 100 years of humiliation.  The Overseas Chinese are the result of the bitter past 100 years.  Our forefathers were political and economic refugees of a downtrodden China, and were forced to flee to Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, and practically everywhere else.  History has come a full circle. 
 
We are now no longer Chinese of China, but hyphenated Chinese.  We remain culturally Chinese of some sort (- some would argue not at all) though psychologically and politically distinct, loyal to the countries we reside in.  If Singapore goes to war against China for any reason, I would gladly fight for Singapore.  However, we must not lose sight of the significance of the Olympics - of how and why our ancestors left China and that history has now redeemed itself, i.e., China has finally regained her place among the most power of nations. 
 
Those of us familiar with Admiral Zhenghe and his voyages cannot fail to recognise the parallels when we saw Bush, Putin and 80 other world leaders attending the Olympics opening.  How different was this from the kings and sultans of the Southern Seas gathering in Nanjing to greet the Son of Heaven during the Ming Dynasty 600 years ago?
 
The next step for China would be how it can gain true admiration from the rest of the world, as opposed to fear and respect normally associated with the rich and powerful.  How it can build its soft power and how it can empower its citizens.  Issues such as Tibet, Taiwan, Xinjiang and human rights are difficult to tackle but a middle path has to be found for China to gain true global respectability.
 
 

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