Thursday, March 20, 2008

More Stuff

It's still pretty exhausting and surreal here. I am really upset about what is going on T-land. Becky, of course, is working round the clock more or less, along with every other real journalist we know ( I don’t count myself in that group). It raises a lot of red flags about the Olympics, especially in the way they overreacted at the baseball game last week and what that portends for how authorities will handle hundreds of thousands of foreigners, 20,000 members of the press and a situation where they just can't exercise total control.

I felt so mixed at the baseball games. On the one hand it was fun and it was nice to have a Major League Baseball game here in Beijing. It was truly exciting. On the other hand, the paranoia and security crackdown I saw were alarming and disturbing. I will be pulling my thoughts on this more together and maybe writing a column, but it just seemed to get at the heart of some of the contradictions and compromises of living here.
On the one hand, it was great to have this event and I wanted to be there and for my kids to be there. It was representative of the opening of China and its importance in the word and the global marketplace if you will that MLB would go through the extraordinary effort of flying a couple of hundred people over here, making sure the field was up to snuff -- no small job -- etc etc. and dotting every Ii and crossing every t to make these games happen. I don’t think you can overstate how much effort had to have gone into that.

On the other hand, it felt sort of creepy to be there participating while a part of our extended world seemed to be exploding. And it was definitely creepy to see all the police at the stadium and to know that they had freaked out and canceled all the pregame activities, canceled even the singing of the national anthems-- they played prerecorded music instead. The supposed-to-be singer of one of the anthems was a friend of a friend and I know for a fact she was sitting in the dugout waiting to sing, but not being allowed to. The actor and marital artist Jet Li was in the same boat. I’m not sure what he was supposed to do, but the next day they let him out of his cage to throw the first pitch.

And in the stands a Cub Scout troop and their families sat waiting for the promised opportunity to go down and run the bases and meet players. It never came; they were apparently deemed too much of a security threat. This included lots of my friends. The Dodgers did send two players into the stands to shake hands and sign autographs with the Scouts so they did their part. But all of it left me feeling.. blech.

One thing that I don't think has been all that well covered is that Chinese seem to feel pretty unanimously that Tibet is part of China and the Tibetans are ungrateful for all they've received.

This story in the FT covers that well.

I'm not sure people outside of here understand that. The history is deep and long. They’ve been fighting and arguing over the place for 1,000 years. I think their general attitude is something like, when the U.S. wants to give Texas back to Mexico or Utah to the Utes, they can call. When the Aussies want to let the aborigines have the country back, drop us a line. And this comes on the heels of the Darfur stuff, which has most people here totally befuddled and feeling defensive.

Now I am not being an apologist, I ‘m just trying to shed some light on how people think about this.

There was also a about some of the internal T politics behind what is going on. The D.L. is not necessarily in an enviable position. There is a really good story on the front page of today’s WSJ tha explains that well.