CDT Interview Series: Chinese Journalists Talk About the Olympics, Tibet, and Cross-Cultural Understanding (1)

[Editor's Note: Since March, a series of events including unrest in Lhasa and protests following the Olympic torch relay, have brought to the surface a clash between nationalist elements of the Chinese public and international critics of China. Because of tight control by the propaganda department, the issues of Tibet, foreign criticism of China's human rights record, and nationalism are not allowed to be publicly debated in the Chinese media. But what do Chinese journalists really think about these issues? In an effort to gain a more nuanced answer to this question, CDT interviewed four working Chinese journalists. Most of the interviewees prefer to remain anonymous. They are all based in Beijing and work in various national magazines and newspapers. CDT has not edited their responses. The first of four interviews follows.] =====
Interview with a Chinese Journalist – by Meredith Godwin This interviewee is an investigative reporter working for a national publication. CDT: How you do feel about the Olympics being in Beijing? What does it mean for China, for the Chinese people? Journalist: The main purpose of the Olympics for the Chinese is to use it as a chance to reveal the huge economic achievements of the past 20 years to Westerners.

CDT: What’s your view on the protests around the Olympic Torch – as a Chinese, how do you see that? If you’re talking to someone protesting the situation in Tibet, or Darfur, or China’s human rights record, what do you say? Journalist: About the protests, I think there are lots of misunderstandings and as a Chinese, personally, I wish for the torch to pass peacefully. But in the history of the Olympics, when the torch passed through different countries, protests have actually always happened. So when China accepted to be the host of the Olympics, they ...
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3 Responses to CDT Interview Series: Chinese Journalists Talk About the Olympics, Tibet, and Cross-Cultural Understanding (1)

  1. Realist says:

    The journalist’s first answer is very revealing: “The main purpose of the Olympics for the Chinese is to use it as a chance to reveal the huge economic achievements of the past 20 years to Westerners.”

    First of all, why only “Westerners”? Does China just not care what Africans or Middle Easterners think? Why the Chinese obsession with proving things to Westerners?

    Secondly, if the main purpose was to “reveal huge economic achievements” they did not need to waste so much effort. There are very few “Westerners” who are not aware of China’s economic achievements.

    However, what we are keenly aware of is China’s lack of political freedom. Since 1978, this has hardly changed, and the Olympics are merely serving to highlight China’s lack of progress in this area.

    China wants us to focus on its magnificent facilities, but for some reason, we stupid Westerners can only focus on the Chinese citizens who were forcibly moved to make way for “progress”.

    I just the word “stupid” partly in jest, but the truth is that this is how many Chinese view our Western obsession with human rights.

  2. [...] –Q&A with four Chinese journalists about the Olympics, Tibet and bridging the cultural divide between China and the west. [China Digital Times] [...]

  3. we says:

    @Realist:

    Of course Olympics is not just about showcasing China’s economic development. t’s actually not just about showing China to the outside world, but also about showing to Chinese people themselves that “see, we can do Olympics. We’re a normal country. We’re a proud member of the world.”

    As to the question of what to show to the outside world, it’s certainly more than the economy. Chinese leaders also genuinly want to show to the outside world that despite the impressions one may get from browsing media reports, Chinese actually have a lot more freedom than before (maybe not political freedom, but in terms of everyday life, China is so free, maybe too free, even to the extent of being chaotic), a point that first time foreign visitors are often supprised to find out.

    Chinese leaders genuinly (and naively) think that by having a lot of foreign visitors and cameras come, the outside world may start to better understand the Chinese case and appreciate some of Chinese perspectives, and some rigid stereotypes about China may be shaken off. They fail to understand that Western perspectives are not just due to prejudice and not knowing Chinese reality well (these play a part), but they are genuine Western perspectives that will not change even if they know China very well.