As Olympic Games Approach, Chinese Are Urged To Be ‘Civilized’ – Howard French

In the International Herald Tribune, Howard French calls for an eradication of "Laowai" catcalls as part of the campaign to encourage a "civilized" populace in time for the Olympics:

This is China's coming out party, and, as countless others will note in due course, the equivalent of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, when Japan announced its return to vigor after the devastation of the war along with its arrival as a first-rank economic power.

China, like Japan, which had rolled out its bullet trains for the occasion, is eager to create new associations for its national "brand." The watchwords may not be announced, per se, but they can be easily intuited: modern, technologically advanced, forward looking.

For all that, it must be said that there is something very old fashioned about this whole business. I am talking about both the mass inculcation about how to behave and how to feel and the corralling of a nation behind a single, prestige oriented goal.

...Come to think of it, I've never heard of eradicating "lao wai" talk as one of the behavioral campaign goals, and I think I know why. The Chinese state has long promoted us-versus-them ways of thinking to enhance cohesion and control. By now, these notions have taken such deep root they have become normative.

The Olympic Games, however, are above all a celebration of our common humanity, and China would do wonders for the impression it makes on visitors by easing the distinctions between us and them. [Full text[

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