The Chinese government planned the year of the Olympic games in Beijing on 8-24 August 2008 as a demonstration of the country’s pride and confidence on the global stage. So far, it has not turned out that way. The Tibet protests in mid-March, and the disruption of the Olympic-torch relay that followed, have created confusion in government circles. Now, the earthquake in Sichuan on 12 May has presented the authorities with another severe challenge of management and public relations. A triumphal year is becoming ever more tense.
The official reaction to this series of events is part of a pattern that reveals much about how China is ruled and how its leaders think. In this sense, their response is not random but a case-study in the nature of modern governance in China.