So how does this explain the hostility and suspicion that exists between China and the West, as reflected by the incident with the 10-year-old girls?
China’s problem is monolithism. In the absence of pluralism and vibrant democratic institutions, such as political opposition and a free press, China is reduced to a monochromatic entity. Who stripped the girl of her right to perform? China did. Who failed to pack the stadiums? It was China.
In 2000, the missteps at the Sydney Olympics were sheeted home to the organising committee or the state government, or the contractors or the caterers. Australia’s brand was never threatened.
For the Chinese, the problem is broader still. It is China that wears the blame for complicity with the Sudanese Government over Darfur. The nefarious behaviour of Chinese business interests are similarly laid at the door of China. Comparable misconduct involving the US or Australia would be blamed on a particular corporation or agency, or laid at the doorstep of transient political forces: the Bush doctrine, for example, or the White Australia policy. A critical press and an open political process allows for the compartmentalisation of blame.
Under totalitarian rule, blame has nowhere else to go. That is why, in the eyes of the world, it was China — not a misguided producer or an over-eager casting director — that broke the heart of a little girl days before she was set to sing for the world.