Some people have called 2008 the “Year of the Volunteers” in China. This is not just about the Olympics, but the Wenchuan earthquake in May also raised the civic awareness of the Chinese people (especially the youth). It was realized in the the numerous NGO’s which rushed towards the Sichuan earthquake disaster zone. These came as spontaneous actions by citizens as opposed to existing government operations. This was a breakthrough within the existing system.
This may be the most important new issue for the ruling party in China. The Chinese youth have the most civic awareness. They can support various government policies (such as hosting the Olympics). They can also tolerate or even endure certain improprieties of the rulers (such as the various mistakes during the Olympics like the chaos over the ticket sales and the invasiveness of the security procedures). But they are increasingly less obedient to the orders from the system. They treat disaster relief and the Olympics as their personal projectx and they will take action based upon their own ideas. This is perhaps the true significance of the Bird’s Nest generation.
After the 2008 Beijing Olympics lowered its curtains, the Beijing authorities may go back to its traditional and stale practice of singing paeans while refusing to address the flaws, mistakes and corruption. They may think that they can make superficial statements without any drastic changes to the system. They may think that the Olympics was successful through the power of the government. They may deliberately inhibit the inevitable development of a civic society in China. Now that would be a betrayal of those Chinese folks who genuinely supported China to host the Olympics.
If the citizens of a society become disappointed with a government, if their support turns into doubt and contempt and if the tolerable becomes the intolerable, a social crisis ensues especially when there are economic troubles.
It is easy to to perceive the impact of the Beijing Olympics on the world. The impact on the future changes in China is uncertain. There will be many big changes in China after August 8. The suspense is just how China will change.