China's Agony of Defeat

By Schell, Orville | Newsweek, August 4, 2008 | Go to article overview

China's Agony of Defeat


Schell, Orville, Newsweek


It's impossible to understand what the Games mean to the Chinese without understanding their history of humiliation.

The Olympics are an irresistible stage for athletes--but also for those who wish to act out their grievances before the world. The Beijing Games, which kick off on Aug. 8, are hardly an exception. While Chinese leaders furiously insist they're not, and should not be, "political," these Olympics promise to become one of the most charged in history. Rarely has a more varied array of contentious issues crystallized around a single sporting event.

China is bedeviled by internal problems--human-rights violations, media censorship, corruption, pollution, labor abuses and lack of due process, to name a few. Several "domestic" issues--Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong--have also regularly spilled over into the international realm. At the same time, a host of relatively new, purely international problems have accrued to China as the country has aggressively sought access to natural resources around the world. By dealing with pariah states like Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Iran in order to feed the country's voracious appetite for oil, timber and metals, Chinese leaders have been accused of playing an irresponsible global role. Their critics would like nothing more than to flay Beijing before a worldwide television audience of hundreds of millions.

Chinese officials are doing everything possible to block such protests. They've designated three remote sites in Beijing in which to corral a few neutered "demonstrations." Rarely have the Chinese military and police been more anxious or at a higher state of alert. Surveillance cameras are everywhere. Tens of thousands of police, paramilitary troops and regular soldiers have been deployed to guard Olympic facilities, major buildings and public spaces. Many foreign NGO staffers based in Beijing have been asked to leave for the summer. Visa applications to attend the Games--now requiring not only letters of invitation but hotel reservations, round-trip airline tickets and bank statements--have frequently been turned down with no explanation. Indeed, the whole bureaucratic structure of the Chinese government and party seems coiled like a spring, ready to release into action if any errant soul emerges to make a disturbance, or even express unacceptable views, in a public way.

Now, I am the first to admit that the Chinese government gives ample cause for protest. Nor is vigorous dissent always counterproductive when dealing with Beijing. But I would argue that this is not the time--and not just because any unauthorized protest is quite likely to fail. The Beijing Games present a fraught and sensitive moment. China has made a Herculean effort to prepare the way for this spectacle, in which ordinary Chinese, not just their leaders, can announce themselves to the world as having regained their national greatness. Protests would almost certainly spark the kind of nationalist and autocratic backlash that they're meant to remedy. Remember what followed the 1989 Tiananmen demonstrations--a nearly 20-year period of reaction and restoration from which China has still not recovered.

This proud prickliness has deep historical roots that involve China, the West and even Japan. As I argue in the current New York Review of Books, the most critical element in the formation of China's modern identity has been the legacy of the country's "humiliation" at the hands of foreigners, beginning with its defeat in the Opium Wars in the mid-19th century and the shameful treatment of Chinese immigrants in America. The process was exacerbated by Japan's successful industrialization. Tokyo's invasion and occupation of the mainland during World War II was in many ways psychologically more devastating than Western interventions because Japan was an Asian power that had succeeded in modernizing, where China had failed.

This inferiority complex has been institutionalized in the Chinese mind. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

China's Agony of Defeat
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.