China: One Olympics, One Voice?

Global Voices Olympics European and American fighters for press freedom have infiltrated the capital, Canadian-Tibetan activists have gone underground and blogged from around the country about what's been called the Darfur Olympics, the Gas Mask Olympics even the Coming Out Olympics, so basically now the Pick Your White Elephant Olympics.

But when one factors in language, the Great Firewall and over two billion USD in pride, is any of this resonating with actual Chinese citizens themselves?

Sina Blogs, the largest of China's blog portal websites for example, devoted its front and center coverage of the one year countdown party exclusively to what celebrities, mostly those who were up on stage in Tiananmen square singing the theme song We Are Ready (not to be confused with the rehearsal promo We Are Ready And Ready And Ready And Ready And Ready).

And how to evaluate Chinese popular opinion when some of the biggest names among China's progressive public intellectuals—several of whom blog—independently come up with their own demands for what kind of Olympics they want to see go down next summer? Or is it mainstream or public conscience when Bullog—a smaller blog portal part The Huffington Post, part Daily Kos in that it brings liberal mainstream media journalists and editors together with widely-read political bloggers from across the Chinese-speaking world—has a Beijing 2008 blog that starts off with a firm stance against supporting next year's summer games?

The as-yet unidentified blogger behind it poses an interesting question, put forth with no mention of the foreign protests held in Beijing this past week: why aren't people talking about opposing the Olympics?


The Beijing Olympics need more “non-supporters”


September 13, 2001 was the night Beijing won the Olympics. I was with a mixed group of friends at the time, we were driving at night, and all I was thinking about were the beach and crabs at our destination, Nandaihe. As we passed through a small village, small ceremonial firecrackers suddenly rose up into the air, which filled with the cracking, popping sound. In revolutionary movies, this kind of scene is usually followed by war sirens and gunfire. Still stunned, one after the other we began receiving calls from our friends in Beijing, we'd won the Olympics and Beijing was in party mode and the wildest party in twelve years was going on.
We didn't turn around to go join the reveling masses, the beach and the crabs seemed a lot more like real life to us than mass hysteria did. If the winning of the Olympic games could be said to have had any effect on us, it would be the extra few glasses everyone had during the feast that night.


At that time, the Beijing Olympic Committee had entrusted the world-renowned Gallup (China) Consulting Inc. to carry out a survey, which showed that Beijing residents’ support for the Beijing Olympics lay at %94.9, a historical high (don't doubt this number just yet; the International Olympic Committee commissioned a European company to carry out an independent survey which at %96 surpassed the Beijing number). I don't have a clear view of the situation, and I feel ambiguous about it, so I don't know if I'd be included in the %94.9. Although, I have to admit, seeing the vast majority of Chinese citizens so lively and merry on such a rarely-seen sort of night, my spirits got caught up in it all and I felt slightly vain. Even then, one could already see a few people speaking out in disagreement with Beijing having won the Olympics; I felt a bit of disquiet, but it wasn't very strong.


In the nearly six years since then, a few things have left me starting to feel a bit uneasy, and I don't need to rehash those here. I just want to say that of all the things leaving feeling unsettled, the strongest is in how hard it now is to hear any open questioning or differing opinions regarding the Beijing Olympics. Has the original %5.1 become zero? Or has the number shifted? Have they been required to keep their voices down? Or are these voices being overlooked, excluded?
As I've come to understand from some media people for whom it is easy to come across propaganda slogans, things not beneficial to the Olympic Games’ radiant image are all being filtered out. So much in regards to this radiant image that, for example, even restoration to the sports stadiums has been forbidden to report on.
I really, really don't know what it is the authorities are afraid of, or to what extent they're afraid. Even our Party and government consistently express willingness to be subject to public scrutiny, so why do the Beijing Olympics have all-encompassing authority?
A modern human society ought to constitute a sophisticated and heterogeneous society, a pluralistic society which accepts various sorts of values. Common sense tells us that more money is always better than less, so ‘multifarious’ [多元 can be literally read as ‘many yuan‘] is definitely better than ‘unifarious’ [one yuan]. There's nothing to worry about in pluralism; if everyone were to uphold principles of tolerance, naturally it would be to the benefit of all. And only this kind of living environment will most closely resemble a truly harmonious society.


Today is August 8, one year before the Olympics begin, and a People's Daily editorial writes: “this is six years of the fruits of the efforts of the Party Central Committee, the State Council, and the people of this country, our united people's dream, and common commitment to the world.”
Such grand narrative as this makes me very afraid. If it were me, I'd describe the Beijing Olympics as: some migrant laborers repaired some sports stadiums, bridges and roads, some people will come to compete, some will come to watch, and some will make money off it all.
I feel this is much closer to reality and the nature of the Olympics.
And the whole country's participation, all the people's jubilation, this is not the proper conduct for a sensible nation. In society, when the masses all start walking the same walk, is it not possible that the next step will become shared hatred of a common enemy?


Over the past six years, I was never able to see further authoritative statistics on support for the Beijing Olympics. All I've seen is a cautious survey done on one BBS, with the following five options: strongly support, support, no opinion, oppose and strongly oppose. Numbered 1,2,3,4,5, one could only choose a number; no discussion was allowed. In the end, 173 cast votes, with 1 and 5 receiving the most, %21.79 and %34.68 respectively.
I don't feel that these sorts of internet surveys can scientifically capture the will of the people, but they at least show that “I don't support it” is still an objective, existing attitude, and not just phoenix feathers and unicorn horns.
Aren't we eager to earn the world's understanding and recognition? Well, letting the world know that China doesn't only have just one voice would absolutely give the establishment of China's image bonus marks in that regard, and not the opposite.
Today, without permission from the Bullog webmasters, I've set up this blog, named ‘Beijing Olympics: I don't support it’.
Not supporting, it's an attitude and nothing more, nothing less. There's no way that just because someone doesn't support the Beijing Olympics that it will be called off.
Starting a blog, of course is not just the raising of a banner; I hope it also includes some thought and constructiveness.
If you insist that saying ‘I don't support it’ is a non-committal attitude borne of helplessness, I'd just like to point out the other things I'm willing to oppose:
-opposition to over-politicization of the Olympics;
-opposition to focusing only on winning medals;
-opposition to martyrdom for personal gain;
-opposition to opposition of restrictions on speech.

And the comments:

[匿名] qian [222.70.190.*] @ 2007-8-9 1:27:56

[匿名] 实习记者 [122.4.178.*] @ 2007-8-9 1:51:39

“-opposition to opposition of restrictions on speech.”
I support your non-support!

皮皮狼 [218.56.106.*] @ 2007-8-9 8:05:36

I've been saying this for ages: keep your body fit, stay away from the Olympics.

[匿名] 我本善良 [220.160.193.*] @ 2007-8-9 8:13:21

I support the Olympics, and so does virtually everyone I know. Actually what most of the opposers are opposing isn't that China will host the Olympics, it's that in the process of China doing so there are improprieties. We can't just throw out the food because we happened to choke; if you're opposing it just to oppose, or for some other political factors, then you're just a shit punk through and through. As for those improprieties, what's needed is exposure and supervision, and not just the simple opposition to the Olympics instead.

[匿名] 王子政 [61.173.234.*] @ 2007-8-9 8:23:42

The Gods cry for this land

[匿名] 不扯淡了 [210.13.96.*] @ 2007-8-9 8:30:47

healsperm_ [60.210.143.*] @ 2007-8-9 8:42:41

I support your idealistic attitude

rexgocfa [221.217.187.*] @ 2007-8-9 8:46:28

Support you!
Fuck the Olympics!

[匿名] alfantor [222.191.247.*] @ 2007-8-9 9:07:00

I oppose Beijing's prevention of non-locals from entering the city during the Olympics. Damn.

[匿名] niaocu [125.77.181.*] @ 2007-8-9 9:09:57
统计学的角度,网络调查是一种“自愿回应样本(voluntary response error)”,会造成有偏。因为持反对意见的人比其他人特别容易站出来表示意见。

From a statistical angle, internet surveys are a kind of voluntary response error, and can give rise to bias. Because it's much easier for people which opposing opinions to stand up and express them than for others.

[匿名] 奥运,压垮骆驼的最后一根稻草。 [221.222.123.*] @ 2007-8-9 9:12:10

Olympics, the straw that will break the camel's back.

[匿名] daisy [58.60.221.*] @ 2007-8-9 9:23:59

I don't really care, whatever, the only thing the Olympics has done for me is now Mengniu Milk has begun a large-scale promotion: discounts, 2-for-1s, free dolls. I bought a whole stack.

[匿名] 小朱 [219.143.82.*] @ 2007-8-9 9:43:34

I oppose the Olympics too. For years I thought I was the only one who did; turns out there's lots of us, it's reassuring.

[匿名] abc [202.96.19.*] @ 2007-8-9 10:51:21
1, 奥运是中国经济发展勃起的一粒伟哥,待明年高潮过后,走势拭目以待。。。本人并没有小人心态,而是觉得泛奥运经济论如果过头,早晚自己要买单!

1. The Olympics are viagra for China's economy; what happens next year once the orgasm's over, we'll just have to wait and see…personally, I'm not too worried, but if you're going to keep discussion of economic stimulus the Olympics brings, well you can start footing the bill yourself!
2. As a Beijinger, the area around the building I live in has definitely been forcibly ‘greened'; I can't help but say it's nice. The mess that even years of striking lightning couldn't move has all been taken away, although the ones doing the work are still the same, slow old few from before…but the biggest effect this has had on me is that housing prices have doubled!! If I hadn't bought my flat before 2005, I could have gotten evicted [to make way for construction] and it would have been like living pre-Liberation again…
3. That the Olympics have stirred up the dorkiness of our people is undeniable, but in promoting it as exaggeratedly as they are, I just feel the government's got other intentions
4. Excessive excitement with the hosting of the Olympics, doesn't that somehow just show inferiorly our nation sees itself?

[匿名] 小路 [222.129.117.*] @ 2007-8-9 10:54:34

I oppose the Olympics! In the name of the Olympics, the largest single demolition of Beijing's Hutongs since Liberation has taken place! It's all ruins outside my door now! Fuck the Olympics!

[匿名] 就事论事 [210.72.234.*] @ 2007-8-9 11:14:26

What the Olympics are doing for the nation's cohesiveness is a good thing
But what irks me is the waste of money and people-power; who knows how much corruption the whole thing has given rise to.

[匿名] 吴妈好友 [125.34.162.*] @ 2007-8-9 13:27:24

Don't support it, don't oppose it, none of my business. Seems this time next year I'm going to have to flee Beijing for a while.

ProState in Flames blogger moogee reposted the open question on her blog, and received the following comments:

[匿名] 不平不谈 [218.247.244.*] @ 2007-8-8 19:42:30

I support not supporting the Olympics

[匿名] mybob [202.127.20.*] @ 2007-8-8 20:10:29

I support [the Olympics], I just wish it were being hosted with more transparency, particularly by a government which takes a places import on citizens’ quality of life

[…a series of expletives…]

[匿名] 钱去了哪里 [61.158.136.*] @ 2007-8-9 0:21:49

The money used to build a roof on the sports stadium came from [toll-paying] car owners
All the money from the tight road taxes has all been used to build the roof.

[匿名] 狗脸岁月 [125.33.43.*] @ 2007-8-9 0:43:28

When the police uncles come to our neighborhood to seize dogs
They say it's all for the good of hosting the Olympics
I bet even the dalmatian that girl in the Olympic committee poster kisses got killed too.

Later in the afternoon the author of the new Beijing Olympic blog on Bullog whose piece can be seen at the top of this post pasted a feature one interning Beijing journalist did recently which features the conversations the reporter had with fifty-seven imported laborers working on future Beijing Olympic venues, workers who many are speculating will be forced to leave the capital before the athletes and audience arrive. The post quickly brought in a few dozen comments, and here are some:

[匿名] xuxing [218.79.145.*] @ 2007-8-8 17:03:59

Great. More people should be doing work like this. Unfortunately, as soon as journalists get near, they're chased away, not allowed to make contact [with the workers].

[匿名] 深蓝 [221.221.21.*] @ 2007-8-8 17:38:41

Come on
It's not like you just found out today that Chinese society is split between haves and have-nots, right?
It always has been.

[匿名] rock [59.49.19.*] @ 2007-8-8 22:52:54

Journalists who do reports like this definitely deserve respect
This is what looking out for the people looks like!

[匿名] 磊落青衫 [210.21.234.*] @ 2007-8-8 23:19:09

Bitter reality
If this were to get printed, they'd definitely get harmonized

laozious [219.132.235.*] @ 2007-8-9 0:54:20

The Olympics is just big old China's reflection in the water. Narcissism is fine, but the second you touch it, it's gone.

[匿名] 圣人末尊 [124.114.180.*] @ 2007-8-9 2:30:56

Fuck the Olympics.

Also yesterday, moogee at ProState reposted the open letter mentioned above, receiving these comments:

[匿名] 2nd [61.48.43.*] @ 2007-8-8 19:49:18


[匿名] asdf [124.116.187.*] @ 2007-8-8 20:12:29

All the names are sensitive keywords

[匿名] 老碗 [219.153.130.*] @ 2007-8-8 20:23:53

So brave, but it's also a bit embarrassing and, I really don't want to say this but, completely useless. At least I personally have lost faith in those xxx guys.

[匿名] 。。。 [58.83.196.*] @ 2007-8-8 20:29:52

Everyone on the list, please take care.

[匿名] 大SB [121.10.148.*] @ 2007-8-8 20:48:18

They're all a bunch of idiots! In Cantonese we say: the ducks talk and chickens agree.
Is this of any use? Fuck the Olympics!

[匿名] rock [59.49.19.*] @ 2007-8-8 21:05:48
[匿名] 老碗 [219.153.130.*] @ 2007-8-8 20:23:53

“So brave, but it's also a bit embarrassing and, I really don't want to say this but, completely useless. At least I personally have lost faith in those xxx guys.”
——if you think it's useless, you should go become a government official
Of course it's useful, there's an obvious difference between if they'd done this and if they hadn't.
[We must] implement quantitative change, hope for qualititive change.

[匿名] 支持 [210.72.218.*] @ 2007-8-8 21:10:08

I finally hear humans speaking about the Olympics; it feels like I'm among the living again
Everything is only won through practical implementation; stopping merely at thinking and cursing is the real stupidity.

[匿名] js [60.187.235.*] @ 2007-8-8 22:02:21

Hosting the Olympics is going to give the Party gold face plating

[匿名] 二哥 [121.204.49.*] @ 2007-8-9 2:32:25

Fuck you Luo Yonghao and Lian Yue, why didn't you sign it???????????????

[匿名] iamlifeiamlife [218.58.62.*] @ 2007-8-9 10:29:43

Come on y'all, the tanks are waiting!

[匿名] 圣人本尊 [211.101.49.*] @ 2007-8-9 10:43:21

If they'd asked me to sign, I absolutely would've refused
I never participate in these sorts of activities, because I've never harbored any fantasies whatsoever about the Commie bandits!
If you want to earn equality, freedom and democracy
You can't rely on sympathy from the Commie bandits
All you can do is overthrow them, get these twisted tyrants out of power
Bloody Commie bandits


  • Charles Liu

    As a contrast, I am not aware of any foreign activism (grassroots or government-sponsored) that has affected America’s hosting of 2007 Junior Olympics.

    Where’s the world’s outrage for transgressions committed by us Americans? Why should our “gold on face” go off without punishment, when we drop depleted uranium dirty bombs on innocent Iraqi children, and have the Native Americans under our boots?

    Or the onslaught against 2008 Olympics perpetrated by us in the West is racist?

  • Silvano


    The translations for those two phrases seem erroneous to me. I think a more faithful rendering can be:

    Opposition to sacrifice of private interest for the Olympics;

    Opposition to restrictions on the expression of dissenting views.

  • Screw the Olympics. Kiss My Chinese Commie Ass, and Have a Nice Day.
    here is my piece in its entirety

  • Charles Liu

    I think the American and Canadian student are being a little hipocritical. I mean don’t they realize there’s “Tibet” in their own backyard? (US-Native Americans, CA-First People)

    The proverb goes “those live in a glass house should not throw stones.”

  • Richard Swancott

    As capitalistic as China appears to be, there is still a Communist dictatorship behind the scenes who may one day develop world dominating aspirations as they become a more powerful military force. The sleeping dragon is waking up as the west weakens itself by spreading itself too thinly in global conflicts it cannot win and which will drain its economic advantage. There is still a great deal of repression and oppression in China and we cannot turn a blind eye to it in the name of Olympic goodwill.

  • Link to Sina Blogs should be:-

  • mahathir_fan

    In that case, may I recommend that you:
    Don’t watch the olympics.
    Lobby your country to boycott it.

  • The IMF’s report this week stated that China has already advanced the US as the #1 global economic power player. The US will head towards a recession post-Presidential elections. With any business, the US has to become competitive while maintaining an ethical backbone. Some how post-Enron, I am not quite sure if both will hold will. I predict the US will try to get tight on imports from China and promote more nationalism as what’s ocurring in China with its next gen creative class. It’s going to be an interesting time in history. So snap on your seatbelts because we are headed for a doozy.

  • […] und ähnliches. Auch in China selbst regt sich Widerstand gegen die Spiele, schreibt John Kennedy auf Global Voices. So haben sich beispielsweise etliche Intellektuelle des Landes zusammengetan und […]

  • Thanks Silvano, I’d go with your translations there.

    @Charles Liu, I think blogger critiques of the American government from many places around the world can be found with some time spent looking. I recommend GVO’s Bloglines lineup as a place to start, or the evolving world blog aggregator Mega.

    @Richard, I’ve just read two blog posts (follow link there to the first) which make the same argument that you do, focusing more on the economic aspect, highly recommended reading (via ESWN). Documenting the many cases of repression and oppression in China isn’t strictly the focus even of pseudo-mainstream bloggers like the ones found on Bullog, but I’d hazard to guess that whoever is behind the Beijing Olympic blog I’ve mentioned above definitely had things like the still-unfolding brick kiln slave case, which has gripped and horrified the entire country, in mind.

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