Beijing radiates outward from the Forbidden City. To the south of the ancient palace spreads Tiananmen Square, whose courtyard the Emperor would gaze across. Atop the hillock to the North is Beihai Park. Though the city’s area is ten times larger than that of Seoul and 17 million people reside within its tenuous boundaries, the cityscape is visible in its entirety from Beihai Park, due to the flatness of the metropolis.
[Feature] Beijing Olympics herald a return to China’s powerful past
|» Chinese soldiers passing a sign bearing a picture of Deng Xiaoping as well as his words. (Newsis)|
To the east of the Forbidden City is a line of skyscrapers, reminiscent of New York’s. Beijing’s other monuments - its huge tower cranes - are also a sight to behold. High-rise buildings, including some 110 hotels, are under construction in every direction. The work continues 24 hours a day and, as a result, buildings spring up overnight. Beijing has devoted some $US30 billion to the building of structures for the 2008 Olympics and the general improvement of the environment. There are many roads making concentric circles around the Forbidden City. Construction is in full swing between the two outermost roads. Such will be the scene of the "Olympic Town" to be used for the opening ceremonies on August 29, 2008.
Chinese authorities will use the Beijing Olympics to promote Chinese culture and technology abroad as well as to celebrate national character within the country. Last year, China conducted a "practice drill" of sorts for the Olympics at the China-Africa Forum, at which the presidents of 35 developing African nations were present. Chinese authorities mobilized 810,000 police, public officials, and retired party members to maintain peace and order as well as to control traffic. In order to quell congestion problems in the city center, government workers handed over their car keys for the duration of the forum and got around on foot. Thanks to such efforts, the city streets were as quiet as they would be on a holiday. After the festivities ended, the government thanked the people for their "voluntary cooperation" via mobile phone text message.
However, the goals of winning the most medals and smoothly running the Olympics are but minor aims in China’s grand scheme. Indeed, China’s true hope is to prove to all that it is, indeed, the center of the world, as its traditional name of "Middle Country" suggests. This is seen in the ambitious plans to send the Olympic Torch to Beijing only after bringing it to the top of the highest mountain in the world, Mount Everest in the Himalayas. They are preparing special equipment for the torchbearer to endure the oxygen deprivation and fierce cold of the summit.
Since the reforms of 1978, China has achieved an average annual growth of nearly 10 percent. It has the fourth largest GDP, and holds over $US1 trillion in foreign reserves. That said, China’s GDP last year of $2.7 billion was one-fifth that of the United States, and though China produces 70 percent of the world’s watches, they only earn 10 percent of the total profits that the timepieces bring in. Internally, they must face such problems as excessive investments, the impoverishment of the rural sector, and wealth polarization.
Even so, self-confidence accrued from unprecedented economic growth has combined with a sense of traditional pride. Yan Xeutong, director of Tsinghua University’s Institute fo International Studies said, "There is definitely a goal of attaining economic superiority, and thanks to China’s management abilities, growth in quantity and quality will continue."
A Beijing taxi driver said, "China is big, so the results of this Olympics will be greater than those achieved through the Seoul Olympics."
Park Seung-ho, the chief of the Samsung Economic Research Institute in Beijing said that "the potential of the domestic market, the improvement in policies, and economic utilitarianism all present reasons for optimism. Recently, pessimistic voices have become as loud as the optimistic ones, but we think that the authorities will be able to effectively manage things."
Last year, the government-run CCTV broadcast and released on DVD a popular television show titled, "The Rise of Great Nations," which reawakened the Chinese people’s belief in their nation’s centrality among the countries of the world. In analyzing the rise and fall of nine great historical powers, including the Netherlands, England, and the U.S., the television show was seen as a declaration to the Chinese people that their nation would also travel down the path of greatness. Furthermore, it conveyed the message that a national strategy for achieving elite status had already been determined. Many viewers spoke of a common perception that, although not explicitly indicated by the drama, China would be the tenth nation to ascend to greatness. Tsinghua University’s Yan Xeutong said, "Chinese people saw the message of that TV show as an all-too natural conclusion. This type of thought began long ago, as witnessed in the Han, Tang, Ming, and Qing empires. If they do not become the strongest nation, they will hold their leaders to blame." Professor Kenneth Lieberthal of the University of Michigan spoke in an interview with TIME of a new sense of Chinese self-confidence, of a belief that the 21st century belongs to China.
CCTV frequently broadcasts stories regarding Iraq and Iran. There are few people as interested in global events and trends as are the Chinese. While China on the one hand promotes economic integration through ASEAN, it also invests in Central Asia and Africa, as well as Latin and South America, thus spreading its economic influence. The tenet of Sinocentrism underlies all of these endeavors. Many Chinese believe that their race and culture are superior, and that China belongs at the center of world affairs. Such a belief was present 200 years ago, as well, when Chinese bragged of being at the heart of the world, and that the world’s center could be found within the walls of the Forbidden City. Thus, many feel now that their current prosperity is a resumption of their traditional power, which was "briefly interrupted." As Yan Xeutong said, "the Chinese do not think that they are pursuing something new and unfounded, but are rather recovering something that belongs to them."
The current Chinese leadership is fulfilling the late Deng Xiaoping’s words, to "exclusively focus on economic development for 100 years." Though economic development may plant dreams of democratization and threaten the Communist Party, if the Communist Party is to stay in power, it has no choice but to carry out development plans. The Communist Party has drafted detailed plans to carry out their country’s development, and is currently implementing reforms to provide the locomotion to propel such growth. After all, economic growth is the common goal of all.
Immanuel Wallerstein of Yale University asserted that the decline of U.S. hegemony, which began after the Vietnam War, has accelerated in the wake of 9/11. He argues that ruling powers are focusing on military might, while the nations that will succeed them in power are instead focusing on economic matters. Wang Jisi, Dean of the School of International Studies at Peking University said, "America’s soft power is declining rapidly, and international political multi-polarity is inevitable." It would seem that Wallerstein’s assertions are indeed proving true.
Though the Chinese speak of peace and harmony, China has always treated as friends those who cooperate with its will, and those who rebel as enemies. Sinocentrism will one day play a greater role in Chinese foreign relations. The Beijing Olympics will not be remembered as a signal of China’s new rise so much as festivities marking the restoration of the Chinese empire. In effect, in relation to developing domestic conditions, the flame of Chinese nationalism will begin to burn brighter.