The Chinese Olympic and Humiliation
By Jerome Grossman
For China the Olympics are a demonstration of the ascendancy of the host nation -from historic international humiliation “to the gate of greatness.” The Chinese investment was enormous, $40 billion, 10 times the amount spent by any country in previous Olympics. Large sections of Beijing were refitted; enormous efforts tried to control and minimize pollution; the city was beautified in its buildings and public art; every effort was made to make housing and accommodations and entertainment pleasant for foreign guests. The organization and precision of the opening ceremonies stunned the entire world.
The Chinese were out to prove that their system of capitalist authoritarianism is a success, with national goals that their Gross Domestic Product will surpass the United States by 2025 and that they will dominate the 21st century as America dominated the 20th.
But the Chinese are careful not to threaten the US, their best customer. Their emphasis is on economic primacy, not military, not interventionist. While they have modernized the military establishment, they have not built their capacity to a threatening level. For example, their nuclear arsenal has only about 200 capable of reaching the US while the US has 10,000 capable of reaching China and an armed American fleet regularly prowls the Western Pacific.
The Chinese have serious problems that may prevent realization of national goals: too many people to be adequately supported, especially the elderly beneficiaries of the health system, who must be supported in retirement; unrest among the workers as inequality of income grows; an overrated economy not yet capable of using all modern technology; environmental problems that affect the health of all Chinese; rejection of the state ideology by some members of the intellectual and underprivileged classes.
However, all Chinese are united in hosting the Olympics as a demonstration that the humiliating legacy of the domination by foreigners has ended. The humiliation began with China's defeat in the Opium Wars in the 19th century; continued when the 1919 Treaty of Versailles allotted port concessions to European governments to profit from goods entering and exiting China; the treatment of Chinese laborers in the US; the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and China proper; the British seizure of Hong Kong; the Portuguese control Macao; the separation of Taiwan, etc. etc..
The Chinese want the world to know that those days are over. In 2001, the National People's Congress passed a law establishing a National Humiliation Day. The leaders, past and present, of all parties and factions scorned the humiliating insults to the Chinese people, the yoke, the suffering, uniting such diverse political figures and Sun Yatsen, Chiang Kai-shek and Mao Ze Dong.
So the Chinese Olympics are much more than a series of pageants and athletic contests. They are an emotional, national, prideful statement: we have arrived; there will be no more humiliation.