Thursday, August 14, 2008


Forget Yang Pei Yi (楊沛宜) and Lin Miao Ke (林妙可) - well, mostly. Forget the CGI fireworks. Forget that the enormous number of people used in the opening ceremony were from PLA song and dance troupes.

The big scandal of this Olympics isn't even that that China promised to clean up its act (and its air) when the games were awarded, and this is exactly not what we are getting.

The big scandal is that China is showing us just exactly why investment there is still risky; why the "golden opportunity" everyone seems to be thinking lurks in China's market is as frail as a butterfly. The Chinese government still has its fingers in every aspect of society, and that makes the shift from stable to unstable business environment just a power struggle away.

The CCP wanted these games to showcase the "new" China. Instead, they've provided two wonderful examples of why the new China is the old China painted up like a Shanghai warlord's mistress.

Take, for example, the fact that the decision maker for the Lin Miaoke switcheroo was a member of the Politburo:

"The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen," Chen said. "Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi's voice was the most outstanding."

During a live rehearsal soon before the ceremony, the Politburo member said Miaoke's voice "must change," Chen said in the radio interview. He didn't name the official.

Yah, I'll bet he declined to name names. But Mr. Chen also let it be known that the decision was not his, keeping an eye on future political developments in case these Olympics are judged to be politically ineffective in a post-hoc analysis. That way of thinking is very, very Communist. I don't see much evidence of a new China there, do you?

The other big scandal is that the Chinese gymnastics team likely has underage athletes. And the best proof that they can come up with that the girls are not underage is this:

However, for true backwards thinking, consider this statement by an unnamed Chinese official, according to Reuters: "(Yang's age) is not an issue at all since the gymnastics team is already staying in the Olympic Village. That indicates all our gymnasts are eligible." That is like saying because you're sitting in a car, you have a drivers' license.

That kind of silly "logic" is uncomfortably familiar to me. When I lived in the USSR, Russian textbooks were littered phrases such as "как известно" - as is (well) known. Phrases like that shut off debate. They squash questions such as "who knows, and how do they know it?". Over 20 years of schooling in that atmosphere, the fuzzy logic, the avoidance of true questioning, the acceptance of blatant untruths results in bureaucrats who act as if they are brain dead, and treat their constituents as if they have the same disease. Underneath, the CCP is no different from the CPSU I dealt with in 1989 (I was employed by Komsomol for a brief period in the summers of 1989 and 1990).

So, now that the world press is digging, we begin to see some evidence that the athletes are underage. Sites such as Digg are full of indignant Chinese speakers surfing the web for evidence. The Chinese government is pulling the offending pages as fast as they find them, but the evidence is catching up with them. Unless there is another gymnast named He Ke Xin (何可欣) on the Chinese team, and this is extremely unlikely*, her birth year is truly 1994.

However, and this is the one bit of silver lining in the whole mess, the Chinese government is pretty backwards (hence the title of this post), and about as web-savvy as Jim's recent troll. Do you think someone ought to let Beijing know that there is such a thing as website caching? Nah.

Long live the Revolution. Spit.

*Unlikely because while Chinese has certain characters that are often used in names, the list of possible characters is much wider than the standard set of English names, and in two character names the parents can mix and match - they don't pick names that other people have had in the family, they pick names with special meaning to them because of the time of birth, their hopes for the kid, etc. For example the "Ke" character (可 : approve; can; may; need (doing); be worth (doing); fit; suit ) is part of the names of both Lin Miao Ke and He Ke Xin in different contexts. That is why, if you know Chinese people, you know very few of them with the same first name, if any.


Shawn Powers said...

Ah, but the cached page in encrypted into some strange symbols...


John the Scientist said...

Shawn, have you run your 5K yet this morning? I've already got in 7K, so git movin' and quit botherin' me.


Jim Wright said...

That is like saying because you're sitting in a car, you have a drivers' license

Best analogy I've seen in weeks, but very very communist.

I don't see much evidence of a new China there, do you? No, I don't. I see the same old communist inferiority complex, the desperate need to erect a facade over governmental self-denial, where appearance is more important than reality.

The problem with this is on our side, especially in the intelligence field: there's a tendency to believe some of this bullshit - for example: Holy Shit! The Russians have 10,000 nuclear missiles! We gotta get us some more of that! - when reality is that only about half those missile were operational, and of those the reliability was somewhat less than 40%. And it's the same with China, it's important to look past the propaganda. The very fact that CCP felt it necessary to pull the Lin Miaoke stunt in the first place is a significant intelligence indicator - and an indicator of exactly what you said in the post, China has not changed, at all.

CW said...

John I wish I could figure out how to get Firefox to display the Chinese ideograms... All I get is the unicode boxes.

John the Scientist said...

Hmm, it does for me. Have you loaded the Asian keyboards for Windows?

CW said...

I don't use Windows :)

But I've loaded several Chinese fonts for Linux, and have attempted to add several Chinese character sets to Firefox, to no avail.

John the Scientist said...

We'll ask Shawn Powers. He's an editor at Linux Journal. If he doesn't know, he should lose his job. ;-)