View From Table 9

August 13, 2008

China’s Bait & Switch

Filed under: Uncategorized — table9 @ 4:04 pm
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Hubby and I are pretty avid Olympics fans, both winter and summer. We especially love the opening and closing ceremonies, and routinely compare how each one does in ‘lighting the torch’ (so far Barcelona’s Archer wins the Gold there, followed by Sydney’s fire and water), so of course we’ve been watching the games.

We’ve also been watching with some interest the news reports. First, the report that the spectacular fireworks broadcast during the Opening Ceremony in Beijing were (depending on which interpretation you agree with) “faked” or “simulated”.  Next, the story of a little girl singing during that same Opening Ceremony who wasn’t actually singing. No, they don’t mean she lip-synched vocals recorded earlier.  That’s pretty normal in big-venue performances.  As it turns out, it wasn’t her singing, but another child who was judged to have a better voice but not the same appearance.

Most recently, charges are being raised again that three of the six women gymnasts competing for China are, in fact, not old enough to compete and therefore should be disqualified. Lest anyone think this is sour grapes, let’s all note that this issue was raised well before the Games and was brushed off by the Chinese Olympic Officials.

What’s surprising about all these allegations is that the Chinese response seems to be a general “So What?”  Fireworks “simulated”?  That was for safety. (So why not just disclose it on the broadcast?)  Voice dubbed?  It was a critical moment that they wanted to be ‘perfect’ (again, why not just disclose it?)  Neither of the girls in that incident expressed anything but indifference – one thrilled it was her voice and the other thrilled because she got to ‘perform’.   I’m sure we’ll hear the same regarding the athletes whose eligibility has been repeatedly questioned – what’s the big deal?

In reality, it should not surprise us. After all, we’ve had literally millions of toys and other products recalled in US Markets due to use of paints containing lead in violation of our laws.  In most cases, the US parent company claimed they did not approve these paints and the Chinese often admitted to switching out the more expensive lead-free paint for a less expensive one containing lead.  It’s scientists are also widely accused of academic and scientific forgery, including one case where a scientist faked computer chip research.  It’s also known for manufacturing fake pharmaceuticals, including indictment for making and distributing fake malaria drugs.

Some say this is the culture – that profitability and presentation take precedence over safety and sincerity.  In China, we are told, to ‘lose face’ is a terrible outcome, one to be avoided at all costs. It’s all about image.  We could say the US is similar, as are many other countries. The difference though is that in the US, worse than losing face is to betray trust.

Apparently, that’s not so important for the world’s most populous nation, and one that’s emerging as a new world power.  It’s not more important to be trusted, to comply with laws or rules, to be honest, even when people’s health and welfare are at stake. What’s most important is that the image be preserved.  And that scares me most of all.

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