posed this question to students and friends this week: Which is
more important to you, China hosting the Olympics or shooting a
man into space.
answers revolved around questions of economics, pride and China's
increasing contact with and role within the international community.
Virtually, all answers were given with the qualification: I have
more important things to think about.
came out even, with the Olympics running away with the "international
cooperation," "involving all of the Chinese people"
and "economic benefit" titles while Shenzhou 5 took "national
pride" and "technological progress."
Billion People Watched You Return Home"
the headline of the Chengdu Evening Daily on the 17th. Giggles
I asked admitted to watching much of anything concerning Shenzhou
5 except for the news briefs the day after and the commercials that
now pop up inviting more "patriotic fervor and national cohesion."
with the hand-wringing that proceeded the announcement that Beijing
would indeed host the Olympics, Shenzhou 5 was a breeze, it blew
through, made a little splash and is on its way to being forgotten.
is nice however, to be one of three nations in the world to have
launched a space shuttle and it does a lot for the self-esteem to
hear things like:
astronaut returned in much better condition than the American astronauts"
as the Chengdu Economic Daily put it.
spent much less than $100 million and our shuttle is far superior
to that of the Russians" as the Chengdu Evening claimed.
are much more sophisticated than the crude propaganda machine spun
by Hu and Jiang and the layers upon layers of suits that make up
the Chinese bureacracy.
enough to chuckle when reading lines such as these and others that
spun out of the media blitz that followed the mission. Or busy and/or
broke enough not to notice. As with most huge face projects that
Beijing cooks up, the people express their pride in the progress
of the nation, give praise to Old Deng and then resume the quest
is just like that"
word was passed down quickly from suit to suit and reporters were
sent scurrying to hospitals to see if a Shenzhou had been born that
day and out to my bar to ask if I would sport a "China Pride"
headband for a photo. Everybody grinned sheepishly as I said "sorry."
sat with a reporter here in Sichuan and he talked of his frustration
with the memos that float down from Beijing everyday describing
how certain things should be covered and with "suggestions"
as to which phrases to use.
of the Chengdu Municipal Science and Technology Bureau were baffled
when I mentioned the Galileo project that China and the EU are working
on. While the papers went in-depth to cover Lt. Col. Yang Liwei's
son and his thoughts and preparation for the mission, nary a word
was wasted on this very important project. The Galileo project's
goal is to compete with (and perhaps replace) the US-controlled
GPS system. Shenzhou 5 is a high-profile trumpet out of Beijing
heralding (yet again) China's resurgence. The Galileo project is
than 4000 Sichuanese were involved in the Shenzhou 5 project (part
of the Sichuan Aviation Indiustry's contribution) and many of them
will be involved in the launches to come (two years or so as the
crow flies) yet their colleagues back home are still in the dark
about the space program.
event that Hu and Jiang hope take the nation by storm is censored
and coddled so much that people here find themsleves defending the
propaganda more often than they are praising the event.
is just like that"
New York Times article by Joseph Kahn on the Shenzhou 5 mission
commented rather snidely on the technological prowess (or lack thereof)
of the Chinese and their latent insecurity vis a vis the West. According
to the leading papers, insecurity and the university diplomas of
the leadership (engineering-heavy) tend to be the main factors driving
the various projects and international events that China is involved
definitely have their roles to play, China today does resemble the
USA of the past in many ways. But underneath all the crude propaganda
and face building that goes on here, there be a billion+ a'toiling
and as the Southern Weekend pointed out in their in-depth
articles on the 10,000 people that made it all happen they
are not in the slightest bit insecure.