July 18, 2001

Olympic Pie

I was sipping Carlsberg from a tap with the bosses of the Old Montreal western restaurant in Chongqing when the announcement came that Beijing had indeed won the bid for 2008.

Beijing was prepared. The streets exploded in red and yellow, music and fireworks filled the air, Jiang and company made an appearance – the city reveled in the glory it feels it so richly deserves.

In Chongqing, a collective squeak of joy filled the bar as the girls surrounding the TV informed the rest of us in the room that the inevitable had transpired and we could stop worrying about the restaurant ending up in flames if Toronto stole the show.

The fellows who run the Old Montreal are from Toronto – the New York of Canada, with the ignorant mayor – and they couldn't have cared less about the outcome. The girls from the bar went with some of the waiters and cooks and the real boss of the place – Big Mike, a native of Chengdu, Sichuan Province – and celebrated by eating hot pot.

Chongqingese eat hot pot every night. Big Mike and his crew aren't as excited about the Olympics as the Chinese media would have you believe. Beijing was not the only city to celebrate in a country that was supposedly feverishly awaiting the decision by the IOC. Fireworks in Chengdu, Tianjin and Shanghai lit the night and people cried and hugged each other.

"As a Chinese, I should be happy," says Zuo Li, my good friend. "And we are happy about the money it will bring in."

And that's really what its all about.


Mike is thinking about switching the location of his new restaurant to Beijing instead of his hometown of Chengdu. In my previous column, I briefly described Chengdu and the burgeoning expat scene and the environment being built by, for and around them – so a restaurant here, in the "unexplored West" might be a good idea. But now the vision of thousands of foreigners descending on Beijing in a few years and the improvements that are being made to the city's infrastructure and environment are a strong lure for businessmen around the country.

Everybody can get a piece of the pie: construction companies, English majors, advertising gurus, net bars, Western-style restaurants, sports outlets, roadside food stands, shoe shiners, clubs ...

"Even the prostitutes are excited," said Mike.

Perhaps the rest of China can also enjoy Beijing's success. Or perhaps not.

Athletes will be too busy to make a trip to, say, Henan Province, or anywhere outside of the five rings surrounding the city. And travel into and out of the city will be strictly regulated to keep out trouble makers like the vicious Falun Gong and their ilk.

The China that now struggles to find investment for construction and customers for restaurants and jobs for lolling peasants will not benefit a wink from the Olympics. The people who have the skills needed by the foreigners and the city are all headed to Beijing now. Futures have been planned according to the IOC vote – freshman English majors and aspiring pimps/club owners from all over China were watching the vote with more in mind than the glory of the nation.

But the riches of the East will "trickle down" into the coffers of the West and the international attention will bring investment, or so the argument goes. I wonder if Chinese trickle down economics will differ at all from Reaganomics. If not, the poor of China can expect the current income gap to grow even larger.


Some more interesting news:

The People's Daily reported extraordinary success (123,000 closed) in their campaign to shut down "illegal net bars." The campaign is part of the Strike Hard program to eradicate corruption, drugs and other insidious behavior.

Incidentally, the program has bagged a reported 1,800 corpses thus far.

The net bars are being punished and closed down for not having licenses, or for having the wrong licenses. A certain license is needed for Internet usage and different one for games. Some of the bars I frequent don't have Internet access in the afternoon, and some don't have it at night – but I don't know where the illegal ones are.

And, trust me, I've looked. Last week I was in the ghettoest net bar in Chongqing. Located on the third floor above an empty, filthy second floor and a China Construction Bank on the first floor – this place looks like a secret night club for gangstaz and their consorts.

The first door I walked by was a movie theater with sticky floors and hot porn. The door on my left opened into a room of slot machines – illegal, supposedly.

And then I reached the computer room. Most seats were filled with little boys killing each other in a variety of games. If not that, then girls OICQ-ing (chatting) which is the rave in China. I sat down and began to write my article. I was sweating in the heat and my Turkish hormones soon dispelled the crowd gathered to watch me type.

Now, if this Strike Hard program is meant to root out crime and illegal establishments, why are the streets lit up pink every night? Pretty girls lounge in the heat and "wash your hair" for a small fee up and down the streets of Chongqing and every other city in China.

I suppose, if a net bar has no license, but has porno, it gets let off; I saw a raucous crowd of policeman swagger out of a pink room the other night with cries of petulant dismay at their leaving following them out to their van.

Text-only printable version of this article

Sascha Matuszak is a teacher living and working in China. His articles have appeared in the South China Morning Post, the Minnesota Daily, and elsewhere. His exclusive Antiwar.com column appears Tuesdays.

Archived columns

Olympic Pie

Culture of Pollution

Sailing Towards World Significance

China's Youth Revolution

China on the Road to Capitalism

An American in China

On the Street in China: A Report

Please Support Antiwar.com

Send contributions to

520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

or Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form

Your Contributions are now Tax-Deductible

Back to Antiwar.com Home Page | Contact Us