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Blogging Beijing

The 2008 Summer Olympics will punctuate three decades of development and test China's global legitimacy. They've already transformed the way millions of people think and live. Seattleite and Fulbright researcher Daniel Beekman brings you Beijing.

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February 28, 2008 1:19 PM

Good Luck Beijing - diving

Posted by Daniel Beekman

China's slender, sculpted Olympic divers may very well spring, twist and somersault their way to eight gold medals at this summer's Beijing Games. Only eight gold medals will be awarded. In other words, the Chinese expect to dominate.

Beijing's sudsy new National Aquatics Center, nicknamed the 'Water Cube,' may very well prove these Games' most memorable attraction. A perfect rectangle cased in ethylene-tetra-fluoro-ethylene (ETFE) membranes, the Water Cube was designed to resemble a natural collection of soap bubbles. In other words, it is one of a kind.

Last weekend, at the FINA Diving World Cup - a test-run for the Water Cube and diving's final Olympic qualifier - both facility and squad were on display. The crisply patterned pool impressed, as promised. But it was China's athletes who sparkled brighter.

"Our divers are really the best," one spectator, a young Chinese man, proclaimed. "They‘re quite fearsome."

On Saturday, February 23, I stopped by the Water Cube hoping to purchase tickets. But the competition, a volunteer informed me, had already sold out. I turned away, more than a little disappointed. Half a block later..."Yao piao ma? - Want tickets?"

I'd just watched two policemen run down a skinny man in slacks. Here was his twin.

We parled for a minute or so, eyes cast down self-consciously. I strolled away and edged back. He strolled away and edged back. My money ended up in his hands. His ticket settled into my pocket.

The next day, I squeezed through a makeshift gate onto Beijing's Olympic Green for the women's three-meter sychronized springboard contest. Everyone seemed excited - very few people have seen the inside of the Water Cube (only the 2008 Swimming China Open, held at the facility January 31-February 5, preceded FINA's event).

It was cold and the sky a dark gray. Compared to the renderings (computer-assisted) posted online, the real life Water Cube's globular sides appeared smudged, if not grimy, with construction dust and pollution.

The National Stadium, or 'Bird's Nest', this year's second-most peculiar and expensive project, is not yet completed. It and the Water Cube are located north of downtown Beijing, along the city's (philosophically significant) east-west axis.

"I don't think the Water Cube looks dirty," a Beijing woman told me. "It's pretty, especially when the walls light up blue, at night."

"I think the Water Cube is very good," said an 18-year old Qinghua University student, FINA World Cup / Olympic volunteer and Art/Design major. "It's a wonder, becuase it incorporates aspects of Chinese culture. For example, we believe that water characterizes gentleness. In ancient times, gentlemen were compared to water. The Water Cube resembles a Dragon's house, as well. It is certainly monumental."

Designed by Sydney, Australia's PTW Architects, the Water Cube was built at a cost of more than US$200 million. Unlike the Bird's Nest next door - price tag: US$425 million, the Water Cube may be converted into a shopping and leisure center after the 2008 Games.

Some Beijingers fear that the Bird's Nest, which will seat 91,000 people, could become a 'white elephant' post-Olympics. The Water Cube, 62,950 square-meters in area, will accomodate 17,000 spectators for the Games.

China's Olympic organizers brought the FINA Diving World Cup to the Water Cube as part of a year-long test series - 'Good Luck Beijing' (Check out 'Good Luck Beijing - table tennis,' published 12/21/2007 - another Blogging Beijing report).

After passing quickly through security - I left a package of bread from Xinjiang at the door - the Water Cube's polished interior opened up before me. White, stylish and bare, the lobby reminded me of a video IPod...super slick, but a pain to maintain.

A single cross section of the structure's eco-friendly, hexagonal plates was visible above the lobby, where baseball-capped volunteers helped me to my seat, their fanny packs swaying earnestly.

The pool was gorgeous - elegant, well lit and strikingly blue. National flags hung over both grandstands, though only the south stands were full. Across the water, I picked out Great Britain's backups lounging in sweatpants and short-sleeved red tees, laughing and dancing the YMCA.

"We've seen so many Goodluck Beijing games," boasted a ten-year old boy sitting with his mom and grandma. "Gymnastics, swimming, athletics, beach volleyball...and now diving. We've got tickets for the Olympics too! Those are hard to get. We ordered them early."

The crowd was relatively quiet, modestly partisan and 99 percent Chinese. Only for Wu Minxia and Guo Jingjing did they put up substaintial applause. According to the competition's judges, perched poolside atop grown-up high-chairs, it was applause well-earned.

The superstar pair, aged 22 and 26, earned six 9s, two 8.5s and a 9.5 on their fourth dive of five, slicing clean through a reverse 2.5 somersault pike.

"I'm here with my son today because of the Olympics," a 62-year old man from Henan province explained to me. "The Olympics are a world event and diving as a sport is representative of that. Personally, I prefer soccer and basketball, but with diving you're closer to the action. Olympics tickets are so hard to buy. We figured this would be a fun alternative."

Beijing's Olympic organizers have held two ticket lotteries for the 2008 Games, thanks to unprecedented demand. A third lottery will be held before the Olympics, later this year. Those lucky enough to score tickets could witness Wu, Guo and their teammates make history.

Last Sunday, however, provided cheap thrills aplenty - particularly once the synchronized springers were done. Joined by half the crowd, I lingered long enough to witness a dozen divers - Chinese, Ukranian, British, American - launch themselves, spinning, off boards and platforms of every height, over and over again.

Practice it may have been. In the eyes of the uninitiated - myself included - their relaxed, mid-air maneuvers nearly outstripped the real contest. Check out the video below and judge for yourself.


Water Cube diving practice (please allow time for video to load):


"Diving is my favorite Olympic sport," admitted another young spectator, also a student at Qinghua University. "As divers, we Chinese really excell. Of course, all of today's dives were beautiful. The American divers performed very well too."

I asked whether she hoped to become a Beijing 2008 Olympic volunteer - the majority of whom are university students.

"I really do," the 21-year old answered. "I've applied, but haven't heard back yet. I'd like to support China. Volunteering is what we college kids can do."

"I joined the volunteer corps because I'm a native Beijinger," a sleepy Mechanics major told me. "This probably won't advance my career. I just want to help others. We all feel this way."

Had he enjoyed the competition?

"It was ok - kind of boring."

On my way out of the Water Cube, I stopped off at a bathroom. The floor tiles were muddy and the toilets strictly 'eastern.' I wonder how many Olympic tourists will choose to postpone their 'business' rather than squat.

It was past time to leave when I approached - yet another - volunteer. 'Do you think,' I inquired, 'it's worthwhile to construct such a costly facility, when people across China go without enough food?'

"The Water Cube is worth what was spent," he said. "These Olympics are very important for our country and besides, the building's beauty entertains our laobaixing (common people)."

Deep in thought, I exited the Water Cube and made tracks for home. As I passed, a tall, well-fed man in street clothes whipped out his camera phone.

"Here, take my picture - with the Water Cube," I heard him say, handing his mobile to a tiny, affable construction worker.

Flash. The two men huddled close to examine the shot. They both grinned.



Interactive map of Beijing/China - follow up on posts and get oriented:

LINK HERE


Newslinks:

"'Good Luck Beijing' 2008 16th FINA Diving World Cup"

"Beijing under attack over diverting water for Olympics"

"Beijing says torch can stay alight atop Everest"

"Dissident's letter calls on west to hold Beijing to its Olympic promises"

"Beijing police clamp down on 'Bird's Nest' tourists"

"'Water Cube' Debut Draws Accolades from IOC Official, Swimmers"

Comments | Category: Olympic Countdown |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 25, 2008 1:27 PM

Xinjiang - living snapshots

Posted by Daniel Beekman

Urumqi - the capital city of China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region - gets cold. Monster icicle cold. Chest-constricting cold. Double head scarf cold.

I left wind-lashed Urumqi four days ago and my nose - more accustomed to Seattle drizzle - still smarts.

I'd had fair warning - a number of friends in Beijing tried to dissuade me from visiting Xinjiang in February (I headed for Urumqi on February 8). "It's freezing there," one counseled. "You'd better reschedule."

"All the sites will be covered in snow," remarked another sage Beijinger, "You'll have nothing to do."

And of course, they were right. Xinjiang - an ancient, enormous desert ringed with mountains and rugged oases - is a summertime destination. Think scorching heat, camel caravans and juicy cold slices of melon.

East of Turpan, along Xinjiang's well-trod Silk Road (a sequence of overland trade routes that once connected West and East Asia), and a valley of vineyards rise the dramatic Flaming Mountains - what remains of charcoals knocked from Heaven by China's legendary Monkey King.

As a acquaintance of mine joked on a stroll through Urumqi - "Xinjiang's like a pretty girl. All bundled up, she's not much to look at."

"This was my only chance," I explained. "I'm expecting to sweat out the summer exclusively in smoggy, Olympic Beijing."

Fortunately, Xinjiang - hemmed in by Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet, Kazakstan and the Yellow River Valley 2,000 miles to Beijing's northwest - is more than a moonscape. It's also a cultural confluence. In Xinjiang, where rain rarely falls, Eurasia's greatest civilizations have time and again coursed - crashing - together.

Genghis Khan once ruled the region. So did Atilla the Hun. Siddhartha's Bhuddism made its way through Xinjiang, as did Nestorian Christianity. Islam, too.

They first flocked to Xinjiang's Silk Road bazaars two thousand years ago, but more Chinese settlers are streaming into the region today than ever before. Xinjiang has passed in and out of Chinese hands since 60 B.C., when the Han Dynasty made it a protectorate.

In 1933 a rebellion in the area of Kashgar led to the independence of the Turkish Islamic Republic of Eastern Turkestan / Republic of Uyghurstan. A year later the region fell back into Chinese hands. Communist China's People's Liberation Army entered Xinjiang in 1949. In 1955, the province Xinjiang was relabeled an autonomous region.

Ethnically, Xinjiang's Chinese are still a minority - outnumbered by Turkic, mostly Muslim peoples: Kazaks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tartars and Uyghurs. The region's population is roughly 45% Uyghur and 40% Chinese.

Xinjiang's Uyghurs, in particular, are now engaged in an effort to preserve their own unique traditions and honor the area's rich history.

And so, Urumqi's cold - which preceded Kashgar's cold and southwest Xinjiang's cold - proved of little consequence. Far away from Beijing's 2008 Olympic Games, I found what I hoped to find and more: an unforgettable series of living snapshots, which I'll attempt to share with you now.


Xinjiang - living snapshots:

- Row upon row of broad, deep blue-veined mountains, peaks crumpled up against peaks, just beyond and below the shining wing of my airplane

- Quarter-sized dollops of bathwater condensing on a filthy showerhouse ceiling (a deal more threatening than the establishment's two Chinese proprietors - biting hard on cigarettes, posing like gangsters, watching a Uyghur sitcom out front)

- The concrete skeleton of a 25-story high-rise gutted by fire and scarred with soot, on the road into Urumqi

- Ten-foot tall, cork-board daggers posted down tundra roads; 'get'm here!'

- A jutting jumble of storefronts, double-decked along a snowy boulevard, advertising canine furs and American hubcaps...in Mandarin, Russian and Uyghur

- A Kashgar porter washing his muddy, gnarled hands, bumpy and knotted like rhododendron roots

- Lock-boxes, furniture feet and Formica front doors piled high inside an Urumqi exporter's office...marked for Kazakstan

- A greater variety in boxy fur hats and chinstrap beards than I'd ever imagined might exist

- A silvery sliver of a crescent moon laid like a sword on its back high in the blackest black above Kashgar's old city (as beautiful as it was impossible to capture with my digital camera)

- Red raisins, green raisins, yellow, brown and maroon raisins, purple raisins, black raisins, goldish/organish/clearish raisins...

- Ornate brass kabob grills manned by Uyghur boys with wispy beards and elderly eyes

- Sky blue and green gilded doors...opening into Kashgar's mud-straw courtyards, opening onto Kashgar's high-walled alleys

- A gigantic, five-year old, much minaret-ed International Bazaar, home to Urumqi's most popular KFC, its largest French mega-market and 1,750 identical camel whips...a questionably tasteful reincarnation of Xinjiang's Silk Road culture

- Fifty one computer animators, aged 18-23, with questions concerning the United States: What do you know about Xinjiang? Do you like Uyghur noodles? Have you met George W. Bush?

- A glossy VCD joint blasting Uyghur-pop, plastered with Eminem, 50 Cent and Yanni album covers

- Urumqi cabs passing in the night; back-seat rides only after dusk

- A mustachioed midfielder romping across Kashgar's best dirt-pack soccer pitch, an enormous American flag stitched onto the front of his black turtleneck sweater and "PUERTO RICO" emblazoned across its back

- Pounding out tin water basins, street-side, in rhythm

- A weary line of muleteers scatter before my honking bus as it hurtles in the direction of Afghanistan; they've no doubt seen the Yugoslav World War II flick drawing cheers from my fellow passengers

- Girl meets boy, falls in love, becomes pregnant, falls out of love, has abortion, sheds tears of self-loathing, wades into 'Sea of Death' (Taklimakan Desert), disappears...a popular Uyghur movie

- A young woman veiled up to her eyes flirting with clerks at Kashgar's Xinhua bookstore

- AIDS...Xinjiang boasts the highest HIV infection rate anywhere in China

- Albert Einstein, Deng Xiaoping and an 11th-century Muslim Uyghur scholar, watching over an Urumqi bookstore (thanks, Photoshop)

- Boiled carrots, piled over boiled potatoes, piled over mutton, piled over rice

- Crusted purple snow stretching flat towards a muted sunset

- Bunches of crisp bowler hats conferring outside a large, dingy restaurant


Stay tuned for posts on Urumqi's techno wizards and Olympic sentiment in Kashgar. Will these 2008 Games benefit the Chinese whole, or Beijing alone?



Interactive map of Beijing/China - follow up on posts and get oriented:

LINK HERE


Newslinks:

"China presses Sudan over Darfur peacekeepers"

"Spielberg drops out as Beijing Olympics advisor"

"British athletes to sign gagging clause for Beijing Olympics"

"Wary U.S. Olympians Will Bring Food to China"

"Beijing says no events will be postponed for pollution"

"Beijing to apply new emission standards for car sales from March 1"

Comments | Category: Travelogue |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 7, 2008 3:14 PM

Gone Xinjiang-ing, back soon

Posted by Daniel Beekman

On February 8, I will leave Beijing for the capital city of China's Xinjiang Autonomous Uyghur Autonomous Region. From there I will proceed on to Kashgar, a predominantly Muslim, ethnically non-Chinese city famous for its Silk Road bazaar.

Blogging Beijing will not be updated again until mid-to-late February. In the meantime, please check the archives for entries you may have missed (especially 'The People's Wall - February 5).

Entries planned for after my trip to Xinjiang include - a look at green automobiles and the 2008 Games, a catalogue of Beijing street foods, a glimpse of Beijingers' daily commutes and an examination into cursing at the Olympics. Thanks for reading - and for your patience!

Xinjiang is an enormous region and primarily desert, although it boasts alpine terrain in the north and Tibetan plateau in the south. Home to a number of non-Chinese ethnic groups, including Uyghurs, Kazaks, Uzbeks, Mongols and Kyrgyz, and known for its diverse and beautiful natural scenery as well as its unique customs, it is located in China's extreme northwest.

Urumqi is a large, quickly developing city that recently acquired a Chinese ethnic majority. Kashgar is a center of Uyghur history and culture. I also plan to travel to other parts of Xinjiang, including the region's north. Uyghurs are ethnically Turks, and speak a Turkic language.

Some, but not all, of Xinjiang's Uyghurs advocate Uyghur indepedence from China. They have been targeted in past Chinese government crackdowns. Despite much talk of separatism and terrorism in Xinjiang, particularly following 9/11, there have been no major violent incidents related to ethnic conflicts since the late 1990s.

On January 5, 2007, when Chinese security forces raided a terrorist training camp in southern Xinjiang 18 people were killed. The critically acclaimed American author Peter Hessler wrote about Uyghurs in his latest book on China - 'Oracle Bones.'

I will be exploring Uyghur culture, Xinjiang's history and the region's relationship with the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Happy Chinese New Year!


Newslinks:

"Olympic athletes choose Japan for training ahead of Beijing Games"

"Reporting in the dark in icy New Year China"

"New Lenovo-Designed Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay Components Unveiled"

"Firecrackers kill one in Beijing on Lunar New Year eve"

Comments | Category: Travelogue |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

February 7, 2008 2:31 PM

"We're proud of Beijing"

Posted by Daniel Beekman

Since winning the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing has introduced 'Olympic Education' to more than 200 'model' schools (see 'Jump for Development' - posted January 10).

Thousands of teachers have been trained to extol cultural tolerance, hard work and exercise - to develop in their students a will to succeed not unlike that possessed by the world's greatest athletes. Hundreds of mini-Games have been held. Scores of foreign pen pals have corresponded with Chinese students and visited Beijing. Olympic Education, in many respects, has been a hit.

Beijing's model schools are theoretically responsible for spreading Olympism throughout the capital and all across China. Many have succeeded - Huajiadian Experimental Primary School for example, was recently recognized for an ongoing 'Hand in Hand' partnership.

With Huajiadian's help, students at a poor mountain school in Hebei province three hours away have formed their own (mock) International Olympic Committee (see 'Budding diplomats' - coming soon).

But west Beijing's Haowan* Primary School is not a model for Olympic Education. Nor has it partnered with one of the city's model schools. Haowan is a private school for the sons and daughters of migrant workers. Like other migrant schools, it offers classes to those children who can't attend public school.

"All of our students' parents are migrants," Haowan's principal, Zhou Leili*, told me. "They come from both smaller cities and from the countryside - mostly from the countryside."

China is now home to between 120 and 200 million rural-to-urban migrants - largely former farmers. Beijing's migrant population exceeds 5.4 million.

"I moved to Beijing four years ago," said a 24-year-old electrical worker from Henan province. "I miss my father, but I don't have enough money to visit my home."

Both country and city-dwellers are subject to China's household registration or hukou system. Although East Asian states have kept family registers for hundreds of years, the word hukou ('house-mouths') is today commonly associated with an apparatus of former Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong's design.

In 1958, all Chinese citizens were assigned residency permits that defined where they (and their descendants) were expected to work and live. Mao's hukou system was intended to ensure demographic stability and to keep Chinese farmers in their fields. It was also used to identify criminals and political dissidents.

The hukou system disadvantaged many of China's peasants. In general, their urbanite counterparts attended better schools, found better jobs and received better healthcare. After Mao's death in 1976, millions of farmers bolted - rather than watch China's reformed economy explode from the sidelines.

During the 1980s, municipal authorities clamped down on unregistered workers. In particular, 'custody and repatriation' regulations authorized police to detain and send home people with rural hukou permits living illegally in Chinese cities. But China's peasants remained very poor - the migration continued.

"Lives of poverty, untouched by China's boom" - New York Times

Every year, more rural Chinese find jobs in the country's rapidly developing cities. The hukou system has, more or less, collapsed. One third of Beijingers lack a Beijing hukou permit and they now form the backbone of urban society - serving as cooks, nannies, garbage collectors, peddlers, salespeople and construction workers.

"I've got a son and a son-in-law - they're both dagong (migrant workers) like me," a graying construction hand told me. We chatted inside a tiny office at the entrance to his site, where two brand-new subway lines will intersect. "My son-in-law lives in Guangzhou. My son's here in Beijing."

But steady jobs have not guaranteed for migrant workers equal rights or fair pay. More than half of Beijing's dagong, for instance, earn less than US$160 per month and live in poorly equipped rental dorms. According to government-sponsored media, 60 percent of the municipality's migrant children drop out before reaching high school due to financial problems.

"More than migrant workers" - China Daily

Beijing's migrants are blamed for crowding, pollution and crime. They may experience discrimination; many aren't regularly paid. In 2006, Beijing construction companies alone defaulted on US$200 million in wages.

I recently walked past a crowd of ragged, hard-hatted migrants standing outside my neighborhood police station. What are you waiting for? I asked them.

"We're going to get paid," one replied. He wouldn't elaborate further.

"The police aren't paying them - the police are making sure those workers' boss gives them a good deal," a woman selling fruit down the block explained to me.

Less than eight percent of Chinese migrant workers are satisfied with their lives, according to a 2007 study conducted by Shanghai's Fudan University. The survey, which polled 30,000 workers in major cities, found that 68 percent feel shunned by wealthy urbanites. More than 80 percent of workers polled reported working more than eight hours a day, 18 percent more than ten hours. And 55 percent admitted they receive fewer than two days off per month.

"Despite a decade of criticism, worker abuse continues in China" - International Herald Tribune

"I'm from the countryside," my graying friend explained. "In Henan I worked construction. My wife is back there, but I'm not going home for Spring Festival. It's too expensive. My job is ok - we get paid between 1500-2000 yuan (US$215-285) a month. In the countryside that's a great salary, but in Beijing it's not so great."

"The city folks treat us dagong pretty good," he said. "Some say we're less cultured because we're from the countryside, and I guess they're right. But we're building Beijing. That's what matters more than our suzhe ('civilization' or 'quality')."

Some migrant workers in Beijing have expressed fears that they will be forced to return home later this year. In 2006, behind closed doors, officials with Beijing's 2008 Environmental Construction Headquarters floated a plan to 'repatriate' unregistered workers for the duration of the Olympic Games.

When questioned publicly by local media, city leaders insisted that repatriation had been suggested but would not be implemented.

"No plan to remove migrant workers during Olympics" - Xinhua

But the BBC has reported that Chinese migrant workers must declare their political affiliation when applying for urban residency permits - a recent policy change which some international human rights groups have speculated reflects Beijing’s determination to keep the Games poverty and protest free.

Last month, the Guardian newspaper accused Liu Qi, Beijing's Olympic chief, of preparing to launch a 'social cleansing operation' prior to the Games. According to the Guardian and other media, migrant panhandlers, prostitutes and peddlers will be forced into holding centers this summer and then sent home.

"The problems of vagrants, beggars and unlicensed businesses must be solved before the Olympics," Liu Qi said, as quoted by the Beijing News.

"Beijing to evict 'undesirables' before Games" - Guardian

(Note: The Chinese government's media organ, Xinhua, ran a story praising the incorporation of migrants into legislative bodies late last year. According to the report, 28 of the 770 newly-selected deputies to the People's Congress of Beijing Municipality are 'workers,' compared to just 10 five years ago. There are now 13 'farmer' representatives as well. Migrant workers were elected in Beijing for the first time ever this year.)

"I started coming to Beijing three years ago," a middle-aged woman selling sweet potatoes on the street told me. "I drive a mianbao che (loaf of bread van) here from my village every few days. The trip back can take more than three hours."

"I live in Hebei province, in the countryside, in a village you won't find on the map," she said. "I'd like to keep coming during the Olympics, but I probably won't. The government may keep us out. In fact, I'm very afraid of the chengguan ('city guards' - responsible for low-level crime like unlicensed vending). I'm lucky I haven't been given trouble by them. They're in the right, of course - illegal stores like mine shouldn't exist. That's what the law says. But life is hard and I've had no choice."

"Because I always do business here and am very polite, so the people who live around here don't call the chengguan."

Twenty years ago, young adults peopled China's rural-to-urban migration. But yesterday's migrants have become today's city-dwellers and are raising children. Statistics released by the Beijing Municipal Education Commission (BMEC) show that roughly 400,000 school-age migrant children live in Beijing.

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Until ten years ago, children from families without Beijing hukou permits were barred from attending public school. In 1998, China's central government granted migrant kids access to urban education.

However, many municipalities responded by boosting enrollment fees. Hundreds of ill-funded, shoestring schools - generally staffed by migrant adults - grew out of the slums ringing Beijing.

For nearly a decade, uncertainties legal and financial have hamstrung migrant education in China's capital city. Political opinion here seems to swing back and forth; migrant school shutdowns have more than once followed close on the heels of beneficent reforms.

"Some of our students have spent most of their lives here in Beijing," said Zhou, a Haowan teacher since 1999 who took over as principal in 2004. "Others have just arrived. We must account for a wide range of educational backgrounds. It's hard."

"To our advantage, we're flexible. We can add students throughout the semester, if necessary. But compared to Beijing's public schools, our classrooms are in poor condition."

In fact, Haowan's students are lucky. Of the 300 or so migrant schools currently operating in Beijing, roughly 250 are unregistered and illegal. But BMEC has licensed Haowan. According to Xinhua, only 58 migrant schools had received government authorization as of last year.

"Obtaining government authorization has kept our school from being shut down," Principal Zhou said. "Many schools aren't licensed because they aren't up to standard."

Reportedly, 63 percent of migrant children in Beijing attend public schools. About 26 percent attend unregistered schools. Only 5 percent attend registered private schools like Haowan. At least 6 percent receive no education at all.

"Migrant children are allowed to attend public schools, but there isn't enough room for all of them," said Zhou. "There's a quota and the quota is fairly low."

According to the Human Rights Watch, migrants are supposed to produce five separate certificates - a temporary residence permit, work permit, proof of residence, certificate from place of origin and household registration booklet - when enrolling their children in Beijing schools. Just 10 percent of Chinese migrant families possess all five documents, the U.S.-based organization has reported.

In 2006, Beijing embarked on an anti-migrant school initiative, citing safety concerns and poor teaching. More than 100 unregistered schools were slated for closure. At the time, city education officials promised that migrant children affected by the initiative would be absorbed into Beijing's public school system. They weren't. In all, about 50 schools were closed.

Afterwards, officials promised to give migrant schools a leg up. Haowan has begun to receive some government funding. Roughly 1,200 students attend the school.

"Things are much better now than when I started in 1999," said Zhou. "The government is paying more attention to our school. From buying coal, to fixing our electric circuits, to financing our 2005 remodel - the government has become increasingly involved. We've also upgraded our classroom facilities with help from the education committee."

As a licensed school, Haowan enjoys a number of important advantages. It's sponsor, a wealthy businessman, may freely solicit philanthropic donations. Haowan boasts 50 computers and a basketball hoop - amenities that, for most migrant schools, remain well out of reach.

"We have three ping-pong tables," Zhou said, smiling. "When class ends, all the boys rush outside and snatch them up. Our students really like to play."

Video

Best of all, Haowan - founded in 1994 - has escaped the perpetual insecurity which defines migrant education in Beijing. Before it was licensed, Haowan closed down, moved and re-opened 14 times.

"We had to leave our last location because it was falling apart," said Zhou. "We were running the school out of an old industrial building."

It's unclear whether Haowan's legitimization means Beijing is headed for widespread educational reform. At any rate, the school has become valuable to local politicians - a shining example of their generosity. On Children's Day in 2004, Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao visited with students from Haowan.

A photo of 'grandpa Wen' swarmed by students hangs in the school's chilly main office - where 30 teachers eat lunch, grade papers, and prepare. I asked one teacher whether she been able to speak with the great man.

"Nope," she replied. "I've been here for less than a year."

In March 2007, Wen pledged that his government would eliminate tuition fees for rural students. China's leaders have poured US$35.9 billion into rural education for 2006-2010; unable to provide for migrant children, Beijing would prefer to see them stay home.

"My kids went to school in Henan for free," said my friend the construction worker. "For free!"

"I moved to Beijing from Anhui province in 1998," a gentle cake vendor and father-of-two told me. "I don’t make much money. My sons went to school there."

Between 10 and 20 percent of Zhou's students go on to attend Beijing public middle schools. Most return to their hometowns, with or without their parents, after sixth grade.

If 'red tape' keeps some migrant workers from enrolling their children in Beijing schools, cost forms the greater barrier. Although the schools do not charge tuition - for city kids, a basic nine-year education is compulsory - parents are asked to help pay for books, transportation and meals. Some Beijing moms and dads pay more than US$5,000 per year.

A Haowan education is far less expensive. Zhou's teachers earn less than 1000 yuan (US$115) a month.

"We pay our teachers," Zhou said. "We pay our students' books and board. We pay other expenditures."

The school does charge tuition. In fact, many Haowan families are doing okay. In Beijing, they're the minority.

"She's 20 years old," an amiable mother told me, jabbing her thumb at the young woman cooking cabbage inside their magazine shop. "She went to high school in Henan, and then joined me and her dad in Beijing. We all work together from 7am-9pm. Except for clothes and food, the money we make goes to her brother. He's in college."

"Both of our sons live in the country," a phone-card stand owner from Hebei province said. "They don't go to school in Beijing. They'd get a better education here - their teachers aren't too cultured. But we can't afford it."

"Migrant kids in Beijing have to pay enrollment fees. Putting our boys through six grades here would cost us 12,000 yuan (US$1,750). We don't make much money. They'd love to live here. They miss us. But it's impossible. My parents take care of them."

I asked how long he and his wife had been in the city.

"Five years."

Did they live nearby?

"Yes."

Smiling, he glanced over his shoulder - at a slim, messy mattress laid down in the stand.

What about Beijing's migrant schools?

"They're all in the suburbs," he said.

Haowan is hemmed in by poverty - buried behind a garbage-strewn neighborhood 45 minutes by car from downtown Beijing. Yongcun* looks and feels like a village, exactly what it was ten years ago. It's dusty and windy. In Yongcun, greasy mutts lap bathwater out of rank, open sewers.

"Most of my neighbors are migrant workers, but I've lived here for 70 years," a friendly old woman told me. "Since our village has been incorporated, we've had nowhere to farm. My grandsons are 22 and 21. They don't have jobs, or culture, or education. They live upstairs."

To keep food on the table, she bundles scrap cardboard and sticks. There's a large field across the street. Lined with newly planted trees, it's off-limits for farming - part of Beijing's Olympic 'green belt.'

The world's fastest, most daring cyclists will congregate near Yongcun this year. Beijing's Laoshan Velodrome, Mountain Bike Course and BMX Field will each host Olympic events within walking distance of Haowan.

Yongcun's matriarch doesn't much care. "The Olympics haven't changed anything here," she said.

Zhou has adopted a different attitude.

"Our students have studied the ancient and modern Olympic Games," she said. "We've also held sports competitions to better understand Beijing 2008. As Chinese people - as Chinese elementary students, they should make some contribution."

I requested that 65 fourth-graders (one class) write, in English (see photos below), what they'd most like to do in 2008. Almost every student hoped to attend the Games. But will they?

"Probably not," Zhou said. "All they can do is study hard and share what they've learned with their parents - some of whom work in Beijing's service industry."

There's Olympic education, and there's Olympic Education. Zhou's school doesn't sparkle like Huajiadian. And yet...

Excited for August's Games? I asked three Haowan sixth-graders - migrants from Henan and Hebei.

"Of course," one of them replied. "We love basketball and soccer. The air has improved. It's China's first Olympics. We're so proud of Beijing."

(Note: *Names have been changed.)


Newslinks:

"Beijing prepares for Year of Rat"

"Beijing says lights out early to ease power crunch"

"Hainan Air to start Seattle-Beijing flights in June"

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February 7, 2008 2:14 PM

Beijing 2008 Q&A: F. Alex Carre / David Liu

Posted by Daniel Beekman

Dr. F. Alex Carre, a University of British Columbia professor and member of Canada's Olympic Committee, believes 'Western' news reporters are picking on China ahead of the 2008 Olympic Games.

David Liu, a former Associated Press executive and esteemed China Hand, says only a minority of foreign journalists are looking to bash Beijing.

Liu joined the AP as a New York City copyboy and retired, 38 years later, as the news service's foreign-language publications head. Now a professor of journalism at Long Island University, he re-opened the AP's Beijing bureau - absent 30 years - following Chairman Mao Zedong's death in 1979. Liu recently returned to the U.S. after a Fulbright lectureship in China.

Carre has visited Beijing frequently over the last five years in order to research, observe and lend Chinese Olympic educators advice. A FIBA (International Basketball Federation) administrator and former president of Canada Basketball, he currently directs the School of Human Kinetics at UBC and is a visiting professor at Renmin University of China.

I recently chatted with Liu and Carre (separately) about Beijing and China's first Olympics. Check out excerpts from those interviews below.


Dr. Alex Carre - Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia

How did you become interested in the 2008 Beijing Olympics?

I've been a member of the Canadian Olympic Committee for more than 18 years now and was drawn to Olympic Education thanks to my background in sports pedagogy. I've now attended five different Games and gained a real orientation to the Olympics and Olympic Education.

Vancouver (B.C.) will host the 2010 Winter Olympics. But I believe that Beijing's Games are the most anticipated ever. China is so big, was closed to the 'West' for so long and possesses such a rich culture - we'll never see an Olympics like this again.

Six months before China's Games, what don't Seattleites and Vancouverites know?

Many North Americans are convinced that the Chinese are suffering from a lack of openness - there has been a huge media cry about how hard it is to access certain parts of China. But I've never been stopped from going to see Olympic facilities. It seems plenty open here to me - as open as in other countries.

An improved infrastructure is also in evidence here. China now has some of the fastest trains in the world, and Beijing will soon boast a subway system as good as I've seen anywhere. Crowds are what 'Western' visitors will find most annoying during the 2008 Olympics - along with certain Chinese sounds and behaviors. Fortunately, I think the tourists will be impressed with the friendliness of Beijing's people and with the city's culture.

What has it been like to work on the Olympics in Beijing?

I gave a small talk at Renmin University of China on the history of terrorism and safety in the Games. It was on campus. About 100 people showed up. I didn't think much of it. Then, two weeks later, I got a phone call. A Chinese 'professor' wanted to talk. He took me to dinner in a black limousine. As it turned out, he was with the Party, and his area was terrorism. He wanted to know everything I could tell him.

These organizers and officials - they're after information, all the details. The average guy here is so proud. He doesn't want anything bad to happen during the Olympics. I've been impressed with peoples' overwhelming support for the Games. You don't see that in North America. It's all about face, I believe. There's no way Beijing is going to lose face.

Has Olympic Beijing been fairly portrayed by the 'Western' press?

Many reporters from the United States are attempting to present these 2008 Olympics as another 'Holocaust Games.'

(Note: Above, Dr. Carre refers to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, also known as the 'Nazi Olympics.' According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum:

"Adolf Hitler's Nazi dictatorship camouflaged its racist, militaristic character while hosting the Summer Olympics. Soft-pedaling its anti-Semitic agenda and plans for territorial expansion, the regime exploited the Games to bedazzle many foreign spectators and journalists with an image of a peaceful, tolerant Germany...With the conclusion of the Games, Germany's expansionist policies and the persecution of the Jews and other 'enemies of the state' accelerated, culminating in World War II and the Holocaust."

A number of non-Chinese organizations, including the Paris-based international NGO Reporters without Borders, have attacked Beijing's human rights record and called for a boycott of the 2008 Olympic Games. The group primarily campaigns for greater press freedom around the world.)

In fact, a lady from CNN working on a big series here asked a Chinese colleague of mine to defend Beijing. She used the term 'Holocaust Games.' I told her that was uncalled for - sensationalist journalism - particularly when the story was a basic-interest one.

These issues being tossed around by American journalists - like China's role in Darfur - capture readers' attention. These are easy stories to write. But the Olympics are supposed to be apolitical.

(Note: In recent years, activists and politicians, including American movie actress Mia Farrow, a good-will ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund, have demonstrated against the 2008 Beijing Games. They have done so on behalf of Darfur in southern Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by government forces and a militia known as the Janjaweed. Farrow and others want the Chinese government to push international peacekeeping efforts along. China retains large petroleum investments in Sudan.)

What is Olympic Education about? Why is it important?

Olympic Education is about transmitting the Olympic values, and about presenting an unbiased picture of the Games - the strengths and weaknesses of Olympism. The Olympic values - which include peace, respect, fair play, equal opportunity and the pursuit of excellence - are worth teaching, critiquing and defending.

Sometimes these values come into conflict with each other - equal opportunity and the pursuit of excellence, for example. Olympic Education can help to resolve those kinds of conflicts.

Olympic education is about publicizing the benefits of health and fitness, and involving all people in sports. Most Olympic funding around the world involves elite athletes, but the Games are supposed to be for everyone.

What has been your impression of Olympic Education in China?

The Chinese have made Olympic Education a focal point of their preparation. Not only did they say 'we're going to reach every child in China,' they have encouraged individual school districts and schools to develop their own Olympic Education programs.

I've been happy to see how much Beijing has done - more than any other country, I think. Consequently, most every student here has some idea of what's going on. China has succeeded, in part, because the Chinese government is present in all aspects of people's lives. It can really push forward these types of initiatives.

After 2008, China's people will better understand the Olympics. The Games are opening their eyes to the world. Because, when you talk Olympics you talk almost every country in the world. There is no other event like it.

Having attended previous Games, how do you think Beijing 2008 will be unique?

I think the cultural element of these Games will really be what stands out. There is an effort going on here to raise outsiders' awareness of Chinese history, culture and art. Beijing's Olympic organizers also talk about technology and the environment, but their slogan 'One World, One Dream' is about making China a cultural hub as well as an economic one. Other Olympic host cities and countries have tried to infuse the Games with local culture, but not like the Chinese.

The 2008 Games will also exhibit the accomplishments of China's athletes. If the Chinese do not perform best, it will be very close. They will sweep the medals in more than one event - like diving.

And then there are the new facilities - the Water Cube (Beijing's National Aquatics Center), for example. I'm excited to see it, although it looks like it's going to be hard to clean. The Water Cube is something special.

How will Vancouver's Games be different from Beijing's? What does hosting the Olympics mean for a city?

Vancouver's Games will be much smaller - in scale they won't compare. They will be cleaner than the Olympics in Beijing. And, because Vancouver will host the Winter Games and Beijing the Summer Games, our Olympics will attract a different type of spectator. They will be less global than Beijing’s - only 13 countries do well in the Winter Games.

The 2010 Olympics will also enjoy less local popular support. The people of Vancouver were not entirely for the Games when they voted on it. In fact, the Olympics barely passed.

(Note: In 2003, 64 percent of Vancouver voters said they would support their city's bid to host the 2010 Olympics.)

That initial lukewarm response is building now, but there won't be any events outside of Vancouver and Whistler (B.C.). Outside the area, Canadians haven't shown much interest in it - whereas popular support for the Beijing Games across China is overwhelming. I don't know whether that support is real or not - the CCP's influence here is so strong. Either way, I've really noticed it.

Additionally, it has been mind-boggling to catalogue all the new changes that have occurred every time I visit Beijing. Essentially, preparing for an Olympics is like launching a whole bunch of (Franklin Delano) Roosevelt-era public works.

Building stadiums generates interest and gets people working. But most businesses lose money during the Olympics. It's hard to believe, but studies have been done - the Games deal a negative economic impact. Without public money, they wouldn't occur.

A few big construction companies usually benefit, and politically connected firms. The Olympics are valuable in terms of infrastructure and public relations. Yet, even those projects may not be well placed. What does a city need more - a bunch of new hospitals or a nine-lane airport expressway for Olympic tourists?

You end up with these specialized facilities. A velodrome - that's a white elephant and always will be. Australia (2000 Games host) is currently losing money right, left and center on its facilities. Greece (2004 host) has already closed down many of its facilities. I'd like to see a public/private approach - on the Los Angeles model.

Of course, every host prepares differently. In Canada it's 'what site is available to build our stadium?' In China it's 'let's build where we want, after clearing away what's already there.'

Visit Vancouver 2010's official website here.


Mr. David Liu - Former Associated Press Foriegn-Languages Newspapers Chief

Walk me through your career - what steps led you toward the AP and Beijing?

I'm a veteran journalist - worked at the AP for 38 years before I retired. I started as a copy boy at the AP's headquarters in New York City, and climbed the corporate ladder from there. Most recently I was in charge of the AP's foreign language newspapers. But I spent time as a copy editor and a biographical editor. At one point I edited a lot of obituaries - that's where I got my start.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when Sino-American relations resumed, I was a member of the first entourage to establish the AP in Beijing. Since then I've traveled back and forth between the U.S. and China many, many times. Actually - 167 times roundtrip. My jobs involved building bilateral journalistic ties. I supervised a lot of multinational events, advised corporate executives in the media industry.

I've seen and done a lot. For instance, I helped save the AP's status when Tian'anmen took place. I began teaching at Long Island University in 1980, and retired fully from the AP in 2005. I taught briefly at Shanghai's Fudan University and then applied for a Fulbright.

(Note: In 1989, thousands of Chinese protestors, largely students, set up camp in central Beijing's Tian'anmen square. They were dispersed by military force and many were killed. The incident is still taboo - kept from the public's attention in mainland China.)

What was it like to set up shop so soon after Mao's death in China?

I'll tell you. We were housed in the top floor of the Beijing Hotel, which was open only to foreigners. You'd look out your window after dark and all the lights in the city would be off, except for the streetlamps along Chang'an (Everlasting Peace) Road. It was so dark. If you ventured out during the day, you'd see no colors at all. The only colors you'd detect would be on undershirts worn by children. Adults wore almost no colors. It was so different than today. If you wore a shirt with any color they could immediately identify you as an outsider. When you ventured out, you'd have an escort to keep an eye on you. If you wanted to go outside of the city, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to give you permission to leave Beijing. Our cars were driven by chauffeurs dispatched by the government.

At that time, UPI (United Press International - a now-defunct* U.S. wire service and news agency) was still around. In Beijing, we were housed in the same building. We shared a single cable. We'd use the cable in the morning - they'd take it for the afternoon. Or vice versa. In 1963, a UPI reporter and the AP's Bob Johnson were riding behind President John F. Kennedy's car. When he was shot, they went for the same phone. Bob grabbed the phone but was pushed back. They started slugging each other. By the same token, we were fighting over a single cable in Beijing.

How has foreign reporting in Beijing changed? What's different about China today?

Now you can go anywhere you want as an American journalist - since 2007. You can roam the countryside without having to stop for permission. So that's quite a difference. Beijing is much louder these days, and brighter after dark. The whole city is illuminated. In fact, there is no real night.

Also, there is this new generation of Chinese - my students when I was just in Beijing. They are quite different. They were born after 1980, when the market economy began to take off. They are well educated - these single children in China. They are enjoying many more luxuries than their parents.

Some journalists say it is still quite difficult to work in China under the current regime. What do you think?

It depends on how and where you look for stories, and on what questions you raise. A year ago, China's central government announced it would let foreign correspondents move freely around the country. They could interview anyone - provided that the interviewee didn't object. This has given a tremendous boost to journalists from the 'West.'

Of course, the irony of the situation is that domestic correspondents - Chinese journalists - must still ask the government for permission to go out into the country. If they go without a permit, they may not emerge again. So Chinese newspeople feel frustrated.

Therefore, some reporters are enjoying tremendous freedom. Some aren't.

What is the relationship between press freedoms in China and the 2008 Olympic Games ?

Right now, things are moving along smoothly. There have been no huge, sensationalist stories so far. After the Games, I think the Chinese government will re-evaluate the situation. If they believe lifting restrictions on foreign reporters has caused trouble, they might act. But I wouldn't bet on that. There is a lot of pride wrapped up in the Olympics. The Chinese do not want to damage their reputation. I believe the opening up to 'Western' journalists will continue.

Foreign journalists in China still face challenges, however - right?

Yes, they do. There was a New York Times story a while ago - a writer went to check out a Guangdong province factory, where workers crank out products for overseas consumption. The reporter wanted to find out what was going on inside the factory compound. For some reason, there was a misunderstanding and he ended up being held. He called for help and local security responded. But they couldn't get in. 'It's the factory boss' jurisdiction,' they said. 'We can only assist you outside the compound gates.'

China today is a 'centripetal state' - do you know what that means? There is a central government in Beijing, but each provincial government retains authority. It's like our federal government and our states. Local governments here have certain rights and things they can do.

Some people would like to protest Beijing's Games. Do you foresee a Tian'anmen-like incident occurring in conjuction with the Olympics?

I don't expect that. I don't see anything looming on the horizon. There could be a natural disaster or something, but in terms of a large protest I don't see it happening. Journalists without Borders - these guys want us to boycott the Olympics. A bunch of splinter groups - environmentalists, some from Taiwan - they are trying to gang up together against Beijing. In the mainstream media we don't do that.

What phenomena have caught your attention as Beijing prepares to host the 2008 Olympics?

I enjoyed my time as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in China very much. I stayed on campus (at Renmin University of China) and immersed myself in campus life. I got a very good look at this young generation - how they live. I chatted with them, and ate in their mess hall. I joined in their activities. I really heard and saw a lot of things. You can't learn only through reading. You need to listen and observe.

So many college students in Beijing rushed to volunteer for the Olympics a year ago. But now some are backing out. The organizers are still recruiting because volunteers have quit. These students are tired and frustrated. Why is that?

Not too long ago, the municipal government decided to spray chemicals on Beijing's flowers - those that bloom every spring. They're retarding that process until August, in honor of the Games. What about environmental and health concerns? What about the guys spraying those chemicals on? The government has forced nature to change its course. Is that right? What will happen after the Olympics?

Basically, there is this big rush. The government accomplishes what it wants by decree - it doesn't have to account for public opinion. How people respond is beside the point. The government can stop a whole highway without warning people. There is no way for the public to protest.

For example, because of the Olympics, all of Beijing's universities were asked to adjust their schedules. They will open two weeks earlier than usual this winter. Instead of opening on March 1, they will open on February 18. And in turn, they will close two weeks earlier - so the city's student volunteers can prepare for the Games and lend their full support.

There won't be any missed classes, but the change has certainly caused disruption. When the students begin this winter, the Chinese New Year will not yet be over. Beijing's students will have to return from their homes early. This has made many of them very uncomfortable.

Read longtime TIME Magazine journalist Melinda Liu's China retrospective "Mao to Now" - the piece includes memories similar to David Liu's from 1980.

*See Comment #1

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February 5, 2008 2:44 PM

The People's wall

Posted by Daniel Beekman

One minute you're dodging bikes and pedicabs on Beijing's Zhongguancun Nandajie - a broad, windswept, chaotic street.

The next...you're pacing down a lonely art gallery tucked close to the pavement.

I don't know who all took paint to the wall south of Renmin (People's) University of China, but their collective work evokes an enthusiasm I've come to associate with Beijing.

What is modern, urban China?

It is government-sanctioned grafitti. It's an unkempt teenager scrawling Beijing's banal slogan for 2008..."One World, One Dream." It's Maoism meets Hollywood meets Mencius meets Hollis Queens.

The Olympics are cool here, despite 'The Man's' endorsement.


Newslinks:

"China battles 'coldest winter in 100 years'"

"Europe should put a brake on Beijing's excesses"

"Embassy walking tour shows Beijing's retro side"

"HK reporter freed from China jail: HK officials"

"Beijing steps up security on subways"

"Koreas agree on joint cheering squads for Beijing Olympics, still no agreement on team"


Check out the wall below - click 'view on SlideShare' for full-screen slideshow (please allow time for feature to load):

SlideShare | View | Upload your own

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February 3, 2008 2:40 PM

Casing the competition

Posted by Daniel Beekman

The 2008 Olympics aren't just an event. They're an international brand.

That's why the Chinese are cracking down on fake Olympic merchandise, why 60 corporate sponsors - including Adidas, Volkswagen and GE - bought in years ago at US$40-100 million each, why organizers expect to net US$16 million - after shelling out US$2.1 billion to stage the Games in Beijing.

(Note: China has spent nearly US$40 billion to retrofit Beijing ahead of the Olympics. The US$2.1 billion above refers to the city's 16-day operating budget.)

Consumers everywhere know Asian brands, like Honda (Japan) and Samsung (Korea). As for China's leading firms... Heard of Li Ning? Or Sohu.com?

This August, a Beijing Olympic Emblem will invade the United States - plastered on soda cans, splashed over the Internet.

"The idea of Chinese companies going global was laughed at ten years ago," said Jonathan Tang, an International Marketing manager with Beijing's Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business. "Now there's Haier, Lenovo, Morgan Stanley."

(Note: In December, Morgan Stanley, one of Wall Street's biggest investment banks, sold a US$5 billion stake to the China Investment Corporation.)

A number of Chinese corporate giants - including some Olympic sponsors - are preparing to launch efforts overseas. At the same time, scores of established multinational brands are set to assault consumers here during the 2008 Games.

Beijing's Olympics will highlight what four University of Washington Masters in Business Administration students already know: in global business, understanding China has become essential.

According to Carrie Pederson, one of the MBAs, "China's influence on the world economy is undeniable."

Pederson, Josh Holt, Adam Martin and Ryan Cassidy traveled to Beijing last month on behalf of the UW Foster School of Business. They won top honors at China's first international case competition, organized by Cheung Kong.



"The team gained first-hand experience of China," said Dr. Ming Fan, the students' coach and a Chinese-born UW professor. "Every year, thousands of Chinese students, managers and government officials come to the U.S. to learn about U.S. systems and the U.S. market. American business leaders, entrepreneurs and MBA students may need to do something similar. The trip was extremely valuable for our team members."

Eight teams - six from the U.S., one from Singapore and one from China - attended the two-day 2008 East-West MBA All-Star Case Challenge. Never before had American and Chinese graduate students met to tackle real-world business problems.

Each team was given one month before the event to prepare. Their task: to counsel China's biggest brewer, Tsingtao, on how to woo American drinkers.

"We saw an opportunity," Tang, of Cheung Kong, said. "The competition filled a hole. There is no other event bringing people together like this. Beijing's most respected schools - Beijing University and Qinghua University - have been slow to engage, a bit cautious. But we're a new school. We think our MBAs are as good as those in the U.S."

Cheung Kong caters to Chinese entrepreneurs interested in expanding globally, and advertises itself to foreigners intent on collaborating with China. Hong Kong business magnate Li Ka-shing - whose rags-to-riches life story is admired across Asia - founded the school in 2002.

"He thought China deserved a high-quality, private business school," Tang said. "So many Chinese students seek degrees abroad."

In the course of their winning presentation, Fan's team advised that Tsingtao re-brand its beer sold in the U.S. The UW MBAs suggested 'Tao.' The team had conducted street market research, polling drinkers in Seattle's International District and Belltown.

German colonists began brewing Tsingtao in 1903. Its current logo features a famous pier on the city Qingdao's (Tsingtao is an older spelling) ocean shore.

Check out the UW team's re-design below.



"We wanted to make it easy for Americans to pronounce, so we chose Tao," Pederson, who has worked in Greater China for eight years, explained. "We used red to associate the beer with China, and we kept the pier and established date because consumers - more and more - want to know the story behind the products they're buying."

Over 400 curious spectators showed up for the case finals inside Beijing's Grand Hyatt Ballroom.

"We were really pleased with the turnout," Tang said. "Chinese people want to know what the MBA is all about - it's a new degree here. Plus, there are a lot of people in Beijing interested in business."

"The competition was quite an eye-opener for many in the audience," said Fan. "The professionalism of our team and the other U.S. students, their poise, excellent communication skills and the analytical and strategic angle of their analysis made a deep impression."

Fan's students fought fatigue - after arriving in Beijing, they were each assigned to new a 'mixed' team and asked to prepare a second, unrelated presentation. One 'mixed' team worked through the night. Cheung Kong's organizers hoped to foster networking and cultural exchange.

"With the Northwest's location on the Pacific Rim, ties with China are very important," Pederson said. "China is Washington state's biggest export market, with exports totaling $6.8 billion in 2006."

International sponsorship laws kept Beijing's Olympics more or less out of the spotlight. Although Tsingtao will sponsor the Games in China, a foreign beer-maker will fly the 2008 Olympic flag overseas.

Nevertheless, both Fan and Pederson were impressed by what the Games have wrought in Beijing.

"China has changed a lot in the past decade," Fan said. "The pace of change is really amazing. Compared to China, the urban landscape in the U.S. is quite stable. If there were an (Alaskan Way) Viaduct in Beijing or Shanghai, the government would have probably replaced it with a tunnel without much public consultation."



China's big show subtly colored China's first international case competition.

"The Games helped us attract American schools," Tang said. "This is the year to come to Beijing. We talked about the energy here, and the construction. We talked about what the Olympics might be like."

UW's team ended their Tsingtao presentation with a few recommendations. They proposed that the firm target high-end Pan-Asian restaurants. And they encouraged Tsingtao to "leverage buzz about China" created by the 2008 Olympic Games.


Newslinks:

"Millions struggle for tickets as China battles weather"

"Beijing closes 10 industrial polluters to keep air fresher"

"Google faces lawsuit from Chinese dissident"

"Beijing sees "best run" of clear skies since 2000"

"China recruits families to act as hosts"

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February 1, 2008 3:35 PM

Games of the Newly Emerging Forces

Posted by Daniel Beekman

According to many people here - particularly academics and officials - Beijing's 2008 Olympics will showcase "5,000 years of Chinese civilization." The Games are to be a cultural extravaganza, loaded with references to China's long, proud history.

Like its Forbidden City, Beijing's Olympic Green has been constructed along a north-south axis that, according to Chinese tradition, connotes spatial harmony. The National Aquatics Center - nicknamed 'Water Cube' for its odd, sudsy facade - was designed to reflect Chinese philosophy as well.

(Note: Check out the official description of Beijing's 2008 Olympic Emblem for a taste of Chinese-Olympic symbolism.)

The 2008 Opening Ceremonies are, likewise, sure to be soaked in historical allusions - a final crescendo to China's re-emergence as a global power and its first Olympic Games.

Of course, history is a selective science. Certain bygone morsels won't be on display this August. The 1989 Tian'anmen incident, for instance, will remain absent from most Beijing tours.

Another, albeit less sensitive, historical happening seems to have been forgotten - crowded out by Confucius' birth, Marco Polo's arrival and hurdler Liu Xiang's gold medal performance in 2004.

In 1963, in Jakarta, Indonesia, China bankrolled and headlined GANEFO - the Games of the New Emerging Forces. Highly politicized, GANEFO were intended to challenge the International Olympic Committee and protest the Olympics.

Four years earlier, in 1958, China had withdrawn from the International Olympic Committee over that organization's recognition of Taiwan. By 1962, the Chinese had gained an ally - Indonesia.

Playing to Chinese and Arab interests, Indonesia's ambitious founder and president-dictator, Sukarno, barred both Israel and Taiwan from the 1962 IOC-sponsored Asian Games held in Jakarta.

According to GANEFO archives, Sukarno had, prior to the Asian Games, received pointed correspondence from China.

The Chinese government sincerely wishes that the Asian Games held by Indonesia would be a great success. But the Chinese government cannot ignore those imperialists and their followers who want to use the Asian Games to create 'two Chinas.' These activities will not only harm the friendship between the PRC and Indonesia, but also harm the stand of Indonesia's fight with Imperialism.1

When, in 1963, the IOC responded by suspending Indonesia's Olympic committee, Sukarno struck out on his own. Two days after the IOC's decision, his country's Sports Ministry declared that:

The exclusion of Indonesia from the Olympic Games will not harm Indonesia. On the contrary, Indonesia will now have the freedom to organize a new games without the participation of imperialists and colonists. The new games is the GANEFO - the Games of the New Emerging Forces - Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the socialist countries...It is time that the newly emerging countries should have a revolution to destroy the spirit and structure of the international sport movement which is controlled by the imperialists and colonists.2

Indonesia withdrew from the IOC and announced it would organize GANEFO, with Chinese and North Korean assistance. In 1963, China's president, Liu Shaoqi, visited Jakarta and signed a joint declaration in support of GANEFO. The Chinese also agreed to donate US$18 million toward the games.

The GANEFO allowed China to exert new influence over the rest of the 'developing world' and assume a leadership role. The Chinese were particularly interested in rallying African, Asian and Latin American support at the time, having begun to split with the Soviet Union in the late 1950s.

Until the 1960s, the Soviet Union had supported China in its attempt to expel Taiwan from the IOC. Now the Chinese were alone. In order to compete with the 'first world' - the United States and Western Europe, and the 'second world' - the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, China looked to the 'third world.'

A number of developing countries had recently gained independence and embraced socialism. GANEFO, the Chinese hoped, would bring these 'newly emerging forces' together.

Where the IOC claimed to value the separation of politics from sport, the GANEFO were purposefully political. The games also gave Chinese athletes a chance to flex their muscles - they hadn't done so on the international level for years.

The first (and last) GANEFO took place in Jakarta in September 1963 - 2,404 athletes from 48 countries participated, including China, Cambodia, Guinea, Indonesia, Iraq, Mali, Pakistan, North Vietnam and the United Arab Republic (Egypt).

China sent by far the largest delegation - 238 athletes, coaches and officials, and the Chinese collected 66 gold, 56 silver and 46 bronze medals. The Soviet Union sent low-caliber athletes in order to preserve its relationship with the IOC.

A second GANEFO was planned for 1966 in Cairo, and qualifying tournaments were held in North Korea and Cambodia. But financial trouble kept the games out of Egypt and Beijing plunged head first into a Cultural Revolution.

In some ways, the renegade Jakarta games of 1963 seem silly now. When Beijing hosts the 2008 Olympics this summer, China will symbolically rejoin the global mainstream. In all other aspects - politically, economically, culturally - it has done so already.

Most Beijingers, like most Seattleites, have never heard of GANEFO ('juban xinxing liliang yundong').

"Juban...xinxing...liliang...yundong," a forty-year old woman dragging her teenage son down the street read from my notebook, puzzled. "I don't know what that is."

"No," a seventy-year old man wearing a navy Mao cap and slippers apologized. "I'm not familiar with GANEFO. I'm very sorry."

"I hear what you're saying," admitted a thirty-year old car wash attendant, after I filled him in. "But it's new to me."

A handful of Beijingers looked truly perplexed when I asked them about GANEFO.

"Wo bu tai qingchu," more than one person answered - "I'm not so clear."

"I know about that," a newspaper-stand owner said when I brought up China's quarrel with the IOC. "But I don't know GANEFO. Why? That stuff is irrelevant now."

"I've already forgotten what I read in the newspaper yesterday," a crossing guard chuckled. "Anyway, in 1963 I was only three."

And yet, there are parallels between Jakarta's GANFEO and the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Once again, China is preparing to flex its athletic muscles. Once again, the Chinese see themselves as an underdog nation on the verge of great things. Once again, China will play to a suspicious international audience.

Jakarta's 1963 games were politically driven - no doubt about it. And these 2008 Olympics? That's up for debate.

"If you want to know about GANEFO, go ask a historian," a 13-year old boy from Beijing suggested.

In 2008, you'll read Confucius. You'll study China's communist revolution. You'll certainly hear about Liu Xiang. And you'll have the Olympics to thank.

Other episodes - like GANEFO - will go un-referenced. After all, Beijing has a lot of material to work with - '5,000 years of Chinese civilization.'

1 Diyijie xinxing liliang yundonghui gexiang gongzuo zhongjie baogao' ['The working report of the 1st GANEFO], in Guojia tiyu zhongju danganguan [National Sports Bureau Archives], 135 (1963).

2 Diyijie xinxing liliang yundonghui gexiang gongzuo zhongjie baogao' ['The working report of the 1st GANEFO], in Guojia tiyu zhongju danganguan [National Sports Bureau Archives], 135 (1963).


Newslinks:

"China advises millions to abandon travel plans"

"Once banned Taiwan singer eyes Beijing Games"

"China Olympics sued for copyright abuse"

"Malaysian minister: We are proud of Beijing Olympic Games too"

"Beijing has some success with rain prevention-official"

"FBI director expects terror-free Beijing Games"

"Chinese rights activist faces trial for subversion"

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