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.
August 8, 2008 8:53 AM
Posted by Daniel Beekman
American President George W. Bush opened a muscular new U.S. Embassy in Beijing today, the world's second-largest diplomatic compound (America's war-ready Baghdad Embassy ranks number one).
Hazy skies heralded the day of China's Olympic opening ceremonies and a fresh era in Sino-U.S. relations, one defined by close economic ties and increasing competition. A small group of Beijing neighbors turned up for the show.
But Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, slipped into the $434 million, 500,000 square-foot complex unseen, then presided over a ribbon-cutting ceremony behind thick, sandy walls and bulletproof glass. Chinese servers donned red, white and blue lonestar shirts and cowboy hats for the occasion.
"I don't like Xiao Bushi ('Little Bush')," said a tailor squatting nearby. "He's too bull-headed. But Chinese-American relations have really improved.
"I'll admit it - I didn't like your government very much before. Now China and the U.S. are partners, though - friends."
President Bush arrived in Beijing early this week, and plans to attend tonight's Olympic opening ceremonies.
"I was glad to hear he'll attend," a Qingdao-based businessman said. "There are a few world leaders who've talked about boycotting Beijing's Games. It's so strange - why boycott a global sports event and offend everyone?"
Dominated by a central glass tower, the new embassy will house 700 staffers and more than 20 federal agencies. China unveiled its own bulky embassy in Washington, D.C. last week - the city's largest.
"China is developing fast," another spectator commented Friday morning. "Twenty-five, fifty years from now our GDP may exceed America's. GDP doesn't mean everything, though."
"I've never known an American well," said a caterer standing outside the embassy. "What are Americans like? I'm not sure."
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