In the months leading up the summer Olympics in Beijing, global attention narrowed its gaze on Chinas internal inequities and its complicity in the genocide in Sudan. Now that the games are up and running, red flags are popping up in some pretty strange places.
First we heard reports of digitally enhanced fireworks during the magnificent opening ceremony. Now we are told that the fireworks were real except for certain additions that featured prerecorded footage.
Because of the poor visibility of the night, a Chinese spokesman said, some previously recorded footage may have been used. To NBCs Matt Lauer, who was there, This is actually almost animation. Then another Chinese spokesman said, Most people could not tell the difference. Hmm. Does that make the artificial footage any less of a lie, any more acceptable?
Actually, if this were the only instance of Chinas playing fast and loose with the truth, we could overlook it. An artificially prettier picture OK, we could live with it. But then there was the case of the beautiful young girl who sung the words to the anthem at the opening ceremonies. Or, appeared to sing the song. Actually, she was deemed to be a beautiful stand-in for the real singer, who (perish the thought!) was less attractive, deemed by officials too bland to serve as Chinas world-televised representative.
Theres still more. A debate now rages involving Chinas victorious womens gymnastics team. Despite toothless grins suggesting the recent demise of baby teeth and body weights hovering around 77 pounds, the Chinese government, the gymnasts, their passports and coaches say the athletes are 16 years old the age of Olympic eligibility. The New York Times, however, has done some hard research and suggests that at least two of the gymnasts are 14 or 15.
There is no argument that the athletes performed exquisitely, only doubts about whether they (or their handlers) lied about their age and whether they should have been allowed to grace that iconic event at all.
Taken together, lipsynching, digitized fireworks, fake ages are hardly innocuous occurrences. The problem is, they are part of a pattern. A pattern that includes the muzzling of journalists who wish to speak to Chinese citizens outside the rigidly defined and carefully controlled Olympic perimeter; and the displacement of ordinary Chinese citizens to make room for Olympic training facilities. The common theme here is the false image the lie. It becomes all too believable that China understated the age of her pubescent gymnasts.
The official Chinese mentality seems to be: No one will notice. A few little lies will escape the Western worlds attention. Truly, this is a case of the totalitarians being so blinded by their own airbrushed mentality that they think everyone else thinks this way, too.
When China was struck by a disastrous earthquake a few months ago, the country opened its doors to the West. Thousands of dead. Thousands struggling to survive. Chinas state-run TV showed graphic images of the quake and its aftermath, providing an authentic and untouched glimpse into its reality up to a point. Then, the freedom of the press stopped. Reality became too painful; a return to the make-believe became necessary.
The Chinese people have been sequentially spoonfed Maoist ideology, culturally revolutionized, politically suppressed, duly brainwashed, spiritually beaten. They may be an economic power to be reckoned with in the 21st century, but bottom line they still dont get it: Tell a lie in America, and Americans will eventually uncover the lie.
Tell a lie long enough in China, and the lie becomes truth.
China poured a massive amount of money into the Olympics. Reportedly, the streets are clean. Volunteers offer help on every corner. The Olympics will be labeled a grand success. But after all the competitors and the tourists go home, China will not realize how much of her true self she revealed. How naked she appeared. How totalitarian she remains. How suspicious of her the free nations of the world, or at least the United States, will remain. How potentially dangerous she is. How priceless freedom is. How certain values trump a great trade balance. How long the road is that China still has to travel. And last, but hardly least, how long and difficult the path is that the free world must travel in its dealings with this charming, friendly, entrepreneurial and coercive tyrant, for whom truth and falsehood are a convenience.