In trying to make it look good to the world in August 2008, it appears China is willing to make itself look like an utter jackass in the here and now.
The diversion of water to Beijing for the Olympics and for big hydropower projects threatens the lives of millions of peasant farmers in China’s north-western provinces, according to a senior Chinese government official.
In an interview with the Financial Times, An Qiyuan, a member and former chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Committee for Shaanxi province and former Communist party chief of Shaanxi, warned of an impending social and environmental disaster because of overuse of scarce water resources.
Predicted water shortages in China by 2010
In a critical tone seldom heard from Chinese officials, Mr An called on Beijing to provide compensation to the provinces that have been told to pump their cleanest water to the capital in order to ensure potable supplies during the Olympics.
Beijing will need an estimated 300m cubic metres of additional water just to flush out the polluted and stagnant rivers, canals and lakes in its central areas to put on a clean, environmentally-friendly face for Olympic visitors, according to municipal officials.
“In order to preserve the quality of Beijing’s water we have to close all our factories. But we still need to live. So I say the government needs to compensate Shaanxi,” Mr An said. “If you don’t compensate the masses then how can they survive?”
Will anyone really be fooled in August? Will anyone believe they are seeing “the real China,” with potable tap water, blue skies, no traffic and lots of happy smiling volunteers?
Another quickie with no time for depth. Apologies.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.