Got this email from a friend and thought it was good enough to share. He has lived in China for about 10 years and never wants to live anywhere else. You can love China and be critical at the same time. The two are not mutually exclusive, and in fact I’d argue they go hand in glove. His email:
Subject : The Party Here In Beijing Today
“….Hey what a party, hey what a show…..” Miss Saigon =>
‘Thought I would share what happened today here in Beijing, it was a 1st for me & you won’t get this side of it from the news in Europe and the Americas.
This morning in Tiananmen Square there was a colossal military parade followed by a “normal” / civilian parade – Chinese style, which means big and over-the-top (100,000 performers.) Watch the news reports, I doubt in the US or Europe it will get more than 60 seconds of replay, certainly not the 2 1/2 hours we watched live here on TV.
Yes, me and absolutely everyone I know in Beijing, and everyone who knows anyone else living in Beijing could only watch it on TV. My office is right next to Tiananmen, perfect viewing location – except that every building within viewing sight of this was evacuated yesterday and searched with sniffing dogs. No one knows anyone who got the special invitation to watch it live. You will notice / see on the broadcast news there are no people lining the Chang An Boulevard parade route, and the VIP spectators were specially picked (and I assume trained) for this event. At most a few hundred people, you can see them all boxed in front of the Forbidden City. None of the foreign journalists I know here were even allowed to attend and cover this event. Which is a bit strange for China these days, and for an event of this magnitude.
The preparations for this have gone on for 1 year. Cost? No one will ever know. They completely re-did the entire square, boulevard and surrounding roads, neighborhood facades, etc. which were already (and alway have been) the best in the city, and which were just all redone for the Olympics last year. Going to the office each day I kept thinking, “Why don’t you use this money to build 100 hospitals or schools in the poor areas of this nation?” I said exactly that yesterday having lunch with my Chinese friends who are from Beijing, they said, “Agree, but we can’t say that.”
Now this is funny/interesting; there was a pre-parade talk show (local TV) I watched this morning during which 2 top military generals were interviewed and commented that this miltary parade was “planned in a frugal and environmentally friendly manner.” I don’t recall Gen. Swartzkof saying anything like that when I was in DC for the military parade to welcome home the US troupes from the Gulf War. I certainly didn’t see that when I was in Paris for the 200th anniversary of the F rench revolution – I think les Francais are a little more “green” concious than us Americans and certainly more than here – I know that to be true. The point is, it seems public opinion does play into the rhetoric of this administration. Their comment was definitely not ad hoc.
What struck me as absolutely the most bizarre was the president’s speech referring to the success of ….(get this) Marxism. Who’s Hu’s speech writer? If you could see behind him reviewing the troupes standing up through the roof of his (hong qi = red flag brand) limo, that’s Oriental Plaza – a luxury shopping center. Street level (hidden by the tanks) are Burberry, Gucci, Tiffany, and all the other top foreign (non-Marxist) luxury brand shops you have ever heard of. (NB: Each have at least 5 locations just in this one city! And, numerous others all around China.) Who’s Marx again??? Is he referring to Groucho? Barbara Marx (Frank Sinatra’s last wife?) I was just losing it to connect the dots at that point.
There was a heavy emphasis on the important role of the Chinese minorities and women in this society. The supersonic jets were flown by women training in their space program, their was reference to a Chinese woman being the 1st lady to walk on the moon. Great, admirable, totally support that. None of the officials are from the local minorities or are women. The most important woman formerly in the leadership, Madame Wu Yi, I could not see on the dais. (NB: Her old boss, Pres. Jiang was there – with brown hair, go figure? He’s from Shanghai, that explains everything.) I heard she refused to participate – FYI, she brought China into the WTO. At least in the US, we can say we have come beyond that. We Americans have women & minorities in power now, and they seem quite widely respected. When will La France have a Mssr. Mohamed, Le President?
It was a fascinating build-up during several weeks of SWAT police in tanks on Tiananmen Square going to work each day. Tiananmen Square with tanks doesn’t exactly excite me. Yes, you know why.
To put things globally in perspective, we had a very expensive innauguration for President Obama during which we (the people) are told is the “worst financial crisis in US history.” But, I heard…”the people” showed up unabated in masses to be there….
I do love living / working here in Beijing, when life here is normal. Nothing about this day (or time leadin up to this) was normal. The Olympics were a breeze compared to this. What’s next for Beijing???
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.