Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

This article basically sums up my opinion of those Western media that are still demonising China day and night, particularly as the Olympic approaches. Nothing that China does can ever be good for them. If it is constructive criticism then it is another matter, but the criticisms that are getting shriller as Olympic opening day approaches are  manisfestations of the fear of the ‘yellow menace’ threat prevalent among some Westerners.

By Ravi S. Narasimhan (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-07-18 07:31
A senior colleague has a peculiar problem: He owns a car whose license plate allows him to drive on even-number days – but since he works nights, the day turns odd-numbered by the time he leaves for home at around 2 am.

So no car to work.

For those not in the know, cars with odd- and even-numbered license plates will be ruled off the roads on alternate days for two months from Sunday to reduce traffic congestion and pollution in the run-up to and during the Olympics and the Paralympics.

I would have been grumpy (if I owned a car) or tried to change working hours, but my colleague is sanguine.

But what makes him more than grumpy is the coverage of the preparations for the Games in the international media, which he closely monitors.

His conclusion: Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Since this is a recurring theme, lets call it DIYD2.

I concur.

When the alternate-day car ban was tested during the China-African summit two years ago, and since the announcement of similar measures for the Games, it’s been DIYD2.

Particulate matter – tiny airborne particles caused by the burning of fossil fuels like motor vehicles – is the main cause of pollution in Beijing, and clearly, reducing vehicular traffic would help.

Yet, it’s an "extreme measure" according to some media, which "tramples upon the rights of motorists" and "an example of official high-handedness".

Mention is rarely made that Athens has had an odd-even car-plate rule for years. As do Lagos or Manila, for that matter.

Let’s build on the theme. All construction activity has been suspended till the end of the Paralympic Games to limit dust and pollution.

Good news, you’d think.

But no, the foreign stories are about how construction workers are losing their jobs and being forced to go home. At other times, the reports are about how the cruel industry forces them to labor day and night away to support their families who live far away.

Maybe the workers appreciate the break. But it’s DIYD2.

Let’s talk about the weather – a familiar pastime in many countries but seemingly sinister when it comes to the Beijing Games.

Much has been written about how Beijing plans to make the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games more memorable by trying to avert rainfall during the period.

It is a simple procedure, practised in dozens of countries (and my province in India), which consists of seeding clouds using silver iodide to induce precipitation.

Simply put, Beijing Games organizers want approaching clouds to dump their rain before they approached the venue.

But the foreign media give it a Frankensteinian twist: Beijing is tinkering with Nature.


Let’s move on to traveling to China. It’s almost like traveling to the US: Tough to get a visa, long queues at embassies and consulates, security checks.

There’s been a litany of complaints: Visa delays, visa denials, visas no longer available on arrival.

You would have thought that staging an event of this magnitude would require some basic security procedures to protect athletes, visitors, residents and citizens – and top leaders from around the world. The grouse is that visitors (long used to more-than-liberal visa procedures) are now inconvenienced; never mind security.

To quote a leading foreign news agency: "While the Athens Olympics also featured heavy security, analysts and diplomats point out that these took place in a city with a record of terror attacks and in the wake of the Madrid train bombings earlier in the year."

So does Beijing need a history of terror attacks or similar events in the neighborhood to justify its security measures?

You figure it out.

I and my colleague have figured it out: DTA (you figure that out).

E-mail: ravi@chinadaily.com.cn


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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