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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China: What after the Games?

August 26, 2008

Claude Arpi
August 25, 2008

The glittering function is over, and the Olympic Games declared closed.

But as the last floodlights on the Olympic Stadium are switched off,
an interesting question remains. What is the future of China?

The leadership in Beijing would certainly have gone through an
enriching experience. They would have learned the hard way that many
across the world do not appreciate their lack of value for human
rights and freedom or the way they treat 'their nationalities', in
particular the Tibetans.

Once the exacerbated nationalist wave within China dies down, the
leadership in their paradisiacal enclave of Zhongnanhai will have to
draw up a balance sheet and ponder on the future.

What will happen to freedom?

Radio Free Asia recently reported that thousands of taxicabs in
Beijing have been fitted with video cameras and satellite technology
that transmit a live audio feed of conversations in the cab. They are
later monitored by computers capable of analysing dozens of languages
and even recognising faces.

An employee at a major Beijing cab company told RFA: "It was about
two or three months ago. All the taxis in our company had this fitted."

The measure is not restricted to Beijing, it has been implemented in
other main Chinese cities as well as restive provinces such as
Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. In some places, the cameras
automatically take a picture of every taxi occupant. Of course
according to the People's Daily, it is to "help authorities keep
watch for illegal activity".

The question is: will these devices be dismantled on August 25? I can
bet not. It means that there will be an increased intrusion into the
private lives of the Chinese citizens.

What will happen to the Internet access?

One of the most serious controversies before the Games was the access
to the Internet. Connection for the Main Press Centre during the
Games was 'limited' as per the official jargon.

A month before the Games, Jacques Rogge, the President of the IOC had
told Agence France-Presse: "For the first time, foreign media will be
able to report freely and publish their work freely in China. There
will be no censorship on the Internet." Beijing set up a "Great
Firewall of China" to block users from reaching sites with contents
objectionable to the Communist Party leadership.

Usually if a country wants to censor the Internet, specific Web sites
or Web addresses are blocked. But as usual, China is a precursor in
this field. It uses sophisticated devises to filters the Web content
and specific keywords.

According to OpenNet Initiative, a partnership between different
Western universities, a giant intranet setup managed by the Chinese
authorities called the Golden Shield is the most performing tool for
the purpose: "Compared to similar efforts in other states, China's
filtering regime is pervasive, sophisticated, and effective. It
comprises multiple levels of legal regulation and technical control.
It involves numerous state agencies and thousands of public and
private personnel. It censors content transmitted through multiple
methods, including Web pages, Web logs, on-line discussion forums,
university bulletin board systems, and e-mail messages."

Further, some 30,000 Internet policemen are working around the clock
to keep the filters up to date and check the emails of persons
suspected of receiving "propaganda harmful to national security and
social stability of the People's Republic". Will this go after the
closing ceremony? Unlikely.

What will happen to the Tibetans?

In a recent exclusive interview for, Prof. Samdhong
Rinpoche, the Tibetan Prime Minister-in-exile warned: "After the
Olympic Games are over, the Chinese authorities will probably come
down very heavily on the Tibetans They will also bring more [armed]
forces inside Tibet and increase the transfer of [Han] population.
The post Olympics is therefore more dangerous than the present moment."

Last month, Irene Khan, the head of Amnesty International, said that
the world will "need to maintain pressure on China for human rights
reform after the Beijing Olympics."

"Abuses, including the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, use of
the death penalty, censorship, restrictions on assembly and
repression of minorities are still commonplace in China," says the
latest Amnesty report. As the world has witnessed in March and April,
even peaceful demonstrations have been ruthlessly suppressed. It is
feared by many that the Tibetans will have to pay for their
'arrogance' and daring actions once the Olympics are over.

Zhang Qingli, the Party Chief in Tibet, in a secret communication to
the Communist cadres advised the cadres for the post-Olympics period:
"We must learn lessons from this issue [March-April demonstrations]
and organise our masses to build up an impregnable fortress against
the tide of encirclement to beat our enemy…So you, the leaders of
work units, must guard your gates and manage your people well. Let
leaders of street committees be vigilant and keep watch on all outsiders."

"Propaganda and education are our party's greatest advantages. These
are the most useful weapons with which to defend ourselves against
the Dalai Lama group," he concluded.

Ominous words from the person who called the Dalai Lama a 'wolf in
monks' cloth." Given the cowardice and political expediency followed
by most world leaders, the future of the Tibetans is sombre.

What will happen to the environment?

One good thing about the Olympics is that it brought an improvement
in the air quality, particularly in Beijing. The Chinese authorities
had promised that the Games would unfold under a blue sky; with no
haze shrouding the city. The pollution level would be safe for
athletes. Beijing is said to have invested $17.6 billion to clean the
air of the capital.

Factories miles away from the Forbidden City were closed down and
over half the city's 3.3 million cars were removed from the roads.

Even though the air pollution levels remained higher than the World
Health Organisation standards, it was an immense progress.

But will it continue? Certainly not! The factories will be reopened;
the cars will be on the road again.

Let us not forget that thanks to the phenomenal economic growth,
China will surpass the US as the world's No 1 emitter of greenhouse
gases in 2008. It is the largest depleter of the ozone layer.

Sixteen of the world's 20 most polluted cities are Chinese, 70 per
cent of the country's lakes and rivers are polluted, and potable
drinking water is scarce. What will happen after the Games is anybody's guess.

What will happen to the economy?

In this domain, any prediction is difficult. However, China will be
facing serious problems after the Olympics. One of them is inflation.
Bloomberg recently analysed: "China will find that controlling the
Internet is easier than taming price pressures. Officials in Beijing
have compliant executives at Google and Yahoo helping them censor
cyberspace. Even after employing all of the conventional tools of
economic policy, cooling inflation is easier said than done."

Many other factors such as the fact that China has an aging
demography or that the public sector enterprises are weak, does not
encourage an optimistic view on the future.

John Pomfret, a former Washington Post Bureau Chief in Beijing,
rightly pointed out: "But on a per capita basis, the country isn't a
dragon; it's a medium-size lizard, sitting in 109th place on the
International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook Database,
squarely between Swaziland and Morocco. China's economy is large, but
its average living standard is low." And the difference in income
between the rich and poor keeps increasing.

How will the leadership tackle these issues? Will they try to bully
their way through or will they listen to the stakeholders, whether
inside China or outside?

It is a billion yuan question. During his first foreign jaunt in
Qatar last month, an interesting remark by Xi Jinping, the Chinese
Vice-President and Hu's heir apparent is worth mentioning. He
declared: "It's like a huge cage where all kinds of birds coexist. If
you try to drive away those noisy ones, you would lose that wonderful
variety and colour. The key is to mind our own business well."

Will his elders listen?

* Claude Arpi's is the author of numerous English and French books
ncluding. His book, 'Tibet: the lost Frontier' (Lancers Publishers)
was released recently.
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