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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."

From the Beijing Bureau

July 13, 2008

A Parkite watches China rev up for the Games
by Josh Chin, Record contributing writer
Park Record (Utah, USA)
July 12, 2008


Editor's note: Josh Chin is a graduate of Park City High School and a
former Park Record staffer who is now a working journalist in
Beijing. Over the coming weeks he has promised to share some of his
firsthand observations about The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games .

Prepare yourselves.

In slightly less than a month, Hu Jintao, the engineer with the
unfortunate glasses whose job it is to shepherd the world's most
populous country through history's greatest economic explosion, will
travel under heavy security to an exquisitely designed stadium in
north Beijing, where he will preside over the lighting of the most
contentious and politically charged Olympic flame this century.

As you read this, news editors everywhere are busy dividing the big
Beijing story into a mind-numbingly comprehensive list of
sub-stories: Tibet, Taiwan, terrorism, economic growth, environmental
degradation, property rights, product safety, the Yellow Peril, rural
unrest, renminbi (China's currency) revaluation, Sudan, the Sichuan
earthquake, freedom of speech oh, and sports.

The Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee (BOCOG) expects foreign news
organizations to dispatch some 30,000 journalists to cover the event,
roughly three times the number of athletes who are scheduled to attend.

In other words, the flood of information about China already rushing
out at you through your TV sets, radios and computer screens is about
to turn Biblical.

In recognition of the challenge facing you,
the intended targets of all this journalizing, the Park Record has
decided to revive its once illustrious newsroom in Beijing. The
doors, double padlocked against the prying eyes of the Chinese
security apparatus since 2001, have been re-opened, the years of
construction dust and industrial particulate matter swept into a neat
little carcinogenic pile in the corner, the single computer re-booted
and loaded with the latest in censorship-busting software.

Wait, you say, with some of the world's finest storytellers already
on the job, backed by the likes of the New York Times and CNN, what
use could you possibly have for me? But it's not what you think.

way of explanation, I would ask you to consider what happens when you
reveal to a Beijing resident of a certain age that you are from a
place called Park City, which is near Salt Lake City, in Utah.

First, there is a vague glimmer of recognition. Then, a few moments
later, the eyes flash, the smile spreads: "Ah, you have a statue of
seagulls! Seagulls saved you! The locusts, yes, of course, I know the place!"

The story, for those who don't know it, can be found in volume five,
chapter five of Middle School English (Liaoning Educational Press,
1987), the foundational English textbook foisted on nearly every
Chinese person who went to school in the 1990s. One hundred or so
years ago, the book says, a group of hardy pioneers just arrived in
the harsh lands next to a large salt-water lake watched in horror as
a cloud of locusts descended from the skies to eat their nascent
crops. A short while later, a flock of seagulls swooped in from the
lake, not to join in the decimation as it seemed at first, but to
attack the insects instead.

"They decided that from then on no one should ever kill a seagull,"
the book explains. "And today, if you go to Salt Lake City, you can
see a monument with seagulls on top of it."

It's true. While many in China would be hard pressed to name all of
their own country's provincial capitals, a large swathe of the
population not only knows the capital of Utah, but also has a fair
amount of knowledge about a monument in Utah many Utahns (including
your correspondent) have never seen.

Given this, the aim of Record's Beijing bureau is not to add to the
coming deluge of China stories, but rather to provide you with the
means to stay afloat in it an informational life raft, if you will.

In order to provide this service, however, we need your help.

Starting today and for the next two months I invite you to email me
with your questions about the Beijing Games: How can the Chinese
people say such nasty things about some one so patently nice as the
Dalai Lama? What's up with all the algae at the sailing venue in
Qingdao? Whatever perplexes or perturbs. Everything is fair game. The
email address is joshchin@parkrecord.com

Twice a week, I will select one of these questions, whether because
it's the most common or most compelling, and I will try to answer it.
When I can't provide a definitive answer, which will be most of the
time, I will consult the appropriate locals and experts to give you
as complete, honest and useful a response as possible.

The hope is, when the Olympics are long over and you run into someone
from Beijing, maybe while riding the chairlift, you will be able to
say with a reasonable degree of confidence: "Ah, the Olympics, the
locusts. Yes, of course, I know the place."

Josh Chin, a Park City native, was in Beijing in 1993 on the day both
China and Salt Lake City lost their first Olympic bids and was there
again in 2001 the day China finally succeeded. He is covering the
Games for the Wall Street Journal. For more musings on China visit
Josh Chin's blog: http://chinfamous.com/blog/ and don't forget to
send your questions for Josh to joshchin@parkrecord.com
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