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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."

Perspectives: China looks for understanding as it hosts Olympics

August 11, 2008

By Shinichiro Hori
Mainichi Daily News (Japan)
August 9, 2008

Will China change with the Beijing Olympics?

Since the first Opium War in 1840, China has been invaded by a
succession of strong countries. But the Olympic venue for this year's
games lies on the same north-south line through Beijing as Tiananmen
and the Forbidden City, places that convey memories of China's age of
prosperity -- a placement designed to highlight China's determination.

And this year's Games will surely remain a historic achievement,
alongside the birth of the People's Republic of China in 1949. But
why is there an atmosphere of authoritarianism in China?

To make the Olympics a success, China has tried to solve many
problems -- including terrorism fears -- in a single move, swathing
Beijing in enforcement and regulation and essentially pinning the
entire city down.

Everybody wants a safe Olympics without terrorism, but there has
never been an Olympic Games in which the country has made its power so visible.

In the seven years since it was decided that Beijing would host the
Olympic Games, China has surged ahead with its development, an
attempt to take advantage of a unique opportunity to present itself
as a great nation.

But ironically, as the Olympic Games approached, various problems
welled up. With the insurgency in Tibet, international society
expressed misgivings about China's awareness of human rights. A
terrorist attack in China's Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region
revealed the depth of problems surrounding ethnic minorities that
China had subjugated by force in the past.

The great stage of the Olympic Games has displayed China's true
colors, from which it can't fully hide.

China is still not a country understood by the world, but there is a
glimmer of hope. There are about 70,000 young volunteers at China's
Olympic venues, coming into daily contact with many foreigners,
giving them a chance to experience new cultures and new ways of
thinking firsthand, and thus objectively re-examine their country: an
Olympic version of the youth exchange promoted by Chinese President Hu Jintao.

And, as the people of the world interact more with the Chinese, they
will form their own opinion of China. Hopefully the Olympics will
provide those people with a life-size view of China, leading to
mutual understanding. China has overstrained itself considerably in
preparing for the Olympics, but just how will it present itself after
the Olympic Games have finished? It is from here on that the
greatness of the nation will be tested.
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