Beijing sham Olympic opening ceremony

March 19, 2022

From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters

China, as host of the 2022 Winter Olympics, presented a touching opening ceremony which nevertheless achieved the state goals of shoring up international support and prescribing conformity as a virtue for its internal population. The major theme song, whose melody partly resembled that of a 1994 Christmas hymn, “Star Child,” extolled the characteristic of snowflakes: that they are unique in crystallization pattern but are “open to the light” and “shining all the same.” Just like snowflakes: “thousands of you and me gather into a family.”


Shot of opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Photo:

The song is in one sense gracious and benign. However, its rhetorical message echoes the pre-Cultural Revolution campaign to “let 100 flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend.” This turned out to be a ruse to have Mao’s opponents self-identify and mark themselves for repression.

Today, the independent institutions of Hong Kong are under determined erosion, and those who advocate the return of limited autonomy for Tibet and Xinjiang are conflated with terrorists and jailed. Induction to the “family” is not all sweetness and light.

The U.S. held a diplomatic boycott of the Games over mass incarceration and forced intermarriage of the Uyghur minority. China’s choice of a Uyghur from Xinjiang province to light the Olympic flame was seen as a rebuke to this narrow criticism. In contrast, the U.S. and other governments have always been fine with suppression of independent unions and the thousands of strikes that have rocked China in recent years. Apple Computer, for one, absolutely adores this dysfunctional family dynamic.

So heart-wrenching is the hope of brotherly and sisterly love that was invoked in Beijing. So far is the still possible from the real.

—Buddy Bell

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