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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

China -- Heading for the Tape

July 23, 2008

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)

* * * * *
Part I: Beijing focuses on quake heroism
July 18, 2008

This is the first installment in Part 3 of our series focusing on
China's efforts in the homestretch to make the upcoming Olympic Games
a success.

Jiang Yuhang was buried alive in the rubble of a collapsed dormitory
in Yingxiu, Sichuan Province, China, when the southwestern area was
hit by a massive earthquake on May 12.

Jiang, 20, who works at an expressway tollgate, found himself trapped
in total darkness. After some time, he heard the sound of a distant
voice calling his name one syllable at a time. "I'm here!" Jiang
shouted back, but his screaming voice failed to reach anybody.

He soon realized the importance of conserving energy. He only shouted
out when he felt sure someone was searching for him, and tried to
sleep the rest of the time.

On May 17, a fire brigade member finally found Jiang and he was
rescued 124 hours after the quake. With a handkerchief shielding his
eyes from the bright sunshine, Jiang made his first attempts to move
his limbs again.

"When I found I could move my arms and legs, I finally realized I was
free," Jiang said.

By June 13, Jiang was not only back in his hometown of Kaili in
Guizhou Province in southwest China, he had the Olympic torch in his
hand. He had been selected by the Beijing Olympics organizing
committee as one of the torchbearers. With a beaming smile, he ran
his assigned stretch of the course with enthusiastic citizens along
the route shouting, "Go China, go!"

"I never imagined myself becoming a torchbearer," Jiang said.

Behind this heartwarming story lies a directive from the Chinese
Communist Party. About 10 days before Jiang ran in the torch relay,
Li Changchun, the member of the Standing Committee of the Communist
Party's Political Bureau in charge of propaganda, instructed
government organizations and media to highlight the activities of
people who have dramatic earthquake stories to tell.

At Li's direction, the party looked to make heroes out of local
people caught in the earthquake. Twenty children who rescued
classmates at collapsed schools were commended by the government as heroes.

A third-grade middle school student in Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province,
is one of those heroes.

His school was destroyed in the earthquake, and about 100 of the
school's 420 students died. Though the third-grader himself sustained
a head injury, he went on to rescue four classmates who were trapped
in the rubble and carried his class teacher on his back to an ambulance.

A 13-year-old girl who entered an orphanage in Yunnan Province after
losing her parents in the earthquake also became one of the
torchbearers when the torch relay reached her province.

A female police officer became famous for breastfeeding babies whose
mothers were unable to give them milk due to the stress of the
earthquake and other reasons. The officer was then promoted to a
senior position in the local police force.

The earthquake occurred during the Chinese government's Olympics
Campaign, which has stressed the restoration of China's status in the
world and the unification of China's different ethnic groups. The
Communist Party has used the stories of heroes trying to recover from
the earthquake as propaganda for the Beijing Olympics.

The existence of heroes unites citizens and fills them with
enthusiasm for the Games. It is almost as if the Communist Party is
having China's 1.3 billion citizens perform a giant exercise routine
to promote the Olympics.

But not all Chinese are happy about this.

"Through propaganda, the Communist Party is trying to turn disaster
into festivity, sorrow into joy, and self-examination into
glorification. It's manipulating people so that when they see the
good conduct of an individual they admire the government," one
Shanghai resident said.

A journalist living in Beijing said, "The Communist Party is using
the touching stories to pull the citizens in a direction beneficial
to the party."

However, such voices do not tend to come to the surface at a
mainstream level in China. The majority of citizens seems to be
intoxicated by the chants of "Go China, go!"

A 40-year-old farmer in Sichuan Province expressed optimism about
reconstruction in the area as he stood in front of his destroyed
home. "If the Olympic Games are a success and the nation gets
wealthier, this will also lead to progress in restoration efforts," he said.

The "giant exercise routine of the masses" will reach a peak on the
night of Aug. 8, when the torch arrives at the main Olympic stadium.
Hu Jintao, Chinese President and the General Secretary of the
Communist Party will welcome the torch as the festivities organized
by the party and for the party begin.

"After the earthquake, I have two dreams," said Jiang, one of the
heroes who took the Olympic torch. "One is to enter the People's
Liberation Army and the other is to become a member of the Communist Party."

* * * * *
Part II: Patriotic Chinese venting on Internet
Jul. 19, 2008

This is the second installment in Part 3 of our series focusing on
China's efforts in the homestretch to make the upcoming Olympic Games
a success.

"When I Googled my name in Chinese, I got 368,000 hits, most of them
referring to me as a 'traitor who sold out on our country' or a
'double-crosser,'" Wang Qiangyuan, a Chinese student at Duke
University, a prestigious U.S. university in Durham, N.C., told The
Yomiuri Shimbun over the telephone in early July.

When the torch relay for the Beijing Olympics was held in San
Francisco on April 9, pro-Tibet American students and pro-Beijing
Chinese students squared off on the university's campus.

Wang attempted to prod the two groups into having dialogue by cutting
in front of them and shouting out, "Let's talk!"

While the freshman was by no means a supporter of the
pro-independence movement for Tibet, she wanted both sides to act
calmly and discuss their differences.

However, other Chinese on the campus did not take her side. Many of
them surrounded her, and she was asked, "Are you really Chinese?"

The incident triggered personal attacks on her on the Internet. Her
personal information, including the name of her hometown in China and
her parents' names, were disclosed on the Net.

A threatening message, "Kill 'em all," was then found daubed on the
door of her parents' home in Shangdong Province, after which her
parents were forced to go into hiding.

Starting in the 19th century, China saw powerful foreign nations
controlling parts of its territories or winning concessions on its
soil. This is why many Chinese still have the mentality of a people
who were victimized in the past and are sensitive about any moves
that question the nation's dignity. Once ignited, their sentiments
can erupt into radical Chinese nationalism.

As seen in Wang's case, the Internet has recently played a key role
in Chinese nationalism. The number of Internet users in China
exceeded 220 million this year, the largest figure in the world for a
single nation.

Over the Internet, young Chinese called Fenqing search for "enemies"
and "traitors" and launch attacks on them. Fenqing literally means
angry young people.

Their strategy is very simple, they send e-mail messages about
anti-Chinese incidents and people to their friends and acquaintances.

"The friends and acquaintances then relay the messages to their own
friends even without being asked to do so. In this way the number of
people receiving the messages snowballs," a Beijing-based Chinese
Internet activist in his 30s said.

Fenqing activities have produced tangible results in this Olympic year.

Angry that the torch relay was disrupted in Paris, they urged fellow
countrymen to boycott a French supermarket chain. Many Chinese people
instantly joined the movement.

A CNN newscaster and U.S. actress who criticized China were forced to
apologize for their remarks partly as a result of coming under fire
on the Internet.

The Chinese Communist Party also is well aware of the enormous
influence Internet users can wield.

A source close to the party said, "The Internet-based nationalistic
movement attacking domestic and foreign parties critical of China
benefits the party--as long as the movement is kept within permissible limits."

The Communist Party, however, is not prepared to tolerate violence or
clashes resulting from radical nationalism connected to the Beijing
Olympic Games. At major universities in Beijing, where many Fenqing
are believed to be active, instructors have urged students to express
their patriotism in a rational way.

The Olympic Games will inevitably fan patriotic sentiments as nations
compete against one another.

Attention is now placed on how Fenqing will behave.

Will Japanese spectators be able to wave the Hinomaru flag at Olympic venues?

Asked about the question, the Internet activist grinned and said:
"Fenqing are now targeting traitors, North Americans and Europeans.
But I'm not sure what will happen once the Olympics start. I believe
[the Japanese] should be careful when Japan and China compete against
each other. Compared anti-American and anti-French feelings, to
ignite Chinese people's anti-Japan sentiments, only a tenth of the
provocation is needed."

* * * * *
Part III: Olympics fail to provide expected economic boost
July 22, 2008

This is the third and last installment in Part 3 of our series
focusing on China's efforts in the homestretch to make the upcoming
Olympic Games a success.

The Beijing Olympics were expected to have a positive economic effect
both inside and outside China, but the travel industry in Japan has
been disappointed by the amount of business the Games have generated.

"The number of travel packages to China for August is expected to
drop by 87 percent on a year-on-year basis. The figure for the
July-September period also decreased by 84 percent from the same
period last year," a representative of a major travel agency said.

The industry expected the Aug. 8-24 Olympics to be a golden business
opportunity for travel agencies. But the number of Japanese tourists
scheduled to visit China during the period is predicted to be
significantly lower than compared with the same period last year.

A representative from another travel agency speculated that events
from earlier this year--the contamination scare of frozen gyoza
products made in China, rioting in Tibet and the earthquake that
struck Sichuan Province--could be reasons for the lackluster
business. The representative also said most Japanese people have a
deep distrust of China's food security and are concerned about
environmental conditions and public safety there.

"We hope the situation will improve after the Olympics," the
representative said. "And we hope there won't be more bad news
stories [involving China]."

As a result of all this, promotions focusing on the Beijing Olympics
appear to have been cut short.

The situation is not limited to Japan. The number of travelers to
China from South Korea and the United States also decreased in May.

On July 11, Beijing's municipal tourist bureau admitted that the rate
of reservations for the Olympic period at four-star and lower-ranking
hotels was less than 50 percent.

An official also announced that the number of foreign tourists set to
arrive in Beijing in August is estimated at 400,000 to 450,000. Last
August, the number of foreign tourists in Beijing was about 420,000.
The Chinese government had expected a significant spike in visitors
for the Olympics, but has since been forced to revise that projection downward.

An official of the municipal government in charge of tourism said,
"In my position, I can't say it [the revised projection] is a good [figure]."

It appears Beijing counted its chickens before they hatched.

This situation is in turn worrying Beijing's residents, who expected
to reap the benefits of the Olympic Games.

Two years ago, a real estate agency began constructing a condominium
building in Beijing to great fanfare, including the boastful
catchphrase: "The condominium is 800 meters from the Bird's Nest--the
main Olympic stadium."

The initial price for units in the building was 12,000 yuan (about
190,000 yen) per square meter. Sales at first were good, and the
company soon doubled its prices. But sales began to dry up, and only
about 40 percent of the units have been sold. Construction on the
building is set to finish next month. A person in charge of selling
the units remains positive. "The condominium's location is excellent,
and the units will be sold out sooner or later," he said.

However, the real estate market as a whole for Beijing began hitting
hard times after prices started rising seven years ago, when Beijing
was selected as the host for the 2008 Olympics. The Chinese
government's tightening of monetary policies last autumn, including
strengthening regulations on home mortgages, also is said to be a reason.

According to Chinese media, about 20 percent of real estate agents in
one district of central Beijing have gone bankrupt.

The price for some condominiums in Beijing has begun to plummet, and
it appears the economic bubble caused by the Olympics is coming to an
end. Even more serious is the situation on the stock market. The
Shanghai Stock Exchange's composite index continues to fall after
hitting a record-high close of 6,092.06 in October. Thursday's
closing price was 2,684.78, a 56 percent drop from October's peak.

PetroChina Co., a subsidiary of state-owned China National Petroleum
Corp, which is one of the sponsors of the Beijing Olympics, was
listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange in November. One share sold for
about 50 yuan (about 800 yen) on the first day. The current price is
about 15 yuan.

One investor who bought 30,000 PetroChina stocks when the company was
first listed said she has lost about 1 million yuan. "I thought there
was nothing to worry about at the time of the listing," she said with
tears in her eyes.

China has been running at breakneck pace to become a 21st-century superpower.

The Chinese government regards the Beijing Olympics and the World
Expo 2010 to be held in Shanghai as important springboards to achieve
this goal. However, if the economy stagnates, the country will lose
its motivating force. If China's pace of growth slows, it may be
difficult to realize China's ambitious goal to become a superpower.
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