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Short Cuts: Mao’s heirs finally discover that image matters

The mascots of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing – everybody smiles, as
China plays a new role in world policy – but does it really?
(photo via Flickr)

In the past decades, a lot of People’s Republic of China’s actions seemed to be directly derived from the habits of former chairman Mao Zedong. Mao was famous for bad breath or for letting millions of people die to manage the dà yuè jìn, the Great Leap Forward. His successors violently broke student protests in 1989 and still keep up censorship.

But now, the wind of change finally seems to come to China. It changed its role in Sudan, depriving the country of support, therefore enabling a first step to UN peace forces this week. Even if the UK and USA demand more troops, China’s pressure has helped getting away from the bad boy-image of leaving the Sudanese government unharmed for the delivery of oil. The communist country also supported the UN resolution that imposed sanctions against North Korea after a nuclear test — a clear message to the country’s dictator Kim Jong Ill not to feel too sure about China’s support. In the Middle East, it has improved relations with both Israel and Palestine, setting itself up to become a go-between if the Middle East Quartet’s efforts continue to fail.
Even with Iran, China seemingly has become more pro-western. It recently backed the UN security council’s vote against Iran’s nuclear policy in the security, leaving a lot open to interpretation whether this will make Teheran’s isolation grow. Though China may not completely abandon the traditionally good relations with Iran, as the two countries are closely tied by energy and weapon deals -  punishing and at the same time keeping ties to Iran also leaves the door open to be accepted as a honest broker when the conflict gets sharper. So no bad guy image there, either.

Along with the promised press freedom for reporters at the Olympic Games in Beijing next year, China finally sees the light of freedom. Or does it? Doubtfulness prevails all over the world, as China’s efforts have stopped short at the point of risking economic damage or allowing too much freedom for their own people, as current campaigns (also concerning the net) and the plans for the Olympics show. Politics may be the attempt to brush up the image for the next Olympics, when the whole world will have a close look at what the country is doing.
But what will happen to the new Chinese image after the Olympics in 2008 is to be seen, or, to stay in the Mao picture: Someone can wipe out his bad breath by using mouthwash. But if you do not brush your teeth at all, carious snags will not be overlooked for too long.

3 Gedanken zu „Short Cuts: Mao’s heirs finally discover that image matters“

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