Yes, I know all about China's great enterprise to win more medals than the United States, how much it has invested in sports such as crew and weightlifting that hardly anyone here does, and its efforts to show the world what a great and responsible power China is becoming. But beneath all this is the fact that of all the countries in the world, it is the United States that China and the Chinese care about most.
Chinese support for America is certainly partly pragmatic; China's athletes are not as strong as the Americans, and in a fair fight, the United States should still win. The subtle reluctance to win may also be related to China's being host of the games; by coming in first, China would look like a showoff. It could also be part of an idea that sport stands for economic and political might, and China knows that it certainly can't challenge American supremacy, at least not yet.
"It's not our moment. It would be too ambitious and too unreal to be the first in the Olympics now," said a friend of mine at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the country's premier think tank. "Many people, even among the leaders, think like this."
But to me, the Chinese attitude speaks of something deeper and also more difficult to put into words. The Chinese really look up to the United States. It's hard for them to admit, proud as they are of their 5,000 years of continuous culture, but they do.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Are the Chinese Pulling for America?
Some are, says Francesco Sisci in Sunday's Washington Post: