The People’s Republic of Conformity

The first thing to annoy me about the Beijing Olympics is China’s evident cheating in girls’ gymnasitcs, where they’ve flouted the minimum age standard by making false passports for a couple of children. If Chinese gymnasts He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan are 15 1/2 years old, I’ll buy them each a Cadillac. Seeing them in … Continue reading “The People’s Republic of Conformity”

The first thing to annoy me about the Beijing Olympics is China’s evident cheating in girls’ gymnasitcs, where they’ve flouted the minimum age standard by making false passports for a couple of children. If Chinese gymnasts He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan are 15 1/2 years old, I’ll buy them each a Cadillac. Seeing them in Hi-Def makes me doubt these little tykes are a day over 14, actually. But nobody can make any sort of official protest until the games are over and they’re safely out of the country, for fear of judging reprisals or worse.

One thing that’s not in doubt is China’s history of cheating by lying about the ages of their female gymnasts:

Yang Yun of China won individual and team bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and later said in an interview on state-run television that she had been 14 at the time of those Games. A Hunan Province sports administration report also said later that she had been 14 when she competed in Sydney.

Bela Karolyi, who coached Retton of the United States and Nadia Comaneci of Romania to their Olympic gold-medal triumphs, said the problem of under-age gymnasts had been around for years. Age is an easy thing to alter in an authoritarian country, he said, because the government has such strict control of official paperwork.

It’s sad that the government of China abuses these poor children. And desperate, because they’re not fooling anybody.

These Olympics were supposed to be China’s bid to show itself to the world in a favorable light, but so far we have an all-robot opening ceremony, a murdered tourist, a bizarre recruitment program that pumps professional athletes into junk sports like air rifle, girls’ weight-lifting and synchronized diving, and blatant cheating in the marquee events. China comes of as a deranged lunatic, obsessed with winning and lacking in both grace and the capacity for self-analysis; a Bridezilla.

In short, China is looking at a public relations nightmare. But that might be good in the long run, if it prompts some serious self-analysis.

16 thoughts on “The People’s Republic of Conformity”


    If that female in the opening is a robot, then I’m sure my wife won’t get jealous if I had some fun with her. Somehow I doubt that I’d get out unscathed.

    Now on a more serious front, it’s very unfortunate the tourist got murdered and we all grieve on the family. We can certainly criticize the Chinese government for a lot of things but that murder is not one of them. Generally, the crime on tourists is low because the punishment is far more severe because it’s bad for the tourism business. Had that murderer not committed suicide, he probably would have been shot but not before his organs were sold.

    Yes the opening ceremony was micromanaged, but I think most people would agree that it was a spectacular opening.

    As for the gymnastics age thing, I think it probably is a case of faking an age but this isn’t as blatant as the North Korean case where the girl didn’t even have her second set of teeth yet.

  2. C’mon Richard, what is a “junk sport”? Weight Lifting and Diving is a junk sport? How’s it any less legitimate or athletic than swimming.

    We can’t all dunk a basket ball and not everyone can afford to ride horses Richard. There are things to criticize China for but I think you’re going way over the top in your criticisms.

  3. I think you’re missing my point, George. China wanted to host the Olympics because they believed they could score a public relations coup by portraying itself as a modern, progressive nation rather than the authoritarian state that murdered millions in the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tienanmen Square Massacre. The interesting question for me, then, is whether it actually turns out that way.

    So far, I don’t see China winning the gold medal in public relations. The opening ceremony was over-produced, and the parts where they had 2008 people all doing the same motions in synchro was downright freaky, reinforcing the idea that China kills individuality. They haven’t handled the visa situation at all well, banning people who want to do the political protesting that’s a part of every Olympics.

    And the more we learn about their sports program, where they start training gymnasts at 3 and compete them when they’re 12 or 13, the crazier it looks.

    If you’re going to invite a TV crew into your home, you better not abuse your children while the cameras are on. The Chinese government doesn’t seem to realize that.

    (And I said “synchronized diving”, George.)

  4. Richard,

    I don’t disagree with some of your specific criticisms but I think you’re going overboard and your post sounds almost hateful. China is acting no differently than a bride that is trying their best to have that “perfect wedding” and there’s nothing deranged about it. You’re missing the whole point of the Olympics and we’re supposed to be enjoying them and setting our differences aside.

    The Gymnast’s age scandal may be an issue and if it’s proven to be the case, those gold metals need to be stripped because that was the rules that the international community agreed upon. However, I doubt it’s that much of an advantage to have 14-year old girls competing since they obviously have less experience than the 16 year olds. 16 is just some arbitrary number that was set and it may not be the right number.

    You also said “weight lifting” Richard. Also, what’s not graceful/skillful/athlete about Synchronized Diving? It’s an absolutely beautiful thing to watch just like Synchronized Swimming, Figure Skating, Ice Dancing, Ballet or Rhythmic Gymnastics. Not everything needs to be packets and datagrams to be interesting and we can step away from the computer and appreciate some different art forms.

  5. I think there is something deranged about brides who want the perfect wedding and go overboard to get it. Check out the TV show “Bridezilla” sometime if you doubt me; it’s one Bravo or some other minor cable channel.

    The younger children can do tricks that the older children can’t do, which is why they’re banned from the sport until they’re 16. And don’t talk to me about “experience;” China starts training them at age 3. That’s insane.

    And you don’t need to lecture me about the beauty of sports, George, I’m a baseball season ticket holder and generally quite sports-obsessed. But I see where we differ on junk sports vs. real sports: synchronized swimming is the essence of junk sports. If that’s your cup of tea, we’re clearly not going to agree on much.

  6. Richard,

    I’m not a big baseball fan (I liked playing it more than watching it), but I respect it as a sport of great skill and I’m not going to call it “junk”. There’s lots of sports I’m not a fan of but I don’t call them junk either. Baseball leans more towards a skill sport and less towards athleticism which is why you see smaller less athletic guys in it but that’s all part of its appeal and there’s nothing wrong with that. All those horse racing events are skill based and so are the archery and shooting events. Diving and skating takes great skill and athleticism and while it isn’t baseball nor is it meant to be, it’s certainly not “junk”.

    Some of the choreographed reaction is necessitated by culture. Take a Japanese audience for example where they’ve been taught all their life not to “interrupt” a performance with noises and it is torturous for stand-up comedians. China’s Olympic event isn’t perfect but they’re trying to treat athletes from other nations with dignity. It could certainly use a lot of refinement but we ought not be a bunch of snobs and laugh at them as a bunch of pathetic deranged robots.

    I have great respect for you as an intellectual but there are times that you go over the top like your generalizations of China and certain sports. No matter what your cup of tea is, nothing warrants calling a nation or its performers “robots” or calling a broad range of events “junk”. You don’t have to agree with that but it’s just my opinion.

  7. The inclusion of “junk sports” in the Olympics is a discussion that’s been going on for an awfully long time, and it comes down to this: just because something is pretty to watch doesn’t make it a sport. Ballet, for example, is pretty, but it’s not a sport.

    China has made a concerted effort to bag as many medals as possible by developing athletes for the events where multiple medals are awarded. There’s nothing wrong with doing this, and they should not be disallowed from adopting this strategy. But it’s not necessarily consistent with the Olympic Spirit and all that malarkey.

    I’m surprised by your defense of the government of China, George. Surely you realize that they’re prone to excess.

  8. Richard, the point is that we all don’t have the same tastes in sports or arts but we need not be disrespectful. Calling weight lifting, synchronized swimming and diving “junk sports” is just bad form plain and simple and it’s also very ignorant. It would be just as silly and disrespectful to call baseball a “junk sport”.

    China, like ALL other nations, will play to its strengths. The USA is a powerhouse in swimming and gymnastics and basketball, the Chinese is a powerhouse is a powerhouse in diving and gymnastics and I see no fault in that. China is a poor nation that’s struggling to have the same things you and I have. Families send their children to train for a better life than what they have at home. We in America have the luxury to allow the system to bloom more organically.

    I’m not defending the Chinese government Richard and I’ve spent plenty of time criticizing them in the past. The issue here is that your post appears to be overly hostile to a general class of sports and to an entire nation. Maybe that’s not what you intended but to me (and I suspect a lot of other people) it comes off that way.

  9. I am in fact disdainful of “junk sports” and national programs that maximize medal counts by concentrating on them, that’s a fact, I don’t back away from it and I don’t feel bashful about expressing it.

    All sports are not equal, all governments are not equal, and all forms of national pride are not equal.

  10. Sigh.

    Ok Richard, you get to be Tsar for a day.

    You educate me what events ought to be eliminated. Is it weight lifting in general or just women’s weight lifting? What else needs to go other than Baseball? Better yet, what event do you not loathe?

    Then educate me what form of national pride other than American pride is ok.

    I think this is the kind of attitude that garners us a lot of resentment globally. Personally I have just as much distain for bigotry towards Americans as I do from Americans.

  11. I’m not much of a sports fan, but … “anything where steroids don’t improve performance is a junk sport”?? Thus only those sports that depend on brute strength are non-junk?

    My dictionary defines a sport as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.” I seriously doubt one’s fishing ability is improved by steroids. I suppose my own favorite sport, target shooting, is also “junk” by your definition. Heck, I know plenty of people who believe ALL sports are junk and undeserving of being on TV or having so much attention and money spent on them.

    I’m not going to get into defending China. They have some serious flaws in their governmental and political philosophies. And I love the U.S. But I’m not sure we can really claim anymore that we “know how to let kids be kids.” Take a look at any upscale community where parents are pressuring their children at the PRE-SCHOOL level to excel on tests so they can get into the “right” college someday. Or spend some time on the child beauty pageant circuit – now THERE’S something scary.

  12. “Heck, I know plenty of people who believe ALL sports are junk and undeserving of being on TV or having so much attention and money spent on them.”

    That’s the key point. Most people aren’t a fan of most sports but they’re not calling for a ban on TV or in the Olympics. If a particular event is not their cup of tea, they don’t have to watch it. That’s why we have so many channels on TV so that there’s something for everyone. Of course, one could always choose not to watch TV at all. One can always not watch a particular event in the Olympics.

  13. An on a more relevant note, I would observe that there are many governments to choose from, some oppressive and others not, and we express our preferences by where we choose to live.

    And in other news, we now know that the young girl who appeared to sing a patriotic song in the Opening Ceremony was actually lip-syncing, and that the TV images fed to the rest of the world were CGI-enhanced. This is unreal, literally.

  14. Richard,

    I can assure you that I am more aware communism oppression than you can ever imagine. I’ve suffered plenty because of them and my father was nearly beaten to death by them. My father’s teachers were tied up and tossed in to the river to drown. You don’t need to lecture me about the evils of communism.

    The problem is that you needlessly go overboard by putting people down that have nothing to do with the communist regime and nothing to do with the current fiascos. Your criticisms of the lip-syncing are 100% dead on but I don’t understand why you need to put down the drummers or anyone who might not subscribe to your particular sport.

  15. You don’t understand what I’ve been saying, George, and you’re arguing with a strawman.

    I criticized China for their bungled attempt to use the Olympics for public relations purposes. I think it’s failing because the values expressed in the opening ceremony and in the country’s approach to the medals are not agreeable to free people. They’re trying to manipulate public opinion, which is understandable, but they’re failing because they have no finesse. And why should they? Authoritarian governments don’t need finesse, they simply need state power.

    Instead of dealing with what I’ve said, you’re off in some dark alley arguing with yourself about sports equality and mobs acting in unison.

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