Mud Buns

The Chinese government have shown themselves to be bunch of peasants with dung on their boots when it comes to international propaganda. The term in Chinese is “tu bao tz” (土包子) – pork buns (bao tz) made out of dirt.

Forget Yang Pei Yi (楊沛宜) and Lin Miao Ke (林妙可) – well, mostly. Forget the CGI fireworks. Forget that the enormous number of people used in the opening ceremony were from PLA song and dance troupes.

The big scandal of this Olympics isn’t even that that China promised to clean up its act (and its air) when the games were awarded, and this is exactly not what we are getting.

The big scandal is that China is showing us just exactly why investment there is still risky; why the “golden opportunity” everyone seems to be thinking lurks in China’s market is as frail as a butterfly. The Chinese government still has its fingers in every aspect of society, and that makes the shift from stable to unstable business environment just a power struggle away.

The CCP wanted these games to showcase the “new” China. Instead, they’ve provided two wonderful examples of why the new China is the old China painted up like a Shanghai warlord’s aging mistress.

Take, for example, the fact that the decision maker for the Lin Miao Ke switcheroo was a member of the Politburo:

“The national interest requires that the girl should have good looks and a good grasp of the song and look good on screen,” Chen said. “Lin Miaoke was the best in this. And Yang Peiyi’s voice was the most outstanding.”

During a live rehearsal soon before the ceremony, the Politburo member said Miaoke’s voice “must change,” Chen said in the radio interview. He didn’t name the official.

Yah, I’ll bet he declined to name names. But Mr. Chen also let it be known that the decision was not his, keeping an eye on future political developments in case these Olympics are judged to be politically ineffective in a post-hoc analysis. That way of thinking is very, very Communist. I don’t see much evidence of a new China there, do you?

Imagine the press reaction if a government official had issued such an order in the West. Not to mention that the National OC would have told him to kiss off. Even in the more authoritarian democracies such as Japan or Korea, that kind of political meddling would not have flown. That is not to say that some art director would not have made the switch long before it came to rehearsal, it’s that the decision would not have been political. And sponsors in the West would have been keenly sensitive to criticism if a contest winner had been substituted at the last minute for a “cuter” version.

The other big scandal is that the Chinese gymnastics team likely has underage athletes. And the best proof that they can come up with that the girls are not underage is this:

However, for true backwards thinking, consider this statement by an unnamed Chinese official, according to Reuters: “(Yang’s age) is not an issue at all since the gymnastics team is already staying in the Olympic Village. That indicates all our gymnasts are eligible.” That is like saying because you’re sitting in a car, you have a drivers’ license.

That kind of silly “logic” is uncomfortably familiar to me. When I lived in the USSR, Russian textbooks were littered phrases such as “как известно” – as is (well) known. Phrases like that shut off debate. They squash questions such as “who knows, and how do they know it?”. Over 20 years of schooling in that atmosphere, the fuzzy logic, the avoidance of true questioning, the acceptance of blatant untruths results in bureaucrats who act as if they are brain dead, and treat their constituents as if they have the same disease. Underneath, the CCP is no different from the CPSU I dealt with in 1989 (I was employed by Komsomol for a brief period in the summers of 1989 and 1990).

So, now that the world press is digging, we begin to see some evidence that the athletes are underage. Sites such as Digg are full of indignant Chinese speakers surfing the web for evidence. The Chinese government is pulling the offending pages as fast as they find them, but the evidence is catching up with them. Unless there is another gymnast named He Ke Xin (何可欣) on the Chinese team, and this is extremely unlikely*, her birth year is truly 1994.

However, and this is the one bit of silver lining in the whole mess, the Chinese government is pretty backwards, and about as web-savvy as the idiots who click on spam hoping for free Viagra. Do you think someone ought to let Beijing know that there is such a thing as website caching?


Long live the Revolution. Spit.

*Unlikely because while Chinese has certain characters that are often used in names, the list of possible characters is much wider than the standard set of English names, and in two character names the parents can mix and match – they don’t pick names that other people have had in the family, they pick names with special meaning to them because of the time of birth, their hopes for the kid, etc. For example the “Ke” character (可 : approve; can; may; need (doing); be worth (doing); fit; suit ) is part of the names of both Lin Miao Ke and He Ke Xin in different contexts. That is why, if you know Chinese people, you know very few of them with the same first name, if any.

5 thoughts on “Mud Buns”

  1. The real test of Chinese change will come when times get hard again. China’s current level of “reform” has prospered under an unprecedented two decade long growth spurt in the entire global economy. Its been 25 years since the US saw a serious recession or major inflation.

    Its easy to look competent when economic mana falls from the skies. If the world slides into a recession then there is a real risk that the Chinese house of cards will come tumbling down.

    (Hmmmm, I wonder if I could have crammed another metaphor into that last paragraph?)

  2. Open institutions which generate friction, criticism and transparency are not luxuries to be foregone until some vague someday when the wise Party has guided the country to economic success — defined in terms of cooked books and externalities imposed on people with no say in the matter. They are necessities to prevent individual, institional and nationwide brain-death of the type you describe. Without the feedback mechanisms of a free society, the whole purported Chinese miracle is a brittle construct which, as Shannon points out, could crumple at the first hard blow, or as John points out, could be subsumed in some new less benign-seeming authoritarianism with little or no notice.

    The Olympic coming-out-party has, indeed, backfired, in ways the
    Chinese leadership probably cannot even comprehend.

  3. Jay Mariotti in the Sun Times

    So, to review, the Chinese government has: (1) faked a song; (2) faked the fireworks; (3) faked the idea that the Games are sold out; (4) faked the ages of female gymnasts; and (5) faked the idea that Beijing is safe, in that the father-in-law of the U.S. men’s volleyball coach was stabbed to death at a tourist attraction on the second day.

    How do I translate “hocus pocus” in Mandarin?

    A scam is a scam in any language.

  4. Is that buns as in a bakery? or is the more colloquial sense of human gluteus maximus intended?

  5. Buns as in Bao Tz. They are a dense “bread” that is cooked by steaming. Bao Tz have a ground pork filling, Man To are just the bread, sometimes with scallions imbeded in the dough.

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