A 'Civilized' Beijing
On practically every street corner of China's capital, colorful splashes of banners and flyers urge local residents to do his or her part to ensure a 文明 Beijing for the Olympics. Literally meaning civilized, the word--spelled wenming in Roman letters and pronounced WHEN-ming--has a much deeper meaning in the Chinese psyche. It also means polite, sophisticated, modern and cultured. Calling a neighborhood or a fellow citizen wenming is a great compliment.
In the eyes of the Chinese government, the Beijing that is being unveiled for the Olympics represents the pinnacle of a wenming society.
To that end, China has poured $43 billion into elaborate preparations over the past seven years, making it likely to set the record for the most expensive games ever. The Beijing skyline is graced with marvels of engineering created by the top architects in the world. Millions of elegant poplar trees and flowers have been planted; rockets have been shot into the air in an attempt to clear away the smog. Stores stocked with pirated DVDs have been shuttered. Restaurants have been inspected for safety and environmentally controversial dishes like shark fin soup have been erased from menus.
There's even a suggested dress code in Beijing: older women shouldn't wear mini-skirts and men should avoid matching white socks with black shoes.
To critics, however, the image of Beijing that will be beamed to homes around the world is a Potemkin village, a façade to fool foreign visitors. Whether the games should be judged a success, they say, depends more on things like China's efforts to control pollution, the way that it deploys security measures without crossing the line in to paranoia, and how it deals with the media glare and dissent.
In the coming days, the Post's Beijing Bureau will bring you breaking news and analysis on this blog about the challenges China faces during the Olympics. We'll bring you video conversations with some of China's business and cultural leaders, and up-to-the-minute images and sound from Beijing "hot spots" like Tiananmen Square, the public parks designated as protest zones, and, of course, the Olympic-themed parties. Also, for the first time, we'll feature special content in Mandarin Chinese.
--Ariana Eunjung Cha
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