Beijing (AsiaNews) - Lin Miaoke, the girl who sang the hymn to the motherland at the opening ceremony for the Beijing Games, only mouthed the words to the song. Chen Qigang, the musical director for the ceremony, says that little Lin's only contribution was her image. The voice was that of another girl, Yang Peiyi, with a more beautiful voice but with imperfect teeth and a less charming face. Chinese blogs are accusing the organizers of the ceremony of preferring image over content, and are asking what could possibly be objectionable about the simple face of a seven-year-old girl, who not only sings but also paints and loves the Beijing opera. Chen Qigang emphasizes that the choice of image over content was made for the sake of "national interests".
Another revelation - confirmed by the Olympic organizing committee - is that the fireworks displays seen on television all over the city were not real, but were generated by computers. The illusion was necessary because on the evening of August 8, the Beijing sky was cloudy and hazy - because of the pollution and heat - and visibility was poor.
In order to avoid embarrassing questions about pollution, in this case as well - again, out of "national interest" - the preference was to deal with image rather than substance.
None of this is surprising. China has used the entire spectacle of the Olympics to promote an image of a modern, open, joyful, clean, young country, possibly in order to attract new investments and tourists, and seeking to dismiss problems and contradictions that nonetheless remain pressing for the population.
Remaining with the opening ceremony, the device of the children drawing the sun (rarely seen in Beijing) or the white clouds (also rare) is at odds with the concrete situation in present-day China. According to a recent survey, more than 90% of Chinese say that the environmental emergency is the most serious problem facing the country, creating a lack of drinking water in cities and in the countryside, and killing at least 400,000 people a year through respiratory problems.
During these days, foreign visitors are being bombarded with television images of a tourist's paradise, in Zhejiang or Sichuan, with peaceful blue lakes, green forests, playful pandas, while the reality is one of industries that are polluting entire earthquake-stricken regions at risk of disease and nuclear contamination.
A similar image-polishing operation is taking place in the area of culture. There is no television broadcast or daily paper without its features on ancient Chinese culture: calligraphy, music, opera, ritual, celebration, tradition . . . But all of this is explained as "things" to be done. Rituals, foods, traditions are presented without any deep exploration of the factors that brought them about. All that is given are "instructions for use" (today we're eating dumplings; today we're eating noodles, today we're eating this vegetable . . .) without ever approaching the reason why: why should these things be done today?
The opening ceremony also glorified the Confucian sages, the writing system, the printing press, the silk road, the architecture of the past, and then launched itself toward the future with the spaceship, the hope for a world of brotherhood, without saying anything about a present that is so painful for hundreds of millions of Chinese.
A glaring omission: the communist party
At the opening ceremony, the entire communist period of ideological purism was set aside: the survey of the great moments in Chinese history went from the costumes and red pillars of the Ming and Qing dynasties to the space exploits of Yang Liwei, the first Chinese astronaut.
All of this is due above all to the fact that the communist party in China is suffering through the most profound ideological crisis since its foundation, undermined as it is by corruption and by departure from its "service to the people". But it is also due to the fact that the most criticized - and perhaps most hated - institution in China is the party itself. The tens of thousands of revolts that take place every year - coming closer and closer to unseating the party, to slashing and burning it to the ground, clashing with the police and army because of the expropriations, deceit, pollution, job losses, injustice - tell just how much the people love their party. In order to "improve the image", the ministry of propaganda, preoccupied by this trend, has said it is ready to pay 5 maos (5 euro cents) to anyone who includes words of praise for the party on his internet blog. At the opening ceremony, because of questions of "image", there was no reference at all to Mao - who promoted the disastrous Leap Forward and the bloody Cultural Revolution - or to Deng, who imposed economic modernization without democracy. This avoids making any effort for the "purification memory": by reviewing history in order to confess one's own mistakes.
No room for man or his freedom
What was lacking from any part of the Olympics ceremonies was man and the people. All of the torchbearers were chosen from among figures from the communist party, from business, from entertainment, and from sports. There was no trace of the millions of migrant workers who for years have been exploited in order to construct the pharaonic Olympic facilities; no trace of any of the people of Beijing forced to endure the problems of the Olympics (traffic, safety, difficulty of movement, surveillance . . .) without enjoying any of the advantages.
The people are told to obey: don't spit on the ground, don't shout in the streets, don't express your opinions . . . They're not asked to be involved. The people of Beijing are suffering and struggling with the Olympics, but they're not participating in them. The proof is the many empty seats in the stadiums: the tickets were given to the sponsors, who didn't even take the trouble to hand them out. The only important thing is the image, that the sponsor's logo appears on television.
Involvement and participation imply an appeal to personal responsibility. But this is what those in power fear most.
But even the results that China would like to see, like cleaning up the environment, are in danger of slipping away without an emphasis on personal responsibility.
After the criticism from the international media on China's censorship of the internet, religious websites still remain blocked, especially those of Catholics and of the Falun Gong. I think that this is because religion is the path to the rediscovery of the individual, which the Chinese regime is seeking to eliminate. What the regime is offering to young people is nothing more than consumerist materialism: things to possess, wealth to hope for, Chinese power to be expanded, and nothing for the soul. And religion is eliminated. When the pope said a few days ago "it is urgent that China open itself to the Gospel", this was not only a call for religious freedom: it is a necessity for China, in order that the responsibility of the individual be exalted, without which no ideal, not even that of a vibrant market, can ever be fully attained.