As the People's Republic of China swings into final countdown mode of a serious shape-up campaign a few weeks before the Summer Olympics, Beijing's extreme makeover is intended to present its repressive, corrupt, poison-product-manufacturing Communist state as a fine upstanding member of the world's community of nations. Talk about a major makeover project!
It's like cleaning the house for guests you want to impress—all the tasteless stuff gets shoved into the closet. And China has a lot of cleaning up to do—from jailing potentially noisy dissidents to making the air invisible. Beijing is spending $25 billion to divert scarce water supplies from farming regions to the capital city so the "green" Olympics the PRC advertises doesn't run dry.
A couple months ago, reports popped up that the Beijing arbiters of the new tastefulness were leaning on restaurants to translate their food items in more explanatory fashion for Olympic tourists; menu listings like "virgin chicken" and "steamed crap" needed an editor's fine eye to repair the often hilarious expressions in Chinglish.
Double Cooked Dog
One of the big disappearing acts is the removal of Dog (the dish) from Chinese menus, and it's not so funny. Few Westerners would be amused by China's normal behavior regarding dog eating. It's not so much that Chinese eat dogs and cats—which is bad enough—but the wholly unnecessary level of wanton cruelty is part of the cultural package, such as practiced in Xichang.
China's poor treatment of animals largely mirrors the regime's human rights record. Both are disturbing, to say the least. It's not just that animals bred for millennia to trust humans are killed to eat. It would be understandable if China experienced mass starvations, but increasing wealth has brought obesity, not hunger. And yet the bad old habits of needless brutality remain intact.
Painful slaughter is thought to release adrenalin into the animal's system which results in better tasting meat, many Asian dog eaters believe. So the methods of killing the creatures for eating are mind numbing:
Compare this horror with the work of Prof. Temple Grandin who has worked for decades to make American slaughterhouses more humane.
Salon.com writer Ted Kerosote enjoyed his China ski trip, until his western values confronted Chinese attitudes about the treatment of animals: An Olympic disgrace (March 28, 2008).
"On the day before we departed, at lunch, our translator stood and called the mess hall to silence. "To thank our American friends for showing us so much about skiing," he announced, "our chef will prepare a special dish tonight." He nodded to the head coach, who waved his hand toward the door. Two of the Chinese skiers, standing at the ready, opened it with a flourish, and the white-aproned chef stepped inside, holding aloft my friend, the collie, by his tail. He had been gutted from throat to groin. "
And aside from the food issues, what could possibly be the reason to skin animals alive for their fur? How hard would it be to kill them humanely first?
That cute kid's toy made with real fur may well have come from unspeakable cruelty on some Chinese fur factory: Dying for Fur: Recent Investigation Shows Cruelty at Chinese Fur Farms, Humane Society of the United States.
"Imagine buying a child's toy or a piece of furniture, never realizing you are actually buying a product containing fur from a Chinese fur farm—fur that was once a terrified Arctic fox, held in a wire cage, abused, and eventually skinned alive. "
It has been illegal to import dog or cat fur to the United States since 2000, but we know how well that product inspection thing has been going. For huggable plush animals, forego the natural material and choose a teddy bear in glorious pain-free polyester!
Can you imagine a St. Bernard-skin rug as part of your home's decor? A Chinese entrepreneur thought one would be an attractive addition to a bedroom arrangement he advertised in New Zealand, until outraged Kiwis forced him to present dog-free furnishings.
Another item in the Chinese parade of horrors is what passes for zoos, at least the one described by a Daily Mail reporter. Instead of providing educational exhibits of wild creatures in their natural habitats, the Badaltearing Safari Park is more akin to the brutal sport of the Roman Coliseum: Animals torn to pieces by lions in front of baying crowds: the spectator sport China DOESN'T want you to see, By Danny Penman, January 8, 2008.
"A man hoisted up the goat and nonchalantly threw it over a wall into a pit full of hungry lions. The poor goat tried to run for its life, but it didn't stand a chance. The lions quickly surrounded it and started tearing at its flesh.
"Oohs" and "aahs" filled the air as the children watched the goat being ripped limb from limb. Some started to clap silently with a look of wonder in their eyes. "
What a great start for youngsters hoping for a fulfilling career in the People's Liberation Army!
For more dreadful details of third-world brutality to domesticated creatures, see my 2006 article Diversity Is... Cruelty to Animals.
All told, the decision to allow the Olympic Games in China is looking like a bonehead decision from the start. The hopeful spirits at the International Olympic Committee thought that inviting the world over to the PRC for some sports would improve human rights there, but the groups who monitor such things say that the opposite has occurred.
In addition, some untoward incident that would cause a loss of face during China's moment in the sun could make them more belligerent. Many things could go badly wrong, for example because of China's wretched air pollution, which was supposed to be cleaned up but looks iffy at this point.
If there is a human rights protest, concerning Tibet for example, the police reaction could get ugly. A terrorist incident is always a possibility. Reporters fear the kind of press freedom they were promised as part of the original Olympic deal will be as worthless as the other Beijing rubber checks.
Because Chinese officials are realizing they are not ready for prime time, expectations have been downsized. As a New York Sun headline recently observed, "New Goal for China: Uneventful Olympics." The trade-off will be more repression for less chance of disaster, so any enjoyment of athletic achievement will be purely accidental.
The illusion of cheerful sports excellence against a backdrop of the ancient Chinese culture can only happen if the media acquiesce to the gruel fed to it by the PRC government. Many news organizations will be happy with predigested stories of photogenic athletes' struggle to reach victory, but even a few curious reporters could make control-minded police very nervous.
The Summer Olympic Games may show us more about Red China than we want to know. An authoritarian government plus the worst aspects of Chinese culture viewed under even the cursory scrutiny of the whole world is a very unstable situation. Removing dog from the menus is the least of Red China's problems this August, but it is indicative of the bigger picture.
Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. She hopes that skeet-surfing has finally been added to the Olympic events.