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Confucius lost in the fireworks

By K.C. Boey - posted Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Three weeks after, all soporific after effects of Beijing 2008 would have been worked out of the system.

The occasions when writer John Harms is able to steal away, having done his share of the domestics minding ankle-biter Theo, he’s still a mate at the neighbourhood local in working man’s Fitzroy in inner suburban Melbourne.

Which is eloquent commentary of the diversity of people - and their world-view - be it Melbourne or Kuala Lumpur, or the world over.


Watching the official Olympics telecaster in Australia, listening to the official radio broadcaster and other “shock jocks” on radio, and reading the “mainstream” newspapers, you would have gone away with a dreary view of Beijing’s Olympic performance.

Sure, Beijing put on a fireworks of a display. In less than a decade, China has powered its way from being an also-ran to being the most powerful sporting nation.

No visitor came away feeling ill-served. Beijing was super-efficient; clinical. But where was the humour?

Then there were all those broken promises. All those pledges of unfettered access to the Internet, freedom of speech, concessions to human rights that came to nought.

“Beijing’s triumph fails to transform a conflicted nation,” The Age in Melbourne concludes.

“There is little hope for lasting political change,” The Australian concurs.


“We hope (China’s) global exposure ... might help to reverse (its oppressive) situation,” Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid Herald Sun adds.

You’d think Harms would slink away from the pub, his voice in the wilderness. “Australians have a limited knowledge of China,” Harms had written in an article of his impression of the opening ceremony, commissioned by The Sunday Age .

“Our understandings have tended to be simplistic, based on deep-seated notions of Western superiority,” the independent freelance writer went on.

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First published in The New Straits Times on September 7, 2008.

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About the Author

K.C. Boey is a former editor of Malaysian Business and The Malay Mail. He now writes for The Malaysian Insider out of Melbourne.

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