Hard News by Russell Brown


Beijing: Ignoring it is not an option

It's the 2011 Rugby World Cup: our nation's turn in the spotlight. And the week of the opening begins with two separatists murdering 16 cops with homemade grenades and a bus. Do you think things might be a little bit tense in Aotearoa?

Consider, then, the churning, complex zeitgeist of China (is there a more culturally appropriate word than "zeitgeist"?) in a year literally shaken by a catalclysmic earthquake; and when blood was shed by a Tibetan uprising, and more blood by the forces that put it down. That response drew protests that wrecked the would-be glory of the Olympic torch relay, and the domestic counter-protests draw by, as Yiyi Lu notes in The Guardian, a sense of grievance about the Western press that isn't well acknowledged:

In a way, the west has been the victim of its own success. It has created high expectations about its behaviour, values and purposes. These protests result partly from a sense of disillusion among the Chinese youth. It is a backlash against the idea of a politically and morally superior west. The angry youths who protested against the west's biased coverage of Tibet and the Olympic torch relay had had their idealised views crushed. Their understanding of "balanced" reporting includes the highly unrealistic expectation that equal coverage would be given to every single perspective on every issue.

In these circumstances, you can understand -- if not excuse -- the sentiment that leads to the official new agencies acting like the terrorist attack in Xinjiang being ordered to behave as if nothing happened; and which leads officials who have spent 18 months training to help the Western media to still deploy " the hand in front of the camera, figuratively and literally."

There's the real and clamouring sense of arrival of ordinary Chinese people and the ambition and creative energy of those remarkable buildings set against forced clearances and the dull authoritarianism that keeps a blacklisted author and his young family locked up in their home for the duration of the games. The fact that this virtual house arrest takes place in a middle-class gated community is a clash of spheres all on its own.

Newsweek notes the dark humour of Beijing's bloggers ("mostly thirty or forty-something and male") as they do their daily dance with officialdom.

Looming over it all is the sheer commercial scale of these games, where the 12 global sponsors will spend $6 billion in advertising targeted at the Chinese market alone. A good deal of that budget will be delivered via social media.

YouTube will carry official coverage in the 77 countries (including the likes of India and South Korea) that do not have Olympic media partners. The rest of us will be blocked from seeing that in favour of our own media-partnered broadcasters.

In the US, it's all about the online video. NBC will deliver video "up to" HD quality using Microsoft's Silverlight technology, in a punt that Microsoft hopes might helpis haul in Adobe Flash's dominance of the web. There will be 200 hours live and 3000 on-demand. But -- of, of course -- it'll be tied up with DRM that locks out Mac OS and Linux users.

Not so, happily, with the four online channels that TVNZ is streaming, along with its dedicated Freeview channel. Meanwhile, Keith Quinn is blogging. Could it get any wilder than that?

And that's without even getting to the sport. Everyone will have their own views about the games and the merit of China hosting them. But simply ignoring Beijing doesn't seem like an option. There is simply too much there; including the potential that something may go terribly wrong. I don't know about you, but I don't think I'm going to be able to take my eyes off Beijing this month.


The episode of Media7 that screened last night concerned Sensing Murder. It was a riot.

The ondemand version is here. The other versions of the video are at our microsite, and on our YouTube channel, both of which should be populated by late morning. There are also some Sensing Murder links in the Media7 blog.

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