The glory, honor, and (dark side) of China

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By The Staff

Regardless of which country walks away from Beijing with the most medals, China will likely be the real winner of this year's Olympic Games: that is, if it can avoid getting a black eye in the media.

The fact that the games are being held in China is truly quite amazing.

Just 40 years ago, the thought of China hosting such an event would have been absolutely absurd. At that time, China was a backward, volatile, third world country dealing with starvation and under the reign of a madman named Mao Ze Dong who caused the death of millions of his own countrymen.

Thankfully, much has changed since then.

During these next few weeks, the China that will be seen on TV and in person by millions of international visitors will be so well nipped, tucked and polished that most of the country's lingering problems will be lost in the glory of the games.

For China, hosting the Olympics is sort of like a coming out party where she gets to flaunt all of her beauty and splendor in front of her gawking guests.

And let's face it; despite numerous human rights violations and environmental abuses, China's got a lot to show off.

Boasting the fastest growing economy in human history, China is expected to overtake the U.S. as the largest economy in the world in the next 10 years.

Not bad for a country that used to be synonymous with starving children.

Since World War II, China has fought back from the verge of destruction. And now it are one of the mightiest countries in the world with the world's largest army.

Numerous countries in South America, Africa, and the Middle East are already going to China for aid - before they come to the U.S.

These and other factors have led many economists and analysts to consider China the next world superpower.

Along with its economic exploits, China has also poured billions of dollars into its public works projects and infrastructure in order to give the country long-term stability.

When China was named as the site of the 2008 summer Olympics, the country's efforts toward modernization were redoubled. In the past five years, China has been preparing to put on a massive parade for the world. And it promises to be quite a show.

I was in Beijing two summers ago and got to witness the numerous billion dollar projects that were being constructed for the games.

Steel structures were going up everywhere. And the entire country seemed to be working together towards a unified vision and goal.

It was truly amazing.

As a Chinese friend of mine put it, "This is our chance to show the world how great we are."

While China has all of its unsightly problems neatly tucked away, there is one thing that could put a damper on China's party: the media.

With hundreds of foreign journalist coming to China, with their cameras and laptops in tow, there is a chance that some of China's less attractive sides could get some international attention and show that all is not well in Neverland.

Beneath the glossy finish, problems remain. And there are numerous groups within China who would like to help bring those problems to light.

While China will likely do all that it can to repress and stop human rights groups from protesting at the games, it is likely that protests will take place to demonstrate against China's record.

Here are just a few groups that you may hear about protesting: farmers and countryside folks who have been forgotten in the country's economic boom, oppressed Muslim people groups of the western part of the country, evangelical Christians and members of the Falungong meditation group who have been imprisoned and killed for their faith, and numerous groups that oppose China's support of the Sudan government, which has been charged with state sponsored genocide.

While these issues need to be addressed and China should work to right there many wrongs, our criticism of China's social and environmental abuses should be contoured in light of our own countries less than stellar past history on human and environmental rights issues.

While the government has numerous noted injustices, I feel that we here in American could learn a great deal from the Chinese people. From spending two years there among them, I gained a great deal of respect for them.

I have never seen a people who work as hard or who are as committed as the Chinese.

To a large degree, those are things we have lost here in America.

Perhaps that is why our country is continuing to slump the way that it is.

Hopefully, the competition that we will see this summer in Beijing will make us aware that America is not the only show in town. And if we want to remain the best country in the world, we will work together to stay there.