Fakes offend Chinese as much as anyone

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 22 August, 2008, 12:00am

There have been so many fakes in recent Chinese history that many outsiders have developed a stereotype about the country. For Chinese themselves, who suffer because of these mischievous deeds, there is a general detestation of anything fake.

After the grand opening of the Beijing Olympics, some aspects of the show were later pounced on by the media. For one, some of the 'live' fireworks seen marching through the city towards the 'Bird Nest' stadium were computer generated. Then, the nine-year-old girl with the seemingly perfect combination of an angelic face and voice actually lip-synched her routine because the real singer was not pretty enough.

For film director Zhang Yimou, who created and directed the show, there was nothing wrong with this; he does it all the time while making movies. A show has to be perfect and, as such, there are many elements of make-believe. But, in the movies, at the end there is invariably a long list of who-did-what. In the same vein for the Olympics, he should have acknowledged certain things in the subsequent press conference. Even the people who released the information to the public saw nothing really wrong with the tricks; they just wanted to tell people what had actually happened and properly acknowledge the girl with the wonderful voice. They had nothing to hide, and there was no finger pointing.

The ensuing heated debate on the internet is also very healthy. Some abhor anything even bordering on fake in the Olympics, and they want a show that is perfect, in the sense that it is genuine in every respect. Others just enjoy a spectacular show, knowing that it is just a show. This illustrates the high expectations of the Chinese public about the opening ceremony and the Games as a whole. Certainly, Chinese people do not condone faking.

But this was like finding treasure for some China-bashers in the western media, and they made a big fuss about it. Let me tell you something: if the Chinese authorities had really wanted to fake things, like any other government, they would have made it a state secret, and nobody would have been allowed to even talk about it.

The real fuss, it turns out, is not about the show. Critics just used these facts to insinuate that China is faking it and cheating in the competitions. A case in point are the female gymnasts. Unlike their American counterparts, the Chinese girls are so tiny that westerners suspect they must be underage. An American reporter pointedly asked one of the athletes whether she was, in fact, 16. Many western media reports dwelled on this point, citing incidents in the opening ceremony as substantiation of their claims.

It all boils down to one thing: some people are bad losers. If indeed they have so-called 'evidence', as they claim, I suggest they file a formal complaint with the International Olympics Committee, which is obligated to do something. Defamation will not help anybody get a gold medal.

Watching the Chinese athletes grabbing one gold after another, I fully understand the feelings of some westerners. Many find it difficult to accept that the Chinese are coming up so fast. It will take time for them to adjust their superiority complex and acknowledge Chinese as equals. It is a western problem, not a Chinese one. The Chinese are basking in the glory and pride; they do not care what these people think.

Talking of faking it, what about the case of NBC changing the order in which the athletes were shown marching in, presumably to keep viewers' eyes glued to the screen until the Americans arrived? This trickery was not voluntarily divulged, as was the case in China - it was exposed by flaws in the cutting. This is what I call faking it, and it was a badly executed example, for that matter.

But I don't really care; it is, after all, harmless.

Lau Nai-keung is a member of the Basic Law Committee of the NPC Standing Committee, and also a member of the Commission on Strategic Development