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02/01/2006

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Date Posted: 12:30 24/02/2005



The Dragon awakes

But then gets bored and goes back to bed


ONE OF the terrible things about foreign journalism in China is the tendency to revert to statements such as 'the dragon awakes on the long march to democracy though the Great Wall of the Chinese Communist Party as Chairman Mao spins in his grave during the Great Digital Leap Forward and the new Cultural Revolution in sexual attitudes, etc.'

Along with the idea that 'everything changed after 9-11', one of the most pernicious cliches of the modern age is the one involving China's 'inexorable rise', and particularly, the fears that attach themselves to that rise. The cliché is usually accompanied by the idea - not always unspoken - of that old but rejuvenated 'dragon' belching fire on everyone who gets in its way, whether that be Taiwan, Japan, or the United States.

The galumphing Asia Times is particularly
prone to such formulations
, but it habitually affects non-resident foreign hacks, who emerge wide-eyed from China's gleaming airports and begin to reel in bewilderment as all their expectations regarding paddy fields, peasants in pointy hats, and PLA guards with guns on every street corner are systematically undermined by the vigour and verve of modern Chinese capitalism in Shanghai, Beijing or Shenzhen. 'China has MacDonalds shock!' 'Chinese people make money shock!'

One example is the press corps that found itself attached to the Crazy World of Gordon Brown, which descended upon Beijing and Shanghai this week. Rumours continue to surface that a few local Chinese people did actually manage to pierce the hermetically-sealed bubble that surrounded Brown, his staff, and the embedded hacks, most of whom tended to keep mainly to themselves before dutifully recording Brown's various utterings about the UK.


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