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Bringing out the best in us

Our Olympics showed the world a dynamic, diverse China: the result of 30 years of reform

  • The Guardian, Thursday September 4 2008
  • A question often raised after the Beijing Olympics is this: in what way has it changed China - and where is the country heading now? One of the most important effects has been on the world's perception of China, and vice versa. The Olympics brought the international community into China and made the Chinese people feel closer to it. They understand better the diversity of the world, and are more relaxed about different opinions about their homeland. They are more confident in expressing their feelings and thoughts to the world.

    The Olympics also opened up China more directly to the world, thanks to the presence of 30,000 international journalists. Much of their reporting helped to unroll a panoramic view of the dynamic, diverse, modern China, which is not free of challenges. After this encounter, hopefully, there will be fewer cases of using old footage, photos or stereotypes to present today's stories.

    For the Chinese people, hosting the Olympics is a century-old dream come true. For 16 days the whole country was immersed in excitement brought by the magic of sport as well as the close encounter with the world. About half a million people watched the games in Beijing and other cities every day, in addition to the hundreds of millions of television viewers.

    The Olympics brought out the best in the Chinese people. They cheered enthusiastically for athletes, both Chinese and international, and for all endeavours, successful or otherwise. Most noticeable of all were the smiling volunteers who appeared everywhere, eager to help. The Paralympics will be another opportunity to celebrate our common humanity.

    The success of the Olympics was not an overnight effort. Only we in China know how hard the journey has been. It was the culmination of seven years of painstaking preparations and 30 years of persistent reform, during which a planned economy was incrementally replaced by a market economy, semi-seclusion gave way to growing openness, and human rights gradually improved. The success of the Olympics has strengthened our commitment to continue these reforms.

    Of course, the games have not altered the underlying realities. China remains a developing country with a per capita GDP that is one twentieth of Britain's. It still has a long way to go in meeting the challenges of development and building a harmonious society for all its people.

    Over the past three decades we have been through a vast amount of change, more than many countries. We have learned a lot from the west. As ambassador, I receive a continuous flow of delegations from China to study Britain's governmental and social management, legal structure and technologies. But China should not be expected to become a carbon copy of a western society. It will develop democracy and prosperity in line with its own culture and social conditions.

    Our continued growth will be achieved only through closer integration and cooperation with the rest of world. A relationship between China and the west based on mutual understanding, respect and cooperation is what we desire.

    Britain certainly made its name at our games, not only thanks to the thrilling performance of its athletes, but also with the dazzling eight-minute show that followed the flag handover. People have already started to compare Beijing with London, but I believe that each Olympics, while building on previous efforts is unique. I am sure that London will do well in 2012.

    Fu Ying is the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom

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