I wrote a column a ways back about the "real China" and how the world would get a glimpse of it this summer during the Olympics. We laowai are already getting a taste.
Visas are a constant source of anxiety. Not nearly as bad as it is in the US for my homies from India (what up Q!) but nevertheless a reminder of the lack of control one has over his/her own life in a foreign country when it comes down to it.
Years ago, one could enter virtually any Public Security Bureau and with enough cajoling and a little cash, the job got done and a laowai could stay for 3-6 more months. In the drive to modernize, China has changed the regulations dozens of times in the past 5 years.
With the Olympics on the way, China is tightening controls, making it difficult for people to stay and for people to come. They want only official delegations, if possible. Tourists and journalists will find it hard to make it in and random vagabonds rolling in from Thailand, Pakistan or Mongolia will find it nigh impossible.
Now on the one hand, there is no reason a country on the road to modernization should have a lax and corrupt visa system. It should be tight. People should follow the rules. It is proper and justifiable to police one's borders and keep riffraff and troublemakers at arms length. China's Great Wall ... America's Barbed-Wire Fence ... its a part of being a nation. Sad but true for the nomads of the world.
On the other hand, you would think with the Olympics coming that China would be welcoming and open to the world and confident in displaying itself, old, young, pretty ugly to curious foreigners.
But that is not the case. In my column back then, I wrote that China is still insecure and scared of international scrutiny and will do its best to put on a grand show for all visitors during the Olympics. They must think all foreigners are fools, easily duped by fireworks and banquets, cash and glitzy buildings.
But we aint that dumb. Cash and buildings are not new and not impressive anymore. The foreign media is licking its chops.
Its a fine line between security and hospitality that China is walking. They are leaning towards security. Can you blame them, given recent events? The shitstorm has just started ... the vultures circle ... The Germans have already said they will not attend the Opening Ceremonies. France may be next. The end result can only be tatters.
Since 2000 the West has been waiting for their chance to strike back at this Arrogant New Power, Rising out of the Ashes, Bucking the System, Full of Pride and Manifest Destiny, Creator of Trade Deficits the World Over, Founder of Chinatowns full of Fake Goods ... IPR Jacker supreme ...
don't be surprised if the Olympics, instead of being China's coming out party, becomes a PR disaster like Tiananmen ...