Why we want the Olympics to succeed

After the jump, a message from a reader who makes very vividly a point that I've been trying to convey for quite a while. Namely, that it is in no one's interest for the Beijing Olympics to be jinxed, troubled, or in any other way "unsuccessful."

I know that some people outside China have a kind of schadenfreude wish that the pollution, or the mishandling of protests, or the logistics, or something else will backfire on the organizers of the Olympics and stand as a protest for whatever is objectionable in government policy. This is related to the previous idea that it would make sense to boycott the opening ceremonies or the Games themselves.

Unt-uh. As my correspondent points out, the only thing that will happen if these Olympics somehow go bad is a concerted focusing of blame, inside China, on the foreigners who want to "hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" and hold China down.  Outsiders who think that a pollution emergency or a spiraling protest would focus domestic blame on the Chinese government are dreaming. No kidding, everyone should want these games to work well, including with the air.

Letter is in response to this post, and comes after the jump.

Indeed, many of us expat types have long predicted this [polluted air not improving in time].  Inner Mongolia is stinking with coal-fired plants -- everywhere.  Take a train through there -- a toxic wasteland. ... Non-filtered emission blow in, bucket here in the Beijing basin.  They shut those down, they shut down Northern China.

So, they are betting on a wish.

As to the PSB [Public Security Bureau] checks -- An American associate ... has been been enjoying continuous visits, more than five after 9:00 pm.  And last week met an EU native, been here for nine years, about age 60, obviously harmless -- four visits in recent weeks to "check papers."

I'm guessing this will go bad.  Too many variables, not the least of which presented are the athletes -- cocky, feeling they have been screwed by bad air -- who have no need to be *diplomatic,* like during a live worldwide feed.

And, I'm sure you know, for all that goes wrong -- big and small -- the foreigners will be blamed.  They'll fire up the nationalistic torch, get 'em on the "Hurting the feelings of the Chinese People" collective rickshaw....

The sky looks pretty bad this morning, with eleven more days to go until the games begin .It really will be best all around if it improves fast..

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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