The Chinese Dream

Ah!–the sinuous path of pragmatism on the way to the “Chinese Dream.” Unique? Oh, no. Actually sounds American. We did, after all, build an interstate highway system that allows us in our powered conveyances to conquer the heights and hollows that Lewis and Clark, Daniel Boone, Jedediah Smith, and many others — not to mention the American aboriginals — took centuries to “discover” and to name. So, China wants to build a highway to the base camp on Mt. Everest. (By the way, one may ask, isn’t Everest in Tibet? Oh, no, not that Tibet, but the one now located within Greater China.) Tourists will benefit, they say. They deserve to see it. I imagine the pique of world-class mountaineers on hearing such a statement, climbers who trained for years for a shot at Everest, took their opportunity, and were lucky to come down alive. Knowing the life-and-death risks involved in climbing earth’s highest peak, elite adventurers have marveled at the presumptuousness of others less well prepared who seemed to take Everest too lightly and who all-too-readily paid for their misjudgment with their lives.
At least now adventurers will be able to conserve energy by taking the road to the base camp located at 17,000-plus feet (so said the spokesman quoted in the AP report). To possible altitude sickness they would add carsickness!
But in 2008 the Olympic torch will be taken to the summit of Everest! That’s an astonishing goal–possible surely, but the tortuous drama of it, and with no guarantee of success, makes it seem so improbable. Could that be just the point, though? Back to the dream, then . . . . In the world’s largest country, with the longest “Great Wall,” with the largest dam–the Three Gorges, and there are myriad other superlatives, one might be excused for being audacious. Having been named the host country for the 2008 Olympics after a long wait (actually twice, their 2000 bid having been denied), China will put on the world’s greatest show in Beijing and other venues. In fact, China itself will be the great venue, and China will be proudly, resplendently on display, and the world will be impressed. Guaranteed. The arrival of the Olympic torch in the hand of a climber will punctuate China’s grand statement that the Chinese have indeed stood up (Mao Zedong) and in a spectacular way (yes, in yet another way) long prepared for, long dreamed of, indeed, long anticipated.

What, you say, about the ways China has not and will not have arrived by August 2008? Yes, there will be many ways, but they will be less visible. On this point China warrants credit, even if not every Chinese has an equal slice of the dream, or even knows anything about it. Suffice to say for now that more Chinese will become acutely aware of the world beyond the borders of the Middle Kingdom — Zhongguo — and their thinking; their dreams will respond to the pull both of their own land and the recognition coming from lands beyond. At no time in human history will the world have paid more attention to China — no, not even at the time of Liberation in 1949, nor even during the height of Chairman Mao’s power in the Cultural Revolution, nor even during the Tiananmen Incident. No, the Olympics will be the height of exposure, and accomplishment, to date. You will know it when the climber and the torch reach the Everest summit.

How would you like to be on the media crew?