Posted by Ichabod on Monday, March 17, 2008 at 10:32 AM
We can always count on China. Just when the place seems filled with normal people going about their happy business, the government reminds us that its paranoia reaches every aspect of our lives.
Take the baseball game in Beijing last Saturday. It was the first in China between two American pro teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres. Even though the contest was an exhibition, it was historic. Baseball is America's national pastime because it's a link between generations and a touchstone of the nation's culture. That baseball wants to extend to China, that China welcomes the game, and that 12,000 baseball fans could gather in a stadium on a lovely spring day, are all signs of harmony under heaven.
One especially excited group was Cub Scout Pack 3944, which is comprised mostly of Beijing-resident American kids under the age of 10. About fifty of them arrived at the game in blue uniforms bedecked with American flags and merit badges, accompanied by their den mothers and scout masters. The night before, they'd learned that the Dodgers had invited them onto the field after the game to meet the players.
But just before the game, the Haidian district police barred the scouts from the field. Why? Because thousands of kilometers away, in the Himalayas, monks and others in Tîbet had launched protests against Chinese rule. The government apparently feared that the young Americans would use their moment on the grassy infield to agitate for Tîbetan independence. This fear that a pack of cub scouts would politicize a baseball game drove the government to politicize the event more effectively than any Tîbetan splittist could hope for, and disappointed a group of bright-eyed kids in the process.
Don't worry too much about the Cub Scouts – they had a grand time anyway, and the Dodgers dispatched a couple of players into the stands afterward to sign autographs. But it's worth considering the thoughts that went through the heads of the Haidian district police.
Your correspondent suspects they ran something like this: Tîbet is in turmoil. Foreigners support Tîbet. Foreigners want to embarrass China. If foreigners embarrass China on our watch, we'll lose our jobs. So we'd better assume the worst of these foreigners, even if that means taking some fun out of the game.
For those of you who thought China could pull off a great Olympics, the exhibition on Saturday was cause for pause.
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