Beijing 2022 vs 2008: Two Olympics and two very different Chinas
By Stephen McDonell
23 January 2022
However, even if there was no Covid-19, China now is not the China of 2008.
With a winter snowstorm disaster across the south of the country, 2008 began like the year from hell. Then came an uprising led by monks in Tibet, followed by a catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan that killed an estimated 70,000 people.
The quake and the desperate race to find survivors generated massive international sympathy for China.
By the time the Games began, the then leaders of the Communist Party were able to use this goodwill to show China off, highlighting its booming economy; haul of striking new architectural masterpieces; heaving, fun cities, and a society which had become much more open, with an edgy art scene, underground bands and ever greater exposure to foreign ideas.
In 2022, the country has a new Party leadership with different priorities.
The attitude towards global perceptions of China, under President Xi Jinping, is more along the lines of: We suffered 100 years of humiliation during the 20th century; our time has arrived; and it is for the rest of you to accommodate us as we rise to our rightful place on the world stage.