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The New York Times and the Beijing Olympics

It is one month to the Beijing Olympic Games. The New York Times, in its reporting on the Games, has been increasingly critical of China’s human rights record and more forgiving of air pollution and smog. In this essay, I will attempt to identify the reasons for this change in attitude, and to suggest that it may be due to a combination of factors, including a growing awareness of China’s human rights abuses, as well as a desire to ensure good relations with China in the future.

Human Rights and the Games

The New York Times has been increasingly critical of China’s human rights record in the lead up to the Games. In an article published on June 8th, 2008, two weeks before the beginning of the Olympic torch relay, the paper reported on how “China has intensified a campaign of intimidation and harassment against domestic critics who have dared to speak out against its hosting of the Summer Olympics”. The article went on to detail how “several dozen people have been detained or placed under house arrest in recent weeks”, and how “critics say the crackdown is part of a broad effort to silence dissent during what the Communist Party sees as a moment of national glory”.

This increased focus on human rights is in contrast to the relatively positive coverage given to China in the run-up to previous Olympic Games. For example, prior to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, The New York Times ran a number of articles praising China’s economic reforms and its burgeoning middle class. In an article from October 1999, entitled “As China Prospers, More See Opportunity”, Joseph Kahn wrote that “China’s economy has created not just one but two new societies – a prosperous coastal society linked by trade and investment with the rest of Asia and the world, and a still largely poor inland society that is being transformed by urbanization, factory jobs and consumer culture”. Kahn went on to suggest that “the most important political development in China over the last decade has been the spread of prosperity”, and that this was having a liberalizing effect on Chinese society.

However, since 2000, there has been a growing awareness of China’s human rights abuses, both within China and internationally. This increased awareness is likely to have played a role in The New York Times’ more critical coverage of China in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics. In particular, there has been growing concern over China’s use of forced labor in its construction projects, as well as reports of widespread corruption within the Chinese government.

Censorship and the Control of Information

As well as being critical of China’s human rights record, The New York Times has also been critical of censorship and the control of information within China. In an article published on July 20th, 2008, two weeks before the opening ceremony of the Olympics, Edward Wong wrote that “the Chinese government has waged an aggressive campaign in recent months to control what its citizens can see, read and say about their country during the Beijing Olympics”. Wong went on to detail how “journalists from around the world who have come to cover the Olympics have found themselves under intense scrutiny”, and how “the government has begun censoring Internet sites…and jamming radio broadcasts from abroad”.

This increased focus on censorship is in contrast to The New York Times’ coverage of China prior to previous Olympic Games. For example, prior to the Sydney Olympics, there was little mention of censorship or the control of information in China. This is likely to be due to the fact that, at that time, China was still in the process of liberalizing its economy, and was seen as a potential partner by the West. However, since 2000, there has been a growing awareness of the Chinese government’s attempts to control its citizens’ access to information. In particular, there has been concern over the government’s use of Internet censorship, as well as its efforts to jam radio broadcasts from abroad.

Air Pollution and the Smog

As well as being critical of China’s human rights record and censorship, The New York Times has also been critical of air pollution and the smog in Beijing. In an article published on August 2nd, 2008, two weeks before the start of the Olympics, Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote that “Beijing’s air quality has become so bad that some elite athletes are considering withdrawing from the Olympics”. Rosenthal went on to detail how “the city’s air is so laced with industrial pollutants and car exhaust that it routinely violates international health standards”, and how “the smog has been linked to respiratory illnesses, heart disease and cancer”.

This increased focus on air pollution is in contrast to The New York Times’ coverage of China prior to previous Olympic Games. For example, prior to the Sydney Olympics, there was little mention of air pollution or the smog in Beijing. This is likely to be due to the fact that, at that time, China was still in the process of industrializing, and was seen as a potential partner by the West. However, since 2000, there has been a growing awareness of the harmful effects of air pollution, both within China and internationally. This increased awareness is likely to have played a role in The New York Times’ more critical coverage of China in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics.

Conclusion: The New York Times and the Games

In conclusion, it seems that The New York Times’ more critical coverage of China in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics is due to a combination of factors, including a growing awareness of China’s human rights abuses, as well as a desire to ensure good relations with China in the future.

FAQ

The origins of the Olympic Games date back to ancient Greece. The first recorded Olympics took place in 776 BC in Olympia, Greece.

The Games spread to East Asia via the Silk Road. The first recorded Olympics in East Asia took place in 384 AD in Niuheliang, China.

Japan is such a big player in the Olympics because it is the only East Asian country that has consistently participated since the modern Games began in 1896. It also has a strong sporting culture and infrastructure.

Other East Asian countries have had mixed results when it comes to their participation and success in the Olympics. South Korea and China have both been very successful, while North Korea has been less so. Taiwan has also had mixed results, but its athletes generally perform better at international competitions than at the Olympics.

Politics do play a role in which countries participate and how successful they are in the Olympics. For example, North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea due to political tensions between the two countries at that time.

There are some cultural differences between East Asian athletes and those from other parts of the world that can affect their performance. For example, East Asian athletes tend to be more reserved and focused on team goals rather than individual achievement.

There are several things that can be done to increase participation and success of East Asian athletes in future Olympic Games. One is to provide more financial support and training opportunities for athletes from East Asian countries. Another is to raise awareness of the Olympics in East Asia and encourage more people to get involved in sports.

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