I leave an exhausted Beijing, with a strange sense of pride and relief that the summer games has finally passed. Not to undermine the importance of the incoming 2008 Paralympics, but quite frankly, nobody cares. The highlight of the last six years-- the catalyst which forced fat cat party bureaucrats to prop a politically correct persona and varnish the toothy smile for the country, was the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Seriously people, they actually took proactive steps towards improving the environment, WTO situation and even those fake DVD's!
Sitting high up on the 35th floor, when the 25th of August rolled around, I could hear the collective sigh of 20 million Beijingers, as the city let its gut hang loose and hacked up that festering, 6 year old loogie in triumph. The streets were not filled with as many free spending, cheerful foreign faces as expected and neither did the pollution cooperate with the countries efforts, but nevertheless, the mountains moved by the government to make this event possible was nothing short of amazing and Beijingers like myself will be enjoying the effects for many years to come.
This communal effort has been so taxing, that the city is still in a sort of comatose state-- where the ever so industrious Chinese are NOT business as usual. It is almost like when the last Olympic foreigner left, the city inhabitants decided to hang up a huge “Ferragosto” sign moments before taking off for the peace of their courtyards and weekend getaways. I suppose it is all the better, because if there is one city in the world that needs a break form the ever growing intensity and energy, it is Beijing.
The thing is, now that all of the gabby reports have left and taken with them the cheesy cliché's that riddled CNN and BBC and the last of the bewildered tourists with flags and banners stumble on the new, slightly constricted, airport express. just what exactly is Beijing to do?
The city is caught at a limbo between the Pre and Post Olympic city. To spit or not to spit-- that is the question. Not that the government has softened its political line much, but in the Pre Olympics it has made attempts to be a little bit nicer about caging up the Tibetans and dealing with local hot spots like Xinjiang. I would like to hope that the last few months has been more a part of Chinas “century strategy” than its 08/08/2008 strategy. The economy has not exactly warmed up either. Metal and oil prices are still fluctuating, though the Chinese seem less surprised by them and are now addressing work efficiency and government tax assistance to keep themselves competitive. The RMB has been allowed to steadily appreciate to the dollar and local wages as well as workers rights (UN. Believable.) are improving. Of course, my office employees will argue that last point, but as I always say, these changes start in Middle China, working outwards and affecting cities like Beijing and Shanghai last (except on my balance sheet, which feels the effects...IMMEDIATELY). I also remind them that and my company is not a democracy, we follow the chines government policies of 1989!
So, I hope Beijing is enjoying its short reprieve. I eagerly look forward to business as usual, more out of curiosity on how the government will use the positive affects of the Olympic Games to strengthen Chinas future. Building on my favorite CNN cliché, China's coming out party will all be for naught if whats coming out is nothing short of amazing.